Monday, January 23, 2017

Top 10 Films of 2016

2016 is in the books, and since the Oscar nominees come out tomorrow morning, what better time than to recount my 10 favorite movies of the year. 

(Oscar nomination predictions are at the bottom.)

10. Hacksaw Ridge
In a surprising turn, the war film centered around a refusal to fight contains some of the most intense and brutal action of any war film in years. Hacksaw Ridge takes a story of determination, religion, and love and combines them into a film that moves along at an impeccable pace. You might be tearing up one minute and the next be on the edge of your seat. Overall though, what is so impressive about Hacksaw Ridge is that it isn't defined by genre, showcasing directorial tact in the typical military film fight scenes, the budding love typical of a romance, and the impressive shows of faith typical of an inspiring religious film. Mel Gibson is back!


9. Fences
Denzel Washington's Fences seems like the cast showed up every morning, opened a copy of August Wilson's play, and just went for it as they would on stage. Yet, it works incredibly well. Sure, some of that is due to the excellent source material, but the main reason is the acting. Both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give performances that are arguable as career bests, which based on the actors' careers is all the more impressive. And while the majority of the film takes place in a small number of scenes and settings, the film maintains viewers' attention with its ability to address issues of race, family, and poverty with poise.


8. Manchester by the Sea
In Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan paints a portrait so bleak that it delves beyond the previous realms of modern realism into an entire new category of hyper-realistic family drama and heartbreak. Casey Affleck's acting opus announces that gone are the days when Ordinary People and Kramer vs. Kramer were "intense" portraits of family turmoil. Despite Affleck's impressive performance, the real star might be newcomer Lucas Hedges. This is not a film for the weak of heart and contains some of the most emotionally brutal scenes in modern film.

7. Silence
Scorsese has been working on Silence in some form for many years now, and the efforts of his labor are evident by his directorial brilliance. Thematically, everything is obsessively perfected. And while it is certainly not a film that is likely to appeal to a wide audience, if you let the world he has recreated engulf you, it is easy to become invested in the protagonist's faith (and perhaps have yours reaffirmed.) What Scorsese has made is yet another masterpiece in a category of its own.

6. The Lobster
Dystopian science-fiction romance is a genre that not enough filmmakers approach, but The Lobster more than makes up for it. The messages are not subtle and they aren't meant to be, with director Lanthimos wielding a hammer to pound many of the ideas into your head. But for some reason, it works. It might be the brilliant nuances to the detailed world he has created. It might be the darkly comedic lines interspersed between the overall strangeness. A big part of it is how outstanding Colin Farrell is, somehow seemingly lacking any emotion and simultaneously providing much of the films emotional depth.

5. Captain Fantastic
Viggo Mortensen deserves more credit as one of Hollywood's greatest actors. Captain Fantastic showcases one of his best performances to date and paints a unique tale of coping with loss. The wilderness family of child geniuses quickly endears itself in your heart like a hippie recreation of the Royal Tenenbaums family. Through every twist and turn, you find yourself more and more entertained in this character study that combines drama, dark comedy, and road movie into a truly unforgettable film.

4. Jackie

While this will likely be remembered primarily for Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, it deserves a lot of credit for both the directing and the screenplay. There were certain scenes, such as the car rushing to the hospital and Jackie and Robert walking through the cemetery that were incredibly memorable because of how beautifully shot they are. The soundtrack would be the winner in a non-La La Land year. Director LarraĆ­n takes what would normally be an intimate biopic drama and turns it into a stunning technical marvel. This look into the days between the assassination of JFK and his funeral through the eyes of Jackie Kennedy perfectly explores the idea of leaving a legacy through the obsessive nature the former first lady put on her husband’s brief time in The White House.

3. Arrival
Arrival is the type of heady science-fiction movie that 2016 needed. Amy Adams gives one of her best performances in a science-fiction film that, while technically impressive, is rightly more being hailed for its thought-provoking story. You'll find yourself on the edge of your seat just waiting to find out what is going to happen. Don't come in expecting action, come in expecting to feel and come in expecting to become surprisingly attached to the characters.


2. Moonlight
The top two movies on this list are very close. Moonlight is one of the most well-written movies in the past few years and paints a heartbreaking portrait of its protagonist while exploring themes of family and love. Director Jenkins directs with a style and finesse rarely seen from a director. But what might be even more impressive is how perfected every technical aspect is in this smaller independent film, from soundtrack to cinematography. If you haven't been able to see it yet, get excited for one of the most beautiful movies you've seen in years.


1. La La Land
Count me as one of the Chazelle disciples who cannot get enough of La La Land. There are so many aspects to like about this film. The music is excellent and there are multiple scenes that are already being discussed as destined to be considered film classics years from now. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling's charm work perfectly with each other and the story. Furthermore, this movie which took years to get any kind of financing, is important because it shows filmmakers that moviegoers will pay to see a new musical, despite not knowing any of the songs. Original musicals are increasingly rare, and hopefully this masterpiece will help inspire more people to keep making them.



OSCAR NOMINATION PREDICTIONS

Best Picture
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
(if there are 10 nominees) Silence

Best Director
Damien Chazelle - "La La Land"
Barry Jenkins - "Moonlight"
Kenneth Lonergan - "Manchester by the Sea"
Martin Scorsese - "Silence"
Dennis Villeneuve - "Arrival"

Best Actor
Casey Affleck - "Manchester by the Sea"
Andrew Garfield - "Hacksaw Ridge"
Ryan Gosling - "La La Land"
Viggo Mortensen - "Captain Fantastic"
Denzel Washington - "Fences"

Best Actress
Amy Adams - "Arrival"
Annette Bening - "20th Century Women"
Isabelle Huppert - "Elle"
Natalie Portman - "Jackie"
Emma Stone - "La La Land"

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali - "Moonlight"
Jeff Bridges - "Hell or High Water"
Hugh Grant - "Florence Foster Jenkins"
Lucas Hedges - "Manchester by the Sea"
Dev Patel - "Lion"

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis - "Fences"
Naomi Harris - "Moonlight"
Nicole Kidman - "Lion"
Octavia Spencer - "Hidden Figures"
Michelle Williams - "Manchester by the Sea"

Best Original Screenplay
Hell or High Water
Jackie
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay
Arrival
Fences
Lion
Nocturnal Animals
Moonlight

Best Animated Feature
Finding Dory
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Best Cinematography
Arrival
Jackie
La La Land
Moonlight
Silence

Best Costume Design
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land
Silence

Best Film Editing
Arrival
Jackie
La La Land
Moonlight
Silence

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Deadpool
Jackie
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Production Design
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Jackie
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Silence

Best Score
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals

Best Song
"Audition (Dreamers)" - La La Land
"Can't Stop the Feeling" - Trolls
"City of Stars" - La La Land
"How Far I'll Go" - Moana
"Runnin'" - Hidden Figures

Best Sound Editing
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Silence

Best Sound Mixing
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Silence

Best Visual Effects
Arrival
Doctor Strange
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story