Best Films of 2016 (That I Saw)

10. Midnight Special — dir. Jeff Nichols

Michael Shannon is a national treasure. Michael Shannon is a national treasure. Michael Shannon is a national treasure. Michael Shannon is a national treasure. Michael Shannon is a national treasure. Michael Shannon is a national treasure. Michael Shannon is a national treasure.

9. Hail, Caesar! — dir. Ethan and Joel Coen

I love the Coens like they were relatives. They have a top 5 filmography of all time. I thought they peaked with the unofficial trilogy of No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading, and A Serious Man and then they went and made Inside Llewyn Davis. Hail, Caeser! isn’t on the level of these but its not meant to be and doesn’t try to be. It’s one of their minor, low-key movies and as such, it’s a treat. Small but delightful and hysterically funny. See it for Alden Ehrenreich alone.

8. Moonlight — dir. Barry Jenkins

Deeply flawed but memorable and beautiful throughout. Important in the sense that we need more spotlights on the people in the world who are never seen. A film that frequently elevates mundane moments: I found the most moving sequence to be a children’s soccer game. I’m not the target demographic but I can’t imagine what it means to someone in that demographic. Well worth watching.

7. Arrival — dir. Denis Villeneuve

It’s box office success suggests that audiences around America are getting exhausted by the IP mining gone haywire that has made every year’s slate of films a nonstop barrage of sequels, prequels, spin offs and now, soft reboots. This was the most hopeful entertainment news of the year. Fitting for a film that is extraordinarily heavy but still optimistic and hopeful. A mature exploration of communication in the hostile world we occupy.

6. Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids — dir. Jonathan Demme

Despite what you feel about Justin Timberlake’s musical catalogue, this is CINEMA, make no mistake. A celebration of opulence and spectacle, the most consistently dazzling film of the year. Alternate title: It Takes A Village To Raise A Child. A joy.

5. The Nice Guys — dir. Shane Black

Despite the violence, this is the happiest and funniest film of the year, sound tracked throughout by Al Green and Gosling comically shrieking. A celebration of cinema, genre, and the unbelievable chemistry between the main leads. I had a smile on my face the entire time watching this, a much needed tonic in a grim year. The only film of the year I want a sequel to.

4. The Neon Demon — dir. Nicolas Winding Refn

Another film concerning a young woman’s coming of age and another film to walk the tightrope of science fiction and horror so seamlessly. This is Refn’s most virtuoso work and the best-directed film of the year. Macabre films are rarely ever this gorgeous. A stunner, throughout, including the thoroughly polarizing third act.

3. The Lobster — dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

A romantic comedy by way of Kafka…or maybe Dick. Perhaps both. A good sister film to Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind since both occupy a rarely occupied genre of romantic science fiction. The dialogue of this film is borderline revolutionary. Odd, delightful, unsettling, horrifying, and funny — often in the same scene. I’ve thought about it every day since I saw it.

2. The Witch — dir. Robert Eggers

The best traditional horror film since The Babadook and more specifically, one of the best films ever made about a young woman coming of age. As my friend Walter Chaw pointed out here, this is Bosch’s paintings and overall output come to life, in a streamlined, controlled manner. By which I mean, when it goes off the rails, its earned. It doesn’t use cheap jump scares but instead relies on mood, atmosphere and pacing to leave you white knuckled. I was drinking a glass of water while watching this and I had to put it on the shelf because I was afraid I would be so terrified I would break the glass. I’ve thought about one image involving a crow, every day since I saw the film. A masterpiece.

  1. TIE: 1a. HyperNormalization — dir. Adam Curtis / 1b. OJ: Made In America — dir. Ezra Edelman

HyperNormalization the best horror film of the year, and OJ: Made In America has the best story. Both channel how bizarrely subjective and perverted our reality is becoming when of course, reality remains constant. Both are endlessly fascinating though, morbidly so. Both look back to tell us how we are going to be moving forward. Both sprawling achievements that require time, focus and concentration, and reward the audience’s efforts. Masterpieces.

Notably Missed: Silence, The Handmaiden, Green Room, 13th, Hell Or High Water, The Jungle Book, Manchester By The Sea

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