Willy's Favorite Movies of 2016
2016 was an above average year for film. Nothing spectacular, but nothing horrendously bad. It was the year the Oscar bait movies were worthwhile, but (at least for me) it lacked a clear 5 star movie. I still haven't had the chance to watch everything I would have liked, but I feel confident enough to release my top 10 movies of 2016.
How did Denis Villeneuve happen? How does he keep convincing studios to give him this much money? Studios, flat out, do not give French-Canadian directors millions of dollars to make unique and interesting films. Whatever he's doing is working. He's living proof that filmmakers don't need to sell their souls for larger budgets.
9. Green Room
I am a wimp. I take no pleasure in high tension or body horror. Green Room is more than it appears. Like Saulnier's previous film, Blue Ruin, it plays into its genre conventions while simultaneously condemning them. It's a powerful contemplation on the impact of violence. Seek it out, even if you're a wimp like me.
8. Don't Think Twice
I'm a sucker for the earnest, low budget comedy. This is one of my favorite ensemble casts of the year with stand out performances by, Keegen-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, and Mike Birbiglia. It's the kind of balance of comedy and melancholy that over privileged 20 somethings like myself can't help but identify with.
7. La La Land
This is an official call out to the haters, fight me. Is it 100% original? No. Is it a perfect film? No. Is it incredibly fun? Ab. So. Lutely. La La Land gripped me from its first explosion onto the screen to it's final gut wrenching sequence. I don't know what kind of monster could hate La La Land, but, now that it's lost best picture, can we just go back to liking it? Please?
6. Hacksaw Ridge
I have quite a bit of trouble trying to justify this pick. Hacksaw Ridge is not an inventive film. It does many things very well and that's about it. Despite this, I have not had a more emotionally impactful moment this year than I did while watching Hacksaw Ridge. It tries so desperately to find the light in the darkest places. It's reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan and Letter From Iwo Jima, but, instead of finding the good in brotherhood and bravery, it finds good in a much more profound sense of humanity. I know Mel Gibson is not a good person, but he made a great film.
5. Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea destroys you and leaves you to pick up the pieces, but it's brilliance doesn't come from its emotional scenes. Instead it comes from its patience. It silently bides its time. It silently bides its time while the horror comes through the performances and the characters so that when the pain is finally articulated you feel it's full impact. Casey Affleck gives one of the greatest performances I've ever seen. Don't miss it.
It's not often that I get to watch a movie with no expectations, but I did with Krisha. I walked into the theater on a Thursday afternoon with a couple hours to kill and faith Tivoli Cinema's programming. Using mostly horror tropes debut filmmaker Trey Edward Shults tells a gripping and devastating tale of a woman fighting against herself to repair the broken relationship she has with her family. It's an experience unlike any other and I can't recommend it enough. Trey Edward Shults is a director to watch in the next couple years.
Do I need to say anything about Moonlight? An achingly beautiful story of personal identity and societal pressure. The scope of the narrative is so small, but its application is so big. The fact that Moonlight has received such a wide reception is remarkable. It takes the sensibilities of so many great and transplants them to the least hospitable environment. There isn't a moment or performance in this film that is less than spectacular. I cannot overstate how remarkable it is that Moonlight won best picture. Who is you, Chiron?
2. Sing Street
I've admitted for years that I am a sucker for coming of age stories. I don't know if a movie has ever made me as happy as Sing Street did. It doesn't try to capture reality. Instead it tries to capture the happiness that can be found in sadness. It's a simple story but it's told with such heart that it becomes something exceptional.
1. The Handmaiden
At times Park Chan-Wook is like a much more macabre version of Wes Anderson. His films are shot with a ridiculous stylistic flair that reminds you more of a cuckoo clock than real life. While previous films from the director have tip just too far into the mechanical delirium, The Handmaiden keeps it's head well above the surface. Equal parts Hitchcock and Cronenberg, The Handmaiden is enthralling throughout. I hesitate to discuss the plot for fear that I might give away one of it's many twists and turns. This is a masterwork.
Everybody Wants Some!
Hunt For the Wilderpeople
Star Wars: Rogue One
My Golden Days
10 Cloverfield Lane