While you were busy losing sleep over politics, I’ve been completing my goal of seeing 40 films in 2016. Though several films remain on my to-do list (Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, and Patriots Day to name a few), I am committed to satisfying your thirst for various “Best of 2016” listicles you are currently Googling. Without further ado, here are a few of my favorites films this year.
In a Hollywood that continually feels like going darker is better, I applaud those films that dare to be a light for their audiences. Sing Street is a joyous film that made me literally stand up and cheer! It chronicles a boy’s coming of age through music, and more importantly, the creative process. A lesser screenplay would have narrowly focused on the romantic relationship between protagonists Conor and Raphina. However, writer/director John Carney emphasizes the importance of the relationship between your siblings, friends, and creative passion. Sing Street has my vote for best picture of the year.
This February release provided the first breath of fresh air in 2016. Ryan Reynolds and first-time director Tim Miller courageously embraced the character’s turbulent Hollywood history while simultaneously breaking the PG-13 glass ceiling created by the family-minded executives at Marvel’s owner, Walt Disney Studios. Deadpool is arguable the only film in 2016 that has the potential to disrupt the current super-hero trend. Deadpool‘s success is the biggest motivation behind Warner Brother’s decision to release an unrated Director’s Cut of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad.
WARNING: Don’t watch without a tissue box. Told from the perspective of a 29 year old freelance writer, Other People records the final year of his mother’s battle with cancer. Many moments of this film remain burned in my mind, both for what was said, and not said. Molly Shannon and Jesse Plemons out-perform every on-screen duo in 2016 as a mother and son dealing with an uncontrollable tragedy. If you want to get emotionally punched in the gut, this is for you.
Marlin Roehl Award
Named for my 12th grade English teacher, my inaugural Marlin Roehl Award goes to the film that best blends style and content, a task Mr. Roehl emphasized as a mark of all great writing. The film’s message of trusting experience and wisdom over technological gadgetry is perfectly embodied in Eastwood’s filmmaking style. It is also impeccably edited, enabling a 10-minute moment in history to fill a compelling 2-hour film and elevates a story normally fit for 60 Minutes to an (and I’m speculating here) Oscar winning film.
Walt Disney Animation is not the studio it was 10 years ago. Not only has it eclipsed Pixar in overall storytelling quality, but it has managed to beat Pixar at the cumulative worldwide office since 2013. While most Disney-fare pulls at the heart-strings with intimate personal drama (i.e. Ralph destroying Vanellope’s car in Wreck-It Ralph or Mother Gothel backstabbing Rapunzel in Tangled), Zootopia tackles community-wide tension and leaves each audience member mortified over their own sins. Who knew Disney could address racism better than the 2005 Best Picture winner, Crash.
Best Theatrical Experience
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Steven Spielberg’s 1981 adventure was the very best cinematic experience of 2016. I had the privilege of seeing a 35th anniversary screening of Raiders in a near sold-out theater. To my delight, the room was filled with cinephiles young and old, and casual film goers seeing Harrison Ford crack his iconic whip for the very first time. The whoops and hollers and claps that ensued when John Williams’ legendary score filled the theater rivaled the Millennium Falcon’s glorious return in last year’s The Force Awakens. This experience has taught me to seek out big screen re-releases of classic films. It is far better to see them on the big screen than to save a few bucks watching at home.
Don’t be fooled by the “Honorable Mentions” label, each of these films are magnificent in their own right.
Weiner – A look at the highly controversial politician, Anthony Weiner, and the media that followed him.
Arrival – Wonderful science fiction for the intellectual movie-goer. Everything director Denis Villeneuve touches turns to gold.
Hacksaw Ridge – Though Hallmark-esque at times, this war film is the Christian film I’ve been wanting for years.
The Nice Guys – Fast and witty with all the twists and turns of any good whodunit.
Eye in the Sky – A political thriller with the late Alan Rickman’s finest post-Harry Potter performance .
Hell or High Water – A rich modern-day western that toys with the principles of property and its rightful owner.
Don’t Think Twice – Thoughtfully examines what it means to be successful.
And may 2017 be even better. See you at the movies!