Here we are again at the end of another year. While many might think 2016 was not a very good year, when it comes to movies it ended up being pretty solid. The old saying “ It’s not how you start, but how you finish” feels more true than it did in previous years. Movies that made us laugh, and cry, and they always give us something to talk about. So here are my sixteen of my favorites and while the top four were pretty easy, I had to make some tough choices to finish the list up.
11. “Arrival”: I have come to the point where I want Denis Villeneuve to do all the movies he can. Now with this very smart Sci-fi film staring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner it only confirms that feeling. This is one of those movies that travels by watercolor and Internet post as friends tell friends this is the movie to see.
10. “Gleason”: If you don’t know the story of Scott Gleason, then bring yourself a box of tissues to this one. This documentary follows Gleason as he is diagnosed with ALS. Gleason who was a former professional football player for the Saints is incredible as he fights the biggest fight of his life.
9. “Sing Street”: There is something about movies and music that when done right fells so good. Not many do it better then John Carney, who has already brought us “Begin Again” and “Once”. This time he returns to Dublin during the eighties where he follows a group of kids, who start a band to impress a girl. The music is infectious as is the cast, with this movie that is sure to give you that nostalgic warm feeling.
8. “Land of Mine”: Sometimes the best stories are the ones you know nothing about. This film follows a group of German POW’s after World War II. These POW’s consist mostly of boys, but the job they are tasked with is one no one should have to do. They are ordered to defuse over two million land mines buried on the Danish Beaches. The story is incredible, as are the performances, in another great story from the Great War.
7. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”: This is one those movies that is just pure fun. Writer and Director Taika Waititi is just such an amazing storyteller. This story is about Ricky, a kid who is a star in his own mind. Ricky (Julian Dennison) has been bounced around foster homes, but has seemed to find his place with Hec (Sam Neill). After Hec’s wife dies, Ricky and him set out into the New Zealand bush, where adventure follows.
6. “Manchester by the Sea”: The not so feel good movie of the year, but worth every minute of it. Casey Affleck leads a cast that gives some of the best performances of the year. Affleck plays Lee Chandler a man who is given custody of his nephew after his brother passes away. When Lee returns home, he must face old and new problems as he decides what his next step should be.
5. “ Hell or High Water”: Sometimes you want to go to the movies to make you feel something, or maybe even forget something. Sometimes though you go to the movies to just see cinematic gold on the big screen. “Hell or High Water” is that gold you are seeking. Staring Chris Pine and Ben Foster as two brothers who have a unique way of gathering money to pay back their bank loan. If that is not enough you have Jeff Bridges doing what Jeff Bridges does so well, and when you add it all up you have a good ol’ fashioned crime movie.
4. “Elle”: If you do not know who Isabelle Huppert is, stop reading this and look her up. Now that you are back, she might just be one of the best actresses on the planet. In this film she plays a successful businesswoman who gets caught up in a game as she looks for the man who raped her. The movie grabs you from the beginning and holds you tight for the whole film. If Huppert wasn’t enough of a reason, it is also the return to form for director Paul Verhoeven, all the more reason to seek this film out.
3. “The Handmaiden “: When you think of the great directors out there today the names are the same. Tarantino, Scorsese, Nolan, and of course Park Chan-Wook to name a few. Some of you might not know that last name, but the good news it’s not too late to get on board the Park train. “The Handmaiden” has Hitchcock blood flowing through it, as it tells the story a Japanese heiress and the plot that her handmaiden is involved in.
2. “Moonlight”: Writer and Director Berry Jenkins brings a story of human connection that will make you feel things. The special kind we all seek in film. The story follows the life of a young man through three chapters of his life. It is what shapes the story that is his life, with such pure emotion throughout the story, this is a movie that leaves you a little speechless when it is all over.
1. “La La Land”: Where “Moonlight” might leave you speechless, “La La Land” will have you leaving the theater singing. No movie this year has made me feel more joy than this. You can’t help but just smile as you watch Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling fall in love, as you do the same with the filmmaking of Damien Chazelle. This movie is a tremendous accomplishment and a brilliant love letter to those beautiful Gene Kelly movies of the fifties as well as the love of cinema in general.
Honorable mention: “The Nice Guys”, “Christine”. “The Founder “, “Jackie”, and “Kubo and the Two Strings”