Thursday, February 9, 2017

The 50 Finest Films of 2016 - #20 - #11

The list moves on, my 20 favorite films of 2016 are on the way. Within the next ten there is another documentary, a couple extremely under the radar gems and a massive blockbuster. Also, a film with an ending that made me cry. A lot.

20. Hell or High Water

Directed by David Mackenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water is a western crime thriller featuring terrific performances and some interesting political messaging in regards to income inequality and the portion of the country that feels left behind. Nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Picture, the movie tells the story of two brothers who are forced to turn to desperate methods in order to obtain enough money to save their family's ranch. It's not an inventive or unique film, but I am quite alright with visiting somewhere I have been before if it is this well made and entertaining. 

19. The Fits

The Fits is a hard film to sell on people based on premise alone, so you will just have to take my word for it that it's an outstanding movie. The story follows an 11 year old girl named Toni (an amazing performance from Royalty Hightower) who becomes fixated on a girls dance group practicing at the gym she trains in, so she joins them. Soon after various members of the group are hit with freak medical spells, from fainting to epileptic fits. The ending of this film is absolutely stunning, pretty much perfect cinema. An incredible finish to a great film.

18. Elle

No one knows how to craft provocative, guaranteed to be misunderstood satire like Paul Verhoeven, the man behinds films like Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers and Showgirls. To be fair, I can't point the figure at audiences not "getting" Verhoeven without pointing the thumb first, as I recall not giving nearly enough credit to any of his work until I got older and started to comprehend the nuance of his messages. Literally while I watched Elle I thought to myself, uh oh, and not because the movie was poor obviously given where I have ranked it. I just knew this was going to be the type of film that got people talking and for some, it wouldn't be pretty. Elle is about power and gender roles in regards to sexual intercourse, and some of the scenes can be disturbing to watch, but you definitely will be thinking about it after it ends.

17. The Nice Guys

Many are inclined to argue that the best Ryan Gosling performance of 2016 didn't even come from the film that nominated him for an Oscar, La La Land. As a HUGE fan of La La Land (you might even be able to guess what spot it will finish in on my list), I actually...agree. I love what he brings to the Damien Chazelle musical, I love his chemistry with Emma Stone, and I love that he is the lead of that film, but his work in The Nice Guys is even better, and to be quite honest I had no idea just how gifted of a comedic performer he could be until I saw this. Co-written by Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi and directed by Black, The Nice Guys is so smart and so funny and Gosling and Crowe work together perfectly.

16. A Monster Calls

Having read the novel by Patrick Ness that was adapted into this film prior to seeing it, I knew what to expect and what to expect is a stream of tears pouring from your eyes towards the end. The film, also written by Ness, did not disappoint. Directed by J.A. Bayona, A Monster Calls is a visual and emotional wonder that hits you right where it hurts, yet it is so satisfying as you stand up and leave the theater because it is equals parts devastating and therapeutic. Lead by a great child performance from Lewis MacDougall and co-starring Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Theory of Everything) and Sigourney Weaver, along with terrific vocal work from Liam Neeson, make sure to have a box of tissues with you when you watch A Monster Calls, but watch it nonetheless. 

15. Sing Street

It is clear that director John Carney has found his thematic niche when it comes to the type of film he makes, and that's okay when you make them as well as he did Sing Street, a romantic, fun movie full of heart and charm, telling the story of a boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) growing up in Dublin during the 80's, surrounded by his family falling apart and forced to attend a school he hates. One day he spots a beautiful girl sitting across the street and he approaches her and tells her he is in a band as a way to impress her. Unfortunately, it isn't true so he starts one, writing songs with a friend and shooting music videos so he can cast the girl in them. The amateur actors in the film are tremendous, the music is so catchy and the relationship between Conor and his older brother (Jack Reynor) is funny and moving. Sing Street is awesome.

14. Always Shine

A cold thriller that will cut you if you let it, Always Shine is a film about two aspiring actress best friends whose careers are clearly headed down a different path at the moment, and it is straining their relationship. Starring Mackenzie Davis (watch the Black Mirror episode "San Junipero" if you haven't already) and Caitlin FitzGerald, this is a film about the culture of the entertainment industry and the way it forces women to bitterly compete just to get their foot in the door. Directed by Sophia Takal, this movie is chilling and one scene in particular completely unnerved me, and given the fact that the only way the movie could be finished was to hope a Kickstarter campaign could finance it, I'm so glad the funds came through and sign me up to contribute to Takal's next work.

13. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Being an enormous fan of the Star Wars franchise for as far back as I can remember, I was thrilled that the first ever spin-off film ended up being as great as it is. Rogue One is exciting, well-conceived and well-realized, a terrific concept as to how the universe could be expanded upon by telling stories that may not be essential to the Skywalker saga but allow audiences to see that the galaxy far, far away is a lot bigger and more populated than the 7 previous episodes could illustrate. Even after three viewings I still feel this was an additional 15 or so minutes of character and relationship building away from being truly top notch, but everything else works wonders and the second half of the movie is magnificent entertainment.

12. Weiner

I can watch and fall in love with all different styles of documentaries, but I have always been drawn in by the fly on the wall approach more so than the stream of talking head interviews explaining something that previously happened way of going about it. Obviously the fly on the wall style can only be utilized when the subjects are being captured in the present rather than the past, and the best example of this in 2016 was Weiner, a film that allows us to watch an extremely troubled man attempt to rebound from his mistakes and make a run at becoming the next Mayor of New York, only to have a new scandal unfold right before our eyes and destroy any chance he had. It's fascinating to watch it all unfold and see the real pain inflicted on those around him by his actions, but it's also quite a funny film a lot of the time too. It's all so real and it's an outstanding watch.

11. 10 Cloverfield Lane

It's difficult not to call 10 Cloverfield Lane the biggest and best surprise of the year since it was quite literally a surprise, and a great one at that. The film was announced with a trailer only about 2 months prior to its release, which is unheard of these days with the cinema landscape being made up of marketing campaigns that last years with strategically times trailers, images and clips. Not so much a sequel of the original Cloverfield but rather a new story told in the same world, the performances of Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman are outstanding and award worthy, and it is a blast to watch the mystery unfold and wonder if the monster is truly lurking up above, or is it trapped down where they are all along? The ending will alienate some but after a second viewing I realized it works perfectly.


  1. Wow, there are some really great films in this section, specifically Hell or High Water, so I really have no idea what your top 10 can be.

    1. Hell or High Water is a funny one because I loved the movie and yet I always feel like I am cold on it compared to most others haha. Know so many people who have it in their top 5 or 10 of the year.