Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Film Babble Blog’s Top 10 Movies Of 2016 (With Spillover)

I usually try to post my Top 10 before the Oscar nominations, but January has been crazy y’all! With everything going on – the daily ridiculousness of the newly installed Trump administration, having to get one of our cats legs amputated because of cancer, and editing my long in the works book project – it’s been hard to sit down and finalize exactly just what are my favorite films of 2016.

It hasn’t helped that I found the last year to be a pretty weak one for film, with an abundance of bad sequels, a run of epic fails (THE BFG, ALLIED, RULES DONT APPLY) and many movies that were just meh, so picking out the gems was more difficult than in previous years. So here goes my picks, in descending order, with a little bit of annotation, and some links back to my reviews (click on select titles):

10. GREEN ROOM (Dir. Jeremy Saulnier)

Sadly, this largely overlooked indie about a punk band who find themselves trapped in the backstage green room of a hardcore club in the woods of Oregon, was one of the last performances of Anton Yelchin, who died in a freak automobile accident in the summer of 2016. Yelchin, as the fraught leader of the punk group, excels in this grimy, gritty, and extremely chilling thriller as do Imogen Poots and a sinister Patrick Stewart.

9. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (Dir. Mike Mills)

I think Annette Bening should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for this over Meryl Streep for FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Streep’s performance in FFJ, but Bening put in an exemplary portrayal as Dorothea, the put upon matriarch of Mills’ cinematic loveletter to the women who raised him. Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann round out the rest of the fine ensemble. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN somehow simultaneously captures how it felt to be a mixed-up kid in the ‘70s and how it felt to be a mixed-up mother living during the same era. Glad that Mills’ superb screenplay got the Academy’s attention.

8. O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA (Dir. Ezra Edelman) It’s amazing how riveting every minute of this 5-part documentary miniseries is, considering that it’s 10 hours long (467 minutes). But the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson from famous football running back to infamous alleged murderer as seen through the filters of race and fame in the American system never slows down or falters in its engrossing pace. Edleman’s opus, created for ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 series, is a masterpiece that not only deserves its nomination for the Best Documentary Oscar, it deserves to win it.

7. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Dir. Kenneth Lonergan) 

This is an achingly sad story about an apartment complex maintenance man (Casy Affleck) who, while still reeling from a tragic incident that killed his two daughters, and destroyed his marriage to his devastated wife (Michelle Williams), is asked to take care of his nephew (Lucas Hedges) after his brother (the boy’s father played by Kyle Chandler) dies. This is a stirring experience, and an oddly funny one at times, that’s hard to shake long after it ends, and that’s largely due to how real these people feel.

6. FENCES (Dir. Denzel Washington)

Denzel Washington’s third turn in the director’s chair is a filmed play, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t play as a great film. Based on the Pulitzer Prize, and Tony Award winning 1983 play by August Wilson, the film concerns Troy Maxton, a working class Pittsburgh garbageman played by Washington, and his family's struggle through the late 50s to mid 60s. Along with the nominations the film got for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis), and Best Adapted Screenplay (August Wilson), Washington deservedly earned a nom for Best Actor as his energy makes many of his monologues more memorable than dozens (maybe hundreds) of other actors’ pontifications this last year. Davis holds her own against Washington, and really should’ve gotten a Best Actress instead of Supporting nomination, but at least she was recognized. 


I can never unsee the imagery of this twisted yet impeccably stylish psychological thriller which revolves around the sordid contents of a novel that Jake Gyllenhaal sends to his ex-wife (Amy Adams), and, I bet I can never unthink it either. It’ll really be hard for sure to choose between rooting for Michael Shannon in this over Jeff Bridges (in #4 on this list) for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for their portrayals of two vastly different Texas lawmen.

4. HELL OR HIGH WATER (Dir. David Mackenzie)

This is a modern day western heist thriller that runs with the theme of robbing-the-banks-because-they’re-robbing-us. Chris Pine and Ben Foster play the robbers; Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham play the cops on their trail. It’s also starring a wide West Texas landscape sparsely decorated with billboards advertising debt relief, rundown ranches, and yellow fields stretching to the horizon. If its not a deserving Best Picture nominee, itll do till the next deserving nominee gets here.

3. PATERSON (Dir. Jim Jarmusch)

I haven’t posted a review of this film because it never came to my area, and that’s a shame because more people should see this lovely film starring Adam Driver as a bus driving poet named Paterson, who lives in Paterson, New Jersey. It’s the week in the life of our protagonist who fills a secret notebook full of his poems as he goes about his daily routine of driving his bus route, eating dinner with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), and having a beer at his neighborhood bar. It doesn’t sound like much happens, sure, but by the end I was cherishing every bit of the minutia that made up Paterson’s poetic existence.

2. LA LA LAND (Dir. Damien Chazzelle) Although this has been highly acclaimed by critics (it stands at a 93% on the Rotten Tomatometer), there has been a considerable amount of backlash against this modern musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as starcrossed lovers/Hollywood hopefuls. While I loved it, I can see the points of people who say it mansplains jazz, its leads aren’t the greatest singers, and that, despite the appearance of John Legend, it’s a pretty white movie. Still, I thought it soared far above most of last year’s releases with its wonderfully bouncy soundtrack (Gosling and Stone aren’t that bad as vocalists), sharp screenplay, and its colorfully inventive cinematography. As it’s nominated for 14 categories, it’ll take home a bunch of Oscars for sure come February 26th.

1. MOONLIGHT (Dir. Barry Jenkins) 

Right now, it looks like the Best Picture race is going to be a duel between MOONLIGHT and LA LA LAND, both of which are my two favorite films of the year. MOONLIGHT takes the #1 spot because it made more of an emotional dent on me with its realism over the pure fantasy of my #2 choice. Jenkins’ film, which tells the Miami -set story of a young African American male named Chiron who is played by three different actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) representing different ages of the character as he struggles with his homosexual identity. It’s fearless in its harrowing honesty, but I bet it will be more remembered for its simple beauty. This definitely deserved every Oscar nom it got.

Spillover (click on the bold faced titles for my reviews):

HAIL, CAESAR! (Dirs. Ethan Coen & Joel Coen)

SILENCE (Dir. Martin Scorsese) 
Yeah, I gave this a really mixed review but I think Matthew Zoller Seitz was right when he wrote: “This is not the sort of film you ‘like’ or ‘don't like.’ It's a film that you experience and then live with.” I'm definitely still living with it.

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (Dir. Richard Linklater)

GIMME DANGER (Dir. Jim Jarmusch)

Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg) 

HACKSAW RIDGE (Dir. Mel Gibson) 

Hannes Holm)

POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING (Dir. Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone)

ARRIVAL (Dir. Denis Villeneuve) This is another film I give a mixed review, but, what can I say? Its growing on me.

HIDDEN FIGURES (Dir. Theodore Melfi)


LIFE, ANIMATED (Dir. Roger Ross Williams)


More later...

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