As you may have noticed on my IG page, in efforts to produce an accurate sum of 2016’s best cinema, I paid a number of visits to the theater during awards season. I must admit, up until the last few months of 2016, it seemed like the first half of the year we were experiencing a cinematic drought. With the exception of a few films, theaters seemed littered with pretentious cinema. Like many, I seek that true cinematic experience that puts your worries to rest, and locks you in with pure hypnotic engagement. I’m happy to report that in these past few months I enjoyed a few doses of that hypnotic cinema. So counting down to my pick for film of the year, my findings are as follows.
US Release Date: 24th of June
Sixteen year old Jesse is an aspiring model new to the L.A. scene, and is about to discover the dreadful and demeaning world of modeling. This is Winding Refn's third mainstream film, and though not well received, it certainly solidifies Refn as an Auteur. Over the years, many classics that are now praised as innovative and ambitious, were originally bashed and overlooked by critics; this film certainly has the potential to stand the test of time as an overlooked gem. Its score, cinematography and structure result in one of the most hypnotic theatrical experiences of the year.
US Release Date: 16th of December
After a tragic incident, a man is compelled to leave his hometown of Manchester and relocate across the shore where he spends his days as a withdrawn loner trying to forget past events. Eventually he gets word that his older brother is on his death bed, and is then obliged to head back to Manchester to deal with his brother's pending matters- most importantly, his brother’s son. Be warned: this is a film that requires patience from its viewers. Much of the film rests on Casey Affleck’s effective performance as the solemn angry man. The direction of Kenneth Lonergan is both subtle and fitting, but it’s the writing that sets the tone and genuine feel of this real as life drama. Overall a standout Drama.
US Release Date: 9th of December
An art gallery owner living a hollow life of riches receives a manuscript from her ex-husband that causes her to revisit memories of the events and actions leading up to the fallout of her former marriage. Tom Ford follows up his impressive directorial debut with this ambitious psychological thriller. The film is riddled with statements and metaphors on society that personally stand out and are quite relevant throughout one’s adulthood. The way each character is approached and performed just adds to the level of engagement, but it’s Michael Shannon’s supporting performance that steals the show. His performance alone was worth the price of admission.
US Release Date: 25th of December
An average working class African American man projects his deep rooted scars of prejudice and hate upon his family as he tries to guide his teenage son’s life based on the mistakes and wrong doings of his own path. Adopted for the screen from the Pulitzer Prize winning stage play, Fences succeeds on the big screen. Naturally, the film produces some of the year’s most powerful performances by the talented Denzel Washington and equally impressive Viola Davis; each of their characters consists of enough screen time and dialogue to fill two entire scripts. And believe me when I say, no one could have filled the two lead roles better than these two.
US Release Date: 4th of March
In a world of anthropomorphic animals, a righteous young female bunny deals with discrimination and prejudice as she fulfills her dream as a rookie cop. She comes across a pair of hustling foxes with whom she unexpectedly teams up with to unravel a large conspiracy affecting the urban community of Zootopia. Spectacular animation, terrific acting and a great plot; easily 2016’s best animated film.
US Release Date: 19th of February
Due to a disagreement over the interpretation of the New Testament, a 17th century family has a falling out with the leaders of their community and decides to leave and find a place of their own. They come across a patch of land at the edge of a forest tree line and decide to settle. They soon come to the horrid realization that something sinister lurks in the forest. Directed by new comer Robert Eggers, this is one of the few films in the horror genre that is in a level above the rest. The execution is amongst the most flawless from any genre of that year(2016). Nowadays rarely do you see horror approached with such detail and eloquence, not just visually but the script as well. This makes for one of the most impressive directorial debuts that I've ever witnessed.
US Release Date: 6th of May
Seeming more like a continuation to the Avengers series rather than an installment of Captain America, the story picks up right after Avengers: Age Of Ultron; where the sustained collateral damage results in a governing act that divides the Avengers in two teams. On one hand you have Steve Rodgers(Captain America) leading the stand against the governments intervention, and on the other, you have a conflicted Tony Starks(Iron Man) standing by the governments act. This film is arguable the best Marvel Studios film to date. A near perfect crowd pleaser loaded with some of the best action sequences of 2016.
US Release Date: 4th of November
The remarkable true story of Desmond T. Doss, the first Conscientious objector to enlist in the American Army during WWII. Told in two halves; the film opens with Desmond’s youth and the path that leads him to become a Conscientious Objector and the adversities he faces during training. The second half covers the dreadful Battle of Okinawa. Back from a long break from the director’s chair, Mel Gibson deliver’s the most entertaining war film in recent memory. As witnessed in prior films, Gibson displays his ability to highlight the carnage and immediate psychological effects of war. Also, to my surprise, Andrew Garfield deliver’s one of the best lead performances of the year.
2. La La Land
US Release Date: 25th of December
The story of a passionate jazz musician that falls for an aspiring actress, is told on a grand scale musical production. Following up his outstanding debut, director Damien Chazelle delivers one of the most beautiful melodic productions in years. While the direction, set design, choreography and acting compose much of the magic, it’s the music that stands out as the most appealing feature of the film. And yes, much credit is also due to the natural charm and chemistry that both Gosling and Stone bring to their characters.
US Release Date: 18th of November
A character study about a youth in search of his identity while growing up in the gritty neighborhoods of Florida. This film grips you from the very start; its cinematography and score set an immersive tone that does not let up. A Florida native himself, director Barry Jenkins puts forth an ambitious and poetic approach that not only feels universal, but also touches the heart. Lastly, the performances are up to par from its fresh cast, but Marsha Ali in particular peaks with one of the year’s most outstanding supporting performances.
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Don’t Breathe
- Bleed For This
- Me Before You
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
- Hell or High Water
- Doctor Strange
I hope you find these titles as enjoyable and entertaining as I did. Believe me when I tell you that it was not easy placing these titles in order. Particularly the top two slots; I took as many aspects into consideration to select the top ten, but ultimately it came down to the overall feel and cinematic experience that each film offered. And as most know, the art of cinema is subjective and varies in taste and experience from person to person. So if you have a list, please share or point me to it.
Let’s see what beauties the new year brings to the big screen.
Written by AJT
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