Well, it’s that time of year again where we’ll take a look back on what the very best of the year had to offer us in terms of movies. Let’s get right into it!
Best Movies of 2016
Worst of the Year
Before getting to the best, let’s ring the bell of shame on the ones that made me want to polka my eyes out.
Kung Fu Panda 3 – having a little girl means that I need to go see my share of children’s movies and this snoozer one put me into a nice deep hibernation in the movie theatre.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Although I’m sure that this will win all the Razzies and top everyone’s list of worst of the year, I was shocked that I actually saw something worse…
The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Absolutely the worst movie of the year. I watched it in a small theatre on a cruise ship and ended up being that guy having very loud reactions to how bad the movie was. At one point I thought to myself, “oh wow, it would be such cheese if this girl got killed right here in this moment----“…and sure enough.
A new yearly feature to these lists! As the year goes on I not only see movies from the current year, but sometimes I see something from a previous year that I hadn’t and is worth drawing attention to (especially in that I think it might have made my top ten list for that year). There were two such movies I saw this year, and both were from 2015.
Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo de la Serpiente) – 2015
Outstanding film on the last Amazonian tribes. This was good brain medicine for me after subjecting myself to The Green Inferno (ugh).
Truman – 2015
This year we had Manchester by the Sea which dealt with the practical aspects of having to deal with death (amongst other things). This Spanish movie visits how you spend the last few months dealing with the practical matters of death BEFORE you die. You call up a friend, you visit funeral homes and such. Much like Manchester, it is both funny and heavy at the same time.
Now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s give a shout-out to some of the gems that didn’t quite make the top ten list this year, but are worth drawing attention to just the same.
Pete’s Dragon – One of the better kids’ movies this year. Everyone I brought with me loved it, adult and child alike.
Queen of Katwe – Disney making an uplifting movie about slum kids in Africa playing chess. Pretty well done.
10 Cloverfield Lane - I can’t get enough of Mary Elizabeth Winstead but this movie surprised me again and again, which is rare.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – What a total treat, speaking of surprises. I hope to see way more like this down the road.
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World – No documentaries made my top ten list this year but this one was VERY close. Super interesting and thought-provoking. I like being challenged by movies.
Eye in the Sky – Easily the tensest movie of the year. A real nail-biter.
Everybody Wants Some!! – Exactly what you need to see after something like Eye in the Sky. Just good fun, revisiting your youth and college days.
The Innocents – Powerful stuff, not easy.
Finding Dory – Most overrated movie of the year but still very good.
The Witch – Wins the award for “most unwell I’ve been watching a movie.” I didn’t know this was a genre for scary movies but I had my hands on my face for most of it.
Moana – Sad that I couldn’t find room for this in the top ten, it was excellent. When I think that this was my 3rd favourite animated movie of the year, I’m amazed at how good this genre has become.
And the bubble boy award for movie that JUST missed being in the top ten…
Hunt for the Wilderpeople – I’m so sad that a risky movie like this Kiwi comedy couldn’t crack my top ten. It was so close. This movie is a total blast and I really enjoyed it.
Top ten movies of 2016!
This just barely made my top ten. But the performances are so good and some of the moments feel so real, that I had to find a place for it. Look, Broadway play adaptions to the big screen can often be awkward, but here the performances are beyond good enough to make up the difference.
One of the problems of plays being on the big screen is it often seems that characters are in their own soliloquies, completely oblivious to the presence of other actors/characters beside them. In other words you know how Tarantino films hyper-realistic dialogues? His screenplays are made for the big screen. This isn't the case here and several times I was very aware that I was watching a play instead of a movie, due to the same set pieces being used over and over, to how silo'd the dialogue between characters seems.
STILL, i can understand why Denzel Washington will give Casey Affleck a run for his money for best actor this year. In the end I prefer the latter, but Denzel is excellent although there are moments where I think I saw a bit of Frank Lucas peeking his disturbed head into this character. Viola Davis steals scenes she’s in as well, which is terrific. She will win for Best Supporting Actress although I’m not sure why the role would be considered supporting. Both leads go completely all-out in their renditions of these characters and these are some very talented actors.
9. Sing Street
Grud will hate that this is placed so low in my list, given that it’s his favourite movie of the year. He’s right; it’s amazing and so much fun. Sort of a mix of The Commitments with Once (same director so no wonder) but yet totally unique.
Very quick synopsis since no one here ever knows these movies i see: 14 yr-old Conor is growing up in 80's Dublin. Having a tough time at home and at school, he luckily gets lost in the eyes of one Raphina. Giving him new purpose in winning her heart, he decides to be a rock star and quickly forms a band. That's all you need to know.
I don't think I've seen a music movie that focuses this much on the writing and inspiration process. "Want to help me write a song?" just never gets old.
I have a soft spot for Irish movies but this is just as good as Brooklyn (which i loved). The ensemble cast is all terrific as a bunch of reject kids going to a Christian high school, finding each other through music. Heck, I was all ready to complain about Littlefinger being in the movie but you stop seeing him as such no more than 6 seconds into his first scene. This speaks to the quality of directing and of that particular actor whose name I can never remember.... I think it’s Petyr Baelish.
The music is SO good too. A mix of plenty of styles as the band tries to find itself, going from Duran Duran to The Cure and beyond. I immediately bought some of the music. I can't get "Up" out of my head and "To Find You" is lovely. I can't seem to be able to legally obtain Adam Levine's "Go Now" but I'll keep trying.
The love interest in the movie is gar-jess (trying to evoke an Irish accent there) too. That little ginger producer's scene when trying to recruit pianist Ngig is one of the funniest scenes I've seen in a while.
I can't recommend it enough.
Fantastically funny and important film. I really need to take my girl to see this a second time I think. There are some pretty important messages in here on tolerance and career-aspiration dreams. But honestly, I think I just want to rewatch the sloths in the DMV again. I was in stitches during that part. The one taking the picture....wow.
It's just a terrifically fun movie. I tell you, it's nice not falling asleep in a kid's movie. Which leads me to think this isn't really a kid's movie.
7. Love & Friendship
Well, this is going to be tough sell to this crowd. Let me first state that I don't like Jane Austen novels or movies AT ALL. They don't do it for me and I find them quite forced. I saw the trailer for this one and was still not convinced but the cast seemed to strong, i just had to go.
It's hilarious and a bunch of quick fun. It's a slow build to the laughter, however. You know how Tarantino takes his time to build up the suspense until you can no longer bear it? This one really takes it time to get funny, but when it does... a real treat. Tom Bennett steals every scene he's in as Sir James Martin, think of Michael Scott if he were a lord. "That prophet that went up that mountain and came back with 12 commandments..."
When I saw this, I was 100% sure it would get recognition at the Academy Awards but now I’m not so sure, there has been too many better movies with better performances since this came out. Which is too bad because if there's one scene that really sells how much fun and subtle the comedy is, it's James Fleet as Sir Reginald DeCourcy trying to read a letter out loud to his long-term wife, Lady DeCourcy (Jemma Redgrave) from their daughter warning that their son is besmirched with Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale). The way this letter gets read and how annoyed that his wife is that he's not reading it word-for-word.... man, i could watch that scene 12 times.
Be warned that it's not for everybody. It's like a VERY British Woody Allen movie.
I could listen to Steven Fry threaten to ship Chloe Sevigny to Connecticut all day long. That never stops being funny. What a cast. I want to see more Tom Bennett in the future.
This ended up being even better than I was expecting. I knew it was going to be good, i had no idea it would be THIS good. There were one or two moments that I was literally on the edge of my seat.
Amy Adams is great in this and thank goodness as the movie really revolves completely around her character. The movie has a few similarities with both Contact and Interstellar but is better than both on many levels. I had a few hiccups at the beginning (why would the military fly fighter jets that low over populated areas?) but as the movie got more complicated, it actually started to make more and more sense. Good storytelling for sure.
It's neat how in a movie about aliens visiting Earth, the movie is much more about us than them.
The soundtrack is extraordinary too.
5. Kubo and the Two Strings
Incredible animated film.
From the studio that brought us the superior Coraline, here we have young Kubo, voiced by the young Stark son that barely gets more screen time in the entirety of Game of Thrones than he does here, who after forgetting to follow Gremlins-like rules of not feeding koalas after midnight, finds himself on an epic Zelda-like quest to acquire three or four magical items, including the legendary Sword Uncomfortable. Each one is naturally guarded by a dungeon boss, leading to some epic set pieces that I'm not sure I've ever experienced with such a feeling of grandeur in an animated film before. If you want to know why they feel so huge and real, make sure to stay during the credit roll.
At first my ears rejected the voice work of Matthew McConaughey, as I couldn't accept this Lincoln-driving narcissist as someone that would see Kubo as a hero when we all know he sees himself as his own hero, but he grows into the role very well and provides some good comic relief. Other voice acting is all very good, with a weird cameo by George Takei.
The movie is a total visual feast for the eyes but your brain will have a hard time trying to unravel the many threads the story is trying to string together. Also, i brought my 5-year old girl to it and she wasn't a fan. I think it's much more of an adult-targeted animated film than one for children.
I'm curious if the next movie out of this film studio will again reference implied eye trauma. It seems to be an obsession of these guys.
In the end, this became my favourite animated movie of the year when I look back. I am really curious who will take the Academy Award this year. It was an outstanding year for animation.
And now ladies and gentlemen, we really enter the best of the best. La crème de la crème. These top four movies of the year really are reels and reels ahead of the rest in terms of being engrossing, beautifully-made motion pictures. I would strongly urge you to see these if you haven’t yet had the opportunity.
4. Hell or High Water
Simply fantastic. It’s a great crime drama starring Chris Pine and the always amazing Jeff Bridges as a Texas Ranger trying to outwit some small-time bank robbers.
Pretty boy Chris Pine takes a bit of time to grow into the role of a mastermind bank robber, but don't worry. He does. All the characters are remarkably deep. Even just a random waitress is explored to a surprising amount.
The cinematography is beautiful. You really feel the big sky of Texas and it's great.
Note that this isn't an action movie at all; it's VERY slow and I like that. A nice slow boil, which makes explosive moments much more impactful and unexpected. Some people in the theatre were disappointed that there wasn't more action, so just make sure your expectations are in check.
The last scene is pure perfection. Heard from this movie-goer out loud, "...wow." Edge of my seat.
3. La La Land
Typically dramas always dominate the top of my top ten lists so how did a musical get up here? Well, it’s a surprisingly dramatic musical as it turns out.
It's safe to say i had very high expectations walking into this movie with my g/f. I don't think I've seen a proper musical since Hairspray (Once was actually more recent but felt well above and beyond a simple musical), so as soon as people start dancing on the LA freeway, I'm thinking to myself, "ah yes, i remember these. I need to just smile and enjoy it." and then minutes later as the back of a cube van opens up and an enthusiastic percussionist starts playing the sides of the van and an even more enthusiastic flutist starts swaying back and forth, I find myself with a huge smile on my face and I just let everything go and fell into the fun escape that good musicals deliver.
In the end, it got fairly surprisingly dramatic (it's no Manchester by the Sea or anything) with relationships and supporting or not supporting your partner's dreams. One of these scenes in particular goes on for a quite a while for a musical. I actually don't think this is a love story, as I never really got the feeling the main characters were in love, it felt more like infatuation to me. I think Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling had more love chemistry in Crazy, Stupid Love than they do in this.
In terms of performances, Emma Stone will likely win Best Actress but I, personally, was more impressed with fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling as he really seems to be literally stepping out of his comfort zone, which i highly respect. I thought his dance numbers were quite impressive and he was very believable as a struggling jazz pianist. I loved the little quirks he brought to his character as well (I have a feeling that making Sebastian jumpy was his idea).
I haven't seen a movie so perfectly suited for Oscar since The Artist. I would already bet heavily that it will win Best Picture and, more appropriately, Best Director. However, this is a year I think that Oscar will get it wrong as I don't believe La La Land is the best movie of the year, I liked the upcoming two films much more…
2. Manchester by the Sea
My heart still hurts from having seen this movie. It took hours for it to feel a bit better, and even now it still aches a bit when I think of it. This is one HEAVY movie.
I can't say enough good things about Casey Affleck's performance. He is so obviously going to win best actor this year for this at the Oscars. I liked him before and now I LOVE him. What a deep character to try and master, and he does so with great skill. Michelle Williams is great, and that one scene of them together on the street is easily this year's best scene on film thanks to her. It just absolutely tore me to pieces. Even the second time I saw this it hit me just as hard, if not harder.
There are so many of these awkward drama moments captured super well in this film. Like a hockey team standing by and waiting while a teammate learns that his father has just died. Most movies wouldn't give screen time to a bunch of teammates standing on the ice waiting, but this one does and it adds massively to the quality and impact of the drama.
I also love that the screenwriters completely respect the audience. Never once do we see certain pictures in frames, we only see the characters' reactions to the pictures, that's all we need. You don't need to connect all the dots and they didn't, so kudos to Manchester by the Sea for being a smart adult movie.
This movie is simply incredible and I can’t recommend it enough.
I’ve spent the last couple weeks trying to figure out which movie I think was better between Manchester by the Sea and the number one movie of the year (for me). In the end I really had to give it to…
I'm not sure where to even start with this one. There are so many scenes done in such a unique way that I haven't seen before. It's a tough movie to talk about since I went in not knowing a single thing other than the title, so I wouldn't want to spoil any plot surprises.
It's weird that I saw this in the same year I saw Closet Monster because this is the perfected version of the other.
It is almost as good as Boyhood and follows the same idea of a young man finding himself over various stages of his life (but this time with different actors). There are so many incredible performances, it's tough to single out specific ones. Alex Hibbert playing young Little is amazing, as are many others. Mahershala Ali will absolutely win Best Supporting Actor for this.
Honestly guys, I think this is the very best movie of the year. I left the theatre yearned badly for an epilogue.
You know how Grand Theft Auto V tried to offer some skin-deep insight into the modern-day African-American experience through Franklin? Well... Moonlight will take you 100 fathoms deeper, to put it lightly. You will feel it.
Highly recommended. Get ready to be challenged.
Well that’s it. I think this is the closest I’ve ever been to a tie for best movie of the year, but I really do feel Moonlight has a very slight edge. Both of them are extraordinary. See them. See them now.
I’m really hoping 2017 will churn up some great movies as well. I’m sure I’ll be disappointed by Alien: Covenant (my most anticipated movie) and Star Wars: Episode VIII. That’s easy, the big question will be what will surprise and astonish us, can’t wait to see.
Thanks for reading!