My Top 10 Hollywood Films of 2016

Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 24th, is one of my personal holidays.  Oscar nomination announcement day!  And while I’m late, I’m just under the wire before those announcements to give you my personal list of my top Hollywood films of 2016.  Apologies for getting to this later in January than I’d hoped.  My father was in the hospital for almost two full weeks.  Fortunately, he’s doing better, and I’m glad to be thinking of movies again instead of ICU and breathing tubes.

A major caveat is that I have not been able to see some of the films of 2016 that came out very late in the year for Oscar season.  Especially with my father’s illness, I have not seen Silence, Jackie, or Fences yet, just to name a few.

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1. La La Land

Did you have any doubt after this rapturous review describing my tears of joy, that La La Land would be my favorite film of the entire year?  I live and breathe movie musicals, and Damien Chazelle reviving the genre in Hollywood is my dream come true.  My love of musicals are why I love Indian Cinema so much (I’ll be posting a separate top list for Indian Cinema).  La La Land garnered a record number of Golden Globes with seven, and could make history tomorrow with a shattering 15 Oscar nominations.  With a musical, you add in song, score, etc. to all the traditional categories.  The previous record number of nominations would be 14 (All About Eve and Titanic).  Could it sweep?  Maybe….

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2. Moonlight

Moonlight is a movie that has really stayed with me.  I have been frankly amazed at how well this film has done.  I’m not sure it will resonate with the average Academy member (white, male and over 65), but it really did with me.  I’m crossing my fingers that it gets lots of nominations, especially for director Barry Jenkins and that Mahershala Ali wins Supporting Actor.  He was amazing.

manchesterbythesea_trailer3. Manchester By The Sea

I was privileged to attend the premiere of Kenneth Lonnergan’s Manchester By The Sea at Sundance last January.  I didn’t know what I was about to see, just that I had to see the latest film by the man who made You Can Count On Me.  I didn’t know that Casey Affleck was going to rip my heart out with his devastating performance.  Viewers now know that this is a sad film, but it has wonderful moments of comedy, especially with Affleck’s relationship with his nephew, played by Lucas Hedges, who I hope will get an Oscar nod tomorrow morning.

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4. Captain Fantastic 

Captain Fantastic may be a career best performance for Viggo Mortenson, as the father of six children, determined to home school them completely off the grid in the wilderness of the Northwest.  I hope and pray that Viggo gets recognition tomorrow with an Oscar nomination.  The film has kind of fallen of the radar, except that Viggo’s performance cannot be denied.  I strongly urge you to give this film a chance.  It’s available for rental on Amazon, Youtube, etc.  It was one of my favorites from Sundance last year.

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5. The Lobster

I loved every absurd moment of The Lobster.  Colin Farrell was amazing.  Highly recommend, and it’s now included with Amazon Prime.

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6. Deadpool

Oh, my goodness, I did not realize how stale the superhero movie genre had become until the fresh air of Deadpool.  Ryan Reynolds was made for this role, and aren’t we all so glad he fought so hard to win this role and get the movie made.  Second favorite thing about the movie is the snarling teenage girl X-men.  Love her!!  It’s a great film to rewatch as there is just so many little nuggets of goodness to catch.

7. Hunt For the Wilderpeople

You MUST see Hunt For the Wilderpeople.  Taika Waititi, the writer director has created a comic masterpiece about a young Maori foster kid and the ultimate curmudgeon, Sam Neill.  I feel so much better about the upcoming Thor movie, because Taika Waititi is a comic genius.   It’s included with a Hulu subscription right now, and also available to rent online.  You’ll thank me.

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8. Hell or High Water

Such a fantastic script for Hell or High Water.  Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges were particularly good.

9. Ali and Nino

I saw this sweeping historical love story epic, directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia (Amy), at Sundance.  It only got a limited release, but it’s available to rent on demand.  It has a script by  screenwriter Christopher Hampton who wrote Atonement.  I could eat this movie with a spoon, it’s just so wonderful.  Ali and Nino tells the story of a Muslim prince of Afghanistan who falls in love with a Christian young woman (her father is played by Mandy Patinkin).  It’s set in the time of World War I, and I had no idea that Afghanistan was almost at democracy.  The movie was filmed just across the border in Turkey and the scenery is just stunning.

arrival210. Arrival

Choosing a last film of a top ten feels very arbitrary because there were a couple of films that were all about equal for me.  This could also easily be Zootopia, which I really enjoyed.  But I’m picking Arrival for Amy Adams’ wonderful performance.  This is the kind of Sci-fi movie I enjoy, one that makes you think.  Amy Adams sells you on this movie, and hip hip hurray, it was so much her movie.  Jeremy Renner was very much the supporting actor.  Linguist Amy Adams led the team who tried to communicate with the aliens, although  my brother pointed out that you didn’t really see her lead her team in an active way.  I hope Amy gets an Oscar nomination for this wonderful film tomorrow morning.

 

 

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New Years Notes

Tom Hardy reads a bedtime story with a sleeping dog in his lap.  You’re welcome.

 

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How Deadpool Saved Ryan Reynolds.  Rogue One Editors talk about reshoots and added scenes.  Mark Hamill tribute to Carrie Fisher.  Must listen interview with Carrie Fisher on Fresh Air.  Scorsese worries cinema is gone.  Being the “no” woman at work.  Ellen Barry on young Indian women chasing big-city dreams.

I’m obsessed with Billy on the Street.  Super interesting Fresh Air interview with him.

 

Suicide Squad – Well, Margot Robbie was good and Viola Davis is terrifying

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This has been such a disappointing summer for movies.  I’m not the only one to say  so, but add my voice to the chorus.  Too many sequels for the sake of sequels and the big money of international audiences.  Meeting release dates just because a franchise movie has to be in that slot.  Blech.

I had high hopes for Suicide Squad.  It looked irreverent and cool like Deadpool.  I’m not a comics reader so I have no idea what is canon or what the original origin stories are for these characters.  A team of bad guys turned into heroes?  Guardians of the Galaxy, anyone?

After all the missteps with all these enormous ensemble character movies, I have gained new depths of respect for Joss Whedon, James Gunn and J. J. Abrams.  It is damn hard to introduce us to a bunch of characters, give us their background, create chemistry between them all, and insert some witty cool banter.  Damn hard.  And if you try too hard to look cool and sound cool, you end up with something like Suicide Squad.

This movie is a mess.  It needed some more script polishing or something.  It’s just meh.  It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s not good either.

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There are some bright points.  Margot Robbie for one.  She is fantastic as Harley Quinn.  I loved her.  She had great chemistry with Will Smith as Deadshot, who has charisma just standing there.

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I loved Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman in the TV series The Killing, and I’m glad to see him get movie work.  He was fine as Rick Flag.  (I guess he was the new Robocop, which I haven’t seen.)

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The rest of the ensemble did not impress me much, especially Jared Leto as the Joker.  What the heck?  He tried to be so method he sent used condoms to his co-stars and dead rats.  Exhibit A of trying too damn hard to be cool.  I think there was a reason he was on screen only about 7 minutes total.

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The best of the whole lot, though, and the exception to the rule is the always off the chain fantastic Viola Davis as Amanda Waller.  She can make chewing a steak dinner look terrifying.  She was such a sociopath in this!  It’s like she was in an entirely better movie in her head.

My son worked at a movie theater this summer, and he got me in free to a 3D show.  I would not recommend you pay money to see it in a theater.  Watch it on cable or rent as a timepass.

Two and a half stars out of five.