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.

 

 

2016 – My Movie Year

 

Letterboxd.com is where I keep a diary of all the films I watch, including films I rewatch.  They have a very cool year in review feature.  I was inspired by this Matt Bowes post about all the media he consumed in 2016, to make this post.  I’ll just talk about the movies here, but I love how he listed all the comics, podcasts, etc., too!

So, according to Letterboxd, I saw 222 films in 2016, which includes short films and rewatches.  That averages out to over 18 a month, and over 4 a week.  Weeks like our visit to the Sundance Film Festival, where we saw 30 films (including shorts) certainly help to bump up that average, but I am an avid movie viewer no matter how you slice it.  I just started this blog in April, but I had been posting short reviews on most films to Letterboxd before that.

2016 started with The Hateful Eight (which I didn’t love) and ended with Zootopia, which I did love.  There were mostly older films, but I did watch 82 films that were released in 2016.  It won’t surprise any of my readers that fully half were films from India, 111 of them.

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Interestingly, the actor with the most films I saw was not Shahrukh Khan (who was second with 12), but Nasser with 14!  That man is in EVERYTHING!

This year I discovered Telegu cinema megastar Mahesh Babu (9 movies) and Malayalam cinema star  Prithviraj.  I’ve got a stack of more Prithviraj movies to watch — the man has made so many!  I’m amused that Prithviraj’s early film Stop Violence – which I watched without subs! – Letterboxd lists as my “most obscure movie”.

The highest rated (by people on Letterboxd) film I saw in 2016 is Moonlight, which is heading to the Oscars.  The lowest rated is Yoga Hosers.  Yeah.  Have to pretty much agree with that — but Assassin’s Creed is giving it a run for it’s money on that score. Yoga Hosers is just crazy silly (Brat Nazis!) but it was worth it to go to the midnight premiere just to see Kevin Smith.

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2016 will always be in my memory, because this was the year that a movie I helped get made premiered at Sundance.

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 How To Tell You’re A Douchebag is the movie I saw the most times this year, as I attended screenings of the film, and showed it to friends and family.  I’m so proud of writer/director Tahir Jetter’s achievement.  It was bought by BET and aired this summer.  You can watch it on iTunes, Amazon video or Google play now!

Top films from 2016 I saw in Hollywood and Indian cinema coming soon.

Moonlight – Like Watching Beautiful Poetry Come To Life

I had heard a growing chorus about the greatness of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight from the festival circuit, and it is now gracing the number one spot on many critics’ Top 10 films of the year.  It’s a three-way Oscar race at this point, with Manchester By The Sea, and La La Land.

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Before I saw the film, I did not understand the movie poster for Moonlight, but it is actually perfection.  The film is split in three parts showing 10 year old “Little”, a young teen and then a young adult Chiron.  The poster shows all three actors split in thirds, and how they together make the whole person that is Chiron.

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This image released by A24 Films shows Alex Hibbert, left, and Mahershala Ali in a scene from the film, “Moonlight.” The film is a poetic coming-of-age tale told across three chapters about a young gay black kid growing up in a poor, drug-ridden neighborhood of Miami. (David Bornfriend/A24 via AP)

The film Moonlight is based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue which was written by Chicago Steppenwolf playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney.  Little/Charon is a young taciturn 10 year old in the first segment.  Chased by bullies who taunt him for being a “faggot”.  He hides out in a crackhouse, and is improbably rescued by the local drug dealer gang leader, Juan (Mahershala Ali in a tour de force).  Mahershala Ali I was mainly familiar with from his excellent work as the lobbyist Remy in House of Cards, but he’s one of those faces who has been in several TV series and movies like Hunger Games Mockingjay.  I’ve never seen him like this.  He was quite simply amazing.  He will be nominated for just about every supporting actor nomination available this awards cycle.

He takes young Little back home to his wife Teresa because Little won’t talk and say where he lives.  After Little spends the night, Juan takes him under his wing, and you fear what he might be grooming Little for.  But there is just this luminous scene where he teaches Little to Swim on a Miami beach.  Juan is the one who tells him about black boys looking blue in the Moonlight.  Little lives alone with his single mother nurse, and you can see in his big eyes how he craves a father figure.  He even asks Juan and Teresa, “What does ‘faggot’ mean?” and your heart stops.  Juan and Teresa explain, but also are accepting and tender.  Every character in this film has layers and complexities — the local drug lord, is the caring father figure, full of acceptance.

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The second segment shows lanky Chiron (Ashton Sanders) still being bullied at school.  He has one consistent friend, Kevin, who was his best pal in the first segment, too.  There is an incredible tender scene between Kevin and Chiron alone on  the beach one night.  But then afterwards, he is betrayed.  This moment in the still above is when Chiron looks at his beaten face in the mirror, and you can just see him girding himself, and saying, “No. More.”  He explodes, and it had my heart in my throat just like the ending of FandryFandry.  You’ve seen this poor kid, now with a crack addicted neglectful mother, just endure and endure and he just can’t any more.  Many movies would end there.

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But the final segment shows what Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) has become as an adult.  He’s now a drug dealer with gold teeth and macho attitude.  The way he dresses, and his car all show how he’s trying to live up to what Juan was.  He gets a call from Kevin (André Holland) out of the blue, and that sends him driving hours through the night back to Miami to see Kevin again.  The film ends so tenderly and with such a sense of hope.  My heart was just so full.

This is an incredible film.  Groundbreaking in its structure.  It examines the life of a young gay black man, and examines the toxicity of the roles of masculinity.  It’s complex, and it’s also just so luminously filmed.  It is a gorgeous film to watch.

2016 may suck in general, but we’ve been given such a gift this year with great films.  Don’t miss Moonlight.  It’s still playing in theaters.

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David Ehrlich’s Top 25 Films of 2016

David Ehrlich (@davidehrlich) is the Rolling Stone Movie Critic. We met him briefly this last Sundance in line for a movie, but I didn’t realize he was the onscreen_shot_2012-05-26_at_12-12-33_am_400x400e who makes these videos every year that I adore. I just love the music choices and his editing.

But as to his top 25 list, I haven’t been to all the festivals that he has, or seen even half these films. I have a feeling La La Land which comes out Friday will be my number one of the year, and right now it’s the front runner for the Oscar. It has been getting ecstatic reviews from just about everyone who’s seen it — a musical with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling by the same director who did Whiplash. Ehrlich had La La Land in his top 10, but it was number 8 for him.
 
Manchester by the Sea would be my number two film (if La La Land is 1) and he has that all the way down at 18. Moonlight is his number one, and it is for many critics. It’s probably my number 3 film of the entire year. It’s absolutely incredible (review coming soon).
 
I have not seen Scorsese’s Silence or Jackie which will come out later this month. I would also put The Lobster in my top 10 of the year, possibly my top five. I loved every absurd moment of that film.
Here’s his 2015 video: