I don’t watch and review movies for a living, heck I barely do it on the side, but none the less I love watching and talking about movies in whatever time I get. As a result of just never having enough time to get to the theater, I never see all the movies I’d like to in a given year, and 2016 is no different. Thanks to some great streaming services and a few rentals however, I am up to 56 films viewed off my 2015 list, but this year that is wrapping up I have only had the chance to get to 25 releases. I missed A LOT of films that have been very highly reviewed and I am eager to get to, which includes Moonlight, The Nice Guys, Fences, Manchester by the Sea, 10 Cloverfield Lane and La La Land (there are others as well of course). So all of that said, of the 25 movies released in 2016 that I did have the chance to see, here are the 5 that I most enjoyed. To be clear, not necessarily the best, but the just the 5 movies that made me really excited for cinema. Here goes!
Oh, sorry, one additional comment. I have intentionally left three movies I saw off this list; Captain America: Civil War, Batman V. Superman, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. These three blockbusters, in my opinion, stand on their own (good or bad) and would unnecessarily muddy this list and make it, quite frankly, less interesting. If you want to know which of those three, if any, would have made my top 5, just ask. Ok, on to the list.
5. Deadpool – Surprise! I still found room for a comic book movie even after taking the two big dogs out of play. It’s been said a million times, but this movie was refreshing (all be it raunchy dialed up to 11!) and cleaver in a genre that as been drowning in its own success of late. Something I took away from this was that on half the budget of your average Marvel film it was just as successful, and I don’t think it was because it was R rated, I believe it was because it had style and was well written. If a super hero film is to be anything other than a commodity, the creative team needs more freedom, like they had in Deadpool.
4. Zootopia – Smart, funny, insightful without being to heavy-handed are how I would describe this animated box office success from Disney. Zootopia uses anthropomorphic animals to parallel a lot of our current societal ills around race, gender, bullying and discrimination and does in a way that resonates with adults and kids alike. It operates almost on the same level as last year’s Inside Out, only where that was a deeply personal tale, this movie is much broader in scope. I hope this trend continues from Disney and Pixar of using the canvas of animation to tell these types of stories and captures these struggles in a way that should resonate with generations to come.
3. Krisha – Ok, yes, I’m sneaking an under seen indie pick in here because I think it is worth checking out and it really did grab me from the beginning. With movies like this, that I only hear about from Filmspotting or Indiewire, I give them about 20 minutes and either I’m hooked or I’m out, and in this case I was hooked. It was hard to watch. I can’t imagine watching it again actually. Still, it made be feel so naturally sympathetic for so many of the characters, and the lead actor is so good and playing crazy, it’s like watching a 90 minutes train wreck play out in slow motion, you just can’t look away.
2. Wiener – For a documentary to be successful in my eyes, it needs to be compelling in one of several ways. Editing, uniqueness of story, or in this case, a level of access that has you constantly asking yourself, “this can’t really be happening, can it?”. The story of the disgraced, resurrected, then disgraced again Congressman turned Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner is riveting, and the lucky pile that the director steps in by being there when the second shoe falls makes this an absolutely fascinating, comedic, and raw story that I could not get enough of. I’m sure it’s not the ‘best’ documentary of the year, but it was certainly my favorite so far (note: I haven’t seen OJ: Made in America, I understand that is the one to beat).
1. Sing Street – I wasn’t sure how 2-5 were going to go when I started this list, but I knew my number one. Sing Street is so completely in my wheel house as a film that not only is it my favorite of the year, it is also the only 2016 movie I have seen multiple times already. The original music is what really seals the deal, making the 80’s setting somehow feel fresh and nostalgic all at the same time. The whole movie is a blast, but in particular I think director John Carney does a fantastic job showing the passage of time, whether it’s a few weeks or only a few hours, in a way that keeps the plot moving without ever losing the thread or feeling to unrealistic in the development of the characters. I know it’s not perfect, but I simply loved this movie.
Ok, what are some of the best movies that you saw this year? What did I get wrong? Perhaps most importantly, which movies did I miss that were released this year that I really should catch up with? As the next year moves along I am sure I will catch up with many more of the best films from 2016.