January gave me the chance to look backA list of thirty-five films fill my personal blog of the Best Movies of 2016. Those films are diverse and range from dramas and big-budget comedies to documentaries and thrilling foreign-language films. I would fight hard for all thirty-five of the movies on my personal blog, the following titles represent a good cross-section of those films.
10. HIDDEN FIGURES – Over the summer, there were two great films about young black girls that were insightful and empowering. They were The Fits and T-Rex. They were small, indie films that most won’t see. This is the Hollywood, box-office hit that most will, especially given all the awards attention. This film focuses on black women who worked in NASA in the 1960’s who were crucial to the space race and getting John Glenn off the ground and back but who had to contend with sexism and racism.
9. SWISS ARMY MAN – This film is an example of how weird and how creative filmmaking can be. It’s bizarre. It’s metaphorical. It’s disturbing. It’s funny. It’s gross. It’s juvenal. Yet, it’s full of heart and exuberance. The premise is about a man stranded on an island who befriends a farting corpse, played by Daniel Radcliffe, the long-time Harry Potter. It wins for strangest premise of the year, of the decade, of the century. Yet, it was one of the most empathetic and relating films ever.
8. WEINER – History will forever mark the election of 2016 and how extraordinary it was. One footnote to why Hillary Clinton lost is the shenanigans of Anthony Weiner. This documentary delves into who he was as a political character and a person, and it’s extremely compelling.
7. 13TH – Acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay argues how the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution laid the groundwork for the problem of disproportionate mass incarceration of African-Americans. Her argument is cinematic, amazing and powerful.
6. ZOOTOPIA – It’s a cute and fun, Disney movie about talking animals. It’s a spoof of buddy cop films, while being a great assay of racism and feminism or bigotry in general with great vocal performances from Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman.
5. LITTLE MEN – This past year featured a slew of great roles for children. This one was a prime example with two teenage boys who lead a story about gentrification, family and culture clash. It’s very much a New York and Brooklyn story, but the head butts between Greg Kinnear and Paulina García who play the parents of the boys are the stuff of great drama, but the two boys, Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri have to be held up, especially Barbieri who has a great scene that shows off his young talents, a scene which rivals Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes in Hail, Caesar.
4. BEING 17 – This French film by André Téchiné is the best gay film of the year. It’s a far better film than the highly acclaimed Moonlight. Armond White made a similar argument between these two films, but this movie doesn’t have the weight of a gimmick like the one in Moonlight or the cowardice of not showing black man, or in this case black teen, engaging in same-sex, physical attraction.
3. EYE IN THE SKY – Alan Rickman’s final, on-screen performance features a great ensemble including Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul. When it comes to modern-day warfare, this movie explores and exposes the issues in a way that’s almost akin to Dr. Strangelove. It’s not an outright satire or comedy. It’s way more dramatic but it balances humor here well.
2. LION – Dev Patel is the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for acting at the Academy Awards. He’s gorgeous and he’s heartbreaking in this film. He arrives late in the film but that doesn’t matter. The movie does what great movies do, and that’s tell a powerful story powerfully. Nicole Kidman is also absolutely deserving of her Oscar nomination here.
1. FENCES – August Wilson has gotten a posthumous Oscar nomination 12 years after his death. His Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for this play aren’t enough. Denzel Washington was the perfect ambassador for this play who delivers a knockout performance, alongside Viola Davis at the height of her power. This adaptation belongs in the pantheon of other play-to-film turns like 12 Angry Men, A Streetcar Named Desire and A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. It is sheer excellence.