What we here at Cinemacy consider to be the best of this year represents a combination of the movies that had the greatest emotional impact on us, matched with movies that felt innovative or groundbreaking. Here are the films I consider to be this year’s best:
10. Captain Fantastic (L) and Hunt For the Wilderpeople (R)
A joint tenth place; but come to think of it, “Captain Fantastic” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” succeed for a lot of the same reasons. Both are family tragicomedies that demonstrate incredible tonal sleight of hand, flowing from humor to pathos with ease. Both are, also, adventure films with incredible cinematography of their characters’ forested habitat as they navigate odds with an unfamiliar outside world – much of their thematic makeup comes from understandable conflict with an unfamiliar modern world. And both feature commanding young actors alongside a never-better performance from a veteran actor most commonly associated with a popular film trilogy (Viggo Mortensen and Sam Neill, respectively).
Read our full “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” review here.
9. Life, Animated
The sole documentary entry on this list, “Life, Animated” is a testament to how the power of motion pictures can never to be underestimated. It is a biography of Owen Suskind, a movie theater attendant in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. But his backstory, with no shortage of adversities and triumphs, is a magnificent account of creativity and the human spirit. The use of illustrations to depict Owen’s struggles make for perhaps the most memorable portrayals of Autism on film, but also of how art can help us all contextualize the world and learn to connect with it in new ways.
Read our full “Life, Animated” review here.
8. The Nice Guys
“La La Land”
may very well be the frontrunner for Best Picture this year, but that doesn’t mean it was the best Ryan Gosling retro L.A. vehicle in 2016. “The Nice Guys” is the newest film from Shane Black, released by Warner Bros on the same May weekend as they did “Mad Max: Fury Road” the previous year. It didn’t quite catch on as much with audiences as a hard-R critically acclaimed Summer pulp from a veteran filmmaker, but was a total blast all the same. Gosling and an unusually spirited Russel Crowe flourished in this callback to the days of buddy cop films – it successfully evoked a sense of “they don’t make them like that anymore.”
7. Wiener Dog
Todd Solondz is best known for the classic 90’s black comedies “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and “Happiness” and his latest is in the same ballpark as those films. “Wiener Dog” is a follow-up of sorts to “Dollhouse,” reusing some established characters, but it tells its story through the eyes of a Dachshund that travels through life with different owners of increasingly older age and varying temperament. A meditation of sorts on the cycle of life, the film offers a great cast (including a scene-stealing Danny DeVito as a dreaded film school professor) and Solondz’s detached sense of humor – an acquired taste, but one that makes for a supremely delirious odyssey.
6. Edge of Seventeen
Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, “Edge of Seventeen” centers on a year in the life of Nadine, a high school student in the Pacific Northwest who struggles to navigate through family turmoil and a newfound (and at times, self-induced) sense of alienation. This movie is refreshingly free of stereotypes, triteness, and so many other pitfalls the American high school film has been plagued with for decades. With a winning performance from Hailee Steinfeld, “Edge of Seventeen” was a film that explored and reminded of the truth at the center of teenage hyperbole.
5. Hell or High Water
With rustic photography and a gripping story of cops and robbers, David Mackenzie showed us what a Michael Mann crime saga set on the border of Texas and Oklahoma would look like. “Hell or High Water” brews such a sense of atmosphere in and around these near-ghost towns, but also such a lived-in sense of desperation in some characters and resignation in others. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ score also bolsters this slice of cinematic Americana.
4. Everybody Wants Some!!
Speaking of cinematic Americana, the filmography of Richard Linklater is proliferated with nostalgia romanced with dry humanism and narrative freeflow. After the ambitions of “Boyhood”
and the “Before” trilogy, the Texan auteur returned to the small scale rowdy charm of the film that put him on the map, “Dazed and Confused.” A hilarious and empathetic expedition with an underachieving college baseball team, this home-run was a worthy addition to the director’s canon, while also featuring memorable turns from young actors such as Blake Jenner (also featured on this list in “Edge of Seventeen”), Glen Powell, and Zoey Deutch.
Read our full “Everybody Wants Some!!” review here.
3. The VVitch: A New England Folktale
Robert Eggers dropped a most memorable directorial debut early in 2016 with “The VVitch.” Walking through the woods with an exiled Puritan family, a masterclass in ambiance and mystic terror is unleashed upon the audience. The film exercises the true potential of the horror genre, with believable characters that struggle with religious guilt, repression, and fairly understandable fear of the unknown. This film was blasphemous in the best way.
There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said. Of all the serious awards contenders this year, the one most resonant and deserving of the hype would have to be Barry Jenkins’ sophomore feature film “Moonlight.” Capturing three distinct moments in the life of a young Floridan named Chiron, few films capture the plight of self-discovery quite like this does, as we navigate conflicting father figures and romances alongside him. Much like the camera’s titular gazing upon the Miami night tide, “Moonlight” was something deeply felt and filmic.
Read our full “Moonlight” review here.
1. Sing Street
John Carney made my favorite film of 2007 (“Once”); close to a full decade later, he has found his way to the top twice. “Sing Street” was familiar in its charting through the worlds of music, love, and – of course – surviving the streets of Ireland, but this time channeled through a sense of such joy and passion. 2016 was a year of many great musicals and coming-of-age films, and the best of both worlds were one and the same. In such a tumultuous year defined by loss of cultural and especially musical iconography, “Sing Street’s” heart-on-sleeve earnestness was a perfect antidote of happy-sad.
Read our full “Sing Street” review here.
“Swiss Army Man”
“La La Land”