Friday, December 30, 2016

My Favourite Films of 2016

Scene from 'Moonlight', my favourite of 2016
UPDATED JAN 15, 2017

I love films.  I even produced my first short film this year as a director/writer/producer/editor called Tri-Curious (it'll be on YouTube by February 1st, so stay the mean time, check out my trailer for it on the right.)

There are many films I still need to see (I've listed those below.)  But here are my top nine of the year so far.  As I see more, I may insert one or two more into my top favourites.  
My favourite films of 2016: 

Moonlight - I missed this at TIFF, so I rushed to see it when it got a Toronto release and came to fully understand what all the fuss was about.  Quiet, contemplative, deeply intimate, this is the love story I’ve been waiting for.   I love deliberately paced, quiet films that let their characters breathe and evolve.   This film dealt with somewhat familiar LGBT subject matter, but through a lens we’ve never seen on the big screen, tackling black male masculinity, and masculinity in general in thoughtful ways that brought me relief and deep satisfaction.  This is up there with Brokeback Mountain, and perhaps even better as we get a hopeful ending that leaves open the possibilities of love.  

Hell or High Water - Stunning, fun, enormously funny and entertaining tale of two brothers (played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster) on a bank robbing spree with a difference.  Set in west Texas, we see a side of America I don’t usually have much sympathy for, yet here you learn to love and understand the characters.  A perfect testament to our economic times, even this very year that saw middle America rise up in (misguided) revolt against the powers that be, I won’t soon forget this delight of a film. 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - The best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back.  Original where A Force Awakens wasn't, this bold film is simply awesome.  As a longtime Star Wars fan, this was immensely satisfying.  The move to take the franchise out of George Lucas's old hands is paying off big time.  LOVED IT!!!!!

La La Land - Finally saw this and loved it.  I could stare at Ryan Gosling in a suit dancing around the screen anytime.  He and co-star Emma Stone are lovely together as their characters support each other as they struggle to make their dreams come true.   Yes, it's another Hollywood film about Hollywood.  But the catchy music, heartfelt performances and flashy, sensuous visuals make it a highly enjoyable masterpiece.

Snowden - Oliver Stone returns to fine form with this story about Edward Snowden, the former NSA operative and whistle blower who proved to the world the extent of the U.S. government’s spying on all of the world’s citizens.  I now have permanently put a black piece of tape over my computer’s camera to prevent future invasions of my privacy.  The encroachment of the establishment into the lives of citizens remains one of the biggest issues of our times and this movie is a must-see if you don’t yet understand much about Edward Snowden’s story.   (Also check out the documentary Citizenfour, also about Snowden, by Laura Poitras.) 

Jackie - This movie captures the disorientation and sorrow the real Jackie Kennedy must’ve felt in the hours, days and weeks following the 1963 assassination of her husband, former president JFK, with an intimacy that feels both raw and surprisingly current.  Amid her grief, the title character fights to ensure the legacy of her late husband and shape public opinion, her last act of loyalty to a man who would be remembered as one of the great U.S. presidents of the 20th century. 

Arrival - A thoughtful alien invasion movie for once.  Amy Adams is superb, as is everyone else.  For sci-fi fans who’ve been frustrated by other mindless alien attack movies in which all aliens arrive on earth speaking fluent English, this movie is for you. 

Hidden Figures - Superbly well-done historical drama that everyone can get behind and enjoy.  While fairly conventional in terms of its storytelling style, it still knocks it out of the park and packs an emotional punch by shining a light on some obscure, brilliant women who made incredible differences in helping launch NASA's space program. 

Frame 394 - I was proud to see the world premiere of this short documentary at Hot Docs in Toronto.  The film tackles the subject of police brutality against men of colour through the prism of a young white male techie nerd who inserts himself into the story through his analytical deconstruction of an amateur video of a police shooting.  Through the main subject’s journey, the film explores the notion of citizen engagement, subjectivity, and the risk one takes when one moves beyond simple armchair quarterbacking.  This film is on the short list for Best Documentary Short for this year’s Oscars. 

Captain America: Civil War - Loved it, enormously fun and entertaining, even a bit sexy (got a bit of a crush on Tom Holland as the new Spiderman), this film shows that Hollywood still can occasionally get their big franchises exactly right. 

Voyage of Time - If you love Terrence Malick and are ready for a steady stream of stunning visuals that evoke deep thought and emotions, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for.  I haven't seen visuals this relentlessly beautiful in years. 

Ghostbusters - The repulsive push back from entitled, misogynistic, lowlife men against this reboot made me sick.  The best revenge was the film was awesome and a great feminist response to genres previously exclusionary to significant female participation.  The icing on the cake was the sexy presence of Chris Hemsworth playing the hottest male bimbo secretary one could ever cook up, who soon gets possessed by the film’s bad guy spirit and exacts havoc. 

Honorable Mentions:



Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

Manchester by the Sea - Decent, well-crafted and acted, but disappointing.  It was simply too bleak with not enough emotional payoff.  Director Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count On Me was much better.  


Movies I need to see as soon as possible:

I, Daniel Blake

Toni Erdmann


I Am Not Your Negro


The Lobster

Love and Friendship


20th Century Women

Movies I’m planning to see soon, but not rushing:

American Honey

Edge of Seventeen

Being 17

The Birth of a Nation

Nocturnal Animals


The Worst of the Year: 

The 5th Wave - Incomprehensible crap with an even less comprehensible ending. 

X-Men: Apocalypse - with the lamest bad guy this franchise has ever seen.  Very disappointing. 

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