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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Year-End Recap: Top 20 Through 11 Films


On December 30th, I will be publishing my Top Ten Films of 2016 list over at Why So Blu?. I will post it here at a later date as well. Leading up to the Top Ten, though, I will be posting a number of lists reflecting my thoughts on the many films from this year. The following post features my Top 20 through 11 favorites. As usual, I am always pleased with how these runner-up lists essentially look like a great top ten list of their own. Thought these picks may not have been in my Top Ten, I still really appreciated what they had to offer. So here is the second batch of my favorites from 2016 (with links to the reviews for each when available).

Captain Fantastic is honestly a little rough around the edges, but Viggo Mortensen is too great in this film to let the lesser elements hurt it. This quirky comedy-drama about a family of survivalists has plenty of appeal for those looking for a fish-out-water story/road trip movie. Still, it is Mortensen who lives up to the film's title, as he truly is fantastic.

Morris From America is a solid coming-of-age story that adds an extra layer by placing its characters in Germany. Markees Christmas is a great find for the film's young lead, but Craig Robinson does some career-best work here as a dad and widower looking to make things work for he and his son. You also get a killer soundtrack full of original raps.

Silence is a continued look at Martin Scorsese's attempts to show his relationship to religion on film. It is also a long, but effective tale of struggle, faith and punishment; carefully examining the lengths some would go to for their beliefs. Stripping away many of the things that make up a Scorsese film, there was a desire for the famed director to challenge himself with this passion project and he succeeded.

Everybody Wants Some!! was a laid back effort from Richard Linklater, who eases back into deceptively simpler entertainment, following his dramatic epic that was Boyhood. Given how it works as a spiritual follow-up to Dazed and Confused, the ensemble cast present here makes me wonder which of these actors will also become huge in the years to come. In the meantime, this is a great hangout film.

Arrival takes the deliberate pacing and shooting style seen in director DenisVilleneuve's other films and matches that quite effectively with an emotional story about communication and hope. Amy Adams is great in the lead role, although I was more intrigued by what this alien arrival film says about both language and the nature of the discovery that comes from the aliens' presence.

The Nice Guys finds Shane Black back with a hilarious neo-noir featuring a game Russell Crowe matching wits and ridiculous banter with an even more game Ryan Gosling. The fact that both actors have dramatic backstories to play well with their physical humor and Black's wonderful dialogue makes The Nice Guys a retro joy to watch. Plus, young Angourie Rice provides the film bonus points, thanks to how the film cleverly incorporates her into this story.

Jackie is another example of how great a biopic can be when it doesn't feel the need to explore a historical figure's entire life story. Adding to the quality of this film is both Natalie Portman's committed performance and Pablo Larrain's direction, which creates a mesmerizing atmosphere. In a story largely about grief, this film has a dreaminess to it that matches the idea of Camelot with what happens after disaster strikes.

Manchester By The Sea is another film about grief, which is extrapolated to great length in Kenneth Lonergan's humorous drama. Casey Aflleck does a wonderful job in the role of Lee Chandler, a man who just wants to be left alone. It's not that simple and the film does an excellent job in exploring this character, as well as populating his world with a strong supporting cast. Rather than wallow in sadness however, the film also manages to be one of the unexpectedly funnier films about grief you can find.

Sing Street is an incredibly sweet and charming film. Director John Carney's return to Ireland once again finds him skillfully delivering a film that properly balances drama, comedy and music. The soundtrack is easily one of the year's bests and there is plenty more to admire in seeing how this young, scrappy band comes together to put on a great show.

Hail, Caesar! finds the Coen Brothers in a fairly light mood as they tackle their ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood. In addition to the plethora of great actors here, elaborate musical/dance numbers and all the solid comedic moments, there is also a refreshing feeling that comes from finding the Coens in a nicer mood than normal. Hail, Caesar! is not nearly as mean as other Coen films, but it is still as re-watchable as their films tend to be. It also features the funniest scene of the year, represented in the picture above.

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Stay tuned for the continuation of this favorite films list, in addition to surprises, shout outs and more throughout the week!

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