Here it is! After many hours of viewing and careful consideration, here are my Top 10 Films of the year of our Lord 2016. Before I get to what I chose, I want to mention the movies that just missed out but help round out a damn fantastic year of movies weirdly centering on grief, tragedy, and identity. Fences, Green Room, Other People, Kubo and the Two Strings, and OJ: Made in America could have all easily been mentioned here. And, hypothetically, if they did make the list I'd be telling you about other terrific movies like 13th, Rogue One, Sing Street, or Paterson as Honorable Mentions. So, without further delay, my top 10 of 2016.
10. Hunt for the Wilderpeople: If you don't know his name already, remember the name Taika Waititi. He's currently making the Thor movie you're going to want to see next year (Thor: Ragnarok). Here, he has churned out a beautifully quirky, heartwarming tale of building family in the New Zealand bush. In an unabashedly optimistic film, Sam Neill gets my Curmudgeon of the Year award despite stiff competition from Hell or High Water's Jeff Bridges.
9. Deadpool: I didn't want to put this on my list. Years and years of bungled Marvel/Fox films have just left me with a bad taste in my mouth and, despite my love for superhero movies, I just wasn't really looking forward to this one but here we are. From the opening moments of this film, I knew it was going to be a hell of a ride. Sharp, funny, and while it may not be the cure for those with the superhero blues, it's certainly a dose of medicine that goes down easy. No wonder Ryan Reynolds tried so hard to get this made.
8. Jackie: This is my most recent viewing and therefore latest to join this list (sorry, Fences). Again, I went into this film with tampered expectations, having heard that this was another one of "those films" that has a performance that outshines the whole movie. No question, Portman is fantastic and it is her film to carry, but there was so much more to this film that I didn't expect to love. The centered framing, visual style, and shot composition is striking; the score from Mica Levi lives and breathes in this film; and nobody told me Peter Sarsgaard plays Bobby Kennedy! Great performance as well. This served as a perfect cap to a year filled with explorations of grief and identity.
7. The Witch: Any film with this much attention to detail is hard to ignore. As stylistically rich as anything on this list and a nice fistful of gore, this is a tale of unspooled sanity that pulls no punches. A tightly-packed snowball of suspense that will get into your bones more than Ralph Ineson's phenomenal voice.
6. The Lobster: My favorite movie to discuss this year, fully acknowledging that it was designed to get people talking. That didn't hurt the conversation about the hard choices and sacrifices of love and/or a relationship told, quite frankly, through one of the darkest comedies I've seen in a while. I marvel at the control of tone in every aspect of this odd-conceit of a film but the brief flashes of violence keep the stakes high and the film perfectly hyperbolized. I'll admit that watching Dogtooth took a little wind out of my Lobster-sail but that doesn't change the fact that I think Colin Farrell doesn't do it in the end.
5. Hail, Caesar!: I will watch any Coen Bros movie at any time. ANY. A comedic meditation on faith and service through the guise of an old-Hollywood genre mash-up? Count me in. My favorite actor Josh Brolin turning in another solid showing? Sounds great. The breakout performance of tomorrow's (but technically yesterday's because it'll be backstory...) Han Solo, Alden Einrenrich? Awesome. Top it off with the second best original song of the year, the hilarious tap number 'No Dames', and I'm sold. I think it should be noted that while this was the first movie of 2016 that made my preliminary 'favorites' list, it started at #10 and now it's here after a second (and now third) viewing.
4. Moonlight: This is probably the best directed film of the year and if I were a gambling man, this is exactly where I'd place my Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar bet. A touching and not always easy look at identity and the moments and people that shape you. Please give Mahershala Ali the Supporting Actor Oscar in a cast built with Best Supporting Acting nominees. His may be my single favorite performance this year.
3. La La Land: Very few movies exude this much charm, hence the inevitable backlash now popping up, but count me among the enchanted. Easily the year's best first 20 minutes and ultimately a taste of everything the movies can be: funny, sad, exciting, ya know, everything. It feels both nostalgic and new and I found it unwittingly refreshing to see a movie musical made for film rather than stage. Watch out for Damien Chazelle, he has the power to close freeways in Los Angeles.
2. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: I can hear you, "Chris! It's ridiculous that this is so high on your list!". No, you're ridiculous for not going and supporting this movie in theaters! A great comedy is treasure and to see it with an audience is something incredibly special. A dexterous navigation of precise parody with comedy bits flushed out to their fullest and wackiest without feeling forced. A worthy heir to Spinal Tap and my favorite comedy of the last ten years. AND, in my humble opinion, this year's Best Original Song, 'I'm so Humble'. Sorry La La Land (And really, I put 'A Lovely Night' above 'City of Stars' as my #3 and #4 songs of the year, even though I figure 'Stars' is gonna take the Oscar... I am still waiting on a Moana viewing...)
1. Manchester by the Sea: A devastating film in the best way possible. I know it can look like a horse-pill, but it goes down smooth thanks to a near perfect screenplay by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan. And fret not, this healthy helping of catharsis is alleviated by some humorous moments; the film moves from comedy to tragedy as fluidly as it moves from past to present. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams bring some of the best and most honest acting this year. I'm curious to see if it has the emotional resonance with me the next time around, but I'm willing to bet the hard choices and tough ending never lose effect.