My Top-Ten Favorite Films of 2016

To repeat last year's top-ten statement: this is not a Best-Of list, because ranking art is silly. These are just the films I watched and liked most, and that I felt were fine exemplars of their respective genres. 

2016 Favorites, in Alphabetical Order:

10 Cloverfield Lane
Blue Jay
Hell or High Water
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
La La Land
Midnight Special
Pelé: Birth of a Legend
The Edge of Seventeen
The Nice Guys

Some Non-Spoilery Reasons You Should Watch These Films...

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE was (I believe) released as a bit of surprise: A sequel that wasn't. A strange follow-up to a found-footage horror narrative. I haven't watched the original, but this one is definitely a twisty-turny surprise for me. I'm not sure if it had any transcendent meaning, but it was a heckuva ride and kept me guessing the whole way through... and this from a guy who hates horror films, and anything even vaguely horror-ish.

BLUE JAY is in black and white. So... artsy and boring, right? Wrong. This movie engages from the start, draws you in, and builds to a stunning, painful, tear-jerking reveal. A younger film-friend told me he didn't quite buy the emotional fervor of that reveal... but I'll go all "Patronizing Older Guy" and suggest that this is only because my young friend hasn't had to live long enough with any real, profound regrets. This movie made me think about my life, and myself. 

HELL OR HIGH WATER is more than just the best bank-robbery movie you'll see this year (or any year?). It's also funny, painful, and chock-full of truth. And it is probably the best two-hander I've ever seen... well, more like "four-hander," because the film features two opposed duos, and I cared equally about the fate of all four actors. This is the sort of movie that's so hard to get made (budget and cast-wise) that the fact that it did is a clear testament to the strength of the material. Mayhaps my favorite movie of the year.

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE has probably the funniest opening half hour of any movie I've ever seen. I laughed very, very hard. The non-stop laughs tapered off a bit as the movie went on, but it was still beautiful and touching all the way through. It's like Jurassic Park, but as a comedy and without the dinosaurs! Lord of the Rings without hobbits! Watch it, today!

LA LA LAND might just be the most beautiful piece of cinema you've ever seen. Geez, does this movie ever not need my endorsement. It's blowing up the box office. Sure, I may have been personally biased in its favor by watching it in an amazing theater with a large, enthusiastic crowd, moments after a mind-blowingly great live-read for a script of my own. But this movie fired on so many cylinders. Nostalgic in the best possible way. Moving. And so inventive. Writer/director Damien Chazelle continues to amaze. 

LOVING is an important story. It's got a really measured pace, so make sure you're in a "measured pace" kinda mood, when you watch it. Expect no race riots. Do, however, expect a great story about a part of American history that we should never forget. Still real, still relevant. I watched it at the Austin Film Festival and later tracked down writer/director Jeff Nichols just so I could touch his skin and tell him he was a marvelous human being. That's how good it was.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is (okay fine, I'll admit it) the real reason I walked eight blocks in the middle of night to some over-loud Austin nightclub just to shake Jeff Nichols' hand. This is one of the most underrated sci-fi movies you've never seen. A box-office victim of misdirected marketing (so don't watch the trailer), this slow-build movie features not just amazing performances and an amazing story, but a father-son dynamic that I think is guaranteed to have any parent in tears.

PELE: BIRTH OF A LEGEND is beautifully shot, and beautifully acted. Just because I haven't been able to watch enough "foreign" films this year (shame on me), that doesn't mean you're off the hook. My wife (who hates sports movies) loved it. 

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN is really, really funny. Also, if you watched Woody Harrelson in the trailer and thought he seemed funny but also a bit horrible... well, you weren't too far off. At first. But his character's got some human depth, too. As does this movie.

THE NICE GUYS is just a fabulously-fun piece of entertainment. Twisty, surprising, hilarious, and with pitch-perfect performances from all actors involved. There's a bit of a "the world's an unjust place where those with money abuse us all" note tacked onto it, sure, but you already knew all that. Enjoy the ride.

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Other 2016 Films that I reckon are worth your time:

Central Intelligence (more clever fun)
Eye in the Sky (thought-provoking nail-biter)
Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep in top comedic form)
Hello, My Name is Doris (Sally Fields in top comedic form - and SO brave)
Lion (peer into another world)
Morris From America (funny, poignant drama)
Sing Street (poppy musical entertainment)
The Family Fang (thoughtful, funny look at family dynamics)
The Trust (super-weird thriller)

2016 Films I haven't watched yet, but am excited to:


Doctor Strange
Hacksaw Ridge
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Films from 2015 that I got around to watching and quite enjoyed:

The Wave (tense nature-disaster-survival thriller)
Victoria (incredible one-take heist thriller)

Films from previous years that I watched and quite enjoyed:

Meet the Patels (2014)

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And finally, because there's SO MUCH transcendent work going on on the small screen (although I don't watch very much of it)...

My Favorite Television from 2016

5. Black Mirror
4. The Good Place
3. Game of Thrones
2. Westworld
1. Atlanta

And Lastly...

Movies Aren't Everything! 

So check out my latest 5-Star-Reviewed novel POUNDERS on Amazon! 


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