Yes, it’s another best movies of the year list, which you are reading perhaps because you know me personally. Or maybe you don’t know me in the flesh, but you follow my writing and want to keep up with my opinions regardless of how much you agree or disagree with them. Or it could be that you have stumbled upon this article by sheer happenstance. In that case, I shall do best to steer you straight.
Is this list more “right” than any other critic’s? It is certainly correct in the sense that it has come from a place of honesty. I feel enthusiastic about these films, and so I have decided to say to the world, “This is my interpretation. Perhaps you will feel the same.”
10. 10 Cloverfield Lane
An anthology-style cinematic universe grows into itself in its second chapter. Mary Elizabeth Winstead finds herself in a bunker under the iron fist of John Goodman, giving the performance of his career. A drum of acid is even scarier than the monsters supposedly outside. Our pulses adapt to the rhythm of the thrills.
9. Lights Out
Teresa Palmer wards off a ghost that only appears in the dark. It’s a specter from mom Maria Bello’s past. Characters get cornered into situations that usually lead to very bad decisions in horror movies, but this time they come through with resourcefulness. The metaphors towards mental illness are rich but also troubling. Lights Out grabs your soul viscerally, like all good horror should.
8. La La Land
Emma Stone’s an actor. Ryan Gosling’s a musician. They meet cute. You know where this one is going … mostly. John Legend puts on quite the concert halfway through, but Ryan’s not really feeling it, and Emma’s getting pushed around. The story sags a bit as it moves along, but then that ending reevaluates and justifies everything prior.
7. Nocturnal Animals
Amy Adams receives a manuscript from ex-husband Jake Gyllenhaal. The story inside tells of Jake G. and Michael “The Law” Shannon hunting down the psychotic Aaron Taylor-Johnson that done ’em wrong. The art world bathes it in grotesque and gorgeous beauty. We all should be so lucky as to be able to luxuriate in the textures of Tom Ford.
Natalie Portman IS the First Lady, and you are right there along side her. She and the nation have suffered a terrible tragedy – this one is not for the squeamish. Mica Levi knows the soundtrack this occasion calls for. Jackie is the unnerving power of cinema at its finest.
Amy Adams has the power to talk to the aliens. Her brain is re-programmed by a new conceptualization of language just as our own cinematic grammar is expanded. Forest Whitaker is on hand to hover over the proceedings. This is my favorite scene.
4. The Neon Demon
Elle Fanning wants to be a model in the City of Angels, City of Dreams, City of Neon Lights, City of Cinematography, City of Tableaux, City of Vampires. She’s a little young, but Jena Malone and her cabal will show her a good time. Keanu Reeves will see to it that the cougar leaves his motel. Is this just an exercise in empty style from Nicolas Winding Refn? No, it’s the most hilarious film of 2016, a raucous mashup of All About Eve, Suspiria, and Showgirls.
3. Midnight Special
Jaeden Lieberher is a boy with special powers. Religion, Government, and Forces Beyond Our Comprehension are all interested in him. Adam Driver’s interest is the purest of all. Dad Michael Shannon, Mom Kirsten Dunst, and Family Friend Joel Edgerton are all devoted protectors. It’s sci-fi filled with danger and wonder, just as Dr. Moviegoer prescribed.
Ginnifer Goodwin is Judy Hopps, an earnest leporine rookie cop. Jason Bateman is Nick Wilde, a delightfully slick vulpine con artist. They live alongside each other, and all the other furry critters, in the title town. Generations of interspecies tensions continue to latently rear their ugly heads. The noir plot is worthy of its inspirations, and the allegory is stunning and thoughtful.
1. The Witch
A 17th century family of New England settlers is kicked out of its Puritan community and banished to the woods. The harshness of Nature and Supernature tear them apart. The imagery makes your blood boil. The dialogue is often incomprehensible, but still delectable. Satan is real, and He knows how to make a killer cinematic experience you won’t soon forget.
Honorable Mentions (in Alphabetical Order): Captain Fantastic, Creative Control, Doctor Strange, Elle, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Handmaiden, The Lobster, Loving, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, Nerve, Ouija: Origin of Evil, The Shallows, Swiss Army Man, X-Men: Apocalypse
To check out more of our Best of 2016 coverage, click here.