By Megan Bianco
The quality of cinema in the year that just finished was so weak that I honestly debated skipping my usual top 10 yearly faves list I do after New Year’s. It’s a meme that’s grown ad nauseam, but 2016 really was pretty lame, and not only for pop culture. I’ve already spent two articles complaining about it over the past year, so I won’t get into too much detail why spring movies were terrible and summer blockbusters were disappointing before the autumn season just barely saved film by the end of the year. My only regret is not finding enough time to see “Paterson” and “Silence” before the year concluded. Nonetheless, I did manage to come up with 10 movies I would recommend most from 2016.
While “Rogue One” ended up creating quite a divide between “Star Wars” fans and non-fans, we did get to see some of the best directed and shot action sequences in the franchise and a great cast to be the faces of stellar cinematography. Another gloriously shot studio film was “The BFG,” the latest Roald Dahl screen adaptation. Unfortunately it was one of the biggest box-office flops of the summer despite decent reviews, but it is a wonderfully charming fantasy flick for any Dahl or Spielberg fan. Woody Allen’s webseries “Crisis in Six Scenes” may have been one of the biggest misfires of his career, but his romcom period piece “Café Society” was a pleasant surprise — Especially for lead actors Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, who are usually turn-offs to viewers.
Natalie Portman might be the actress currently singled out for her dramatic turn in “Jackie” this Oscar season, but my choice for female performance would go to Rebecca Hall’s turn in her own biopic “Christine,” based on real-life reporter Christine Chubbuck. Another great lead female performance was the debut of Sasha Lane in Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey.” With enough chemistry between her and Shia LaBeouf, the nearly 3-hour run time flies by smoothly. Amy Adams is another actress who’s been all over best-of lists this year, and of her two hits, my favorite was “Nocturnal Animals.” Tom Ford’s second directorial effort is both artsy and self-aware of the over the top subject, there’s an attractive cast, and a great performance from male lead Jake Gyllenhaal.
For my money, the most interesting filmmaker in modern cinema regarding this generation would be Jeff Nichols, who had a double wammy this year with the sci-fi thriller “Midnight Special” and the civil rights biopic “Loving.” The former being my favorite, and a remarkable love letter to the Amblin era of sci-fi cinema. No one even knew 10 Cloverfield Lane existed until two months before release, and it ultimately became one of the most original movies of the year story and marketing wise. And yes, I am a fan of the controversial ending.
Kenneth Lonergan returned to film in 2016 after spending the past few years playwriting, and his cinematic result is the tough, but touching family drama “Manchester by the Sea.” With a masterful lead performance by Casey Affleck, and an impressive supporting hand from Lucas Hedges, it’s no surprise Lonergan’s feature quickly got awards hype. And finally, for all the mediocrity Hollywood spat out this year, my absolute favorite movie that almost makes up it is Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land.” An homage to the old fashioned original movie musical of yesteryear, with a modern setting. It’s colorful, fun, lovely and is led by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling to a Gershwin-esque soundtrack by Justin Hurwitz in their best collaboration to date.
So going from #10 to #1, my favorites from the past year in film were: “Rogue One,” “The BFG”, Café Society,” Christine,” “American Honey, “Nocturnal Animals,” “Midnight Special,” “10 Cloverfield Lane,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “La La Land.” 2016 ended with a bang, and hopefully 2017 will continue it.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.
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