The Gold Knight presents our Top 10 films of 2016 by our correspondents Jake, Heather and Jackson, along with editor James.
The Gold Knight presents our Top 10 films of 2016 by our correspondents, along with editor James A. Molnar. Per tradition, we each present a Top 10 list, which we find to be a great conversation starter. Join in on the discussion and share your thoughts and favorite films from 2016 by commenting on this post, on Facebook or by interacting with us on Twitter.
10. “Cemetery of Splendor”
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest predictably peculiar offering finds the reliable auteur in good form. The setting of “Cemetery of Splendor” is a clinic for soldiers who are suffering from a strange form of sleeping sickness. The cause of their malady is unknown, but nevertheless nurse Jen devotes her time to watching over them. She befriends jovial medium Itt, who communicates with the soldiers via her psychic powers. Weerasethakul’s film is meditative and lush, two of the director’s characteristic trademarks. Those familiar will find much to love in “Cemetery of Splendor,” and for those keen to discover his work, this is a great place to start.
9. “Nocturnal Animals”
Director/fashion designer Tom Ford’s long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s “A Single Man” does not disappoint. A visual feast for the eyes, and boasting perhaps the best cast this year (Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Isla Fisher, the ubiquitous Michal Shannon), “Nocturnal Animals” is an ambitiously plotted revenge tale wrapped inside a cynical love story that offers no easy answers and no clear ending. It’s a demanding film, to be sure, but one that is very rewarding for those willing give it a try.
A 23-year-later follow-up to “Dazed and Confused,” “Everybody Wants Some!!” is a nostalgic love letter to a time when sex was just sex, and bong hits and beer buzzes at two in the afternoon were a run-of-the-mill occurrence. Richard Linklater’s latest is light on plot, but heavy on wistfulness. We watch our bro-tagonist collegiate baseball team party, wax philosophical through a light fog of pot smoke, try to get laid and have a jolly old time through the film’s brisk two hour runtime. It’s hard not to enjoy the ride with them.
7. “Under the Shadow”
The year’s best horror film, and one unlike any other I’ve seen, “Under the Shadow” has monsters that come in two forms: the Djinn haunting our protagonist and her daughter, and the oppressive Iranian government in war-torn Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War. Blacklisted from medical school and with a husband on the frontlines, Shideh lives quietly with her daughter in an apartment building in the middle of the city. But when a missile crashes through the roof but fails to explode, and with the arrival of a mysterious boy who refuses to speak, a malevolent force slowly makes itself known.
The film’s effortless blend of traditional horror movie elements and adroit social commentary make it one of a kind, and a film not to be missed by horror fans who want something a bit meatier than typical scare fare.
A film as necessary as has probably ever been made. The title of Ava DuVernay’s follow-up to last year’s exemplary “Selma” refers to the 13th Amendment, which reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
“13th” examines, through interviews with historians and politicians from both sides of the aisle, as well as archival footage, how institutionalized racism, especially that embedded within the prison industry, has been used as a means of oppressing the African-American community and, for all intents and purposes, kept slavery alive in some malicious form since that Amendment was written.
5. “Eye In the Sky”
Though most of “Eye In the Sky” takes place inside of a drone control center and a boardroom, the dialogue-driven action is perhaps the most intense of any movie to come out this year. Aaron Paul stars as a drone operator, tasked with shooting a missile on a suspected terrorist unit in Kenya, but in the process killing a little girl within the explosion’s radius. The higher-ups who are in charge of making the decision (who include Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman, in one of his last roles) do so comfily from staterooms and domestic military bases.
What makes “Eye In the Sky” so special is that it offers no easy decisions and doesn’t paint anyone as the “bad guy,” lending credence to both those who want to shoot the missile and those who want to find a way around the problem. Very few films have tackled the ethics of drone warfare and the two-faced nature of military politics. It will be hard to top this one.
4. “The Handmaiden”
A luscious and sensual piece of cinema, Park Chan-Wook’s first film since 2014’s “Snowpiercer” could not be more worth the wait. “The Handmaiden” is a feast for the senses, an erotically corporeal rabbit hole of forbidden love, betrayal, violence and the human desires that control everything. Unabashedly melodramatic and often over-the-top (as is to be anticipated from its auteur), this is a film that revels in its brazen storytelling and offers no apologies for its audacious sexuality.
As the preamble to “Cameraperson” tells us, Kirsten Johnson has worked as a documentary cinematographer for the past 25 years. “I ask you to see it as my memoir. These are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still,” her words on the screen read, pensively, before allowing us a privileged look into where she has been and what she has recorded.
Ostensibly a self-curated assemblage of scenes and images from Johnson’s work on other films, “Cameraperson” resembles a stream-of-consciousness-like essay film. Via her camera we see a war-torn Bosnia, a midwife in Nigeria, the intimate aftermath of a mother’s suicide and other furtive scenes that would otherwise be reserved for the most clandestine observer. We see worlds we don’t normally reach through major news organizations, intimate approaches to places, even those within our own country that are completely foreign to most of us. There is a deep humanity to Johnson’s film, one that reaches beyond the visage of politics and into the realm of compassion and love.
Johnson’s film, at its core, is a reflection of the filmic roles of the observer and the observed, the viewer and the presenter. Its beauty lies in its notion that those on both sides of the camera are on the same ground.
A devastating film, “Arrival” is science fiction of the highest degree, imbuing the habitually trope-happy genre with an amount of humanity and empathy rarely seen within the confines of the label, or even outside of it. The themes in “Arrival” touch on issues like communication, language, cultural understanding and immigration. The film’s real-world implications are certainly by design, even if their necessary timeliness is depressing.
Denis Villeneuve proves once again why he is one of the most singular filmmakers working today, unweaving what could have been a baffling series of plot miscues into something resembling a tour de force of directorial storytelling.
In a year filled with terrifying news and utter turmoil gripping the country by the throat, I couldn’t help but pick as my favorite film of the year an extraordinarily optimistic, thoroughly rapturous story of the innocence of young love and rock ‘n’ roll.
The plot is simple and somewhat pleasantly familiar: A 14-year old boy in 1980s Dublin falls madly in love with a slightly older girl and starts a pop band to impress her. But under director John Carney (who is now three for three with “Once” and “Begin Again”), the film oozes an inescapable charm and incorruptibility that is almost impossible not to fall for from the first frame. Carney’s cast is great here too, with newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo in the lead as Connor, who radiates affability, and Lucy Boynton as Raphina, his inaccessible and ultra hip love interest.
“Sing Street” is certainly not the most imperative film of the moment, but maybe that’s a good thing. As the antidote to a horrid 2016 and the looming threat of a Trump-induced nuclear winter though, it’s perfect.
A War, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Café Society, Captain America: Civil War, Central Intelligence, Chevalier, Christine, The Club, Cosmos, Creative Control, Disorder, Don’t Think Twice, Embrace of the Serpent, The Fits, Francophonia, Green Room, Hell or High Water, Hunt For the Wilderpeople, I Am Not a Serial Killer, Jackie, La La Land, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, The Meddler, Other People, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping, Tickled, Toni Erdmann, Tower, Train To Busan
Jake’s Bottom of the Barrel
A blatant studio attempt to milk the fertile winter filmgoer market, “Passengers” blows a solid premise and a pair of fine actors in Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt to instead enact a lazily produced and overblown pseudo-Titanic in space.
2. “Florence Foster Jenkins”
At one point in “Florence Foster Jenkins,” a theater critic is chastised for leaving in the middle of one of our protagonist’s infamously unappealing and (maybe) knowingly harsh performances. Long since her death, the real Florence Foster Jenkins has gained a buoyant cult following among outsider music enthusiasts due to her earnestness and sincerity, an appreciation that director Stephen Frears and writer Nicholas Martin seem to misinterpret as being contradictory to actual critical assessment.
Besides that though, “Florence Foster Jenkins” serves little purpose other than to showcase Meryl Streep’s distinguished talents. But she deserves a higher pedestal than this movie gives her.
1. “Deadpool” & “Suicide Squad”
Two superhero movies that demand the least possible amount from their audiences, “Deadpool” and “Suicide Squad” come off as very cynical “blockbusters,” though for (faintly) different reasons.
The former is a dumbfoundingly popular exercise in adolescent inanity that seems to estimate its viewership capable only of responding to the lamest dick jokes possible, featuring a character so one-note he would probably be a turn-off to even the most devout “Florence Foster Jenkins” fan.
The latter is probably the main offender in the 2016 movie-scape. “Suicide Squad” is an unequivocal mess, an utter failure and an absolute travesty of a film. This is the reason most everybody seemed to claim 2016 was a BAD YEAR FOR MOVIES™. “Suicide Squad” seems to think that an actual plot can be substituted with a cavalcade of dense characters with little to no backstory, formulaic quips and one-liners equal dialogue, and hitting the most clichéd music queues results in a film with style.
But there is no substance in either of these films. There is only the nihilism of seeing the film medium used as a marketing tool. This, of course, is a state of affairs that has been around since the dawn of cinema, and will continue until it ends. If we’re lucky, Donald Trump will kill us all long before then.
2016 was a good year for film. These are the best movies I saw in 2016 in alphabetical order:
This movie left me on the edge of my seat and guessing throughout. The scene where you first get a look at the alien ship with the fog rolling in? Absolutely gorgeous. They could have cut about half an hour from the film, but still worth it.
Foul mouthed and funny. "Deadpool" jumped out of the superhero box and created something great. Here's hoping it actually gets considered for something Oscar.
The other superhero movie on my list. It stuck to the unlikely superhero theme. But it was fun and expanded the Marvel universe. Plus, come on, Benedict Cumberbatch? Yes.
"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"
I love Harry Potter. Love it. I love how the universe is growing. Newt Scamander is one of my new favorites. They had to cram a lot into this movie to introduce and build the world so it was a bit disjointed at times, but I was enthralled. Only part I hated was Johnny Depp.
Dory! "Finding Nemo" is one of the best Pixar movies ever. And Dory has always been the best part. "Finding Dory" didn't disappoint.
"Florence Foster Jenkins"
Meryl Streep can transform herself so well. It's hard to believe this story was based on truth, but it was heartwarming, sad and funny.
"For the Love of Spock"
This documentary on Leonard Nimoy and the character of Spock was so touching. Star Trek without Spock... sci-fi without Spock? I mean, it's unthinkable. Learning about history from the people who loved him and worked with him was eye-opening.
"La La Land"
I love that there is a resurgence of music and dancing in movies. The opening sequence of the film plus a scene where Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dance after a party were just perfect. Emma Stone's vocal left a little to be desired, but the movie itself was a dream.
I have been listening to this soundtrack nonstop. Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i and Mark Mancina. I loved the story this movie told and Dwayne Johnson as Maui was fabulous.
Serena Williams is an inspiration. This documentary follows her as she tried to complete a Grand Slam, through all the trials and hardships while also showing more of her off-the-court personality.
"Fences" and "Zootopia"
10. "La La Land"
I must admit, going into Damien Chazelle’s latest film, "La La Land," I had my doubts. Was this yet another nostalgic perfume-ad down memory lane, forlorning of days gone by? Yes and No. While the references to classic films like "Singin' in The Rain" were intentional and unmistakable, Chazelle seemed to be crafting a dialogue in real time: Is the past better than the present? If so, are we able to recreate that? Should we even be trying to recreate that? These questions and more as the positively electric Emma Stone dances and sings her way further into my heart, what a joy.
9. "Sunset Song"
A woman stands strong on the Scottish countryside against the changing tide of history. "Sunset Song" is delicately crafted by Terence Davies, and ushered through by a powerhouse performance by model-turned-actor Agyness Deyn. Her central role becomes the embodiment of strength in a film about family, country, adversity and embracing all that life throws your way — "Song" is a warm and intense breath of wheat-scented air.
Adam Driver continues his path to cinematic domination with the delightful, wistful and utterly poetic "Paterson." With eternal auteur Jim Jarmusch's signature dry wit and philosophical ruminations found in the nooks and crannies of day-to-day life, fans will be delighted to see that Jarmusch has delivered yet another stellar cinematic charm to add to his impressive ouvert.
Scorsese, well past any need to prove his legacy, gives us one of his most powerful films yet. Ever the soul-searching Catholic, Scorsese presents his magnum opus "Silence" as it examines Christian morality, the ethics of conversion, European imperialism and the existence of God. It’s heavy stuff, as several times a conflicted Andrew Garfield (playing a Portuguese missionary, and he’s brilliant) asks God if he’s listening, if any of the brutality he witnesses amounts to anything. While I can’t answer the questions, I can confirm that "Silence" is one of the most punishing and rewarding experiences of the year — for those who dare to take its treacherous path to salvation.
Knowing a little about the plot of this wonderful film, some may be surprised to learn that it’s also one of the year’s best comedies. While the grief is real, the pain is deep and the emotions are heart wrenching, there are also great laughs to be had in the interactions of Lucas Hedges and Casey Affleck, both giving stellar performances. The humor serves to cut the severity of just how painful the story actually is, and at times it can almost be too much to bear. In the end though, it’s a pitch-perfect melodrama with all the ups and downs of life on the ice, a "tearjerker" in the best possible way.
5. "Only Yesterday"
The curious release date of this Ghibli gem — 25 years after its original Japanese debut, pairs almost perfectly with the film itself. "Only Yesterday" follows a grown woman navigating her burgeoning adulthood while living simultaneously through a series of flashbacks to the pivotal years of her early adolescence. It’s loaded with nuanced musings on simplicity, womanhood, youth and the complexity of life. It’s pure Takahata, and it’s essential viewing for Ghibli fans everywhere.
As 2016 rolled forth with unbridled absurdity, culminating in an all too real Series of Unfortunate Events, I found myself looking back to Beyoncé’s "Lemonade." A cinematic tour de force, it’s a clarion call for all who feel overlooked, abused, abandoned — and empowered in spite of it. The laundry list of talented directors (most notably video artist Kahlil Joseph, an acolyte of Terrence Malick) help craft a powerful and cohesive statement on black womanhood in America through the soaring lyrical ambitions of music’s biggest superstar.
3. "Cemetery of Splendor"
This meandering, woozy film from Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul is one of the best films of the year. Weerasethakul is known for straddling the real and the imagined, the waking and the spiritual, the mystical and the mortal — and nowhere does he do it with more impact that in "Cemetery." The very nature of the plot is how the film is experienced, as we waft through its layers in a dreamy haze — wondering whether what we’re experiencing is real, or surreal, or a haunting combination of the two. It’s beautiful and quiet, unsettling in the best possible way, and it’s essential viewing for all who have wondered what it’s like to document your own dreams, and to step into those of another.
2. "Knight of Cups"
Terrence Malick has all but guaranteed himself a spot on my annual wrap-up of year’s best movies. I can’t deny it, in my eyes, he can do no — fine, he can do very little — wrong. Regardless, "Cups" is Malick at his most unhinged. It’s certainly not a "traditional" film for those who are seeking one, but it’s an endlessly inventive one that can only be made by someone like Malick. He serves up his usual assortment of hushed voiceovers, biblical references and handheld camera moves, sure, but his taking on of the Hollywood establishment is a gateway into something darker, more primal. Not since "Badlands" have we seen the kind of human id on display here, and in such a thoughtfully distilled way. While it’s certainly cynical and maybe a bit pessimistic, "Knight of Cups" is profoundly beautiful, and it’s one of Malick’s best films to date. Long may he reign.
This should come as no surprise. Barry Jenkins’s triptych of gay black youth in America is a flawless, elevational experience that has soared through the hearts and souls of virtually everyone who’s laid eyes on it. All filmmaking is the summation of making decisions, and in "Moonlight" Jenkins doesn’t make a single wrong one. Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali give the best performances of their careers, and newcomers Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders and Alex Hibbert are perfect. The artistry of the camerawork, sound design and art direction help build this into an immersive and dimensional journey. The comments made about this most overlooked intersection of the American experience are made with fierce impact and gentle intimacy. Through the shear excellency of its craftsmanship, "Moonlight" inspires compassion, but doesn’t force it on you. "Moonlight" is one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen, but it does double duty as something more important — it’s art of the highest caliber that can inspire real change.
The Handmaiden, The Nice Guys, 20th Century Women, Kubo and The Two Strings, A Bigger Splash, Café Society, Toni Erdmann
For me, 2016 was a year of cinema that stood apart from the increasingly volatile world in which we find ourselves. In some, we learned just how hard the world can be and in others, we learned to dream again.
My favorite films of the year brought something magical to our world, whether it was a dragon or other creatures or a wonderful woman named Doris. They also brought dancing and singing. My favorite of the year told us we need to understand and communicate better with one another.
Here are my Top 10 films of 2016:
10. "Captain America: Civil War"
A beautiful collage of Marvel properties include a marvelous appearance by Spider-Man. This is the Avengers sequel we were looking for and didn't quite get.
While it came out in theaters in 2015 for Oscar contention last year, I didn’t see it until 2016 and it has stayed with me. This is a stunning portrayal of love in the harshest of circumstances, where a mom raises her son in the roughest of situations yet he still knows love and kindness. The simple yet complex story is a revelation.
This beautiful live action adaptation of the Disney Classic is magical. The dragon is breathtaking and the bond between him and the orphaned Pete will make you bawl. Then, there's the wide-eyed preservationist played wonderfully by Bryce Dallas-Howard. She completed the film that while saccharine is exactly what you'd expect and hope for.
7. "Hail, Caesar"
A picture about pictures. An enjoyable and sometime oddball look of the studio system set in the 1950s, featuring gorgeous cinematography and editing along with beautiful music. Josh Brolin is perfect as Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix. This is a love story to the glamour of classic Hollywood and I ate it up.
6. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"
We return to the wizarding world and it was worth the wait. Eddie Redmayne is wonderful and so are his fantastic creatures. The visuals are also stunning. This film could not have been technically achieved when the first Harry Potter film came out. Can't wait to continue our journey!
A wonderfully beautiful movie about a society with different animals and personalities, all made whole by a small bunny who believes in herself. This is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly scary, overly political world.
4. "Hello, My Name is Doris"
Doris is my spirit animal. She is shy, weird, quirky and totally loveable. Sally Field and Max Greenfield have wonderful chemistry in a story about a woman finding her voice and purpose later in life. Her best friend is the pugnaciously fun Roz, played to the T by Tyne Daly. And yes, a cat makes frequent appearances so I'm in love. The plot isn't the reason to see the movie, it's the trio of characters. This movie reminds me of the spirit of the series "Ugly Betty." You root for Doris and you immediately fall in love with her.
3. "La La Land"
In a year full of mixed emotions and turmoil, "La La Land" adds warmth and joy. The nostalgia and preposterousness of this movie musical was a wonderful way to bring an end to the year.
2. "Hidden Figures"
Tell me a story about NASA and you've got my attention. Tell me a story about smart, strong black women and you can have my heart. From laughter to anger to crying, this story brings out all of the emotions.
Let's start by saying that Amy Adams is everything. The best quality of any superb science fiction drama is self-discovery, either through the characters on screen or with the viewers in the audience. This is more than just an alien movie and that's why it succeeds so well. I've named it my best of 2016 because it dared to defy the genre and tell us about humanity and our insecurities, while giving us a message of connectedness and commonality.
Thanks for reading! Join in on the discussion and share your thoughts and favorite films from 2016 by commenting on this post, on Facebook or by interacting with us on Twitter.