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A Word Before Reading

I am quite aware that numbers 5, 7 and 9 were bashed by critics, but my loving for these films is sincere and I hope when readers read why I love them, they do not get the impression that I am goofy or something. 

Introduction

I am quite aware that I am a month too late in publishing my Best Films list of the year. I sincerely apologize for that, I have just been so busy lately. Either way, let us move on. While 2016 did not have the high quantity of great films that 2015 had, it was still a pretty solid year. 2016 has been quite a strange year in general and readers are bound to find some of my choices for my 10 best films of the year to be equally bizarre. Nevertheless, I have valid reasons for loving some of these films. While their are some foreign films in my Runner-Ups and Honorable Mentions section, I have only one in my top 10 list and that is a work by master Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. My number one favorite film of 2016 is a literary adaptation by a director you might not have heard of. I have seen some great works by veteran directors Terence Davies, Todd Solondz and Whit Stillman. Two of those are traditional literary adaptations. As far as comic book film adaptations go, two of them made my list, but it is bound to shock my readers in terms of the two choices I picked. As far as some of the other picks are concerned, I chose works by actor directors and one other was by a director I am not even a huge fan of (hint: it is number 9). What a lot of these films on my list have in common is that they all in one way or another touched upon our current political and social climate. Some did it explicitly and others in a more implicit manner. Anyway, without further ado, I present to you without hesitation my Top 10 Best Films of 2016 below. I hope you enjoy the list and I hope you are all having a Happy 2017 so far 🙂

Top 10 Best Films of 2016

1.) High-Rise
(Dir: Ben Wheatley)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
While it may inarguably (If understandably) rank as one of (If not) the most polarizing films of the year to be on my list, I still honestly and personally view High-Rise as the greatest film of 2016. This electrifying, exciting, masterfully acted and thought-provoking adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 dystopian novel of societal collapse could have easily been set in our present day 21st century and it would still feel timeless. Working with his biggest budget to date, idiosyncratic British director Ben Wheatley creates a visually stunning masterpiece that also happens to be his most expressive piece of storytelling so far in his already perfect career as a bold and daring filmmaker. This audacious work of art is atmospheric, crazy, dark, disturbing, edgy, energetic, exhilarating, funny, imaginative, mesmerizing, sexy, uncompromising and weird. To put it in other words, High-Rise stands out as more than just an unqualified success, it also serves as one of many perfect examples of what makes a film great.

2.) The President
(Dir: Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
Even though it is technically a 2014 film (it was released here on DVD in 2016), I can not think of any other film that is more deserving of second place other than that of The President, which is a riveting drama from the great Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. This story of a former tyrant dealing with the people that his toppled government had oppressed offers fascinating drama, intelligent satire and even a bit of excitement. Out of all the political dramas that have been released this year, neither of them have been as powerful or has impressed me as much as The President.

3.) Sunset Song
(Dir: Terence Davies)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
As beautifully acted and photographed as it is masterfully directed and written, Sunset Song may just be the most emotionally powerful film of the year. British filmmaker Terence Davies adaptation of Louis Grassic Gibbon’s novel about a Scottish girl’s rite of passage during the early 20th century blends intimate drama, heartbreaking tragedy and gorgeous scenery all into one and the result plays out like a touching poem If it were told within a cinematic narrative. Exquisite and poignant in equal measures, Sunset Song can only be described as one of many perfect examples of how a work of art should be defined.

4.) Wiener-Dog
(Dir: Todd Solondz)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
Regardless as to whether or not mainstream viewers will dismiss it as the cinematic equivalent of an endurance test, I personally found Wiener-Dog to be the most meaningful film that independent American cinema offered to me during these past 12 months of 2016. In his use of the title character’s journey from owner to owner within suburbia in the present day 21st century, director/writer Todd Solondz (refreshingly) shocks and infuriates us viewers yet never without a dark sense of humor or a deep awareness of what could possibly drive the behavior of its admittedly messed up characters. Love it or hate it (and I love it), Wiener-Dog is the only film of the year that really hits close to home on every single level possible.

5.) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
(Dir: Zack Snyder)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
Despite all of the negative reviews that have been heaped on this by the critics, I still unapologetically look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as one of the two best comic book film adaptations of 2016. Unlike most films involving superheroes, director Zack Snyder takes full advantage of all of the technology that cinema has to offer and uses it as If he were bringing a comic book/graphic novel dazzlingly to visual life. The film’s central plot about the animosity our two title superheroes face towards each other amid their fight against evil explores themes that feel relevant in regards to our nation’s currently divided political climate and our longing for some sort of unity to prevail in an increasingly cynical era among its many timely issues. One may not notice it at first, but hopefully after two or three viewings, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be seen as this year’s most daring superhero film.

6.) Hacksaw Ridge
(Dir: Mel Gibson)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
When it comes to this year’s crop of movies where the word “extraordinary” is either implied or said by both critics and audiences alike in describing the heroics of the lead character, Hacksaw Ridge is arguably the only one where the aforementioned term perfectly matches the philosophy and vision of its filmmaker. In telling the incredible true story of how a combat medic earned a Medal of Honor for saving the lives of 75 soldiers in Okinawa during WWII by never killing an enemy combatant let alone getting killed, director Mel Gibson deeply explores the Christian beliefs that shape our main character while also giving us graphically violent and spectacular battle sequences worthy of comparisons to Saving Private Ryan. Two of my 10 best films of 2016 deal with the theme of patriotism, but out of all of them, Hacksaw Ridge stands out as the most emotionally powerful in how it depicts both its drama and imagery.

7.) Suicide Squad
(Dir: David Ayer)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
Similar to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad stood out for me as one of the two greatest comic book film adaptations of the year that was sadly misunderstood by critics. Edited with ferocious energy and set to a soundtrack filled with popular songs to define the characters and the ever-changing mood of the film, director/writer David Ayer delivers a stylish and expressive action picture that has something meaningful to say about both bonding (an Ayer trademark) and as with Batman v Superman, our nation’s contemporary political culture. Even while examining the serious imperfections that shape our title anti-heroes and the questionable antics of their employer, Ayer goes to great lengths and succeeds in not only making us root for them every step of the way, but also in getting us to care for them as human beings as well. Aside from being the personal favorite of mine, Suicide Squad also ranks for this viewer as the most exciting and insightful in the batch of 2016’s highest-grossing Summer films.

8.) Sully
(Dir: Clint Eastwood)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
Out of all the films I have seen this year about heroism rooted in reality, Sully stands out as the one where the personas of both its director (Clint Eastwood) and lead actor (Tom Hanks) is compatible with the feelings of arguably a majority of people in how we define the characteristics of a hero in general. Even with a running time of 96 minutes, Eastwood still manages to deliver a tightly directed, paced and written drama that vividly depicts the heroic efforts of real life pilot Chesley Sullenberger, whose emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River (aka Miracle on the Hudson) ended up saving the lives of all the passengers on board on January 15th, 2009. Humble, likable and mild mannered (like Sullenberger himself), Hanks delivers an inspired performance of the aforementioned character, who even in the midst of hero worship by family, friends and the media, could occasionally become vulnerable to doubt. While their are probably countless other films of 2016 that capture humanity at its best in 21st century America, Sully is the only one I can think of that totally succeeds in its execution.

9.) Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
(Dir: Ang Lee)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
No matter If you watched it at 120 fps or 24 fps (this is how I watched it), Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk still comes off as this year’s most innovate example of cinematic storytelling. Director Ang Lee’s up close and personal approach to the format yields stunning results and it coincides perfectly with its timely drama that examines how our nation celebrates, commercializes and contradicts war as experienced through the eyes and mind of our title soldier. A majority of critics saw this as a misfire, but for me, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk remains a tour de force. Even If a majority of critics are forever going to dismiss Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk as a misfire, I for one will see it as the most unique experimental film of 2016.

10.) Love & Friendship
(Dir: Whit Stillman)
(* * * * out of * * * *)
If for nothing else, Love & Friendship arguably deserves to be seen as one of the few 2016 films on my list to satisfy not only the tastes of a majority of critics, but also that of the film’s director and screenwriter as well. In adapting Jane Austen’s posthumously published short novel entitled Lady Susan, director/writer Whit Stillman serves up a delicious comedy of manners that satirizes 18th century British upper class society with wickedly funny results. At the same time, Stillman is keenly interested in exploring the characters that make up this particular social class as a whole and as usual, he does it effortlessly. With or without all of the critical praise, Love & Friendship still goes down for me as one of the most delightful film adaptations of the year.

Runner Ups
(* * * * out of * * * *)
1.) The Mermaid (Dir: Stephen Chow)
2.) Miles Ahead (Dir: Don Cheadle)
3.) Beautiful Something (Dir: Joseph Graham)
4.) Eisenstein in Guanajuato (Dir: Peter Greenaway)
5.) Valley of Love (Dir: Guillaume Nicloux)
6.) Standing Tall (Dir: Emmanuelle Bercot)
7.) Certain Women (Dir: Kelly Reichardt)
8.) The Dressmaker (Dir: Jocelyn Moorhouse)
9.) Aferim! (Dir: Radu Jude)
10.) Spa Night (Dir: Andrew Ahn)
11.) The Measure of a Man (Dir: Stephen Brize)
12.) A Hologram for the King (Dir: Tom Tykwer)
13.) Hell or High Water (Dir: David Mackenzie)
14.) Blood Father (Dir: Jean-Francois Richet)

Honorable Mentions
(* * * 1/2 out of * * * *)
1.) Knight of Cups (Dir: Terrence Malick)
2.) Kubo and the Two Strings (Dir: Travis Knight) (Animated Film)
3.) Arrival (Dir: Denis Villeneuve)
4.) The Little Prince (Dir: Mark Osborne) (Animated Film)
5.) Lo and Behold (Dir: Werner Herzog) (Documentary)
6.) The Finest Hours (Dir: Craig Gillespie)
7.) Patriots Day (Dir: Peter Berg)
8.) Hidden Figures (Dir: Theodore Melfi)
9.) Things to Come (Dir: Mia Hansen-Love)
10.) Eddie the Eagle (Dir: Dexter Fletcher)
11.) Concussion (Dir: Peter Landesman)
12.) The Witch (Dir: Robert Eggers)
13.) Green Room (Dir: Jeremy Saulnier)
14.) The Invitation (Dir: Karyn Kusama)
15.) Deadpool (Dir: Tim Miller)
16.) The Conjuring 2 (Dir: James Wan)
17.) In a Valley of Violence (Dir: Ti West)
18.) Lights Out (Dir: David F. Sandberg)

NOTE: Patriots Day first opened in the Illinois area in January and that was the time that I was working on this list. I could have easily counted it as a 2017 film, but I worked on this when it had already opened. I may talk about the upcoming Oscars in a future post (i.e. my alternative list). Either way, I hope you enjoy what I have written and I hope your 2017 has been great so far.

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