Best Films of 2016

 

Hidden Figures

Jesse Baalman
Staff Writer

Another year has gone by and with the Academy Awards tomorrow, Feb. 26, now is the time to celebrate the best films of 2016.

5. A Monster Calls

J. A. Boyena can blend spectacle and intimate emotion as proven with “The Impossible,” but his latest picture is influenced by elements of fantasy and has a deep allegorical meaning all the while being a tale for kids and families.

Dealing with his mother’s impending death from cancer, young Conor (Lewis MacDougall) summons a monster from his drawings that tells him three beautifully imaginative stories that allow him to process the loss of his beloved mother.
Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver are the boy’s mother and grandmother in this visionary tearjerker that was adapted from the illustrated children’s book of the same name.

4. 20th Century Women

In the 1970s, a makeshift family led by Annette Bening zooms down a seaside Southern Californian highway in vivid technicolor.

A boldly structured portrait, Mike Mills captures punk rock and feminism through Jamie’s (Lucas Jade Zumann) male gaze. Bening’s complicated character enlists the help of Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig to guide her son through his coming of age experience.

It is another showcase for Bening and a wonderfully meandering snapshot of a mother and son dynamic in this particular time period.

3. La La Land

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are confirmed as an iconic on-screen duo in Damien Chazelle’s newish old Hollywood romantic musical.

Calling to an era that is long gone, this LA-set story brings musicals singing and dancing back to vibrant life. Well-rounded and visually dazzling from start to finish, it features ambitious sequences, a phenomenal original soundtrack, and a well-defined chemistry between leads.

While balancing all of these elements, it also has an excellent screenplay that deals with its themes effectively. Smart and sensitively asking questions about love and success, this is the most joyous movie of the year.

2. Manchester By the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature exhibits his gift for crafting ambitious dramas to make for an absorbing journey that deals with universally resonant feelings of death, guilt, and redemption.

Casey Affleck stars as a Boston janitor who must return to his hometown to care for his 16-year-old nephew (Lucas Hedges) after his brother dies. The scriptwork perceptively balances tragedy and prickly humor with a subtle sense of saving grace.

In this new American classic, Affleck’s dedicated performance proves he is a worthy leading man who can handle many multi-layered scenes. A seaside testament to grief, this is a masterwork that should be remembered for years to come as all the artists involved reach new depths in their creative careers.

1. Moonlight

Moonlight is the best film of 2016 because it pushes boundaries by telling a story that is completely unique, but also accessible to any and all audiences. Writer-director Barry Jenkins chronicles three pivotal moments in the life of Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, then Trevante Rhodes), a withdrawn and reserved young man who dissolves into long-suffering circumstances as he navigates a boyhood rarely shown on film in a way that makes it impossible not to emphasize with its real and sincere approach.

Another gem to add to rising independent distributor A24’s collection, it compassionately tells the story of a boy from Miami who grows up struggling with his identity and is hardened by the way he is treated because of it.

It is a triptych structured work that features unforgettable supporting turns by Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris as the boy’s drug dealer role model and addict mother. It is at times heart aching and painful, but by the end, blue moonlight illuminates the young Chiron and a refreshing cinematic point of view is achieved.

6-15 in no particular order

  • Hidden Figures
  • Don’t Think Twice
  • The Edge of Seventeen
  • Sausage Party
  • Other People
  • Arrival
  • Jackie
  • Maggie’s Plan
  • Everybody Wants Some!!
  • Finding Dory

jbaalman@lc.edu