Yes, tonight is Oscar night
Yes, it’s the end of February.
Still, I wanted to wait until I’d seen enough of last year’s films to truly give a proper ‘Top Ten’ list… and that takes time. While there were many films that could have been on here, I felt that these were my picks as the ten most engaging film experiences I had in 2016. Do you agree? What would be on yours?
10) Doctor Strange – I admit it. Over the last two years, I’ve grown tired of Marvel’s overall repetitiveness. While they often create interesting characters, they often lack in bringing anything particularly new. Doctor Strange was the exception to the rule. By introducing magic into the MCU, director Scott Derrickson also introduced a heart of spirituality that has often been lacking from the franchise. It would take a lot for me to enter a Marvel film into my Top 10 but I couldn’t deny this pleasant surprise from an appearance.
9) Sing Street – This little rock n’ roll film film from the director of Once is pure joy. The film moves along at a solid pace and the characters fit well with the world in which they exist. Despite their youth, they struggle with the effects of poverty and tensions within 1980s Ireland but they find hope as the come together in their music. Also, it’s a ton of fun. And ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ will stick in your head all day.
8) Kubo and the Two Strings – While this likely won’t win Best Animated Feature tonight, it really should. This surprise is all about the power of our stories and how they drive us. The animation is simply beautiful–given to look like paper themselves, re-emphasizing the story motif–and the film is simply amazing. See it.
7) Birth of a Nation – Yes, it has it’s issue. Yes, it’s controversial… but there’s a lot of good in this Braveheart-style film (which was, incidentally, ‘mentored’ by an uncredited Gibson. Much of the backlash towards the film was related to writer/director Nate Parker but the film itself is focused and has much to say. The story of Nat Turner is one that Parker wants you to experience and feel, and personally, I felt he accomplished this. In addition, the film has lots to talk about who owns the Scripture, which I found very interesting.
6) Silence – This film breaks my heart–not because of the torture scenes of Christians but actually due to the lack of support it received from the Evangelical community. Seen as one of the biggest bombs of Scorcese’s career, it really is only because people didn’t show up. The quality of the film is superb and provides a riveting challenge to faith while also demonstrating the value of it. Frankly, the church missed out on an amazing opportunity. This film was brilliant.
5) Jackie – To me, this was undoubtedly one of the best scripts of the year. Following Jackie Onassis on the week after JFK’s assassination, this character study was a fascinating exploration of the relationship between fame and politics. Portman’s performance is, in my mind, the best lead actress of the year (though she likely won’t win the Oscar). She plays Jackie O with ferocity and fragility and it’s truly something to see.
4) Hail, Caesar! – Clooney arguing the Communist dialectic. Channing Tatum tap dancing on a table. “Would that it t’were so simple?” This Coen brother’s comedy is hilarious in its absurdity but also an interesting look at Hollywood’s connection with faith-based culture. I laughed. A lot. And it earned them. Definitely one of my favourites of the year.
3) Arrival – I love thoughtful sci-fi… and Denis Villeneuve… but this film earns the position based on it’s own merits as well. While not truly a ‘twist’ ending, the film’s finale does bring everything together in an engaging and thought-provoking matter. Plus, I found the exploration of language and suffering is moving. I’d say more but the less you know before you see, the better.
2) La La Land – Yes, it’s good. I’ll admit it. I simply don’t get the emerging backlash against the film. It’s fun, the music is wonderful and the performances engaging. Chazelle proves yet again that his direction is something to be noticed and the set design is eye popping. More importantly though, the story does have something to say by talking about the tension between nostalgia and moving forward. Does it deserve 14 nominations? I struggle with that… but it’s a worth Best Picture film should it take gold tonight.
1) Moonlight – No other picture surprised me as much as this film did this year. Moving and powerful, Moonlight explores sexuality and masculinity in an urban African-American setting that is rarely explored. The slow, panning camera let you feel each moment as Little grows to Chiron and transforms to Black. In the end, this film simply gave me more to think about than any other film this year.