Monday, January 9, 2017

My Top 10 Movies of 2016

I can summarize the 2016 movie year (not taking into account all its other tragedies) in three concepts: a perfect year for kids, a great year for horror (both literally and figuratively), and an awful summer.

There were many good movies, and a few masterpieces in between, for kids. The year started out with the superb Zootopia, continued with The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, and Moana, and amazed with Kubo and the Two Strings. I ended up with 12 movies for my top 10 list, with both of Zootopia and Kubo and the Two Strings among them. With all of Kubo's beauty, I had to let it go, because Zootopia delivered such a complicated social message to children in such conventional form, I could not imagine how else one could educate the next generation during the peak of our xenophobic, Trumpist times.

And the horror genre had an amazing boost also. Both The Witch and The Invitation took us back to the roots of the genre, instilling a long, slow-burning creepiness to end in very disturbing climaxes; Don't Breathe was supposed to be a regular throwaway thriller, which turned out as a tense shocker; The Ouija sequel was significantly better than its original; Under the Shadow made perfect fantasy horror from everyday life in Iran; and two horrors from South Korea (they're always good at horror), The Wailing and Train to Busan, did not let go even for a minute. Both these latter films again should have been in my top 10, but to round up the list, I left The Wailing out, because I realized other than the terrifying ending, I couldn't remember much about the rest of the film, while nearly every moment of Train to Busan has stayed with me to this day.

But forget the summer. The sequels (Independence Day: Resurgence and Star Trek Beyond) were either stupid or unsatisfying, the remake (Ghostbusters) was useless, and the superhero movies (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men: Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War) were either junk, or looking back, didn't add anything in the first place. Ironically, not even Spielberg, the old grandmaster of summer blockbusters, was able to cause a groundbreaking effect in such climate with his BFG return to kids movies. And the only innovative superhero flicks, Deadpool and Doctor Strange, were actually screened before and after the summer season, respectively - meaning movie executives didn't want to risk testing summer audiences with creative superhero material (they prefer feeding them the usual). The year 2016 was the highest grossing movie year on record ... but that 'probably' wasn't from its summer box office.

So considering I didn't get to see Lion, Paterson, and Scorsese's Silence yet (in hope of an Oscar, the wide release of some films is so late ... you don't get to see them!), my top 10 movies of 2016, in alphabetical order, are as follows. Curiously, the list includes 4 foreign productions, and 2 documentaries - one a relentless 8-hour biography:

1. Hacksaw Ridge

2. Manchester by the Sea

3. Midnight Special

4. O.J.: Made in America

5. The Salesman

6. Toni Erdmann

7. Train to Busan

8. Under the Shadow

9. Zero Days

10. Zootopia

Best Movie of the Year: None of the 10 is an obvious standout as my favorite of all, but if I had to choose based on which film affected me the most (or the hardest), I would go with Manchester by the Sea.


Worst Movie of the Year: Rarely have I 'hated' a movie for manipulating the audience ... and laughing at them in the process. But this movie achieved that status. And I'm sure this is exactly what the director wanted, so the likes of me would say this here, and the likes of you would be curious to see what the anger is all about, and watch the movie. But we have directors like Scorsese or Fincher or Cameron who slowly, year after year, create their own style and build their own kingdom. Then we have a director like Nicolas Winding Refn, who wants to become really famous, really fast, really dirty.


Discovery of the Year: Hands down, it's Jeff Nichols. The director had already proven himself to be 'interesting' talent, but in 2016, he made one good movie (Loving), and one great movie (Midnight Special). The latter film actually started the recent nostalgic 80's Spielberg resurgence, which peaked during the second half of the year with Netflix's show, "Stranger Things". Can't wait to see what he has in store next.

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