Saturday, February 18, 2017

Our Favorite Movies of 2016

Dear George,
The Oscars are almost upon us, so I thought it time to post my list of movie favorites for 2016.  We usually try to see most of the best picture nominees, but we fell short this year, missing out on Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, and Hell or High Water.  Even so, I don’t think 2016 was a great year for movies.  My ten favorites are below, listed in order.  I notice that only two of my top ten choices were nominated by the Academy for major awards (which leads me to conclude that the Academy’s judgment is suspect).

Top Ten

(1) Hail, Caesar!  Josh Brolin, George Clooney.  Eddie Mannix, a 1950s Hollywood fixer, struggles to keep the studio’s stars in line.  A witty spoof by the Coen brothers of everything about the movies of our youth.  Rotten Tomatoes: 83%; Blog: A-.

(2) Café Society.  Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carrell.  In the 1930s a young Bronx native falls in love with the secretary of his powerful Hollywood uncle, an agent to the stars, then is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life in NYC.  Woody Allen reminds us once again that love and relationships are complicated beyond human comprehension.  Rotten Tomatoes: 74%; Blog: A-. 

(3) Hidden Figures.  Tara P. Henson, Octavia Spencer.  The untold story of three brilliant African-American working women who were the brains behind John Glenn’s space orbit.  You know a movie depiction is powerful when it makes mathematics brimming with suspense and excitement.  Rotten Tomatoes: 92%; Blog: A-.  

(4) Loving.  Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga.  An interracial couple in the 1960s fight all the way to the Supreme Court for their right to live in their Virginia home town.  A horrifying reminder of times not so long ago (Katja and I were newly married in this era) and superbly acted and crafted.  Rotten Tomatoes: 90%; Blog: A-. 

(5) Marguerite.  Catherine Frot, Andre Marcon.  Marguerite Dumont, a wealthy woman and opera lover, loves to sing for friends, but problems begin when she decides to perform in front of a real audience.  A gem of a movie with universal human truths and an Oscar-worthy performance by the lead.  Rotten Tomatoes: 95%; Blog: A-. 

(6) Paterson.  Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahan.  A quiet observation of the triumphs and defeats of daily life for a bus driver and his wife, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.  We learn again that life is quirky, routine but mysterious, comic and tragic, and filled with poetry.  Rotten Tomatoes: 95%; Blog: A-. 

(7) A Man Called Ove.  Rolf Lassgard, Bahar Pars.  An elderly, isolated retiree has given up on life until a boisterous young family moves in next door and an unlikely friendship forms.  A touching story about the potential for change and self-realization in one’s older years.  Rotten Tomatoes: 93%; Blog: A-

(8) Things To Come (L’Avenir).  Isabelle Huppert.  When Nathalie’s husband announces he is leaving her for another woman, she must reinvent her life.  Despite the film’s low-key pace, Isabelle Huppert’s masterful portrayal makes this a spellbinder.  Rotten Tomatoes: 100%; Blog: A-. 

(9) Nocturnal Animals.  Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams.  A divorced couple discovers dark truths about each other and themselves.  A complex interplay between Susan’s current painful life, her ex-husband’s violent novel, and their early failed marriage — deep and dark.  Rotten Tomatoes: 72%; Blog: A-. 

(10) Moonlight.  Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris.  The heartbreaking story of a young black man’s struggle to find himself during three periods of life while experiencing the pain and beauty of falling in love and grappling with his own closeted sexuality.  Painful, touching, well-acted and beautifully filmed.  Rotten Tomatoes: 98%; Blog: A-.  

Here’s the rest of the batch that we saw during the year (listed in order within each ratings category): 

-Rated B+:  The Eagle Huntress; The Jungle Book; The Nice Guys; La La Land; Dark Horse; The Accountant; Our Kind of Traitor; The Beatles; Florence Foster Jenkins; Manchester by the Sea; Allied; The Innocents; Elle; Lion

-Rated B: Sully, Maggie’s Plan; Wiener-Dog; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Viva; The Magnificent Seven; I Am Not Your Negro; The Legend of Tarzan; Captain Fantastic; Dr. Strange

-Rated B-: The Finest Hours; Jason Bourne; 45 Years; Southside With You; Ghostbusters; Heart of a Dog; The Lady in the Van; The Conjuring; Silence

-Rated C+: Sing Street; Queen of Katwe; The Salesman

-Rated C: Dheepan; A Bigger Splash

-Rated C-: Francofonia; Jackie

-Rated D or below: Money Monster; Independence Day: Resurgence


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