Let’s skip the usual blather about whether 2016 was a good year for movies or a bad year for movies and just get right to it, shall we? I saw a lot of films in 2016. Here were some of my very favorites.
In no particular order, here are a few films I loved this year, but for whatever reason did not quite make the cut.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition
Okay, let’s get this one out of the way. I legitimately liked Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in all its flaws, and I straight-up loved the Ultimate Edition, which feels like a much more coherent execution of the filmmakers’ vision. Yes, it’s grim nearly to the point of parody, but look around at the year we’ve had. Doesn’t that dourness just seem appropriate? What I adored about this movie is that it’s a film about deeply flawed people who exist in a universe driven by paranoia and despair — and try their best to do some good in it anyway.
Whether Beyoncé’s “visual album” should count as a movie, a TV special, all of the above, or something else entirely, seems to depend on whom you ask. What I can say with absolute certainty is that this is one of the most stunning marriages of sight and sound I witnessed in 2016. Woven through with the poetry of Warsan Shire, Lemonade emerges a personal essay and a sociopolitical manifesto, a joyous celebration of black womanhood and an intimate exploration of sorrow and forgiveness. It made my jaw drop to the ground, and I devoured it whole.
Don’t Think Twice
Don’t Think Twice is laugh-out-loud hilarious because it’s a movie about pretty good fictional comedians, starring a bunch of really good actual comedians. But make no mistake — this is a drama, and one that absolutely wrecked me. In his sophomore directing effort, Mike Birbiglia faces the twin specters that haunt anyone who’s ever tried to make it in a tough field: the petrifying fear of the changes success might bring, and the painful realization that you’ll probably never get to find out anyway.
I’ve seen Loving get dinged by some of my peers for being too quiet and too restrained, but for me, that’s exactly where its power comes from. The effects of oppression aren’t always felt in big ways. Very often, it’s just another fact of life, as unremarkable and as unavoidable as air. Similarly, liberation doesn’t always mean a dramatic change of pace. Sometimes, it just means you can finally breathe a little easier while carrying on with the life you’ve always had.
The Nice Guys
With The Nice Guys, Shane Black cooks up the perfect blend of cynicism and sincerity and wraps it all up in one bright, funny package. It’s a (sort of) Christmas movie for those who are fundamentally skeptical of cheer and sentimentality, and for those who might tend toward the melancholy, but who still want to have a good time anyway. Ryan Gosling loves to play sad, silent types, but in truth, he’s never better than when he’s playing extroverted motormouths — especially when he’s got a perfect foil in the form of a jaded, world-weary Russell Crowe. The two of them tear into Shane Black’s dialogue like it’s a juicy T-bone steak, but it’s newcomer Angourie Rice who almost makes off with the entire meal.
Films I Didn’t See:
I caught a lot of really fantastic movies this year, but even then there were many (too many) I missed. Here are a few I especially regret not having seen.
20th Century Women
O.J.: Made in America (Note: I did see the first episode, but the whole thing is like eight hours long so I’m still working through it.)