Angie Han’s Top 10 Films of 2016

Zootopia - Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde (1)

10. Zootopia

In a year that felt defined by the conversations around race, power, and privilege, a kid-friendly animated feature emerged as one of the smartest and most coherent statements on the matter. Zootopia is a de facto instruction manual for navigating bias and bigotry in the modern era, covering everything from microaggressions to stereotypes to apologies — and it’s all the more effective because it doesn’t feel like one. Beyond its messaging, Zootopia is also just plain fun. Part buddy comedy, part neo-noir, and part coming-of-age drama with a dash of crime drama, it’s a wild romp through a universe bursting with delightful little details. And animal puns. So many animal puns.

The Lobster

9. The Lobster

Love is a force that unites us all and elevates our lives into something more than mere existence. Everyone needs it. Anyone can give it. And everybody depends on it to keep the world spinning as it should. But the rituals of romance? All the odd mating dances and societal expectations and unspoken rules of modern courtship? Yeah, those are freaking weird. That’s the general sentiment behind The Lobster, a pitch-black romcom starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz as a pair of lovers in a world even stranger than ours. (For starters, in their universe, single people get turned into animals.) But underneath that heightened artificiality is something raw and true, and even, in spite of itself, kind of hopeful.

Paterson

8. Paterson

Nothing much happens in Paterson, and that’s the point. Director Jim Jarmusch finds poetry in the soul of a bus driver, beauty on the side of a small-town road, music in the familiar rhythms of everyday life. As Paterson, Adam Driver channels his usual intensity inward, so that the impression we’re left with is of an unassuming, mild-mannered man with a fire burning brightly within. Indeed, everyone in Paterson seems to have that inner flame. There is almost no one in this movie without a rich inner life, without layers and secrets and passions that make life worth living. Paterson is the kind of generous and empathetic work that makes the world feel like a better place.

Arrival

7. Arrival

At first, Arrival presents itself as an unusually cerebral take on the usual alien invasion story. And if that were all it were, it’d still be one of the most interesting films of 2016. It’s all too uncommon to see a sci-fi film that stresses empathy and cooperation over paranoia and conflict, and more unusual still to see one that does so by venturing into the field of linguistics. But gradually, Arrival reveals the bloody, beating heart powering that giant brain. These scientific and philosophical inquiries aren’t just abstract thought exercises, but ways to explore fundamentally human questions like what it means to love, how it feels to lose, and why we choose to endure even in the face of intolerable pain.

Moana - Kakamora

6. Moana

We are in the middle of a new Disney Renaissance, and Moana is the studio at its very finest. No, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does put a new spin on that old staple, the Disney princess tale. Moana sets sail on the Pacific and takes us through a journey filled with laughs, tears, and even some Mad Max: Fury Road-worthy action, all set to an incredibly earworm-y soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina. Not for nothing, I’d also like to point out that Moana took pains to involve Polynesian talent on both sides of the camera, including an ideally cast Dwayne Johnson as a disgraced demigod and newcomer Auli’i Cravalho as an adventurous future chieftain.

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