top 10 movies of 2016 oj made in america

3. O.J.: Made in America

About halfway through O.J.: Made in America‘s sprawling eight-hour running time, you start to wonder when the title subject will finally crack and showcase even a tiny sliver of recognizable humanity. The fact that it never happens is chilling. But Ezra Edelman’s documentary masterpiece (which has since been edited into five parts and aired on ESPN) isn’t just a brilliant portrait of a charming sociopath – it’s a level-headed examination of the racial tensions that have always bubbled under the surface of American culture, barely contained at the absolute best of times, and how the trial of O.J. Simpson led to a full-blown eruption. O.J.: Made in America never apologizes for the actions of its chief subject (he’s depicted as clearly being guilty), but it masterfully provides context for everything that orbits him and explains the why of it all. To understand the O.J. trial, you have to understand Los Angeles, and to understand Los Angeles, you have to first grapple with race in America. Edelman does just that and the results are disturbing, sobering, relevant, and, let’s be honest here, wickedly entertaining. Even at eight hours, this movie feels far too short.

top 10 movies of 2016 la la land

2. La La Land

There’s something to be said for anyone who dares make an honest, live-action musical in 2016. There’s also something to be said for a filmmaker knowing the inherent joy that comes from watching two charming, beautiful people singing and dancing. So there’s a lot to be said about Damien Chazelle and La La Land before you address what elevates this film from a pretty good time at the movies into a straight-up work of emotionally truthful art. When it’s being a straight-up musical, like the brilliantly staged “Another Day of Sun” number that opens the film, La La Land is pure bottled joy. But when it uses the iconography of the traditional Hollywood musical to linger on the ordinary beauties of modern romance and, more importantly, to highlight the heartache of love lost, it approaches some kind of cinematic transcendence. La La Land is a melancholy film, but it knows that every beautiful moment is composed of shards collected from previously broken dreams. Life is hard, love is hard, and you’re going to fail a lot and wish that things could have been different…but every failure makes you stronger and every love will arm you to face the days ahead. All of that and a damn great soundtrack, too.

top 10 movies of 2016 moonlight

1. Moonlight

Imagine looking into the eyes of a stranger and finding a mirror. That’s the experience of watching Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, a film composed of such empathy and love and hurt that it’s as painful to watch as it is intoxicating. You don’t have to be black or gay to understand Chiron – Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes bring him to life with three miraculously unified performances, offering a compelling and moving glimpse at a man struggling with race, sexuality, and masculinity at three vital points in his life. What does it mean to be a black, gay man in America? There is no definitive answer to that question, but Moonlight invites us to join Chiron as he searches for his own personal response to that query. That search is sometimes funny, sometimes sexy, sometimes violent, and sometimes romantic. It sometimes involves delicious Cuban food cooked by an old friend. It sometimes involves a heartbreaking schoolyard brawl. It sometimes involves being taught to swim by Juan (a shattering Mahershala Ali), a kind-hearted drug dealer who represents a flexibility and gentleness so many men deliberately avoid. Moonlight loves its characters and wants you understand them, to walk with them on their journey. It’s a bumpy road, but it’s a trip worth taking. The reward at the end is understanding. And love.

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