ReelBob: Bob Bloom’s top 10 films of 2016
By Bob Bloom
Like a freight train climbing a steep grade, the year in movies started off slowly, but gained momentum as 2016 progressed and the summit was in sight. For the first time in a few years, it became difficult to whittle down my choices to a top 10. But, I finally succeeded and, as a bonus, included a list — in alphabetical — order of 10 honorable mentions.
Just for fun, I have included my picks for the five most disappointing movies of 2016. So, here we go:
1. Moonlight: A touching and intimate story of a young black man’s journey of self-discovery about his place in the world and his sexuality. The film is a tender and compassionate look at isolation and living in the shadows by denying one’s true self.
2. Hell or High Water: This contemporary Western heist-thriller creates an atmosphere of desperation and anger as two brothers rob branches of a bank that tricked their mother into signing and reverse mortgage and now plan to foreclose. Strong performances by Chris Pine, Ben Foster and, especially, Jeff Bridges, make this a compelling drama that taps into the anger and disillusionment that has gripped the nation.
3. Manchester by the Sea: Casey Affleck’s Oscar-worthy performance dominates this feature about tragedy, guilt, loss and pain. Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan has created an unrelenting portrait of grief that drains you, but also captures and stirs your heart. You bleed for these characters, praying that they find healing or redemption.
4. The Lobster: One of the most original movies of the year is set in a futuristic society in which being alone is a crime. The movie is a witty feature about the tyranny of conformity in which everyone is paired by having shared trait or interests. Single people — or those who have lost a partner or ended a relationship — are sent to a hotel where they have 45 days to find a new partner. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choice.
5. La La Land: A musical that is wholly original — as well as a homage to tribute to the garish Technicolor Fox musicals of the 1940s and the classic MGM musicals of the 1950s. This boy-meets-girl love story is a tale of dreams and dreamers and the high cost of reaching success.
6. Loving: Some big-issue movies bellow their presence, while other, do so in a quiet and understated manner. This is one of those films. Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple from Virginia, are the focal points of this true story of how a lawsuit filed on their behalf ended antiquated miscegenation laws in that, and eventually other, southern states. The movie’s power lies in the strong performances by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the Lovings, an ordinary couple who simply wanted to live their lives as a family.
7. Hidden Figures: This little-known story of three black women and their contributions to NASA and the space program is an inspirational drama that honors perseverance. These women overcame race and gender prejudice and inequality with dignity and determination, paving the way for women of any color or nationality to reach for the stars.
8. Don’t Think Twice: This bittersweet and sad comedy focuses on the impact of an improvisational comedy troupe after one of its members leaves for a gig on a “Saturday Night Live”-type show. The insecurities, jealousies and constant need for reaffirmation drives these characters, as they react to their friend’s defection. The other members of the troupe covet the success of their former member, more so than being jealous of his new, mainstream gig. The film will give you a heightened appreciation of the comedians who expose themselves nightly and work hard to make you laugh.
9. American Honey: A Dickensian road movie follows a group of disenfranchised and disaffected teenagers as they travel the country selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door in affluent neighborhoods. The film marks a stunning film debut by Sasha Lane as Star, the newest member of this young group of vagabonds, who escapes her sordid home life to try and fulfill a yearning to belong and make a fresh start. “Honey” offers an appealing look at a slice of Americana that many of us have never seen — or simply ignored.
10. Deadpool: Truly, one of the most outlandish and entertaining movies of the year. This Marvel superhero feature is like no other. Star Ryan Reynolds continually breaks the fourth wall, talking directly to the audience. The body count is high and the laughs are plentiful in this attitude-driven vehicle. The film proclaims its middle-finger, thumbing-its-nose attitude from the opening credits to its fade-out and beyond.
You can check out the full reviews of the top 10 at ReelBob.com.
Now, in alphabetical order, here are my 10 honorable mentions:
Arrival: An adult science fiction drama that stresses the importance of language and communications — as well as sacrifice.
The Edge of Seventeen: Never has teen angst been so realistic — and funny. Hallie Steinfeld battles self-esteem and sibling issues in a film that will, at times, break your heart, and then make you smile.
Everybody Wants Some!!: A raucous comedy about a group of baseball players at a Texas college who bond over music, beer and girls.
Fences: Denzel Washington stars in and directs this adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. This story of a proud man living in the past is powerful and real.
Kubo and the Two Strings: An entertaining animated feature about loss and redemption that honors Japanese anime as it tells the tale of a young boy — a storyteller — and his quest to discover his true self.
Our Little Sister: This small, quiet Japanese import makes some profound statements about the human condition, in its look at family and responsibility.
Jackie: Natalie Portman shines as Jacqueline Kennedy as she copes in the days after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. The movie encapsulates the conflict between the public and private lives foisted on our leaders and celebrities.
Moana: A colorful and tune-filled animated feature about daring to expand your horizons and go beyond what others expect of you. Plus, you get Dwayne Johnson singing!
Sausage Party: An animated feature that is not only 88 minutes of laughs, but a razor-sharp satire on religion, faith and skepticism. An all-star vocal cast, headed by Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig, shows what happens when the food items on the supermarket shelf discover that outside the store is not the promised land they were taught.
The Witch: One of the most original — and disturbing — movies of the year. The suspense and chills constantly build in this feature, set in Puritan New England in the 1630s, that focuses on fanaticism and superstition.
And, finally, five movies that were overly hyped and fell very short of critical expectations. No comments are needed, especially for those who saw these clunkers.
Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice
Independence Day: Resurgence
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.