Image from Entertainment WeeklyBy Darian Scalamoni
It’s been seven months since I’ve started this blog and I’d want to say thank you to everyone who constantly reads and appreciates the same love of television and film as I do. It’s been a crazy year in terms of society and the direction the world is going, having said that, there have been some tremendous films this year. Some on my personal top 10 list include blockbusters, others are Oscar contenders, others just personal favorites. Unfortunately, with the 29 films that I saw this year that were released in 2016, I had to narrow it down to a top 10 list. Before I could do that though, I have some honorable mentions: Doctor Strange, Sully, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Secret Life of Pets, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Arrival and Bleed for This. All good movies that I enjoyed thoroughly but there was not enough room so without further ado, here are my personal Top 10 favorite films of 2016.
10. Café Society
Woody Allen has had a few questionable outputs in the last few years between Irrational Man and the atrocious attempt at television with his Amazon series, Crisis in Six Scenes, but his latest film effort that followed a young man who arrived in Hollywood to work for his uncle in the film industry in the 30s before being swept up in love with his uncle’s assistant. The movie is romantic, hilarious and also dramatic in moments but it’s a classic Woody Allen film in terms of substance, spirit and dialogue. Jesse Eisenberg is terrific in a role that seems like it was written for Allen, but with their similar awkward quirkiness, he fits like a glove. Along with a multitude of other great actors such as Steve Carell, Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively, the movie is a hilarious journey through the superficial and realness of some within the Hollywood system. Allen does a great job with the lighting to depict the differences between California and New York City when transitioning from the two great cities within the times. Though the movie feels familiar in tones because a great Woody Allen movie is a great Woody Allen movie, his 46th film feels just as great as some of his other classics from earlier times.
9. Finding Dory
The sequel to one of the most beloved Pixar movies of this generation, Finding Dory didn’t have the same impact as the original movie but still was an incredibly lovable film for its themes and of course, its titular character played by Ellen DeGeneres. Her portrayal in this film is much more of a balance between the delicate nature, optimism and energetic sense from the friendly but often forgetful blue tang fish. Not only that but Nemo and Marlin return and are joined by tons of fun, new characters in the universe including Hank the Octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill and my personal favorite, Fluke the Seal voiced by Idris Elba. The movie stands on its own from the original 2003 film, but also seems familiar as its easy to love these characters that Pixar has brought to life beneath the waters. No other studio understands their audience more than Pixar and that is evident here. The movie is incredibly well-paced and has a creative and informative message from young to old.
One of the best Disney original movies in years, Zootopia showcases a modern metropolis in which all animals come together in the “big city”, the rich blend of tremendous voice work, a great story line and clever storytelling makes it one of the best movies of the year and my favorite animated movie of the year as well. The movie is genius for being timely and providing a unique look at society while also being entertaining, funny and beautiful to look at. Some of my biggest laughs of the year came from this film in which the main story follows a bunny rabbit named Judy Hopps heading to Zootopia to become the first bunny cop while teaming up with a fox named Nick Wilde (brilliantly voiced by Jason Bateman) to crack a case. It’s a wonderfully executed film that has a huge reward for all of its viewers and provides one of the most fun experiences when watching of the year.
One of the biggest surprises of the year for sure is the rated R comic book film based on the Merc with a Mouth. If you could ever imagine a character being written so perfect for the screen in regards to its comic version, it has to be Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson. The anti-hero provides the audience with extreme violence, obscene gestures and language as well as fourth wall breaking but it was one of the best action movies of the year. Beyond Reynolds near perfect performance in the lead, the direction from Tim Miller is not to go unnoticed. Every action sequence gets better than the next but the scene in which Deadpool is counting his bullets when making his kills is genius. It is an unconventional origin story and appeals to the die hard fans but also the casual viewer who is looking for a wild, hilarious, action filled blockbuster from passionate people who dedicate the film to the source material. Not only one of my top 10 films of the year but the witty, insane protagonist might be my favorite movie character of the year as well.
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The first attempt at an anthology film within the Star Wars universe was a huge success for Lucasfilm and Disney as a band of rebels go on a mission to steal the plans to the planet killer, the Death Star. The key event within the timeline of the galaxy far, far away is a movie that many never thought they would ever see but they did and it was accomplished in an incredibly successful fashion. The nostalgic trip back in time in which the movie takes place before the events of A New Hope, is first and foremost a war film set in different planets but its filled with all the normal Star Wars touches that everyone loves. It’s a gritty, darker toned Star Wars movie that feels different but also fits perfectly in the timeline. It also features terrific new characters like Jyn Erso, K-2SO and Chirrut while also having classic characters in the film as well such as the iconic villain, Darth Vader. The narrative kept everyone engaged throughout, and the film is one of the best blockbusters of the year by far.
5. Sing Street
A movie that took everyone by surprise, the third film from John Carney sticks to his musical roots after Once and Begin Again, the movie follows a young, 14-year old boy named Conor who lives in Dublin and is infatuated with the glam rock scene through bands like Duran Duran and the Talking Heads. After dealing with personal issues within his family and at school, he meets a mysterious and beautiful model named Raphina and aims to win her heart. From there, he decides to ask her to star in his band’s music video except, Conor doesn’t have a band. He then brings together a group of boys who decide to create their own music and film music videos. The movie serves as a romantic journey that is driven by music while also acting as a therapeutic outlet for the main character. Sing Street is sweet, charming, rhythmic and has a true feel of innocence but it is one of the best films of the year. You’ll want to dance and sing to each and every song, while also getting lost within them. The bond between brothers and the band makes the movie relatable to so many and remind them of their youth and how important music is to every moment in life.
4. The Jungle Book
The live-action Disney remake is leap towards cinematic achievement if not alone for its visual magic. With Neel Sethi being the only physical character in the entire film, the movie is engrossing due to its characters, setting and it sets a new standard for CGI unlike any other movie. Jon Favreau continues his trend towards the ambitious as the Iron Man director makes the movie feel so human with all but one character being completely digital. The extraordinary and imaginative world creates an environment that makes all the family sing along to the classic songs while also providing audiences with new incarnations of classic characters like Bill Murray’s Baloo and Christopher Walken’s King Louie. The fun, humor-filled and at times, emotional movie is an incredibly well-made movie and is a rare instance of a remake being just as good as the original, if not better. The vivid illustrations that come to life on screen makes The Jungle Book one of the best films of the year as it triumphs to start a new generational outlook on the genre of live-action remakes of Disney classics.
3. Captain America: Civil War
The biggest and best superhero film of the year pits two of the most iconic cinematic heroes of the decade between Captain America and Iron Man in a spectacle film for the ages. Headlined by an incredible cast with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd and more, the movie is the darkest Marvel has released to date. Dealing with real conflict that pits two best friends together and brings a cinematic showdown to the big screen that many of dreamt of since childhood, Civil War is incredibly well paced, written brilliantly and introduces even more terrific characters into the MCU including Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland’s portrayal of the beloved web-slinger, Spider-Man. The movie is creative, bright and has more stakes than any other film that Marvel has ever produced. It’s also a testament to the Russo brothers who have done an incredible job of directing these movies after Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of the best ever as well. The humor, drama and action makes this blockbuster better than any other of its kind in 2016 and that’s why it is my 3rd best film of 2016.
2. Manchester by the Sea
The moving, tragic story that follows Lee Chandler taking the reins of becoming a guardian for his nephew following his brother’s death is one of the best films not only of the year, but possibly of the last five years. The moving story that is helmed by a man who knows depressing territory, Kenneth Lonergan flexes his storytelling muscles to the fullest extent and provides an amazing script for actors to put on a showcase. Casey Affleck’s career making role as Chandler is possibly the best performance of 2016 and he carries the movie on his shoulders with help from other terrific roles for the emerging star, Lucas Hedges and multiple time Academy Award nominated actress, Michelle Williams. The movie will wound your soul for quite a bit of time for the subject matter but the film is as truthful as one can be after dealing with the tragedy that these characters deal with. The film is beautiful and as telling as any other movie this year with melancholic depths and even a bit of humor in spots that rewards the audience with an astounding movie that holds the number two spot on my list.
1. La La Land
There are movies that define years but La La Land is a film that will define the career of director Damien Chazelle forever. The movie will immediately run you through every emotion imaginable but will have you smile from cheek to cheek when you walk out of the theater. It’s a musical that will have you tapping your toes, singing along and re-invigorate your love for film all in one. It pays tribute to the past with an ode to old-school Hollywood and films like Singin’ in the Rain while also embracing the present Los Angeles vibes through the two main acting superstars that head the movie, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It’s a love story but also tells the viewer a story of two independents that are attempting to reach their dreams on their own respective paths. The musical numbers are terrific and filled with a style all its own, it’s a crowd pleaser and salutes all that people love about movies. You become absorbed within the film as soon as the catchy and ambitious opening number begins. The performances are fantastic, the film is original, the direction and musical composition is the best of the year. Overall, the film is magical, magnificent, intoxicating and artistic. For all of the reasons listed above, La La Land takes the cake as the best movie of the year and quite possibly the best of its kind in the musical genre of all-time.