SENIOR STAFF WRITER
10. Swiss Army Man
“Swiss Army Man,” the directorial debut of the duo Daniels, uses so many tropes and throws so many emotions at the viewer that may seem familiar, and eventually transmutes that into a wholly original experience. The film takes one through an odyssey of heightened experiences all at once. Plus, Daniel Radcliffe offers up one of the best performances of the year. Sort of a “farting corpse ET.” It is divisive, and the division has shown, but it would be foolish not to include it among 2016’s best.
9. The Nice Guys
“The Nice Guys” demonstrates the steady hand of a master, with Shane Black employing his technique as a guy who has been writing this kind of a buddy cop formula for 20 years. The acting is all around excellent, Ryan Gosling’s comedic timing is pitch perfect and Russell Crowe is the best he has been in years. There’s a child actor who plays Gosling’s character’s daughter, and even she’s pretty good.
8. The Edge of Seventeen
John Hughes made specifically engaging movies in his day, but many of them, even “The Breakfast Club,” are flawed. Kelly Fremon Craig’s “The Edge of Seventeen” is an excellent teen comedy often reminiscent of Hughes’ iconic works. It is often hilarious, but best of all, rich with empathy and an understanding of its characters. It’s a brilliantly directed master-stroke that establishes Craig as a voice to stick around for a long time.
7. Manchester by the Sea
“Manchester by the Sea” is the kind of movie a filmmaker only gets to make once or twice in their life. It is a masterful, meditative work about death. The big moments are well quiet, and nuanced. Casey Affleck offers the best performance of his career, with director Kenneth Lonergan allowing him the space to do so much without saying a word.
6. Green Room
Jeremy Saulnier is one of the most exciting filmmakers that has made it within the last decade. His use of imagery lends creativity and intrigue to what are otherwise straightforward stories. His latest, “Green Room” is a mercilessly tense thriller centered around a struggling punk band and a venue of neo-Nazis. It is brutal, it is savage, and it is irresistible.
Martin Scorsese’s latest film is eas-ily one of his most fascinating. It’s also a masterpiece, with Scorsese meditating on the limits of faith and how to persevere when under the literal threat of death from an oppressive government, as well as his own Catholicism. It is a film that demands multiple viewings, and one that stays with the viewer long after they leave the theater.
4. A Monster Calls
This is a movie where one would be hard pressed not to sob his or her eyes out. Director J.A. Bayona knows, that for the movie to work the viewer must form an irreparable bond with the characters. They are written in such a way where that this exists in spades. Sigourney Weaver gives the standout turn but attention must be paid to Lewis Macdougall as yet another standout child actor.
3. The Witch
Robert Eggers’ debut can truly be called Kubrickian. This is his debut, and saying something like that is basically a kiss of death (Shyamalan among others). There’s a lot to be excited about with Eggers, he has a strong grasp of atmosphere, tension, themes, and characters.
2. La La Land
“La La Land” is the major populist hit of 2016. This has earned it some backlash, as will always happen. The fact remains, is that this is yet another masterpiece from novice filmmaker Damien Chazelle. It is magnetic, it is magical, it is hypnotizing. Watch it, and then watch it again.
“Moonlight” is a perfectly assembled achievement, a slow and meticulous masterwork building and creating a person’s life. The direction is wonderfully chosen, and the cinematography gorgeous. It also represents huge steps forward for diverse cinema. These kinds of stories often will end poorly for their characters, but with “Moonlight” the ending is relatively hopeful. The film plays out more like life, and when portrayals of all cultures improve and evolve, the medium of cinema improves and evolves. Director Barry Jenkins has delivered a film that will stay for years to come.