2016: Redux (Dave’s Top Ten)

{FYI: I realize how late I am in posting my Best of 2016 piece, but I say screw it. Here’s my list, for purposes of posterity – and also because I said I’d throw it up on the Best of 2016 Awards Show episode and forgot. Ah, well. Much like that episode itself, better late than never, right? Also, in retrospect, some of these I may rank differently now, but I figured it best to leave the rankings as I originally ordered them intact.}

In a year seemingly dominated by disappointing blockbusters, it looks like the smaller budgeted movie reigned in 2016. Now, that’s not to say that there weren’t any good movies last year, there were, but it seems like the bulk of films that had any merit in 2016 were those that veered more towards indie sensibilities than those of the tent pole summer blockbuster. That’s a pretty big change, at least for yours truly, who’s last few Top Ten lists mainly consisted of summer movies (what can I say, I’m a nerd). Alas, perhaps it is true; maybe we are approaching that prophesied “bubble” that Spielberg and Lucas were talking about years ago where people suddenly stop caring about big budget spectacles and stop going out to the movies like they used to. Who knows? All I can say is whatever happens to the movie industry in the next few years, we’ll at least have Star Wars…which leads me to the last point I’d like to address before I get into my Top Ten list proper: Rogue One.

Now, if you skipped ahead in my list and happened to have noticed that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is NOT represented, just know that at one point it was indeed in my list, albeit at the bottom. If it wasn’t for me remembering at the last minute that The Lobster was a 2016 release, it would have just scraped by, but I’m afraid the issues I had with its first act, among a few other things, were enough to push it out and make it an Honorable Mention. That’s not to say that I hated it (for the record, I gave it a very enjoyable 8, and the film has only become more fun in subsequent viewings), but looking at the other ten films that I had on my list, I think it just falls short, due to the reasons mentioned above.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, without further ado…

10. Star Trek Beyond

I know what you’re saying; “Traitor! How dare you pick Star Trek over Star Wars!!!” First of all, why can a person not enjoy both? They are, after all, radically different franchises, and George Lucas himself has even said that Trek was one of the many things that influenced/inspired Star Wars. Secondly, I personally just feel that the issues I had with Rogue One were enough to drop it below Star Trek Beyond, which I felt had less issues overall. Both films are very entertaining, but I thought that this latest installment of the Abrams-rebooted Trek was better paced than Rogue One, had some good character bits with the crew, and managed to better balance the feeling of Old-Trek with the more action oriented New-Trek.

The only question remaining is what they will do with the franchise after Anton Yelchin’s tragic passing. I personally hope they do not recast the role and just find a respectful way of writing out Chekov, replacing him with an entirely new character that has his own personality.

9. The Lobster

I remember seeing the trailer for this film and thinking that it looked like a weird piece of dry comedy, perhaps the driest I’ve ever seen. After finally renting the film (and subsequently buying it right after) I think this movie may claim the prize of “Driest Comedy I Have Ever Seen”, and that’s a good thing. I loved the bizarre premise for this movie, and while I ordinarily can take or leave Colin Ferrell (not counting In Bruges, which he was brilliant in), I thought his performance was fantastic and perfectly suited the tone and world this movie presents us with. Supporting him is a great cast that includes the always dependable Rachel Weisz, the ever funny John C. Reilly, and the laser eyes of Lea Seydoux. While it probably won’t be for everyone, (as I said, its humor is out there and extremely dry) for those who prefer dry humor, I think this will no doubt be one that would be Top Ten worthy for many.

8. Hell or High Water

Jeff Bridges may very well be my current favorite “curmudgeonly old man” actor. Ever since True Grit Bridges has dominated the cinema landscape with crotchety, yet likeable characters, and Hell or High Water may very well be his finest performance in this area yet. While I empathized and was drawn in with the main plot of the two brothers out to save their family farm (a career best performance from Chris Pine, by the way) I couldn’t help but be drawn more to Bridges’ sub plot of an aging sheriff who is on his last case before retirement. The dynamic between his partner and how it evolves over the course of the story is easily the best aspect of the film and the one that left the biggest impact on me after leaving the theatre (even if that probably wasn’t the main take away that the filmmakers intended).

7. La La Land

This was a movie that I kept managing not to see for whatever reason, despite my desperately wanting to see it (the director’s previous film, Whiplash, was one of my favorite films of 2014). When I eventually did get around to seeing it, it couldn’t have been at a better time. After just having gotten out of a relationship, the film’s subject matter about two people falling in love but eventually going their own ways really spoke to me in a deep and personal way that few films ever have. Granted, any film I may have watched at that particular moment that happened to deal with moving on from a relationship probably would have spoken to me as well, but it would have been hard pressed to compete with how well this is portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. As was the case with Whiplash, the last ten minutes of La La Land are magnificently put together and bring the story to a close with one of the most beautifully bittersweet endings I’ve ever seen. Don’t let the naysayers and the contrarians dissuade you from seeing this film, as you will be missing out on one of the most delightful releases of the year.

6. 10 Cloverfield Lane

The first great movie of 2016, 10 Cloverfield Lane was a film that was able to deliver on the intensity of its fantastic trailer. With an Oscar worthy performance from John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane can sit comfortably with the best of the psychological thrillers. While there may be some issues (the ending being divisive among most people I’ve talked to), in my opinion they are pretty far and between, and in no way drastically hurt what is otherwise one of the better assembled thrillers of recent memory and one of John Goodman’s best performances in years.

5. The Nice Guys

I love Shane Black. In my mind the guy has been on a roll ever since The Long Kiss Goodnight (objectionably not a great film, but a fun one nonetheless) and his streak of funny and very well written films continues with The Nice Guys. I didn’t grow up in the Seventies, so I can’t say whether or not the 70s production design was spot on or perhaps too nostalgic and amped up to an unrealistic degree, but whatever the case may be, Shane Black makes the Seventies look like a blast. In addition to the colorful visuals, we also get a great buddy cop pairing with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, both showing comedic sides that really display their acting range and ability to take an already funny script and make it even funnier with their performances. It’s one of the true cinematic shames of 2016 that this film didn’t do better at the box office, as The Nice Guys had the potential to be one of the great buddy cop franchises had it done well enough to continue on with more films.

4. Captain America: Civil War

At this point we’ve come to expect a certain degree of quality with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Captain America: Civil War is no exception. Preceded by what is perhaps the best film in the franchise up to this point (Captain America: The Winter Solider), Civil War had a lot to live up to. When the trailer debuted showing the stakes and emotional heft between Iron Man and Captain America, not to mention the surprise appearance of a new Spider-Man, expectations were higher than they had ever been since the first Avengers film. Thankfully, the Russo Brothers delivered a movie that takes everything into account that has happened to this vast lineup of characters and build it up to an emotional and action packed climax that drastically changes the storyline this franchise has been building for the last nine years and leaves us wondering what’s going to happen when our heroes ultimately meet the big baddie that has been setup since the mid credits stinger of The Avengers. Some may be feeling superhero-fatigue at this point, but I personally can’t wait for the next installment of this ever enjoyable franchise.

3. Eddie the Eagle

One of three surprises from 2016 that completely blew me away. When I first saw the trailer for Eddie the Eagle I’ll admit I didn’t think too much about it. “Eh, looks alright I guess. That might be kinda interesting”, was all I thought. Then on a whim, scrolling through the new rentals available on Vudu, I had a sudden mild interest in checking this movie out. It was the epitome of a “why not?” scenario. What followed was a nostalgia trip back to the early 90s, watching feel-good sports films like The Mighty Ducks and, most importantly, Cool Runnings. The story here isn’t anything new: a misfit with big dreams wants desperately to compete in a sport to prove to himself and the naysayers that he has what it takes. Along the way he meets a former hot shot, now burn out, of the sport who helps him develop his skills and get him to the final “big game”, in this case The Olympics. Again, nothing new. The only thing that really makes this particular sports film about believing in yourself unique is the sport in question: Ski Jumping.

But what really sets this film apart from other sports films and keeps it from simply being a nostalgia trip is the likeability of our protagonist. Eddie’s good nature and naivety permeate every frame of this movie, rubbing off on other characters, influencing the music (which has a fantastic 80s charm), and simply making you feel good in all of the ways that the best feel-good movies have. Sure, it may be cheesy to some, but I had a blast watching Eddie stumble, fall, and eventually rise up to achieve his dreams. Hopefully this is one that will eventually garner some cult status, as I firmly believe it’s just as good as anything the best of the genre has to offer.

2. Zootopia

The second big surprise of 2016 for me. I remember long ago stereotyping Zootopia as just another Madagascar clone without having seen a frame of the movie or even a full-fledged trailer. That all changed when the first theatrical teaser came out showing a more or less complete scene from the movie. That scene was of course the now famous DMV sequence where our heroes are trying to get a license plate number run in order to find their suspect. The problem is, the DMV is staffed exclusively by sloths. I can’t tell you how many times I saw this trailer and laughed, hard. It got to a point where I saw it so many times that I would begin to watch other people’s reactions as the scene unfolded and reached its comedic climax just to see how long it would take for them to bust out laughing. It was the first time in a while that a film I had absolutely no interest in prior, and even had unwarranted negative feelings towards, ended up completely turning me around and actually make me excited to see it.

After finally watching it, I found that not only did the film deliver on the strength of the comedy shown in the trailer, but actually had something to say about stereotyping, racism, and tolerance, and told it in a way that didn’t dumb things down for kids and didn’t feel too heavy handed. In addition, the voice acting from everyone involved is top notch and really helps to sell the emotion needed for the movie to deliver on its message effectively, not to mention the comedy. Even if you’re not a Disney fan, or even a fan of animated films for that matter, you owe it to yourself to check out Zootopia. There’s way more going on in this movie then you’d probably give it credit for.

1. Sing Street

Wow. Talk about a film coming out of nowhere and becoming the standard by which I compare all of the remaining films that come out that year in terms of everything I look for in a movie. This one has it all: comedy, drama, fantastic music, nostalgia, romance, heartbreak – you name it. I’m just glad that this movie was recommended to me, as I probably wouldn’t have heard of it if it hadn’t had been. Regrettably, Sing Street didn’t have a big release and it hasn’t seemed to have caught on, at least in the public zeitgeist (it did win some awards, but nothing big enough to attract mass amounts of attention), which is a shame, as it is by far the most moving and hopeful romantic drama of the year. Instantly relatable characters, a spot on understanding and representation of the 80s (without feeling forced or overly nostalgic), the best soundtrack of the year, and a heartfelt emotional center between two confused teens who just want to break free of the restrictions, drama, and the mundanity of their surroundings make this one of the best teen dramas since the heyday of John Hughes. Please, do yourself a favor and watch this film on Netflix – Right now. It will be the most enjoyable couple of hours you’ve had in some time, and the ending will no doubt leave you in tears of joy and happiness.

You can purchase any of the films above through our Amazon side link or by clicking on each title.


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