“La La Land”
“La La Land” is a wonderful movie – a musical masterpiece by writer/director Damien Chazelle that’s destined to light up and delight anyone who watches it for as long as humans exist on earth. It’s a beautiful story about dreamers, passion, love and the arts, told brilliantly with zealous energy and relentless charm. The colors will dazzle you, the rousing finale will stick with you and the music will sweep you off your feet and take you on an emotional thrill ride. The heart of “La La Land,” though – the relationship between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s characters and their romantic journey – is what will make you fall in love with it. This is, without question, my favorite movie of 2016.
Here is a haunting, unforgettable film that elegantly and ingeniously explores themes of revenge, regret, fear and desire. Written and directed by Tom Ford, “Nocturnal Animals” is an exceptionally well-acted and crafted film that both cautions viewers and captivates them as its three plot threads evolve to what is, ultimately, a stellar ending. It’s a taut, endlessly engaging film that takes viewers to some interesting and brutal places. Moral of the story: Be nice – and if you have something great, hang onto it.
“Arrival” is a high-concept, suspense-fueled sci-fi thriller with a genuine, more emotional story at its core. Brilliant directing, an outstanding lead performance by Amy Adams, a beautiful story, stunning visuals and a jaw-dropping ending make “Arrival” a must-see experience for fans of all kinds of movies, and a highlight in director Denis Villeneuve’s impressive filmography.
“The Wailing” is nuts! This Korean-language horror film directed by Hong-jin Na is scary as hell, weird as hell, at times darkly humorous and presents a finale that’s difficult to get off your mind. Among all of 2016’s great horror movies – “Don’t Breathe,” “The Conjuring 2,” “Lights Out,” to name a fair few – “The Wailing” tops all of them as the scariest film to creep its way into the cinema.
“The Nice Guys”
Easily the funniest and most flat-out entertaining (and shamefully overlooked, I should add) film of 2016, “The Nice Guys” is Shane Black’s best film ever and one of the better “buddy movies” around right now. The dialogue is sharp and funny, the chemistry between Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Angourie Rice’s characters is very well conceived and the mystery at the heart of this film is genuinely engaging. From the dark humor and well-realized detective story to the amazing 70s LA setting, there are a lot of reasons to enjoy “The Nice Guys.” It’s an easy film to love.
“Swiss Army Man”
The Daniels’ “Swiss Army Man” is crass, inane, immature and as weird as the term “weird” can get. However, there’s a beauty to it. It’s packed with so much depth and so many visual delights, it’s difficult not to give into its sheer oddity. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe co-star as a lonely, suicidal guy and a corpse who happens to talk and fart, respectively. It’s a weird relationship in a film that’s ridiculously nutty, but it’s that relationship that makes for a surprisingly involving, heartfelt, emotional and very, very funny little movie.
You’ll never forget this one. Barry Jenkins’ outstanding new film, “Moonlight,” is an absolute powerhouse. It’s an amazing display of talent and artistry, with a visual aesthetic that pulls you into the head and behind the eyes of the lead character, Chiron. From the movie’s cinematography and directing to the unsettling music and outstanding acting, we see the world as Chiron sees it: cold, sad and without much hope. The movie is split into three acts – each of which explore a different part of Chiron’s life as he ages – and all three manage to resonate with palpable emotion.
Jeremy Saulnier’s “Green Room,” about a punk band who witness a murder in the green room of a neo-Nazi venue, is visceral and nerve-shatteringly suspenseful. Patrick Stewart’s villainous club owner who holds them captive will blow your socks off. You’ll be squirming, you’ll be on edge and you’ll be loving every minute of it.
“Manchester by the Sea”
The performances in “Manchester by the Sea” are some of the best and most captivating you’ll ever see in your life. Casey Affleck and the young Lucas Hedges, especially, are outstanding and it’s their work – along with Kenneth Lonergan’s exceptional directing and writing – that makes the movie look and feel so real. There’s an authenticity to “Manchester by the Sea,” a down-to-earth realism that makes viewing it so much more powerful and relatable. It’s truly a hard-hitting film, featuring an extended flashback sequence that’s undoubtedly one of the more intense moments in film last year.
Chan-wook Park’s vision for this fun, absorbing erotic thriller is extraordinary. “The Handmaiden” is mysterious and bizarre yet stylish and exuberant, with visuals and a twisty-turny story that are both marvelous to disappear into. It is a vivid, absolutely hypnotic house of wonders, reminiscent of Park’s 2003 masterpiece “Oldboy,” though not nearly as violent.