Now that we're in the new year, it's time for me to officially put 2016 to bed by cataloguing what I saw and doing my top 10 list. My actual top 10, however, is not in this post. That, and my "Film Discoveries" list (vintage and more recent pre-2015 stuff), will be in separate posts. This is everything else *new* that I saw that didn't make a rank, because I feel like everything deserves a mention, even if it's just to say "AVOID THIS MOVIE AT ALL COSTS." I don't think there's really any of those. But I did put everything into categories, because that's how I do.
2015 MOVIES I DIDN’T CATCH UNTIL 2016
There are SO MANY MOVIES that come out at the end of the year that it's impossible to get to them all, especially with holiday travel. So these slipped through the cracks and didn't make consideration for last year's list. All of these are excellent. Mustang and Where to Invade Next might have made my top 10 or 20 last year if I’d seen them earlier.
Beasts of No Nation
Clouds of Sils Maria
Where to Invade Next
There was a good bit of exceptional horror this year. One or two of these came close to making my list.
Blair Witch - There was an attempt.
The Boy - Points for trope subversion, but it ultimately didn’t work for me.
The Conjuring 2 - Effectively scary, but the fact that these are period fetish pieces is weird to me.
Hush - REALLY good, and I’m mad that they found a way to make John Gallagher, Jr. terrifying.
Under the Shadow - THIS is how you do period horror. And tension.
EVERYONE ELSE LOVED IT, BUT I WAS LIKE NAHHH
Every year there are movies that critics and festival audiences go gaga for, and when I see them I just think "Really?!".
American Honey — An interesting look at an interesting world (with a knockout performance by Sasha Lane), but there is NO reason for it to be almost three hours long. If this wasn't a critics' darling, it would be considered "flabby."
Everybody Wants Some!! — Points for the female gaze at the hot guys, but I wish there had been more actual FEMALES. The one female who is actually a character would, in any other movie, be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
WAS EXPECTING TO LOVE IT MORE
There's a thin line between this category and the previous one, I guess. The difference is that I did like these movies, but for most of them I was expecting way more awesomesauce.
Captain America: Civil War — I don’t really care as much about Bucky as fandom does, and I think a lot of more casual viewers feel the same way, so this movie is hobbled right out of the gate, tension wise. What this movie did best, actually, was make me want to see the Black Panther movie.
Green Room — There’s great stuff here, but everyone seems to be really hardcore for this film, and I just thought it was okay. Nice to see Patrick Stewart playing decidedly against type, though, as a redneck neo-Nazi.
Hardcore Henry — Man, this looked SO AMAZEBALLS, but alas. It's also just physically hard to watch.
Keanu — Love the comedy, but it needs more kitty. The "I'll do the flip tomorrow" payoff is genius, though.
Loving — This is such a great and important story, and there’s nothing really wrong with the movie whatsoever. I just expected more oomph, and it’s just kind of nice.
A Monster Calls — I still liked this quite a bit, but it fell short of the greatness I was expecting. The movie seemed to assume I would get things it didn't bother laying out for me. Loved the stories, though, and how they were visualized.
Midnight Special — Another one I genuinely liked, but it was a little underwhelming. I suspect another viewing in a different frame of mind might improve my opinion.
Nocturnal Animals — The whole framing with Amy Adams’ character is strange, and I’m way more interested in the story-within-the-story. Incredible, mesmerizing opening credits sequence.
I'd love to hear the pitches every one of these filmmakers made to raise money for these films.
The Lobster - The commitment to the world-building is stunning. The best Colin Farrell has been in a while. Beware if you like dogs.
The Neon Demon - Like its fashion model characters, gorgeous and terrifying. Akin to 70s/80s Argento.
Swiss Army Man - Crude premise (farting corpse) gives way to beautiful world view. The bus scene, man.
Sausage Party - Perversely profound. I could have done without the final sequence, but the MeatLoaf gag alone is worth the price of admission.
Too Late — Can’t in good conscience put this in a “best of” list, but I loved this. It gets style points, if nothing else. I also love anything with John Hawkes.
NERD PROPERTIES GETTING IT RIGHT
Some of these are more successful than others, but it was a good year for geek properties. Or maybe I just avoided all the right stuff. :P
Deadpool - Gosh, this was nifty! Part of me wishes there weren’t going to be a sequel, because the interconnectedness of all these superhero movies is making me yawn, but I want to see more of this guy.
Doctor Strange - I know some people wanted this to fail, but it’s darn good. I also want to see more of this world and these characters. And I still can’t believe there’s a BNAT joke in there.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Very much a “first part” of several, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I want to spend more time in this world and see what happens next; that makes the movie a success in my book.
Ghostbusters - Suck it up, MRAs, this was the real deal, and in some important ways an improvement on the original. The homages were actually the weak link here.
Rogue One - It’s a rare prequel that feels essential, makes you forget you know how it will end, and gives new richness to what it’s preceding. Well done. (I’m also very happy that tons of new people have become Diego Luna and Donnie Yen fans overnight.)
Star Trek Beyond - I didn’t hate Into Darkness as much as others, but this is still a step up. Great villain, great new badass female character, and best use of The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” EVER.
Lots of great true stories and biopics this year.
All the Way — Bryan Cranston is crotchety perfection as LBJ.
Confirmation — Kerry Washington is outstanding as 90s Anita Hill.
Eddie the Eagle — A classic underdog story with the equally classic salty-mentor character.
I Saw the Light — Ack, this was bad. Just bad.
Ip Man 3 — If you loved Donnie Yen in Rogue One, I highly (HIGHLY) recommend all three Ip Man films. This one has him facing off against Mike Tyson.
Florence Foster Jenkins — This is so lovely, and not quite what I was expecting. Meryl Streep is phenomenal as always, but the real gem of this movie is Hugh Grant.
Hacksaw Ridge — Incredible story about a guy who wanted to serve his country in WW2 without touching a gun. Brilliant, bloody battle scenes.
Miles Ahead — Don Cheadle stars, directs, and just OWNS.
O.J.: Made in America — I enjoyed the FX miniseries a lot, but this was on another level. I loved how much time they spent on context and how full and detailed this was, from O.J.'s college football days to the strange Vegas episode in '07.
Sully — Decent story, more about aftermath of “Miracle on the Hudson” than the flight itself. Tom Hanks continues to be America’s hero.
REMEMBER WHEN THESE GUYS WERE A THING?
Warren Beatty and Mel Gibson haven't been household names since the 1990s, but they're not done.
Blood Father — I completely respect if Mel’s name is a deal breaker for someone when it comes to a movie. But this is a darn good movie and a reminder of why he became a star in the first place.
Rules Don’t Apply — Seeing Warren Beatty on screen again as Howard Hughes is the best thing this movie has going for it. It’s a vanity project, and it feels even longer than it is, but it does have its moments.
There were some INCREDIBLE roles for women this year, though we could do with even more.
Elle — No doubt this is a well-made movie. No doubt Isabelle Huppert gives the performance of her already remarkable career. But I don’t want the conversation this movie will inevitably incite.
Equity — Darn good movie about powerful women and the importance of due diligence. Anna Gunn slays.
Julieta — Subdued for an Almodovar movie, but that’s a low bar. A beautiful, moving story about mothers and daughters and heartbreak.
YOU KNOW, FOR KIDS
The Jungle Book - Ridiculously beautiful and actually worth spending the extra money on 3D and IMAX. Manages to avoid the icky racism of the original animated version. Nice use of the songs from the original.
The Secret Life of Pets - Not exactly revolutionary, but cute and occasionally hilarious. Jenny Slate’s love-struck Pomeranian is the MVP for me and a great subversion of the “damsel in distress.”
Finding Dory - Lots to love here, especially what it has to say about people with special needs, but there are also pretty much all the things that make most sequels lesser than. Great new voices (Ty Burrell OMG) and lovely animation, as always.
Trolls - Much, much better than a movie based on troll dolls has any right to be. The moment that sets up “True Colors” is one of the most emotionally devastating things I saw in a movie this year (and it's basically how I felt on election night).
Zootopia - Some of the most gorgeous animation I’ve ever seen. The metaphor is clumsy, almost offensively so in a couple of spots, but MAJOR points for the constructive things it does manage to say about a very prickly subject.