Article by: Luis Orlando Cordero
The 2016 cinematic landscape started off slow and dreary, and boy did it nearly tank during the summer months. But like any good ol’ soldier, the year marched along until eventually picking up steam during the fall. So much so that this year I had to cheat and do a TOP 15 favorites list instead of the normal ten. Quality genre films far
and away overshadowed the gimmicky Oscar baits, regardless of what the mainstream media hacks would tell you. Horror films were at their bloodiest and gaudiest, and being the genre junkie that I am, I had to include quite a few on this list.
So if you’re looking for a good film to watch, put up your feet, grab a bucket of corn and take comfort in knowing that old uncle Luis here has got you covered. These were the top films of 2016, according to me. 🙂
15. The Jungle Book – Never was a fan of the 1967 animated version so naturally I went in to this one with extreme trepidation. My worries were unfounded, as director Jon Favreau directs the hell out of this movie. The voice acting is spectacular; in particular Bill Murray as my spirit animal Baloo, and Idris Elba as the fiercest Shere Khan
there ever was. Still can’t believe it was all shot in a studio. The best Visual Effects of recent years.
14. The Wailing – A South Korean horror film about a police procedural involving demons, a plague, and badass shamanic rituals? Sign yourself up. This is an intense thriller, make no mistake about it. If you
wanna find yourself with a sweaty brow, you can stream The Wailing on Netflix.
13. The Lobster – A recently dumped man checks in to a Hotel and vows to find a mate in 45 days. If he doesn’t then he will turn in to a lobster. These are the conditions. Another weird film by Yorgos Lanthimos. Another great film by Yorgos Lanthimos.
12. Train to Busan – A movie that totally took me by surprise. Don’t let The Walking Dead fool you, the zombie genre is alive and well (see what I did there?). It’s got gore, awesome zombie makeup, fantastic scene direction, a few great kills, all the while taking place inside of a moving train. Kinda like 2004’s amazing SNOWPIERCER, eh? Oh and it also the features the most badass father-to-be in recent memory. Don’t mess with this dude and his
pregnant wife. His fists are trademarked Law & Order. Be prepared, this film packs a hell of an emotional wallop.
11. 10 Cloverfield Lane – Forget the Cloverfield tag this film comes with. It doesn’t need it. This is an intense, methodical, brilliantly crafted chamber piece with enough twists and turns to make M. Night Shyamalan blush. Three people are stuck in an underground bunker following what appears to be a devastating chemical attack perpetrated by god knows who. Now the air is unbreathable, the outside world is out of reach, and they must rely on their wits and trust in order to make it through this ordeal. John Goodman gives the best performance of his career as a paranoid but brilliant shut-in with a penchant for emotional outbursts. He’s a lovable sneaky bastard that I’m sure you’ll never want to bring home to mama. Screw that. Bring this film home with you instead.
10. Sing Street – Do you like rock music? Rooting for young love? How about sweet coming of age stories? If you answered yes to any of these, then Cosmo and his ragtag group of 1980’s Dublin teens will make you swoon. If you ever met a Raphina, you understand the lengths that Cosmo goes to in order to win her heart. Join the band and catch it on Netflix.
9. The Love Witch – Anna Biller is the true star of this movie. She wrote, directed, produced, edited, did all the costumes, set design, art direction, and dammit I wouldn’t be surprised if she also did crafty. This movie is a gorgeous love letter to 1960’s pulp novels and technicolor melodramas. Samantha Robinson stars as Elaine, the titular love witch, and she’s out to find the man of her dreams on her own bloody terms. This is a hilarious, witty, and surprisingly touching tale of female empowerment that, if you’re not careful, may just put its spell on you.
8. The Handmaiden – Chan Wook Park has had a pretty damn good career so far. For my money, the man is batting .1000. That streak continues with The Handmaiden, a gorgeous, brilliantly constructed story that follows two women as they attempt to pry themselves free from their male oppressors in a Japanese-occupied Korea. The film unfolds over three parts, all told in non-linear fashion, and not too dissimilar to Kurosawa’s own epic masterpiece Rashomon. Every detail is exquisite, the setting is as romantic as it gets, and the camera work features Director Park at his most Hitchcockian. Brilliant stuff.
7. Manchester by the Sea – Controversy has surrounded this movie ever since Casey Affleck’s rape allegations were brought to public scrutiny. It’s the same fate that fell upon The Birth of a Nation and its creator Nate Parker earlier this year. But whereas The Birth of a Nation was merely okay at best, and severely overhyped ever since its
Sundance debut, Machester most certainly is one for the time capsule. It sucks that I feel like I need to justify my admiration for this wonderful film, but alas that’s the world we live in. It’s rare when a movie feels so effortlessly natural and real, and this is exactly what writer/director Kenneth Lonergan was able to achieve with Manchester.
Every moment is so hopelessly intimate, that it truly feels like you’re eavesdropping on real people in a real setting having real conversations. Marvel at the best ensemble of the year as they deliver note perfect dialogue that is at once beautiful and poignant, tragic but hopeful. It’s not a showy or flashy spectacle, but then again it just doesn’t need to be. And my lord, that scene between Michele Williams and Casey Affleck… If you’ve seen seen it then you know exactly what I mean. Goosebumps all over.
6. The Witch – Set in 1700’s New England, The Witch centers around a man named William and his family as they willingly walk away from a Puritan plantation after a difference of interpretation of the New Testament. They take refuge in a small farm where they soon find themselves being psychologically and spiritually tortured by a sadistic creature in the woods. In The Witch, Director Robert Eggers has crafted a horror film for the ages. He’s a first timer at the helm and he sure does make it look easy. You can see his knowledge and love of cinema pouring out of every frame. Marvel at the incredible cast that features not one, but four (!) amazing performances by children who will make the hair stand at the base of your neck. Seriously, there is one possession scene played by young Harvey Scrimshaw that puts most working adult actors to shame. And that last scene, folks… The Witch indeed.
5. Green Room – A movie that gets better and better with each viewing. A story about power, fear, and raging punk music that asks the age old question – “What’s your favorite desert island band?” From the opening frame, to the beautiful slow motion concert photography, down to the magical green hue permeating throughout every shot, this is a gorgeous movie to look at. Director Jeremy Saulnier fills each scene with such furious kinetic energy that you truly feel like you’re diving head first in to a sweaty mosh pit. The entire cast delivers big time, including a brilliantly restrained Patrick Stewart as the charismatic and calculating leader of a neo-nazi cult. And of course, a big shout out to Anton Yelchin who sadly passed away last year. This was yet another impressive notch on a great, though otherwise short career. Rest in power, Mr. Yelchin. The Ain’t Rights is a brilliant legacy.
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Another year, another great Star Wars movie. Did fans and naysayers alike truly need to know how the rebels got the Death Star plans in the first place? This is debatable. Did we need to see how the rebellion struggled to find a glimmer of hope amidst the crushing influence of the Galactic Empire? Perhaps
not. But then again, you didn’t need to know that I just had a delicious meatball marinara sandwich from the Subway a couple of blocks from my apartment. But now you’re privy to that information, and your life is that much better for it. Again, you’re welcome.
3. Arrival – For the longest time this was my favorite film of the year. Two other films sneaked past it at the last second, though that doesn’t diminish the brilliance of Denis Villeneuve’s fantastic opus. Arrival is an intelligent sci-fi story that doesn’t feature any pew-pew lasers, or sultans of netherworlds, or even a catastrophic alien invasion. This is a film about love, loss, the power of communication, and the resiliency of the human spirit. Amy Adams is
absolutely fantastic as linguist Louise Banks as she’s tasked by the U.S. government to find out the purpose of our new neighbors’ untimely visit. She carries the emotional weight of this film so effortlessly that it kinda makes your head hurt. Adams is obviously supported by a great cast as well, but ultimately it is the way that this film plays
with time, editing and our perception of events that will have you doing mental loops long after those end credits have rolled. Arrival is another gorgeous film to look at thanks in part to the brilliant eye of cinematographer Bradford Young. Believe me, your jaw will drop when you first see the alien spacecraft revealed amidst the misty
mountains of Montana. I have to admit that Denis Villeneuve is fast becoming my favorite working filmmaker today. The man is just incapable of directing a bad scene. If someone tells you otherwise, you should quickly turn around, floor that gas pedal and cut all ties with said person. They most likely voted for Trump and enjoy drinking
the tears of sweet baby kittens.
2. Under the Shadow – On the surface, this is a haunted house story set in 1980’s Iran. Dig deeper and you’ll find an incredibly deep portrait of the religious and patriarchal oppression faced by many innocents stuck in a system that has forgotten them. The story centers around a mother trying desperately to save her family as her country
crumbles against the backdrop of a war that is both metaphorical and incredibly immediate. Don’t just dismiss Under the Shadow as one of the best horror films of the year. Praise it as one of the best films of the year. Period.
1. La La Land – Best Production Design. Best Sound Editing. Best Sound Mixing. Best Film Editing. Best Original Score. Best Original Song. Best Cinematography. Best Actress. Best Director. Best Picture of the Year. You better get a head start on your office’s Oscars betting pool. This baby might sweep.