THE NEW YEAR means it’s time to compile (in no particular order) 2016’s 11 best films. There were too many good ones this year to stop at 10.
A relentless barrage of vivid images, insightful voices and eye-opening facts lay bare America’s roots of racism in Ava DuVernay’s (Selma) brilliant documentary.
2. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan’s (Margaret, You Can Count on Me) haunting drama digs deep into the complicated inner emotions of a man (Casey Affleck) whose desperate efforts to escape his own tragic past start to fall apart when his brother’s death forces him to return to his small New England hometown.
3. THE HANDMAIDEN
A young Korean woman’s new position as handmaiden to a wealthy heiress plunges her into a delightfully entertaining web of intrigue, S&M, murder and lesbian passion in this madly dazzling movie from Park Chan-wook, director of the original Oldboy.
4. HELL OR HIGH WATER
Brilliant performances by Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges highlight this gripping tale of two brothers whose desperate scheme to rob the bank that’s foreclosing on their family farm ends up having unexpected and disturbing consequences for all involved.
Fearless actress Isabelle Huppert and maverick filmmaker Paul Verhoeven combine for mind- blowing cinema in this alternately comic and unsettling thriller about a woman who sets out to get revenge on her rapist.
6. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL
Jeff Nichols’ (Loving, Take Shelter) mesmerizing tale of a father trying to protect his son from nefarious government agents is simultaneously a tense supernatural thriller and a moving drama about the strength of family bonds.
7. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN
Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig are the unforgettable trio who have a profound impact on a teenage boy in Mike Mills’ (Beginners) autobiographical tale of growing up in 1979 California between the excitement of punk rock and the feel-good vibes of the counter culture before the Reagan revolution.
8. EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!
Richard Linklater’s autobiographical tale of a young athlete’s first few days of college is an outwardly low-key work that vividly captures how massive life changes can sneak up on a person without their noticing.
The childhood, youth and adulthood of an African-American man dealing with a drug-addicted mother, bullying and desires for men are powerfully evoked in Barry Jenkins’ intense and stunningly beautiful drama.
Jim Jarmusch’s quiet, gentle portrait of a New Jersey bus driver (Adam Driver) who writes poetry vividly explores how art can shape and give meaning to everyday life.
11. TONI ERDMANN
Filmmaker Maren Ade wonderfully explores the craziness of modern life in her comedy about a high-powered German businesswoman whose carefully planned existence is turned upside-down when her father invades her world wearing increasingly ridiculous disguises.