Kyal’s Top Films of 2016: 10-6
10: Manchester by the Sea
The year of 2016 was a very strange one. It was a very slow year up until about November, where they crammed in six of my 10 favorite films of the year. It was a busy three months seeing everything I needed to, but it really paid off. Actually, the last two films I saw in 2016 ended up on my list. Manchester by the Sea was one that I saw at the end of December, one I was anticipating because of the great cast and a director we hadn’t heard from in quite a while.
The film did not disappoint. It’s an all-around actors showcase, with Casey Affleck front and center giving his career-best performance. Following behind him are Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, and C.J. Wilson. It’s an outstanding cast that gives such realistic and heartfelt performances, allowing the viewer to feel as if they are in the scene with them. It’s a tough film to watch, but one with a well-written story and three dimensional characters. Manchester by the Sea was one of the few movies that really stuck with me this year. I found myself thinking about it days after I had left the theater. I’m glad I had the experience that this movie is and it will be nice to watch Casey Affleck accept his Oscar come awards season.
9: Patriot’s Day
Mark Wahlberg and writer/director Peter Berg have quite a true story trilogy going right now that contains three very solid entries. Starting with Lone Survivor in 2013 and both Deepwater Horizon and Patriot’s Day in 2016. The latter being their best effort yet, taking a recent tragedy and turning it into an effective tribute to the heroes of the real-life event. This is an intense, thoughtful, realistic, and ultimately harrowing film. Wahlberg is at his absolute best with Berg at the helm and here is no different, aptly portraying a Boston policeman who was thrust into the life-changing events of April 15th, 2013.
The pace of this film is propulsive and it doesn’t make you wait long until the bombs go off. This is a film about the chase and the courage of the men and women involved. As much as Wahlberg’s name headlines the poster, this is very much an ensemble film. It’s a solid cast that includes John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Michelle Monaghan, and an especially effective performance by Jimmy O. Yang. For those of you unfamiliar with Yang, he portrays the absolutely hilarious Jian Yang in the HBO series Silicon Valley. This is a departure for him here, but his section is arguably the most tension-filled in the film.
Patriot’s Day moves around from the point-of-view of the investigators, perpetrators, first responders and survivors, giving us a full view of the events. It’s tricky making a film based on true events and not being exploitative and, with his third film in the genre, director Peter Berg does an amazing job with it. We get to see every side of the events of April 15th, for better or worse. I remember some of what happened watching the tragedy unfold on the news, but there was much I learned from the film. Patriot’s Day offers an accurate depiction of what happened during the Boston bombing while also giving us more insight into the people involved. Berg and company have done a stand-up job with this film and it’s a true love-letter to the city of Boston.
8.Hunt for the Wilderpeople
After 2015’s What We Do In The Shadows, I was smitten with writer/director Taika Waititi as an actor, writer, and director. The film was so well paced, brilliantly written, and absolutely hilarious. When I heard he was already at work on his next feature, I was excited. Of course the fact that it’s an independent film made in New Zealand, it was going to be awhile before I had the chance to see it. It did not disappoint.
The film follows little Ricky Baker (a fantastic Julian Dennison) being taken to his new foster home where Bella and Hec (Neill) have decided to take him in. Bella and Ricky form almost an instant bond with each other while Hec is a little more reluctant, even with Ricky in awe of his woodsman qualities. After a few unfortunate circumstances, Hec and Ricky find themselves lost in the wilderness and hunted by the police force.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a very special movie. If it wasn’t for such a strong end to this year, it would be much higher on my list. It is hilarious from start to finish, with Dennison and Neill having a great chemistry together. Waititi also has a cameo in the film, which brings some of the biggest laughs. The cast all around is solid, with a few standouts like Rachel House as the foster care official leading the hunt for Ricky, and Rhys Darby as a recluse who calls himself Psycho Sam. Wilderpeople is a fresh, fun, hilarious, and heartfelt film that I could honestly recommend to everyone.
7.The Nice Guys
Never did I think that Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe would ever be a good pairing for a buddy-cop comedy. Leave it to writer/director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon 1&2, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) to prove me wrong. Like Black’s other films – excluding Iron Man 3 – The Nice Guys takes the pairing of two opposite characters joining forces to solve a complex and dangerous crime.
This film is an absolute riot and by far the most fun I had in the theaters all year. It takes place in the 70s and Black makes full use of the era, but it’s the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe that makes this film a home-run. They are both amazing actors by themselves, but they really bring out each other’s comic side in every scene they share together. Gosling has only recently began to stretch his comedic chops with roles in The Big Short and Crazy Stupid Love. Crowe, on the other hand, hasn’t had any at all. The Nice Guys really lives or dies on the rapport between these two characters, luckily they are fantastic together. The film is a blast with nonstop laughs and a good amount of action. It’s also worthy to note that the young actress Angourie Rice, who plays Gosling’s daughter, was a real highlight of the film. She’s almost the most adept character in the film and the script really allows her to shine, Rice will be one to watch.
6. Midnight Special
Ever since I was introduced to writer/director Jeff Nichols with Take Shelter, I have looked forward to each one of his films. Given that Shotgun Stories was his first film, and the first I saw, it was tougher for me to get a grasp on his storytelling methods. Take Shelter is still his best film, but we were lucky enough to enjoy two films of his this year (coming from a director who has made a total of 5 films since 2007). While Loving was both a beautifully crafted and heartwarming film, Midnight Special was the one that ended up sticking with me.
Midnight Special is a film about the bond between a father and his son. While Nichols pays homage to Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter here, I don’t believe either of them would have made this film as well as Nichols has. The sci-fi aspects aren’t over-the-top and not the center of attention. The music is fantastic and not overbearing. The emotional beats are effective and don’t hit you over the head. It certainly helps here that Nichols has built a perfect cast for the film, starting with Michael Shannon who has been featured in each of his five films, headlining three. Shannon is typically great, but I feel we rarely get to see the softer side of him as an actor. He’s understated in the film, but you can feel the love and concern he has for his son without having to say nearly anything at all. Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Paul Sparks, Sam Shepherd, and Jaeden Liberher round out the cast and are perfect in their roles.
The film is effective and one you should go into without knowing the premise. It’s intriguing, funny, tense, and beautiful.