Last year, The Vision decided that instead of having one person list all their favorite films of the year, each writer would pick one favorite and write a blurb about it. It was a success last year, so without further ado, here is our favorite movies of 2016!
Hail Caesar- The Coen Brothers
Beloved by both critics and audiences, Joel and Ethan Coen have been having their cake and eating it too for decades now. But their latest release, Hail, Caesar, is also one of their most divisive. It has been called messy, shapeless, and, in general, an empty love letter to the 50s Hollywood studio system. Well, I’ll concede on one count- it certainly is messy- but I will also counter: that’s absolutely intentional. One only needs to watch another Coen’s film to see their love for the chaotic, the random, and the overwhelming, and, after about four decades of filmmaking, why not finally apply those fascinations to the art of cinema itself?
With Hail, Caesar, the Coens find in the studio system of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” (in this film, the year is 1951) room for both some of their most anarchic humor and a healthy dose of philosophizing on both moviemaking and movie watching, how we as viewers must accept that the road to movie magic is full of cynicism and apathy and frustration, but if there’s passion in there somewhere, that’s what will shine through.
Deadpool- Tim Miller
Another year has gone by and once again I hardly watched any movies, let alone any released this year. Out of the two movies I saw, both of which were outstanding, Deadpool takes my choice for top movie of 2016. It’s definitely not the kind of movie I generally tend to see; I like my slapstick movies aimed at ten-year-olds. It still pleasantly surprised me, however.
It was released on February 14th, a Deadpool style Valentine’s Day joke. I, however, saw it months later in the end of June. Why is this important? I lived through the endless streams of praise, text posts, and gifs that seemed to find their way to every corner of the internet. Without having seeing it, the movie seemed to be the greatest piece of cinema ever produced.
The movie did not live up to the extremely unrealistic expectations I had, but it did come closer than I had thought it would. Throughout its entirety, the movie makes fun of itself and Ryan Reynolds does a spectacular performance as the anti-hero hellbent on revenge. He breaks the fourth wall and makes crude jokes while still beating up the bad guys like there is no tomorrow. It’s not my usual Disney Channel schtick, but still a very enjoyable movie.
All in all, the movie is fantastic, well casted, and deserves its wide recognition. It’s the perfect movie for someone who enjoys superheroes, lots of action, and a bit (read: a lot) of crass humor. Deadpool gets my pick as 2016 movie of the year for its ability to defy so many stereotypes that are used over and over while still maintaining integrity and viewer interest.
Moana- Ron Clements & John Musker
Moana is the perfect movie to motivate one for the new year. With Disney’s magical animation and exhilarating music numbers, it’s no surprise this film is winning the hearts of many. The movie follows the journey of a spirited island princess, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) in sailing the ocean in an attempt to prove herself to her and her people. However, complications arise once she meets the famous demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson). Though each charming in their own way, it is difficult for these two to charm each other along the boat ride home.
Now, when I first saw the trailer of this movie, I didn’t expect much of it. Another Disney movie with cute animals and songs consisting of notes that I can’t sing? No thanks. Boy, was I wrong. I still need to thank my sister for dragging me to see this uplifting film. My favorite part is how relatable it is. Well, maybe not the scene with the twelve-foot crab (at least, I hope not). But the scenes that touch upon the journey to self-discovery. The movie is very visually appealing for all ages and the cast is phenomenal, but, the lessons in discovering oneself are most relevant to adolescents. Here’s an example of why we aren’t too old for Disney movies. They hold morals and lessons we all are still trying to grasp. In the movie, Moana is about to become island chief of Motunui, but she holds contradicting beliefs to those of her father in what’s best for the island. Disagreements with parents? That never happens! As for Maui, he is rather egocentric and tries to fill a void from the past with love from admiring mortals. Both characters have a full plate on their hands.
So why is she on this quest? Well, thanks to Maui stealing the heart of Te Fiti, Motunui’s fish population has decreased. Moana sees voyaging as a solution to this conflict. However, Moana’s father, Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison), forbids anyone from traveling beyond the reef. Her grandmother Tala (Rachel House), however, reveals that their people were once voyagers and encourages her to go and follow her intuition. Putting her tribe first, Moana disobeys her father and sails away in search of Maui and the lost heart. They face coconut pirates to a coconut crab, and even notorious Te Kā. Now, I don’t want to give too much away.
Moana has been out since November 23rd, 2016. If you want to catch it in theatres, you better hurry while it’s out. And of course, waiting until it’s on DVD or On Demand with a bowl of freshly popped and buttered popcorn and a blanket works, too. Hopefully Moana’s exhilarating journey will refresh you for the year to come.
Sing- Garth Jennings
Directed by Garth Jennings, Sing is a light-hearted movie about animals from all different backstories coming together to fulfill their dreams of singing. This animated film follows the story of Buster Moon, a struggling theater owner with a love of the stage. He holds a singing competition in order to raise money to save his plummeting business. Throughout the movie, he and the contestants work on their final performances and discover their love for music. When the show arrives, they will truly need to bond together to save the theater. Starring voices include Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Tori Kelly, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane and many more; the film will leave you with a smile on your face and a song in your head.
Nerve- Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost
Emma Roberts and Dave Franco were the main focus of the movie; two young actors who are making names for themselves in the film industry. The chemistry between Roberts and Franco was real and in no scene was it forced. “Nerve” is an online video game set up as a series of dares. Watchers, as they are called, watch their favorite players attempt and complete dares. These scenes put you on the edge of your seat as the dares get more intense. The soundtrack for this movie is perfect; the songs are pop songs, but they aren’t ones that everyone knows. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman knew that there was value in making some scenes seem like a music video. Roberts’ character was partially developed by showing her, her headphones, and blasting music. Nerve was not a let down. Adventure was perfectly mixed with teen angst and a little bit of improbability.
Kubo and the Two Strings- Travis Knight
We see the same big names repeated in children’s movies: Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks. Kubo is an animated children’s movie that was released by the film studio Laika in August. Despite being critically acclaimed, earning a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, it slipped completely under the radar this summer. Filmed in stop-motion, Kubo’s simplicity is incredibly impactful. Powerful symbols and settings visually reinforce the movie as a whole. On a second watching, I found several pieces of visual foreshadowing that escaped my attention the first time I saw it. Dealing with themes like family, the importance of storytelling, and the power of compassion, Kubo is also incredibly moving, grounded by loveable characters and interesting and dynamic action. If you missed seeing Kubo and the Two Strings somewhere between the fifty superhero movies that came out this year and the presidential election, go back and experience the animated movie that put even Finding Dory to shame.
Manchester by the Sea- Kenneth Lonergan
Manchester by the Sea takes place on the North Shore in places such as Beverly and Gloucester, Massachusetts. The movie is about an irritable uncle, Lee Chandler, who lives alone and works as a repairman for an apartment block in Boston. One day he gets a call saying his brother has died from a heart condition and he is the new guardian of his 16 year old nephew. The new responsibilities become extremely overwhelming for Chandler, opening up tragic memories from his past that he was desperately trying to forget. Despite the numerous awards this film was nominated for it personally was not one of my favorites. Cinematically, I think it was done very well and the and the actors are extremely talented but the overall feeling of the movie is sad and almost uncomfortable and it doesn’t really pick up anywhere throughout the entire movie. Is also extremely long (2 hours and 17 minutes) for a movie that gloomy. Overall I think if you’re looking for a sad, more serious movie then it’s great, but if you hate slow, somber movies, I would definitely pass on this one.
La La Land- Damien Chazelle
A few summers ago, as my family and I were taking a morning stroll through our small vacation town of Wellfleet, we saw a poster for an event that evening: a garden screening of An American in Paris. None of us had ever seen it, but knowing it was a classic, we decided it would be a perfect nighttime outing. As showtime approached, we gathered blankets, sweaters, and snacks, and made our way down to the small garden behind the town’s preservation hall. We sat down, the vibrant music began to play. Nothing could prepare us for the beauty and energy that coursed through the picture’s veins. We were dazzled.
I recently had a similar feeling in a packed, aged moviehouse when I went to see La La Land. The story of a struggling actress and a jazz musician in Los Angeles felt both recognizable and completely new. All the parts of this movie worked– the master-class acting, the charming dancing, the catchy songs, and the chemistry between the two leads all came together seamlessly. There wasn’t a moment in the theater where the audience wasn’t captivated. Together, we laughed, smiled, sighed, and shed tears. The movie is an homage not only to the golden age of musicals, but also to cinematic creativity. Although the movie is somewhat of a fantasy, it also portrays true humanity. Mia (Emma Stone), and Seb (Ryan Gosling), are characters who, together, aren’t afraid to dream, although they need some encouragement. All in All, La La Land is a timeless gem.
Me Before You- Thea Sharrock
Me Before You is a romantic drama about a filthy-rich 30-ish man (William Traynor) who has shut down his emotions finding himself in a relationship with a rather unsophisticated woman (Louisa Clark) of modest means who is willing to tend to his needs after he is wheelchair-bound from a motorcycle accident. What starts off as strictly professional eventually grows into a more personal and cozier connection.
Although the story may sound cliche, it is a great story about the transition from friendship to love. The two actors were successful at displaying their chemistry even at the early stages of their relationship when they actually seem to dislike each other very much. The major turning point of this story was when Lou decides she’ll keep the job working for William. I don’t want to give away too much, but she finds her purpose in working for Will.
I felt this movie lacked visual interest, the whole movie was pretty much the faces of the lead actors. However, being a lover of romantic films, it was an entertaining movie which is sure to make you shed a tear.
Arrival- Denis Villeneuve
My favorite movie of 2016 has to be Arrival. It tells the story of a linguistics professor recruited to the task of communicating with alien lifeforms who have landed on Earth. It shows the struggle of communication when they don’t even have a basic platform to start with, only hoping they can figure it out without turning relations hostile. Even with that awesome basic concept, the writers somehow made it even better and a little surreal with a major twist near the end that I never saw coming, incorporating a whole new meaning to the movie’s plot and themes, causing the audience to question everything they already watched. I’ve never been more interested in language than I am now, thinking about the origins of how people learned to communicate, not to mention how this movie warped my sense of reality in just a few minutes at the end.