The Best Movies I Saw in 2016, by The Movie Snob

It’s time once again for my annual “best of” column.  I am really slowing down in my old age; I saw only 44 movies in the theaters in 2016.  Nevertheless, I hope this column may be of some assistance to you as you look for films worth your time to downstream or netload or do whatever tech-savvy people do nowadays in order to watch movies at home.

Best Movie of the Year.  I don’t think I have ever picked an animated movie as my movie of the year before.  But here it goes: My favorite movie of 2016 was Zootopia, an animated feature about prejudices and stereotypes and an adorable little rabbit who just wants to be a police officer.  Good fun for the whole family.

Runner Up.  A totally different kind of movie gets my nod for second place—the quiet drama 45 Years.  (It was released in 2015, but I didn’t see it until 2016.)  A British couple prepares to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary, but their marriage is suddenly shaken by unexpected news concerning a long-ago tragedy.  It’s no feel-good movie, but I found it compelling.

Best Action/Adventure Flick.  Marvel never ceases to surprise me.  I thought the previous Captain America movie was a bit of a drag, but I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War a lot.  If comic-book mayhem is your cup of tea, Civil War is for you.  I will also give a shout-out to 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi as an exciting war movie in the vein of American Sniper.

Best Animated Movie.  Obviously Zootopia takes top honors in this category.  But Moana was also an enjoyable romp in an unusual setting.  I will also mention a very different sort of animated movie, Anomalisa, in which the filmmaker uses puppets to bring modern alienation and isolation to life (so to speak).

Best Comedy or Musical.  I rarely have occasion to put a musical in my year-end list, so I have to tinker with the name of this category to make it fit.  I give top honors to the musical La La Land, which is still in the theaters so you can catch it!  I predict it will get lots of love from Oscar® this year.  I’ll list two comedies as runners up.  First is director Whit Stillman’s newest movie Love & Friendship.  Of course, it had an unfair advantage because it’s based on a story by Jane Austen, but Stillman did a good job bringing it to life, and Kate Beckinsale excels as the hilariously conniving and insincere Lady Susan.  If you like it, I urge you to check out Stillman’s other films, which are personal favorites of mine.  Second, I also enjoyed the quirky little indie comedy Maggie’s Plan, starring indie queen Greta Gerwig.

Best Documentary.  I saw only one in 2016, and it was pretty good.  Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, taught me a little something about 20th century art history.  I have forgotten it all since then, but I do remember enjoying the movie.

Best Drama.  This would be 45 Years, which I have already mentioned as my runner-up for Movie of the Year.  After that, I would pick the modern-day Western Hell or High Water, starring Chris “Captain Kirk” Pine and Jeff “the Dude” Bridges.  It’s a tight little crime drama with some nice Texas scenery that Bridges gives a vigorous chewing.  I also enjoyed the Jennifer Lawrence vehicle Joy, which I’m pretty sure was a 2015 release.

Best Foreign Film45 Years was a British production, so I guess it belongs in this category too.  But the best foreign-language movie I saw in 2016 was The Innocents.  Based on a true story, this movie is set in post-WWII Poland and depicts a French doctor’s efforts to help a convent of Polish nuns who were victimized by the Red Army in the waning days of the war.  I thought it was a really interesting and suspenseful movie.

Best Science-Fiction Film.  OK, I haven’t seen Rogue One yet, so there’s a gaping hole in my movie knowledge.  I did see two pretty good sci-fi movies in 2016, though.  The first was 10 Cloverfield Lane, a tense and claustrophobic movie featuring good performances by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman.  The other was Midnight Special, which was a suspenseful movie about a dad trying to protect his son from mysterious forces.  I know virtually all the critics loved Arrival, but it just didn’t do it for me.

Honorable Mentions.  I handed out a few “B” grades to movies that I haven’t mentioned yet, so I’ll rattle them off here, in the order I saw them.  For a decent Western, check out Forsaken, which stars two Sutherlands for the price of one.  I’m not much into horror movies, but I saw and liked the very spooky film The Witch: A New-England Folktale.  Maggie Smith is a force of nature in The Lady in the Van.  Tina Fey gives a nice performance as a journalist in over her head in Afghanistan in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  Maybe the presence of Nicole Kidman sparked a little grade inflation, but I quite enjoyed Genius, also starring Jude Law and Colin Firth.  Finally, I enjoyed Woody Allen’s latest movie, Café Society.

And a couple of classics.  I saw a couple of old movies for the first time this year that I’d recommend.  One is the 1944 film noir Laura, which is a heck of a lot of fun and features the beautiful Gene Tierney.  The other is the 1967 shoot-em-up Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.  I thought that was a really interesting and entertaining movie, even though you know how it’s going to end.

That’s a wrap!  I’ll see you at the cinema!

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