By Chloe Frantzis and Matt Reinstein
1) Moonlight (R)
Simple, beautiful, but very heavy, Moonlight is one of the most masterfully crafted films of the year. The movie with the prettiest color scheme, Moonlight uses colors as a means of foreshadowing. Bright yellows with blues make a more optimistic feel, while deep and shadowy purples make for a more serious and somber tone. In between each act, there comes a black screen with one colored dot in the top right corner. This adds thought and craftsmanship to the film unlike any other this year. Set in Southern Miami in a predominantly black neighborhood, Chi-ron (played by Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) needs to figure out how to grow up in an environment where it is difficult to accept who he thinks he is. It explores adolescence masked by an uncertainty of sexuality very deeply. Director Barry Jenkins rips out that core and displays it on the big screen. Moonlight’s ensemble helps to display this exploration with exceptional acting performances from all around, and honest-to-God feels. From its direction, cinematography, and it’s screenplay, Moonlight is not only a masterful piece of art, but an important one, as well.
2) Manchester by the Sea (R)
Kenneth Lonergan’s drama explores the human experience of the hardships that can ensue with alcoholism and depression. Star Casey Affleck makes audiences deeply saddened, while also making them feel truly alive. When Lee Chandler (Affleck), a Bostonian handyman, receives the news that his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), passed away due to cardiac arrest, he struggles to find new life by parenting his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Though filled with depressing images and heartbreaking scenes (one in particular with Michelle Williams), with punch after punch to the gut and a score almost resembling one of a funeral, Manchester by the Sea still manages to add in soft hints of life and humor from a wonderful acting duo from Affleck and Hedges. Manchester is a film that leaves one breathless, yet keeps them breathing.
3) The Lobster (R)
By far the most original film of the year, Yorgos Lanthimos’ dry and witty deadpan dramedy also makes for one of the strangest films of the year, if not the strangest. Wes Anderson-esque, Lanthimos’ screenplay is awkward and deep, while also being nonsensical and hilarious. Based in a near-dystopian future, the film follows a law in which if one is single, they go to a hotel where they have the chance to search for a new partner for 45 days. If they fail to find love within 45 days? Simple. The most logical way to solve this problem is by simply turning that person into an animal of their choosing. A very heavy Colin Farrell steps into this movie as David, a man whose previous relationship lasted 12 years and sadly ended due to his wife leaving him for another man. Very concise and simple with his responses, Farrell shows us that David thinks very thoroughly and hard about everything that comes out of his mouth. He finds what he believes to be his soulmate in “The Short Sighted Woman”, played by Rachel Weisz, and together they try to rebel against the entire law of marriage, but while doing so, succumb to the nature of love. The Lobster is one you will definitely remember.
4) The Handmaiden (R)
Enter this film with caution. Or don’t. Just beware, if you don’t, your jaw will be dropping as far as it can go, for this is by far the year’s most erotic film, hands down. Based in 1930s Korea during the Japanese Concession, two cons form a scheme to defraud a duchess by tricking her into marrying Count Fujiwara, played by one of the Cons (Jung-woo Ha). The other con, Sook Hee (Tae-ri Kim), a newly hired maid for Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim) tries to convince Hideko in falling for the Count, but while doing so, Hideko and Sook-Hee form an unbreakable love for each other, and explore the nature of love. This film is so intricately and delicately placed, each line and each word spoken pushes the plot forward. The plot is placed to confuse the audience at first, but then comes the unraveling of the entire movie that keeps you white-knuckled. Yes, there is a lot of sex in this movie. Sometimes it can go a bit overboard, but that’s exactly what director Chan-wook Park wants. He wants the wow factor. He wants this movie to never be forgotten, and that’s what we get: such a beautifully shot film where each and every frame can be considered a work of art, similar to The Revenant, and a film with a plot that reminds me of opening a gift. Unsure at first, then completely surprised by the end.
5) Hell or High Water (R)
David Mackenzie’s western drama spotlights two brothers, Tanner and Toby Howard (Ben Foster and Chris Pine), who are bank robbers going up against a bank and its branches. Hearing multiple incidents of these bank robberies, Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) take on these two bad boys. Though it’s plot does sound familiar, you can’t deny that its homage to the classic cops and robbers theme is simple and wonderfully executed. Backed up with terrific acting jobs from Bridges and Pine and most notably, Foster, Hell or High Water is one of the best dramas of the year. Pine gives a subdued, restrained performance, but shows much more versatility in his acting, proving he’s not just a blockbuster action star. As for Foster, I hadn’t heard the name before the movie, but let me tell you, Foster was Tanner Howard. Bridges played the Jeff Bridges we all know and love. I mean, he’s The Dude, for pete’s sake! Also, If you’re into hard, country-rock, this soundtrack’s for you. Easily the coolest movie of the year.
6) Deadpool (R)
Superhero movies are all pretty much the same. They’re all loud, occasionally quippy, and action-packed. Deadpool, however, is an entirely different story. With enough raunch to suit Seth Rogen’s taste, Deadpool is such a pleasant surprise. It took a big risk with dirty humor and an unconventional plot, which really, really payed off, as it gave new spark for the superhero franchise. It gave 20th Century Fox’s ownership of Marvel characters a breath of fresh air that was much overdue, coming of an atrocious Fantastic 4. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) just receives the news that he has cancer. As a means of saving himself, he agrees to an experimental procedure from a company that, unbeknownst to him, is actually manufacturing mutant soldiers. After the experimentation and torture gives him regenerative abilities and a hideous new face, Wilson goes on a cheery and gruesome search for the man who destroyed his future. Breaking through the fourth wall, Deadpool frequently speaks with the audience. A nice blend of brutal and gory action mixed with a raunchy T.J. Miller and Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool hits in all of the right places. Let’s hope Fox doesn’t revert back to its old ways.
7) La La Land (PG-13)
Another unconventional movie that took a big risk and won big. Who would have thought such a quirky love story could make it in the hollywood box office? I certainly didn’t. This is one of the many reasons why I think Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s musical and magical relationship deserves to be in the best of the best of 2016.
8) Moana (PG)
It’s high time for another Disney “princess” movie. And only Moana can live up to the standards Frozen set several years ago, thanks to the wonderful and energetic music by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
9) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (PG-13)
This Harry Potter installment was much needed, and it perfectly compliments the previous films while also creating a new tone for a new generation of viewers to enjoy. This was one of the first movies belonging to a series that actually made you look forward to the next movie.
10) The BFG (PG)
Who can resist a classic Roald Dahl story mushed with Spielberg’s directing? I mean, it’s the best of the best. 2016 was such a disappointing year for so many reasons, so getting the chance to sit back and enjoy the quirky, warped humor of Roald Dahl almost makes it bearable.