Many have called 2016 one of the worst years in film. I am not one of those people. In fact, I would call 2016 one of the best years in recent memory. While there has been plenty of mediocrity (mostly from blockbuster film failures), the number of great indie films was extremely high.
The quality of the films is not the only reason I’ve had such a fantastic year with cinema. This year saw the creation of the Feelin’ Film Podcast, a longtime bucket list item. Partnering with my best friend and co-host Patrick Hicks in this project has been an experience unlike anything in my life before. I now can say that I understand what it truly feels like to have a burning passion for something you do. Sometimes running a podcast can feel like work, but it’s the most fun and rewarding work I’ve ever done, and always worth it.
So, onward to my list!
(10) The Shallows – I’m a sucker for survival stories. I also love sharks. So when you give me Blake Lively alone in a tropical paradise fighting off a giant shark, I’m going to love it. What I wasn’t expecting was the depth of story and character development.
(9) Kubo and the Two Strings – An original hero’s quest with tons of humor and plenty of heartfelt moments between fantastic characters while focusing on the magic of storytelling and memories. Memorable characters with excellent voice acting performances elevated this one in a big way. Kicking myself for not seeing this gorgeous film in theaters.
(8) Manchester by the Sea – How crazy is it that I’m going to use the word “masterpiece” for a film that is my eighth favorite of the year? It’s true, though. This movie didn’t hit me until about 30 minutes after I left. Then I suddenly burst into tears and started reflecting on how raw, real, and connecting it was. Hard to watch but one of the most purely human movies I’ve ever seen.
(7) Arrival – Thinking science fiction from one of my favorite current directors. It was always only a matter of how much I would love this film, and I certainly did. The one and only film that I’ve ever recorded two podcasts episodes about. Fantastic alien design and offers genuinely awe-inspiring moments with an unexpected twist. This one left me with plenty to discuss and think about.
(6) Moonlight – A story in three parts about a slice of culture I will never be able to relate to. But now, I can empathize. Also provides wonderful portraits of just how incorrect stereotypes can be. Powerful and thought-provoking from beginning to end.
(5) 10 Cloverfield Lane – My top film for most of the year. Hitchockian storytelling at its best. Fantastic acting, twists, and a stellar surprising ending from a director I’ll now always have my eye on. The biggest thing coming out of this one was the realization that in storytelling two things can be true at the same time, and that makes for a compelling narrative.
(4) O.J.: Made in America – Extraordinary portrait of one icon’s rise and fall, told through a much broader and more important lens of race relations in America going back 50 years. I was mesmerized for all 7+ hours of this documentary’s running time. My mind was constantly blown as this film dug deeper and deeper. This should be required viewing for all Americans.
(3) A Monster Calls – Oh boy. Having read the story and listened to the audiobook multiple times, and being a big fan of director J.A. Bayona’s previous work, my expectations for this film were high. I never imagined that this film could deliver in the way it did, though. An almost perfect cinematic experience, blending animation into live action to create the perfect surreal dream-like quality this story required. An intensely emotional experience, this film got me “feelin’” in a big way. It’s lessons about grieving are necessary and important.
(2) Hell or High Water – Any other year this would be an unquestionable top choice. This is another film that has made its way into my all-time Top 50 list. I’m a sucker for great acting and this provides it in great quantity. I also love morally ambiguous stories about people living in the gray area of life – just like most of us are. Every element of this story works in concert to create what I consider the definitive modern day western.
(1) La La Land – My most anticipated film of the year pulled off the rare achievement of also being the best. My love for this film is special. After four viewings it has become my #1 favorite film. That’s the impact it has had on me. It only gets better with each viewing and every time I listen to the soundtrack. At the risk of spoiling something, I won’t say much other than it is a wonderfully emotional experience. True perfection.
And here is the rest of my top 20:
(12) Midnight Special
(13) Sing Street
(16) Under the Shadow
(18) The Edge of Seventeen
(20) Hacksaw Ridge
Full rankings for the year here: http://letterboxd.com/aaronelwhite/list/top-20-films-of-2016/
Letterboxd Year in Review: http://letterboxd.com/aaronelwhite/year/2016/