Look, here’s the thing: I haven’t had the chance to get out to the theater a lot this year (or the past few years) to see all the newest that cinema has to offer. So, instead of making a top ten list of 2016 movies – because in no way have I seen enough 2016 films to make that list useful or informed – I decided to make a top ten list of the films I saw for the first time in this turd of a year. Basically films from any year are fair game – a lot of them are even actually from 2016 – I just had to have watched them for the first time this past year. How will this be useful or informed? Well, it probably won’t be. But we’re doin’ it. So here goes!

*Note: the order is general favorite to most very favorite, and not meant to be a definitive ranking. Except for my number one. That movie was my most-est very favorite-est…est.

10. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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Slow and lyrical aren’t usually my thing…on the other hand, vampires ARE. So I gave it a try when I saw it beckoning from my Netflix suggestions.  After all, if nothing else it’s a really great title. But it was also so much more than that! It may have been a bit ambiguous in spots for my taste, but mostly it’s beautiful and mesmerizing. And there’s a cool vampire chick who eats bad dudes.

9. Rogue One

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I’m a huge “Star Wars” fan whose confidence in the franchise is slowly building back up after the horror of the prequels. I generally enjoyed “The Force Awakens” (although I can see some of the issues with it), and to a lesser extent I enjoyed “Rogue One.” But that Darth Vader pun, you guys. Not into it. I also had a few other problems with it, and because I think FilmCritHulk does a great job of explaining those problems (way better than I ever could), I urge you to check out his essay “The Slippery, Sloping Story of ROGUE ONE.” In short, the second act misses some opportunities and so we (or at least I) don’t care about the characters as much as we want to. Intellectually I understand the character arcs and why we’re supposed to root for this band of misfits, but I didn’t feel it as viscerally as I wanted. YMMV.

That aside, the acting is top-notch, the easter eggs are a delight, and the climactic battle sequence is, like, wowzer.

8. John Wick

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He’s just so cool. And the assassin world is so cool. And the fight sequences are so cool. I’m not quite satisfied with some of the plotting, but willing to overlook that because, again, SO COOL. And does Theon Greyjoy ever make any good decisions? (That was rhetorical, because obviously the answer is no, no, he does not.)

7. Moana

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“Moana” has gorgeous animation, a brave, compassionate heroine, and some great songs. I love Moana’s relationship with her grandmother, and the fact that her story is not centered around finding romantic love. Moana is who I want to be when I grow up.

6. La La Land

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Any time Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are onscreen together, it’s magical. Those two are so good together I want to see them in a “His Girl Friday”/ Nick and Nora Charles-type screwball mystery comedy…actually BRB gonna go write that…

Okay, I’m back! And ready to talk about what I found a little disappointing in “La La Land.” The musical numbers just didn’t quite do it for me. I know “Singin’ in the Rain” is a high bar to hold any film to, but I don’t think any of the “La La Land” musical numbers are even half as exciting, dynamic, or simply entertaining as anything from that gold standard of all movies (I think it’s more an issue with the choreography than the songs). Which, again, possibly not a fair comparison, but there you go.

***MILD SPOILERS***

I was also a little confused about what the ultimate message of the film was supposed to be – it seemed to be saying that you can follow your dreams or have love, but not necessarily both…which is kind of a bummer. But hey, if that’s the message the filmmaker was going for, fair enough. However, in order to really hit that bittersweet note, I needed a stronger reason for the Stone and Gosling characters not ending up together. Once again FilmCritHulk explains things better than I ever could, so I direct you to his essay “Hulk vs the Many LA LA LANDS.”

5. Zootopia

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If I’m being honest, I cried like five times in the first ten minutes of this film. Little Judy Hopps is so spunky and brave, and she stands up to that bully, and follows her dreams, and…and SHE’S WONDERFUL. We need more Judy Hopps in this world. Plus, the animation is so adorable I can’t even talk about it. IT’S TOO MUCH! I want to squish all their little faces and pull all their little ears. Which would be very rude of me.

And okay, I know I said I wanted to be Moana when I grow up, but I might also want to be Judy Hopps.

4. What We Do in the Shadows

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Werewolves, not Swearwolves.

WEREWOLVES.

NOT.

SWEARWOLVES.

That is all.

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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A great year for Taika Waititi in terms of him having his films watched by me! I’m sure he’s beyond thrilled. (He also co-directed and starred in “What We Do in the Shadows.”) All the performances are great, and any time I can watch a cranky Sam Neill be forced to put up with an annoying kid (well, annoying to Sam Neill), I’m happy.

2. The Nice Guys

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I’m hoping more people find this film on DVD considering the box office was a bit disappointing. If you liked “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” I would strongly urge you to check it out. Ryan Gosling’s scream as Russell Crowe’s character breaks his arm is never not funny.

1. The Drop

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“The Drop” is fantastic and you should all see it as soon as possible if you haven’t already. It’s Tom Hardy WITH A PUPPY, and it’s just a cool little crime drama with great performances….and Tom Hardy with a PUPPY. But puppies aside, Hardy is such an interesting actor – understated, but he completely draws you in. He and James Gandolfini make a great pair here.

One line of dialogue keeps it from being a completely perfect film for me…but 99.99999% perfect is still pretty solid.

Honorable Mentions:

lost_river_posterLost River – Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, and he’s basically just doing his best David Lynch impression, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The plotting does leave something to be desired, but there are a lot of great ideas and gorgeous imagery. If he wanted to direct something else, I’d watch.

 

 

 

the-invitationThe Invitation – a slow burn, but very engaging. I love the final shot.

 

 

 

 

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Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange – I always enjoy the Marvel movies and these two were no exception.

 

 

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From Beyond – okay, so it’s not actually a good film, and certainly not the best Lovecraft adaptation out there, but if you watch it with friends, it’s a pretty good time. Just try randomly yelling “from beyond!” at each other in funny voices.

 

 

 

 

So, what do you think? Hate these movies? Love these movies? Want to add something to the list? Go for it!

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