Year-End Awards: 2016

My Year in Movies Recap:

One of the best years for film in my lifetime (only 2013 and 2011 rival it), selecting my personal awards for 2016 was a challenge. Out of 125 films seen, 12 earned 4.5 stars (out of five) while another (Silence) received a perfect rating the minute I left the theater. Three films snuck on to my Top 25 of the decade list as well.

My view count probably would have been higher had I not dove into TV as much as I did last year too. But this was quite a year on the small screen too. I had quite the busy schedule between weekly series like American Crime Story and Atlanta on FX and even online streaming like Casual on Hulu. Then, of course, the binge-watching shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime like House of CardsLuke Cage, and Transparent. But returning to film…

There were 27 films with four-star ratings as well. Collectively, 2016 films had an average rating was a 3.5. Of the 16 years that I have seen 40 or more new releases, that’s by far the highest score. Maybe I’ve just become an easier grader but one year of high grades hardly constitutes a trend. Maybe 2017 will take a dive but for the sake of the industry that is struggling to pull people to see more than that blockbuster everyone sees, hopefully, cinema is just as good as this year.

Though, I’m mostly commenting on the state of American entertainment. I’ve only been able to see three foreign-language films from 2016 so far. Those are a bit harder to come by until early in 2017 (at least the major releases competing for an Oscar). So my 2016 film watching is not yet over and I still need to see 20th Century WomenLion, and Paterson to feel complete in my assessment of the past year on the silver screen. And I feel it’s important to release this before the Oscars nominations release on Tuesday. But in general, this has been a terrific year for the medium worth celebrating.

In addition to my awards, I’ve also added a bonus selection for each category with a short explanation for that pick since they’re more obscure choices compared to the nominees that are (for the most part) acclaimed and ones you’ve probably already heard about. Okay, Kate Plays Christine isn’t that popular. Or The Lobster. Or Knight of Cups. . . . Or A Bigger Splash. You got me, but really, they’re all worth checking out. I’m sure you’ve at least heard of La La Land.

Without further ado…

My 2016 Film Awards

Top 25 Films

1. Silence
2. Arrival
3. La La Land
4. Kubo and the Two Strings
5. Kate Plays Christine
6. Nocturnal Animals
7. Jackie
8. Hail, Caesar!
9. O.J.: Made in America
10. Manchester by the Sea
11. The Neon Demon
12. Blue Jay
13. American Honey
14. The Edge of Seventeen
15. Knight of Cups
16. Hacksaw Ridge
17. Moonlight
18. The Lobster
19. 10 Cloverfield Lane
20. The Nice Guys
21. The Witch
22. Sing Street
23. Love & Friendship
24. Captain Fantastic
25. Everybody Wants Some!!
Worth your attention: The Shallows
Released in early summer, this was a true surprise to most. But for those that have been following Jaume Collet-Serra as a serious filmmaker, this gave greater support of him as a serious filmmaker with deft ability for thrills and cerebral filmmaking alike. This set the bar for modern shark attack movies and Blake Lively showed her acting chops can match her husband Ryan Reynold’s any day.

Best Director
1. Martin Scorsese — Silence
2. Dennis Villeneuve — Arrival
3. Damien Chazelle — La La Land
4. Tom Ford — Nocturnal Animals
5. Pablo Larrain — Jackie
6. Kenneth Lonergan — Manchester by the Sea
7. Nic Winding Refn — The Neon Demon
8a. Robert Greene — Kate Plays Christine
8b. Ezra Edelman — O.J.: Made in America
Worth your attention: Kelly Fremon Craig– The Edge of Seventeen
I also put Craig under consideration for best original screenplay, but it’s worth singling her out for her directing too. It’s rare that an accurate teen comedy comes around comes around. More important, for all the comparisons to John Hughes movies, Craig finds her own voice here and pulls the most out of the talented duo of Woody Harrelson and Hailee Steinfeld.

Best Lead Actress
1. Natalie Portman — Jackie
2. Amy Adams — Arrival
3. Mary Elizabeth Winstead — 10 Cloverfield Lane
4. Emma Stone — La La Land
5. Tilda Swinton — A Bigger Splash
6. Sarah Paulson — Blue Jay
7. Isabelle Huppert — Elle
8a. Sasha Lane — American Honey
8b. Hailee Steinfeld — The Edge of Seventeen
Worth your attention: Sally Field — Hello, My Name’s Doris
Though Field gave an Oscar-nominated turn in Lincoln a few years back, she has mostly gone under the radar. But this little gem of a film hides what might be one of her best performances in her career swiftly balancing awkward comedy and drama together to create one of the year’s most unique films.

Best Lead Actor
1. Casey Affleck — Manchester by the Sea
2. Viggo Mortensen — Captain Fantastic
3. Andrew Garfield — Silence
4. Ryan Gosling — The Nice Guys
5. Collin Farrell — The Lobster
6. Josh Brolin — Hail, Caesar!
7. Ewan McGregor — Last Days in the Desert
8. Ryan Reynolds — Deadpool
Worth your attention: Andy Samberg — Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Probably easily shrugged off as a “goofy” movie in line with Hot Rod, there’s a certain skill that comes with being a stupid, arrogant musician. Whatever it is, Samberg has it in spades with a unique brand of physical and timely comedy.

Best Supporting Actress
1. Naomie Harris — Moonlight
2. Michelle Williams — Manchester by the Sea
3. Riley Keough — American Honey
4. Lily Gladstone — Certain Women
5. Kristen Stewart — Certain Women
6. Cate Blanchett — Knight of Cups
7. Janelle Monáe — Moonlight
8. Kathryn Hahn — Bad Moms
Worth your attention: Gillian Jacobs — Don’t Think Twice
It could just be my affinity for Community (Jacob’s greatest claim to fame), but Jacobs is put on full display here as a struggling artist dealing with her boyfriend (a fantastic Keegan-Michael Key for anyone missing Key & Peele too). Thanks to a fantastic script, the whole cast is, but Jacobs handles some of the more dramatic scenes by herself in the most amazing ways. She’s literally a one-woman show at times.

Best Supporting Actor
1. Alden Ehrenreich — Hail, Caesar!
2. John Goodman — 10 Cloverfield Lane
3. Mahershala Ali — Moonlight
4. Ralph Fiennes — A Bigger Splash
5a. Michael Shannon — Nocturnal Animals
5b. Aaron Taylor-Johnson — Nocturnal Animals
7. Russell Crowe — The Nice Guys
8. Peter Sarsgaard — Jackie
Worth your attention: Jack Reynor — Sing Street
What resonates with most people from Sing Street is its coming of age aspect through the soundtrack’s help. Reynor is the guide to most of that and provides a counter story arc that works wonders in comparison to his brother’s journey.

Best Original Screenplay
1. Manchester by the Sea — Kenneth Lonergan
2. Hail, Caesar! — Coen Bros
3. The Lobster — Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
4. La La Land — Damien Chazelle
5. The Nice Guys — Shane Black
6. Blue Jay — Mark Duplass
7. Jackie — Noah Oppenheim
8. The Edge of Seventeen — Kelly Fremon Craig
Worth your attention: Midnight Special — Jeff Nichols
Each year seems to have a few films with common films. This year was spirituality in film. Nichols crafts a surprisingly grounded look at spirituality in modern America despite all its sci-fi tropes and does so with minimal dialogue. He’s not just a wordsmith, he’s a story teller that knows how to write visuals.

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Nocturnal Animals — Tom Ford
2. Silence — Martin Scorsese, Jay Cocks
3. Arrival — Eric Heisserer
4. Love & Friendship — Whit Stillman
5. Moonlight — Barry Jenkins
6. Elle — David Birke
7. Deadpool — Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
8. Fences — August Wilson
Worth your attention: Denial — David Hare
Some films are boosted by the circumstances that surround their releases, this British production is one such occasion. While the importance and gravity of the Holocaust will always remain, a film that details a little-known court case that put the Holocaust on trial by proxy of taking down a denier is absolutely essential in this “post-truth” and “alternate-fact” world.

Best Cinematography
1. Arrival — Bradford Young
2. Silence — Rodrigo Prieto
3. La La Land — Linus Sandgren
4. The Neon Demon — Natasha Braier
5. The Witch — Jarin Blaschke
6. Nocturnal Animals — Seamus McGarvey
7. American Honey — Robbie Ryan
8. Moonlight — James Laxton
Worth your attention: Midnight Special — Adam Stone
In line with Nichols’ script, Stone’s portrayal of Texas and Louisiana is absolutely stunning and captures the pureness of the story with all its biblical parallels with gravitas. Pure spectacle.

Best Film Editing
1. Nocturnal Animals — Joan Sobel
2. Silence — Thelma Schoonmaker
3. Arrival — Joe Walker
4. La La Land — Tom Cross
5a. Jackie — Sebastián Sepúlveda
5b. Kate Plays Christine — Robert Greene
5c. O.J.: Made in America — Bret Granato, Maya Mumma, Ben Sozanski
8. Manchester by the Sea — Jennifer Lame
Worth your attention: Knight of Cups — A.J. Edwards, Keith Fraase, Geoffrey Richman, Mark Yoshikawa
Terrence Malick’s productions have always been cerebral landscapes difficult to navigate for the common viewer. This may not be an exception, but the story he tells through the lens of Christian Bale in a non-speaking role could only be told through the editing room. With four editors choosing from shots taken from multiple cameras including some GoPro shots, the result is absolutely stunning.

Best Production Design
1. Kubo and the Two Strings — Nelson Lowry
2. La La Land — David Wasco
3. Silence — Dante Ferretti
4. Jackie — Jean Rabasse
5. Arrival — Patrice Vermette
6. The Witch — Craig Lathrop
7. The Neon Demon — Elliott Hostetter
8. Hail, Caesar! — Jess Gonchor
Worth your attention: High-Rise — Mark Tildesley, Nigel Pollock
I’ve always been a sucker for single location films. This takes place in a rather large apartment complex, but the methods stay largely the same — create a detailed world that takes on the characters’ personalities. This certainly does that and is some great eye candy to boot.

Best Costume Design
1. Jackie — Madeline Fontaine
2. La La Land — Mary Zophres
3. Hail, Caesar! — Mary Zophres
4. The Neon Demon — Erin Benach
5. Kubo and the Two Strings — Deborah Cook
6. Love & Friendship — Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh
7. The Witch — Linda Muir
8. Doctor Strange — Alexandra Byrne
Worth your attention: The Nice Guys — Kym Barrett
Could fall under the category of production design too but something should be said for how well Shane Black’s 70s aesthetic is pulled off. It’s slick and wholly encompassing, fitting both Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling’s personalities to a T.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
1. Jackie
2. Silence
3. Deadpool
4. Hail, Caesar!
5. The Neon Demon
Worth your attention: Toni Erdmann
Few films since Holy Motors have had characters whose personalities are shown through their makeup so well. In steps Toni Erdmann whose very premise wraps around a character who lives through multiple personas to find an odd connection with society.

Best Original Score
1. Arrival — Jóhann Jóhannson
2. Jackie — Mica Levi
3. La La Land — Justin Hurwitz
4. The Neon Demon — Cliff Martinez
5. Patriots Day — Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
6. Hail, Caesar! — Carter Burwell
7. Nocturnal Animals — Abel Korzeniowski
8. Moonlight — Nicholas Britell
Worth your attention: Swiss Army Man — Andy Hull, Robert McDowell
What first starts out as a long fart joke turns into a surprisingly emotional and poignant comedy. That’s large-in-part thanks to Hull and McDowell’s revelatory soundtrack that’s bound to be an earworm after the credits roll.

Best Original Song
1. “Go Now” — Sing Street
2. “Another Day of Sun” — La La Land
3. “I’m So Humble” — Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
4. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” — Trolls
5. “Drive it Like You Stole It” — Sing Street
6. “Someone in the Crowd” — La La Land
7. “Mona Lisa” — Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
8. “City of Stars” — La La Land
Worth your attention: “A Minute to Breathe” Before the Flood
Maybe I’m just a sucker for Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, but this is some next-level songwriting from the Nine Inch Nails front man and David Fincher muses. Haunting vocals and piano makes this a must-listen (if not must-watch documentary) that can apply to more than just climate change. Shouldn’t matter what side of climate change you’re on.

Best Sound Mixing
1. Patriots Day
2. Hacksaw Ridge
3. Arrival
4. Silence
5. Deepwater Horizon
6. La La Land
7. Captain America: Civil War
8. Jason Bourne
Worth your attention: Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids
Obviously not something many people watch a film for…sound mixing. But people sure do come for JT and his music. Jonathan Demme’s documentary of The 20/20 Experience Tour would be nothing without a proper sound mix. That’s worth something.

Best Sound Editing
1. Silence
2. Hacksaw Ridge
3. Patriots Day
4. Arrival
5. Captain America: Civil War
6. Deepwater Horizon
7. Doctor Strange
8. Deadpool
Worth your attention: Ghostbusters
A bit of an odd choice, admittedly, considering the backlash surrounding the film. Even if you’re not a fan of the film, it’s hard to argue against its technical production. The visual effects while not perfect were at least enhanced by some believable sound effects added in post.

Best Documentary
1. Kate Plays Christine
2. O.J.: Made in America
3. Weiner
4. Tickled
5. 13th
6. Before the Flood
7. Gleason
8. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World /i>
Worth your attention: Hate Rising with Jorge Ramos

This isn’t a feature-length production but it’s still worth noting (and it’s readily available) for its deep investigation into American consciousness.

Best VFX
1. The Jungle Book
2. Arrival
3. Kubo and the Two Strings
4. Doctor Strange
5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
6. Deepwater Horizon
7. A Monster Calls
8. Captain America: Civil War
Worth your attention: Now You See Me 2/i>
It’s a bad movie. But damn, it has some incredibly impressive practical and visual effects that makes for box office material good enough to call for a third episode following the Four Horseman. Speaking of Four Horseman, X-Men: Apocalypse had another version of Four Horsemen (of the Apocalypse) and has one of the best sequences of the year as well thanks to some real effects mixed with state of the art tech.

Best Ensemble
1. Manchester by the Sea
2. Nocturnal Animals
3. Hell or High Water
4. Hail, Caesar!
5. Everybody Wants Some!!
6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
7. Moonlight
8. Jackie
Worth your attention: Maggie’s Plan
A vastly underseen film but certainly worth a watch thanks to some great chemistry between Greta Gerwig, Julianne Moore, and Ethan Hawke. Even Bill Hader gets in the mix and is a true scene stealer. All told, the film has some of the most unique power structures and character arcs in recent memory, none of which would have worked without this great ensemble pulling its weight.

Nomination/Win/Honorable Mention Count
1. Arrival — 11 noms/2 wins/0 HMs
2. Silence — 10 noms/3 wins/0 HMs
3. La La Land — 10 noms/0 wins/3 HMs
4. Jackie — 7 noms/3 wins/4 HMs
5. Nocturnal Animals — 7 noms/2 wins/2 HMs
6. Kubo and the Two Strings — 5 noms/1 wins/0 HMs
7. The Neon Demon — 5 noms/0 wins/2 HMs
8. Hail, Caesar! — 4 noms/1 wins/4 HMs
9. Moonlight — 4 noms/1 wins/3 HMs
10. Manchester by the Sea — 3 noms/2 wins/3 HMs
11. Patriots Day — 3 noms/1 wins/0 HMs
12. O.J.: Made in America — 3 noms/0 wins/0 HMs
13. Kate Plays Christine — 3 noms/1 wins/0 HMs
14. Hacksaw Ridge — 2 noms/0 wins/1 HM
15. Sing Street — 2 noms/1 wins/0 HMs
16. The Lobster — 2 noms/0 wins/0 HMs
17. 10 Cloverfield Lane — 2 noms/0 wins/1 HM
18. The Nice Guys — 2 noms/0 wins/1 HM
19. The Witch — 2 noms/0 wins/2 HMs
20. Captain Fantastic — 2 noms/0 wins/0 HMs
21. Deadpool — 1 nom/0 wins/3 HMs
22. Love & Friendship — 1 nom/0 wins/1 HM
23. American Honey — 1 nom/0 wins/2 HMs
24. Blue Jay — 0 noms/0 wins/3 HMs
25. The Edge of Seventeen — 0 noms/0 wins/3 HMs

Bonus: Best non-2016 films watched for the first time
1. Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) [twice including once in theaters]
3. Brief Encounter (1945)
4. Margaret (2011)
5. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
6. Letters from an Unknown Woman (1948)
7. La Ronde (1950)
8. Sans Soleil (1983)
9. Two for the Road (1967)
10. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)


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