Top Ten Films of 2016: Harrows List

This is a list of the Ten Films that in my opinion stand above all the rest from 2016. For some that I’ve reviewed previously, I’ll defend why it’s on the list and link to the initial review.  For movies, I didn’t review when they came out I’ll go a little more in-depth. If you’re looking numbers I have none but you should get and idea of what I like by reading this.

The VVitch

For a long stretch of the Year, The VVitch was my favorite movie of the year It took me until November to find a film that hit me the way this did. I stand by my statement in the initial Review that this is The Shinning of movies about Witches. It’s a brilliant dark fable about the beginning of America that I love. Also, a true feminist propaganda movie.

Review Excerpt:

(The VVitch is everything I’ve ever wanted. I know. That’s high praise. I’ll narrow it down. The VVitch is everything I’d want out of a story titled The VVitch. It Is a story about paranoia and distrust like most classic witch stories, and it is also a story that doesn’t fall into many of the traps a classic Witch tale could.)

(A great strength of this film is we never feel like we’re meant to look down our noses at the father or mother. None of the belief’s – as maddening as we might think they are now – are jokes. This is enforced by the fact that early on, we know, there is, in fact, a Witch. A Witch who can take many forms and speak many ways. It makes the horror of false accusations and the distrust that forms all the more gripping.)

Continue Reading . . .

The Invitation

Logan Marshall-Green show’s he’s not just another boring fucking white guy in The Invitation. The only film I’ve ever bought purely because of all the hype that others had built for it. “Hype” that happened to be well earned.

Everything about The Invitation works perfectly, it’s an emotionally packed film that is so full of suspense that the energy radiates out of the screen. It’s a film that knowing nothing about only helps but expect really good performances and visual expertise.

Watch The Invitation and then watch it with a group who haven’t seen it and then proceed to repeat that over nad over till everyone knows the perfection that is the Invitation.

10 Cloverfield Lane

Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane was a true surprise in the middle of March. A small tense thriller that in the best way homages classic Twilight Zone style story telling and now has me excited for anything with the word Cloverfield in the title.  Trachtenberg’s film bit at the heels of The VVitch for months is still one of my favorite films from 2016.

Review Excerpt:

(We follow Winstead as Michelle a young woman running away from a relationship instead of trying to fix it. This eventually leads to her car getting knocked off the road in an accident. The car accident itself is loud, brutal and theater shaking. It’s a perfect way to shake the audience out of any comfort.

From there we find Michelle in a bunker with John Goodman as Howard who eventually tells her he’s a good samaritan just trying to help after she’s spent a while thinking he’s a rapist or serial killer. Much of the film hinges on whether or not we believe the Howard character, is he who he says he is, what are his true intentions. After the introduction of John Gallagher, Jr. as Emmet the films bungees back forth from extreme tension to relaxed slumber. Each time trust seems to be achieved it’s disrupted. The small cast of makes the experience claustrophobic while being emotionally potent.)

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Green Room

Green Room is a movie about a Punk Band playing Castle Defense against Nazi’s. If that doesn’t sound like something you want I’m sorry. Green Room as a film seemed thrilling back in May when I watched it but became more and more horrifying as the year went on. The reality of how alive Nazi movements are made Green Room.

Review Excerpt:

(Green Room is a vicious thriller that thrives on performance and it’s ability to build tension.

Green Room is loosely described as a horror thriller that leans toward thriller. We start as a small punk band the Ain’t Rights on tour meets with a local venue guy. After playing a shit room and finding they don’t have money to get to the next spot they get the local guy to find them another show. He comes back with a show in a Nazi bar in the middle of woods.

From there it quickly goes from being a movie about an intentionally under the radar punk band, trying so hard to be indy that they don’t use social media to a perfect castle defense movie. Obviously, it doesn’t start out completely terrible, none of the band members look like Nazi targets and they don’t do badly on stage. That is until they decide to play a hyper-speed version of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”.)

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HUSH

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HUSH is perhaps the best horror movie on this list, it appeals the widest and it’s the most universally scary. HUSH didn’t actually go to any theaters, it’s the only movie on this list that dropped on Netflix and never touched a theater. This is where any predisposition toward not watching it comes from.

The poster alone looks like typical Direct to Video trash, but you’d be wrong to think so. HUSH is about a well to do Deaf woman named Madison living in the country alone, she has no boyfriend and her closest friends are her neighbors and her sister.

Eventually, after a discussion introducing the neighbor we see her go home – the next time we see her, a masked prowler has chased her to Madisons House. We then see him brutally murder her as she screams for help and tries to get Madison’s attention. The remainder of the film is a cat & mouse game as he realizes she’s deaf and decides to slowly torment Madison instead of just killing her.

Everything that happens from there is unnerving and horrific, there is a mastery of tension that is worthy of a large screen release. HUSH brilliantly uses Madisons deaf state both as a weakness and at times a strength. So well done, so scary and more than worthy of my Top Ten.

Arrival

Arrival came as surprise to me later in the year because I was unaware it was coming out till two months before release, not unlike Cloverfield Lane. It also came closest to overtaking The VVitch as a favorite of 2016. Amy Addams performance drives the film and it’s one of the few movies that stirred me to tears, stayed with me for the next week. Arrival is one of the best movies of the year and it’s a testament to modern filmmaking.

Review Excerpt:

(Arrival is the most hopeful and emotional film I have ever seen. Denis Villeneuve being the one behind this makes it all the more surprising, his American films are not inspiring films that make your heart soar.

Dark explorations of the human mind and questioning of morality paired with a level of filmmaking technique that puts Christopher Nolan to shame. Arrival is not that dark gloomy family drama about morality or a conversation about government overreach.

Arrival is a story about humanity at it’s worst and at it’s best. Amy Adams is a linguistics expert named Dr. Louise Banks brought in by the army. A result of her classified clearance given to her from once helping locate a terrorist. She’s joined by Jeremy Renner playing a military astrophysicist tasked with helping Louise make meaningful contact with an Alien ship. The Alien race onboard dubbed by the film as Heptapods who have. From there the implications of conversing with aliens and how that effects mankind are explored in detail.)

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Moonlight

I hope this is the last time I have to say how good Moonlight is, but I know it won’t be. Barry Jenkins is one of the best directors working right now, whatever he does next I will be there, immediately. Moonlight is so “slice of life” and what Jenkins does well is to make me relate to a slice that isn’t mine completely. If you haven’t seen Moonlight watch it – if there’s one movie from 2016 on this list, you are going to see it’s this one.

Review Excerpt:

(Moonlight is the best film of the year. I’m going to see a lot of other films this year, but Moonlight is the best already and I doubt anything will change my mind. A triptych without a week third, A story that should be told, and one happens to have been told extremely well. Moonlight is beautiful and ugly, the ugliness of childhood and growing up while being shot and composed perfectly.

Director Barry Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton have a perfect understanding of Juxtaposition and composition. While not dynamic or full of movement, every shot is paid for. Nothing is throwaway, and the simple shot of someone wiping their hand in the sand has meaning and purpose.

Stark in tone but still filled with humanity and bittersweet waves of emotions. Nothing is perfect and even the silver lining has rust. Everything about Moonlight feels specific, and in that specificity Moonlight is Universal. Each section captures a specific moment in a man’s life, a turning point in who he is. Each one is anchored by details and moments that might seem written but still ring authentic.)

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The Edge of Seventeen

the-edge-of-seventeen

Hailee Steinfeld after True Grit could have faded into obscurity and become the star of Pitch Perfect 5. That’s not happening, Edge of 17 is Steinfeld’s star cementing role – she will be remembered for her part in this film.

Whoever you were in High School, Boy, Girl or something in-between you will relate to this movie. It captures everything infuriating, awkward and hilarious about being 17. It also captures the long effect of tragedy on someone who’s an outcast. The Edge of 17 captures the dynamics of siblings who have never gotten along and how they achieve resolution.

The Edge of Seventeen like Moonlight is so particular that it becomes universal. All of it anchored by Hailee Steinfeld giving a such a full performance to a character that easily fall into just being another bratty teenager.

it’s a film of heart and that treats being a teenager as realistically as teenagers do. It does not sneer at their lack of reality. Steinfeld also gets to play against the likes of Woody Harelson, Kyra Sedgewick, and  Everybody Wants Somes Blake Jenner.

Poignant, insightful and funny – Edge of 17 is a movie everyone should watch.

Rogue One

I can’t sell you on this movie, you’re either going to watch it or already have. Darth Vader Shows up, he’s pretty fucking BAMF.

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LA LA LAND

Not to completely sum up my review, but LA LA LAND is a movie I loved in the theater that I’m unable to make up my mind about. The only reason I won’t declare it the best of the year is because Moonlight is better and I’m pretty sure at this point my opinion about that movie won’t change. My thoughts about LA LA LAND might change – I might hate LA LA LAND months from now, it’s that pliable of a film in my mind. However, I think it’s a movie everybody should see purely for the spectacle at hand.

Review Excerpt:

LA LA Land is a candy-colored spectacle but like a chocolate coin is not as rich in flavor as you would want. Still, if you connect with the emotions at play and fall in love with the love you see on screen it might be a great movie. The human characters and their interactions feel heightened but true. Visually Damien Chazelle shows a great control over the camera and an understanding of what makes something visually compelling.

The basic plot being that two entertainers one Mia Dolan an aspiring actress played by not so much aspiring Emma Stone and one Sebastian Wilder (I wonder if he’s a wild and crazy guy) an unemployed Jazz musician played by Ryan Gosling fall into a deep romance seemingly based on their shared passion for the crafts they have chosen.
Every scene feels lived in and nothing feels rushed. There is a tone in LA LA LAND that Chazelle sets that allows Gosling and Stone to break into song and keep even the most skeptical of musicals entertained. As a harsh critic of musicals, I was entranced. Completely unable to leave my seat for fear of losing where I was. There’s a hopeful optimism that never feels overblown while you’re there.

Continue Reading . . .

Ultimately I think 2016 was all in all a great year for movies as long as you were looking in the right places. If you haven’t seen anything on this list, GO! ! ! DO IT! ! !

 

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