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Cinema Variety’s Top Favorite Films of 2016

Well cinephiles and friends alike, my annual list of favorite films has finally arrived. I had to take these first few weeks in the new year to re-watch some of this years gems to order my list accurately. Through careful deliberation, I present to you my favorite films of 2016. Make sure to check out my top pick lists from previous years provided below! 

Top Picks of 2015 List
Top Picks of 2014 List
Top Picks of 2013 List

Honorable Mentions:
The Wailing
Elle
Goat
The Sea of Trees
The Witch
Green Room
Lemonade
The Odyssey
Black Mirror: San Junipero

** THIS LIST IS IN ORDER **


#18 - The Childhood of a Leader
Directed by Brady Corbet

Brady Corbet’s directorial debut is a chilling fictional tale about the rise of fascism in the early 20th century. The result is a character study focusing on the origins of evil. Corbet is clearly inspired by the aesthetics of Michael Haneke, Ingmar Bergman and even a little bit of Andrei Tarkovsky. Long tracking shots and an overpowering orchestral score brings the audience on this artistic journey. The conclusion of the film left me shocked, watch out for it.



#17 - Operation Avalanche
Directed by Matt Johnson

Operation Avalanche is a true hidden gem for anyone who delights in films centered around conspiracy theories. The theory of the moon landing being a staged production might be one of the most ridiculous hoaxes out of them all - and there are groups of people who truly believe it. However, this film is made in a way that actually makes it seem like a very possible reality. The movie is cleverly filmed in a POV mockumentary format with a classic 60s filter. The film shifts in tone from a comedy of sorts and ends in paranoia. I found it to be one of the most underrated films of the year.



#16 - Swiss Army Man
Directed by The Daniels

It’s an impressive feat when a film featuring constant flatulence and directional erections can also end up being a heartfelt and existential story of friendship. There are very few comedies on this list, or on any of my other annual lists for that matter. Swiss Army Man succeeded on making me laugh multiple times. I praise it simply for its originality and the fact that the filmmakers tackled on such ridiculous themes in a way that they didn’t become immature or worthy of an eye roll. Another shoutout to the energetic score and colorful production design.



#15 - La La Land
Directed by Damien Chazelle

The musical genre is most definitely one of my least favorite ones. Other than a few exceptions (Across the Universe, The Wall, Dancer in the Dark), I have found most musicals to be unbearably cheesy. The cheese is still there in La La Land, but it is effective because that is the intended tone. It truly is a throwback to the golden age of Hollywood filled with allusions from earlier infamous musicals such as Singing in The Rain. I anticipated this film from the start both because Damien Chazelle blew me away with Whiplash and because Ryan Gosling is my favorite actor working today. Shot on a film, in a dazzling Technicolor format, it also features some of the most awe inspiring cinematography out of all the movies released this year. I believe La La Land is the film that we needed to end 2016 with - a film filled with magic and hope for a better future.



#14 - Manchester by the Sea
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Man did this movie crush me. It squeezed everything out of me and left me a hollow shell. I went home and sat on my couch and just cried after leaving the theatre. Don’t let this lead you astray from watching it, it’s just such a realistic heart-wrenching drama that I couldn’t help but be affected by it the entire day after seeing it. It might not be a masterpiece as such critics claim it to be, but it is a moving insight on the loss of loved ones and the emotional wreckage that can come out of it. There is no overly-done melodrama or redemption in the denouement. Instead, it focuses on little moments that end up forming a much greater whole by the end. Casey Affleck’s restrained performance was something I empathize with as he held a tragic rage behind his eyes.



#13 - Jackie
Directed by Pablo Lorrain

This was a film that grew on me days after seeing it. I was absorbed by it while I watched it in a small art-house theatre, but it was afterward where it really began to resonate with me. The JFK assassination is a momumental tragedy in history that has always greatly interested me. I remember being haunted by the video footage when it was shown to me in a college history class. While the script may be lacking in areas, the performance by Natalie Portman is the saving grace of this production. Portman has transcended her star status in this role by flawlessly emulating the former First Lady. Jackie is a film that plays like a fragmented memory - it jumps in time throughout. The production design transported me to the 1960s and Mica Levi’s score really is the standout aspect of the film.



#12 - The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Directed by Oz Perkins

I believe The Blackcoat’s Daughter is the year’s most underrated and ignored horror film. The very few critic reviews I found online all have positive things to say, while most audience reviews are the opposite. This is the feature film debut of director Oz Perkins. He has created a richly nuanced horror film that never reaches any outrageous or flashy climax, which is a breath of fresh air compared to the usual tripe that comes out of Hollywood year after year. Perkin’s directs the film with a restrained control that would make his horror-icon of a father, Anthony Perkins, proud. There is a thick haze of dread that doesn’t ease up until the film’s bleak finale. The films minimal use of dialogue works perfectly in unison with the nonstop rumbling score. The entire aesthetic of The Blackcoat’s Daughter is what made it work so well for me. Loads of unnecessary dialogue and jump scares are replaced with well executed tracking shots and genuinely upsetting violence. The end product is a deliciously evil exercise In dread.



#11 - The Eyes of My Mother
Directed by Nicolas Pesce

The Eyes of My Mother is the type of art-house horror film I feel like I’ve been waiting all year for. Everything about it speaks to me as a horror fan. The story seems as if it was ripped out of one of my worst nightmares; Or better yet, if you could visualize the musings of a demented asylum patient - the result would be The Eyes of My Mother. This film would never have been as effective if it wasn’t for the lush, gorgeous black and white photography. Camera shots are shrowded in shadows which adds to the aforementioned nightmare effect. Thank god this film has such a short runtime (it’s only a little over 70 minutes). I wasn’t sure how much more I could take of this grueling tale. The last 20 minutes of the film takes a plunge into the heart of darkness - which to many viewers could be considered completely morally reprehensible. Well, a desensitized horror junkie such as myself was pleased by the filmmaker’s decision to conclude this story as depraved as possible. I decided to celebrate Christmas this year in the holiday spirit by showing this movie to my brother. By the end of it, he just turned to me and asked: “Why do you do this to me?”.



#10 - The Light Between Oceans
Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Derek Cianfrance is one of my very favorite directors working today. His first two films (Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines) both have found a place in my top 15 favorite films of all time. Needless to say I’ve been tirelessly anticipating his latest feature. It didn’t have the same impact on me as his previous features; however, it still ended up being an impressive and heartbreaking picture. Adam Arkapaw works wonders as the DOP. His camerawork captures the coast of Australia beautifully. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander work perfectly off of each other (yet another instance of Fassbender completely investing himself in a role). Keep an ear out for the perfectly utilized “Funeral Canticle” track that has never failed to give me goosebumps since the first time I heard it in The Tree of Life.



#9 - Cemetery of Splendour
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Describing this film is a challenge in itself - let alone reviewing it. This is the second film I’ve seen by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and they both are masterpieces in my eyes. Cemetery of Splendour, much like the soldiers affected by a sleeping epidemic in the film, lead me down the rabbit hole into a deep trance state. I love films which feel like I dreamt them after they’re over, and that’s exactly what this movie achieved. The long takes, minimal use of a score, and gorgeous natural scenery worked together to create a relaxing and mind expanding experience.



#8 - Moonlight
Directed by Barry Jenkins

I might not think that Moonlight is the very best film of the year, but it might just be the most important. It’s not everyday where you hear about masterful films that deal with homosexuality in the African American community. Jenkins tackles this subject perfectly by not making this aspect of the character’s persona the focal point of the film. It’s just as much a coming of age story about masculinity than it is a story about a guy struggling with his sexual identity. I related to this film on a very personal level because I know what it’s like being harassed by peers in school on the basis of being gay. Moonlight follows the central character Little from his adolescence in grade school all the way until manhood. Although three different actors are playing the same character, I was utterly convinced it was the same person for they all adopted the same mannerisms and personality traits. Moonlight makes a grand statement about finding out who you truly are. It sends the message that it’s possible to find acceptance by people other than your immediate family.



#7 - Midnight Special
Directed by Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols is being praised this year on the award circuit for his touching film Loving, but it’s this film that stayed with me after watching. Never has there been a film made about supernatural abilities that has hit me on such a deep level. Midnight Special deals with a plethora of themes other than a child with superhuman abilities. These include the responsibilities of fatherhood and the special bond between parents and their child. It opens ambiguously and the intelligent plot slowly unfolds in such a way that questions are answered little by little until the absolutely soul-touching finale. Even though she has limited screen time, Kirsten Dunst added to this films perfection. The sheer humanity displayed through her performance as a mother who will do anything to keep her child out of harms way is an admirable thing. Midnight Special is a sci-fi film for the ages.



#6 - Embrace of the Serpent
Directed by Ciro Guerra

The fevered madness of the jungle is alive in this flick. Embrace of the Serpent addresses the duality of man. His ability to create yet also his sure-fire knack to destroy goodness. His willingness to help others yet also falling victim to his own egoic desires. In this film, the Westernized man leads to the downfall of an ancient Amazonian civilization. Serpent focuses on two different white men, separated by decades in time, who traverse into the depths of the jungle guided by the last living member of a tribe. Both of these men are looking for a hallucinogenic plant - one to cure his terminal illness, the other for purposes of being able to dream. The end product is a head-trip into psychedelia where plant medicine is the supreme deity.



#5 - Arrival
Directed by Denis Villenueve

Villenueve knocked it out of the park again this year with his latest film. Is there anything this man cannot do? The French-Canadian filmmaker strayed away from the dark and somber tone of his previous works and created something life affirming. Arrival is an example of smart science-fiction that has been coming out of the film industry recently (something along the likes of Interstellar). Humanity is put to the test in this movie as they try to figure out the intentions of the alien visitors. But it’s a story about love and loss above all. Arrival is edited perfectly by manipulating the viewer’s sense of time. Once I reached the ending and pieced it all together, I was a wet-faced audience member in that dead silent theatre as the other attendees sat dazed.



#4 - The Neon Demon
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Is it a dazzling grand statement on the depraved narcissism of the professional modeling industry? Or is it just more pretentious artistic masturbation which has become expected of Refn? My thoughts are with the former. Refn’s auteur style that he has developed upon since the release of his magnum opus Drive has been particularly polarizing among critics and audiences alike - almost as polarizing as Terrence Malick. I believe people dislike The Neon Demon for some of the same reasons why the general masses reacted so negatively to Spring Breakers: it tries too hard to be artsy, it’s just a boring music video, the dialogue is unrealistic. At the same time I feel as if these audiences didn’t grasp onto the fact that these films which shed light on the hedonistic lifestyle of deranged young women are purely satirical. They’re supposed to be absurd. The irony is is that this absurdism is actually reflective on the types of females that move to LA for the pursuit of fame and recognition. It certainly is the best looking Refn film to date, with even banal or commonplace locations drenched in neon hues. And Cliff Martinez has outdone himself with the synth-heavy score which guides us along this fairytale of horrors. How far would you go to get to the top? In Refn’s surreal vision of Los Angeles there is no such thing as going too far to reach fame, even if it means bloodshed. As one character says in the film: “Beauty isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” It would be nice to write off this statement as pure subjectivity, but what else has the media taught us but this ideal?



#3 - Nocturnal Animals
Directed by Tom Ford

Do you ever really know the person you love? This is the thought running through my mind while watching Tom Ford’s romance story disguised as a crime-revenge. Ford has created a highly innovating form of storytelling with Nocturnal Animals. A violent story of revenge is presented to symbolize the betrayal that Amy Adam’s commits against Gyllenhaal’s character. What made this film so enjoyable was the aspect that it was like two different films in one, yet both stories suitably complement one another. The frustratingly ambiguous ending was delightful as the audience searches for the intentions of Gyllenhaal’s character. The whole thing was a stylish story of betrayal.



#2 - Knight of Cups
Directed by Terrence Malick

My cinematic idol returned in 2016 with many ambitious projects: two different documentaries about the birth and death of the universe with Voyage of Time, a festival premiere date set for his forthcoming Song to Song, and the stream of consciousness visual poem which is Knight of Cups. I believe there is such thing as a Malick gene. His films either strike people with such awe and wonder that they come out of his films feeling enlightened or they are the cinematic equivalent of taking an Ambien for others. I have total faith that this film will be considered a classic masterpiece in decades to come. Sometimes it just takes time for a film to receive that cult status. Unfortunately, a formula which critics took such a liking to with The Tree of Life quickly became redundant and meandering in the public’s eye with his two follow-up works. Just like with all great art, it takes repeated viewings to really appreciate the philosophical mastery of this film. I’ve seen it over five times now and each time I walk away with something new -  a blossoming appreciation that such abstract and soulful cinema can be financed. If you have any idea about Malick’s life then you understand that Knight of Cups is the last film in his autobiographical trilogy. I see it as a sort-of spiritual sequel to The Tree of Life. A sense of disassociation is felt through the floating camerawork which follows Christian Bale on an odyssey of temptation in Los Angeles. Malick abandons small-town rural settings and older time periods for a tale set in the present day luxury land of LA. I must admit that when the credits started to scroll I couldn’t help but ask myself: “that’s it?” The abrupt finale left me feeling a little hollow. It left me with nothing. But I soon realized that this was Malick’s intention. This was the loneliness and isolation he felt as a big-shot Hollywood director even though he was surrounded with admirers. So to save himself, he leaves that lifestyle and finds his redemption through the glories of divine Mother Nature. I am so happy that there is a director who I feel so connected to, someone who expresses his eloquent ideology through some of the most beautiful movies ever in the annals of cinematic history. Knight of Cups is a fervent reverie on love, loss and life. A haunting meditation of redeeming oneself after a swift fall from grace.



#1 - American Honey
Directed by Andrea Arnold

A film so filled with life that I couldn’t help but feel exhilarated after it ended, American Honey is an epic road trip story for the millenial era. Its plot is open and free flowing much akin to the characters who traverse across the midwest in a van selling magazines to folks from all different social and economic backgrounds. American Honey exposes the dark underbelly of American households, especially for low-income ones. Youths search through trash cans in order to find a fitting meal. A drunken stepfather takes advantage of his stepdaughter. A junkie mother falls unconscious on the couch unable to take care of her young children. I might be making American Honey sound like a film filled with sorrow and hopeless situations. However Andrea Arnold takes the subject matter and actually gives it a twinge of hope. The chemistry between all the characters, most particularly between Sasha Lane and Shia Labeouf, makes it practically impossible to look away at could very well be a trainwreck waiting to happen. As soon as you think some awful event is going to happen to end the roadie’s journey of freedom - it doesn’t. American Honey sometimes feels more like a documentary than a feature film. The dialogue comes off as mostly improvisational and the plot is minimal at best. Arnold has taken cues from Larry Clark’s style of filmmaking when he released his controversial HIV drama Kids in 1995. Considering that film is in my top 10 favorite films of all time, it’s clear as to why American Honey was my favorite work released this year. With its unique aspect ratio, colorful and eccentric characters, and one hell of an eclectic soundtrack, American Honey breathed new life into me. By the end I felt almost as purified as Sasha Lane does as she takes a dip into a lake, descending to the bottom only to emerge from the surface a newly realized person.

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For anyone who is interested:

“Fox and AMC Theatres have set free screenings for ‘Hidden Figures’ on Feb. 18 in 14 U.S. cities to celebrate Black History Month.” More information in the link below:

http://variety.com/2017/film/news/hidden-figures-free-screenings-black-history-month-1201988170/

anonymous-bush  asked:

Wing AU? Saru with dark, slim, beautiful wings. The Kings have the biggest, strongest wings. I imagine Munakata with dark wings with blue flame coming from the edges, and Mikoto has wings of fire. Nagare's wings are white, like Anna's, but they crackle with green electricity. Yata's wings look like bright orange fire and he loves to wrap Fushimi up in them~ Thoughts?

I’m imagining that say in this AU everyone is born with small white wings that then grow into something else as they get older and people are judged on the quality and size of their wings, like the most successful and talented people tend to have really huge wing spans and super impressive wings – and only those with larger wings can actually fly too so there’s like this unspoken caste system that tends to look down more on people whose wings are considered too small or deformed somehow. Niki probably has these terrible hellfire wings, all red feathers tinged in black and the feathers are really jagged and sharp looking but even so he can fly a little with them. When Fushimi’s little Niki plucks a bunch of feathers from his little baby white wings, leaving a bunch of bald spots where the feathers haven’t grown back, and due to the combination of stress and neglect some of Fushimi’s other feathers fall out entirely. By the time he reaches middle school his ‘true’ wings have started to come in but it’s no comfort, his wings are this really dark murky black (and having black wings is considered a bad sign, like if your pure white wings have gone black there must be something wrong with you) and there are spots where the feathers are mottled in white or red, places where his feathers originally fell out. His feathers are a mess too, all different sizes and angles and his wings are far too slim to allow him to fly. Fushimi pretty much doesn’t give a shit though because of course his wings would be the kind that he couldn’t fly with and anyway he’s not like all those other idiots walking around trying to show their wings off or brag about their wingspan.

That’s when he meets Yata, who has these red and orange wings that look like a fire, but they’re really fluffy and the feathers are soft. Yata can’t quite fly with them but when he’s on his skateboard if he extends them behind him he feels like he’s flying anyway (oh oh imagine the scene from LSW with Fushimi, Yata and Aya on the bike, Yata’s got his wings out and they’re like stretching on either side of Fushimi so it feels like he’s in a tunnel of flames but he’s not scared at all, and behind Fushimi there’s Aya with her slim pink swan-like wings outstretched and then Fushimi unconsciously starts to stretch his too, the wings he always keeps hunched close and never spreads fully and for the first time in his life he really feels like he’s flying, there on the back on Yata’s bike). Yata’s the first person who thinks Fushimi’s wings are really cool, like look at how sleek they are and the black is so striking and the feathers feel super smooth, Yata loves running his fingers through Fushimi’s wings. Fushimi acts like he doesn’t care what Yata thinks of his wings but it always makes his breath catch a little, when Yata tells him how amazing his wings are. When the two of them move in together sometimes they lie side by side on Yata’s bunk discussing their plans for all the great things they’re going to do and Yata wraps his wings around Fushimi so that it feels like they’re living in this small cozy world, just the two of them, and sometimes Fushimi’s wings stretch just a bit to touch Yata’s, connecting just a little bit.

So then the surprise party incident happens and that’s when they meet Mikoto who has the biggest wings Yata and Fushimi have ever seen, these huge red ones with real fire blossoming along the edges and when Mikoto uses his Red King powers to the full extent his wings burst entirely into flame and it’s like a fireball. The rest of Homra have wings that are touched by fire in some way too – maybe people don’t just have feathered wings in this AU too, imagine Totsuka with wings that look like they belong to one of his flame butterflies (Anna’s ‘true’ wings are just coming in, downy white mixed with hints of red, and when she awakens as King all the white feathers fall to the ground like rain as she extends her red burning wings wide, a wingspan even greater than Mikoto’s, a phoenix rising). Fushimi’s actually afraid of Mikoto’s wings especially, like he can’t help but flinch every time Mikoto opens his wings fully. He’s also secretly jealous because Yata is so impressed that Mikoto-san can fly, and of course Fushimi knows that he’ll never be able to match that.

Then Fushimi meets Munakata and Munakata’s the only one he’s seen whose wings can rival Mikoto’s except Munakata’s are these sleek cobalt blue ones, growing brighter around the edges, just this amazing gradient of blue upon blue and Munakata loves to spread them wide whenever he’s making grand pronouncements. When he’s not trying to be impressive though Munakata keeps his wings neatly folded and sometimes they almost look like part of his uniform. Fushimi can’t help but feel drawn to those wings somehow and when Munakata tries to recruit him maybe instead of Fushimi’s leg moving unconsciously to Munakata’s side one wing opens on that side instead. Fushimi breaks things off like in canon, burning his tattoo and all, but maybe after he and Yata part he spots a fallen feather from Yata’s wings and ends up keeping it despite himself. Meanwhile Yata goes to pack up their old apartment and he finds one of Fushimi’s feathers. He wants to burn it into nothing but he can’t bring himself to do it, keeping it with him like tucked in his hat somehow and maybe it was one of those mottled feathers, black and red, and the whole time Fushimi thinks Yata’s been keeping one of Mikoto’s feathers when it’s actually his.

Then jungle, imagine Hisui’s wings aren’t real ones at all but these giant electricity ones that the Slate kinda made for him because when Hisui 'died’ his real wings hadn’t come in yet and being technically dead he couldn’t grow his real ones anymore. But the desire for them is there and the shape remains rooted in Hisui’s soul, how they should look, and the Slate answers that desire by giving him a mock version of what he should have. When the undercover mission happens Fushimi and Munakata fight and maybe Munakata makes a comment about Fushimi’s wings, the black color and how they’re so small and thin and useless, he’ll never fly with them and they’re really almost malformed in a way, just like Fushimi’s own twisted loyalties. Fushimi tries not to take that to heart but of course he does, even as he intends to carry out Munakata’s plan to the end.

Yata of course shows up to save Fushimi and when they escape Yata’s having trouble keeping ahead of Sukuna, like he’s on his skateboard with Fushimi on his back and Sukuna’s so close to catching up, and there are holes in the floor that Yata’s worried he won’t be able to skateboard over. Yata finally yells at Fushimi that they need to fly, Fushimi clicks his tongue because neither one of them can fly, idiot, and Yata’s just like shut up, I can’t fly on my own but if you’re with me we can definitely do it. They reach like this giant gap in the floor and Yata stretches his wings out, speeding up, determined to fly over it and save Fushimi. Fushimi stares at Yata in surprise and he finds his own wings stretching out too, all the way, the two of them flapping in unison as they just soar over the gap, completely airborne and in control and breathless for just a moment. Afterward Fushimi tries to act like it was nothing but Yata’s not giving up that easily, saying this is why he’s not letting Fushimi push him away again – sure they aren’t Kings and they can’t fly alone, but that’s why they’re supposed to be together because the only way Yata can soar is if Fushimi’s by his side.