Best movies of 2016

by on December 2, 2016 at 12:29 am in Film | Permalink

45 Years, British drama about a creaky marriage.

The Boy & the World.  A Brazilian animated movie, it actually fits the cliche “unlike any movie you’ve seen before.”  Preview here, other links here, good for niños but not only.  Excellent soundtrack by Nana Vasconcelos.

The Second Mother.  A Brazilian comedy of manners about social and economic inequality, as reflected in the relations between a maid, her visiting daughter, and the maid’s employer family.  Now, to my and maybe your ears that sounds like poison, because “X is about inequality” correlates strongly with “X is not very good,” I am sorry to say.  This movie is the exception, subtle throughout, and you can watch and enjoy it from any political point of view.  It helps to know a bit about Brazil, and it takes about twenty minutes for the core plot to get off the ground.  Links here.

Cemetery of Splendor, Thai movie by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, here is a good review.

City of Gold, a documentary with Jonathan Gold doing the ethnic food thing in Los Angeles.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is an original movie, mostly about race, full of cinematic allusions (LOTR, First Blood, Smash Palace, classic Westerns, Butch Cassidy, Thelma and Louise, so many more) and Kiwi finery as well.  None of the reviews I read seem to get it and I don’t want to send you to any of them.

The Innocents, how did those Polish nuns get pregnant?

Maggie’s Plan, a fun comedy, not at the top of this list but intelligent comedies are a dwindling species.

Hell or High Water

Ixcanul, a Mayan movie from Guatemala, might this story of an unwanted pregnancy be this year’s best movie?  Here is one useful review.

Sausage Party, beyond politically incorrect, I kept on thinking I would get sick of the stupid animation and yet I never did.  I remain surprised they let this one play in mainstream theaters.

Sully.  He should have turned the plane around immediately under any plausible calculus, and he didn’t, so you have to give this movie the Straussian reading.

Weiner is a splendid movie with many subtle points, including in the philosophical direction.  In another life, Huma Abedin could have been a movie star.  She has exactly the right mix of distance and involvement, and she dominates every scene she is in, even when just sitting quietly in the background.  Um…I guess she is a movie star.  Starlet.  Whatever.

Difret, an Ethiopian legal drama.

Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan’s Childhood (reissue).  This is one of Tarkovsky’s worst movies, and yet one of the best movies in virtually any year.

American Honey

Sky Ladder

The Handmaiden, by Park Chan-wook.  Imperfectly eroticized violence, but beautiful nonetheless.

Arrival

Elle, by Paul Verhoeven.

Nocturnal Animals, by Tom Ford.

The bottom line

My top picks are Ixcanul, American Honey, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Cemetery of Splendor, and Sky Ladder, with Arrival being the best mainstream Hollywood movie.

1 Meets December 2, 2016 at 12:41 am

I loved Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

But clearly I didn’t get it.,

2 prior_test2 December 2, 2016 at 12:53 am

‘Imperfectly eroticized violence’

Why anybody would be interested in enjoying perfectly eroticized violence, much less mperfectly eroticized violence, is hard to fathom, but it would seem, for one person at least, this is just another one of those small steps toward a much better world.

3 TGGP December 2, 2016 at 12:55 am

I haven’t seen The Innocents (just The Handmaiden & Arrival), but I didn’t think it was a mystery at all how the nuns got pregnant. It’s based on a fairly well-known bit of history.

4 Natasha December 2, 2016 at 12:56 am

How did American Honey get left off this list?

5 Thor December 2, 2016 at 1:30 am

Wieners and sausage parties and several pregnancy movies. Harrumph. Get off my cinematic lawn!

6 dearieme December 2, 2016 at 5:54 am

Could the Wiener movie be the same as the thing I watched on British telly last week? It was rather revealing – just like Mr Wiener.

7 jm December 2, 2016 at 2:59 am

Re Sully turning the plane around immediately, one of the first things you learn in pilot training is that if you lose your engine on takeoff it is almost always a very bad idea to try to turn back to the airport. In a 180-degree turn you will lose both speed and altitude, and unless you have plenty of both you won’t make it back, and the loss of speed and altitude will reduce your degrees of freedom. It’s almost always better to find somewhere ahead to put it down. You’ll be able to glide a greater distance, giving you more options.

Note also that the movie incorrectly represents the results of the immediate-turn simulations. Per the actual NTSB accident report, “In eight of the 15 runs (53 percent), the pilot successfully landed after making an immediate turn to an airport after the loss of engine thrust”, despite the simulator pilots having been pre-briefed and instructed to turn immediately.

The movie’s depiction of the investigation as being adversarial, too, is incorrect, and the NTSB investigators are not happy about it. The actual accident report (http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/AAR1003.pdf) reads:

QUOTE
… During postaccident interviews, the captain stated that, “due to the surrounding area,” returning to LGA would have been problematic and that it would not have been a realistic choice. He further stated that, once a turn to LGA was made, “it would have been an irrevocable choice, eliminating all other options,” and that TEB “was too far away.” The NTSB notes that a direct return to LGA would have required crossing Manhattan, a highly populated area, and putting people on the ground at risk.

Simulation flights were run to determine whether the accident flight could have landed successfully at LGA or TEB following the bird strike. The simulations demonstrated that, to accomplish a successful flight to either airport, the airplane would have to have been turned toward the airport immediately after the bird strike. The immediate turn did not reflect or account for real-world considerations, such as the time delay required to recognize the extent of the engine thrust loss and decide on a course of action. The one simulator flight that took into account real-world considerations (a return to LGA runway 13 was attempted after a 35-second delay) was not successful. Therefore, the NTSB concludes that the captain’s decision to ditch on the Hudson River rather than attempting to land at an airport provided the highest probability that the accident would be survivable.
UNQUOTE

8 Lex December 2, 2016 at 6:07 am

TC is being a Straussian troll (redundant?), here, goofing on the WSJ/Gawker not-such-hero take on Sullenberger. Not that it makes it any less irksome.
On a tangential note: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/sullenberger-takes-issue-with-new-book/?_r=0

9 carlospln December 2, 2016 at 9:56 pm

“He should have turned the plane around immediately under any plausible calculus, and he didn’t”. [SNIP]

“Mr. Chesley Sullenberger on Line Two”

Next up: TC turns his Retrospectroscope to ‘neurosurgeon’ Ben Carson’s last unsuccessful separation of Siamese twins joined at the head.

10 Ian leslie December 2, 2016 at 3:13 am

My usually unshakeable trust in your taste shaken only by the inclusion of Nocturnal Animals, to which there is much less than meets the eye (Anthony Lane’s review expresses exactly the way I felt about it). A series of gestures in search of significance. And I’m being charitable.

11 Jordan B December 2, 2016 at 3:57 am

Where’s American Honey? Especially considering you wrote a whole post praising it..

12 Tyler Cowen December 2, 2016 at 8:29 am

whoops! See I often forget, I will add it, thanks.

13 Sid K December 2, 2016 at 4:21 am

I would love for you to do a Conversations with Tyler with Jonathan Gold.

14 Owen December 2, 2016 at 4:27 am

Still waiting for your explanation of the race issues in Wilderpeople. Perhaps it’s an American thing?

15 mkt42 December 2, 2016 at 4:30 pm

I can only speculate what Tyler means, but I think it is a fair guess that most Americans will miss the racial or ethnic aspects of the film, viewing all of the characters as quirky New Zealanders. Looking only at the first two reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (positive reviews, as almost all of the reviews have correctly been), neither of them even mention the word “Maori”.

Partly because the movie never mentions the word either, but the characters and sub-cultures are right there on the screen, but probably too subtly for most American viewers to pick up.

The only other movie of Waititi’s that I’ve seen is his Oscar-nominated short “Two Cars One Night” where again no mention is directly made of the characters’ Maori background, but their cultural background is a little more obvious due to their physical appearances.

In defense of the reviewers, describing what “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is about is quite a challenge. To call it “mostly about race” as Tyler does is as misleading as to ignore the racial angles. Most of the reviews focus on the plot, which also fails to do the film justice making it sound like some Disney-esque children’s adventure movie.

But Tyler is right that it is an original movie, and the reviews don’t really tell you what the movie is really about.

16 peri December 3, 2016 at 11:26 pm

You astonish me. Can that really be all that TC meant by “it’s mainly about race”? That there’s an ethnic difference between the characters whose salience we in our melting pot might miss? He must wake up in a new world every day, and find pop culture unusually diverting. Maybe he needs to watch more TV, starting about 1965.

I thought there was something more going on behind the curtain with TC the movie reviewer, but I’m actually relieved. I found it a standard but entertaining odd-couple buddy movie, featuring a winning child actor and scenery. Oh yeah, blunt-talkers: “Kiwi social finery?”

That movie where Tony Curtis and Sydney Poitier are fugitives? I think that one may have been about Race.

17 Joao Eira December 2, 2016 at 5:28 am

Wait, where is American Honey?

18 rayward December 2, 2016 at 6:51 am

Having been involved with more than one drama queen, I can appreciate Abedin’s choice of Weiner. I don’t understand it (hers or mine) but I appreciate it. Weiner is merely a tool for the emotionally distant Abedin. In business as in marriage, people often seek someone just like themselves. That may be okay, but it’s no stronger than no partner at all: 1 plus 1 equals 1. A partner who is opposite can double the strength of the partnership: 1 plus 1 equals 2. That opposites attract (positive and negative) is nature’s way. Of course, opposites sometimes collide: 1 plus 1 equals 0.

19 widmerpool December 2, 2016 at 7:09 am

Second Mother was the best movie I saw all year. Agree also on 45 Years, Maggies Plan, and Hell or High Water.

How about Green Room (by the guy who made Blue Ruin)? I will also admit I enjoyed Hail Caesar.

20 Josh December 2, 2016 at 7:18 am

Anybody see the sausage movie? Is it really politically incorrect? From the trailer it seems only to mock religion which is obviously not politically incorrect. Is there anything in the movie that would make anyone at an a-list Hollywood party uncomfortable?

21 Bill Benzon December 2, 2016 at 1:23 pm

I saw it and thought it was hilarious, lots of scatological humor. As for political correctness, as I recall there was some gay sexuality in the film, such as one could have with foodstuffs as characters, and some of the action at the end w/ one of the chief sausages might have been (construed as) gay bashing. But, to be honest, my recollection is rather poor. Perhaps that’s because I was laughing so hard for so long.

22 Anon. December 2, 2016 at 7:42 am

No Embrace of the Serpent?

23 Daniel Frank December 2, 2016 at 7:47 am

Hunt For The Wilderpeople is certainly my favourite movie of 2016, but I didn’t think there was anything to “get” about it.
Can someone fill me in?

24 Bill December 2, 2016 at 11:13 pm

Nothing to get about it. Noone here in New Zealand thinks it’s mostly a film about race.

25 JC December 2, 2016 at 8:34 am

“The Second Mother” is a very good film.

26 Ricardo December 2, 2016 at 8:36 am

“how did those Polish nuns get pregnant?”

Obamacare was repealed and they lost access to mandatory contraceptives?

27 JWatts December 2, 2016 at 8:58 am

Close. They were raped by freedom loving Marxist liberators.

Poland 1945
” informs her that there are a total of 7 nuns who are pregnant after being raped by Soviet soldiers multiple times over several days.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Innocents_(2016_film)

28 Thomas Taylor December 2, 2016 at 9:11 am

How do they got there? Oh, yes, they expelled the Trump supporters who had invaded the country in 1939 and were responsible for a nice, little enterprise called the Holocaust.

29 dearieme December 2, 2016 at 10:18 am

The Red Army also invaded Poland in 1945.

30 dearieme December 2, 2016 at 10:19 am

Oops, in 1939. On behalf of a regime that slaughtered more people than Hitler.

31 JWatts December 2, 2016 at 10:43 am

I don’t think Thomas Taylor is interested in facts. He’s building a narrative.

“Oh, yes, they expelled the Trump supporters who had invaded the country in 1939 ”

In his mind, I’m sure he’s a perfectly tolerant individual. And he’s aghast that anyone would accurately point out historical atrocities committed by Socialists. And, as to alluding to Trump supporters being Nazi’s, Why they are of course! So, that’s a perfectly reasonable stance and not really partisan ranting at all.

32 Thomas Taylor December 2, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Who ever called Stalin a peace-loving individual? Who is defending the Stalinist aggression? I am pretty sure in your mind being willing to kill poor Americans is exactly the same as resisting Stalin’s tyranny. In the real world, however, it is not so. Anyway, as some peope say nowadays “Heil, Trump”.

33 Josh December 2, 2016 at 5:40 pm

In all seriousness, the people who voted for trump may be the least tribal, most deracinated people of similar size in all of human history.

34 inertial December 2, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Over 600,000 of those evil Marxist rapists lie in Polish land. If not for their sacrifice there’d be no Poland today and no Polish people. One day the Poles will remember that and dial down on their Russophobia.

35 inertial December 2, 2016 at 2:31 pm

“in Polish soil”

36 A December 3, 2016 at 8:12 am

A focused narrative, that Russians hugely contributed to victory over the Axis forces, is also consistent with evidence of mass rapes and other civilian abuses. If you are truly proud of your history, as opposed to hiding in a safe space of sanitized fables, then you would acknowledge the fullness of history, and find that Russia ends up looking okay. Certain populations might look at the same evidence and arrive at different conclusions because they have different historical perspectives, and not because of “Russophobia”.

37 GoneWithTheWind December 2, 2016 at 11:12 am

“Sully” Yes he should have turned the plane around immediately but of course 155 people would have died along with untold numbers in buildings between the plane and the two airports available to him. Except for that minor problem he should have turned the plane around. But of course this assumes you have no knowledge of procedures pilots are required to take in various situations. Sully couldn’t turn the plane around until he went through a fairly long checklist of things to do after a bird strike including trying to restart the engines. Almost immediately the situation changed from dealing with an bird strike to dealing with an airplane without power and not enough altitude to land anywhere. There is of course another long check list to go through to deal with that problem. But this is where Sully’s genius/experience took over. If it had not we would have merely had a explainable and inevitable plane crash due to bird strikes. 155 people are soooooo thankful he didn’t turn the plane back.

38 The Original Other Jim December 2, 2016 at 12:03 pm

I’m sorry, but Tyler feels differently, and he’s very certain about it.

Given his mastery of political predictions, I’m going with him.

39 GoneWithTheWind December 2, 2016 at 1:11 pm

There is a lesson from flight 1549. No airline should be allowed to take off or land over and to fly over cities at lower altitudes. Bird strikes or other complications at take off and landings puts innocent lives at risk and this should be addressed.

40 bob December 2, 2016 at 11:14 am

I have not seen Boy and the World but the trailer reminds me a bit of Don Herzfeldt’s work. Check them out if you haven’t.

41 Former Hollywood movie editor December 2, 2016 at 1:21 pm

I liked Arrival but the parts I didn’t like about it stand out way stronger in my memory than the parts I liked.

42 KDV December 2, 2016 at 2:21 pm

I will second Hunt for the Wilderpeople

43 Marcio Gonçalves December 2, 2016 at 5:15 pm

“good for niños”

The film is BRAZILIAN and we speak PORTUGUESE in Brazil, not spanish.

So, no “NIÑOS” here. I know you’ve tried to sound smart but in the end you just sounded like
someone that couldn’t bother to goggle Brazil for 2 seconds and realize we don’t speak Spanish.

If you DID know we speak portuguese, it’s even worst, because you just assumed the languages are basically the same.

By the way, the portuguese equivalent of “ninõ” seria “criança” or, in a more informal way “garoto”, “moleque”, “guri” ou “piá”.

Not even “close” to “niño”.

44 Veracitor December 2, 2016 at 7:43 pm
45 Marc Cohen December 2, 2016 at 7:55 pm

Like last year you have made this list far too early as most of the Oscar fare have not yet been released.

You are missing out on LaLa Land, Manchester By The Sea, Silence, The Founder, Fences, Moonlight…

Also, Captain Fantastic is one that you should have seen by now and most definitely be on the list.

46 Eric Charles December 2, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Some other entertaining movies this year:

-Edge of Seventeen
-Queen of Katwe
-Jungle Book
-Zootopia
-Florence Foster Jenkins
-Eye in the Sky
-Midnight Special
-Deep Water Horizon
-Popstar
-Don’t Breathe

47 Andrea Matranga December 3, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Surely you meant to say that The Boy and The World is “good for meninos but not only”

48 Andrea Matranga December 3, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Ah somebody already picked up on this.

49 Art Deco December 4, 2016 at 3:08 pm

The reviews of 45 Years make it sound contrived and tiresome.

50 efim polenov December 4, 2016 at 5:35 pm

The first scenes of Hacksaw Ridge – up until the blood donation scene, fifteen or so minutes in – are spectacularly good (WWI vet dad at the cemetery drinking and pouring whiskey on his friend’s graves, his tough family enjoying life, one or two good fights, good Coplandesque or better background music). Then skip ahead to the infantry company training scenes (NOT “boot camp scenes”, the movie did not make that clear -boot camp is the first stage, this was a second stage level of training) which are good from the moment that Andrew Garfield walks into the infantry company barracks until the fade to Okinawa (about twenty minutes or so). Vince Vaughan does the best imitation of a combo of Vince Carter and John Wayne that any of us will ever see. The Okinawa battle scenes are, from time to time,pure genius. Every single supporting actor nails his part, American or Japanese. Only movie I saw this year at a theater, so my praise for this movie is not a statement that other movies might not have been as good.

51 ricardo December 7, 2016 at 12:17 am

Just watched Wilderpeople. Great film.

One of the things it is about is the struggle to be free from influence; to (if you’re an artist) break free of cliche; to (if you’re a regular person) feel that your life is _lived_ rather than mediated through the tropes of popular culture. The yearning for the pure, the essential.

Countering this is the desire to connect and communicate, and thence the need for these same tropes of popular culture (and at a more basic level for language and literacy).

The meta-joke is that, while it venerates the purity of the haiku, the film also celebrates the cliches of popular culture, for it is via these cliches (which most reviews claim it has avoided) that it achieves its ends.

.

52 ricardo December 8, 2016 at 8:51 pm

And PS, though I know nobody is still reading this post, I still can’t decide if the “everybody poops” line and toilet paper gag are references to Kings of the Road (when Rudiger Vogler takes a dump).

“The Americans have colonised our subconscious”.

“Double-crossed for the very last time. And now I’m finally free!”.

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