My Top 10 Hollywood Films of 2016

Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 24th, is one of my personal holidays.  Oscar nomination announcement day!  And while I’m late, I’m just under the wire before those announcements to give you my personal list of my top Hollywood films of 2016.  Apologies for getting to this later in January than I’d hoped.  My father was in the hospital for almost two full weeks.  Fortunately, he’s doing better, and I’m glad to be thinking of movies again instead of ICU and breathing tubes.

A major caveat is that I have not been able to see some of the films of 2016 that came out very late in the year for Oscar season.  Especially with my father’s illness, I have not seen Silence, Jackie, or Fences yet, just to name a few.


1. La La Land

Did you have any doubt after this rapturous review describing my tears of joy, that La La Land would be my favorite film of the entire year?  I live and breathe movie musicals, and Damien Chazelle reviving the genre in Hollywood is my dream come true.  My love of musicals are why I love Indian Cinema so much (I’ll be posting a separate top list for Indian Cinema).  La La Land garnered a record number of Golden Globes with seven, and could make history tomorrow with a shattering 15 Oscar nominations.  With a musical, you add in song, score, etc. to all the traditional categories.  The previous record number of nominations would be 14 (All About Eve and Titanic).  Could it sweep?  Maybe….


2. Moonlight

Moonlight is a movie that has really stayed with me.  I have been frankly amazed at how well this film has done.  I’m not sure it will resonate with the average Academy member (white, male and over 65), but it really did with me.  I’m crossing my fingers that it gets lots of nominations, especially for director Barry Jenkins and that Mahershala Ali wins Supporting Actor.  He was amazing.

manchesterbythesea_trailer3. Manchester By The Sea

I was privileged to attend the premiere of Kenneth Lonnergan’s Manchester By The Sea at Sundance last January.  I didn’t know what I was about to see, just that I had to see the latest film by the man who made You Can Count On Me.  I didn’t know that Casey Affleck was going to rip my heart out with his devastating performance.  Viewers now know that this is a sad film, but it has wonderful moments of comedy, especially with Affleck’s relationship with his nephew, played by Lucas Hedges, who I hope will get an Oscar nod tomorrow morning.


4. Captain Fantastic 

Captain Fantastic may be a career best performance for Viggo Mortenson, as the father of six children, determined to home school them completely off the grid in the wilderness of the Northwest.  I hope and pray that Viggo gets recognition tomorrow with an Oscar nomination.  The film has kind of fallen of the radar, except that Viggo’s performance cannot be denied.  I strongly urge you to give this film a chance.  It’s available for rental on Amazon, Youtube, etc.  It was one of my favorites from Sundance last year.


5. The Lobster

I loved every absurd moment of The Lobster.  Colin Farrell was amazing.  Highly recommend, and it’s now included with Amazon Prime.


6. Deadpool

Oh, my goodness, I did not realize how stale the superhero movie genre had become until the fresh air of Deadpool.  Ryan Reynolds was made for this role, and aren’t we all so glad he fought so hard to win this role and get the movie made.  Second favorite thing about the movie is the snarling teenage girl X-men.  Love her!!  It’s a great film to rewatch as there is just so many little nuggets of goodness to catch.

7. Hunt For the Wilderpeople

You MUST see Hunt For the Wilderpeople.  Taika Waititi, the writer director has created a comic masterpiece about a young Maori foster kid and the ultimate curmudgeon, Sam Neill.  I feel so much better about the upcoming Thor movie, because Taika Waititi is a comic genius.   It’s included with a Hulu subscription right now, and also available to rent online.  You’ll thank me.


8. Hell or High Water

Such a fantastic script for Hell or High Water.  Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges were particularly good.

9. Ali and Nino

I saw this sweeping historical love story epic, directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia (Amy), at Sundance.  It only got a limited release, but it’s available to rent on demand.  It has a script by  screenwriter Christopher Hampton who wrote Atonement.  I could eat this movie with a spoon, it’s just so wonderful.  Ali and Nino tells the story of a Muslim prince of Afghanistan who falls in love with a Christian young woman (her father is played by Mandy Patinkin).  It’s set in the time of World War I, and I had no idea that Afghanistan was almost at democracy.  The movie was filmed just across the border in Turkey and the scenery is just stunning.

arrival210. Arrival

Choosing a last film of a top ten feels very arbitrary because there were a couple of films that were all about equal for me.  This could also easily be Zootopia, which I really enjoyed.  But I’m picking Arrival for Amy Adams’ wonderful performance.  This is the kind of Sci-fi movie I enjoy, one that makes you think.  Amy Adams sells you on this movie, and hip hip hurray, it was so much her movie.  Jeremy Renner was very much the supporting actor.  Linguist Amy Adams led the team who tried to communicate with the aliens, although  my brother pointed out that you didn’t really see her lead her team in an active way.  I hope Amy gets an Oscar nomination for this wonderful film tomorrow morning.




I loved The Lobster, every surreal absurdist minute of it

the lobster trio

I adored the absurd surreal film The Lobster.  I missed it at Sundance, where it premiered in January.  This is a love it or hate it kind of movie.  I loved it, but some of the people walking out of my suburban theater HATED it.  They really hated it.  For me, it was just my cup of tea, and a welcome standout after a string of mediocre films I’ve seen this past week.

The film opens with a woman driving in the countryside in the rain.  She stops her car, gets out and shoots a donkey in a field.  Gets back in her car and drives away.  It’s never referred to again, but that sets the tone of how absurd this world is that Greek writer/director Yorges Lanthimos has created.  We then first see David (Colin Farrell).   His wife is breaking up their 12 year marriage for another man.  And that means he has to leave immediately to be taken away to “The Hotel” to be paired up with another woman.  Singles and loners are not allowed in this near future dystopian world.

When David arrives at The Hotel (in County Kerry, Ireland), the manager (the always exceptional Olivia Colman) explains the rules to him.  He has 45 days to find a new mate or he will be turned into an animal.  He chooses a lobster, because they can live for 100 years and he’s always liked the sea.  “Excellent choice.”  He is warned that if he doesn’t find his true mate in time, he cannot couple after he is transformed if she picks another animal. “A wolf and a penguin could not couple because that would be absurd.”


This film is populated by so many of my favorite character actors.  Olivia Colman of The Night Manager.  John C. Reilly is a man with an unfortunate lisp.  Ben Whishaw has a limp.  Ashley Jenkins of The Extras is known as “Biscuit Woman”.  Couples must come together with the same distinguishing characteristic.  Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) bangs his head against tables to get nosebleeds to pair with a woman with that frequent malady.  All the single residents of the hotel must go out on hunts into the woods with tranquilizer guns to search for “loners”.


If they catch a loner, they can extend their stay at the hotel.  One unfeeling woman has bagged so many loners that she has an extra 160 days.  David (Farrell) has brought his brother with him, who has been turned into a dog.

Every one of the actors delivers their lines in a quirky deadpan manner.  I think that’s what inspired some of the hate of my fellow viewers at the theater, but I just thought it added to all the absurdity.  These actors commit to the bizarre rules of this film world.  It borders on absurd comedy, and then there are some sudden scenes of violence or drama.  Lisping Man is punished for masturbating in his room, by having his hand forced into a toaster, for instance.

The-Lobster-2016David escapes and becomes part of the Loner band in the forest where he meets Rachel Weisz.  They have to pretend to be a couple to venture into the city for supplies, and David enthusiastically falls into the playacting and kissing.  The young woman leader of the Loners is just as strict in her no fraternizing rules as the manager of The Hotel had been with her coupling rules.  Farrell and Weisz plot together to escape.


The ending was a fade to black that left you hanging a bit, and was my most unsatisfying moment of the film.  The rest was just fantastic.  Colin Farrell gained 40 pounds for this movie.  He has quite the paunch and “dad bod”.  I think he relished being more of a character actor leading man in this film.  I thought he was so good, as was the always great Rachel Weisz.


This film is not for everyone.  But if you love absurd surreal “Sundance” kinds of movies, this will be right up your alley.  Four and a half stars out of five.

Fantastic Beasts Teaser Trailer is Here and I can’t wait!


YES!!!  Is there anyone more perfect to inhabit J. K. Rowling’s magical universe than Eddie Redmayne?  He’s always seemed like an actor from another time, so a period film like this is just spot on for him.  Super excited to see Colin Farrell as a wizard, too!