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2016 Films


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Here's a baker's dozen of some noteworthy films from 2016.  The list is roughly in the order I saw the films.  Many of these films were released early in 2016, and perhaps were overlooked during awards season.


1. Green Room

The obscure, cash-strapped, Ain't Rights punk band get more than what they bargained for after playing a gig at a neo-Nazi club in the Oregon backwoods.  Violent and funny, it features Patrick Stewart playing against type as Darcy, the quietly menacing club owner.  With Anton Yelchin before he left us too soon.


2. Everybody Wants Some!!

Writer-Director Richard Linklater described this as a ”spiritual” sequel to his 1993 cult classic Dazed and Confused, which was set in 1976.  Now it’s 1980, in Texas, on a college campus, and the baseball team is having a blast, going to clubs, drinking, smoking pot, and  chasing girls.  The soundtrack is apropos for the era, a heady mix of new wave, rap, disco, country, heavy metal, and punk. 


3. Captain America: Civil War

Reminiscent of the Buck Rogers pictures from the 1930s and 1940s, as Marvel films are, this is a thrill ride with some actual substance, other than just  great CGI.  The superheroes debate whether it’s better to accept government oversight, and compromise, or go it alone.


4. Love and Friendship

A comedy of manners directed by Whit Stillman, based on an unpublished Jane Austen, novella, has some of the most wickedly delicious line I’ve heard.  All of them are delivered by Kate Beckinsale’s Lady Susan, a woman who thrives on  intrigue and manipulation to acquire what is rightfully due to a woman so cunning and manipulative as herself.


5. Maggie’s Plan

The always great Greta Gerwig  plays a single woman hearing the deafening sound of her biological clock. She marries, has a child, but the routines of life start weighing her down.  She no longer loves her husband,  played by Ethan Hawke at his smarmy best.  Julianne Moore  co-stars and does a lot of scene-stealing.


6. The Lobster

Set in a future society in which marriage is mandated.  Single people are gathered in a resort-like community for the purpose of finding a mate.  If a person is unsuccessful, they are then turned into an animal of their choosing.  There’s also an underground group of dissidents even more radical than the authoritarians they are fighting against.  The cast includes Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.


7. Equity

The struggles of a woman investment banker, played by Anna Gunn, not deemed feminine enough to close lucrative deals involving men who still view women  based on looks alone. Gunn's character also faces trouble from back-stabbing, ambitious female co-workers.  Wall Street is presented  as an elegant, glittering jungle.


8. Indignation

Set in 1951, a working-class Jewish boy, Logan Lerman, wins a scholarship to a bucolic college in Ohio.  He's considered lucky, as he doesn't have to serve in the Korean War. In college, he meets a beautiful but emotionally troubled woman, hauntingly played by the luminous Sarah Gadon, an actress we'll hopefully see more of.   This poignant film poses a bunch of "what ifs".  Beautifully evocative, and directed by James Schamus.


9. The Edge of Seventeen

Haillee Seinfeld as a self-absorbed, misanthropic teenager who feels she was born in the wrong era.  Her judgment in boys is terrible, and she can't trust anyone, except for a seen-it-all high school teacher played by Woody Harrelson.  Great teen comedies live in their time and also connect to their predecessors.   The Edge of  Seventeen accomplishes this.  It's one of the finest of this genre since Me, Earl and the Dying Girl.


10. The Love Witch

A black comedy, or a red comedy.  As red is everywhere.  Samantha  Robinson plays a brunette Barbie Doll who just wants a man to lover her.  Decked out in red lipstick,  red wardrobe, and driving a red car, Robinson is a sexual powerhouse. Men die after sleeping with her, literally.  She's a witch who can't control her own power. The Love Witch is nod to Mario Bava horror films  from the 1960's, including fabulous sets, colors, and production design, and added post-feminist shadings.


11. Hell or High Water

Ben Foster and Chris Pine are brothers who rob banks, taking loose bills that amount to a few thousand, an endeavor best described as high risk and low reward.  As the film unfolds, their plan becomes clear.  Ben Foster as one sibling is all id, a sociopath living in the moment without fear of consequences.  Chris Pine plays the conscience-stricken brother who clearly hates stealing, but which the banks have left no other choice. Jeff Bridges plays a morally a complex sheriff comfortable in his casual racism.  The picture is really about Texas, that big flat piece of territory changed by modernity, immigration, and venal capitalism.


12. Manchester by the Sea

Director Kenneth Lonergan's unique commentary on grief and pain.  Casey Affleck gives a powerful performance as a man who blames himself for something truly horrific.  By not moving on, by not forgetting,  he inflicts on himself a punishment that, in his mind, is necessary and deserving.


13. Elle

Isabelle Huppert may or may not win the Oscar for best actress.  But if there's a better performance than the one she delivered in Elle,  I certainly haven't seen it.  Isabelle Huppert plays a high-powered business woman who is sexually assaulted, and how she deals with it may shock audiences.  Of course, this is precisely what Director Paul Verhoeven wanted. 

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