I saw 80 movies in 2016.
Movies of every sort can be viewed in all manner of ways now. The list below includes new releases in the cinema, classics on DVD or Blu-Ray, public domain oldies on YouTube. Personally owned films. Titles streamed on Netflix. I watched the Charlton Heston adventure, Secret of the Incas, via YouTube, on my iPad, for a few minutes at a time each night while falling asleep.
In an easy walk, the worst movie I saw in 2016 was Independence Day: Resurgence. Everyone associated with this movie, from director Roland Emmerich, to the cast, to the baker who supplied bagels to the craft services table, deserves to be chased out of Hollywood with torches and pitchforks.
The best movie I saw isn’t as easy to choose. Limiting myself to 2016 movies, I’ll offer the caveat that I didn’t see too many of them. My film diet mainly consists of Netflix discs and streaming experiences; my partner and I don’t get out to the cinema as often as we’d like. We do sometimes see recent releases once they’ve hit Redbox.
All that stipulated, Arrival was probably the best of the thirteen 2016 movies we slogged out to the cinema to see. Amy Adams is a personal favorite actor, and I just love science fiction that’s smartly written, eschews tedious chase or fight scenes, and isn’t afraid to present big ideas without spoon-feeding them to its audience. Arrival provided all of this, and it’s the one movie of 2016 that I was still thinking and talking about days after I’d seen it. It was sticky in my head. I ate it up with a spoon.
A close runner-up was Sully. I don’t know how much truth is in this “true story” of the commercial pilot who dead-stick landed his plane on the Hudson River with zero fatalities, but it’s a terrific white-knuckle adventure story regardless. Tom Hanks perfectly embodies another real-life captain (after Captain Phillips in Captain Phillips and Captain Lovell in Apollo 13), and Clint Eastwood never disappoints. I loved every frame of Sully.
Another “true story” we saw this year was Snowden. Again, I don’t know just how true it is, and it doesn’t matter. Joseph Gordon-Levitt did his career best in it, conveying all the odd mannerisms and speech patterns of Ed Snowden as well as showing us his inner moral turmoil.
Another year, another brace of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. I really enjoyed Captain America: Civil War. Doctor Strange was time well spent, but it’s heartbreaking to see Rachel McAdams as yet another Oscar-worthy actress relegated to playing “the girlfriend” in a Marvel movie (after Gwyneth Paltrow in the Iron Man films and Natalie Portman in Thor). We need a Marvel super-heroine movie! Or a half-dozen of them!
In a year in which Krysten Ritter killed it on the small screen in Netflix’s Jessica Jones series, is it too much to ask that female-starring super-hero films can become a more regular thing? I don’t think it is. Yeah, I know Captain Marvel is in the works, and that’s great. There still should be a Black Widow movie. And maybe a She-Hulk movie? Wouldn’t that work? I was shocked to discover, today, that the last super-hero movie starring a woman was 2004’s Catwoman with Halle Berry. No one remembers that one fondly, if at all. Maybe when DC’s Wonder Woman breaks the drought this year, we can hope for more female-centered comic book projects.
I saw Zootopia, like everyone else, and thought it was hilarious. I saw Ghostbusters, like many other people, and did not find it hilarious.
The Accountant was fun, but dumb. It had plot holes you could drive an Airstream trailer through, and it pretty much wasted the talents of Anna Kendrick and John Lithgow.
Atlanta-filmed Passengers (which, clearly, wasn’t set in Atlanta) was thought-provoking, as long as you don’t think about it too much. The “what would I do in that situation?” questions can lead to lively conversations, but the “why would a ship with 5,000 souls aboard it only have one autodoc?” questions just frustrated me.
Whit Stillman only comes around every few years. In 2016 he brought Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny with him in Love & Friendship. It’s like every other Whit Stillman movie: if you like this sort of thing (as I do), you’ll like this.
I only made it out for one movie of this year’s Out On Film festival, and that was the documentary The Trans List. Janet Mock interviewed 11 prominent transgender Americans about their lives. I wish she had interviewed fewer people and spent more time with each of them, because I hadn’t heard of several, and their stories of activism and triumph over discrimination were well worth exploring. Stonewall activists, immigrant-rights crusaders, and legal pioneers were among them. Oh, and Mock interviewed Caitlyn Jenner for the film, which is good, because I don’t think Ms. Jenner has gotten much press coverage since she came out and transitioned.
Rounding out the list of 2016 movies we saw in 2016 were Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and La La Land. I liked them both, neither was perfect, and I’ve nothing interesting to say about them.
In addition to feature-length movies, I saw many shorts in 2016. My partner and I always go to Landmark Midtown Cinema to see the Oscar-nominated animated and live-action shorts each winter, to get ready for the Academy Awards. There are always some gems there. Also, she got me the Blu-Ray boxed set of Les Blank’s quirky documentaries for Christmas in 2015. I’ve spent the past year dipping into them whenever I’ve had a few minutes to share. Blank’s movies are a lot like Stillman’s in their idiosyncrasy: If you like them, you’ll like them. Personally, I love them.
Anyway, here’s my full list:
- The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1970). Directed by Les Blank. Documentary. Personally owned Blu-Ray.
- Holiday (1938). Directed by George Cukor. Starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Netflix DVD.
- Nothing (2003). Directed by Vincenzo Natali. Comedy starring David Hewlett and Andrew Miller. Netflix DVD.
- The Last Waltz (1978). Directed by Martin Scorsese. Documentary about and starring The Band. Netflix DVD.
- Smitty (2012), Directed by David M. Evans. Starring Peter Fonda, Mira Sorvino, et al. Netflix DVD.
- Summer of Sam (1999), Directed by Spike Lee. Starring John Leguizamo, Mira Sorvino, Adrien Brody, et al. Netflix DVD.
- Spellbound (1945), Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. Netflix DVD.
- Back In Time (2015). Directed by Jason Aron. Documentary.
- The Music Box (1932), Directed by James Parrott. Short. Starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. YouTube.
- Life Itself. (2014). Directed by Steve James. Documentary. Netflix streaming.
- All The Little Animals (1998). Directed by Jeremy Thomas. Starring Christian Bale and John Hurt. Netflix DVD.
- Lambchops (1929). Directed by Murray Roth. Starring George Burns and Gracie Allen. Short. YouTube.
- Ave Maria (2015). Directed by Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- Shok (2015). Directed by Jamie Donoughue. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- Alles Wird Gut (2015). Directed by Patrick Vollrath. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- Stutterer (2015). Directed by Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- Day One (2015). Directed by Henry Hughes. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- What’s Opera, Doc? (1957). Directed by Chuck Jones. Short. Starring the voice of Mel Blanc. dailymotion.com.
- Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941). Directed by Edward F. Cline. Starring W.C. Fields. YouTube.
- Sanjay’s Super Team (2015). Directed by Sanjay Patel. Short. Starring the voice of Brent Schraff. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- World of Tomorrow (2015). Directed by Don Hertzfeldt. Short. Starring voices of Julia Pott and Winona Mae. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- Bear Story (2014). Directed by Gabriel Osorio Vargas. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- We Can’t Live Without Cosmos (2014). Directed by Konstantin Bronzit. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- If I Was God… (2015). Directed by Cordell Barker. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse (2015). Directed by Camille Chaix, Hugo Jean, et al. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- The Loneliest Stoplight (2015). Directed by Bill Plympton. Short. Starring the voice of Patton Oswalt. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- Catch It (2015). Directed by Paul Bar, Marion Demaret, Nadège Forner Pierre-Baptiste Marty, Julien Robyn, and Jordan Soler. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- Prologue (2015). Directed by Richard Williams. Short. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (1980). Directed by Les Blank. Documentary short. Blu-Ray.
- Like Dandelion Dust (2009). Directed by Jon Gunn. Starring Mira Sorvino, Cole Hauser, and Barry Pepper. Netflix DVD.
- Ex Machina (2015). Directed by Alex Garland. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander. Redbox Blu-Ray.
- Westworld (1973). Directed by Michael Crichton. Starring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, and James Brolin. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- Children of the Century (1999). Directed by Diane Kurys. Starring Juliette Binoche. Netflix DVD.
- Bridge of Spies (2015). Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- Zootopia (2016). Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush. Starring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman. AMC North DeKalb 16.
- The Big Short (2015). Directed by Adam McKay. Starring Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, et al. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Directed by George Miller. Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and Nicholas Hoult. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). Directed by Robert Wise. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, et al. Netflix streaming.
- Brooklyn (2015). Directed by John Crowley. Starring Saoirse Ronan, et al.
- The Grey Zone (2001). Directed by Tim Blake Nelson. Starring David Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, et al. Netflix DVD.
- Cloverfield (2008). Directed by Matt Reeves. Starring T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan, et al. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- Waitress (2007). Directed by Adrienne Shelly. Starring Keri Russell, Adrienne Shelly, and Nathan Fillion. DVD.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). Directed by the Russo Brothers. Starring Chris Evans, et al. Redbox.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Directed by Nicholas Meyer. Starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Netflix streaming.
- Galaxy Quest (1999). Directed by Dean Parisot. Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, et al. Netflix streaming.
- Trainwreck (2015). Directed by Judd Apatow. Starring Amy Schumer and Bill Hader. Redbox Blu-Ray.
- Trading Places (1983). Directed by John Landis. Starring Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- Captain America: Civil War (2016). Directed by Russo Brothers. Starring all the people. AMC North DeKalb 16.
- Creed (2015). Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Redbox Blu-Ray.
- Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009). Directed by Sam Liu. Animated. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984). Directed by Leonard Nimoy. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy. Netflix streaming.
- The Red Shoes (1948). Directed by Powell/Pressburger. Starring Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook. Netflix DVD.
- Independence Day: Resurgence (2016). Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring CGI. AMC North DeKalb 16.
- Love & Friendship (2016). Directed by Whit Stillman. Starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny. Regal Tara Cinema.
- Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013). Directed by Jay Oliva. Animated. Netflix streaming.
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1984). Directed by Leonard Nimoy. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelley, Catherine Hicks, et al. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- Ghostbusters (2016). Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Kristen Wiig et al. AMC North DeKalb 16.
- Men With Guns (1997). Directed by John Sayles. Starring Federico Luppi. Netflix DVD.
- The Dirty Dozen (1967). Directed by Robert Aldrich. Starring Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes, et al. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- The Lobster (2015). Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. Redbox DVD.
- Snowden (2016). Directed by Oliver Stone. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley. AMC North DeKalb 16.
- Sully (2016). Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart. AMC North DeKalb 16.
- The Trans List (2016). Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Documentary. Landmark Midtown Cinema.
- Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring Batfleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance (1968). Directed by Les Blank. Documentary short. Blu-Ray.
- Strange Days (1995). Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett. Netflix DVD.
- Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015). Directed by Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen. Documentary. Netflix streaming.
- Rescue Dawn (2006). Directed by Werner Herzog. Starring Christian Bale. Netflix Blu-Ray.
- The Accountant (2016). Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick. Regal Hollywood 24.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Denholm Elliott. DVD.
- Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987). Directed by John Hughes. Starring Steve Martin and John Candy. Netflix DVD.
- Arrival (2016). Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Starring Amy Adams, Abbott and Costello. AMC North DeKalb 16.
- Doctor Strange (2016). Directed by Scott Derrickson. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch. AMC Sugarloaf 18.
- Secret of the Incas (1954). Directed by Jerry Hopper. Starring Charlton Heston and Thomas Mitchell. YouTube.
- The Sorrow and the Pity (1969). Directed by Marcel Ophüls. Documentary. Netflix DVD (2 discs).
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016). Directed by David Yates. Starring Eddie Redmayne. Regal Hollywood 24.
- Love Actually (2003). Directed by Richard Curtis. Starring all the Brits. Netflix streaming.
- Muppet Christmas Carol (1993). Directed by Brian Henson. Starring Michael Caine, Kermit the Frog. DVD.
- Passengers (2016). Directed by Morten Tyldum. Starring Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence. N. DeKalb 16.
- La La Land (2016). Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Regal Tara Cinema.
- Goodbye, Lenin (2003). Directed by Wolfgang Becker. Netflix DVD.
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