Top 15 Films Of 2016 – Allen’s Picks
15) The Nice Guys
The funniest comedy of the year, The Nice Guys contains everything you’d come to expect from a Shane Black film: two opposing characters clashing with each other, sharp dialogue, a mysterious crime, and Christmas. But despite the familiarity, Black’s main accomplishment is in making everything feel fresh, new, and inspired. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling pair up as two bumbling private eyes knee deep in a case involving dead porn stars, gangsters, and the Detroit auto industry, all set in 1970s Los Angeles. This was a joy ride from beginning to end, with Black’s writing constantly setting us up for a laugh and then paying off with optimal effect. There’s a reason he was once the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood, and it shows again here.
14) Don’t Breathe
The technical skill of Don’t Breathe is so refined that it should be studied for all those interested in horror. What co-writer/director Fede Alvarez does so well is how he shows you what’s coming. Where lesser filmmakers rely too heavily on surprises, Alvarez puts all his cards on the table. He shows you his hand, literally pointing the camera at a clue or hint that will play a major factor later on. But it doesn’t matter, because the way he manipulates the suspense and then twists it to the point of breaking is masterful. It also helps that he has Stephen Lang by his side to play one of the best horror villains we’ve seen in years. Lang’s killer is a constant threat, using his home as a kind of dungeon of doom. Never mind his blindness – he treats it not as a hindrance but as an advantage. For a low down, grimy, edge of your seat chiller, you won’t find much better than this.
Combining animation, archival footage, and real life testimony, Keith Maitland has done something special with Tower. Narrated by key eye witnesses, the documentary traces the tragic events of August 1st, 1966, when a lone gunman opened fire from the top of the University of Texas clock tower, killing sixteen people and wounding many others. But instead of being a grim, depressing experience, I found myself uplifted by the people involved with this story. Maitland made the right decision in not focusing on the gunman. Instead, he places the spotlight on the students, adults, and first responders who all played a role in helping the remaining survivors get to safety. It’s an overwhelming display of humanity, seeing these people who stepped in harm’s way to save complete strangers. In telling their stories, Maitland has found strength in a moment of sadness, goodness in something so evil. He’s taken a piece of history and made it relevant for today.
12) The Witch
If Don’t Breathe places the horror on an external level, The Witch drives it internally. It injects the dread deep within our bones, unnerving us psychologically. First time writer/director Robert Eggers isn’t so much interested in making us jump out of our seats, but on disturbing us with a tale of a family torn to shreds by witchcraft and black magic. Set in 17th century New England, the plot casually introduces paranoia and fear into a deeply religious family, causing them to doubt one another in increasingly troubling ways. The cast is terrific – Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, and Lucas Dawson all handle the dialogue perfectly, and the progression of each of their characters feels believable. Not to be outdone, we also get a terrifying performance from Black Phillip, a goat that has more going on than most movie villains. For those not interested in cheap scares, The Witch is a must see.
11) The Lobster
I’ll admit to you: I was not as enamored with Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth (2009) as many others were. It was with that feeling that I walked into The Lobster with a guarded sense of caution. But what I found with Lanthimos’ latest work is an engrossing, odd, and hilarious examination of love unlike anything we’ve seen before. This is a sci-fi romantic story that Ray Bradbury would’ve had a hoot with. How do we define love? How do we search for it, find it, and keep it? In an age where technology and social media has all but destroyed what it means to be “intimate,” social expectations are rearranging at a rate many have trouble keeping up with. That’s exactly what happens to the main protagonist here. Colin Farrell continues to carve an impressive career of quirky and diverse characters as David, a man who enters a program in which he is required to find a partner in forty-five days or risk being transformed into a wild animal of his choosing. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, I don’t know what will.