David’s Top Ten Films Of 2016


Posted January 13, 2017 by

Yeah, I know, this is extremely late at this point. The hangover from last year has finally run its course, it’s 17 degrees here in Oregon right now, my wallet has just realized we’re halfway through January already, and I’m trying to preoccupy my mind by writing this whole thing out. The one good thing about 2016 is a lot of great movies came out so whittling down my list to my favorite ten was extremely difficult, but I did it. Because I care. About you. And about movies. So let’s get to it, shall we?


#10. Demolition

In Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Demolition”, Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a successful investment banker who has just lost his wife, and his passion for everything his life has become. Struggling with being reminded of her every day by working for her father, Davis begins a relationship with a young woman named Karen (Naomi Watts) and a friendship with her young son Chris (Judah Lewis) after Karen responds to a letter Davis wrote about one of her company’s broken vending machines. Not just about the physical act of demolishing things that represent a difficult past, “Demolition” is also about starting a new life when the old one loses its appeal, finding the ability to be happy again, and doing both when its frowned upon or not understood by those around you. A powerful drama with superb acting, “Demolition” is a movie everyone should check out.



#9. Hail, Caesar!

What would a top ten list be without the Coen Brothers making an appearance? Incomplete. That’s what it would be. Once again, the Coen Brothers bring together an all-star cast portraying slightly exaggerated characters that feel just odd enough to actually exist. The central character in this one is Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a “Hollywood fixer” that has a full plate of celebrity scandals to either cover up or solve. A Hollywood actress is pregnant, an actor has been kidnapped, and twin sister reporters (both played by Tilda Swinton) are beating down his door to get the truth. Not only are multiple storylines going on simultaneously in this one, but the Coen Brothers also mix in multiple genres to tell their story and do so with a level of expertise they’ve become known for. Where else are you going to get a comedy, a western, a musical, and an espionage film all rolled into one? While it’s not my favorite of their films (The Big Lebowski is going to be pretty hard to top) it still fits perfectly on the impressive resume these brothers have created.



#8. Swiss Army Man

Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Swiss Army Man” that almost can’t be described. So, ya know what? I’m not even going to try. It’s hilarious, odd, completely out of the box and a film you have to see to believe. Just know that this movie should be at the top of your “must watch” list if you haven’t been fortunate enough to do so already. I guess I can leave you with this: Daniel Radcliffe plays a farting corpse. Good luck.



#7. Hell Or High Water

From the mind of Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, writer) comes “Hell Or High Water”, an instant classic that seemed to be loved by critics and missed by audiences. When the world you live in keeps beating you down, it’s only a matter of time before you take things into your own hands and fight back. That’s exactly what brothers Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) decide to do. Robbing banks to save their family farm, the Howard brothers are being closely followed by deputies Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham); ultimately leading up to a showdown that can’t be avoided. Brilliant acting accompanied by a strong script, “Hell Or High Water” is beautiful in its depiction of civil decay as well as what the American dream has turned into for a lot of people.



#6. The Nice Guys

Writer Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) knows a thing or two about writing buddy cop/detective movies and “The Nice Guys” is another strong showing. Action, comedy, mystery, and likable characters no matter how villainous they’re supposed to be, this movie has it all. Black has found the perfect recipe for creating interesting movies and it’s to the point where no matter what he comes out with, I’m sure to love. A missing girl, a dead porn star, alcohol, and broken limbs, “The Nice Guys” is sure to entertain even the most casual of moviegoers. Also, how can you not find Ryan Gosling’s screaming hilarious?



#5. The Lobster

In the dystopian future “The Lobster” is set in, people are taken to a hotel where they have 45 days to find love or they are turned into an animal of their choosing and released into the wild. Yorgos Lanthimos’s existential tale is half set in a fantasy world and half in a terrifying future that could possibly take place (not the turning into an animal I don’t think). Colin Farrell plays David – a man that is as uninterested in the process as everyone else is enthused with it. Still going through the motions, David tries to fall in love but fails miserably until he turns against the system. A fantasy/comedy that is so odd its endearing, “The Lobster” is a great film that I haven’t stopped thinking of since I first viewed it. The film is told in two separate halves that both compliment the other and tell a complete story that is original and fantastic.



#4. The Witch

Oh man. Alright. Let’s just jump right into this. Critics loved this film while most moviegoers had multiple complaints about it. What I think is a brilliant psychological thriller, others hated because they wanted it to be a conventional horror film filled with jump scares and bloody images (they seem to keep forgetting that a witch mashes up a baby in a bowl and bathes in its blood). I can’t completely blame audiences for their dislike of this film seeing as how it was advertised as the scariest movie ever. That kind of praise sets expectations high whether founded or not. “The Witch” wasn’t trying to give you cheap scares, however, but more to settle into your being and creep you out for a long time afterwards. I have much respect for writer/director Robert Eggers: for the way he had things in the film that explained a lot of what was going on but weren’t actually talked about, to the way they built the sets using the tools and materials that would have been available to a family like this in the 1600’s. People also complained about the language used, but once again Eggers went for authenticity; taking the dialogue straight from journals and writings from the time period. Didn’t think “The Witch” should have been classified as a horror film? I tend to disagree but I can see where you’re coming from. Don’t think “The Witch” is brilliant filmmaking and storytelling? We can’t be friends. The true horror in this film lies within the family’s blind faith and religion dictating everything they do; even if that means carrying out their own demise.



#3. Carnage Park

Another horror film comes close to topping my list of best movies of 2016, and writer/director Mickey Keating is the best and most talented voice, in my humble opinion, within the horror genre. “Carnage Park” is a brilliant grindhouse flick that mashes together two genres and is a fun thriller that shows off the talents of its lead actress, Ashley Bell, and its main antagonist played by Pat Healy. A young woman, Vivian, gets caught up in a heist gone wrong, is taken captive, and finds herself on a large piece of land owned by local psychopath Wyatt Moss. Where others have come and never left, Vivian is determined to make it out of his playground of terror; coming across those who aren’t as fortunate along the way. Carnage Park is currently streaming on Netflix and you have no excuse to not check it out as soon as tonight. If you like this film, you should check out his others, “Darling” and “Pod“. You will come to find out that Keating is determined to tackle every sub-genre of the horror category and become the master of each.



#2. Nocturnal Animals

A film that was one of my more recent reviews here on The Film Philosopher, “Nocturnal Animals” is a movie that I haven’t stopped thinking about or recommending to everyone I’ve come across. It’s also the second Jake Gyllenhaal film on this list, which says plenty about how I feel about his acting skills. The person I was most impressed with in this movie, however, was Aaron Taylor-Johnson. He turns in the most inspired performance of the year that could have easily been overshadowed by the likes of Amy Adams and Gyllenhaal but he takes over this film and turns in an inspired performance that should garner plenty of nominations. Despite being a heavy drama, “Nocturnal Animals” is a fantastic watch and a film I highly recommend you see.




#1. Green Room

Jeremy Saulnier is one of my favorite writers/directors. After watching his film “Blue Ruin” and falling madly in love with it, I went back and enjoyed his satirical comedy “Murder Party”, and now his most recent film “Green Room” tops my list of best movies of the past year. Punk rock kids go to a compound in Oregon to play a show for a bunch of neo-nazis, get caught up in witnessing a murder, and must do everything they can to escape with their lives. Twenty minutes into this film, Saulnier is done setting up the story and launches the viewer into all-out mayhem. One of young actor Anton Yelchin’s last roles, “Green Room” is an inspired piece that is as chaotic and enjoyable as the music the fictional band plays. Blood-thirsty dogs, arms getting sawed, people getting shotgunned in the face, and gunshots galore, this film amps up the action and is easily my favorite films of 2016.




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