Michael’s Top 10 Films of 2016
Reviewed By: Michael Melton
We all know that 2016 was a rough year. It wasn’t all bad though. 2016 was another fantastic year for film going. That was especially true in the indie film world, where some of the better movies in recent memory saved the year and our sanity. Everyone has one of these lists, and many of them look the same. Hopefully I can throw in a few surprises that you aren’t expecting. Here are my personal top 10 movies of 2016: (Note – I have not seen many movies that I wanted to see including but not limited to “Nocturnal Animals”, “The Love Witch”, “THE Fits”, and “The Lobster”.)
10) “Kubo and the Two Strings”
I have a huge love of all films Laika. Specifically, “Coraline” (2009) and “ParaNorman” (2012) which both made my list the years they were released. “Kubo” is right there with them, and may have been the most touching film of the year. In true Laika fashion, it is filled with deep characters, beautiful animation, and a lot of heart. For anyone who has ever lost a loved one, “Kubo” is sure to tug at your heart strings. It is filled with love, loss, and bravery and is easily my favorite animated film of the year.
9) “Harvest Lake”
2016 marked another strong year for indie horror. Everyone knows about the acclaim received by films like “The Witch” and “Don’t Breathe”. Dig a little deeper though, and you will find a treasure trove of other excellent horror flicks that use imagination, interesting characters, and… well a lot of sexy actors to create high quality terror. Two of the emerging creative voices in indie horror are Scott Schirmer and Brian K Williams. The fantastic duo hit two home runs this year, with “Harvest Lake” and a film that narrowly missed this list “Plankface”. “Harvest Lake” is something completely different than Schrimer’s breakout 2012 film “Found”. It is a sexual psycho-drama that uses the familiar “Cabin in the woods” setup and then goes off into a dark, sensual version of Wonderland. Add in the fact that it’s cast features Ellie Church and Tristan Risk, and you know you are in for a good time!
8) “Hell or High Water”
The gun-toting cowboy still exists, in David Mackenzie’s “Hell or High Water”. David was not as impressed with this movie as I was, but I found it incredible. Perfect casting, perfect pacing, and bursts of violent action made this one of the more entertaining things I saw in the theater all year. Is it bleak? Sure, but it is also a great heist movie told through a brilliant story.
7) “The Handmaiden”
A magnificent period piece that blends horror, drama, and dark humor. Park Chan-Wook’s “The Handmaiden” might actually be the best movie of 2016. For me, it came in at number seven, but damn did I enjoy it! Beautiful on every level, but also sadistic and armed with a perfect twist, “The Handmaiden” needs to be seen by everyone with a pulse.
6) “Under the Shadow”
Set in 1980s Iran, with the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war, “Under the Shadow” flew more under the radar than it should have. Many critics and review writers called it an “Iranian Babadook”, but that discounts how good of a supernatural thriller it really is. Director Babak Anvari weaves the tale of a mother and her child being terrorized, by both the supernatural entity in their home and the political and social chaos happening in the city outside.
I chuckled when David told me I HAD to watch this documentary, about competitive tickling competitions. I mean I will be the first to admit that documentaries can be transfixing, no matter the subject (see “Man on Wire”), but tickling? Yeah… it is one of the more insane, horrifying, and unsettling things my eyes have ever watched. If you haven’t seen it, and you are a very, very brave soul, you should definitely watch “Tickled” as soon as possible.
4) “Always Shine”
I went in to watching Sophia Takal’s “Always Shine” knowing nothing about it, and came out praising it as one of the best indie films of the year. It is a scathing commentary on the rampant sexism, that devours many young women in the male-dominated film industry. Oh… it’s also a damn fine psychological thriller about jealousy tearing two friends apart and driving them to violent madness.
Wow Mickey Keating had a good 2016! After bursting onto the indie horror scene with “Pod”, in 2015, Keating upped his game and made to masterpieces of the genre in “Carnage Park” and “Darling”. The latter features a brilliant performance by Lauren Ashley Carter as a young woman growing increasingly paranoid and desperate, while isolated in a creaky, old house. But, is evil lurking in one of the house’s many rooms? Or is Darling just losing her grip on reality?
“The Witch” was probably the most polarizing film of 2016. Many loved it, many hated it, and few had an opinion somewhere in between. I was one of the group that thought it was a masterpiece. Every aspect of this film had my jaw dropping, from the wardrobe, to the hauntingly eerie setting, to Black Phillip’s creepy gaze. I know that for every “Top 10” list it makes there will be someone decrying it as over-hyped and boring, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
And, then there was one… I enjoyed many of the movies I saw in 2016, but none so much as Jeremy Saulnier’s masterful thriller “Green Room”. The film features wonderful performances from Patrick Stewart and Anton Yelchin (RIP), and pulls no punches when it comes to violence or intense situations. I didn’t think there was any way Saulnier could follow up “Blue Ruin” with something equal to or greater than, but he did it! A brilliant film from an extremely talented director.