I won’t attempt a “Best Of” list (I’m still catching up on the end-of-year “for your consideration” releases), but would like to point out a few gems you may have missed:
Sing Street – An endearing musical comedy-drama about a boy in 1980s Ireland who starts a rock band to impress a beautiful-but-unapproachable girl. Created by musician-turned-director John Carney, best known for Once (also check out his underrated Begin Again).
The Finest Hours – A flawed but worthy film about the rescue of a crew from a boat torn in half by a devastating nor’easter in 1952 (true story). Beautifully acted by Chris Pine, who plays the quintessential opposite of the cocky Captain Kirk; Ben Foster (who Chris works with again in the acclaimed drama Hell or High Water), and Ben Affleck’s less hunky but equally gifted brother Casey Affleck (who’s finally getting the attention he deserves for Manchester by the Sea).
The Jungle Book – OK, so this was a commercial blockbuster, which may be why it’s being overlooked for nominations (“too commercial”), but it re-shapes the hokey non-golden era Disney animated flick into a beautifully crafted coming-of-age story that even Kipling would have enjoyed! (Pete’s Dragon tried, with less success, to do the same for its uber-corny 1977 predecessor.)
Me Before You – Another flawed but worth-seeing film, mostly due to the lead performance by Emilia Clarke who (like Chris Pine) plays the virtual opposite of the character she’s best known for (regal hottie Daenerys Targarien in Game of Thrones), in this case an adorably selfless geek.
Kubo and the Two Strings – A tie with Zootopia, IMHBCO (In My Humble but Correct Opinion) for best animated film of 2016. Wildly original in both its story and style, this near-masterpiece was created by the indie stop-motion animation company Laika (Coraline, ParaNorman).
Mr. Holmes – Most people missed this little gem (actually released in 2015) starring Ian McKellan, about the aging Sherlock Holmes solving his final—and most personal—mystery. Ergo, I deduce that you will need tissues.
Arrival – Possibly the least-seen big movie of 2016, Arrival may also be the least understood: it has special effects, but it’s not really a “special effects movie;” it has aliens, but it’s not really a “sci-fi thriller.” What it is is a thinking movie, an exploration of our role in the space-time continuum (like 2001: A Space Odyssey, only even think-ier) and the way in which our understanding of reality can emotionally destroy or heal us (unlike Mr. Kubrick’s head-trippily Brechtian Odyssey). Yes, an intellectual hankie movie.
Thirteen (television) – This British mini-series tracks the emotionally wrenching aftermath of a young woman’s escape from her abductor after 13 years. It’s the best written, best directed, and best acted television production of 2016 (IMHBCO).
Honorable Mention: Orphan Black – This Canadian send-in-the-clones series is starting to re-find it’s legs after a terrific first season, solid second season, and wandering third. It has one of the best acting ensembles on television, led by the brilliant Tatiana Maslany, the Meryl Streep of the Millennial generation!