BEST OF 2016: Top 10 Films of the Year and Personal Ballot Winners

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The “Best of 2016” series, or rather, Best of ANY YEAR series is always a privilege to partake.  As an avid lover of film, I spend so much of my year just watching movie after movie, many of which I don’t do a “formal” review, and am always eager to discharge some of those feelings that have bottled up for the better part of 12 months.

If you missed any part of the series, there are links to each of the pieces down below for your convenience.  Next week, we turn the tables to you, the readers.  Beginning Monday, we’re opening up the FYC consideration period for the upcoming 2016 Awards Circuit Community Awards (or better dubbed “ACCA”).  We will be collecting FYC images, sent in by the readers and sharing them on the site and social media accounts for the entire week, each day.  Then on Monday, Jan. 16, the ACCA voting period for nominations will open.  Details about which categories will be available are here.

Honestly, the ACCA voting time is probably may favorite part of Awards Circuit.  It allows the community to engage in a way they don’t normally do throughout the year.  It also provides an opportunity for us to champion smaller films and performances from throughout the year.  Understanding that there are over 500,000 (and climbing rapidly) readers and a large group like that tends to yield a consensus, we still have seen some eclectic choices along the way.

I’m looking forward to another great year from the ACCA community.

With all that said, I’m moving on to my Top 10 Films of 2016.  It’s interesting how this year, more than any year, there were films that seemed like sure-fire staples in this column but in the end, we’re set aside for something that I felt more passionate about.

I’ve given some of those films shoutouts already in the “Personal Ballot of the Year” (“Captain Fantastic,” “Lion,” “Other People,” “Nocturnal Animals,” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”).  I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to mention “Gleason” from Clay Tweel or “Eye in the Sky” from Gavin Hood, both surprisingly moving in their own ways.  Two animated films were in the running for my top 10 and they weren’t the “conventional” ones that we tend to look for.  I was just as shocked that “The Red Turtle” and “My Life as a Zucchini” resonated the way they did, and it was disheartening to omit them both from the list.

Giving one last “Honorable Mention” shout out, I just adored and accepted everything that Jon Faverau was selling with his masterfully made “The Jungle Book.” It’s an achievement that I hope more filmmakers will take queues from when adapting a beloved story such as this.

Without further ado, I move into my Top 10 Films of 2016 (in order):

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2016

10. “20th Century Women” (A24)

dir. Mike Mills

There’s an electricity that shoots out from the first frame of Mike Mills’ deeply personal portrait of an unconventional family in the late 1970’s.  Some easy comparisons can be made to such classics as “Almost Famous,” but Mills constructs an outstanding cast of players, and even more profoundly moving crafts team to paint the picture of youth, wisdom, and love, all against the backdrop of an ingenious script.  The performances are astounding particularly the treasure that is Annette Bening and the effervescent Greta Gerwig in her career best turn.

Excerpt from the New York Film Festival review:

Clever and beautifully endearing, Mike Mills‘ beautiful portrait of five people in the late 1970s is one of the year’s most glamorous efforts. Vaunting an exceptional ensemble, Mills’ wistful and ingenious script stands tall above the competition. Sweet-minded and shimmering in its comedic beats and even more irresistible in its dive into the dramatic elements, “20th Century Women” is one the year’s most pleasant surprises.

9. “Miss Sloane” (EuropaCorp)

dir. John Madden

It took two watches to settle in on how damn explosive and bone chilling John Madden’s taut political thriller really is.  Boasting career best work from Jessica Chastain, the film is littered with meaningful and audacious performances particularly Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sam Waterston, and Michael Stuhlbarg.  Jonathan Perera’s script boils to the brim, never going over in its exposition in the gun lobby and what a corrupt system we have in place.  Just a timely piece in our climate.

Excerpt from the AFI Film Fest review:

In a time of fiery debate, just following a tumultuous election year, nothing is as timely or educational as John Madden‘s politically charged “Miss Sloane.” Constructed by a crackling script by Jonathan Perera, in his boisterous debut, the film is rich in words and helmed by an enigmatic turn by Jessica Chastain. Emulating a second coming of Aaron Sorkin in his prime, Perera, in partnership with Madden’s distinct vision, creates an orchestra of dialogue and story, all leading to a genuinely surprising finale.