Art and Experience: Every year, IndieWire looks beyond the countless top 10 lists written by critics to widen the field. We turn to friends and colleagues in the independent film community — programmers, distributors, publicists and others — to give them the opportunity to share their favorite films and other media from the past 12 months. We also invited them to share their resolutions and anticipated events for 2017.
Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director, Toronto International Film Festival
I’m limiting my list to films that had US and Canadian theatrical releases in 2016. I saw far more than 10 this year that I liked, but if I have to be brutal, I’ll limit it to the films that lifted me.
3. “Toni Erdmann”
4. “Cemetery of Splendor”
8. “American Honey”
9. “Things to Come”
Michael Barker, Co-President, Sony Pictures Classics
“Now is the winter of our discontent.” (“Richard III”: Act 1, Scene 1)
A few weeks ago my 29 year old daughter calls me. “Dad, he’s picking his cabinet and his tweet says, ‘Only I know the finalists.’ How do I deal with this, Dad?” “Well, Callie, put a copy of that great 1975 documentary ‘Network’ under one arm and the complete box set of ‘The Apprentice’ under your other arm and that’s what we’re dealing with.” “But Dad!” “I know, Cals, I know.”
Geesh, and here I thought last year was rough. We really are on the edge of a precipice, aren’t we?
Per usual, no Sony Pictures Classics titles are included. EXCEPT I do want to mention, in a year in which women have been especially inexplicably maligned, a deep appreciation to Pedro Almodovar and Alice Munro, Maren Ade (!), Rebecca Miller, Isabelle Huppert, Susan Sarandon and Lorene Scafaria, Margo Martindale, Meera Menon, and the young eagle huntress Ashiolpan, amongst others, for standing tall in 2016.
In a year of disenchantment, we find hope in our artists.
1. “O.J.: Made in America”
Works on all levels, as a thrilling narrative drama and as a detailed impeccably researched dissection of truth. At the end of the seven and a half hours (I have seen it three times), it says look in the mirror and admit to yourself WE created this guy.
2. “The Night Of”
Perfection. Richard Price’s complex human drama(created with Steve Zaillian) and the realities of New York justice. John Turturro inhabits every frame of this miniseries the way Brando did in “The Godfather,” while still leaving room for the incredible Jeannie Berlin, Bill Camp, Peyman Moaadi (from “A Separation”), Riz Ahmed, and Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar from “The Wire” is back!). And then there’s the cat! That cat is our only hope.
The freshest and best TV series going. The charisma and intelligent acting chops of Donald Glover (creator and writer) and Brian Tyree Henry knock it out of the park (as does the rest of the cast). There’s a complete world here, edgy, full of character, dramatic in-your-face social issues and funny as hell. Binge watch this sucker.
It’s everything you’ve heard and more. Impossible to describe the power of the last 30 minutes, the most moving piece of film in 2016. Writer-director Barry Jenkins and his awesome ensemble cast amaze.
5. “I Am Not Your Negro”
James Baldwin and Raoul Peck, a perfect match for this superlative piece of social commentary.
August Wilson has finally gloriously arrived on the big screen. The cast is superb. The poetic language rivals Shakespeare in its musicality. I turned the picture off my screener (on my third viewing) and for over two hours I listened to the finest piece of music in 2016.
7. “Roads to Home” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Who would have thought Horton Foote and Eugene O’Neill would be the go-to guys in 2016. “The Roads to Home” production at the Cherry Lane Theater directed by Michael Wilson interpreted by Hallie Foote and an exceptional cast gave us a play as rich as “The Glass Menagerie” in poetic vision and as modern as Pirandello. In “Long Day’s Journey,” Jamie Tyrone and Mary Tyrone are the most difficult roles to play in American theater history. If you were one of the fortunate to see Michael Shannon and Jessica Lange play them on Broadway you will remember it forever.
A stunning movie. Part Victor Hugo, part Borges, part early 70’s Bertolucci, all Pablo Larraín. I propose a 24-hour binge watch of the work of Gael Garcia Bernal, clearly one of the finest actors of his generation in the world.
9. “La La Land”
The first two-thirds of this movie is very good. Then it goes into the stratosphere of greatness. Only in a movie musical can we reach a state of pure happiness that real life can never provide. Damien, I love Minnelli nd Demy a bit more than you, but, man, you’re close.
10. “Manchester by the Sea”
A rare film. Tragedy on an epic scale made sad, suspenseful and laced with humor by Kenneth Lonergan. All made human by yet another perfect cast.
11. Performances of the Year
On stage: Ben Platt in “Dear Evan Hansen”
Superhuman stage performance in the once in a lifetime category. The musical is sublime as well.
On film: Issei Ogata in “Silence”
Ok, Marty, where did you find this guy? This performance is spoken in a few languages (wait until you hear his English intonations). There is a scene where, as the Inquisitor, he physically sinks into himself a la the Wicked Witch melting in The Wizard of Oz. We’re talking Ralph Richardson crazy good here.
12. “Little Men” and “From Afar”
Two movies that deserved greater success. Ira Sachs and Lorenzo Vigas are masters at telling psychological stories visually. No one moves us like Ira Sachs. And Lorenzo Vigas has us on the edge of our seats speculating what is going on in the minds of an older enigmatic man and a young street walker.
Andy Bohn, The Film Arcade
I’m excluding 2016 films I was involved with and there are a handful of films (e.g. “O.J.: Made in America,” “Toni Erdmann,” “Tower,” “20th Century Women,” “I Am Not Your Negro” and “I, Daniel Blake”) I haven’t seen yet that might have made my list.
In addition to how these films inspired me, I’ve included an insightful review for each. Thoughtful criticism is essential for independent film and should be championed as often as possible. Moreover, I have been reflecting on Owen Gleiberman’s 2016 book, “Movie Freak,” and how corporate agendas and groupthink endanger his profession. Criticism excels when diverse opinions can flourish, so along with personal goal below, my hope is film lovers read a vast array of film critics in 2017.
My Favorite Film of 2016
“La La Land” by Damien Chazelle
A love letter to my adopted hometown, the dreamers who energize it and the Vicente Minnelli musicals that were produced on its sound stages. We may be living in a golden age of television, but “La La Land” is a reminder that movies, when executed at their highest level, are magical and moving beyond compare. Review from Anthony Lane at The New Yorker.
The Rest of My Favorites in Alphabetical Order
“Arrival” by Denis Villeneuve
Brilliant manipulation of storytelling convention to deliver a jaw-dropping finale. I may have preferred a version without the looming military confrontation tacked-on, but the storylines and themes from Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” were the most thought-provoking and emotional moments I experienced in a theater this year. Review by Christopher Orr at The Atlantic.
“A Bigger Splash” by Luca Guadagnino
Virtuoso, balancing, performances from Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes in the most seductive film of the year. And yet underneath the charismatic characters, exotic locale and indulgent behavior is a morality play with an alluring amount of jealousy, manipulation and ambiguity. Review from David Ehrlich at IndieWire.
“The Handmaiden” by Park Chan-wook
Is there another film in 2016 so unique to its filmmaker that it couldn’t have been directed by anyone else? Review by Manohla Dargis at The New York Times.
“Hell or High Water” by David Mackenzie
With an expanse that often signifies endless possibilities, these West Texas plains feel more like a bottomless pit that you can’t dig your way out of. A thrilling Western with sharp dialogue, “Hell or High Water” would stand-out in any year, but by capturing post-recession disenfranchisement it will have additional staying power.Review by Owen Gleiberman at Variety.
“Manchester by the Sea” by Kenneth Lonergan
There is no better example of how parenthood has deepened my connection to certain films. I cannot imagine anyone not moved to tears during the Casey Affleck/Michelle Williams confrontation scene. Review by Kenneth Turan at The Los Angeles Times.
“Moonlight” by Barry Jenkins
Hope fighting its way through heartbreak. Deserving praise abounds for this groundbreaking film and I was particularly moved by Ashton Sanders’ devastating portrayal of Chiron’s pain and yearning in Act II. Review from A.O. Scott at The New York Times.
“Sing Street” by John Carney
Love Conquers All. A direct hit to my Achilles’ heels of romanticism and nostalgia. Add 80’s Brit pop, a John Hughes coming-of-age sensibility and John Carney’s heartfelt portrait of siblings and it would have been virtually impossible for me not to love this film. Review by Michael Roffman at Consequence of Sound.
“Weiner” by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg
Ego, betrayal and modern media’s shortsighted and insatiable appetite for scandal over substance are on full display in this wild political ride. The thematic and actual intersections with the 2016 presidential campaign make “Weiner” one for the ages. Review from Eric Kohn at IndieWire.
Honorable Mentions in Alphabetical Order
“Author: The JT LeRoy Story” by Jeff Feuerzeig
“City of Gold” by Laura Gabbert
“De Palma” by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow
“Fences” by Denzel Washington
“Green Room” by Jeremy Saulnier
“Hail, Caesar!” by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“Jackie” by Pablo Larrain
“Loving” by Jeff Nichols
“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone
“Sausage Party” by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
“Things to Come” by Mia Hansen-Love
“The Witch” by Robert Eggers
“The Witness” by James Solomon
“Zootopia” by Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Work highlight of 2016: Trying to keep-up with the hardest working man in show business, Mike Birbiglia, during our release of his wonderful film, “Don’t Think Twice.” The non-stop Q&aAs opening weekend at the Sunshine were electric.
Work-related resolution for 2017: Knock another 100 films off my “still need to see” list.
Beth Barrett, Seattle International Film Festival
In no order, here are 10 works that really affected me in 2016.
“Tower”: not just an intimate telling of a crucial piece of our history, but a forceful reminder of how little has changed around our gun laws
“La La Land”: masterpiece of a musical love story
“Stranger Things”: the pitch-perfect sets, music, feeling — everything about this binge-worthy series is so right
“Captain Fantastic”: featuring the beautiful NW as a character, Viggo Mortensen is stunningly complex
“Moonlight”: scenes so powerful they took my breathe away
“Tickled”: with every turn, more and more fascinatingly disturbing
“Kedi”: the cats of Istanbul have something to say about our humanity
Two deeply thoughtful sci-fi films — “Midnight Special” and “Arrival” — perhaps reflecting our times?
“The Handmaiden”: a wild erotic romp in the world of Park Chan-wook
Every year I resolve to see more, champion more unknowns, and challenge myself more. Going into 2017, I resolve to make sure that the stories of the world keep getting seen.
Frederic Boyer, Artistic Director, Tribeca Film Festival
“Things to Come”
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“O.J.: Made in America”
Dan Braun, Co-President, Submarine Entertainment
1. “Oasis: Supersonic”
3. “Gimme Danger”
4. “The Green Room”
5. “The Witch”
6. “Hail, Caesar!”
7. “Landfill Harmonic”
8. “Midnight Special”
9. “Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art”
10. “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (or probably “Doctor Strange,” had I seen it)
Josh Braun, Co-President, Submarine Entertainment
Here is my top ten list of films I re-watched and loved all over again (and reminded me how great and diverse and exciting cinema can be):
“Zodiac” (director’s cut)
“Andy Warhol’s BAD”
“The Honeymoon Killers”
“Room at the Top”
“Bigger Than Life”
“Assault on Precinct 13”
Brian Brooks, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Deadline, SeriesFest (and former Managing Editor of IndieWire)
1. “I, Daniel Blake”
3. “Manchester by the Sea”
4. “I Am Not Your Negro”
5. “20th Century Women”
10. “Finding Dory”
My resolution: After many years on the journalism/event producing side of things, I’d like to also pursue something more directly on the creative side (though I will continue to do what I do).
Jeff Deutchman, Programmer-at-Large, Tribeca Film Festival
2016 was a horrible year. Movies were the only good part…
“Horace & Pete”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“20th Century Women”
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Everybody Wants Some!!”
“Hell or High Water”
“I, Daniel Blake”
“My Golden Days”
“O.J.: Made in America”
Matt Grady, President, Factory 25
2016 was a great year for unique unconventional stories in film and it looks like it’s going to continue into 2017…I broke down my favorites into two lists and a stand alone film event that doesn’t fit on either. The first is the list that plays by the same rules as the critics had to on their year end lists and only has films that have been released in theaters for a week and the other list are some of my favorite films that I saw at festivals or that were distributed digitally that didn’t end up with a theatrical run.
Top films of 2016 (films with theatrical runs):
1. “Uncle Kent 2” by Todd Rohal
Factory 25 released it, but there is no film that exists that I have liked more in the past few years. It is the only film that I’ve seen twice at the same festival and I still play it in my office when I’m working sometimes because it makes me happy.
2. “Lace Crater” by Harrison Atkins
A pretty insane and original premise that totally works. It’s my favorite film by far this year that isn’t “Uncle Kent 2.”
3. “Little Sister” by Zach Clark
Goth. Great Cast. Gwar.
4. “The Love Witch” by Anna Biller
Anna Biller’s unique vision of the a world in technicolor on 35mm was a thrill to watch on the big screen.
5. “Slash” by Clay Liford
6. “Pete’s Dragon” by David Lowery
I haven’t cried as much at a film since Bjork died in “Dancer in the Dark.” Lowery really made an amazing film that didn’t talk down to kids and that parents can enjoy.
7. “Breaking A Monster” by Luke Meyer
8. “Goodnight Brooklyn” by Matt Conboy
No Rules (films that I’ve seen at festivals that are likely coming out in 2017 and/or did not get a theatrical release):
1. “Actor Martinez” by Nathan Silver and Mike Ott
2. “Donald Cried” by Kris Avedisian
3. “The Arbalest” by Adam Pinney
The discovery in the third act blew my mind.
4. “Fraud” by Dean Fleischer-Camp
5. “Dark Night” by Tim Sutton
6. “Contemporary Color” by The Ross Brothers
Best music performance since D.A. Pennebaker’s “Depeche Mode: 101”
7. “In the Treetops” by Matthew Brown
An amazing first feature that was criminally ignored. I was excited that Rooftop Films played it in NYC.
Best interactive film experience:
“Check Surrounding for Safety” by Michael Arcos/Sex Lab Inc.
Michael Arcos immersive film/performance experience is more exciting than any VR I’ve experienced as it is less virtual and more reality. The film toured festivals this year and I hope it continues to build a following as I want to see Arcos take what he’s started to an even higher level.
What I want to see more of in 2017:
Over the next couple years, I really want to see a new generation of punk films. It’s time. Over the last couple years we had “We Are Best” and “Green Room” but we need more, many more…I want to see a new wave of films w/the same attitude and heart as “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains,” “Repo-Man,” “Breaking Glass,” “La Brune Et Moi,” “Blank Generation,” “Dudes,” “Half-Cocked” or even “Hard Core Logo.”
What I’m excited for in 2017:
2017 is already looks like it’s going to be an exciting year for indie film. Here are some of the films that I’m looking forward to seeing: “Person to Person” by Dustin Guy Defa, “Golden Exits” by Alex Ross Perry, “Beach Rats” by Eliza Hitman, “Good Time” by Ben and Josh Safdie, “Jobe’z World” by Michael Bilandic and Nathan Silver’s “Thirst Street.”
Season 2 of Caveh Zahedi’s “The Show About The Show.” There isn’t a series that I look forward to more. I refused to watch series for years, believing that episodic and web based series were hurting indie film by taking feature filmmakers and production resources away from low budget cinema… I’ve come around a bit with the brilliance of Zahedi’s “The Show About The Show.”
“Snowy Bing Bongs” film based on the Cocoon Central Dance Team’s live show directed by Rachel Wolther and Alex Huston Fischer starring Eleanore Pienta, Tallie Medel and Sunita Mani. The live show was the best live performance I’ve experienced in NYC in years and the film version, shot by Ashley Connor and directed by Wolther and Fischer, should be nothing less then amazing.
Carlos A. Guiérrez, Co-Founding Director, Cinema Tropical
Some of my ten favorite Latin American films of the year, (some of those premiered in festivals in 2015, but were released this year in the U.S.).
In alphabetical order:
1. “The Apostate / El apóstata” (Federico Veiroj, Uruguay/Spain)*
An engrossing deadpan existentialist comedy reminiscent of Buñuel and Rohmer about a man who decides to abandon Catholicism.
2. “Aquarius” (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil)
With only two feature films, Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho has become one of the leading filmmakers of his generation. “Aquarius” proves also to be an excellent vehicle for the amazing Sonia Braga in her first Brazilian film in 20 years.
3. “Bleak Street / La calle de la amargura” (Arturo Ripstein, Mexico)*
Mexican veteran director Arturo Ripstein is back in shape with this odd tale—based on the real case—of two twin dwarf lucha libre wrestlers who were accidentally killed by two prostitutes in a mugging attempt.
4. “El Movimiento” (Benjamín Naishtat, Argentina)
A low budget but nonetheless epic film that is a potent and timely meditation on power and violence.
5. “Everything Else / Todo lo demás” (Natalia Almada, Mexico)
Natalia Almada’s debut fiction film is a nuanced and poignant portrait of solitude featuring the wonderful the Academy Award nominated Adriana Barraza in her (surprisingly) first leading role.
6. “The Human Surge / El auge humano” (Eduardo Williams, Argentina)
Williams’ auspicious debut feature weaves three different stories about adolescents, technology and the internet, in Buenos Aires, Mozambique, and the Philippines in a masterfully way.
7. “Kékszákállu” (Gastón Solnicki, Argentina)*
Gastón Solnicki, in his fiction debut, crafts a very delicate and exciting film about the emancipation of young women in the bourgeois milieu of Buenos Aires and Punta del Este.
8. “Tempestad” (Tatiana Hueso, Mexico)
With “The Tiniest Place” and her second documentary feature “Tempestad,” Mexican director Tatiana Huezo has created an influential body of work. “Tempestad” offers a bold yet lyrical take on the humanitarian crisis in Mexico of the past decade through the stories of two resilient women.
9. “This Is the Way I Like It 2 / Como me da la gana” (Ignacio Agüero, Chile)
Ignacio Agüero, one of Latin America’s leading documentarians, offers a remake of his 1985 film in which he visits fellow filmmakers at their sets and interrogates them about their film practices.
10. “Santa Teresa and Other Stories / Santa Teresa y otras historias” (Nelson Carlo de los Santos, Dominican Republic/Mexico)
Dominican filmmaker Nelson Carlo de los Santos, makes a bold riff of Roberto Bolaño’s posthumously published novel “2666,” mixing fiction, nonfiction, and essay for a visual mashup in his promising debut fiction film.
My resolutions: 2017 will be a challenging year, we need to elevate our spirits, and get ready to make the changes we want by starting in our communities. We can only aspire to make substantial positive changes until we implement those within the film world. It’s time to look at the old film manifiestos such as ‘Towards a Third Cinema’ by Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, “The Aesthetics of Hunger” by Glauber Rocha, and “For an Imperfect Cinema” by Julio García Espinosa to look for inspiration and insight.
(*) Full disclosure: Cinema Tropical worked in the publicity campaign for these films
Eugene Hernandez, Deputy Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center & Co-Publisher, Film Comment
1. “Moonlight” (Barry Jenkins)
2. “Cameraperson” (Kirsten Johnson)
3. “I Am Not Your Negro” (Raoul Peck)
4. “13th” (Ava DuVernay)
5. “Julieta” (Pedro Almodóvar)
6. “American Honey” (Andrea Arnold)
7. “Little Men” (Ira Sachs)
8. “Indignation” (James Schamus)
9. “Childhood of a Leader” (Brady Corbet)
10. (tie) “Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade), “Southside With You” (Richard Tanne), “O.J.: Made in America” (Ezra Edelman)
Honorable mentions: “I, Daniel Blake” (Ken Loach), “Fire at Sea” (Gianfranco Rosi), “Aquarius” (Kleber Mendonça Filho), “Spa Night” (Andrew Ahn), “Certain Women” (Kelly Reichardt)
Resolutions: Two years ago in this space, I reflected on the importance of diversity and education, while last year I connected those dots to the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Education program and our Artist & Industry programs supporting emerging film critics, artists and members of the industry as we continued the conversation about diversifying film culture with a panel discussion on the topic.
Today much of our country and culture are in moment of deep anxiety ahead of Inauguration Day. As we explored during a recent Film Society dialogue with our friends at Film Quarterly, all of us in the film community must urgently consider the role of independent arts, artists, journalists and media makers.
This is our vital responsibility as we head into the new year.
35 Directors Pick Their Favorite Movies of 2016
Anne Hubbell, Vice President, Kodak Motion Pictures, Co-Founder, Tangerine Entertainment
So ready for 2016 to be over! It was a crappy year on various levels, but there were a few highlights in features and TV. My list is 50% female created or co-created/written. Of course, I didn’t see everything (I still haven’t watched “Nocturnal Animals,” “Jackie,” “Fences” or “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” among others), but here is some stuff I liked:
I really fell for the energy and freedom of Andrea Arnold’s first U.S. feature, and for the young cast led by Sasha Lane.
Breathing new life into the personal documentary, Kirsten Johnson’s beautiful memoir shows how a filmmaker’s work, art and personal life are inherently intertwined.
Kelly Reichardt’s small town triptych slowly, surely succeeds with fine acting led by newcomer Lily Gladstone.
Anna Rose Holmer’s debut feature introduces her fresh voice and Royalty Hightower to the screen.
“The Jungle Book”
Inventive animation, smart bear banter and genius Kurtz-in-the-cave reveal of King Louie.
Jeff Nichols’ beautiful, quiet take on love prevailing in the face of bigotry.
Rebecca Miller’s refreshing, smart romantic comedy with winning performances from Gerwig, Moore and Hawke.
“Manchester by the Sea”
Kenny Lonergan wrote an exquisite script and the acting is superb. This a gut punch of a movie.
On top of being a truly wonderful human being, Barry Jenkins proves he is a remarkably nuanced director. This is THE movie of 2016.
This movie was so hyped after Cannes that I thought it couldn’t possibly deliver, but it exceeded my expectations and any descriptions I had heard. Director Maren Ade surprises at every turn.
This hilarious, spot on portrayal of life in “Hollywoo” got funnier, darker and more heartbreaking in season three.
Humanizing the Royals in the early days of QE2’s reign.
“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”
Finally a late night show with a female host. No surprise she is smarter and bolder than her male competition.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s bumbling, self-deprecating and charmingly tragic character makes this worth watching.
“O.J.: Made in America”
I watched all ten hours of this comprehensive, contextual documentary in three days.
“The People vs. O.J. Simpson:
The guilty pleasure that turned into required viewing.
“Saturday Night Live”
40+ seasons and SNL may be funnier and more relevant than ever.
Nostalgic sci-fi/horror done right.
Sexy cowboy robots and mad scientists in stunning locations, set and costumes. What’s not to like?
Highlights from other mediums:
Brilliant Twitter feed that hysterically imagined Donald Trump as a cinephile. I am sorry it’s over. And that Trump isn’t.
“You Must Remember This”
Karina Longworth’s podcast insightfully chronicles the romance and intrigue of old Hollywood’s fascinating true stories.
Julian Rosefeldt‘s meticulous 13 channel installation starring the always amazing Cate Blanchett as everyone from a homeless man to a diva choreographer.
2017: Lots to look forward to in 2017. Let’s hope it is a better year that this one! Here are a few things I am excited about:
Look for the film renaissance to be in full effect in 2017. I have been working with a badass tech team for nearly two years to get 35mm, s16 and s8 processing back in New York. Kodak Lab NYC opens January/February 2017! It will no doubt be a gamechanger for filmmakers at all levels looking to capture their work on glorious celluloid.
The Kodak Reel Film App will let you know what is screening in theaters and alternative venues on 35mm or 70mm wherever you are so you can seek out true cinematic experiences in 2017.
Film will be looking great in new seasons of “Walking Dead” “Westworld” and the debut of Judd Apatow’s “Crashing” on HBO, and in features by Noah Baumbach, Sean Baker, Stacy Cochran, Xavier Dolan, James Gray, Todd Haynes, Eliza Hittman, Alex Ross Perry, The Safdie Brothers, Steven Spielberg, Colin Trevarrow, Marc Webb, Noel Wells and others. Plus Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” in 70mm, Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: Episode VIII” and Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman”!
Spring 2017 will see two Tangerine features hitting theaters: Ferne Pearlstein’s provocative doc, “The Last Laugh” and Amber Tamblyn’s directorial debut adaptation of Janet Fitch’s novel, “Paint It Black.” Also, Rachel Isreal’s beautiful first feature, “Keep the Change,” will world premiere next year.
In summer 2017, we plan to launch Tanji, the first mobile app that curates, personalizes and guides you to women-centric film, TV and online content. Anywhere, any time. Think of it as a Feminist Fandango!
Kate Hurwitz, Cinetic Media
“O.J.: Made in America”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Everybody Wants Some!!”
“20th Century Women”
“I, Daniel Blake”
Jason Ishikawa, Cinetic Media
I’m honestly a little bummed at how agreeable my list ended up being. There’s a lot on here that I would qualify as familiar pleasures made by filmmakers that elevate them. Erotic thrillers by the best in the business: Park Chan-wook and Paul Verhoeven, to masters playing the standards.
And of course there are some films that hit you with a bolt of blue, nothing beats Toni Erdmann in that respect. I back loaded a lot of films so I’m still grappling with Scorsese and Raoul Peck’s film and a few others.
“Fire at Sea”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“Manchester by the Sea”
Honorable Mentions: “Aquarius,” “A Bigger Splash,” “Cemetery of Splendor,” “Everybody Wants Some!!,” “The Jungle Book,” “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “Louder Than Bombs,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” “Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures,” “Midnight Special,” “My Life as a Zucchini,” “Rams,” “Right Now, Wrong Then,” “Tale of Tales,” “Things to Come,” “The Treasure”
Ryan Krivoshey, President & Founder, Grasshopper Film
Admittedly, this has been a busy year and I have not seen everything I should have (at least not yet). But from what I’ve caught, these were my ten favorite films (from those that opened theatrically this year and excluding any that we’re distributing):
“Mountains May Depart”
“Cemetery of Splendour”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“No Home Movie”
Favorite TV Show: the 2016 election. Because, really, nothing even came close.
Favorite Repertory Surprise on the Fest Circuit: “The Story of Night” (1979) by Clemens Klopfenstein, a sixty-minute black-and-white film shot over 150 nights across Europe, when the cities were empty and devoid of life. Just stunning. Seen at the Locarno Film Festival.
Resolution for 2017: For everyone involved in this crazy business, in one form or another, to keep moving it forward, despite of (or in spite of) what’s happening around us.
David Laub, A24
*Please Note: I have decided not to include A24 titles on my list, though many of my favorite films of 2016 were released by the company, such as “Moonlight,” “American Honey,” “20th Century Women,” Krisha” and “De Palma,” among others.
Here is my top 10:
1. “Manchester by the Sea”
2. “The Salesman”
5. “Hail, Caesar!”
6. “O.J.: Made in America”
7. “Hacksaw Ridge”
8. “Hell or High Water”
9. “Sing Street”
Blandine Mercier-McGovern, The Cinema Guild
In alphabetical order. Cinema Guild releases — more than a few of my favorite films of the year — are unmentioned.
“American Honey”: Sasha Lane electrifies.
“Black Girl”: a gorgeous restoration of an essential work.
“Dawson City: Frozen Time”: a luminous cinematic marvel by master Bill Morrison.
“Embrace of the Serpent”: Mesmerizing throughout. Its Oscar nomination made me want to keep fighting the good fight. Then the 2016 shortlist happened…
“I Love Dick”: provocative and whip-smart. Amazon, please pick this up!
“La La Land”: for its dazzling mise-en-scene.
“Little Men”: a witty treat with hidden depths.
“Staying Vertical”: audacious and unforgettable. Giraudie continues to amaze.
“The Girlfriend Experience”: for its arresting photography and performances.
“Toni Erdmann”: Whitney Schnuck’s performance in one of the year’s best.
Also loved: “The Woman Who Left”, “After Love”, “Safari”,” Do Not Resist”.
Resolution: Continuing to acquire with guts.
Looking forward: Catching up on many 2016 favorites I didn’t get a chance to see, including “I Am Not Your Negro,” “Paterson,” “The Handmaiden”; releasing our exciting theatrical slate; SXSW; new discoveries and partnerships.
Tim League, Founder and CEO, Alamo Drafthouse
I always have a little bit of internal strife as to how to tackle a top ten list. This year, I tried to hone in on those films that left me thunderstruck, films that were wildly original, broke from the expected and delivered genuine goosebumps.
“Arrival”: I was staggered and well pleased that Paramount green-lit a project this contemplative at such a high production budget. I look forward to Villaneuve’s deft touch as he now tackles the beloved franchises of Blade Runner and Dune.
“Elle”: Bold, audacious and masterful work by both Verhoeven and Huppert. My favorite post-movie conversations of the year.
“The Handmaiden”: We hosted a Q&A with Chan Wook Park at Fantastic Fest this year. When asked, what is the creative relationship with your editor, he looked perplexed and answered… “I am not sure I understand. I storyboard every shot, every angle, every cut, and then I shoot the film. I deliver the storyboards and the footage to the editor, and he executes my vision.” That answer speaks to the precision and craftsmanship on display in “The Handmaiden.”
“La La Land”: The final montage might just be the most potent cinematic expression of star-crossed lovers in the history of cinema. Hyperbole? Probably, but this movie punched me in the gut hard. I love it so much.
“The Lobster”: Yorgos Lanthimos has a lot to say about the nature of “true love” and attacks the subject from opposing directions: from satirical commentary to genuine heart-string plucking… and then back again. This and “Swiss Army Ma”n tie for my favorite visionary worlds of 2016.
“Manchester by the Sea”: Tis an undeniable performance by Casey Affleck and perfect direction by Kenneth Lonergan.
“Moonlight”: Hollywood delivered the triple threat of heartache and impossible love with “Moonlight,” “Manchester” and “La La Land” all within a month of each other. All three are wonderful, near-perfect films in very different ways.
“Swiss Army Man”: Thankfully, the Daniels transcended their Sundance “fart joke” press. Their film was of course audacious, hilarious and wildly flatulent, but a layer deeper was also a devastating portrait of loneliness and introversion.
“Toni Erdmann”: What begins as a somewhat standard drama/comedy becomes infused with the undeniable absurdist charm of the titular protagonist Toni Erdmann. The joy of spontaneous karaoke, Bulgarian monsters and awkward naked partying transform a simple heartwarming tale into the feel-good German comedy event of the century.
“The Wailing”: I wish more audiences experienced this masterpiece by Hong Jin-Na. 160 minutes zip by in a completely-bonkers, triple-crossing, demonic-possession whodunnit.
The assignment was to whittle down to a top ten, not a top 34. Some of the decisions were tough, so I also highly recommend these additional 24 films: “American Honey,” “Chevalier,” “The Club,” “Deadpool,” “Eddie The Eagle,” “Greasy Strangler,” “Green Room,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” “The Invitation,” “Kubo and the Two Strings,” “Loving,” “The Nice Guys,” “Nocturnal Animals,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “Presenting Princess Shaw,” “Rams,” “Rogue One,” “Sing Street,” “Tale of Tales,” “Tickled,” “Weiner,” “White Girl,” “The Witch,” “Sausage Party”
And I’m sorry to say I missed these, so take my list with a grain of salt. You probably already have. I intend to catch up with as many of these as possible over the holidays: “A Bigger Splash,” “Barry,” “Cameraperson,” “Les Cowboys,” “Divines,” “Eisenstein in Guanajuato,” “Jackie,” “Krisha,” “Lamb,” “The Little Prince,” “Love and Friendship,” “Monster With 1000 Heads,” “Morris From America,” “Mountains May Depart,” “Other People,” “Star Trek Beyond,” “The Treasure”
As for resolutions and what I am anticipating in the new year, I’m ready to get back to work. Details on the our new company are imminent.
Seth Needle, SVP Worldwide Acquisitions, Screen Media
One of the resolutions I pledged in this piece last year was to try and enjoy the festivals I attend more by actually seeing films outside of those available for acquisition. I’m really glad I saw this through, as half of my list was a result of adhering to this.
My list of films below is comprised of films from this year’s festival circuit, so it doesn’t include films like “The Lobster,” “The Witch,” “Green Room,” and a few others that were on my list for last year. Anyway, without further ado:
1. “Manchester by the Sea”
2. “Sing Street”
3. “O.J.: Made in America”
5. “Hacksaw Ridge”
6. “Hell or High Water”
7. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”
9. “Everybody Wants Some!!”
10. “Don’t Think Twice”
As for next year, I’d love to keep up with my resolution for this year, while continuing to meet great new people in the industry. I’m also going to try my hardest at staying positive next year – which I know will be especially challenging given how much 2016 is throwing at us. Overall, I’m very happy to be part of an industry that continues to share and show/tell great stories.
Dan Nuxoll, Artistic Director, Rooftop Films
The most important fiction film of the year is also the most gracefully composed. This movie could have been half as well made and still have been one of the best films of the year. Luckily for us, Barry Jenkins made a near-perfect, heartbreaking masterpiece about modern masculinity that we will be talking about for decades to come.
2. “O.J.: Made in America”
Just about as engaging as an historical doc can get, and as lucid a breakdown of the relationship between cops and Black America as I have ever seen.
Trey Shults is a star on the rise. There are few debut films that have packed this much emotional punch, but not many of them are so impeccably made, visually and sonically. A truly distinctive punch in the face of a film.
Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises of the year was the widespread critical success of this truly experimental doc. It says a lot about how advanced the American doc audience has become that this subtly brilliant film was consistently met with thoughtful and enthusiastic praise by not only the film press but also by audiences at festivals and in theaters nationwide.
Adam Curtis’ phantasmagoric historical montage films have been bending minds in the doc fanatic community for years, but he has never made a film that was as timely as the transcendently menacing Hypernormalisation. Released 3 weeks before the election, I only wish it had been released a few months earlier so that we had some time to take it all in before our fake world came crashing down around us. Curtis’ films are a bit too structurally ragged for me to say this is the bet doc of the year, but it is almost definitely the most intellectually daring.
6. “The Fits”
Anna Rose Holmer’s mesmerizing first fiction feature shows how authentic even a magically-realistic film can feel when you involve a community in the creative process. At once haunting and uplifting, it’s at once a fully realized and realistic coming of age story and an experimental psychological thriller.
It was a lot easier to laugh through Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s shockingly well executed debut film when it premiered 11 months ago, but despite Anthony Weiner’s bizarre role in Clinton’s loss, this film remains a winningly observant look behind the scenes of what used to pass for a crazy election season.
8. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”
Comedies don’t end up on best-of lists very often, especially if they are (mostly) family friendly, but Taika Waititi’s latest film is so winning it deserves to be the exception to the rule. Waititi’s films are emotionally generous and warmhearted yet unpredictable in a manner so mischievous that they often seem ready to bounce off to the dangerous edge of anarchy—in a fun way. There is a potent creative fire fueling each of his films and it’s a joy to watch him race the cinematic train nearly off the rails and then pull it back.
A perfect marriage of form and content, Jim Jarmusch’s delightfully understated film unfolds invisibly and washes over you like a day spent on the couch with your favorite book of poems. Adam Driver has never been so perfectly cast in this shaggy dog homage to William Carlos Williams and a little city in New Jersey.
10. I couldn’t decide between my batch of favorites, so consider it a nine-way tie: “Jackie,” “13th,” “Elle,” “Hunter Gatherer,” “Donald Cried,” “Gleason,” “American Honey,” “Little Men” and “Hell or High Water.”
Marcelo Quesada, Artistic Director, Costa Rica International Film Festival, Co-director at distribution company Pacífica Grey
In no particular order:
“Aquarius”: a film that rises a voice and resists both inside and outside the screen. Elegant and rebel in equal parts, with a huge performance by Sonia Braga that makes you want to get up and fight, along with her, for what you believe in.
“Paterson”: smart, funny and poetic. The decision to keep things “simple” is one of the bravest nowadays, and Jarmusch does it in a masterful and joyful way…again and again. A view on everyday small pleasures and struggles that we need to remember.
“Radio Dreams”: another film in which words and poetry take a big role. Smart, dry, absurd and bittersweet; sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, but it’s crucial to keep pushing what you believe.
“Tempestad”: Tatiana Huezo has become one of the most interesting contemporary documentary filmmakers. She goes deep into the heart of her characters and manage to portrait their stories in ways that come forward both as innovative in form and honest in content, confronting truly difficult social themes from a personal approach.
“A Dragon Arrives!”: you can find everything and a little bit else in this surprising film from Iran’s Mani Haghighi. A sweet ride that will give you humor, incredible visuals and sound design, mysterious characters and no answers at all.
“Behemoth”: a story of a monster in many different levels. This Chinese film takes its time to show us the details, to perfectly frame every character and situation, before bringing us closer to the wider context. Poetic, powerful and often sad, when we found ourselves involved in the story and being part of it, no matter where you are from.
“American Honey”: usually I remember films in a very rational way, but with “American Honey” I keep coming to the atmosphere that Arnold creates; I feel there, within the characters, in this moving, intense, joyful and often dark moment. A film that sticks with you through the moments it creates, so full layers and complexity, that it’s hard to be rational about it.
“One More Time with Feeling”: a film about loving, about losing and about being lost. All this in the hands of Nick Cave and Andrew Dominik… Beautiful, intense, atmospheric, and deeply intimate, it’s a ride through pain and art that blends perfectly. At the end of this one, you really need those credits to gather some time for your own before going out to the world.
“Yo no soy de aquí”: another great film from Chilean documentary filmmaker Maite Alberti. After “El Salvavidas” and “Tea Time,” she has become one of my filmmakers to follow and this short (26 minute) film its a pleasure that revolves around family and memory, as “Tea Time” did. The way in which Maite’s characters face the camera it always amusing, keeping a bittersweet tone that is masterful.
“I, Daniel Blake”: Ken Loach at his best…
Resolutions: For me right know is all about finding balance: balance between working hard and enjoying work, balance between the known and the unknown, balance between what is urgent and what is important. Besides, my resolution is to keep working to find more and better opportunities for great international independent cinema in Central America, and for great Central American independent cinema abroad.
Looking forward: seeing the Industry CRFIC Central American work in progress projects finished and surprising the world one by one. Apart, a year in which a new Aki Kaurismäki film premieres it’s always a good one.
Tom Quinn, Distributor
1. “Sausage Party”
2. “I Am Not Your Negro”
3. “American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J.,” followed by “O.J.: Made in America”
4. Watching “Star Wars” catalog with my 4 year old daughter (order: 7, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3)
6. “Green Room”
7. “La La Land”
8. “Where to Invade Next”
9. “Doctor Strange”
10. “Hardcore” (uncut TIFF Premiere)
Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film, The Museum of Modern Art
1. “Toni Erdmann” by Maren Ade
2. “Moonlight” by Barry Jenkins
3. “I Am Not Your Negro” by Raoul Peck
4. “The Fits” by Anna Rose Holmer
5. “Cameraperson” by Kirsten Johnson
6. “Weiner” by Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman
7. “Jackie” by Pablo Larrain
8. “Don’t Blink” by Laura Israel
9. “In the Last Days of the City” by Tamer El Said
10. “13th” by Ava Duvernay
AND… Just to prove that it’s possible to be diverse and include white northern men: “Deadpool” by Tim Miller, “Indignation” by James Schamus, “Zootopia” by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush, “Nocturnal Animals” by Tom Ford, “Loving” by Jeff Nichols and “Julieta” by Pedro Almodovar
Diana Sanchez, International Programmer, TIFF (Latin America, Spain & Portugal), Artistic Director, IFF Panama
“Toni Erdmann” by Maren Ade
Subtle, delicate yet hilarious – while at the same time deeply moving and sad. I loved this film.
“Elle” by Paul Verhoeven
What a complex, complicated weird and compelling film. Isabelle Huppert was spectacular, metering out hot and cold in exactly the right quantities – you never knew what to expect
“Julieta” by Pedro Almodovar
I’m a huge fan of both Almodovar and Alice Munro, so an adaptation (albeit loose) of her stories by the Spanish maestro was an exquisite treat. The movement between past and present in this story of the breakdown in a relationship between mother and daughter had the right mix of drama and absurdity. And so beautiful to look at.
“Moonlight” by Barry Jenkins
This honest and poignant portrayal of a boy becoming a man and exactly how he got there was extremely moving. I loved the depth the characters were given.
“The Untamed” by Amat Escalante
A bold and original mix of social commentary and science fiction – with a many tentacled sex alien to boot. What a brilliant and strange film.
“Cameraperson” by Kirsten Johnson
This film collage was so unique. And Johnson’s voice so subtle. The way war documentation was approached reminded me of some of the idea’s in Sontag’s “Regarding the Pain of Others”. I appreciated Johnson’s respectful approach.
“Neruda” by Pablo Larrain
Poetry, politics, metafiction and mystery, this “Nerudian” tale challenges our idea of biography.
“General Report II. The New Abduction of Europe” by Pere Portabella
This is a follow up to Portabella’s post Franco 1976 film “General Report on Certain Matters of Interest for a Public Screening.” Forty years later, he offers a fascinating observation of the state of our present day institutions.
“Politics, Instruction Manual” by Fernando Leon
This documentary follows the rise of the Podemos Party in Spain, that in one year upended the traditional two party system and became a viable alternative. Made up of activists and political scientists, the party leaders offered the director unprecedented access to the political process. It’s fascinating and especially poignant today.
So much fun to watch and Winona Ryder is incredible. I loved being transported back to the eighties.
I also want to mention Sonia Braga’s standout performance in Kleber Mendonca’s gorgeous “Aquarius”. And I must disclose that I haven’t yet had a chance to see “Arrival” or “Manchester by the Sea”. I’ve been camping out in the Panamanian Rainforest for the last 5 months and these titles won’t make it to the tropics until early next year!!
Resolutions for 2017: see more theatre when I travel. I saw Teatro Breve’s “Noche de Jevas” (it’s the troupe’s all female cast night) when I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico in November. Urgent, hilarious, timely. I want to go back!
What I’m looking forward to next year: Lucrecia Martel’s next film!!!
David Schwartz, Chief Curator, Museum of the Moving Image
“No Home Movie”
The heart-wrenching loss of Chantal Akerman made her last film, an artfully artless masterpiece about death, memory, and love even more powerful.
While Akerman’s film was the unintended swan song of a master director, “Kaili Blues” was an astonishing debut, pure cinematic poetry. A toast to Ryan Krivoshey and Grasshopper Film for their memorable first year, bringing beautiful and truly adventurous films into the U.S. theatrical marketplace.
“Everybody Wants Some!!”
Sheer bliss from Linklater.
Making this the 10 miliionth Top 10 list to include “Moonlight.”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
An incredibly dynamic, urgent film in which James Baldwin seems to be talking to America today.
Spare and sublime Jarmusch.
Satisfying, complex, and classic Eastwood.
Endlessly rich and reflexive movie about nothing less than how reality is shaped into compelling narrative.
Five-and-a-half hour Japanese film that allows its scenes to run long enough so that there are constant revelations.
Finally, the moving-image spectacle of the year, with an apocalyptic ending, was the election. Too many absurd and riveting television moments to mention. The best TV commercial was “Together,” for the Bernie Sanders campaign, expressing an optimism that was pretty much dead and buried by April.
Jonathan Sehring, Co-President, IFC Films
My list feels incomplete as I am still catching up on many of this year’s releases and have yet to see films (and television) which could well make my Top 10, starting with Martin Scorsese’ THE SILENCE (as well as so many others including “Moonlight” and “La La Land”) so the following is subject to change.
I’ve also separated theatrically released films from television/streaming productions, not because the quality of the work is very different but the businesses and the economics of the businesses are extremely different so it is really difficult for me to justify including a series like Susanne Bier’s “The Night Manager” in the same category as Robert Eggers’ “The Witch.”
I have kept my total to 10 and I have no problem including some IFC/Sundance releases in my list (and while some may turn their noses up at my inclusion of genre fare it is near and dear to my heart).
Although no Isabelle Huppert films have made my final 10 she does get my vote for Performer of the Year with Michelle Williams a close runner up (Kristen Stewart would have probably taken this if we had released “Personal Shopper” this year).
Feature Films (in no particular order)
I have watched this incredible film multiple times now and every time I see it I come away with yet a new perspective on the world we live in, particularly now in this post-presidential election results world that many of us are still coming to grips with. Prior to its Sundance 16 premier I was blown away by the access afforded to the filmmakers, during the primaries the media circus surrounding the candidates made me appreciate/hate the media spectacle that our elections have become, the week before the election the FBI “bombshell” that there could be classified emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop (really? a bombshell that maybe Huma and Anthony, a married couple shared a lap top? did they not watch the movie?), the reality TV world we live in, it just goes on and on. Easily one of if not the best films ever made on the modern political process and the media – we do indeed live in a reality-tv world. This one will be studied for years to come.
I was surprised how much I liked this movie. Putting aside Mel’s rants (I know, hard to do) he is one helluva filmmaker. War is indeed hell and Mel puts the viewer smack dab into the heart of Dante’s seventh circle.
I find myself liking everything Amy Adams does and Denis Villeneuve is one of the best filmmakers working today (“Sicario” one of my favorites last year). Ambitious, creative, inventive — Villeneuve always exacts great performances from his cast and family lies at the heart of so many of his films. “2001” meet “Jacob’s Ladder.”
“Manchester by the Sea”
Casey Affleck is finally getting his due with the recognition he is justifiably receiving here in this beautiful and heartbreaking film (and Michelle Williams is always great). I wish Kenneth Lonergan made more movies.
“The Witch” / “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”
Two witch movies on my list so I am combining them although they are so very very different. I loved Robert Eggers’ inventiveness, authenticity and chances he took with “The Witch” (old English?) and what I love about “Jane Doe” is the fact the Andre Ovredal has made a film with three characters (two living, one very very dead) in a single room and has made a film that feels very big in scale. Have witches replaced vampires and zombies?
A Kelly Reichert film will almost always end up on my Top 10 list as she is one of our great filmmakers and a treasure. I can’t think of many filmmakers who portray women so realistically and the performances she elicits from her cast are exceptional – four actresses (Dern, Gladstone, Stewart and Willliams) all have been acknowledged individually by critics groups and justifiably so.
“O.J.: Made in America”
I was glued to this television series on ESPN for 5 nights in a row (at first much to my wife’s dismay but by the end of the final episode she was as taken with this magnificent piece of television as I was). O.J. was my football idol when I a high school football player and Edelman’s series is easily one of the most impactful, ambitious works about race in America ever to appear on television.
“The Night Manager”
For television series to stand side by side with feature films they have to be exceptional and both OJ and THE NIGHT MANAGER are just that. Susanne Bier’s fantastic adaptation of John le Carre’s novel is cinematic in scope yet suited for the small screen as well. Hiddleston and Laurie are exceptional — great television!
“The Night Of”
With breakout performances by Riz Ahmed and the incomparable John Turturro amongst others and Richard Price and Steve Zallian’s crisp writing I couldn’t wait to see each new episode — this is what binge-ing is all about.
“Game of Thrones”
As a huge fan of Martin’s novels I initially resisted watching the new season as Benioff and Weiss have jumped ahead of Martin’s novels. When I finally broke down and watched I was more than pleasantly surprised by how good the series still is without relying on Martin’s source material.
Ula Sniegowska, Artistic Director, American Film Festival in Poland
Films I saw this year, irrespective of their release date, in Poland or US, thus for instance “The Fits” must be excluded.
“Moonlight”: just perfect. “In the Mood for Love” of the 21st century.
“Sieranevada”: incredibly truthful portrayal of East-European mentality. Close to real time experience. Beware: it may get into your bloodstream.
“Chi-Raq”: Power to the People.
“Certain Women”: America is a woman.
“Toni Erdmann”: you and me and everyone you know.
“River of Fundament”: orgasmic opus magnum, experience of the lifetime, Barney calls it opera, but it’s the cinematic masterpiece.
“Mr. Gaga”: dance, body, politics. All in one.
“Paterson”: the first film-poem.
“Wiener-Dog” Solondz at his best: life and death in America.
“I Am Not Your Negro” power of the word and archival footage.
“The Lure” Polish embodiment of vampires are mermaids and the lure of the 80s.
Lorna Tee, Head of Festival Management, International Film Festival and Awards Macao
1. “Toni Erdmann” by Maren Ade
2. “My Life as a Courgette/ Ma vie de Courgette” by Claude Barras
3. “Things to Come/ L’avenir” by Mia Hanson Love
4. “Chi Raq” by Spike Lee
5. “Certain Women” by Kelly Reichardt
6. “Creepy” by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
7. “The Red Turtle” by Michael Dudok de Wit
8. “Trivisa” by Frank Hui, Jevons Au, Vicky Wong
9. “A Lullaby to a Sorrowful Mystery” by Lav Diaz
10. “The Mermaid” by Stephan Chow
The list above represents a spectrum of films on very different ends but of top filmmaking talents at their best, telling both “big” stories of globalisation, environment, colonialism, violence and survival but each film is infused with “small” and intimate personal stories which touches a deep emotional chord within with characters one cannot forget in years to come.
Resolution: To do more with work at film festivals to ensure more people, especially audiences who are not acquainted with world cinema, to embrace the shared humanity through divergent voices, stories and styles of filmmaking. To catch up with films like La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and more and also TV series are more courageous than the film industry in pushing the boundaries of storytelling.
Looking forward: To seeing the films from Crouching Tigers Project Lab being made! Some truly amazing directors and producers in the fray including Yu Lik Wai, Lu Chuan, Nicholas Winding Refn, Erik Matti, Karim Ainouz, Joao Pedro Rodrigues & Joao Rui Guerra de Mata and Mattie Do.
Michael Tuckman, mTuckman Media
As per tradition, please find below my top ten list recognizing film and TV handled by THINKFilm alumni:
10. “Command and Control,” Erin Owens and Emily Rothschild, Longshot Factory
PBS brought on the talented ladies at Longshot to help them release what was this year BEST thriller. Not most thrilling documentary, most thrilling FILM. As you watch a wrench fall 100 feet down into a missile silo and see it puncture a hole in an armed Titan II missile, it’s clear that whatever fine mess Jason Bourne may get himself into, it sure ain’t gonna compete with the threat of an all out nuclear disaster that was averted only thanks to truly heroic people. Deservedly short-listed for the Oscar for Best Doc this year, this is one that rightly belongs in the race come mid-January.
9. “My Blind Brother,” Mark Urman and Amanda Sherwin, Paladin
Quite possibly the year’s most underappreciated comedy, featuring three comedic legends at the top of their game – Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate and Adam Scott. Sophie Goodheart’s film ingeniously toed the line of being inapproprate enough while not being exploitative, instead delivering a very human film with some very funny moments. Paladin handled the theatrical release for Starz.
8. “Westworld,” Stephen Cardwell, HBO
Stephen got his start in marketing at THINKFilm, and no doubt he had a blast with “Westworld.” I’ve been waiting for a show that makes me change allegiances from good guys to bad guys (and gals) and back again, one of the many changes of orientation the show demanded. Looking forward to his work on “The Leftovers!”
7. “Christine,” Elissa Federoff, The Orchard
Intern extraordinare turned theatrical sales director uber-extraordinaire Elissa was at the helm of this year’s most intense performance by an actress. Rebecca Hall took us to another time in place, while her supporting cast – especially Michael C. Hall – rounded out a wholly authentic and chilling film.
6. “La La Land,” Fred Berger, Producer
So I’m leaving the Governors Awards and I hear my name being shouted out. I turn around and see a bright smile coming my way, a smile that rushes back into my memory and could only be that of Fred Berger, THINKFilm’s first summer intern in 2002. When I ask Fred what he’s been up to, he answers that he produced a little indie called “La La Land.” Bravo, Mr. Berger, Bravo. Mark my words, Fred is going to be a producer at the center of things for a LONG time to come!
5. “Creative Control,” “Miss Sharon Jones!” and “Morris From America,” Wendy Smith, National Board of Review
As Creative Director of the National Board of Review, Wendy’s organization rightly gave credit where its due to these three films, naming them on their Top 5 docs and Top 10 indies list. “Creative Control” was THE tech-morality film of the year with style to boot; Barbara Kopple’s doc featured the most powerful scene in a documentary all year (Sharon Jones literally singing the cancer out of herself at church) and “Morris” cemented Chad Hartigan as a master storyteller, deft at intricacies while grand on overall sentiment. Well selected, NBR.
4. “Elle,” David Laub, A24
Yes, Sony Classics released this, but as anyone would recall from my list last year (what, you didn’t print my list from last year???), David and I have an extreme infatuation with the indelible Paul Verhoeven. His latest film was a revelation, with a rich and diverse cast delivering an Altman-esque treastise on his signature motif of misanthropy. A gem. Both the director and the film. And David Laub.
3. “20th Century Women,” Daniel Katz and David Fenkel, A24
Include Annette Benning under the label “actors we take for granted.” Mike Mills’ vehicle for what is sure to be – and a crime if it isnt – an Oscar nomination allows Benning to finally have a role in which to shine. Why it took so long for such a role to come ANY actress’s way is a whole other discussion, but her performance caps of a film that David Fear, as a guest critic at the Key West Film Festival, described as one “you just want to take in your arms and tell it that everything will be all right.”
2. “One Week and a Day,” Dan Berger, Oscilloscope
Hands down the most affecting film I’ve seen this year, dealing with the most overlooked part of tragic loss: the day after your support team is no longer there. Tore my hear out multiple times, then delicately placed in back in with scotch tape, just barely hanging on. Kudos to Dan and his team at O’Scope for continuning to bring these gems to the States.
1. Frederick Wiseman’s Honorary Oscar, Alex Klenert, Prodigy PR
Not one film, but 40. After years of being shamelessly overlooked with nary even a shortlist inclusion, Fred Wiseman was finally recognized by the Academy with an honorary Oscar at this year’s Governors Awards. Skilled publicist Alex Klenert was instrumental in making this happen, beginning the campaign over two years ago to call attention to the unparalleled career Mr. Wiseman has had. Look out for the re-release of his legendary “Titicut Follies” this year, as 2017 marks the 50th Anniversary of the film’s release.
John Vanco, IFC Center
Ten Best Films of 2016 (actually The Excellent Eleven)
Listed alphabetically and limited to films that were theatrically released in the US in 2016:
“20th Century Women”
“Fire At Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Under the Shadow”
“Don’t Think Twice”
“I, Daniel Blake”
“Into the Inferno”
“Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures”
“Queen of Katwe”
Most important restoration/revival: “Dekalog”
Best unreleased fiction film still seeking distribution: “Layla M.”
C. Mason Wells, Director of Repertory Programming, Quad Cinema
13 favorite New York-area repertory film discoveries made in 2016. Listed in order of viewing, and limited to one title per venue. All films screened on 35mm prints.
“Maurice” (1987, James Ivory)
French Institute Alliance Francaise, “Lhomme Behind the Camera”
“Hooper” (1978, Hal Needham)
Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers, “Burt Reynolds Mystery Marathon”
“The Bitter Stems” (1956, Fernando Ayala)
Museum of Modern Art, “Death Is My Dance Partner: Film Noir in Postwar Argentina”
“Duet for Cannibals (1969, Susan Sontag)
BAMcinematek, “From the Third Eye: Evergreen Review on Film”
“Road House” (1948, Jean Negulesco)
George Eastman House, “The Nitrate Picture Show”
“The Bed Sitting Room” (1969, Richard Lester)
Nitehawk, “The Waste Land”
“The Seduction of Joe Tynan” (1979, Jerry Schatzberg)
IFC Center, “Becoming Meryl Streep”
“Group Marriage” (1973, Stephanie Rothman)
Film Forum, “Genre Is a Woman”
“The Hired Hand” (1971, Peter Fonda)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, “Warren Oates: Hired Hand”
“Death is a Caress” (1949, Edith Carlmar)
Anthology Film Archives, “Woman with a Movie Camera: Female Film Directors Before 1950”
“Belly” (1998, Hype Williams)
Museum of the Moving Image, “Made You Look: Documenting the Art, History, Power, and Politics of Hip-Hop Culture”
“Police Story 2” (1988, Jackie Chan)
Metrograph, “Maggie Cheung: Center Stage”
“Christiane F.” (1981, Uli Edel)
Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn, “Cherry Bomb”
Landon Zakheim, Co-Director, The Overlook Film Festival and festival programmer
There was so much made for screens this year, and after some examination, a wealth of great storytelling this year, along with some of the most exciting art installations and immersive theater I’ve seen in years.
As I challenge to myself, I decided not to include a list of honorable mentions or other great film and TV I loved this year (of which there is much), with the caveat that work I have yet to catch up with this year includes “The Night Of,” “The Ornithologist,” “The Human Surge,” “Nocturama,” “20th Century Women,” “Rogue One,” “Fences,” “Silence” and so on.
So instead, here is my top ten, presented alphabetically and without comment:
“Horace & Pete”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“Swiss Army Man”
Resolutions: Travel less, read more. With more TV than ever and increasing festivals and submissions, it’s getting harder to find the time to read.
Anticipations: Sorry for the shameless self-promotion but it’s been a long time coming. I’m looking forward the launch of The Overlook Film Festival in April more than anything else.