We are living in a Golden Age for original creative content. But how do we choose what to consume?
This year I made it my goal to watch over 200 feature films (not including short films and television shows). I had hoped this mission would push me beyond my comfortable "go-to" genres and into the strange corners of cinema. Many movies I had seen in previous years still stand the test of time.
Top Old Favorites You Should See:
- The Game
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Into the Wild
- The Truman Show
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Dear Zachary
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Forrest Gump
- Inside Man
- Honorable Mention: Goon, American Ultra
I am a big believer in “hype.” The expectations we carry into a film, when/where we see it, how we are feeling that day, and the issues we are dealing with in “real life” all have incredible influence over how a movie resonates. This list isn’t trying to be objective to rate the “best” movies of 2016 for all people. It is a list of my Top 10. Each film includes a “Suggested Pairing.” These are other films that will resonate on similar themes and make for a more well-rounded film viewing experience.*
#10 - Rams
Gorgeous and slow Icelandic film in which two estranged brothers are forced to interact for the first time in 40 years when their sheep get sick.
(Suggested Pairing: The Lobster, a dystopian critique of singleness and the degradation of social skills.)
#9 - The Barkley Marathons
Microbudget documentary following a quirky old man and the ultramarathon he invented following a prisoner’s escape route.
(Suggested Pairing: Tower, a rotoscoped retelling of the 1966 shooting at the University of Austin. Demolition, Jake Gyllenhaal trying to find level after the unexpected death of his wife.)
#8 - The Big Short
Revolutionary to be both so informative and entertaining. Adam McKay establishes himself as a talent across genres.
(Suggested Pairing: The Accountant. I really enjoyed the unique perspective on thriller/drama/action movie through the lens of an autistic man.)
#7 - The Revenant
A beautiful moving picture. The film is a slow burn, but it’s a cinematic triumph. Know you’re in for a very long, very slow, very stunning film.
(Suggested Pairing: Moonlight. Many people will have this film as their top for the year, and for good reason. I think hype was the downfall for this film for me. Going into the theatre I had been told it would be the best film I’d have ever seen. Moonlight deserves every single award it will get this year, and you should see it.)
#6 - Spotlight
This film had me gasping and cheering for justice out loud in the theater. Amen for films that pursue truth and justice, giving voice to the powerless and persecuted. In this story, the journalists seeking to expose the truth are far more Christ-like than the Church, as it protected itself instead of the children it was wounding. I am grateful for shedding light on this still dark time/topic in the story of the Church.
(Suggested Pairing: Holy Hell, a terrifying documentary recounting the twenty years spent in a cult as told by a survivor. How do these things still happen? Presents wonderful and timely critique of power and what it means to be complicit in evil by our silence.)
#5 - La La Land
I haven’t had this much fun in the theater for awhile. I had goosebumps and was dancing along in my seat for much of the film. Hollywood is swooning for this love letter to itself, layered with a tasteful nostalgia for jazz while commenting on the challenges of pursuing your dreams.
(Suggested Pairing: Tap dancing out of the theater, and watching old classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, Singing in the Rain, & White Christmas. Also, if you haven't seen the writer/director's Whiplash, see that now.)
#4 - Captain Fantastic
Wow. This film hit perfectly on the struggle of growing up inundated with technology and what modernity has brought. How do we rebel against thoughtlessness? What would raising a child be like in this society?
(Suggested Pairing: Spend time reflecting on your upbringing. What are some things from your family of origin you want to emulate in your current life? What are some things you’d like to do differently? What is your current relationship with technology? Where are some places that it might be hindering genuine relationship?)
#3 - Arrival
This could easily be my #1. Amy Adams is a linguist tasked with making contact with a new species visiting Earth. Arrival is stunning, creative, fresh, and well-acted.
(Suggested Pairing: Dr. Strange. I saw these both the same week, and sharing what themes they have in common would ruin the films, but they complemented each other very well.)
#2 - The Hunting Ground
A documentary exposing the epidemic of rape on college campuses. This film should be mandatory viewing for all college students, administrators, teachers, and high school students, church youth groups, and parents of students. This is not an easy film to watch, but it is tastefully done and is terrifyingly relevant.
(Suggested Pairing: I was so devastated from The Hunting Ground that it was interesting what balance my next few days of film watching provided. As someone is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds in the USA, art and storytelling are important to tell their stories as well as to celebrate how beautiful life can be. How do we hold both tragedy and beauty at the same time? It is not “either/or” but “both/and.” First Monday in May shows the process of the Met Ball fashion fundraiser. The Drop Box tells the story of a community in Korea who collects unwanted babies through a drop box and raises them. Can we hold rape, art, and hope at the same time?)
#1 - The Act of Killing
Members of the 1960’s Indonesian death squads reenact the murders for which they are heros. The film takes time to develop, but it pays off as you watch the transformation of the main character. By the end of the film I was crying and almost threw up. I can’t remember a film that has moved me so much.
(Suggested Pairing: Take some time to reflect in silence. Maybe go on a hike without your phone? Ask: What are the stories I am telling myself that are untrue? Where have I wounded people and have not yet seen the truth of my actions? What does forgiveness look like? What are some steps I can take to reach reconciliation?)
What were your favorites?
*Please use discernment when viewing all the films listed. You know your own standards for language, drugs, and nudity in art/media. Please research the ratings of each film if you are sensitive to more explicit content.