Movie Diary: Highlights of 2016 Through Movies


This is usually when I reflect on the previous year and wonder what’s ahead. I am so lost right now. My mind is so swarmed with anxieties about our world that I don’t know how cinema, my favorite subject, fits into everything. Movies are often behind the times. When they aren’t making bold and timeless statements, they are the product that’s been finished for a few months that was made over the course of a year and was originally written who knows when.

My favorite television series, “South Park,” normally makes crude yet hilarious comments on the up-to-the-moment issues it has the benefit of covering, but even creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker seemed admittedly lost during its last few serialized episodes.

With a few movies of interest left to see, which count as 2016 productions, I can say that my favorite film of the year was “Arrival.” It was a solid science-fiction film about establishing communication with an alien species with one of the biggest obstacles being the struggle for human beings to effectively communicate with one another while doing so.

I will still probably remember 2016 as the year when a “Ghostbusters” remake prompted social media feuds that symbolized how far electronic discourse can remove us from any kind of meaningful understanding.

There were certainly some strong films removed from social  or world issues, which focused on a more personal kind of drama. Movies like “Krisha,” “Moonlight” and “Manchester by the Sea” were all brilliant films that identifiably realized human isolation and the yearning for alleviation from the pain that life can bring.

Denzel Washington’s adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences” is about as flawless as a play adapted for film can get; “Hell or High Water” was an excellent modern outlaw Western story; “Love & Friendship” was a dialogue-steeped drama that should have pleased the purest of Janeites; and “The Witch” was a rich, unconventional horror story that was endlessly thought-provoking.

There were also some delightful escapes, such as the hilarious and underappreciated mockumentary, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” which wonderfully lampooned the present-day excess of music superstars through the clever banter and catchy songs of Andy Samberg’s comedy trio The Lonely Island.

“Swiss Army Man” wasn’t for everyone, but it threw caution (and gas) to the wind in a silly existential survival story about a stranded lonely man (Paul Dano) making friends with a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe).

“Moana” was one of Disney’s best-looking animated movies, and “Zootopia” was one of their biggest social allegories while Laika’s “Kubo and the Two Strings” was their most gorgeous demonstration of perfected stop-motion animation.

Fox’s “Deadpool” was also a notable film for subverting the industry-safe approach to comic book filmmaking (that works for Disney but fails for everyone else) and delivered a raunchy, ultraviolent, R-rated comedy that did very well at the box office.

“La La Land” was about as lovely as I was expecting, even if it drags a little during the middle. Justin Hurwitz’s music, Damien Chazelle’s direction and the charming presence of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling transports a simple story of two Hollywood dreamers trying to catch a break into classic movie magic.

It made me think of “Singin’ in the Rain,” which right now brings to mind the sad passing of a great talent like Debbie Reynolds whose death came shortly after the passing of her daughter, Carrie Fisher – someone who meant a lot to me in terms of my perception of women while coming of age. Losing these two great women at the end of a year wasn’t easy considering how many other notable people left us in 2016.

For various reasons, I would love to lock my doors and stay inside my home for the beginning of 2017. I still need to see “Jackie,” “Live by Night,” “A Monster Calls” and a huge amount of foreign language films that had limited runs from last year. Otherwise, I will wait patiently for “Blade Runner 2049,” “Star Wars: Episode VIII” and world sanity. VT