Film Critic Chuck Koplinski stops by the Morning Show to breakdown his top 5 favorite movies of 2016.
Top 5 Favorite:
Hell or High Water – David Mackenzie’s blistering indictment of the modern American economic landscape was perhaps the most timely film of the year as it took an unflinching look at the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and the extent to which those scraping by will go to in order to survive. A never-better Chris Pine and Ben Foster are brothers who set out to pull off a series of bank robberies in order to get the funds to save their mother’s farm, while Jeff Bridges is the soon-to-retire Texas Ranger on their trail. The barren landscape of its East Texas setting perfectly mirrors the lack of opportunity for those who live there while the film’s skewed moral compass speaks to realistic concerns rather than moral imperatives. The last scene between Pine and Bridges is a master class in understatement, a moment that resonates far beyond the end credits.
The Lobster – Movies as quirky and intelligent as this dark comedy from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos are few and far between. Colin Farrell, giving a surprisingly poignant performance, is a man who’s been taken to a secluded hotel and is given 45 days to find his soul mate. If he fails, he will be turned into an animal of his choice. The need for love and the extent that we go to attain it is at the core of the film as is the fear of commitment and being alone. That being turned into a lobster proves to be a more viable option that risking heartbreak or loneliness speaks volumes as to the director’s outlook.
Arrival – Smart science fiction is a rare commodity at the movies today. Smart science fiction films that move you are even more of a scarcity, which makes this film from Denis Villeneuve’s all the more remarkable. Amy Adams is a linguist still trying to cope with a personal tragedy when she’s called on by the government to help establish communication with a group of aliens that have seemingly appeared out of nowhere. What begins as a standard invasion film takes a remarkable turn as we discover that language and how we interpret it is based on our past experiences, while a third-act plot twist turns events on their head, leading to a traumatic conclusion that examines how we deal with hope and grief. A profound statement wrapped in a genre package.
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins’ feature debut is one of the most impressive calling cards of the year. Working from a script of his own design, the film follows the maturation of a young African-American boy from the time he’s nine years old, through high school and finally as a young man wrestling with his sexuality. The role of Chiron is played by three different actors, over the course of the movie, which takes a no-prisoners approach in depicting the sort of alienation young men of color like Chiron must deal with today. Harsh, yet ultimately hopeful, the movie’s simplistic final shot is one of the most haunting cinematic moments of the year.
La La Land – Damien Chazelle’s modern musical is a tribute to those who passionately pursue their dreams and refuse to compromise in the face of failure. Emma Stone is an actress who longs to be a star, while Ryan Gosling is a jazz musician hoping to one day own his own club. Together they fall in love, nurture each other’s dream, and fight while dancing and singing in modern Los Angeles. The film really shouldn’t work but the conviction of the two leads and a devastating conclusion make this a special motion picture.