My Favorite Films of 2016

Last year I shared my favorite films that were released in the past year.  I thought I’d make that a yearly tradition and so here is my list of favorite films for 2016.   They are in no particular order, just in the order that I can remember them from the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Only Yesterday

Only Yesterday

Though Only Yesterday released originally in Japan in 1991, the English dubbed version came to North America this year.  Only Yesterday is the story of Taeko Okajima and her life in two parts.  It tells one part of her life as an 8 year old child in the late 1960s Tokyo as well as an adult in the 1980s.  It was one of the last Studio Ghibli films to be dubbed into English and includes the voicework of Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel and Ashley Eckstein.

I Saw The Light

I Saw The Light

Based on the true story of country singer and legend Hank Williams Sr., I Saw The Light tells the story of his life as a singer just before his big break to right before his tragic death.  Hank Williams is played in the film by Tom Hiddleston and Elisabeth Olsen plays Audrey Williams, Hank’s first wife.  I’m usually a fan of a good biopic and when it’s a subject like that of Hank Williams I was drawn to it.  I thought the performances in the film were done well especially that of Hiddleston and Olsen.  It is hard to act and sing especially to play an iconic figure but Hiddleston was up to the challenge in my mind.

The Legend of Tarzan

LEGEND OF TARZAN

The Legend of Tarzan is a new take on an old story.  It tells the further adventures of Tarzan and how he and Jane (along with American George Washington Williams) take on some corrupt Belgians who were trying to exploit the Congo.  There are several nods to the classic Tarzan character while telling a story that resonates today.  And while most people this year will look at Margot Robbie’s other big role in 2016 (Harley Quinn), her performance as Jane Clayton is a showstealer.

The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

A remake of a classic (which in turn was a remake itself) The Magnificent Seven tells the story of a ragtag group of seven men who help to defend a mining town from a evil and corrupt businessman and his hired army.  The cast for this film included Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio among others.  I enjoyed the original The Magnificent Seven and to me this film honors that film while also telling it’s own story.

Amanda Knox

amanda-knox

Probably the documentary of the year for me in 2016, Amanda Knox was a Netflix film that tells the story of Amanda Know, who is most well known for being found guilty and later acquitted of the death of a fellow student in Italy in 2007.  For this documentary there is lots of archive footage and interviews as well as interviews today from some of the key people including Amanda herself.

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Out of the two Marvel movies that released this year, Doctor Strange was my favorite of the two.  Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job as Dr. Stephen Strange.  Strange went from an arrogant doctor over the course of the movie to the Sorcerer Supreme.  It was a good origin story for a character that is not as well known in the Marvel Universe as others.  And it didn’t kill off the main villain at the end of the movie.  It is a good setup for what’s to come in Phase 3 of the MCU.

Arrival

arrival

If there is a “Film of the Year” for me, I would say it’s this film.  From the first trailer to seeing it on the big screen, Arrival was interesting and compelling.  With a cast that included Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forrest Whitaker, Arrival tells the story about humankind’s interaction with an alien species and the key to communicating lies with a language professor (played by Adams) and a physicist (played by Renner).  But it’s a different take on that familiar trope.  The visuals are stunning and the story makes you think.  This is a film I’m interested in seeing multiple times because of seeing the all the puzzles pieces in place.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

An interesting film that I found on Netflix, Blue Jay is the story of two high school sweethearts that meet up some 20 years later.  Jim (played by Mark Duplass, who also wrote the screenplay for the film) returns back to his hometown to settle some affairs after his mother passed away.  He runs into Amanda (played by Sarah Paulson) at a grocery store and the two reminisce about old times.  It is a very poignant film and one that deals with heavy issues in a thought provoking way.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue-one

Of course a list of my favorite films would have to include a Star Wars movie.  Rogue One is the first Star Wars anthology film and is set right before A New Hope.  It tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans for the first Death Star and the group that did it.  It had one of the best battle sequences I’ve seen in a Star Wars movie and there were a lot of cool references that tied into the Star Wars universe.  Thought I still have the original trilogy in my top 3 of Star Wars films, this one is right there in the running for 4th along with The Force Awakens.

Miyazaki’s Kingdom: Looking at “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness”

Not too along ago I watched 2013 documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.

the_kingdom_of_dreams_and_madness

The documentary is focused on Studio Ghibli, the animation film studio that Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.  The film specifically looks at the year leading up to the release of two films.  Those two films were Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Takahata’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya.  People get a look into the life of the studio as well as that of the two founders of the studio.  Miyazaki is featured prominently in the film because he’s more well known.  However, Takahata is shown as well, even though he is more of a recluse.

What makes this documentary special, along with getting a look behind the scenes of Studio Ghibli, is the fact that it was announced during this time that Miyazaki would be retiring following the release of The Wind Rises.  It gives the film a bittersweet feeling as you know that things will never be the same once the films were finished.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness was released in Japan on November 16, 2013 and in the United States the next year.  The documentary is in Japanese with English subtitles.  It is worth watching and seeing the behind the scenes of how an iconic studio made films.

Switchfoot and “Fading West”

fadingwest

About a week or so, I watched on Netflix Instant Streaming the documentary Fading West.  The documentary was on the band Switchfoot and their world tour/recording of their latest album, which is appropriately titled Fading West.  Switchfoot (for those that may not know) is a rock band that has been going since the mid/late 90s.  They are also Christians so their faith direct their lives and their music.

I was introduced to their music while in college.  My best friend (and one of my roommates), had one of their albums playing one time in his room while working on an assignment.  I listened to it and thought it was cool and went to pick it up myself and have been a fan of the band ever since.

So during the film while the band is in the middle of their world tour, they received some tough news.  Jon Foreman, the lead singer and guitarist, found out that his daughter was in the hospital and was going to need surgery.  After some time in prayer and talking with the rest of the band, he decided to catch a plane back to the U.S. and be with his family while the rest of the band would continue on the tour.  While on his way to the airport, Jon narrates and said this quote that really stuck out to me:

“Faith is to say ‘Yes, the future will have pain, but there is a meaning and a purpose deeper than that pain.’ For me, that is my choice to believe rather than doubt.”

If you get a chance, I would recommend watching this film.  It’s a great look into what the band is about and the individuals that make up the band.