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.

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When Inside Out Was There: Thoughts on When Marnie Was There and Inside Out

The last two films that I have seen in the theater have a lot of similarities.  But they also have some distinctive qualities that make them unique as well.  Those films?  They are When Marnie Was There and Inside Out

MarnieInside Out

Both are animated features.  Both feature young females in prominent roles.  Both have great voice casts.  And both are done by the best in animation (Studio Ghibli and Pixar).  They both tell compelling stories and are both worth the price of admission.

The differences speak to the art of animation, it’s past as well as it’s future.  When Marnie Was There, being a Studio Ghibli film, is more in the traditional ink and paint animation style.  Studio Ghibli has done some computer animation, they are most known for their traditional animation style (as well as telling great stories).  Pixar, on the other hand, has been known for it’s cutting edge CGI animation and Inside Out shows that off.

The stories the two films tell are also different in the sense of source material.  Inside Out is an original IP (intellectual property), which was a staple of Pixar films in the beginning (though you can’t fault them for sequels like Toy Story 2 & Toy Story 3).  When Marnie Was There is based on a book written by Joan G. Robinson.

Probably the one thing that stood out to me, now having watched both films was this.  When Marnie Was There is the end of an era.  It has the distinction of being (as of right now) the last feature film released by Studio Ghibli.  With the retirement of co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, news was released that the studio was taking a “hiatus” from feature films.  If this does end up being the last Studio Ghibli film, then they went out on a high note.  Inside Out, on the other hand, is the first Pixar feature film to be released in theaters in two years.  Anticipation was high prior to it’s release, and it has met (and some cases exceeded expectations).  Depending on how good The Good Dinosaur does come Thanksgiving, Pixar could have another resurgence.

Having seen both films, I can say two things.  1) I enjoyed both of them and the stories that they told.  2) If I had to choose which one I enjoyed more, I would have to say When Marnie Was There.  Granted I saw When Marnie Was There at the historic Belcourt Theater in Nashville and I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan, but for me that story resonated more with me.  I’ll say it was a very bittersweet feeling I had watching that film know that it could be the last Studio Ghibli film I see in a theater.  Those films never got the wide release in the States that other animated films get (though there were a few exceptions).

Given the box office that Inside Out had its opening weekend, I’m sure you have seen it (or are planning on seeing it).  But I would hope that if there is a theater in your area that’s showing When Marnie Was There that you check it out as well.  Both are great films (animated or not).