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Monday, January 9, 2017

Top 10 Week: The Runners Up

Bearing in mind that I haven't seen the following films, which may (but may not) have altered the rankings: Certain Women, Toni Erdmann, 20th Century Women, Hidden Figures, Elle, Silence; I'm kicking off my Top 10 Week with the runners up who just missed making my lists of the best Films, Performances, and Scenes of 2016.

Scenes of 2016

The Escape, The Handmaiden

Technically two scenes, but most scenes in The Handmaiden are technically two scenes due to its split perspective. In the first part of the film, the escape is viewed from above, watching as the two women enter and exit a series of buildings via their sliding rice doors. In the second part, the film is on the ground with the women and allows them a moment of pause as one considers the consequences of failure before soldiering on and following through. The exhilaration on her face as she takes those steps into freedom is one of the film's highlights.

My heart was broken, Manchester By the Sea

Michelle Williams' role in Manchester By the Sea is ultimately very small, but there's a decent chance she's going to get an Oscar nomination for it and, if she does, it will be the result of this scene between her and Casey Affleck as two ex-spouses, the one trying to talk about the past in an effort to finally put it to rest, the other unable to bring himself to say a word about it because to do so would be to open a chasm of grief and fall into it.

The DMV, Zootopia

I genuinely feel like I could watch this scene all day.

Performances by Men in 2016

Ben Foster, Hell or High Water

As the loose cannon, nothing left to lose half of the bank robbing duo in Hell or High Water, Ben Foster delivers a savage and volatile performance. If any of the actors from the film is going to get an Oscar nomination, it will probably be Jeff Bridges, but Foster's performance is just as deserving of recognition.

Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins

I didn't know that Hugh Grant had it in him, delivering a performance in Florence Foster Jenkins that is easily the best of his career. Playing the protective husband of the title character, who is devoted to his "Bunny" even as he lives a whole other life entirely separate and apart from her, Grant's performance is often genuinely touching and surprisingly nuanced.

The trio, Moonlight

You can't single out just one. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, the three actors who play the main character at various points in his life in Moonlight, each brings something crucial to the film and carries a moment that is necessary to our understanding of who this young man is - and who he wants to be.

Performances by Women in 2016

Janelle Monae, Moonlight

As one of the few bright spots in the life of Moonlight's protagonist, Janelle Monae plays a woman whose patience and understanding give him the emotional support he's so desperately lacking everywhere else. Moonlight is a true ensemble piece in every sense of the word and Monae's performance is an essential part of the film's success.

Michelle Williams, Manchester By the Sea

Michelle Williams' role in Manchester By the Sea is small, but it can't be said that she doesn't make every second of it count. As part of the past that haunts the protagonist's present, Williams delivers some of the film's most powerful moments.

Kate Winslet, The Dressmaker

She vamps, she rages, she despairs, she searches for the truth, and the gets her revenge. In The Dressmaker, part romantic comedy, part revenge western, part noir, Kate Winslet gets to do it all and it's a delight to watch.

Films of 2016

Captain Fantastic

Captain Fantastic is a film that strives to see things from all sides. Its protagonist is sometimes right, sometimes very wrong, sometimes the victim, sometimes the perpetrator. He's insufferable and worthy of praise all at the same time. Captain Fantastic was one of the gems of the year and it's clear-eyed, nuanced view of its protagonist is one of the many reasons why.

The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker was not a hit with critics, which leads me to believe that they must have seen a different movie than I did because the movie I saw was an absolute delight. From the performances by Kate Winslet and Judy Davis, to the exquisite costumes, to its story which walks a high-wire between genres, this movie was one of the highlights of my viewing year.

Manchester By the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By the Sea is a story about the enduring trauma of grief. As a result it's often bleak, but it's also a film full of surprising pockets of warmth and humor as its protagonist struggles to navigate the situation that has been thrust upon him. While it didn't strike me in quite the same way as it seemed to strike critics, I still think it's easily one of the best films of the year.

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