Film: Top 10

The best films of 2016

By Richard von Busack

Captain America: Civil War

Fences

The Handmaiden

Hell or High Water

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Loving

Moonlight

OJ: Made in America

Haxan

Zootopia

The problem with looking backwards at the year in film is that it involves looking backwards at the year 2016—and who wants to do that?    

Captain America: Civil War is possibly an unnecessary sequel with one fight scene too many. But the directors, the Russo Brothers, caught the national sense of division, and of blowback begetting blowback. If only butthurt liberal snowflakes are threatening to get out of the U.S. now, what does it say that even the captain decided to head for the hills?

Strange that with all of the efforts to retrieve the magic of the studio-era film, in La La Land, Rules Don’t Apply, Café Society and Hail Caesar, that the most original pastiche was in a silent film—the Danish classic Haxan aka Witchcraft Through the Ages. Witchcraft’s de La Tour lighting and the ingenious payoff worked its magic.

Made for TV it might have been, but the eight-hour OJ: Made in America took a long look at this hero’s plummet, and the way he allowed himself to be used as a palliative against America’s racism during the white backlash of the 1960s.   

Zootopia, Loving and Moonlight—the last and perhaps the best film of the year—did justice to our reeling times in three different approaches to the subject of dangerous liaisons. Fences is a haunting film about how post-traumatic slave syndrome destroys a tough, ingenious man.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople seems like a movie that’ll find its niche during repeated viewings; it remains as the one film you can recommend to anyone, even during times of schism. The kinky and beautifully framed The Handmaiden describes the cost of snobbery. And Hell or High Water’s splashy, sagebrush rebellion populism is less key to its quality than the way it treats—with wit and fierce excitement—the lives of outlaws.

As for the worst of the year … why search for a more dispiriting movie than Alice Through the Looking Glass? It cost a fortune. It rubbished a great book. And it had the last of Alan Rickman in it, as if to remind us of one more loss in a year of heavy losses.

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