Film

The Best Films of 2016

PopMatters presents a list of the best films that surfaced in 2016 and impressed us with their cinematic visions of where we’ve been.

PopMatters' Best Films of 2016: Page 2

Film: Certain Women

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Cast: Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone

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Certain Women

Reichardt seems to have a freakish understanding of human nature, spotlighting moments in her characters’ lives that some filmmakers may deem too mundane to linger on or even show at all. What she sees that others don't is the invisible weight of loneliness felt by people trapped in the drudgery of a quiet daily routine, longing for something more. Each character is alive with complexity and humor and fascinating things to say, and Reichardt bares their souls completely, as uncomfortable as that can be at times. Reichardt is one of the most important American filmmakers working today, and this may be her best work yet. Quiet and beautiful, Certain Women is observational storytelling at its best. -- Bernard Boo

Read the full review here.

 
Film: The Childhood of a Leader

Director: Brady Corbet

Cast: Tom Sweet, Berenice Bejo, Stacy Martin

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The Childhood of a Leader

In The Childhood of a Leader, old Europe rises on the shoulders of a psychopath. The film is certainly overwrought as fascist analogy, what with the clueless diplomats fussing with their maps and treaties while evil seethes right under their feet. But with its precisely calibrated chill, The Childhood of a Leader is nevertheless a macabre and even thought-provoking piece of operatic doom in which great historical shifts take a back seat to a more individual view of evil. -- Chris Barsanti

Read the full review here.

 
Film: Counting

Director: Jem Cohen

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Counting

In Counting, observation is transformed into a set of questions, ethical and aesthetic, political and practical. Counting pulls together pieces of stories, arranging them so you make sense of them, so you create stories even as you reflect on them. The film observes patterns and behaviors, offers images and ideas that you might in turn rearrange. At once immediate and fragmented, ongoing and intricately connected, the movie's many stories intersect and swerve off, seduce with incredible light and exquisite composition, and reveal your responsibility in the process. Counting is a gorgeous meditation on time and place -- Cynthia Fuchs

Read the full review here.

 
Film: Do Not Resist

Director: Craig Atkinson

Cast: James Comey, Rand Paul

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Do Not Resist

The ramifications of the 2016 presidential election are now and will continue to be so disruptive to the body politic that they threaten to turn attention away from issues that were already critical before an autocratic kleptocrat with a fervent white nationalist following is allowed into the White House. One of those issues, the militarization of American police forces, is explored with alarm-bell urgency in Craig Atkinson’s shiver-inducing documentary. Atkinson, a cinematographer on such visually impressive and politically films like Detropia, starts with the 2014 Ferguson riots, where armored personal carriers and stormtrooper-equipped cops faced down protesters. He then looks at how the surplus from America’s unending overseas wars sluices homeward, with the Pentagon unloading billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment on police departments. Many of those departments have no need for up-armored Humvees or sending out SWAT teams on routine arrests (the latter usually in poor and/or minority communities). But given the police training sessions Atkinson captures, where the cops in attendance are educated in being us-against-them warriors first and peace officers last (if at all), it’s easy to see how the line between the military and law enforcement was already becoming blurred before November 2016. Given the authoritarian and anti-civil rights bent of a leader like Donald Trump, the implications of Atkinson’s film are frightening but necessary to consider. -- Chris Barsanti

 
Film: Don't Breathe

Director: Fede Alvarez

Cast: Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, Dylan Minnette

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Don't Breathe

Sometimes the best things are the simplest things. Don’t Breathe masterfully wrings every ounce of tension from its simple home-invasion premise. Director Fede Alvarez pins his characters into tighter and tighter corners, even as the action is spinning out of control. The result is a nerve-wracking rollercoaster ride that never turns in the direction you’re expecting. Don’t Breathe is the kind of white-knuckle thriller that adrenaline junkies crave. With surprises and scares, Fede Alvarez's thriller keeps everyone but The Blind Man unnerved. -- J. R. Kinnard

Read the full review here.

 
Film: Everybody Wants Some!!

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman

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Everybody Wants Some!!

Dazed and Confused is about how to find your place on the totem pole of high school socialization and fit in somewhere. Everybody Wants Some!! is about life as a long series of competitions, the shadow of Reaganomics or capitalism or postmodernism or whatever your preferred signifier of evils. The films are similar in characterization and often in getting just right the vibe of the times, but ultimately opposite in the lesson. The original is not driven by such an existential crisis of purpose, however, compared to the cutthroat nature of the sequel. Everybody Wants Some!! is Linklater’s take on competitiveness during the '80s. -- Megan Volpert

Read the full review here.

 
Film: The Fits

Director: Anna Rose Holmer

Cast: Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Da’Sean Minor

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The Fits

Anna Rose Holmer's first feature is surprising and a bit unnerving. Following 11-year-old Toni (Royalty Hightower), The Fits observes her efforts both to fit in and also resist other people's expectations. Growing up in Cincinnati, she's training as a boxer with her older brother (Da’Sean Minor), a girl in a boys' world, when she discovers a girls' dance squad. Here she discovers harmony and rigor, challenges and frustrations, while the film offers a vivid, spare soundtrack and gorgeous, restless mobile frames, as one by one the girls are subject to "fits" -- convulsions that no one can explain. The metaphor and the reality are equally compelling, as young bodies writhe and the girls fret, seek order, and find themselves. The Fits is a brilliant exploration of what movies can do, through movement, sensory experience, and the process of identification. -- Cynthia Fuchs

Read the full review here.

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