Best of 2016: Honorable Mentions
20. The Jungle Book
This is perhaps the most photo-realistic portrayal of animals ever depicted in film by CGI. I can’t think of an animal that comes across as fake or unnatural. There’s also a strong theme of community and finding out how to fit into the world around you. Mowgli is raised like he is a wolf and is told not to use “man tricks” by Bagheera for most of the film. It is only when he embraces who he really is that he is able to really fit instead of trying to be something he is not. His friendship with Baloo helps to bring this out in him.
19. The Edge of Seventeen
What makes the film stand out to me the most is how it handles Nadine. Despite the fact that she is quick witted and quick with her words, Kelly Fremon Craig, the writer and director, and Steinfeld, the actress, are not afraid to make Nadine unlikeable at times and wrong. So often, when a film is told from the perspective of one character, and especially when the film is narrated by them (as is the case here), the audience tends to see the world through their eyes, take their perspective on things, and empathize with their plight. That is a tricky thing with Nadine, especially when she has such animosity toward her brother Darian and ex-best friend Krista, who are far from “evil” characters. There are no “Plastics” or villains here. In fact, the one who comes closest to being the villain of the story at times is Nadine.
18. Sing Street
It’s through the music and the music videos that Conor absorbs that result in his growth over the course of the film. We see a progression from being a bit of a shy and quiet teenager to slowly but surely coming into his own and finding his voice, literally and figuratively. Creating songs and music videos becomes his expression in a difficult period; they’re an outlet for him to pour into. And the influences of the various bands, from Duran Duran to Hall & Oates to The Cure is a real treat to watch the progression of attire that Conor wears over the course of the year, even make-up which results in a tense scene with the principal. What really makes the film work, though, is that the music is genuine good and catchy and of a piece with its time.
17. Doctor Strange
In terms on content, featuring different dimensions and talked of a multiverse (which opens up lots of future MCU possibilities), it closest comparison is Thor. But Strange goes further in embracing the, well, strange. The film goes all in on the elements of sorcery inherent in bringing this character to the big screen. There is no way this film could be made in the mold of Nolan’s Dark Knight movies. But because it has the flexibility to be its own film, it can get weird and psychedelic, creating some amazing visual sequences as Strange enters this new reality. It shares some DNA with The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter movies in terms of how they handle the wizardry and its interaction with the real world.
16. Captain America: Civil War
The story in Captain America: Civil War is complex and treats the subject matter and the audience with maturity and thoughtfulness. Bucky Barnes is a problematic element thrust into the equation, as he has personal ties to Captain America, but has also done terrible things in the past. It’s something Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, T’Challa, and even Bucky himself have to wrestle with. Scarlet Witch also has to learn how to deal with the responsibility of being an Avenger, and a discussion between her and Captain America plays out well in addressing the issue of reconciling loss of life that comes with the responsibility of fighting evil people in the world. Likewise, the way the film addresses the mass destruction of previous films is handled far better than the way BvS tackled it. More importantly, the film makes what I thought was a welcomed and necessary pivot away from the massive destructions of cities and made the third act about the destruction of relationships.