Below are Mo Money’s top films of 2016 excluding movies that originally premiered in 2015 outside of the United States.
1.) The Love Witch
This isn’t camp or kitsch; this is a feminist thesis in the guise of a murderous witch film. Anna Biller took years writing this film after Viva, and the end result was worth the wait. If you don’t know her work, fix it!
A Ghanaian film from two up-and-coming female filmmakers that is a first in numerous regards: first film from Ghana to play the Berlinale and the first movie to be filmed in the Kusaal language. Though directed by two American women, and inspired by one’s time in the Peace Corps, it is a collaborative work with its actors and co-screenwriter Isaac Adakudugu that doesn’t sentimentalize the village, Nakom, but rather feels lived-in and authentic. Nakom shows a part of Ghana that is underrepresented even in the Ghana film industry. The struggle of a young medical student to choose between his own self-interest or his family and village offers a compelling story of youth this year, which it shares with a number of other films on this list. The style and pace, inspired in part by Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, leaves a lasting impression.
3.) Baden Baden
Rachel Lang’s first feature (non-documentary) film forms a trilogy with her two shorts. Each film centers around a different character named Ana played by the same actress, Salomé Richard. While the film’s plot doesn’t sound like much on paper (a young woman replaces her grandmother’s bathtub while interacting with numerous men), the film shows how interesting small and simple things are in competent hands.
4.) American Honey
A languorous film about American youth selling magazine subscriptions in Middle America. Directed by the English director Andrea Arnold, the film is better than any piece of journalism at showing how the failures of Clinton, Bush, and Obama created Trumpland.
Rage against elites isn’t just a trendy thing in the United States and Europe. The Brazilian film follows one woman’s refusal to cave into the desire of an arrogant land developer. The ending alone is worth the price of admission for anyone demanding to be heard.
Todd Solondz’s latest offers four stories that are connected by a female wiener-dog. It offers the best digital film of his career. Funny and depressing just like life itself.
7.) Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu/Kizumonogatari Part II: Nekketsu
It is too hard to pick one over the other, so I will cheat and include both as one. The planned trilogy of films serve as a prequel to the Monogatari television series. Although I haven’t seen any of the television series, the movies demonstrate that animation can still pack a punch, and that style isn’t dead. Plus, they are two great films that happen to involve vampires and puns.
Kate Lynn Sheil, one of the greatest actresses in modern American independent films, investigates the real-life, on-air suicide of Christine Chubbuck for a movie role that doesn’t exist. While I detest the ending, the documentary is captivating throughout its run time. It asks questions about violence and media consumption that are too hard to ignore.
9.) Shin Godzilla
A bureaucratic procedural mixed with a grotesque kaiju makes for one of the most interesting Godzilla films I’ve seen. While I lament the CGI monster, and wish that rubber suits would make a comeback, the film offers a look at Japanese politics, internally and internationally, that almost makes the body horror of Godzilla’s numerous transformations uninteresting in comparison. Hopefully Toho continues to make Japanese Godzilla films alongside the American made Legendary Pictures series.
Laika’s fourth feature film proves that an animation studio can maintain quality over a decade. While it is possible to balk at the use of predictable story beats, the film is a testament to the value of doing a common story at the highest production possible.
What are your favorite movies of 2016?
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