BLANK’s Top Films of 2016

7)  Don’t Think Twice

As both a filmmaker and stand-up comedian, Mike Birbiglia is exceptional at analyzing aspects of people and the lives they live to create deeply layered stories that are funny and have this unique sincerity and compassion. Don’t Think Twice explores the world of improv comedy in New York City, where a group of friends attempt to build something collectively, while often fighting for their own spotlight. The film is not just a celebration of improv. It’s an incredibly honest and hilarious take on friends struggling to find balance and advance forward. The humor isn’t slapstick comedy, but rather a reflection on the humor we take for granted each day. The excellence of the film is Birbiglia’s use of diverse emotions in deliberate moments. Times when you want to cry, you end up laughing, and leave with that warm feeling of optimism and hope. Not all will see this movie in the same way, but Birbiglia has proven that there are those that understand the world the way he does, or at the least, are intrigued by it. – Matt Miller

6)  Everybody Wants Some!!!

Everybody Wants Some!! has affected audiences all over the place for better or worse this year. The feel good slow ride is a simple story, following a group of foul-mouthed, neer-do-well college baseball players into places most stories don’t care about; around their house. The first days of their new school year are used to throw people back into the 80’s, showing off the simpler times for better and worse. It humanizes the voices of the “traditional” bad guys, and makes viewers think twice before throwing all its hate on somebody just for being on the other side of the aisle. It’s a strange vision of unity when division is all the rage.   –Andy Vinson

5)  Arrival

This distinctly unique science-fiction parable explores an idea we’ve seen before, as aliens arrive on Earth, causing mass confusion and anxiety across the globe. What sets Arrival above the rest is the more idealistic and hopeful approach it takes. The typical action and violence is replaced with an intellectual journey of hope and determination, accompanied by inevitable viewer tension. Director Denis Villeneuve excels at working your nerves with his impressive storytelling, creating thrilling moments of intensity. Amy Adams fits this film perfectly, as her character carries the entire theme of this film, while Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker deliver one of their best performances. The film is incredibly ambitious in many ways, and plays with your head just as much as your heart. Arrival will have a significant impact on the science-fiction genre’s expectations going forward.   –Matt Miller

4)  Zootopia

Who would have thought that the powers that be at Disney would let a socially challenging message like Zootopia even leave the cutting room floor. Eliciting concepts of power abuse, racism, and even police corruption, the movie has a lot more to offer than the surface level shows. Very well-fitting vocal performances and sharp storytelling make it one of the years best surprises.  –Andy Vinson

3)  Hell or High Water

Few times in the current era has a bank robber’s story been told so well. Westerns set in the modern day are few and far between, and that’s probably because they’re so hard to pull off successfully. But with Jeff Bridges leading the way as the sheriff on the hunt and a couple of hunky and daring brothers as the culprits, Hell or High Water hits the mark in every way. In this story, the bad guys have as many redeeming qualities as the good guys and it sets up for one of the year’s best climaxes.  -Rusty Odom

2)  Midnight Special

Four films in and Jeff Nichols is still spinning dystopian fairytales of the south with a respect rarely given to the area. Even in this sci-fi action film, the subtleties Nichol’s goes to in portraying the blue collar lives of America is stunning. With help from the director’s muse Michael Shannon, Midnight Special is steeped in a grim reality, even when its subject matter is technically super powers and aliens.   –Andy Vinson

1)  Moonlight

Moonlight, the year’s best film, focuses in on the American Tragedy and still finds all the incredible specks of bright life contained in it. The three act story of a gay black boy growing up in the projects of Miami with his mother has an eerie beauty propelling the story despite it’s heartbreaking, inevitable conclusions. It is a technical wonder of a film, scrutinizing every dimension of the form to create something breathtaking and magical. With its incredible all-black cast, the film pointedly lays out a blueprint of struggles some black men and women are just inherently given in America that non-people of color have not come to understand, often with stern denial that Moonlight refuses to let settle.   –Andy Vinson

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