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Baby Stevie's Favorite Movies Of 2016

People always ask me on the street, "Steve, what are your personal favorite movies of 2016?" They ask me every day. They wait for me on the corner where I get coffee and scream at me until I answer them. Sometimes they break into my apartment in the middle of the night and watch me sleep so they can ask me as soon as I wake up. I'm always looking over my shoulder for fear that I'm not alone. My life has become a nightmare. So without further ado, here are my top ten films of 2016!

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11. HONORABLE MENTIONS: Swiss Army Man, La La Land, Captain America Civil War, Rogue One

Swiss Army Man: This film opens with Paul Dano riding dead Daniel Radcliffe across the ocean like a jet ski, propelled by post-mortem farts. That alone should have guaranteed it a spot on this list. But alas, I wanted to love it more than I did. This whimsical tale about a guy who befriends a magical corpse wins the trophy for weirdest movie of the year (and maybe ever). Problem is, rigor mortis sets in towards the middle, grinding the story to a snail's pace. And I’m still not totally sure what the message is. But heaps of points for originality!

La La Land: Oh La La Land. It's not you, it's me. This absolutely deserves all the praise it’s getting. It'll probably sweep at the Oscars, and I'll be fine with that because it's a masterful celebration of music and cinema. But at the end of the day, it's just too sad for this precious little dreamer! Hits a couple of personal phobias a little too hard on the nose. That being said, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the jazziest soundtrack this side of The Aristocats hasn't been tap dancing through my head for weeks. Because it most certainly has.

Captain America Civil War: Hey everyone. I loved this movie. The only reason it doesn't make the list is because its storytelling musculature is so dependent on sinews from the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, armed with the depth of knowledge from prior films (what's crackin, my nerds!), Cap's arc has been a wonderful thing to behold. Like the comics themselves, these movies have evolved from pulp, to espionage thriller, to sociopolitical modern mythology. Chris Evans' mature and affable portrayal of the character has become a beacon of truth, justice and the American way reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Sure this movie's got Spider-Man and a whole bunch of other Happy Meal action figures beating the snot out of each other (not to mention a sneaky good villain). But ultimately, it’s a story about forgiveness that sets this apart from a genre in danger of becoming too cookie-cutter. There’s nothing more heroic than that.

Rogue One: Every Star War is my favorite Star War. I'm blind to their faults so I'm leaving this one off the list. You're welcome.

Ok! I think that's it for the adopted children. Now let's move on to my real babies. Appropriately kicking things off at number 10...

10. 10 Cloverfield Lane


I’ve been waiting for a follow up to Cloverfield since 2008. You guys remember how cool it was watching that fish-ape tear through NYC via the perspective of beloved comedy bad boy TJ Miller? Holy smokes, I adore that movie. And while this outing is more of a spiritual successor than a sequel, I dig this pretty hard too. It’s a psychological thriller rather than straight up monster movie; but once this thing gets cooking it is relentless. John Goodman isn't the fish-ape we deserve, but the one we need right now, giving his most terrifying performance to date. And the ending is everything I wanted it to be.

9. The Nice Guys


The Nice Guys is probably the most underrated movie of the year. You're guilty, I'm guilty. The trailer looked bad! I went to go see this in theaters and decided to bail last minute in favor of bringing booze into a second viewing of Captain America (no regrets). When I finally caught this on a plane months later, I must have been insufferable to my seat-mates because I was throwing elbows with glee. The script is whip-smart and recalls zany buddy cop dramadies of the 90s. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are a shockingly perfect odd-couple. Gosling especially is the funniest I’ve ever seen him. Just a super fun time all around.

8. Arrival


This right here is a well-cooked good ol’ fashioned sci-fi in the same vein as one of the all-time greats, The Day The Earth Stood Still. What I like about this film is that the twist relies on your intelligence to unfold over time. There’s not really an "a-ha!" reveal, but rather a sense of decryption that mirrors Amy Adams’ linguistic aerobics on-screen. Plus these aliens just really feel *alien*, y'know? You totally know.

7. The Lobster


I left this film feeling like I just read a fantastic Franz Kafka novel. Take that for what you will, but it’s best to go into this without any idea of plot and just enjoy the dystopian weirdness. All I’ll say is that it’s a pitch black comedy about modern love, steeped in a healthy dose of magical realism. It is very much my jam. Butter and a bib are not required, but encouraged.

6. The Handmaiden


I bet y'all haven't seen Park Chan-Wook's The Handmaiden. I bet most of y'all never will. But for those of you willing to take the journey, this thing is one wild ride. What begins as a romantic period piece set in Japanese-occupied Korea gradually morphs into another beast entirely. It’s definitely not for everyone - English subtitles and gratuitous sexual content abound. But if Downton Abbey by way of Quentin Tarantino sounds like your cup of soju, you’re in for a treat.

5. Silence


Silence is a hearty cut of filet mignon and a chalice of communion wine. It's a film-lover's movie, and perhaps more than anything else on my list, feels like an epic. The story is about two European missionaries who sneak into feudal Japan to spread forbidden Christianity and discover what became of their lost mentor. The performances are hypnotizing - specifically a villain played by Japanese comedian Issey Ogata who rivals the charming insanity of Christoph Waltz's Hans Landa. Part Seven Samurai, part Apocalypse Now, part Passion of the Christ - but all Martin Scorsese.

4. The Jungle Book


Hear me out. The thing is, The Jungle Book used to be my favorite movie as a kid. I watched it daily. Around that time, my family was robbed - and among the stolen jewelry and irreplaceable home movies, the loss of my Jungle Book VHS hit the hardest. In a sort of subconscious mourning, I never watched it again. I allowed myself to forget what it meant to me until I saw this - which speaks to the faithfulness of the adaptation. Besides the beautiful photorealistic animation of animals and an effortlessly likable performance by the actor who plays Mowgli, the clincher here is the *perfectly* cast voice acting. Bill Murray as Baloo. Christopher Walken as King Louie. Scar Jo as Kaa. The list goes on. They all sing. I was 5 again. For me, this one's a bare necessity (sorry).

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople


It’s like Up, but set in New Zealand. And the kid is a haiku-spitting gangsta. And the old man has a gun... and also he's Sam Neil from Jurassic Park. The unlikely pair go on an adventure and learn a thing or two about life. But don’t be fooled by the coming-of-age premise: this is the funniest film of the year hands down. Writer/director Taika Waititi prepares a feast of visual comedy with the speed and flair of a hibachi chef. Your mouth will fall off from smiling.

2. Kubo and the Two Strings


Like an intricate work of origami, this gorgeous stop motion animation by the folks who made Coraline folds and twists into a thing of pure magic. It’s bursting with the kind of hopeful originality that makes touchstones of the best Disney films. In other ways, it reminds me of the Legend of Zelda. But to compare it to anything at all does the film injustice - this is a wholly unique fairy tale. As if I wasn't already smitten, Regina Spektor does a cover of "As My Guitar Gently Weeps" over the closing credits, and it’s my favorite song all year. This beautiful exploration of family and loss disguised as a kid's movie hit me right where I live. You're gonna wanna hug mom and dad after this one. I'm not crying, you're crying.

1. Moonlight


If Moonlight is "Oscar-bait" then call me The Grouch because this is the best film of the year. I went in expecting to respect it more than like it, but JEEZ was I wrong. This baby is straight up haunting in the best way possible. I’m a sucker for tidy three-act structures, and this story of a boy broken into evolving chapters of his life just feels so satisfyingly cohesive. Visually, it glides with the cool atmospheric style of a European arthouse film, but the storytelling is so raw and three-dimensional. Anyone who pigeonholes this as an LGBT+ film is missing the point; it's an operatic examination of how the ones we love shape who we are. The struggle of self-discovery is sad, but universal. It submerges you in cold water and you come out feeling alive and baptized by the power of cinema. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and check it out. I'm gonna go watch it again now.

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