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Jessica Chastain as Elizabeth Sloane in Miss Sloane

Jessica Chastain as Elizabeth Sloane in Miss Sloane

As I did last year, I’m breaking my annual film viewing down into quarterly posts. While the first quarter of any year is generally devoted to my Oscar Blitz and other critical darlings of the previous year, I’ve also seen a few good 2017 selections so far. Oddly enough, when I sat down to write this post, I felt like my theater-going for the first quarter was low, but when I checked against last year I saw that it is actually up (from six films to ten), while my overall viewing remained the same (thirty-nine films total). In any case, here is my ranking of the films I have seen in the theater so far this year:

Films Seen in a Theater Ranked
I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street)(1958)
Lion (2016)
Miss Sloane (2016)
Hidden Figures (2016)
Get Out (2017)
La città si difende (Four Ways Out) (1951)
The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Jackie (2016)
Table 19 (2017)

Best Film Seen in a Theater: I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street)
I saw this along with La città si difende (Four Ways Out) at a Noir City double feature at the Castro Theater on the night of the Women’s March. Aside from being rather wet from the rainy march, it was great fun—as you might imagine a comic caper film starring Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, and Totò would be. However, I remember trying to watch this at home at some point when I couldn’t really get into it, so maybe the lively Castro crowd helped more than I realize.

Best Theater Experience: Get Out
If you haven’t seen this yet, what are you waiting for? While not a perfect film (it fell for me somewhat towards the end), Get Out represents an incredible directorial debut for Jordan Peele. Not only is it a well-paced horror/thriller with great moments of comic relief and interesting visuals, it contains a richly layered social and political subtext that I imagine rewards repeat viewings. I guess others agree, since it recently became the highest-grossing U.S. writer-director film debut (earning $160 million to date on a $4.5 million budget). [Side note: I recommend learning as little as possible about the film before seeing it.]

Most Underrated: Miss Sloane
My sister insisted I see this film, claiming that it was right up my alley and that if it had been called Mr. Sloane it would have gotten far more attention. I agree on both counts. If you like well-made political thrillers and/or Jessica Chastain, I highly recommend it.

Speaking of Jessica Chastain…

Best Movie by a Female Director: The Zookeeper’s Wife
Although I am not doing #52FilmsByWomen this year, I am still trying to see the work of female directors when I can, so I was thrilled to get a chance to see a critic screening of The Zookeeper’s Wife by Niki Caro (Whale Rider and McFarland, USA). While I saw a number of great films based on true stories this quarter (Lion and Hidden Figures among them), this really stood out because, while I thought I had a decent knowledge of Warsaw during World War II, I had never heard this incredible story before. As with Hidden Figures, the film made me immediately check my library for the book it was based on.

Most Deceptively Ranked: John Wick: Chapter 2
I suppose its placement so far down on the list above might seem to imply that I didn’t like John Wick: Chapter 2, but no, I just happened to see really great films in the theater this quarter. Sure, this follow-up to the surprise hit John Wick could have been tighter, but I loved all the new elements they added—the Italian, art jokes, Orson Welles shout-outs, and more. While the final chase is probably what stands out most in people’s minds, I adored the Roman bath scene, which set the tone of this film early on.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick in John Wick: Chapter 2

As many of the above films are not currently at your local theater, you may be asking yourself, “What should I be renting to watch at home?” Good question! Let’s take a final look at 2016, shall we?

If you read my year-end post, you may recall that I thought it was a pretty good year and that it was fairly easy to come up with a solid Top Ten, but I hesitated somewhat over filling the last slot and thought it was likely that my first quarter viewing would dethrone The Light Between Oceans. In fact, I’ve had to rethink much of the list. What’s more, I’ve added the next fifteen because there are some brilliant films in there, any of which I might recommend depending on your mood and what you are looking for (for more specific recommendations, see lists below).

Updated Top Ten Films of 2016
Les Innocentes (The Innocents)
Arrival
Hell or High Water
20th Century Women
Love & Friendship
American Honey
Maggie’s Plan
Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden)
Green Room
Hunt for the Wilderpeople

The Next Fifteen
Lion
The Edge of Seventeen
Captain Fantastic
The Light Between Oceans
The Lobster
The Love Witch
Moonlight
La La Land
Miss Sloane
Sunset Song
Busanhaeng (Train to Busan)
Hidden Figures
The Dressmaker
Queen of Katwe
Sing Street

For more of my thoughts on the films of 2016, see my “Film Quarterly” posts (Vol. 2016, Issue 1, Vol. 2016, Issue 2, Vol. 2016, Issue 3, Vol. 2016, Issue 4) and my year-end wrap-up (The End of Innocence: The Year in Films).

For an incredible edit of some of the best visual moments of 2016, along with a countdown of his own top twenty-five, watch this glorious video by David Ehrlich of the Fighting in the War Room podcast.


If that didn’t give you enough ideas for what looks good, here are some more specific suggestions…

If You Have a Cinematographer’s Eye:
Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden)
Hell or High Water
The Light Between Oceans
The Love Witch
Sunset Song

If You Know That a Good Editor is Hard to Find:
Arrival
Busanhaeng (Train to Busan)
Green Room
Hell or High Water
Miss Sloane

If You Want a Film that Crushes the Bechdel-Wallace Test:
Ghostbusters
Hidden Figures
Les Innocentes (The Innocents)
Tallulah
20th Century Women

The incredible, and incredibly complex, women of 20th Century Women

If You Want to Laugh:
The Edge of Seventeen
Love & Friendship
Maggie’s Plan

If You Want Something to Warm Your Heart:
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Queen of Katwe
Sing Street

If You Think Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold:
Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden)
The Dressmaker
Hell or High Water

If You Don’t Mind Something Disturbing:
Elle
Green Room
Tickled

If You Want to See Things That Go Bump in the Night:
Busanhaeng (Train to Busan)
10 Cloverfield Lane
The Witch

If You Want a Science Fiction Double Feature:
Arrival and The Lobster

The Lobster takes an unblinking look at modern dystopian love

If You Want a Movie That Keeps You Guessing:
Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden)
Miss Sloane
10 Cloverfield Lane

If You Think You Can Handle the Truth:
O.J.: Made in America
13th
Zero Days

If You Want to See America’s Gritty Underbelly:
American Honey
Green Room
Hell or High Water

If You Want to See La La Land not La La Land:
City of Gold
The Nice Guys
Rules Don’t Apply

If You Want to Travel Vicariously:
L’Avenir (Things to Come)
A Bigger Splash
Lion

The most adorable travel companion you could ever wish for in Lion

If You Want to Travel in Time:
Love & Friendship
Sunset Song
The Witch

If You Want to Relive World War II:
Allied
Denial
Les Innocentes (The Innocents)

If You Want to Relive the 1950s:
The Dressmaker
Hail, Caesar!
Rules Don’t Apply

If You Want to Relive the 1960s:
Hidden Figures
Jackie
Loving

Spheres are in commotion and elements in harmony in Hidden Figures

If You Want to Take a Walk on the Wild Side:
Captain Fantastic
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
The Lobster

If You Want to See Cats:
L’Avenir (Things to Come)
Elle
Keanu

If You Want to See Dogs:
Green Room
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
The Lobster

If You Want to See Horses:
Hell of High Water
Love & Friendship
The Magnificent Seven

If You Want to See Sheep:
Captain Fantastic
Sunset Song
Zootopia

Bumping into one another in town, as you do, in Sunset Song

If You Dig Math:
The Accountant
Hidden Figures
The Man Who Knew Infinity

If You Dig Books:
Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden)
L’Avenir (Things to Come)
Captain Fantastic

If You Think Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing:
Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden)
La La Land
The Light Between Oceans
Loving
Sing Street

If You Think It’s Complicated:
Allied
The Lobster
The Love Witch
Maggie’s Plan
Moonlight

Looking for love in all the wrong places in The Love Witch

If You Want to See Friends in Need or in Deed:
Don’t Think Twice
The Edge of Seventeen
The Fits
Green Room
Sing Street

If You Want to Keep It in the Family:
The Dressmaker
Hell or High Water
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
The Light Between Oceans
The Witch

If You Want to Reflect on Your Parenting Skills:
Busanhaeng (Train to Busan)
Captain Fantastic
Queen of Katwe
Sunset Song
20th Century Women

The Kids Are Alright (Teenage Star Power Performances):
American Honey
Captain Fantastic
The Edge of Seventeen
The Fits
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Moonlight
The Nice Guys
Queen of Katwe
Sing Street
The Witch



A big thanks to some of my favorite film podcasts (Fighting in the War Room, Movie Geeks United, Movies Now and Then, and Top 5 Film) for calling my attention to many of these films, especially American Honey, Busanhaeng (Train to Busan), The Fits, The Lobster, and Sunset Song.

Top Five 2016 Movies I Haven’t Yet Seen But Want To
Cameraperson
Certain Women
Krisha
Paterson
Tower

Top Five Films I Have Seen But Can’t Recommend
Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)
The Man with One Red Shoe (1985)
Milius (2013)
Diavolo in Corpo (Devil in the Flesh) (1986)
Lost in America (1985)

Best Classic Rewatch: Groundhog Day (1993) on Groundhog Day

Best New-to-Me Classic: La città si difende (Four Ways Out) (1951)

Best Math Greek Selection: Some Came Running (1958). An unknown-to-me gem of 1950s CinemaScope weirdness and delight.

Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Dean Martin, and Carmen Phillips in Some Came Running

The Rupert Giles Award (aka Mathiest): Hidden Figures (2016)

Most Existential Ennui (aka Frenchiest): Trois couleurs: Bleu (Three Colors: Blue) (1993)

Worst Abuse of Geography: the New York of John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Best Use of a Major U.S. Tourist Attraction: the Space Needle in The Parallax View (1974)

Best Use of a Hat as Plot Point (tie): Phantom Lady (1944) and Some Came Running (1958)

Best Distributor of Vigilante Justice: Pam Grier in Coffy (1973)

Ewan McGregor “Please Put That Penis Away” Award: Diavolo in Corpo (Devil in the Flesh) (1986)

Gloria Steinem “No Way Was This Film Made by a Man” Award: The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

Peter Cetera “They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To” Award: Iron Man (2008)

Most Oddly Relevant for Today (three-way tie): F for Fake (1974), The Parallax View (1974), and The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2010)

I suppose hucksters and con men have always been with us.

What are your favorite movies of the year so far? What did I miss in 2016 that I absolutely must see? Let me know in the comment box below.

*The movies I saw or rewatched this quarter include:

2017: Get Out, John Wick: Chapter 2, Table 19, The Zookeeper’s Wife

2016: American Honey, Bridget Jones’s Baby, Busanhaeng (Train to Busan), Captain Fantastic, City of Gold, Hidden Figures, Jackie, The Light Between Oceans, Lion, Loving, Miss Sloane, O.J.: Made in America, Sunset Song, 10 Cloverfield Lane, 20th Century Women

Released prior to 2016: La città si difende (Four Ways Out), Cloverfield, Coffy, Diavolo in Corpo (Devil in the Flesh), Don’t Bother to Knock, F for Fake, Groundhog Day, I soliti ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street), Iron Man, Kindergarten Cop, Lost in America, The Man with One Red Shoe, Milius, The Parallax View, Phantom Lady, Some Came Running, Trois couleurs: Blanc (Three Colors: White), Trois couleurs: Bleu (Three Colors: Blue), Trois couleurs: Rouge (Three Colors: Red), The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

Note: These posts are in no way affiliated with the Film Quarterly journal published by the University of California Press.

Note to email subscribers, there is embedded video in this post that may not appear in your email. Please click through to the actual post to see the complete list of selections.

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