“What Were the Top 10 Films of 2016?”

Here are my personal Best Picture choices for 2016, following yesterday’s announcement of the nominations for the 89th Academy Awards.

1. Hacksaw Ridge

One of the greatest heroes of the Second World War singlehandedly saved seventy-five lives, without ever carrying a firearm. Desmond Doss‘ story is expertly told in two acts: his life in rural Lynchburg, Virginia and the tribulations of his service on Okinawa Island. Featuring a top notch performance from Andrew Garfield and exceptional battle sequences, Hacksaw Ridge is one of director Mel Gibson‘s greatest triumphs.

2. Hell or High Water

Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) are about to lose their family’s ranch, unless they come up with roughly $40,000 in a matter of days. Hell or High Water, David Mackenzie and Taylor Sheridan‘s story of two polar opposite, bank-robbing brothers, is exhilarating and touching from start to finish. Keep your eyes, and minds, open for the expert performance of Jeff Bridges as Ranger Marcus Hamilton, an aging man of principle with a uniquely colorful sense of humor.

3. Nocturnal Animals

Ready for a sleepless night or two? Tom Ford’s adaptation of the novel Tony and Susan is, despite its graphic subject matter, impossible to ignore. Jake Gyllenhaal‘s performance is standout; he portrays both author Edward Sheffield and devoted family man Tony Hastings, the protagonist of Edward’s latest novel (the namesake of Nocturnal Animals). Michael Shannon also steals his every scene as the intimidating Lt. Bobby Andes, a supporting player in the aforementioned book, making him (arguably) the film’s strongest element.

4. Deadpool

Ryan Reynolds was born to play Wade Wilson, the mind behind the titular anti-hero. This record-breaking action-comedy packs a wallop with stunning visual effects and tons of hilarious fourth wall breaks from the self-aware protagonist. If you don’t mind raunchy, bloody fun, with a smattering of heart, Deadpool is the film for you!

5. La La Land

Writer-director Damien Chazelle outdoes himself with possibly the most entertaining and profound musical of the last decade. Telling the story of Los Angeles lovers Mia and Sebastian (Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling), La La Land will have you humming one of its many original songs long after you leave the theater. The film boasts a soulful score from Justin Hurwitz, vibrant cinematography from Linus Sandgren and equally stunning sets and costumes.

6. The BFG

You’ll have a “whopsy spliffeling” good time with Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, adapted from the Roald Dahl novel of the same name. That phrase, by the way, is an example of Gobblefunk, the charmingly silly language with which the titular protagonist speaks. Academy Award-winner Mark Rylance’s layered, larger-than-life performance, as well as John Williams’ magical musical score, are highlights of this delightful family feature.

7. Snowden

From the minds of writer-director Oliver Stone and co-writer Kieran Fitzgerald comes the secret history of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The man is no doubt a polarizing figure; Snowden does well to portray his complicated personality and history. Taut writing and capital acting from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, plus Peter Gabriel’s scintillating end credits song, make this historical drama a must-see.

8. The Accountant

The Accountant is not your average action-thriller: it is equal parts character study and examination of autism. The titular character, Christian Wolff, is a highly-gifted mental calculatorBen Affleck’s performance is possibly the best of his career (next to Hollywoodland and Gone Girl). There’s also a pleasant subplot involving Christian befriending fellow accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick).

9. Manchester by the Sea

The chronicle of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) struggling to cope with long-standing demons is perhaps the most fascinatingly heartbreaking film of 2016. Through Manchester by the Sea, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan presents a parable on the dangers of perseverating on the past and the importance of forgiveness. This is a picture that will surely offer more and more with repeat viewings.

10. Moonlight

Barry Jenkins, writer and director of Moonlight, has crafted a touching portrait of a boy growing to a man under decidedly aggravating circumstances. Chiron (portrayed at intervals by Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) must often fend for himself to make something of the life he’s been given. Nicholas Britell’s haunting musical score, plus the performances of Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali, are perhaps the film’s greatest standouts.

Many thanks to the Awards Circuit, Awards Daily and Gold Derby teams for keeping me informed of the latest Awards Season news.

Note: The reminder list of eligible films can be found here.

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