Mr. Reed’s Metaphysical Neighborhood Presents the Best and Worst Films of 2016

[For an explanation of my blog post title, check out my “best of” list from 2013.]

Below you will find lists of my favorite films of the year, divided by narrative (fiction) and documentary (nonfiction) formats (I do not separate animated films from either genre, and there are examples of at least one animated film in each category). This is the first time I have broken down my lists in this way, and it largely has to do with the sheer number of documentaries I now watch and review in my position as lead film critic for Hammer to Nail, which makes me want to highlight even more of the great work being done by the 21st century’s exceptional nonfiction filmmakers. As always, the main factor that motivated me to include a film among my favorites is whether or not that film surprised or moved me; was there something in it that reached deep down into my cinematic soul and woke me up as I watched it, even if the film as a whole may have had some flaws (perfection is a subjective reality, anyway).

Not all of the movies mentioned received some kind of theatrical or online release in 2016, though most of them did; a few may still be looking for distributors after making their festival rounds. Where I have previously written reviews of a movie (whether for Hammer to NailFilm Festival Today or this blog), the title of that movie is hyperlinked to my original review. If I only wrote a brief capsule review of a film after seeing it at a film festival, then I link to that write-up, however short it may be. Where I have not (yet) reviewed a film, I have hyperlinked the title to the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page and written a (very) short description of it, just to explain what I admire (or don’t).

If a film that you, yourself, saw and liked is nowhere mentioned here, then it is possible that I did not see it (or saw it and liked it, but not enough to include among my favorites, or saw it and, of course, did not like it). As many films as I watch every year, I do not see everything; Swiss Army Man is but one example of a movie I missed. If you have questions about any omissions, feel free to comment and/or send me a note. And really, what separates the “Top 10” from the “runners-up” is very little.

Enjoy! Over the next three weeks or so, as always, I will publish a separate list of the best acting and technical/artistic achievements of the year.

Top 10 Narrative Films of 2016 (in alphabetical order):

Best of 2016 Narratives Part 1

Best of 2016 Narratives Part 2

  1. Captain Fantastic
  2. Certain Women
  3. Hell or High Water
  4. La La Land
  5. Loving
  6. Manchester by the Sea
  7. Moonlight
  8. Rams
  9. Toni Erdmann – Perhaps excessively long (perhaps), this delightful German film is nevertheless a profound (and very entertaining) meditation on familial bonds that features one of the best uses of nudity to ever grace the silver screen.
  10. 20th Century Women – Mike Mills (Beginners) delivers a loving fictional portrait of his mother that is also a tribute to the strength of women, of all ages, everywhere.

2016 Narrative Film Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):

2016 Narrative Runners-Up Part 1

2016 Narrative Runners-Up Part 2

  1. Claire in Motion
  2. The Edge of Seventeen
  3. Fences
  4. The Handmaiden – Bound meets Rashomon in this  twisted Korean period thriller from Chan-wook Park (Stoker) that offers us a satisfying frisson both sexual and intellectual.
  5. Hunter Gatherer
  6. The Lobster
  7. Miles Ahead
  8. Moana
  9. Silence – An adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel of the same name, this chronicle of the plight of Portuguese priests in 17th-century Japan is director Martin Scorsese’s best work in years.
  10. Zootopia

Top 10 Documentary Films of 2016 (in alphabetical order):

Best of 2016 Documentaries Part 1

Best of 2016 Documentaries Part 2

  1. Cameraperson
  2. Chicken People
  3. In Pursuit of Silence (linked to my interview with director, which includes a brief capsule review)
  4. The Last Man on the Moon
  5. Newtown
  6. Plaza de la Soledad
  7. Salero
  8. Tower
  9. Under the Sun
  10. Weiner

2016 Documentary Film Runners-Up (in alphabetical order):

2016 Documentary Runners-Up Part 1


  1. Abortion: Stories Women Tell
  2. Almost Sunrise
  3. Audrie & Daisy
  4. The Bandit
  5. The Dwarvenaut
  6. The Eagle Huntress
  7. The If Project
  8. National Bird
  9. Ovarian Psycos
  10. Sonita

Documentary and Narrative Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

Worst Films of 2016 (in alphabetical order):

Stay tuned for more posts in the week ahead, where I will list my favorite performances and technical achievements of the year, as well.


SXSW2016, Part 6: The Penultimate Post (with Still More “Hammer to Nail” Reviews and Interviews, plus “Bmoreart”)

SXSW2016 No 6 Collage

Just when you thought we were done with my reviews and interviews from the 2016 SXSW Festival, I have still more Hammer to Nail pieces to share. Six more, to be exact (and there will be one final post after this):

Be sure to read my firstsecondthirdfourth and fifth posts on SXSW2016, as well!

And before I forget, I also did a general festival wrap-up for Bmoreart. Check it out!

SXSW2016, Part 4 (Friday, March 18 and beyond)

If you missed it earlier in the week, here is the list of the SXSW2016 Jury Awards. And here are the Audience Awards, announced yesterday. The last day of the festival, for me, was Friday, March 18 (we left the next day), and I saw only two films for which I will not be writing reviews for Hammer to Nail, and I have capsule reviews of both, below. Here are the reviews and interviews that have been published on Hammer to Nail since my last post:

Stay tuned for more in the next week!

Richard Linklater Dream Is Destiny

Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny (Karen Bernstein/Louis Black, 2016)

If you’re a filmmaker or film fanatic in Austin, Texas, you owe a huge debt of gratitude to director Richard Linklater, who founded the Austin Film Society in 1985 and then continued to make Austin his home even after the indie success of his debut feature, Slacker, which was shot in Austin. Linklater’s insistence on bringing the film industry to him (and to his home), rather than on abandoning his roots, is what has helped make his work feel so personal, even when films like the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight trilogy have taken him far afield. When, finally, in 2015, he was nominated for an Oscar for his 12-year-odyssey of a movie, Boyhood, it felt like a vindication for everyone who has ever wanted to do it his/her way without compromise. Such is the journey outlined in this decently solid, if not amazing, documentary. Indeed, the story is compelling; it’s the filmmaking that’s a bit pedestrian (Bernstein and Black are no Linklater). Black’s insistence on putting himself in the frame with Linklater during interviews is distracting: the folly of a man who was there when Linklater got his start, and now wants to make sure we all remember. But leaving that aside, the film is definitely worth watching for all who care about independent cinema and who appreciate Linklater’s work.Everybody Wants Some

Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater, 2016)

Sometimes Linklater is no Linklater, either. This enjoyably breezy nostalgic college-party film is filled with magnificent performances and wonderful set pieces, including a marvelous bit where the lead actors sing and rap along to The Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 hit Rapper’s Delight, but it ultimately feels extraordinarily slight (this review on The Verge sums it up quite well). I had a good time watching it, laughed a lot, but started checking my watch after about an hour. I wish there were more to it than just a celebration of alcohol, drugs and sex (or, at least, an uncritical look back at the joy of when those things felt fresh and new). I dug the cast, though, which includes, from among my favorites, Blake Jenner (Ryder Lynn on Glee), Glen Powell (Chad Radwell on Scream Queens) and Tyler Hoechin (Derek Hale on Teen Wolf) as horny baseball jocks, and Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy) as the lone (somewhat) fully realized email character. It’s a guy’s movie filled with guy’s guys. Bromance all the way.

Be sure to read my firstsecond and third posts on SXSW2016, as well!