Top 100 Best Movies of the 2010s: The Best of the Bunch (10-1)

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(Source: The Atlantic)

10. Whiplash (2014) – Damien Chazelle’s film about aspiring drummer Andrew (Miles Teller), who goes to a New York music school, under the instruction of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar for his role), a music teacher with an appalling temper is nail-biting as it is darkly comedic. This is a movie about the hardships of following your dreams. The jazz music, the brisk-paced editing, and the performances are all top-notch. The ending will have you cheering. And remember: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.”

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(Source: Deadline)

9. Dunkirk (2017) – After seeing Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic for the first time in theaters, I knew I had to see it again…and again. Its nonlinear narrative might throw audiences off a little, but Dunkirk is a movie that demands repeated viewings. There is so much going on throughout its 106-minute runtime that there is always something you catch up on in repeated viewings. Everything that is shown on the screen is real–the Spitfire planes, warships, and sailboats. The performances from the massive cast are all strong, and the suspense is on a level that Alfred Hitchcock would probably appreciate.

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(Source: IndieWire)

8. Call Me by Your Name (2017) – I have never seen a more beautiful romance than what director Luca Guadagnino and screenwriter James Ivory bring in Call Me by Your Name. One of many reasons why it works is the chemistry between Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. This slow-burning film takes its time getting to know our two protagonists–Elio and Oliver. They spend time teasing one another until they express their feelings while spending an Italian summer (gorgeous cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom) they will never forget. Their friendship takes a more subtle approach than your average romance (not to mention allowing the two having freedom to improvise). It’s fascinating to find out these characters happen to be Jewish (take note of the Star of David pendant necklace Oliver wears). While struggling to come to terms with his own identity, Elio explains that he and his parents are only “Jews of discretion.”

As Elio’s father, it stuns me Michael Stuhlbarg did not get nominated at all. Particularly his powerful monologue near the end is something every dad should give to their children. Call Me by Your Name is more of a coming-of-age story than anything else. Honest, lovely, stunning, and miraculous on every level.

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(Source: Brittanica)

7. Moonlight (2016) – Not only is this the first Best Picture winner with a shoestring budget ($1.5 million), but it’s also the first to feature an all-black cast. Barry Jenkins adapts Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue with stunning results. Everything about this movie is flawless: the powerful story about a black boy named Chiron struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality, the marvelous performances by Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, and Janelle Monae among others, the gorgeous cinematography by James Laxton, and Nicholas Brittel’s score. The scenarios–including having a proper father figure–all feel authentic and relatable.

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(Source: Vox)

6. BlacKkKlansman (2018) – After a series of box-office misfires, Spike Lee returns with his most successful film about the true story of Colorado Springs police detective Ron Stallworth infiltrating the local Ku Klux Klan. It has been a while since I’ve seen a movie that will make you laugh one minute and would give you goosebumps the next. Who cares if BlacKkKlansman is dramatized (*ahem* Boots Riley)? With a terrific cast and soundtrack, this is a risky yet captivating wake-up call to where this country is at right now, in terms of racial relations. The last few minutes will make you speechless. 

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(Source: IndieWire)

5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Easily one of the best action movies of all-time, George Miller’s return to Mad Max is set mostly on the road. This is the only film in the series ever to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. As straightforward as the narrative might be, it has themes of redemption. To complement the impressive, wall-to-wall action, most of the stunts are practical. With memorable characters and beautiful cinematography, Mad Max: Fury Road will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout its two-hour runtime.

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(Source: IndieWire)

4. Little Women (2019)/Parasite (2019) – After the success with the directorial debut Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig enters the mainstream with her second feature Little Women. Although Louisa May Alcott’s book has been adapted so many times since the 1900s, there has never been a version as charming and honest as this one. It’s perfect on every level. Gerwig keeps it traditional while modernizing it for today’s audiences, kudos to her wonderful screenplay and directing. Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography beautifully contrasts the present-day scenes with the flashbacks (they feel like something out of a scrapbook). The stellar cast including Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, and Meryl Streep is absolutely stellar. Yes, Saoirse Ronan is fantastic as Jo, the tomboy of the March sisters aspiring to become a writer. However, I had more of a connection with Amy (played with such panache by Florence Pugh), the aspiring painter. And also, I couldn’t anyone to play Laurie more perfectly than Timothée Chalamet!

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(Source: IndieWire)

With Parasite, writer-director Bong Joon-ho returns to his native Korea after making two movies in America with this brilliant film (which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) about two families from two different class structures–the Kims, the lower-class family living in a basement struggling to earn cash, and the Parks, the upper-class family with a dark secret. Filled with dark humor, stunning imagery, big surprises, and nonstop suspense, there is not a single moment in Parasite that feels wasted. As the movie begins to take off, it will never let you go. This future classic in world cinema is required viewing for movie buffs everywhere. 

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(Source: IMDb)

3. Toy Story 3 (2010) – More than a decade after Toy Story 2, Lee Unkrich and the wonderful people of PIXAR bring the wonderful characters back for a third installment in the beloved Toy Story franchise. There is so much to like about this movie: the gorgeous-as-ever animation, its introduction to new characters, its sense of humor (particularly Spanish Buzz Lightyear), and subtle references to sci-fi films (i.e. Jurassic Park). Toy Story 3 has probably the most intense climax in any film PIXAR has ever made. The movie couldn’t have ended on a better note.

The Social Network

(Source: IndieWire)

2. The Social Network (2010) – Believe it or not, The Social Network served as my introduction to director David Fincher. This movie following Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) creating of Facebook and the consequences that followed is an emotionally intense biopic sprinkled with the director’s signature dark humor, brilliant editing, an excellent techno score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Aaron Sorkin’s fantastic script. Also, I have never seen a poster tagline as honest as the one for this movie: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”

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(Source: NOLA.com)

1. Her (2013) – Who knew a romantic drama about a lonely man falling in love with his operating system would be so heartbreaking? Nobody can direct this type of movie like Spike Jonze can. Joaquin Phoenix should have got nominated for his performance as Theodore, a man who works at a business where he writes letters for people who are unable to write them. He is going through a rough divorce until he updates his operating system with a virtual assistant named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Almost right away, they build a connection unlike anything Theodore has experienced before.

With an amazing cast including Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, and Rooney Mara, their performances add to the experience. Through Jonze’s excellent writing and directing, the beautiful cinematography and music, Her will make you laugh, cry, think, and be flat-out amazed.

There you have it! I would like to thank everyone of you for following my blog over the past five years. It’s been my extreme pleasure to share my love of movies this past decade; either on YouTube, Letterboxd, or on WordPress. I’ll definitely be back to give you more movie reviews in the coming years. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on what your favorite movies of the decade are. See you in 2020!

 

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My Thoughts on the 89th Oscars Ceremony

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Mahershala Ali accepting his award for Moonlight at last night’s Oscars ceremony. (Source: FOX News)

Oh man–what a night!

It was actually a fun Oscars ceremony! One of the funniest things host Jimmy Kimmel does on his talk show is trash talking Matt Damon (it’s kind of a long story). When he walked on the stage, he cracked jokes about the nominees (including Meryl Streep receiving her 20th Best Actress and starring in hundreds of “mediocre movies”), politics (not to mention references to Donald Trump), and, of course, his feud with Damon mentioning that he backed out of playing the lead in Manchester by the Sea to star in The Great Wall, one of the biggest box-office bombs of 2017 so far.

Another one of my favorite segments Kimmel does on his show is “Mean Tweets”. This is where celebrities read their mean tweets. Some of them are really funny, while some of them are just horrible. I was so proud he did it last night during the ceremony! There were a lot of montages, and I loved how we get to see actors talking about their experiences with some of their favorite movies and falling in love with a certain actor from that film, and having them present on stage. Charlize Theron and Shirley MacLaine (The Apartment), Seth Rogen and Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future), and Javier Bardem and Meryl Streep (The Bridges of Madison County).

A lot of people boycotted last year’s Oscars due to the lack of diversity in the nominations. The president of the Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs made a wonderful speech proving that “Art has no borders.” Meaning, the nominations will be more diverse in the coming years. Denzel Washington became the first African-American to receive the most Best Actor nominations (5). African-Americans Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) and Viola Davis (Fences) both won their Oscars for their wonderful performances in supporting roles, and definitely well-deserved!

A lot of you know that La La Land was my pick for the best movie of 2016, and the movie I’ve seen the most times in the theaters (a total of FIVE TIMES; you can tell I’m downright obsessed with it). I, along with many others, wanted it to win big Best Picture. The movie did set some records. Nominated for 14 Oscars, it tied with Titanic for receiving the most nominations including Best Picture, and Damien Chazelle being the youngest person to win Best Director, at 32 years old. And also, it won the most awards—taking home six. Emma Stone, who took everyone’s breath away with her golden vintage-style gown (just WOW!), won a well-deserved Best Actress for her performance as an aspiring actress trying to make ends meet in Los Angeles. I’m proud to see Casey Affleck, who looks like a Bostonian Jesus with the beard (I mean that as a compliment), deserved his win for Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea.

Last night had a fair share of surprises. When Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced that La La Land won Best Picture, I have never been happier since the New England Patriots won this year’s Super Bowl. Then, there was commotion up on stage. I wondered, “What’s going on?” Jordan Horowitz, one of the producers of La La Land said, “There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture! This is not a joke!” My joy quickly transitioned to a state of shock.

What happened with that mix-up was that Beatty and Dunaway got the wrong envelope. Someone backstage even said so. Then, Beatty realized he was holding the envelope for Best Actress instead of Best Picture. I have nothing against Moonlight (which took home two more nominations for Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali and Best Adapted Screenplay) because it’s a beautiful movie about a young African-American man trying to find who he really is. However, I thought it was a big joke that La La Land gave up their Best Picture to Moonlight. Unfortunately, Horowitz was right. It wasn’t a joke. Director M. Night Shyamalan hilariously tweeted about the shocker saying, “I wrote the ending of the academy awards 2017. Jimmy Kimmel, we really got them!” I woke up this morning to that, and I certainly got a good kick out of it.

But hey–look on the bright side. Moonlight became the first film by A24 to win Best Picture. Here’s to a dozen more!

This has been one of the better ceremonies in quite some time (the one where Seth MacFarlane was the host will always be one of the biggest mistakes the Academy ever made). Congratulations to everyone who won their awards!

Top 15 Best Movies of 2016

With a handful of bad movies 2016 had to offer, this year had some of the best movies I’ve seen in recent memory. From the bizarre to the unique to the poignant to the surprising to the most fun I’ve had in the movie theater, those are the terms that define 2016 when it comes to film. Without wasting any time, let’s get started with my top fifteen movies of 2016. There were so many phenomenal films.

Honorable Mentions: The BFG, The Conjuring 2, Deadpool, Doctor Strange, Everybody Wants Some!!, Finding Dory, Florence Foster Jenkins, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Jungle Book, The Lobster, Midnight Special, Remember, Sully, The Witch

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(Source: IndieWire)

15. The Nice Guys – Shane Black goes back into his roots of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon to write and direct a buddy-comedy that taking place in the 1970s with ‘80s-style action and irony. I cannot picture a better dynamic duo than Jackson Healy and Holland March, played to perfection by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. They work off each other so brilliantly as two detectives investigating the murder of a famous porn star. Who needs toilet humor when you got references to The Waltons or having Gosling do a famous Abbott-and-Costello-esque silent scream when he discovers a dead body? With a good mystery, thrilling action set pieces, a witty script, and a gifted cast, it’s a shame The Nice Guys didn’t earn the money it deserved. I would love to see a sequel featuring these two detectives.

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(Source: American Society of Cinematographers)

14. Swiss Army Man – When it premiered at this past year’s Sundance Film Festival, a lot of people walked out within the first ten minutes. One of the biggest challenges while seeing Swiss Army Man is get used to the toilet humor. Because there is a whole lot of it! Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheibert – otherwise known as The Daniels – go into a deeper territory with the toilet humor. The corpse’s farts are symbolic for having a connection with one another. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe star as the oddest pair of characters in years. Not only that, their performances are some of the most ambitious in recent memory. Thanks to its refreshing use of practical effects, the stunts resemble those of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. The chemistry is one of the reasons why the movie works. It’s funny. It’s heartfelt. It’s an original piece of work! I have been waiting to a movie like Swiss Army Man for years!

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(Source: The Verge)

13. Don’t Breathe – Whether you call it a horror film or a straight-up thriller, you cannot lie that Don’t Breathe is a genuinely chilling piece of entertainment. Fresh from directing the 2013 remake of Evil Dead, Fede Alvarez uses a variety of film techniques to build up tension. From the long, quiet tracking shots to perhaps the best example of night-vision filmmaking, this movie pins you to your seat. Jane Levy is a revelation as one of the three protagonists who breaks into people’s house around Detroit to earn enough money for California. Known for starring in Avatar, it’s refreshing to see Stephen Lang to play a horror movie villain. His Blind Man may not see anything, but can hear that something is up to no good. The city of Detroit also serves as an important role not only in this film, but the horror genre in general. It Follows serves as another great example. Don’t Breathe is nothing compared to your typical home-invasion flick.

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(Source: IndieWire)

12. Captain America: Civil War – It’s official! The Marvel Cinematic Universe has finished one of the best trilogies in history! Spider-Man might have been brought in at the last minute, but he deserved to be in this movie! With Winter Soldier, Anthony and Joe Russo bring politics into the MCU. The titular “Civil War” showcases what is funny and thrilling. Funny, exciting, and just as devastating as The Winter Soldier, I had a blast with Captain America: Civil War. Seeing characters like Spider-Man and Black Panther makes me look forward to their solo films.

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(Source: IMDb)

11. Zootopia – This movie surprised the hell out of me! With a concept that might sound like your average animated film from Disney, it actually has a great message for kids and adults alike about prejudice. While they are different, Nick the Fox (Jason Bateman) and Judy the Rabbit (Ginnifer Goodwin) begin to overcome their negative feelings toward one another and work together as a team. While poking fun at pop culture, Zootopia is the entire package: funny, thoughtful, suspenseful, gorgeously-animated, and rife with emotion. Thumbs up for this movie referencing The Godfather.

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(Source: NPR)

10. Loving – After directing the overlooked sci-fi gem Midnight Special, Jeff Nichols goes back to an important time in history. A movie following the 1967 court ruling of Loving v. Virginia would have ended up being your typical sap-fest. What Nichols brings to the table, however, is a subtle and heartwarming tale of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, fighting for their lives in a rough time in history. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga have tender chemistry while keeping their dialogue short and sweet. The scene where a photographer for LIFE magazine (Michael Shannon, in his fifth film with Jeff Nichols) is hired to capture the life of the married couple is one of the best movie moments of the year.

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(Source: IMDb)

9. Hacksaw Ridge – Mel Gibson returns to the director’s chair after Apocalypto to create a graphic but courageous portrayal of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield, in the performance of his career), who never picked up a gun in his life but nevertheless served in the Battle of Okinawa to save 75 people. It features the horrors of war with the old-fashioned drama featuring beautiful 1940s sets and a sweet love story between Doss and his sweetheart Dorothy (Teresa Palmer, in the performance of her career). Once Doss talks about his religion, we immediately know why he never picked up a gun. Featuring a great cast (Hugo Weaving, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington) and the most realistic war scenes since Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge is a marvelous World War II-epic.

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(Source: The New York Daily News)

8. Eye in the Sky – Wow! Talk about being pinned to your seat from the get-go! Eye in the Sky is one of those movies that went under everybody’s radar. It brings the morality into the subject of modern warfare. Through Gavin Hood’s sharp direction and Guy Hibbert’s miraculous screenplay, what makes this movie all the more suspenseful is it primarily takes place in a surveillance room in London or Las Vegas, or in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Originally written as a male character, Dame Helen Mirren brings enough sheer confidence and energy into her role of Col. Katherine Powell. With a gifted cast including Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), this movie is also worth seeing for Alan Rickman’s final performance as Frank Benson, who has been contributed in the war for a number of years. The final moments of the movie showcase how the brilliance of one of the best actors who ever lived. Rest in peace, Alan Rickman. You will be missed.

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(Source: Flickering Myth)

7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – This quirky comedy from New Zealand is one of the funniest films of the year. Julian Dennison and Sam Neill make an odd dynamic duo as they run off together into the “bush” learning how to survive as well as encountering a wild boar or two (which makes for one of the best running gags of the year). Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok; writer of Moana) creates an offbeat comedy about caring for those around you. Juxtaposing the humor with New Zealand’s beauty, I have never laughed so hard yet felt moved by a movie such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It features the best Lord of the Rings reference since The Martian.

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(Source: The Irish Times)

6. Sing Street – 2016 had a lot of fantastic movies about chasing your dreams. Sing Street is another movie showcasing the talents of director John Carney. His 2007 feat Once is a masterpiece that defies the traditional musical genre. It follows a pair of musicians in Ireland who form a friendship through their passion of music. He goes across the Atlantic Ocean to film Begin Again, following the same structure of Once, but in New York City. While it was great, it doesn’t quite hold up its beauty as Carney’s predecessor.

Carney goes back to his native Ireland to create Sing Street. This movie, which takes place in 1985, following a boy’s dream of making a band to impress a girl, is guaranteed to put a smile across anyone’s face. Featuring wonderful characters you wished you hung around with every day, gorgeous cinematography, and toe-tapping music numbers, it throws every mainstream musical out of the water. I bought the soundtrack after seeing Sing Street in theaters. And it kicks ass!

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(Source: The Atlantic)

5. Hell or High Water – Another movie where morality comes into play quite brilliantly. Ben Foster and Chris Pine have never been better playing two criminals who come off more as the heroes of the story rather than the villains. They plan a series of bank heists to save their family ranch in Texas. Jeff Bridges plays the Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement whose last assignment to go out after them. You can really feel the Texas heat, kudos to David Mackenzie’s direction and Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography. The tension of the bank robberies pins you to your seat. Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay is perhaps the best of the year, featuring a lot of razor-sharp wit, especially when Bridges’ Marcus pokes fun of his deputy’s Indian heritage. If you have to pause Hell or High Water at any time during its 102-minute running time (on the DVD/Blu-Ray, the running time says it’s 122 minutes long, which is entirely false), you are looking at a work of art.

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(Source: Film Dispenser)

4. Arrival – Denis Villeneuve strikes back to bring back the lost art of science-fiction. A form where it makes you think and wanting to see it again and again. While Arrival can be compared to Closer Encounters of the Third Kind and Signs, this movie is more than just your typical alien-invasion flick. It asks questions such as: Who and what are these beings? Why are they here? Do they pose as a threat to humanity or not? That’s the part of this film’s brilliance; is that it transports the audience into a world of mystery and the need to communicate. I hope Amy Adams earns an Oscar nomination for her performance as Louise, a linguistics professor who won’t stop at anything to find answers from these beings. Arrival is what Interstellar should have been.

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(Source: The Verge)

3. Moonlight – I have never seen anything so devastatingly powerful all year. Moonlight is writer/director Barry Jenkins’ second film which talks about neglect and self-discovery. Separated into three acts, we follow Chiron as a kid, as a teenager, and as an adult trying to find his purpose in life in Miami during the “War on Drugs” era. Every character is portrayed naturally to the point where the audience connects with them. Seeing this movie twice, the rough portrayal of Miami moved me to tears more on the second viewing. I cannot think of a better ending than in Moonlight.

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(Source: IndieWire)

2. Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan has created an affectionate, raw, and funny film centering on one man’s grief. Premiering at countless film festivals, Manchester by the Sea earned unanimous praise. Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler is a stubborn and selfish person who goes through a lot after the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler, in flashbacks) and tries to make it up for it by connecting with his nephew like he did years ago. While it is a depressing film, it also has a deadpan sense of humor. I’ve seen it twice in theaters, and I loved it more the second time. Manchester by the Sea feels as authentic as the culture. It makes me so proud to be from a part of New England.

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(Source: The Playlist)

1. La La Land This was extremely difficult for me to determine which film as the best of 2016. Both this film and Manchester by the Sea are fantastic on their own right, but La La Land reminds us why movies like this don’t exist anymore. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, writer of 10 Cloverfield Lane) has created another masterpiece! Seeing this film yesterday at a packed movie theater is the best cinematic experience of my entire life.

From the opening musical number taken place during a traffic jam in Los Angeles, I was immediately hooked. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are electrifying as the star-crossed lovers who are trying to make ends meet by achieving something really special. They provide enough wit, charisma, and rhythm in this miraculous world of vibrancy, expectations, love, and disappointment. Every single shot is truly a work of art, especially the spectacular dancing sequence at the Griffith Observatory makes you feel like you are watching a dream coming to life. From the originality, its toe-tapping, beautifully-choreographed music numbers, and use of tracking shots, La La Land pays tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood and features the best portrayal of Los Angeles I’ve ever seen. I absolutely loved it!

I hope you enjoyed my picks for the best films of 2016. I’m beyond curious to see what your favorite films of the year are. Here’s to a good 2017!

Movie Review: Moonlight

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Juan (Mahershala Ali) and little Chiron (Alex Hibbert) take a plunge in the Atlantic Ocean in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. (Source: Washington Post)

It looks like A24 is on a roll. It might have some misfires—doesn’t every production company? But, with movies such as Ex Machina, The End of the Tour, Room, The Witch, The Lobster, and even Swiss Army Man, they have made some of the most unique films in recent memory. Featuring an all-black cast, Moonlight is changing the way we look at art-house cinema for the better. I have never seen anything this powerful all year.

Separated into three acts, we follow Chiron as a kid (Alex Hibbert), as a teenager (Ashton Sanders), and as a young adult (Trevante Rhodes). Living in a rough part of Miami, he is unsure what or where he wants to be in life. He escapes the emotional abuse from her mother Paula (Naomie Harris) and sees a positive influence in a crack dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Chiron lives with him and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe). He puts Chiron in the right direction. However, Chiron begins to question his feelings towards his best friend Kevin (Jaden Piner—as a kid, Jharell Jerome—as a teen, and Andre Holland—as an adult).

In his second film, writer/director Barry Jenkins has created an emotional roller-coaster ride about self-discovery. Instead of making each character look like a stereotype, he makes them feel natural to the point where the audience relates to the situations they are in. For instance, Chiron is a troubled little boy getting bullied at school as well as at home. Chiron admits he never had a father, and Juan walks into his life and becomes his father figure. “At some point, you got to decide for yourself who you’re going to be,” he says to Chiron.

When Chiron lives with him, he asks Juan what a faggot is—which is a word he would hear in the future. While Moonlight has some great dialogue, the characters’ expressions say a lot. There is something so touching behind the rough Miami setting that it moved me to tears. I had never wished for a better ending to one of the best films of 2016.

4/4