2016 was another great year in movies. From the low-budget indie flicks that made major waves like Hell or High Water and Don't Breathe to the massive super hero epics like Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War, it was another year with a little something for everyone in the Bit Players. There were memorable songs, memorable characters, memorable moments all across the board. There were laughs, tears, frights, and action. It seems like every year gets better and better to be a movie fan as the ability to make a film reaches more and more creative fingertips, and 2016 was no exception. Bit Player favorites like Richard Linklater and the Coen Brothers delivered more of the same greatness we've come to expect, but newcomers like Robert Eggers and the continually impressive Jeremy Saulnier firmly placed themselves on the "to watch" list with their 2016 entries. Read below to find out everything we loved about this year, including best films, acting performances, music, scenes, writing, cinematography, and more.
Maria Doyle Kennedy
Rima Te Wiata
The Russo Brothers
Robert Downey Jr.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
John Gallagher, Jr.
Of my top 10 favorite scenes of the year, La La Land holds 3 spots: the long take "Lovely Night" scene, the "Epilogue" scene, and the "Planetarium" scene. This last scene in particular is, for me, What Movies Are About. Absolute movie magic. As much as this movie is wonderful escapism it also shows the price of following your dreams, which is sort of a theme for Chazelle’s movies (see Whiplash). I’ve never been a fan of musicals but after La La Land (and our recent Singin’ In The Rain podcast!) I think my mind has been changed. Ryan Gosling was already becoming one of my favorite actors after last year’s The Big Short and this year’s The Nice Guys, and then he stole the show in this. Needless to say, the music for this movie is amazing. I would strongly encourage giving it a listen on its own as an album. It’s pretty exciting to wonder what Chazelle will do next after his previous two movies have held the top spot in our favorite movies of the year. – AO
In a love story, we always know what will bring the characters together; the substance of the story comes from what keeps them apart. And in La La Land, it’s the dreams of Seb and Mia that come with the consequences. The story, admittedly, is not spanking new--professional ambition or romantic love? But Chazelle’s movie succeeds on its style rather than the substance. Song and dance numbers that allude to the musicals of Hollywood’s heyday display the wide array of talents from Gosling and Stone. An addicting soundtrack, indebted to Justin Hurwitz and enhanced by John Legend, will stick in your head long after the closing credits. But the most impressive performance in La La Land clearly feels like Chazelle. If you thought the climatic scene of Whiplash was the culmination a special blend of restraint and indulgence, then Chazelle’s work at the end of La La Land will have you regarding the young director as a master craftsman. And when you get to fourteen nominations, you get to be a craftsman. – BU
So I don't have La La Land at number one on my personal 2016 list. I have it at number 2. This year I abided by the rule of 'when in doubt, side with the intrinsic value of masterful production' and this year provided lots of doubts for me. La La Land is not one of them. La La Land is a spectacle. It is truly "what movies are about".
Damien Chazelle paints in images that seem built from the ground up to be iconic. Monochromatic images bounce off the eyes, one after the other, flipping through tonal changes like a saturday spent picking out paints with your spouse.
The music is surprisingly reserved and human, which serves to make more palatable the aforementioned dizzying array of visual color changes. Listen to the soundtrack. Even before you see the film. Listen to it over and over because it's just great. Without such standout music writing this film would not be experiencing it's wild critical success.
PS Also see Singin' in the Rain because it's the same thing but better. To co-opt Bit-Player Brian's comparison, it's like inevitably ending up watching a real Jimi Hendrix youtube video after you watch some dude in his bedroom cover "Purple Haze". Ryan Gosling is just a kid in his bedroom playing Gene Kelly covers in this comparison. I don't want anyone to mistake what I'm saying here. – CC
La La Land is a pure delight, an unabashed celebration of movies and music. Even with its not-so-subtle nods to the past, it feels like a fresh film for our times. Much like its predecessors, La La Land is filled with depth and spirit that will cause you to leave the theater singin’, no matter the weather. – JB
What they said. What a delight. – JP