PRINT December 2016

Film: Best of 2016

Melissa Anderson

Barry Jenkins, Moonlight, 2016, HD video, color, sound, 110 minutes. Black (Trevante Rhodes).

1 MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins) In Jenkins’s wondrous, superbly acted second film, love between black men—whether carnal, paternal, or something else—is explored with specifics and expansiveness, not foregone conclusions.

2 TONI ERDMANN (Maren Ade) Social studies at its finest, Ade’s piquant dissection of father-daughter bonds and the sinister banality of corporate consultancy meticulously lays bare the comedy of mortification.

3 O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA (Ezra Edelman) Assiduously researched and seamlessly assembled, Edelman’s nearly eight-hour documentary about the disgraced football star is also a treatise on race, celebrity, the pathologies of sports culture, and the criminal-justice system. It is, in other words, a potent précis of this country’s past half century.

4 HAPPY HOUR (Ryusuke Hamaguchi) Centered on a quartet of female friends in their late thirties, this spellbinding epic reveals the latent drama in the most seemingly mundane moments.

5 FORT BUCHANAN (Benjamin Crotty) This riotous military-spouses comic melodrama, as indebted to the Lifetime channel as it is to Gallic auteur cinema, also announces Crotty’s wholly distinct sensibility: ludic, fruity, mercurial, concupiscent.

João Pedro Rodrigues, O Ornitólogo (The Ornithologist), 2016, 2K video, color, sound, 118 minutes. Huntress (Juliane Elting).

6 BORN IN FLAMES and REGROUPING (Lizzie Borden) Borden’s landmark radical-lesbian-feminist sci-fi vérité from 1983 now looks better than ever, thanks to the restoration efforts of Anthology Film Archives, where the director’s rarely shown first film, Regrouping (1976), a chronicle of a women’s collective, also screened this year. Essential studies of opposition, both works were balm in this annus horribilis.

7 “AN EARLY CLUE TO THE NEW DIRECTION: QUEER CINEMA BEFORE STONEWALL” (Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York) Spanning decades, nations, and genres, this revelatory survey reminded viewers of the abundance of lavender screen imagery, not all of it ghastly or baleful, that existed before the insurrection of 1969.

8 THE ORNITHOLOGIST (João Pedro Rodrigues) The Portuguese maestro has called his most recent work an “adventure film,” and here he fantastically destabilizes that genre to encompass martyrdom, metempsychosis, and Mirandese monsters.

9 ELLE (Paul Verhoeven) The provocateur’s first narrative feature in a decade—a constantly bewildering, obsidian-black comedy about a video-game exécutrice who gets revenge (sort of) on the man who rapes her—would be an obscenity without the authorial stamp of Isabelle Huppert, its indomitable star.

10 HERMIA & HELENA (Matías Piñeiro) Fluid and seductive, Piñeiro’s films always elate with their intricate mapping of attachments, romantic or otherwise. His latest—his first shot (at least partly) outside his native Argentina—highlights the majesty of many overlooked locations in New York, his current home.

Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic for the Village Voice.