Gadi Elkon’s Favorites in Film for 2016

In the Chinese Horoscope 2016 is the year of the monkey. 

A particularly auspicious time for new inventions, the Year of the Monkey is for taking risks and being rebellious, a year where agile, inventive minds, sheer guts and bravado will win out.

Film in 2016 certainly has taken risks and that rebellious nature of wits has lead to some moving, powerful and surprising works of movie magic.  Instead of awarding specific films I'd rather highlight my favorites in film.  There may be a bit of bleed over from my midyear top film list, but overall this winter has showcased some fantastic films!  Please click through for my favorite features, performances and a top ten best films of the year list.

Favorite Screenwriters (Adapted & Original):

Barry Jenkins MOONLIGHT – Adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney story and play Moonlight is the most insular and personal stories of the year.  The life we see grow in Moonlight is a moving figure to embrace and gain enlighten from.  Jenkins fluid script allows for each time period to have it's own beat and sound.  The musical qualities are perfectly connected through the scripted words. 

Kenneth Lonergan MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Lonergan's look at the damning impact of powerful moments highlights some of the finest acting this year.  The stark reality of the sea engulfing their world and yet a story of a man's profound shame.  Dark and moving script that tests the levels of pain on a community.

Taylor Sheridan HELL OR HIGH WATER – Sheridan's witty vernacular is one of the real treats from this year's best scripts.  The back and forth pace seen in the friendship of Hamiliton (Jeff Bridges) and Parker (Gil Birmingham) is both vulgar and endearing.  Sheridan's ability to find the binds built by brotherhood is pretty epic and meaningful as well.  Of all the films this year the banter and communication in the film is the most realistic and brutally honest.  Margaret Bowman's utterly epic scene-stealing moment as the T-Bone waitress feeding Hamilton and Parker is one of the year's funniest. 

Whit Stillman LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP – Whit secretly understands the classical burn like no-one else.  Basically Love and Friendship is a woman's amazing ability to call-out all the bs surrounding her.  Kate Beckinsale's arrogance and intelligence is extremely captivating.  Both a film that pokes fun as well as admires the epic nature of it's world. 

Chan-wook Park & Seo-Kyung Chung THE HANDMAIDEN –  Like Moonlight the tri-fecta plot structure helps connect the twisting unraveled moments that add to this fun tale.  Obviously different from the source material thus the twists and turns seem more sudden and horrific.  Sensuality done in a slowly more shocking pace makes the characters become more universal.  Loved the words that would connect from previous moments and trigger something profound in the dynamics of the story. 

Favorite Cinematographers/Directors of Photography:

Sean Porter GREEN ROOM – Spastic and violent throughout Porter's cinematic work is a direct reflection of Director Jeremy Saulnier's bold ass style.  Scary and creepy the fluid camera work gets in real close at the perfect moments.  You feel locked in with Yelchin (RIP!) and Poots. 

Bradford Young ARRIVAL – Young's take on scale in Arrival is fascinating to gaze upon.  You feel the size of the alien vessels and beings but you are completely connected to the presence of Adams.  Her lapses in time are so perfectly framed and tie nicely with the growing fear elements seen in the "news coverage".  The swooping shots leading to the unveiling of the alien ship is one of the best shots all year.

Natasha Braier THE NEON DEMON – Colorful and extremely lush photography going on in Braier's shot selections.  The angles and cuts are so fluid it's easily mesmerizing.  The beautiful forms and shadows in the film are worth seeing as an exhibit. 

Robbie Ryan AMERICAN HONEY – You live with these kids and especially feel everything Sasha Lane's character, Star, goes through.  For nearly 3 hours you can't take your eyes off these kids' journey and it has a lot to do with Ryan's pacing.  The mixing of nature and stark city life is really beautiful.  The close up elements especially the innocent and terrifying moments in Star's life are so powerful.  Her dancing with her "step dad" character (not sure if real dad or not) is so creepily framed it's a great start to this wild journey of these sexually free vagabonds.

Emmanuel Lubezki KNIGHT OF CUPS – Lubezki movement is unmatched and even though the plot may be pretentious and annoying the visual pay off is worth seeing.  Not as epic as his work with Inarritu it's obvious Chivo "gets" Malick and is the perfect camera lens into Terrance's beautiful if not confusing world.  The beauty of the actors is so well captured by Chivo's camera.   

Favorite Editors:

Joi McMillion & Nat Sanders MOONLIGHT – The shades of moonlight and time periods visited are so beautifully morphed in this spectacular film.  The aging of Naomie Harris' mother character and the editing of her story alone is worth an award for the film.  The way in which the haunting opera score is totally chopped and screwed and yet fits in with the pace of the edit is just amazing. 

Joan Sobel NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – Tom Ford's vibrant and visceral look into pain, love and violence is beautifully put together by Sobel.  She captures so much depth in certain shot and the angles are so unique even bold.  Overall a film that looks amazing and all of the emotion of the plot is slowly bled into each single second of cinematic gold. 

Job ter Burg ELLE – Burg's ability to edit a reflection, reenactment and a memory are on full display.  The incident that haunts the film is hauntingly showcased in three powerful moments.  The editing of each is incredible.  Elle is a film of subtly powerful emotion and explosive attraction that it's amazing Burg kept everything so fluid.  A real masterwork that fully highlights one of the best female performances of the year!

Jake Roberts HELL OR HIGH WATER – The speed and pace of Taylor Sheridan's fiery prose, DP Giles Nuttgens, and Nick Cave's music are perfectly cut together and linked by Roberts.  Roberts weaves together all elements while also allowing for the beauty of the Texas landscape to take over at certain moments (even if the tax incentives pushed David Mackenzie to shoot in New Mexico – the landscapes are similar for sure).  Loved the pacing of this well made film.

Curt Lobb OPERATION AVALANCHE – This indie gem utilizes so many different elements of the editing process even making it a huge part of the movie.  The film stock used and overall amount of footage these young filmmakers cut through is remarkable. 

Supporting Actress:

Hannah Marks SLASH – Clay Liford's funny and thoughtful look at teenage life highlighted some of the best acting from up-and-coming talent. 

Margot Robbie SUICIDE SQUAD – The only good part of this terrible film was Robbie's flawless Harley Quinn!

Imogen Poots GREEN ROOM – Quiet but extremely deadly.  A real treat of a role that hits you upside the head.

Julianne Moore MAGGIE'S PLAN – She seemed to relish the accent and she's a really unique character.

Riley Keough AMERICAN HONEY – Loved this selfish leader of the nomadic kiddos. 

Margo Martindale THE HOLLARS – Endearing and lovable in this dying mother role.  The shaving scene is a special scene.

Laura Dern CERTAIN WOMEN – Speaks to so much truth about the lack of respect successful women receive.

Helen Mirren  EYE IN THE SKY – Strict performance that makes her character so believable.

Michelle Williams MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Only a few scenes but one in particular that will rip your heart out of your body.

Naomie Harris MOONLIGHT – 3 days of shooting for one of the finest performances from an actor in years. 

Supporting Actor:

Michael Shannon NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – Gritty Texas Sheriff that steals every choking breath of his scenes.

Sam Neill HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE – Dirty and lovable fella. 

John Goodman 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE – Spooky performance that was one of the early favorites of the year.

Judah Lewis DEMOLITION – A young actor tackling some serious character development. 

Lucas Hedges MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Loved the brutal honest demeanor and quick wit.  All of it seemed fitting for this character.

Ben Foster HELL OR HIGH WATER – Capable of exploding at any moment, but you can't help love him.

Aaron Eckhart BLEED FOR THIS – Unrecognizable physically but a true battling figure that has a lot of depth for a supporting role.

Jeff Bridges HELL OR HIGH WATER – Vulgar old hoot that seems tailor made for this vet.

Mahershala Ali MOONLIGHT – In a movie dominated by silent performances Ali is incredibly impactful even though he's only in 1/3 the film.

Ralph Fiennes A BIGGER SPLASH – One of the best dance scenes of 2016.  Pure raw emotions captured in this performance.


Kate Beckinsale LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP – Quick witty gem of a role for this dynamic beauty.

Marion Cotillard ALLIED – Sultry and swift in this mysterious performance.  So vibrant and sexy next to the dull Pitt.

Emily Blunt THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN – An epic decline for a character that Blunt fully embraces.

Amy Adams NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – More dynamic of a role compared to Arrival.  A full circle of emotions for this character.

Sasha Lane AMERICAN HONEY – A pure performance that fully lives up to her character's name, STAR.

Emma Stone LA LA LAND – Athletic and artful this performance is so lovable. 

Sonia Braga AQUARIUS– Fearless performance that should be an inspiration to all women.

Ruth Negga LOVING – Her incredible silent stares capture so much emotion.  You fall into the depth of her eyes and thus her world.

Isabelle Huppert ELLE – Harrowing tale that has a lead character who is completely unpredictable.  Flawless performance.

Natalie Portman JACKIE – An amazing transformation that holds an underlining mystery that you can't stop watching her.


Andrew Garfield HACKSAW RIDGE – Love the down home feel of the film and a large part is Garfield's respectful performance.

Jaeden Lieberher MIDNIGHT SPECIAL – In almost every scene and yet his subtle change in personality is incredibly well done.

Michael Shannon ELVIS VS NIXON – Captures the bravado and the quirky originality of the King.  His kicks are hilarious.

Nate Parker BIRTH OF A NATION – Uplifting performance that deserves more love for it's profound fighting attitude.

Joel Edgerton LOVING – A quiet endearing role that never loses the feeling of love.  He would do anything for her. Pure Devotion.

Tom Hanks SULLY – Usual brilliance that still holds a few unique gem moments.

Jake Gyllenhaal NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – Dueling performances are so well done that they blend and bleed together.

Ryan Gosling LA LA LAND – Cocky fella slowly becomes our sympathetic crush.  Dancing and piano playing is a lot of fun.

Casey Affleck MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Heartbreaking performance that is worthy of an Oscar.

Viggo Mortensen CAPTAIN FANTASTIC– Pure emotion split open and shown in every scene.  Couldn't stop watching this incredible performance.


Clint Eastwood SULLY – Hard to keep him out of Director talk with any film he makes. 

RIchard Linklater EVERYBODY WANTS SOME – One of the most enjoyable films of the year. 

David Mackenzie HELL OR HIGH WATER – Brit fully captured the vastness of Texas (even if he had to go to New Mexico for $).

Tom Ford NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – The fashion icon has become one of the most visually stunning directors.

Denis Villeneuve ARRIVAL – A massive jump from his mind bending films before and can't wait to see what he does next.

Andrea Arnold AMERICAN HONEY – This Brit has her finger to the pulse of our young world and should get bigger films. 

Jeff Nichols LOVING – A bold move to step from his writing scripts to this docudrama and he fully captures the delicacy of the story.

Damien Chazelle LA LA LAND- Another bold young director who brought back the fun of dancing in film with this musical gem.

Ken Lonergan MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – A director that shows us the harsh reality of pain and sorrow. 

Barry Jenkins MOONLIGHT – To give us the "Beautiful Nightmare that is Miami" with no money and no time – Holy Shit this is a masterpiece!!

Favorite Films of 2016:

SING STREET – John Carney's romantic gem from earlier in the year was such a treat.

EMBERS – Mysterious and stark view of a world struck by the horror of change.  Loved the journey.

TRANSPECOS – Twisting reality of the drug war is wonderfully shown right here on our borderlines.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – Heartbreaking.

AMERICAN HONEY – Gotta respect a filmmaker that makes a 2 hour 45 min film that never loses your attention.

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME – Funniest film of the year.  Linklater understands cool like none other.

HELL OR HIGH WATER – Sheridan's voice is a tremendous force that needs to be known by everyone.

LOVING – Nichols' 5th film proves he is capable of tackling more and taking the step into the upper levels of directors. 

LA LA LAND – Pure joy captured on screen.  Can't help but tap your foot the whole damn movie.

MOONLIGHT – A powerful story that needs to be seen.

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