As far as I can tell, this is my 6th or 7th year doing my “favorite movies of the year” list the day of the Academy Awards. If you go back and look through the last few years (on Bullets & Bloodshed), each year I say “THIS YEAR … I really slacked off and didn’t watch many movies.” The same, sadly, can be said yet again this year. Annie and I got a house and stuff and we’ve been busy. But I still ended up seeing more movies than most people, so I figured I’d keep the tradition alive. You won’t be seeing any Manchester By the Sea’s or any Moonlight’s on this list, but you will find ten flicks I truly loved.
10. The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story
Yeah, I know this isn’t technically a movie, but this damn show inspired me to make movies more than any other movie this year. I LOVED this mini-series and can’t wait to rewatch it. I still have yet to watch the 80 hour documentary on ESPN (which I’m sure I’ll love). But I’ve never seen anything straddle the line between extremely entertaining and insane campiness the way The People v. OJ Simpson did - the perfect combination for this almost comically insane story.
9. The Shallows
Blake Lively’s Side Boob vs. Shark was easily one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had at the movie theater in a while. Taking a page directly out of her husband’s handbook with Buried, Blake showed the world she can hold an entire flick on her own, while sitting on a rock and talking to a seagull. I’m a BIG fan of movies like this (Adam Green’s Frozen is an underrated gem) and always fear the ending will fall flat, but fortunately for us all, The Shallows doesn’t fail. No, this isn’t your typical Year-End Top 10-type movie, but little genre movies like this that totally work always entertain me 1000% more than even the best Oscar-winning tearjerker.
8. Sausage Party
Sausage Party is a delight. Not only is it the perfect decimation of pretty much any religious belief - but it’s also just another really funny Rogen/Goldberg stoner jam, but with Dreamworks-quality animation.
7. Suicide Squad
As long as I live, I will never understand the vitriol this movie received. I’m a BIG Marvel Cinematic Universe fan and I’ve never been able to sit through all of The Incredible Hulk or Thor: The Dark World. Those movies are rrrrrooouuuuggghhhh. But they came and went without a blip on the pop culture radar. Suicide Squad, however, had this weird vendetta against it. It couldn’t just fail - we, as a nation, needed to come together to make fun of it collectively, for reasons I will never know. Whether it was pointlessly hating Jared Leto’s minor character or lambasting the weak “Big Bad” in an age of well-respected superhero movies riddled with weak or forgettable big bad’s. No joke, I LOVE Age of Ultron and even I remember once asking a friend "Who was the villain in Age of Ultron?" But with Suicide Squad for whatever reason, people latched onto any teeny tiny straw they could find to have some semblance of a hot take tweet joke at the water cooler the next day. Congratulations, America! You did a great job! You also missed out on a really fucking weird, fun and, most of all, incredibly entertaining superhero flick. One that starred Will Smith (possibly THE greatest action hero/respectable actor of my generation) in his first DC or Marvel movie, Margot Robbie giving Heath Ledger a run for his money, Ben Affleck as Batman face-to-face with Will Smith as well as a two and a half hour visual milkshake of colorful awesomeness. I’ve always prided myself on unashamedly loving things basic people hate so I guess this is no different. Y’all can fuck yourselves. This movie rules…
6. Hail, Caesar!
I was incredibly #notsober while I watched Hail, Caesar! I’d be lying to you if I said I could remember the basic premise of the story. But I’ll be damned if I’ll ever forget this scene (pictured above) between Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes. I can't tell you how many times I re-watched it. It was easily one of the funniest experiences of my life. When Hail Caesar! ended I DO remember thinking “Fuck! That was amazing. I’ll need to watch this movie again when I can remember it” and I can’t wait to do that!
5. Captain America: Civil War
As I said, I’m a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They keep getting better and better and Civil War is currently the best. What I love about MCU movies is they save the best character bits and funny dialogue for the “throwaway” action scenes. Hawkeye’s “the city is flying ... the city is flying” bit in Age of Ultron used to be my go-to example. But in Civil War, the “Giant Man” scene alone feels like it has a dozen "City is Flying" moments. The photo above makes me laugh every time I see it but even better, I think of Iron Man then asking “Alright? Is anyone on our side hiding any shocking or fantastic abilities they’d like to disclose? I’m open to suggestions....” People who dismiss these movies as pop culture schlock are missing out. I hope these movies never end.
4. The Greasy Strangler
I’m so happy this movie exists. I don’t even know how to describe it … other than greasy. I also don’t want to describe it in hopes that someone reads this list and watches it without knowing anything about it. Can you imagine seeing The Greasy Strangler knowing nothing about it? That would be a fucking trip …
3. Swiss Army Man
I never thought a movie about a farting corpse could make me cry so much and teach me key lessons on how to be a better person. This is a really great example of how thinking outside the box can still generate something as powerful as an Oscar-contender. I can’t wait to see what Daniels’ do next.
Most people say Blade Runner or 2001: A Space Odyssey are the science fiction standard, but that was before Arrival came out. Arrival uses all of its hardcore heady, math-y, science-y, science fiction-y magic simply to reinforce the emotional, character-driven story behind it. I’m a really really REALLY big fan of the movie Contact (just to clarify - I LOVE Contact) and at one point I said “This is what Contact SHOULD have been!” So that's how good it is. For me, every science fiction movie will be compared to Arrival moving forward and that’s a good standard to have.
1. American Honey
American Honey is a treasure. I only speak in hyperbole, so this statement doesn’t hold much salt coming from me. But all I can say is it truly is. American Honey is a three hour epic, sprawling across a dingy midwest America a lot of people probably don’t know exists. But if you have had ANY exposure to this side of the country, American Honey isn’t simply a “movie.” It feels like a visceral documentary following the lives of real kids I’ve had yell “fuck off” to once a year because they’re trying to scam me with shitty magazine subscriptions in a shopping mall parking lot. Besides Shia, Riley and a couple other famous faces, everyone in this movie is a real person, playing themselves in a world they could very well live in. It’s the closest thing America has to City of God and (in my weird opinion) is an entirely optimistic and radically different alt-companion piece to Spring Breakers. The fact that this movie was denied nominations from nearly all major film awards and received little attention at year-end is a real travesty. Andrea Arnold could very well be the next Quentin Tarantino or Paul Thomas Anderson or Harmony Korine, but instead of kicking off her career with a Reservoir Dogs or Hard Eight, she jumped DIRECTLY to her Pulp Fiction or There Will Be Blood. American Honey isn’t an “easy watch.” Since I saw it at Fantastic Fest, I’ve noticed it’s a “love it or hate it” type movie (which makes no sense to me). Jokes on Twitter say things like “I just finished watching American Honey - I entered the theater in October.” Bravo! You can’t sit through a long movie! Grab yourself some Crocs and a Coors Lite and head on down to your local Make America Great Again rally. We get it. You are very simple and can’t be challenged! But if someone like me can have Suicide Squad or The Shallows on their Top 10 list and still keep American Honey at number one - I have a feeling you can sit through it and appreciate it at LEAST once.
See ya next year. Hopefully, I’ll see a couple more.