Moonlight:Moonlight feels like the work of a veteran filmmaker. In reality, it’s Barry Jenkins’s second movie, and his first in eight years. Jenkins may not be a seasoned professional yet, but Moonlight seems like it was made by one.
Manchester by the Sea:Manchester by the Sea is a punishing movie. Viewers may feel like they’re getting beaten over the head by a blunt object for most of its 137-minute runtime. That shouldn’t deter you, however. Manchester is a story about people who aren’t often the focus of books or movies. Its emotional weight will stick with you for months to come.
Arrival: Optimistic about human-kind as a whole, Arrival is the infrequent movie that can be both brainy and feel-good. We need more movies like this.
The Handmaiden: Park Chan-wook’s psychological, erotic thriller is based on the 2002 novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. The South Korean film originates from a book less than two decades old, but its twists and turns are practically Shakespearean.
Hell or High Water: All three modern Westerns in Taylor Sheridan’s so-called Frontier Trilogy (Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River) have hit home. The underappreciated trilogy will eventually have a home in the annals of Western film history.
The Witch: A brutally realistic period piece set in the 1600s seems like an odd choice for a horror movie, but writer-director Robert Eggers believed that the isolated home of a family banished from a small village would be an ideal setting. He was right.
Green Room: A DIY punk band travels to a remote area of Oregon for a gig, only to find that the venue is operated by neo-Nazis. Worse, the band witnesses a murder in a backroom, and the owner (Patrick Stewart, playing against type) decides that the band can’t leave to tell the tale. Green Room is terrifying and, sadly, prescient.
Kubo and the Two Strings: Don’t look now, but Laika, the Oregon-based stop-motion studio behind Coraline, ParaNorman, and Kubo, is on track to match industry-giant Pixar in original, animated stories.
Paterson: Adam Driver stars as an aspiring poet/bus driver. Paterson is a small, quiet movie, but unusually memorable.
20th Century Women: If you can ignore the lazy narration, 20th Century Women is one of the best films of the century.
Published by Matt Stephen
Matt Stephen is a communications professional and proud University of Central Florida alumnus located in Seattle. A fan of film, books, and video games, he spends much of his free time enjoying those things.
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