Just so you know, I’m the only one voting, and my totally diverse self came up with these ten flicks:
Best Comedy: Trainwreck
This is comedy with a heart. Amy Schumer plays a woman committed to booze, pills, and one-night stands. When her editor assigns her to do a story about sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), Amy’s totally out-of-control life veers toward a kind of normalcy she’s been steadfastly avoiding her entire adult life. Bill Hader is charming and completely believable as a man baffled by relationships in general, and his relationship with Amy in particular. Apart from the leads, my favorite people in this movie are LeBron James playing himself as a tight-wad millionaire, Tilda Swinton as an ultra-cool and beyond-cynical magazine editor, and John Cena as Amy’s muscle-bound and clueless boyfriend Steven. Written by Amy Schumer, this movie is ballsy in the way only Schumer can be, and downright loving.
Best Popcorn Movie: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation
If you like action thrillers, you can’t go wrong with this Mission Impossible. There are superb action sequences, plenty of underplayed comedy, and great locales. Nobody runs or rides a motorcycle the way Cruise does, and he is still in top form as our hero Ethan Hunt. There’s a nice rhythm to this movie—slowing down just enough to let you enjoy the character interaction and dry humor before you’re swept up into the next thrill-a-minute situation. Maybe best of all is the beautiful Rebecca Ferguson. Is she with the good guys or the bad guys? Whoever she’s with, she’s wonderful to watch. Whether she’s rescuing our hero, pulling off a great escape with him, or doing in an evil villain, this woman really knows how to wrap her legs around a man.
Best Sci-Fi Horror Film: Ex Machina
Best Sci-Fi Solve This Problem Movie: The Martian
Leave a man for dead on Mars and see what happens when he wakes up still alive. Matt Daemon is the astronaut who has to figure out how to survive on a planet where nothing grows. How can you not like a guy who has zilch chance of surviving and decides not to die? It’s one problem after another, and great fun to watch Daemon—and eventually the people who help him—tackle each one.
Best Small Town Track Team True Story: McFarland, USA
Kevin Costner plays coach Jim White, who loses his job as a football coach and ends up at a predominantly Latino high school in California’s Central Valley. While he and his family slowly adjust to a completely unfamiliar rural way of life, he realizes that the boys in his charge have exceptional running abilities. When he sets out to form a track team, he is met with skepticism from his boss and gets little cooperation from the boys’ families. The movie led me to reflect again on the people who pick our crops and the hard labor they put in, day after day. It’s inspiring to watch the McFarland kids train and become a team, and to see them competing with boys whose lives are so much easier in so many ways. It’s especially moving to know that this is about real people and a teacher who believed in them.
Best Quirky Film About Quirky People: Infinitely Polar Bear
Written and directed by Maya Forbes, the sister of China Forbes (yes, Pink Martini fans, that China Forbes), this is the story of a bipolar father (Mark Ruffalo) taking sole charge of his two little girls while his wife (Zoe Saldana) attends graduate school in New York. It is based on Maya’s own life experience, and I can only agree with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, who called this movie “hilarious and heartbreaking.” Mark Ruffalo turns in a stellar performance, and Zoe Saldana captures the struggle and sadness of a mother who has to tear herself away from her daughters in order to provide a better life for them. The two young actresses portraying the Forbes girls, Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide, are superb.
Worst Two Movies: Spy (Melissa McCarthy) and Welcome to Me (Kristin Wiig)
Ladies, get a script.
Best Film About Art, Humanity, and Heritage: Woman in Gold
“Woman in Gold is the story of one woman, one family, one painting. It is also about all of us: our families, our art, all our heritage and humanity.” You can read more of my review here.
Best and Favorite of All: Pride
“If I had only two words to describe the rough beauty of this wonderful film, compassion and comedy would serve perfectly. Pride made me laugh and cry. As the last scene unfolded, I wept, while at the same time I was filled with joy.” You can read my whole review here.
Also well worth seeing: The Imitation Game, Mr. Holmes, and Spotlight. Wishing you all good and great movies in 2016.