I am hardly the first to say this, but it’s true: Every year is a good year for movies – it simply matters how wide you cast your net to find them. Some years, you can see some of the great films of the year simply by going to the multiplex every week. Two of my top five films of 2015 (Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road) were blockbusters by any standard, and another (The Hateful 8) went about as wide as you could imagine. The rest were the kind of films that start out in a few cities, and gradually role out – or don’t, as the case might be – they may never go beyond the major cities, and local arthouses, of which, there seem to be fewer and fewer. 2016 was different – most of the films on my top 10 list were not box office hits – many never really come to a theater all that close to me (luckily, while I live in Brantford, I work in Toronto – where I see most of these films) – or presumably many of you either. Quite a few of them struggled to find its audience. They will, eventually, one way or another – great films always do.
But I cannot help but think that the majority of people will see most of the year’s best films on a TV screen, and not a movie screen. Hell, my number 1 film of the year is one that very few even had a chance to see on a movie screen- I certainly didn’t, which means for the first time since 1997, I did not see my favorite film of the year on the big screen (that year, the film was Boogie Nights – and I wasn’t old enough to see it on the big screen). As studios increasingly focus on major tent poles, and sequels and prequels, and films in the same cinematic universe, there is fewer room on the screens for movies aimed at adults. This was been the case for a while now – a decade? More? Perhaps because I’m getting older though, it seemed to be more and more the case this year – where I either had to travel further and further to see certain films, or not see them at all on the big screen.
I’ve still managed to see most of the year’s biggest and best. When I look at my survey of 650 film critics top 10 lists, I’ve seen everything in the top 30 – missed just three of the top 50 - No Home Movie – which I keep meaning to rent from iTunes, and haven’t yet, I Am Not Your Negro, which will not open in Toronto until February – and practically nowhere else either, and Happy Hour – a five hour Japanese film, I’ll be lucky if I can ever see. Some titles in the top 100 I wish I could have seen, but still missed include Julieta, A Monster Calls, The Treasure, Gleason, Neon Bull, Sieranevada – films I was given a chance to see in Toronto and I, Daniel Blake, The Love Witch, Aferim, My Golden Days, The Salesman, Kaili Blues and Always Shine which as far as I know, weren’t.
What follows is, as always, admittedly overkill. I rank the top 30 films (actually, top 33 this year), as well as having separate lists for best documentary, best animated film, best directorial debut and for the first time ever, best horror film. I also have lists of the best performances in each of the four acting categories, best ensemble cast, and my personal If I Had an Oscar Ballot. Finally, there are lists of the most disappointing and worst films of the year. In total, it’s about 50 pages of writing, totaling 31,000 words. I saw over 200 films this year – up slightly from last year, where I didn’t quite hit the 200 film mark – and still have much to see.