The Bock’s Office: Top 10 films of 2016 | SteamboatToday.com

The Bock’s Office: Top 10 films of 2016

Andy Bockelman

First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) walks through the White House in "Jackie." The movie is one of The Bock's Office selections for the top 10 films of 2016.

Each year, hundreds of movies hit theaters — some awful, most mediocre and a select few features that will be remembered for years to come. Without too much fanfare, here are the top 10 movies of 2016 as selected by The Bock's Office.

10. "Hail, Caesar!"

In 1950s Hollywood, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) operates as a fixer, ensuring the many dalliances of studio stars remain out of the public eye. However, hijinks are the least of his concerns when leading man Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) disappears without a trace from the set of a major picture.

The Red Scare is unavoidable in this comedic look at Cold War era Tinseltown, where everyone's terrified of the Communists, yet the show must go on, as brought to you by the Coen brothers.

Brolin is great as the real-life figure Mannix, but he's surrounded by an excellent ensemble of fictitious folks, such as Clooney as the lunkhead lothario, Channing Tatum as a fey Gene Kelly knockoff, Scarlett Johansson as a sullen swimming starlet who's nothing like Esther Williams off-camera and Tilda Swinton as a pair of nosy twin sisters who are always looking to scoop the other for their competing gossip columns.

Even with all this talent, relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich is the big draw as an earnest cowboy actor who keeps his Midwestern moral compass amid all the antics.

9. "The Birth of a Nation"

In the antebellum Southern United States, Nat Turner (Nate Parker) is a slave and preacher whose faith has kept him stalwart throughout his life. Preferential treatment from the family that owns him keeps him somewhat blinded to the harshness endured by his kinfolk, but he is willing to make the best of his life as it is.

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However, Turner's eyes are opened once he realizes he will never be seen as a full person, prompting him to round up his fellow slaves to rebel.

DW Griffith's controversial but landmark 1915 film has its title appropriated in this historic piece, which is unflinching in its portrayal of slavery alongside the recent "12 Years a Slave" and the even more recent "Free State of Jones."

Writer-director-star Parker's personal past, including a rape charge, promptly eclipsed the release of this film, leading many in the industry to distance themselves from it.

Only time will tell if Nat Turner's legacy will stand on its own or forever be tied to the man who tried to tell his story.

8. "Deepwater Horizon"

The oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico is under constant scrutiny by its company, British Petroleum, at odds with the men who operate the complex mechanisms, including supervisor Jimmy Harrell and engineer Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg).

Arguments about safety concerns and the speed of work being done suddenly become irrelevant once the drilling goes out of control and causes the entire operation to go up in flames.

The 2010 oil spill that shocked the world is only part of the story here, as we see utter bedlam unfold. Director Peter Berg is getting pretty skilled with films like these, the thinking man's Michael Bay also crafting this year's "Patriots Day," about the Boston Marathon bombing.

Wahlberg and Russell are just right as the dedicated men forced to go through hell to keep their coworkers safe, as is John Malkovich as the slimy BP executive with blood on his hands.

A salute to the 11 workers who perished in the incident is juxtaposed by a reminder that nobody at the higher levels was held accountable for their deaths.

7. "Kubo and the Two Strings"

A young buy named Kubo (voice of Art Parkinson) with magical abilities lives a simple life with his mother (Charlize Theron) in ancient Japan, in hiding from his grandfather, the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes), and his aunts (Rooney Mara).

When he is forced to set out on his own, Kubo is joined by a non-nonsense monkey guardian (Theron) and a half-man, half-beetle samurai (Matthew McConaughey) who help him in his journey to defeat the evil forces pursuing him.

While other animated movies in the past year have dealt with more contemporary issues, this stop-motion flick from Laika sticks with a classic storytelling format and does it well with gorgeous visual effects, glorious fantasy elements and a celebration of Japanese culture.

A lack of Asian voice actors is the only reason this cartoon isn't the best film of the year.

6. "Hell or High Water"

West Texas brothers Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) have a plan to exact revenge on the financial institution that is threatening foreclosure on their family ranch. By robbing branches across a selection of small towns, they will effectively be paying back the bank with its own money.

Still, Toby knows the scheme isn't exactly foolproof — between his brother's recklessness, the need to keep finding new getaway cars and angry bank customers packing heat, there are all kinds of ways to end up caught.

To make matters more complicated, a pair of Texas Rangers (Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham) is hot on their trail.

Joining the ranks of "No Country for Old Men" as a great modern Western, this bleak look at a fading way of life is punctuated with nuanced performances by Pine as levelheaded Toby and Foster as wild man Tanner.

Bridges is the unquestioned star here, however, as an unapologetically racist yet jovial lawman on the verge of retirement, unsure what the future holds for him and the Lone Star State.

5. "Fences"

After years of strife, trash collector Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is getting by in 1950s Pittsburgh, though his home is a place of never-ending unrest with uneasy relationships with his sons (Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby), a brain-damaged brother (Mykelti Williamson) and a wife (Viola Davis) who barely puts up with him.

Try as he might to impart life lessons to his boys — who have long since disdained his guidance — and be a good man to a spouse, the troubled patriarch continually finds himself at odds with everyone around him.

The late August Wilson wrote a screen version of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play before his death, but it was a long time coming to get the project going. Enter Washington as director and star, whose handling of the material is near perfection in both regards as a man larger than life in personality but quite small in the eyes of his family.

Davis matches him note for note as his wife, Rose, whose tolerance for his shortcomings is coming to an end, as has Adepo as son Cory, a potential football star who's heard enough of his father's stories about being a big shot in baseball's Negro Leagues.

The title refers literally to an ongoing construction project Troy undertakes but also to the figurative obstructions he willingly puts up between himself and his loved ones.

4. "A Monster Calls"

British adolescent Conor (Lewis MacDougall) has too much to cope with these days — a dying mother (Felicity Jones), an absentee father (Toby Kebbell), bullying at school and the prospect of living with a grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) he despises.

All that fades away when the boy encounters The Monster (Liam Neeson) a sentient tree-man he believes may be able to fix all his problems, though the creature has other things in mind.

A dark, unyielding look at childhood grief and rage is well done by filmmaker JA Bayona, weaving the real world with the dreamlike interludes that his young protagonist experiences as his towering companion recounts parables of long ago.

The entire cast is great, but the unseen, motion-capture performance of Neeson puts to shame the likes of Groot and Treebeard.

3. "Loving"

A clandestine wedding between white man Richard Loving and black woman Mildred Jeter (Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga) results in both husband and wife being jailed in 1958 Virginia, due to laws against interracial marriage.

No longer welcome in their home state, the couple relocates to Washington, DC to start a family, though the desire to be back in their rural county leads them to pursue legal action against the system that asserts their being together is wrong.

The verdict of the 1967 US Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia struck a blow against anti-miscegenation laws, but putting faces to the people affected makes it all the more powerful, Edgerton fine as soft-spoken bricklayer Richard and Negga even better as the love of his life, inspired to create a better, more tolerant world for her children.

While there is overt racism on display from some characters, writer-director Jeff Nichols smartly emphasizes a suspenseful component as the Lovings spend most of their lives looking over their shoulders, knowing the opposition is always there.

More than anything, the heartfelt message that love knows no color shines through absolutely.

2. "Jackie"

Immediately following the assassination of her husband on Nov. 22, 1963, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) is at a loss for how to respond. On the one hand, she must put on a brave face for a nation that is already fearful about the state of the country, but her inner grief at losing her president is nothing compared to losing the man she adored.

The woman behind the man is given her due in this insightful examination of one of the defining moments of 20th century America. Portman is on point at all times as the widow who bore the brunt of a national tragedy and still managed to keep her sanity.

Framed as a contentious interview with a Life Magazine reporter (Billy Crudup), Jackie's account of the events in her too short time in the White House will no doubt mean even more to those who remember that fateful day and a new appreciation for those who had to endure it.

A disjointed musical score by Mica Levi ramps us the chaos and anguish, but it's the recurring use of the title song of "Camelot" that reminds us for one brief, shining moment of the hope that JFK promised.

1. "Moonlight"

A withdrawn boy named Chiron (Alex Hibbert) lives a miserable existence with few friends at school and a crack-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) at home. One of the only people he feels he can count on is a friendly man named Juan (Mahershala Ali), but when he is no longer able to trust his newfound father figure, Chiron's path to manhood grows all the more difficult.

Following the young protagonist from elementary school through tumultuous years as a teen (Ashton Sanders) leading up to a seedy life as an adult (Trevante Rhodes), this character study — adapted by writer-director Barry Jenkins from the project "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" — examines the issues of identity, violence and sexuality among African-American males in a tender, thoughtful way, acknowledging that while so many youths are a product of their environment, choices make all the difference for kids and adults alike.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

The Bock’s Office 2016 Top 10

  1. “Moonlight”

  2. “Jackie”

  3. “Loving”

  4. “A Monster Calls”

  5. “Fences”

  6. “Hell or High Water”

  7. “Kubo and the Two Strings”

  8. “Deepwater Horizon”

  9. “The Birth of a Nation”

  10. “Hail, Caesar!”