We’re almost there — almost to the end of 2016. We’ve already shown you what we consider to be the Best Films of 2016. Now it’s time to take a look at the unsung cinema heroes of the year. The films that, for one reason or another, you might’ve missed. The Most Underrated Films of 2016.
The Nice Guys
If you read our Best Films of 2016 list (and you really should have by now!), you know that we included Shane Black’s The Nice Guys on there. So you may be asking “How can The Nice Guys be underrated if it was on your Best Of list?” But folks — this is why we can’t have nice things. The Nice Guys was, to be blunt, a box office flop. We as a society of movie goers should’ve done better and headed out in droves to watch this hilarious detective comedy featuring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling working together like a modern-day Abbott & Costello. We failed, folks. Let’s do better.
Speaking of movies we failed this year: when it was announced that Paul Feig was remaking/rebooting Ghostbusters with an all-female cast, the collective blob of male rage that thrives on the internet went ape-shit. Feig’s Ghostbusters was never even given a chance, and when the film hit theaters it was slammed by fanboy YouTube reviewers, given a mostly tepid response by major critics, and underperformed at the box office. Nuts to that. Feig’s Ghostbusters may not have the same impact as the original, but gosh darn it, the movie is fun. Kate McKinnon’s wonderfully weird Holtzman alone was worth the price of admission.
Krisha, the Cassavetes-like debut feature from director Trey Edward Shults, is a cinematic panic attack; a harrowing piece of mounting social anxiety that shows that you can go home again, but don’t expect things to go well if you do. Krisha is a remarkable achievement in filmmaking. It claws and rages towards stability, only to find chaos. If you missed it — and you probably did! — seek it out on Amazon Prime today.
Embrace of the Serpent
A haunting, trippy, existential journey through time, Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent sticks with you. The film centers on a journey through the Amazon for an all-healing plant, but overall Embrace of the Serpent is hard to pin down. Filmed on location in gorgeous black-and-white, this is one of the year’s most stunning films, and more people should be talking about it.
The Childhood of a Leader
The Childhood of a Leader builds and builds like gathering storm clouds ready to burst open at any moment. A gruesome denouement gives way to a cryptic, unsettling epilogue. Through it all, actor-turned-director Brady Corbert shows a real skill for making the mundane seem ominous — images of coat racks, or domed glass ceilings, or elevators have never quite seemed so spooky as they do here. Scott Walker’s absolutely amazing, bombastic score intruders through the proceedings, creating a sort of art-house horror film on the banality of evil. See this movie ASAP.
Love & Friendship
Whit Stillman’s hilarious Love & Friendship is a joy from start to finish. It’s a film that reminds us how silly it is that Kate Beckinsale has been making terrible Underworld sequels for a chunk of her career. And it features a scene-stealing turn from Tom Bennett, playing an absolutely clueless nobleman who is utterly enchanted by peas.
How to Build a Time Machine
Jay Cheel’s thoughtful, even somewhat somber, documentary How to Build a Time Machine tracks two men: Rob Niosi, a prop builder trying to recreate the glitzy time machine from George Pal’s 1960 H.G. Welles adaptation and Ronald L. Mallett, a physicist who has spent his career studying time travel. How to Build a Time Machine isa wonderful, unique journey. A tale of obsession, acceptance and movie props. Both men are haunted by tragedies in their past, but how their approach them — and the subject of time travel — is what drives Cheel’s film.
You’ve seen this before: a young person going through an existential crisis returns to their childhood home where they reconnect with their quirky relatives and old friends. It’s a familiar set-up that indie movies have hammered into the ground with a blunt object for over a decade. Yet Zach Clark’s sweet, melancholy comedy Little Sister subverts this tired formula with an honest humanity that other quirk-based indies can’t even touch.
Tense and brimming with heart-quickening action, Sean Ellis’ Anthropoid is a World War II film that eschews the front lines for acts of covert espionage and drama. Anthropoid got little attention when it was released at the tail-end of a disappointing summer movie season, and that’s a damn shame, because the film is tense, dramatic and bordering on wonderful.