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December 8, 2016

The New York Times’ Best Movies of 2016 – Toni Erdmann, Paterson


The New York Times

The film critics of The New York Times — Manohla Dargis, A. O. Scott and Stephen Holden — share their picks for the best movies of the year.

1. ‘NO HOME MOVIE’ This was the final feature from Chantal Akerman, who died of an apparent suicide in 2015. Akerman explained that “No Home Movie” was about rooms and faraway places but “above all” about her mother, Natalia, a Holocaust survivor, “but not only.” It was also, Akerman wrote, about love and loss. She was presumably speaking about her mother, although of course she was also speaking for us, those who loved the daughter.

2. ‘TONI ERDMANN’ The filmmaker Maren Ade’s latest is a perfectly directed and performed movie about a father, his daughter and the ludicrous gag teeth that help close this pair’s generational, economic and social divide. It couldn’t be timelier in how it considers the consequences of neoliberalism, wherein all human interactions are reduced to market relations, but it also has a beat you can dance to. 

3. ‘MOONLIGHT’ Bathed in blue and anguish, Mr. Jenkins’s elegiac film traces a single life across three chapters. There’s much to love and admire about this haunting movie, including its lapidary visuals. Here, every moment — light flooding a darkened room, an oceanic baptism and a halo of shampoo crowning the head of an abandoned child — speaks more eloquently than most of its dialogue, though the words are very fine, too.

4. ‘O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA’ There’s a tradition of documentaries that dig into their subjects episodically, sometimes at monumental length. Such is the case with Ezra Edelman’s “O.J.: Made in America,” which for close to eight hours takes up the case of O. J. Simpson — his football glory years, infamous murder trial and tawdry aftermath — to create a titanic inquiry into race, class and celebrity in the United States. Race may be a construction, but it is one that Americans continue to live and die by.

5. ‘MY GOLDEN DAYS’ The director Arnaud Desplechin beautifully transcends the usual romantic clichés with a deeply moving, exquisitely directed tale of young love and the lessons never learned.

6. ‘I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO’ In his thrilling documentary, Raoul Peck closes the divide between the personal and political through a portrait of James Baldwin. Expressively narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the movie largely draws on Baldwin’s own writing — as well as material like his F.B.I. files — to create a portrait of a man that turns into a harrowing indictment of his country.

7. ‘ARRIVAL’ The E.T.s in Denis Villeneuve’s twisty science-fiction heartbreaker don’t want to phone home, but they would really like to get someone on the horn. As she often does, Amy Adams comes to the rescue. Among the movie’s pleasures is a creature design that at last breaks with H. R. Giger’s slavering aliens.

8. ‘THE HANDMAIDEN’ Set in Korea in the 1930s, the latest from Park Chan-wook involves two women, one a Japanese heiress and prisoner, the other an impoverished Korean con artist who could pick pockets for Fagin. Their delectable relationship takes them and the movie to places you might not imagine, while advancing an argument about gender, desire, erotica and pornography that is more complex than the movie’s slickness suggests.

9. ‘13TH’ In her ferocious, intellectually galvanizing activist documentary, Ava DuVernay takes a hard look at race in the United States through the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. You may think you’ve heard it all before; you haven’t.

10. ‘FROM THE NOTEBOOK OF …’ One of the high points of this year’s New York Film Festival, this 48-minute masterwork from Robert Beavers is quite a few years old but new to me. (It was apparently finished in 1971 and reworked in 1998.) Here, Mr. Beavers considers the nature of cinema using light and shadow, various mattes and apertures — including a window spilling sun on a desk — a meditation that at times has the quality of a holy confession.

Other Loves

“Aquarius” (from Kleber Mendonça Filho); “Autumn” and “The Dreamer” (Nathaniel Dorsky); “Bagatelle II” (Jerome Hiler); “Certain Women,” especially Kristen Stewart (Kelly Reichardt); “Creepy” (Kiyoshi Kurosawa); “The Fits” (Anna Rose Holmer); “The Illinois Parables” (Deborah Stratman); “Into the Inferno” (Werner Herzog); “Jackie” and “Neruda” (Pablo Larraín); “Krisha” (Trey Edward Shults); “La La Land,” if mostly its finale (Damien Chazelle); “Loving” (Jeff Nichols); “Mountains May Depart” (Jia Zhangke); “Paterson” (Jim Jarmusch); “Sunset Song” (Terence Davies); “20th Century Women” (Mike Mills).