With A Thankful Heart…

zf_best_films_of_2016_web_squareOh 2016, you were an interesting one to watch. You introduced us to characters like Swiss Army Man, Ricky Baker and Florence Foster Jenkins that made us giggle, and you broke our hearts by taking Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder and Carrie Fisher away from us. 2016 gave us new interpretations of Ghostbusters, The Legend Of Tarzan and The Jungle Book and  also challenged us with original stories like The Lobster and Kubo And The Two Strings that fascinated and dazzled our minds and eyes. BUT… Here’s the truth, with a busy schedule, a day job and great TV that took my attention, (i.e. Stranger Things) I only saw 51 films released in 2016. So this list is somewhat incomplete, there are major omissions like Moonlight, JackieSilence and Manchester By The Sea that I’m sure will work their way in. With that confessed the below list is great and there’s something for everyone. I am thankful for each film. So instead of a review for each (all have reviews linked) I think I’ll take some time to express why I’m thankful for each of these. While everyone cries over the creative talent that was lost in this tumultuous year, and rightly so, we can also look at the luminous stories that were created and be grateful for the beauty. Don’t take going to the theater for granted. Consider original screenplays with wonder. Continue to be dazzled by costumes, make-up, sets and cinematography. Appreciate the time and talent and creativity that is on display, and be thankful! Here’s my Top Ten Films of 2016.

1. Arrival

arrival_2Thank you Denis Villeneuve for making this quiet giant! The beauty and story took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting to see my favorite film of the year at a Friday matinee. With last year’s Sicario, and Arrival this year, I’m really hopeful that Blade Runner 2049 will be fantastic. And dear Amy Adams, you can do no wrong! Your vulnerability on the screen in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals this year was a glory to behold. How do you express so much with tired, tearful eyes? Your simplicity and honesty are a true treasure in this Kardashian world. I’m so thankful for this story and for giant peaceful aliens and for powers bigger than my understanding!

2. Kubo And The Two Strings

Kubo_and_the_Two_Strings_1Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Travis Knight, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and Art Parkinson! Rarely am I this dazzled by an animated feature but you won over my cold heart with this beautiful tale of family and courage. AND THE ART!!!! I’m so thankful for scenic painters and mold makers and designers and sculptors than made Kubo And The Two Strings a feast for the eyes! Every still is a work of art worthy of a grand gallery. This story is magic and it made me a little more thankful for my mother, my father and for everything they passed down to my siblings and myself. Thank you for strumming the old heartstrings Kubo, and bringing me life!

3. Hell Or High Water

I love a Western! The heat, harsh terrain, leathered men and weathered women are all larger than my suburban life. Tall tales worthy of campfire songs and folklore. I loved Hell Or High Water in the same way I adore Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid or The Hateful Eight. This is not your father’s John Wayne western, it’s modern, complicated and hard to tell who’s side you’re on. I’m thankful for the the balance between the brothers, devil may care Tanner, Ben Foster and tender hearted Toby, Chris Pine. It was also a treat to watch an aging Jeff Bridges. Dude, I love you! You are a true acting gem and your portrayal of Sheriff Marcus Hamilton pushed Hell Or High Water into my top five. Thanks David Mackenzie for making this modern western classic.

4. La La Land

la_la_land_2Oh my word, THAT OPENING SCENE! I’m so thankful for La La Land and I would see it again and again just to watch the vibrancy and joy on the LA Freeway. It’s what we all wished would happen when we are stuck in gridlock hell. What a treat to see tap routines, jazz, duets and dialogue free scenes that transport you to the golden age of Hollywood. Oh, you magical unicorn Damien Chazelle. First you push us to our limits with Whiplash and then you write 10 Cloverfield Lane (another favorite from 2016) and in your spare time you write and direct this glorious story that I want to recommend to everyone! To say you are on a roll is the understatement of the year! La La Land is the balm we all need in this disaster of a year.

5. The Lobster

I am single and I sure hope that my singleness will not lead to me being turned into a favorite animal after 45 days in a weird hotel. Yes, the premise for The Lobster is off in left field, but the commentary on relationships is on point! The cast is fantastic! Ben Whishaw, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly and Colin Farrell are all perfection with their performances. I’m really thankful for Colin Farrell and buddy, I hope this gets you some nominations for your work. But the major draw and comedy lie in the story and the writing. To laugh and ponder the way people idolize singleness or coupling was a complicated joy. Thank you Yorgos Lanthimos for thinking outside of the box and if I ever end up in your hotel I hope I’m not turned into a sea turtle.

6. Captain America: Winter Soldier

Captain America Civil War 9Captain America: Civil War is in my top ten! I’m not a super hero fan or a Marvel junkie but because Civil War and the entire Captain America trilogy stayed true to the Bucky/Cap friendship I was won over by the sacrificial friends. The story is complex, the dialogue is fun and the action is thrilling. This is my kind of blockbuster! It even tugs on the emotions as you choose between the genius rock star and the soldier with the heart of gold. Civil War is the complete popcorn package! Thanks Chris Evans for bringing the Captain to life. You sir, are the one that will make America great again!

7. Hunt For The Wilderpeople


Never stop running

They didn’t chose the skuxx life

Ricky and Uncle

I would have been satisfied with the haikus alone but Taika Waititi packed so much more into Hunt For The Wilderpeople that my heart overflowed with joy and thankfulness. Ricky Baker is my new favorite character and if I ever have a child I want him to be just like Ricky. AND THE QUOTES! “It was a relaxing song… and a relaxing sausage.” “Ninjas! Direwolves! Child Welfare!” Waititi’s quickness and cleverness with the screenplay is brilliant. I’m also thankful for the conversation this starts about foster care. What a wonderful example we see in dear Bella and her genuine love for lost children. So, thanks Taika Waititi for cheering my heart, for showing me the New Zealand outback and for playing. I sincerely hope you play everyday and continue to be inspired to make magical tales about the skuxx life.

8. Hail, Caesar!

I’m a total sucker for a Coen brother’s film and Hail, Caesar! did not disappoint. I’m thankful for the fun it has with classic Hollywood. I’m thankful for the fantastic six-minute tap scene that Channing Tatum performs effortlessly. I’m thankful that the Coen brothers are smart and witty and they know how to make you laugh. Joel and Ethan, thanks for making a conversation with a priest, a Hollywood executive, a rabbi and preacher about Christ relative and “ear-to-ear-smile” fun! PS… Scarlett Johansson is in two of my “Best Of” films, do with that what you will. (You’re the best Scarlett!)

9. Miss Sharon Jones

MISSSharonJonesThis one is tough! One of the fantastic people that died this year was Miss Sharon Jones. She battled pancreatic cancer which is chronicled in the documentary. And while she is gone, I don’t think cancer won. Yes, she lives on in her music and in film but that’s only part of her legacy. I believe she’s victorious because of the example she set and the love she gave. Here is my personal example and I’m sorry for the sappiness. I saw Miss Sharon Jones! in Champaign Illinois. I raced home to write a review for ZekeFilm and I was thrilled to write it since I have loved Jones’ music for years and she is from my hometown and the movie is wonderful! I posted the review and as an afterthought I sent a link to Jones via Facebook messenger. A week later I received a notification that Miss Sharon Jones had tweeted out my review with thanks. This was less than a month before she died. Now, whether she sent the tweet or a publicist did is beyond my knowing, but she encouraged me with that small act. She was kind to a struggling writer and stranger. I’m so thankful for the bold, colorful precious life of Sharon Jones and I can’t wait to dance up streets of gold with her one day.

10. Swiss Army Man

Swiss_Army_Man_4It’s so weird, but I’m thankful for specific scenes this year. One of those being the opening to Swiss Army Man. The creativity involved to create a farting human corpse jet ski that saves a man from death, and yeah it’s also a musical, is beyond my understanding. Like The Lobster, and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Swiss Army Man was a little indie film that dazzled me with design, cheered my heart with humor and made my brain turn with it’s message. What I’m most thankful for is Daniel Radcliffe.  I know many people might think it was easy acting for him to just lay there and play dead for the entire film, but I believe the opposite. Dude, you are magical and I’m thankful you are willing to take chances and play parts like Manny that challenge the way we look at life.

Rounding Out The Top Twenty

Zootopia-111. Zootopia

12. Sing Street

13. Gleason

14. Lemonade

15. Don’t Think Twice

16. Knight Of Cups

17. 10 Cloverfield Lane

18. Ghostbusters

19. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

20. Mascots

Bottom Of The Barrel

Miles Ahead, High-Rise, Sausage Party, The Legend Of Tarzan, X-Men: Apocalypse