ACRN’s Top Films of 2016

Whether it was this year’s advancements in animation or powerful social themes, 2016 proved to not only be a year for music, but also a year for film. Some of our film reviewers defended their favorite releases of the year.(Apparently, everyone on our staff really enjoyed Moonlight.)

Jon Fuchs, Music Director: Moonlight

I haven’t seen a movie in several years that moved me to tears the way Moonlight did. With absolutely phenomenal performances, astounding camerawork, perfect pacing and a fantastic script, Moonlight acts as the ultimate portrait of finding yourself and being a part of the human process.

The three-part narrative, which had three different actors portraying the same character at different points of his life, was a tricky approach to the film’s direction, but the emotion drenching out of the script, as well as the approach each actor takes in diving into their character’s development, makes Moonlight’s direction and look feel like nothing else released this year. All of these elements, along with the excellent, droning score composed by Nicholas Britell make Moonlight one of the best films of the past several years.

Eli Schoop, Copy Editor: The Witch

Horror has the power to transport you to worlds previously unknown. The setting of colonial America is a nigh explored one in movies, much less the horror genre, but Robert Eggers found only natural to use when exploring the demonization of women in The Witch. The thrilling atmosphere provides palpable tension beset by a Puritan mythos distilling grim fantasies into reality for this poor exiled family. Rather than relying on the more cliched tropes like jump scares, The Witch makes you dread every grotesque moment due to excellent acting and a bleak setting that’s as alive as it is eerie. In a year filled with horrifying moments, The Witch truly capitulated the absolute foreboding reality we live in with a demonstration of familial atrocity.

Tanner Bidish, Contributor: Moonlight

What is it to be a man? To be poor, to be gay, to be black? What is it to be any of these, and what is it to be all of them?

In Barry Jenkins’s latest work, all these confusions are thrown onto the silver screen, mapping out the life Chiron. Fragmenting his life into three pieces – childhood, adolescence, and adulthood – Chiron is brought to the audience by three equally incredible performers: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, respectively. The film is heavy in close, narrow shots with shallow focus, taking special care to frame faces; wide shots are used sparingly, as moments of relief from the stresses of Chiron’s life.

Moonlight isn’t about a life in turmoil or a crisis of identity. It’s about being, and more deeply about lives that are hard to be. The shining beauty of this movie is in its honesty. It is undoubtedly a master work, and the greatest film of the year.

Justin Cudahy, Contributor: Moonlight

2016 has been a pretty weak year for the movie industry. After what was a pretty disappointing summer, it seemed like there was nothing coming out that would pull away from the others. Then, Moonlight happened.

Viewers get an inside look to the life of Chiron, the film’s protagonist, in what is shown through three separate stages of his life. For him, being poor, gay and black is a struggle, resulting in constant attacks both physically and verbally. This damages his character and personality permanently, which is evident is his behavior and lack of confidence.

Moonlight takes every aspect there is to filmmaking, and pushes it to a whole new level. From the cinematography, to the script and acting, all of it is done to a certain style that can’t even be put to words. Director Barry Jenkins outdid himself with this one, and the work put into this film will definitely pay off come award season.

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