TOP FIVE

A look at five of the best films for the end of 2016

As autumn turns to winter and the weather cools outside, the movie season begins to heat up, with many of the greatest works from the circuit vying for end-of-the-year awards contention. Here’s a look at five of the best films of 2016 making their way to screens near you.

By Jason Gorber

Arrival

Denis Villeneuve is a name revered among many cinephiles, and the Quebec filmmaker has been building an extraordinary career at crafting intelligent, beautiful works like Sicario and Incendies. His latest is a cerebral, yet highly entertaining, look at our interaction with extraterrestrial visitors, starring Amy Adams as a linguist who must find a way of communicating with these newly discovered life forms. The film is remarkable, forming a stunning balance between art film and entertainment, and providing smart sci-fi the likes of which we haven’t seen since Stanley Kubrick.

Moonlight

It’s been eight years since Barry Jenkins’ Medicine for Melancholy caught the attention of festival goers, but Moonlight is sure to garner even more attention. Told over three time periods in a man's life - young boy, adolescent, grown man - each period echoes the other. It’s a film that's paradoxically epic in scope and yet intimate. It’s a story rarely told, let alone within the African American context, and it’s handled so well that it results in a breathtaking work.

Loving

Jeff Nichols is another iconoclastic director comfortably mixing up genres with the likes of Mud and Take Shelter. With Loving, we get a different tack, a stunningly quiet and intimate look at the Loving family, a mixed-raced couple reluctantly caught in the maelstrom of the American legal system. With stellar performances by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, Loving confidently uses the nature of its real-life central characters to avoid histrionics, making for one of the most moving and impactful films you're going to see this year.

La La Land

After its Venice and Toronto award-winning bows, Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash is easily the front-runner for Oscar glory. With deliriously entertaining moments, the musical is an absolute delight, sure to please audiences and jaded critics alike. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling practically dance off the screen, inhabiting a wonderful tale about the passion of artistic achievement and the wistfulness of what could have been. With a small part by J.K. Simmons to boot, this love letter to the likes of Singing In The Rain, Umbrellas of Cherbourg and even Rebel Without A Cause is respectful to the past and very much of the present.

Manchester by the Sea

Ken Lonergan’s story of grief and reconciliation is both bleak and beautiful. Casey Affleck is a revelation in his role as Lee Chandler, a New England plumber forced to head back to his hometown to pick up the pieces after a family tragedy. This raw, remarkable drama is emotionally riveting and a master class on how to do misery without being melodramatic. Not just some somber, dour work, there’s real life in these characters, providing a powerful, uplifting rumination on coming to terms with one's past in order to carve out a better future.