Gisell Chimes In With Her Top Ten Of 2016

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Another year has gone by, and I’ve been grateful to be a part of such a fantastic group of people at CST. I’ve been lucky enough to see many outstanding films this year. Some of which made me question life and its mystery, as well as some that were unconventional yet charming. 2016 was a challenging year in some aspects, but being at the cinema made me feel like I could take a much-needed hiatus from the harsh realities of the world and divert my attention to some wonderful filmmaking progress and rich storytelling. My list shouldn’t be demonstrative of the entirety of films this year. Unfortunately, I missed out on some films here and there, so I’m only listing the best ones of which I have already seen. I hope you all enjoyed your holiday break and Happy New Years! May this next year bring health, happiness, and resilience to each and every one of you.

10. Neon Demon


A razor-sharp, vicious, and devouring look at the modeling industry loaded with fashion gore and burnished pageantry. I’ve never seen anything like it before and probably never will. Elle Fanning gives an incredible performance as the fresh and flawless Jesse, the model everyone hungers to be. This film had my full attention, with every camera movement and slither of bestial vanity that slowly crept across my television screen.

9. Midnight Special


I consider this film my wild card. Not on many top ten lists, probably due in part to being released so early in the year. However, its beautiful story never left me. An extremely well-written science fiction film with a cult feel, yet distinctive in its own right. Intriguing and suspenseful; this is a film every sci-fi connoisseur needs in their movie collection. Michael Shannon plays a loving father, willing to do whatever it takes to protect his son, who is extraordinarily gifted. The story pacing, cinematography and eerily synthesized score will keep you at the edge of your seat.

8. Hell or High Water


A high-stakes tale based on a pair of brothers who rob banks to pay off on their family’s foreclosed home. The sheriff, who is trying to catch them (played by Jeff Bridges) is looking for one last hurrah before he retires. This is an action-drama with some light humor thrown in and its central focus is family. It’s a modern western with an incredibly valuable story to tell. Come Hell or High Water, this is one to revisit time and time again.

7. Captain Fantastic


This story is about a father who has chosen to raise all six of his children in the wilderness away from society. But when a tragedy occurs, the father (played by Viggo Mortensen) must return to the real world. Strangely inspiring, unconventional, intelligent and sensational. This film makes several valid points in its message on parenting and the state of the world, and will leave you screaming power to the people and stick it to the man!

6. Manchester by the Sea


A powerful family-centered story about one man’s journey of enormous loss, acceptance and forgiveness. Casey Affleck gives one of the most outstanding performances of his career. This film was an emotionally invested story which slowly unveils its layers and once you discover its purpose, you will be moved beyond words. I’m still shocked that this was written and directed by the same guy (Kenneth Lonergan) that wrote the screenplay for the box-office bomb The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle.

5. Hacksaw Ridge


From famed director Mel Gibson, this true story is based on a brave soldier named Desmond Doss who went to war and received recognition for heroic acts during the Battle of Okinawa, all without firing a gun. With explosive action sequences, detailed shots with bloody battlefields, along with an optimistic message, Gibson proves time and time again that he still knows his way around a camera.

4. Fences


A story about a man battling his own demons, while coming to grips with his life in the 1950s. As he puts up divides between him and his family, it causes significant strain on his marriage and the relationship he has with his children. Based on the poignant play by August Wilson, and starring onscreen powerhouse couple Viola Davis and Denzel Washington, and also directed by Washington. This story will bring you down in the trenches with its characters and you will find yourself relating to all of them by the end of the film.

3. Jackie


We’ve all seen film after film about the Kennedy’s and their dynasty. However, this film was one of the best portrayals of Jackie that I’ve ever seen, all thanks to a stirring, award-worthy performance by Natalie Portman, who slips right into Jackie’s character and gives the audience a haunting look into the life of a first lady in the wake of her husband’s death. Portman is utterly fantastic and the movie would not have been the same without her tireless and grief-stricken performance.

2. Arrival


A brilliantly written, heart-rending yet hopeful film that allows Amy Adams to outshine her costars as a linguist who embarks on an assignment working with the government to study an alien vessel which arrives on Earth. A thought-provoking love letter to science fiction, this film is one that affected me long after leaving the theater.

1. La La Land


An exemplary musical film from Damien Chazelle, that pays homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, about two dreamers trying to make it big in Los Angeles. It contains a harmonizing soundtrack and spellbinding performances by onscreen duo, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The dancing, narrative, musical composition, dazzling colors, and chemistry is picturesque and purely mesmerizing. A story for the ages, one that will be recognized by art, film, and music culture for years to come.


HONORABLE MENTION: American Honey, Deadpool, Finding Dory, Hush, The Lobster, Me Before You, Moana, and The Nice Guys.