6. Everybody Wants Some!!
Boyhood unfortunately didn’t get the Oscar love it deserved in 2014. Walking home with one measly award, Boyhood’s status as an early frontrunner ended shortly before the Academy Awards started gaining momentum. Two years later, Linklater returns with Everybody Wants Some!!, a decidedly different movie that’s not meant to win any big awards.
It’s a movie that harkens back to ye olden days of Richard Linklater. Because it’s a spiritual successor to Dazed & Confused, it feels more in line with Linklater’s earlier comedies as opposed to his recent dramas like Boyhood and the Before series.
Frankly, it’s refreshing to see acclaimed directors take a break from their usual cinematic endeavors in order to make something more laid back and fun. Similar to how Spielberg jumped back in time in order to make his first family blockbuster in years with The BFG, Linklater too chose to return to his roots.
Everybody Wants Some!! is the Dazed & Confused spiritual successor you didn’t know you needed. Like Dazed & Confused, it’s a laid back slacker comedy about a bunch of dudes hanging out. Also like Dazed & Confused, it’s loaded with endearing characters, uproarious dialog, and surprisingly touching moments. Though the plot is paper-thin, that doesn’t matter when the focus is on the characters.
Like all of Linklater’s movies, Everybody Wants Some!! puts characters above all else. As is the case with most of his movies, this is such a successful endeavor because the characters are seriously well written. Not only are they well written. They’re also played by a consistently excellent cast who play the parts as naturally as possible. Standouts include Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch, but in reality everybody deserves serious praise.
It seems like Linklater’s goal in making this movie was to create something that’s entertaining and rewatchable. It’s not some revelatory character study, but it’s never trying to be. It’s a throwback to the slacker comedies that ruled the ‘90s, and it’s one of the best to come around in years.
7. Sing Street
Sing Street has the misfortune of releasing the same year as La La Land, one of our best picture frontrunners. Like La La Land, it’s a minimalist movie that takes cues from smaller scale musicals that were popular decades ago.
The competition with the aforementioned awards juggernaut is one of its biggest hurdles, but unfortunately there are several other aspects working against the movie. The limited release, unknown cast, and familiar plot also spell trouble for the film. A nomination for original song is definitely possible, but that’s about the extent of Sing Street’s Oscar potential.
The Academy allows for up to ten movies, and La La Land is probably a much more deserving movie to fill the one of those slots, but that doesn’t mean that the two films can’t coexist. In fact, if you’re anxiously anticipating the release of La La Land in wide release, Sing Street is perfectly capable of tiding you over. In fact, it may be able to satisfy you in different ways.
The film’s greatest strength is its optimism. The Oscars love nominating tearjerkers, and while movies like Jackie deserve the attention, sometimes filmgoers need to sit down and enjoy something more positive.
Sing Street has moments of conflict like any other movie, but they’re in between scenes that will leave you grinning from ear to ear. The plot certainly does feel generic at times, but the tone is what helps Sing Street set itself apart. The movie will leave you feeling hopeful, and that’s its greatest accomplishment.
Greatest accomplishment should not be mistaken for only accomplishment. Sing Street has plenty of other things going for it. Unsurprisingly, the soundtrack is a treat. Each original song that pops up in the movie is a different kind of special. From the slow ballads to the danceable pop tracks, don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming the tunes after the film’s conclusion.
The cast members that sing these songs also prove to be gifted actors, who add extra layers of depth to already strong characters. These more obvious strengths combine with subtle technical accomplishments to result in a serious filmmaking achievement from director John Carney.
8. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
New Zealand knows a thing or two about comedy movies. Every year, there’s a new Kiwi comedy that leaves critics thoroughly impressed. 2016’s New Zealand comedy of choice comes courtesy of Taika Waititi, the director of 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows. Saying Hunter for the Wilderpeople is a better movie than his last effort may be a stretch.
At the very least though, it’s just as good as What We Do in the Shadows. It features the same kind of offbeat humor but with a more poignant story. The jokes don’t come as fast, but the slightly more dramatic approach works in the film’s favor. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is above all a comedy, but it’s one with small flashes of drama that break up a story that could have been monotonous.
Luckily this film is anything but monotonous. Each line of dialog is as clever as the last. The film will not settle for boring you, so it makes it a mission to keep you entertained. Even if the film isn’t exactly a technical achievement, it’s still hugely entertaining. Considering the fact that most people go to movies in order to be entertained, you could argue that its lack of technical pizzazz is a non issue.
Waititi has once again proven that he knows how to make independent comedies that everyone can enjoy. If he can add his brand of wacky humor to his next directorial effort, it’s safe to say that the Thor series is in good hands. Hunt for the Wilderpeople may not have enough big ideas for the Oscars, but as a piece of pure entertainment, it does more than enough to get the job done.
9. The Nice Guys
The Nice Guys was the sleeper-hit of the summer. After Shane Black went big with Iron Man 3 (which hauled in an enormous $1.2 billion at the worldwide box office), he went back to his roots and directed The Nice Guys, a small-scale buddy flick featuring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. While Ryan Gosling may best be remembered for his turn in La La Land, this zany thriller still manages to rank among the best releases of the year.
Revolving around two investigators searching for a missing porn star, this film is filled with twists and turns that help liven up a plot that could have easily been monotonous. Just when you think you’ve solved the case, Black manages to throw something new your way to keep you on your toes.
While many viewers may be able to see the actual finale from a mile away, there are plenty of things in the middle that are sure to trip people up. Engrossing storytelling isn’t the only thing that can be found in this script, though. The screenplay is also filled to the brim with hilarious banter between the charming characters.
These characters are all played by actors and actresses that push the movie forward in significant ways. After taking on a handful of serious roles, Ryan Gosling finally takes a break from mean-mugging the camera in indie noir films. Instead, we get to see him letting loose and having fun – and does an outstanding job. He’s the perfect antagoniser to Russell Crowe, whose straight-laced character lives off of bumping heads with the doofus Gosling is assigned to play. Watching those two bicker is endlessly entertaining, but it wouldn’t be complete without Angourie Rice.
Cast in the role Ryan Gosling’s daughter, Rice presents us with a character who’s easy to adore because she’s simply too smart for her own good. Though she’s never quite the voice of reason she aspires to be, her good intentions are nevertheless evident, and it makes her a character that’s easy to respect.
The Nice Guys is made up of an abundance of puzzle pieces that all fit perfectly together. It is, without a doubt, too goofy for Academy voters, but its goofiness is actually its greatest asset. This movie has “fun” written all over it in capital letters. It’s simultaneously Shane Black’s best movie and the best buddy comedy to come along in years.
10. The Witch
Out of every movie on this list, The Witch may face the biggest uphill battle. It was released in February, it falls in the horror genre, it comes from a first-time director, and it’s definitely too surreal for Academy voters. It’s not like Academy voters haven’t nominated other movies that fit those various descriptions, but it seems unlikely that they’d nominate a movie that has so much against it as far as Oscar potential is concerned.
Regardless of how it does during award season, The Witch is a movie that film lovers really need to see. It’s certainly not a movie that will appeal to everyone, but the people that will enjoy it are likely to fall in love.
The Witch is unlike any horror film that’s come along recently. It’s a slow-moving, atmospheric movie that tries to be unsettling instead of outright scary. It’s not comparable to anything like The Conjuring or Don’t Breathe because it doesn’t adhere to horror conventions. The Witch takes its time telling its story, but everyone involved makes sure that there isn’t a second wasted.
Slowly throughout the film, the tension increases, the characters become more complex, and the twists and turns start to reveal themselves. The finale is likely to get a mixed reception, but plenty of viewers will find that it’s one of the most rewarding endings to a horror movie in a long time.
One could argue that The Witch is too polarizing for Academy voters, and that’s probably true. While critics have more or less adored it, there’s definitely some conflicting views from more casual filmgoers. Its status as a polarizing movie should dissuade nobody from giving it a look. The Witch is the kind of movie made for cinema lovers. It’s superbly crafted, well acted, and entirely unique. First-time director Robert Eggers has a promising future ahead of him.
Author Bio: Justin is a paraprofessional teaching assistant and full-time film enthusiast with a degree in English. When he’s not writing about films, he’s probably watching them in his spare time.