What I have done here is to bring to your attention movies that did not make the list but stood out to me as powerful, innovative, and/or moving examples of why we love cinema and the stories it offers. If you have not watched these movies I would encourage you to; they may become some of your faves.
1. - JURASSIC WORLD - This franchise is in my top three of all time and like many I had waited a long time to pass through those tribal gates to a world that time forgot. I was thankful for a few things with this endeavor. It felt like it too was a fan of John Hammond, The Park, and all the thrills and excitement that the earlier films offered. It did not try and reinvent the Dinosaur or makes something unrecognizable. It was nostalgic and respectful. At the same time it put in more teeth, faster action, and likable characters worthy of the name.
2. - EX MACHINA - I had no idea what lay in store for me when I saw this movie. I liked the premise. A young computer coder wins a contest put on by the owner of the high tech company he works for. The owner Nathan (Star Wars Oscar Isaac) is one of those reclusive bazillionaires who has been creating advanced electronic programs since he was a fetus. Caleb's prize is the opportunity to spend a week at Nathan's lab/mansion in order to evaluate his latest creation; a female A.I. The graphics in this movie are incredible. The transformation of Alicia Vikander (who we now know from another nominated film, THE DANISH GIRL) into what we see on screen is perfect. You can't tell where machine stops and human starts. Isaac gives us a genius CEO that is part Tony Stark and part Hugh Hefner. You can't tell if he is sincere in his appreciation of the naive Caleb or if he is maniacally malevolent. The two sort of do a dance through out the film.
3. - THE MAN FROM UNCLE - This might just be the coolest spy film ever; giving James Bond reason to be shaken if not stirred. Director Guy Ritchie perfectly captured the clothes, style, music, and story of the Cold War era 1960's. His cast perform expertly under his leadership and that is the element that raises this one to the top. The balance of well choreographed action, smartly written dialogue, and perfectly placed humor give the movie a rhythm that never misses a beat. Just when you think you are about to be out of breath from an edge of your seat action sequence they slow it down, offer up some witty exchange and settle into the next act.
4. - IT FOLLOWS - One key to making a solid horror film is offering something innovative even if that means borrowing from the past. In IT FOLLOWS we get a unique premise, frightening entities, and a nostalgic canvas. It proves that you don’t need a full on adrenaline fueled mad man or far too common poltergeists to drum up some scares. The ease of the script and the realism of the characters make this creepier because it seems true. Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell gives us what instantly feels like a classic ghost story. It is reminiscent of the 70s and 80s which for older viewers will make it even more fun to watch. Mix that with a slightly provocative nature of the script and it is win win all around.
5. - ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL - Once in a while a film comes along that is so unexpected and wonderful that you want to make sure everyone knows about it and has the opportunity to see it. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is that sort of film. This is a drama but never quite feels like it. The characters are so full of humor and personality that the dialogue and scenes always have an uplifting nature about them. Even during the serious moments the weight is taken off of you by their mannerisms and delivery. It is almost as if they do not want you to be sad. So as the story unfolds they continually entertain you with their antics, film parodies, and positive outlook. If not for that this would be just a heavy downer. But not once does it ever feel that way.
6. - LITTLE BOY - I love a story that captures the heart and imagination so much that the feeling stays with you long after the credits roll. LITTLE BOY is one such tale. It is possibly the greatest father/son movie ever made and one of the best films I have seen in decades. It is destined to be a classic and one that generations will watch and treasure. This film is the perfect balance of whimsical story, heart stirring themes, emotional drama, and inspirational teachings. It moves much like a Tim Burton movie might. The characters have large personalities and writer/director Alejandro Monteverde makes them pop off the screen in magical wonder. It truly captures the 1940's in every way imaginable.
7. - STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - It is safe to say that if you are reading this list you have seen this movie. But in case you haven't. You should. If you are not a classic Star Wars fan. So what? Don't know an X-wing from a Tie-Fighter? Who cares? This film stands alone as a fantastic adventure movie. New characters, humor, excitement; all make this not just another page in the annuls of Star Wars. It is a fantastic popcorn flick. Period.
8. - THE WALK - There is much about THE WALK to enjoy and be inspired by. It is more than just the reenactment of a walk between two buildings. The infectious spirit of the main character should inspire all of us to grab our passions by the reins and ride them triumphantly into the sunset. In hind-site the 1970's seem like such a grand time to live. The music, fashion, and freedoms beckon us to put down our mobile devises and truly experience the sights and sounds around us. A story like this could never have taken place now. A covert operation of this magnitude needed the lack of big brother and the ability to move about unseen. Not to do something that is harmful or destructive. But rather to attempt something that is soul stirring and inspiring. Much of that feeling comes through in this film. People were different then. They trusted more.
9. - STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON - This may be the grittiest film on my list but hands down the one with the best ensemble cast performance. At times it is hard to watch and at others it is fascinatingly light and engaging. The music and lifestyle of rappers Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and the rest of NWA is an iconic part of West Coast hip-hop. But it is more than that. It is a look at the struggles these young men made to overcome poverty and social lines, (yes not always with the right motivations or decisions) in order to break free from the world around them. It is a war film. But not for territory or government. For the power to rise above it all.
10 - YOUTH - There is something immensely special about Paolo Sorrentino's script for YOUTH. It is touching, whimsical, and engages emotions on several layers. He then takes the written word and directs it to near perfection. This is a film that has to be embraced as a whole. To dissect it or try and explain every nuisance would take away the beauty. So just open your heart and mind and let the story sweep you away.There are moments when Sorrentino will pull back the dialogue and allow the soundtrack to conduct the scene. Music is a powerful tool and the choices used here are as moving as any word. It makes the movie seem dreamlike. As if at any moment the characters would awaken from an invigorating sleep and the audience would discover that they had been peaking in at the subconscious of those on screen.