Honorable mentions to The Witch, Certain Women, Zootopia, Tickled, Indignation, and many more (can't keep holding out for the ones I have yet to see, La La Land where are you????)
  1. 11.
    The joy of this film is never feeling like you're watching a biopic, or taking in information. The portrayals of the Lovings, by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, are so spectacularly modest. They feel lived-in and compassionate, adding soul to their unembellished chemistry. Even though it's 2 hours long, you can feel the time slipping away the longer their court case drags on, and their relationship sustains that hope to the very end with a whisper of warmth, and a very reserved emotional payoff.
  2. 10.
    In this kinetic, high-octane psychological rollercoaster, Krisha Fairchild plays a ticking time bomb with fearless hysteria as she leads us down a relentless spiral in an attempt to reconnect with her family. Its tragedy is shamelessly absorbing, the dynamics feel real, and the pacing is terrifyingly irregular. Even the quiet moments unnerve in anticipation of her next mistake. It is a distinct, highly controlled kind of chaos, proving director Trey Edward Shultz is off to an impressive start.
  3. 9.
    Lemonade is so much more than a glorified music video. It's a visceral experiment combining poetry, multi-genre music, and breathtaking cinematography. It triumphs in the pain and resentment and anger every woman cheated by her man has felt. It both humanizes and iconizes Beyoncé as it details her struggles with doubt and self-worth, a bleeding wound made beautiful without being romanticized. More so, it's a testament to the power of black women, and their resilience in the face of oppression.
  4. 8.
    Things to Come
    Mia Hansen-Love's story of a woman losing everything but herself is a fascinating, enlightening, and inspiring vehicle for Isabelle Huppert. A philosophy teacher who faces loss in about every aspect of her life finds freedom in the empty spaces left behind. Her emotional intelligence seems to carry her through tragedy, it's a deviation from a search for reason among broken pieces. It explores beyond where so many stories have left off, even the resolution felt somehow personal and boundless.
  5. 7.
    American Honey
    Director Andrea Arnold effortlessly captures the brass tacks of free-spirited Lost Boys. A girl named Star joins a group lead by trash queen, Krystal, as they travel across the country selling magazines. Star has the kind of zest for life that fuels the American Dream. She attracts danger, but she is never afraid. Her distaste for inauthenticity is what makes her such a unique, rust belt heroine. She's such a force of nature, it's no wonder she gravitates towards the wildlife surrounding her.
  6. 6.
    Little Men
    Youth belongs to the past, and growing up can seem painfully pointless, but it's worth it in its prime. Ira Sachs explores this in the relationship between Tony and Jake, as they cope with their parents' neglect in their involvement over trivial legal matters. There's such a strong emotional connection formed between the two boys. As I watched, I clung to the hope that friendships can last forever, seeing their connection deepen and affect one another in the wistful nuances of its stellar cast.
  7. 5.
    Kubo and the Two Strings
    "If you must blink, do it now," You don't want to miss a second of this beautiful stop-motion epic. In accordance with the film's theme of storytelling, Kubo will hopefully leave a mark on history. Because its unique style, breathtaking use of color, and wonderfully detailed visuals are once in a lifetime. At its heart, the film is a tale of unremitting love, and embraces loss with an honest, bittersweet tone. Travis Knight's ambitious direction truly proves that imagination knows no bounds.
  8. 4.
    Manchester by the Sea
    Films dealing with death and grief tend to approach it from a false sense of wellness, of incomprehensible devastation. In this film, there is no forced sentimentality, instead there is a knowing sense of awkward obliviousness. The protagonist is deeply flawed and his road to retribution seems impossible to reach, but it's so refreshing to not see or predict a clear resolution to his situation. Lonergan earns the emotional reaction from his audience, because he refrains from manipulation.
  9. 3.
    The Red Turtle
    Director Michael Dudok de Wit manages to create empathetic, resonant, and enduring characters without the use of dialogue in this refreshing desert-island fable. All it takes is a glass bottle washed ashore to shape one character's perspective. Still images breathe, the transitions are paced perfectly, and the animation traces human movements with a delicate grace. It is pure visual poetry, humbly skimming from moment to moment, reflecting so much truth about life and love without saying a word.
  10. 2.
    The Lobster
    Yorgos Lanthimos' brilliant satire of the conventions of love and how it all too often revolves around our defining characteristics, the notion of compatibility, and the time-sensitivity of it all. Set in an outrageous world, patiently built all throughout the film, it manages to provide an effortlessly fascinating story, and poke fun at the conventions of love and commitment. It tests its characters with how far they are willing to go for love, questioning if it's all worth it in the end.
  11. 1.
    Important is a term that gets thrown around a lot when a film like this comes along. To me, it really undermines the gravitas of its impact. Moonlight isn't just important because of its subject matter, it's also a masterful, calculated, yet deeply felt and genuinely realized cinematic achievement. With top notch performances from every member of its team, a color palette that radiates, and an enduring emotional cord that consistently drives the film to a perfectly selfless end note.