Studios And Audiences Had Lots To Celebrate In 2016 This is the time of year when critics release their best-of lists. Usually, they pick the 10 best — but our film critic Bob Mondello couldn't narrow it down that much. He picked 18 of his favorites.
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Studios And Audiences Had Lots To Celebrate In 2016

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Studios And Audiences Had Lots To Celebrate In 2016

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Movie Reviews

Studios And Audiences Had Lots To Celebrate In 2016

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hollywood is about to close out a record-breaking $11.2 billion year. The big draws were talking animals, superheroes and yet another new batch of Star Warriors. Movie studios are celebrating, and people who go to the movies have a lot to celebrate, too, according to our critic Bob Mondello. Here's his wrap-up of the year's best movies.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Most years, there are several films that could fill the No. 1 slot on my list. This year, there's no contest. My favorite picture is the most rewarding coming-of-age film in many a moon, "Moonlight," about a withdrawn African-American youngster growing up in Miami where, as a friend notes, the beach breezes offer a respite from the pressures of home and adolescence.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MOONLIGHT")

JHARREL JEROME: (As Kevin) Sometimes around the way where we live, you can catch that same breeze. It just comes through the hood, and it's like everything stop for a second. Everything just gets quiet, you know?

ASHTON SANDERS: (As Chiron) And it's like all you can hear is your own heartbeat.

JEROME: (As Kevin) It make you want to cry it feels so good.

SANDERS: (As Chiron) You cry?

JEROME: (As Kevin) Nah, it makes me want to.

MONDELLO: Luminous but also tough and startling, "Moonlight" is both a coming-of-age and a coming-out story, the most lyrical of the fiercely resonant pictures that are helping the film industry combat its stubbornly persistent lack-of-diversity problem. Among the others, two extraordinary documentaries - "I Am Not Your Negro," which uses the words of James Baldwin to analyze American attitudes on race.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO")

JAMES BALDWIN: The future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country.

MONDELLO: Director Raoul Peck blends archival footage of Baldwin speaking softly but bluntly with excerpts from an unpublished book he was working on at the time of his death. A companion piece to "I Am Not Your Negro" is the documentary "13th" in which Ava DuVernay, the director of "Selma," dissects the wording of the Constitution's 13th Amendment. It outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime. The film forcefully argues that that loophole has been used for politics and for profit.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "13TH")

CORY BOOKER: We now have more African-Americans under criminal supervision than all the slaves back in the 1850s.

MONDELLO: Then there's the love story that led to a landmark civil rights decision. The Loving decision is how it's known in the courts. At the multiplex, it's just "Loving," named after a couple who met and married in the late 1950s only to have the state of Virginia step in...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOVING")

MICHAEL ABBOTT JR: (As Deputy Cole) What you doing in bed with that woman?

RUTH NEGGA: (As Mildred) I'm his wife.

ABBOTT JR: (As Deputy Cole) That's no good here.

MONDELLO: ...The segregated state of Virginia.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LOVING")

BRIDGET GETHINS: (As Court Secretary) Richard Perry Loving, being a white person, and Mildred Jeter, being a colored person, did unlawfully cohabitate as man and wife.

NEGGA: (As Mildred) Richard...

MONDELLO: Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The movie goes there, too. But what makes it effective on screen is the intimate romance. We should all be so lucky in love. The wrenching drama "Manchester By The Sea" is about a man who is not lucky in love or in life. Casey Affleck plays the reluctant guardian of a teenager who is not making his guardianship easier.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MANCHESTER BY THE SEA")

LUCAS HEDGES: (As Patrick) I'm not moving to Boston, Uncle Lee.

CASEY AFFLECK: (As Lee Chandler) Well, I don't want to talk about that right now.

HEDGES: (As Patrick) You said he left you money so you could move.

AFFLECK: (As Lee Chandler) Yeah. That doesn't mean...

HEDGES: (As Patrick) Anyway, what's in Boston? You're a janitor.

AFFLECK: (As Lee Chandler) So what?

HEDGES: (As Patrick) You can do that anywhere. There's plenty of toilets and clogged up drains all over town.

AFFLECK: (As Lee Chandler) I don't want to talk about...

HEDGES: (As Patrick) All my friends are here. I'm on the hockey team. I'm on the basketball team. I got two girlfriends, and I'm in a band. You're a janitor in Quincy. What the hell do you care where you live?

MONDELLO: The answer to that question opens up a whole world of hurt in "Manchester By The Sea." That's 5 of my top 10. The next two are lighter and substantially more weird. "The Lobster" is a comedy about a society that so values coupledom that living alone is outlawed. When Colin Farrell wife leaves him, he's packed off to a hotel where the manager explains that guests have 45 days to couple up, and failure to do so has a price.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LOBSTER")

OLIVIA COLMAN: (As Hotel Manager) Now, the fact that you'll turn into an animal if you fail to fall in love with someone during your stay here is not something that should upset you. Just think; as an animal, you'll have a second chance to find a companion. But even then, you must be careful. You need to choose a companion that is a similar type of animal to you. A wolf and a penguin could never live together. Nor could a camel and a hippopotamus. That would be absurd.

MONDELLO: Yes, it would. "The Lobster" is claws-down the weirdest romantic comedy of the year. Also offbeat is "Toni Erdmann," an almost three-hour German comedy. I know; I know - not on a bet, right? But it's really funny and wise. Toni Erdmann is the name that a dad who's a practical joker adopts when pranking his daughter.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TONI ERDMANN")

PETER SIMONISCHEK: (As Winfried) Happy birthday.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMONISCHEK: (As Winfried, screaming).

SANDRA HULLER: (As Ines, screaming).

MONDELLO: She's so intent on climbing the corporate ladder, she's lost her sense of humor. Hollywood will surely remake "Toni Erdmann," but you'd be wise to catch the original. Another foreign film that uses a name as its title, "I, Daniel Blake," is about an Englishman who's had a heart attack and finds that that's only the beginning of his problems once the National Health Service gets involved.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "I, DANIEL BLAKE")

STEPHEN CLEGG: (As Job Center Floor Manager) You have to apply online, Sir.

DAVE JOHNS: (As Daniel) I cannot do that. You give me a plot of land, I can build you a house. But I've never been anywhere near a computer.

CLEGG: (As Job Center Floor Manager) There's a special number if you've been diagnosed as dyslexic.

JOHNS: (As Daniel) Right, well, can you give us that 'cause with computers, I'm dyslexic.

CLEGG: (As Job Center Floor Manager) You'll find it online, Sir.

MONDELLO: From red tape to "The Red Turtle," 1 of 2 gorgeous animated films among the year's best. It's from Japan's Studio Ghibli and blends elements of several styles of animation to tell an almost wordless "Robinson Crusoe"-style tale of a shipwrecked sailor and the enormous tortoise that doesn't want him to leave its otherwise deserted isle.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RED TURTLE")

MONDELLO: Deliberate and painterly, "Red Turtle" is a Zen-like treat. Another animated film, "Kubo And The Two Strings," comes from American filmmakers but adopts the form of a Japanese folk tale. Credit the filmmakers for living up to its first line.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS")

ART PARKINSON: (As Kubo) If you must blink, do it now.

MONDELLO: Excellent advice for a film that plays with digital origami.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS")

PARKINSON: (As Kubo) Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear.

MONDELLO: The story's about family and personal fortitude. The images are exquisite. That is 10, which is an arbitrary number. And I've got both more time and more films worth getting excited about, so let's keep going. The best Western of the year is a cops-and-robbers shoot-'em-up starring Jeff Bridges called "Hell or High Water." The best superhero epic and the only one that made me laugh in quite a while is "Deadpool."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DEADPOOL")

RYAN REYNOLDS: (As Deadpool) She's going to do a superhero landing. Wait for it.

MONDELLO: Ryan Reynolds is the fourth-wall-breaking title character.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DEADPOOL")

REYNOLDS: (As Deadpool) You know, that's really hard on your knees, totally impractical. They all do it.

MONDELLO: "Deadpool" is a superhero flick for the cynical 14-year-old in everyone. The un-cynical 13-year-old in everyone would likely get a kick out of "Little Men," about two kids in Brooklyn, or "Lion," which follows a displaced child from India to Australia and back again. And for more adult tastes, there's a whole brace of stories with theatrical roots. Start with "Fences," Denzel Washington's terrific adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer-winning play.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FENCES")

JOVAN ADEPO: (As Cory) Hey, Pop, can I ask you a question? How come you ain't never liked me?

DENZEL WASHINGTON: (As Troy) Like you? What law is there say I got to like you?

ADEPO: (As Cory) None.

MONDELLO: Also springing from theater, there's "The Salesman," an Iranian stunner about a couple who are appearing in "Death Of A Salesman." And you probably know that Meryl Streep recently played a terrible opera singer. Did you know there's a French film that does the story even better?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARGUERITE")

CATHERINE FROT: (As Marguerite Dumont, singing in foreign language).

MONDELLO: It's called "Marguerite."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MARGUERITE")

FROT: (As Marguerite Dumont, singing in foreign language).

MONDELLO: And the best way to get that sound out of your ears and to end this list of bests is with the musical "La La Land," which is sweetly, swoonably (ph) in love with movies, as are we all, right? I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LA LA LAND")

ANGELA PARRISH: (Singing) Summer Sunday nights, we'd sink into our seats right as they dimmed out all the lights. The Technicolor world made out of music and machine - it called me to be on that screen and live inside...

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