12. Zack Snyder, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Cut
This is the decision most likely to cause controversy, but I stand by it. Fans waited years to see these characters on screen together and the easy way would have been a fun team up. Instead, Snyder decided to examine the very idea of what the world would do if they knew there was a god amongst them. It was flawed, but ballsy.
This is also a bit of a ballsy movie. It is essentially a filler film to let you know how Leia got the plans for the Death Star, but Edwards gives us a strong female character to root for and some of the best action scenes in a ‘Star Wars’ movie. More importantly, he creates a great metaphor to our own world and the sacrifices of soldiers for the causes that fight for.
10. Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
This movie juxtaposes light and dark from moment one. It also has no problem testing audiences capacity for suffering and understanding. This is another ballsy film about the terrible things we do to each other and director Tom Ford dares to give us characters who are very difficult to dislike. You may be chewing on this one for a while.
9. Ava DuVernay, 13th
This documentary takes the idea of mass incarceration and traces it back to its source. The 13th amendment. Director Ava DuVernay uses a small part of that important amendment to show how whites have used it to imprison blacks for generations. It is some eye opening shit that is illuminated best through DuVernay’s expert direction.
8. Jeff Nichols, Loving & Midnight Special
Nichols has been wonderful for years, but this year he delivered two expertly crafted films. ‘Midnight Special’ took the kid with special powers genre into another dimension, but ‘Loving’ was his true accomplishment. Nichols decision to take a landmark civil rights case and boil it down to the simple love story of the family that inspired it was something many others wouldn’t dare do. What he accomplishes is a subtle beauty that makes the story resonate deeply.
7. Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
This film is quite a comeback for Mel Gibson, but it should be no surprise that he could deliver this film. He directs the movie in three very distinct acts. The first is a classic Hollywood romance. The second is a boot camp battle for a man’s rights. And the finale is an amazing battle that glorifies the saving and not the killing of men. All acts are well done, but the last is unforgettable.
6. David Lowery, Pete’s Dragon
Director David Lowery manages to take one of my favorite characters in history and deliver a story that’s a million times better than the original. He does this by using the old school aesthetic of classic Spielberg to deliver a family film on the level of ‘E. T.’
5. Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By the Sea
The amazing thing about this movie is the way that the director manages to capture the exact amount of time needed from scene to scene in order to capture the essence of each moment. Each individual shot feels like it is tailored made to deliver the exact amount of time needed to convey this characters life in this time. It’s very impressive and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
4. Denis Villanueve, Arrival
This guy just gets better with every film. This film is shot and edited to perfection,!but the most impressive thing is the way he juggles the narrative. This all leads to a final act surprise that ranks amongst my favorite of all time. Bravo!
3. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
The hand held aesthetic and the combination of classical music with inner city streets are just two of the inspired choices director Barry Jenkins brings to this film. Most importantly, he is willing to tackle a taboo subject in a beautiful way. Which is why this movie resonating so strongly with everyone who sees it.
2. J. A. Boyana, A Monster Calls
This movie is damn perfectly directed to me. The shots are perfectly crafted. The visual effects are exquisite. The animated sequences are truly inspired. But, most importantly, Boyana manages to squeeze the exact emotion that is needed at the exact right time. Its a masterpiece of grief and the serenity of letting go.
1. Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Chazelle is the director of the year by a mile. This movie has the best choreography, editing, cinematography, and every other thing a director can use to deliver a great experience. And this movie is the best experience of the year by a mile. I’ve seen it twice and can’t wait to see it again. Chazelle has delivered the masterwork of 2016 and quite easily one of the best films of this young century!