Missed Movies of 2016!

Much like every year, once awards season hits the shores, a plethora of intriguing and ambiguous films make their way to the top as some of the year's best -- at times most controversial -- projects on the big screen. Some, while not all together great, make their rounds until they're ever-imbedded into my mind as a must-see. Still, whether they're at the top of the awards list or just simply crawled out from beneath the rock where all independent gems hide, there always remains a certain collection of films I didn't catch during the year. With the Academy Awards right around the corner, here are some of the biggest films I'm still dying to see from last year:

Sliding through theaters like a silent whisper, Martin Scorsese's Silence and
a number of other films make up some of the top films I missed in 2016

Moonlight - While the magical musical of La La Land might be the front-runner for Best Picture at the Oscars this month, the harrowing and socially-conscious Moonlight looks like it could still steal the show. Akin to 2014's Boyhood in its coming-of-age story of the vulnerable and unexpected nature of youth, director Barry Jenkins' riveting display of character development and emotional storytelling continues to draw me into this film. Evading me constantly as I can never catch it playing in the theaters, Moonlight might need to be the first film I rush to rent after the Oscar buzz settles down.   

Fences - The third directing gig for actor/director Denzel Washington, the intense drama of Fences -- which spawned from the play of the same name by August Wilson -- was a film that popped up on my radar late in the year. Yes, while it may have only just debuted for wide release around Christmas, the captivating drama of family values and lost dreams sparked my attention simply with its leading cast. While Washington might be behind the camera, he also occupies the screen alongside the brilliant Viola Davis. With the duo's performances in the film spawning not just from their fantastic combined track record, but also from their history with the play in its 2010 revival on Broadway, I'm still buzzing with anticipation to see how they bring the story to life once more. 

Nocturnal Animals - Another award-winning film that came onto my radar more for its cast and less for its premise was last November's Nocturnal Animals. Another twisty-turny thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, Tom Ford's adaptation of author Austin Wright's novel wasn't ever at the top of my must-see list, but its intriguing premise of revenge and flawed romance did catch my attention. With its leading roles by Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal being overlooked in favor of the supporting acts by Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, I'm interested to see how those performances compare to some of the other fellows nominated for Best Supporting Actor. 

The Birth of a Nation - A film that already cut into the dark crevices of the past with its subject of a slave rebellion in 1830s Virginia, The Birth of a Nation managed to cut even deeper as publicity for the film exposed a dark place in director/star Nate Parker's own past. With a rape allegation against Parker and a co-star casting a shadow over the film's release, the film I once thought to be one of the year's best films was overcast by the filmmaker's misleading past. While the details of Parker's actions might still be up in the air, the film's historically-significant premise still calls to me, regardless of its filmmaker's murky past. 

Knight of Cups - While the latest experimental project from director Terrence Malick might not be up for any Oscars this year, the film managed to boast both a promising cast and a unique tale of self-discover, which made it a pretty intriguing target for me. With its cast including the likes of Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, and Antonio Banderas, and its premise surrounding a Hollywood screenwriter who has lost his way within the excess that his career offers, Knight of Cups offered what looked to be the year's first highly ambiguous yet promising indie film.

20th Century Women - While I might only be interesting in this film for its cast, as well as its director, Mike Mills (Beginners), another independent drama that popped up on my radar this year was 20th Century Women. With its story of motherhood and childhood blending on the shores of 1979 Santa Barbara, California, and its cast led by award-winning actress Annette Bening, I'd still like to see what promise can be found in the quirky comedy-drama.

A Monster Calls - Another film I missed in 2016 was the dark fantasy drama of A Monster Calls. With its release date jumping from early October to December, and the film fluttering through theaters after a slim box office performance, I never got the chance to catch this endearing mix of drama and fantasy. Drawing me in initially with its grim and emotional premise of a boy who loses his mother to sickness, which takes a fantasy turn when the boy befriends a giant talking tree, A Monster Calls looked like an ambitious project that seems to be up my alley. Also, Liam Neeson as Dramatic Story-Telling Groot sounds like something I can't possibly miss.

The Neon Demon - From director Nicolas Winding Refn, the man behind a number of fascinating projects like 2008's biographical film Bronson and the cryptic 2013 thriller Only God Forgives, my first thoughts on The Neon Demon were quite slim. By that I mean, I had no clue what it was about, nor did I even care. That didn't stop the film from creeping into my mind later on in the year, as it took a similar shape to the seedy, realistic yet entirely imaginative realm of Only God Forgives. Telling of a Los Angeles model (Elle Fanning) who becomes intertwined in the decadent but shifty world of fame and fortune, the film still beckons to me not only for its whimsical look, but also for my interest to see where Refn will go next.

American Pastoral - Another project starring a Fanning sister (this time Elle's big sister, Dakota) that caught my eye last year was the crime-drama adaptation of author Philip Roth's novel, American Pastoral. While its tense 1960s atmosphere and appealing cast might have drawn me in from the start, I became truly intrigued when I found out who the director was. With the film being actor Ewan McGregor's directorial debut, I looked at the film in a whole new light, as an actor's first time directing could either turn out to be a mess, or turn out to be something truly meaningful. The film already having a serious tone in its plot of a father (McGregor) dealing with the fallout of his accused daughter's disappearance in 1960s New Jersey, I'm still interested to see how well McGregor balanced the source material for his first film.

Lion - With actor Dev Patel climbing up the Hollywood ladder slowly but surely with his starring roles in projects like the captivating 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, 2015's sci-fi thriller Chappie, and the 2016 biopic The Man Who Knew Infinity, his latest project breaths unique life into another true story in Lion. Spawning thoughts of 2012's Life of Pi in its inspirational search for home, as Patel's Saroo Brierley embarks on a journey across seas and across search engines to find his real family, Lion looks like a feel-good (yet highly-heart-breaking) tale of identity and heritage. Because of that, the film remains at the top of my watchlist before Oscar night.

What films did you miss this year? Did you skip one of the many superhero flicks we got this year? Did an intriguing indie film slip through your fingers? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

While I may still need to catch up on these films (and countless others) I missed in 2016, one film I did finally see was the visceral and emotional war story of Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge. Before it goes up against other big titles at the Oscars at the end of the month, I'll give you my thoughts on just why this war epic could be one of the best movies of the year!

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