Olivia Popp’s top five films of 2016

Jan. 11, 2017, 12:05 a.m.

5. “Manchester by the Sea”

The movie was almost just a chance to showcase Casey Affleck, who, prior to this film, was unknown to many regular filmgoers. Nevertheless, everyone loves a good real-life drama, which is what “Manchester by the Sea” gave us. Something about this film’s sweet, sweet cinematic storytelling evokes a story near and dear to all of our hearts simply because it’s just so real.

4. “Moonlight”

“Moonlight” seemed to be built to touch everyone’s heart, even if everyone may not have been able to explicitly relate to certain aspects of the film. The emotions it aroused were clearly not something to be taken lightly. In addition, having a film centered around an LGBT, poor, African-American character that is able to be reach such a large audience is quite a feat, and something that we probably need more of in today’s tense political climate.

3. “Zootopia”

The allegories within “Zootopia” were understandably relevant when the film came out. They might be more relevant now. And they certainly were what led critics to overwhelming praise this film. The idea that an animated movie geared towards children could be so deep, so heartfelt, so clever, seemed to surprise everyone — except for America’s animation enthusiasts, who knew this all along. The film was funny, clever and apropos – while still a delight for gleeful six- to eight-year-olds who dragged their parents to see this year’s animated box-office hit.

2. “Arrival”

Spoiler alert: Certain details of this film’s third act might be discussed here. Second spoiler alert: “Arrival” was awesome. Some science-fiction films are heartfelt, some are realistic, and some are awe-inspiring. “Arrival” was all three, while still having a nearly perfect twist ending. I definitely knew something was up when I first saw Jeremy Renner as an astrophysicist. But “Arrival” still managed to fool me by cleverly using my knowledge of cinematic language and conventions against me. For the majority of the film, I completely believed that I was watching a flashback, and not a flash-forward – and that level of ingenuity on the filmmakers’ part completely blew my mind.

1. “La La Land”

Maybe all the amped-up hype distorted how I viewed this film, but “La La Land” utterly blew me away. Being a musician myself, maybe I’m just a sucker for films with a score as amazing as Justin Hurwitz’s. Even though it’s been almost a month since I watched this film, I’m still playing the soundtrack on repeat. Every single day. And maybe the plot isn’t all that novel, but who cares? “La La Land” whisked me off into some kind of magical, fantastic, cinematic world.


Contact Olivia Popp at opopp ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Olivia Popp was a managing editor of Arts & Life for volumes 251 through 254 and the editor-at-large for The Stanford Daily's board of directors for volumes 254 and 255. She hails from Michigan and enjoys science fiction TV shows, independent film festivals, and the Bay Area theater scene.

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