Top 10 Cries of 2016

If you listen to the podcast, or have watched a movie with me – you are well aware that I cry while watching movies. The tears flow for varying reasons: maybe I’m vibing with the filmmaker and feel like he/she/them is speaking to me, maybe I can relate to what is happening on-screen, perhaps I feel for the characters and they’re going through a tough time. There are numerous reasons why I let my emotions go – the main reason is that it’s healthy to express my emotions. Two years ago I wept during the credits for M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit” because I felt so much joy from watching a terrific film from a filmmaker I thought was finished. For several years I felt betrayed by the decline in M. Night’s films, but The Visit gave me great hope that he will emerge as a good filmmaker – I’m happy to report his latest film Split is a fine return to form.

While forming my list of Top 10 films of 2016, I realized how many of the films moved me. This is no indicator of my Top 10 list which we’ll be listing on our podcast in the coming days. Each write-up may wander into spoiler territory, so avert your eyes if you have not seen these films: Jackie, Green Room, Too Late, Loving, Moonlight, Kubo and the Two Strings, Swiss Army Man, Arrival, The Red Turtle, and Cameraperson.

10. Jackie

From the opening frame Mica Levi’s score grips the audience by setting the tone, mood, and the looming dread the audience feels throughout the film. Natalie Portman turns in a career-best performance. There’s a moment where Jackie Kennedy breaks down when talking about the moment she knew her husband was shot. This shocking moment in American history happened long before I was born, Pablo Larrain does a superb job of delivering the pain that an entire nation felt during this tragic event.

9. Green Room

Jeremy Saulnier has a unique method of delivering touching moments among gruesome violence. There’s a moment where Pat (Anton Yelchin) suffers a nasty attack – Hearing Yelchin scream and cry as a result of his wounds is heartbreaking. He’s a young artist in an ugly place he shouldn’t be, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. A repeated viewing makes it even more painful because Anton Yelchin died far too young. There’s also a quiet moment near the end involving a dog that wrecked me in a way that cuts to the roots of love between an animal and his owner.

8. Lion

My entire face sprung a leak during this film. I have close relationships with everyone in my immediate family: three brothers, and both parents. This film involves a small boy named Saroo being separated from his older brother, his mother, and his younger sister. This is a sad tale because such a young boy should not have to go into survival mode while roaming the streets in Calcutta. Saroo ends up being raised by a man and a woman in Australia. As he grows up, he grows curious about finding his family back home in India. Many of my tears came from powerful performances from Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. Both of them capture the love, and pain that each of their real-life counterparts must have felt throughout their lives. Based on a true story, this one left me wounded, and celebrating the human spirit.

7. Loving

Richard and Mildred Loving faced hardships as a result of existing as an interracial couple during a time where it was illegal for them to be married in their home state. I’m a First Nations man, my wife is white – we’re fortunate to live in a time where our relationship blends in with the rest. Jeff Nichols (Writer/Director) tells a beautiful story about love – The minor details are what made me cry. The way they smiled at each other, the way they comforted one another, and the way Richard knew his wife wanted to return home to give birth to their first child. Nichols portrays the harsh reality they faced, while showing that love is powerful and can overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.

6. Moonlight

This is one of those films that made me cry from the sheer awesomeness on display. This film made me cry for a number of reasons: the way James Laxton (Director of Cinematography) moves the camera, the way Chiron asks his father figure, “What’s a faggot?” or the most romantic sequence of the year. Barry Jenkins (Writer/Director) made something special with Moonlight – the entire cast delivers their finest work to date. Moonlight also contains one of the finest final shots of the year, slam dunk all around.

5. Kubo and the Two Strings

Family and legacy are important to me. Oral history plays a major factor in my culture, Kubo and the Two Strings is right up my alley! I’m also a huge fan of a well-executed self-sacrifice. In the opening act of the film, Kubo finds himself outside after dark for the first time in his life. As a result, his wicked aunties discover him and threaten to capture him. Kubo’s mother uses the last of her remaining magic to ensure his escape while fighting off her sisters. This sequence is powerful, and freaking badass! The combination of Kubo being separated from his mother, and the sacrafice his mother made was far too much for me to handle. I had a good hard cry at the conclusion of this sequence, wasn’t the last time during this film!

4. Swiss Army Man

The Daniels (Writers/Directors) embrace their inner weird, and write a love letter to each other. Love takes many forms, and can often be confusing when adults are involved. The Daniels take this head-on without fear. They embrace their insecurities, their hang-ups, and their love for one another. Some may view this as a combination of plutonic and romantic love, but why do we need to define everything? This film is beautiful. The montage sequence annihilated me in the best way possible.

3. Arrival

We’re in the territory where speaking about these films can get me all choked up when I talk about them. Arrival is a film that’s best viewed knowing as little information as possible. For those that have seen the film, there were moments in the middle and final act that rocked my world. When children are involved I immediately think of my nieces and nephews. Arrival is a beautiful film with a wonderful message about communication. It was a pleasant surprise to be so deeply moved by a sci-fi film.

2. The Red Turtle

This film has chilling images involving a man and a red turtle. To say much more wanders too far into spoiler territory so I’ll be as vague as possible. At its core, this film is balanced by a harsh man, and a delicate, caring woman. The man makes rash decisions, shouts a lot – this is understandable given that he is stranded on an island with only the comfort of some comic relief crabs, and an increasingly annoying red turtle. This is among the most complete stories of the year, and the payoff had me crying hard – thankful that my good friend Will was by my side to support me.

1. Cameraperson

Kirsten Johnson is a documentary filmmaker, who has been shooting documentaries for 25 years. Over the years she has captured images that left an impression on her – her goal with this film is to create a memoir of her work, and her personal life. The film shows brief clips of footage that wasn’t used in the films she worked on. The rhythm of the film is easy to latch on to. Some clips have a beginning, a middle, and an end – some are stunning images only shown for a few moments. There is one shocking sequence that had me weeping hard, making me feel glad I was home alone while watching. These are real images we’re watching, and there’s nothing you can do but watch and feel helpless, feel hope, feel love, feel the gamut of human emotions. This is the kind of film that needs to be celebrated.