The end of 2016 (mercifully) approaches, and I will soon count down my favorite songs of the year. I found it to be a pretty average year for new music, with a couple of major exceptions, but I should be able to scrounge up 10 finalists.
In the meantime, I will dedicate this week to some of my favorite 2016 movies. I have still yet to see several films on my wish list, so I’m not calling this list an official countdown, but rather a chance to mention a handful of movies that made an impression on me this year.
First up, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the “standalone” prequel to Star Wars that explains where those Death Star demolition plans came from.
I was going to write that I can’t objectively assess a new Star Wars film because I’m so in the bag for this franchise but then I remembered just how God-awful Episodes I through III are, and I sure had no problem calling them out as garbage.
It’s a testament to what J.J. Abrams and Disney have done to revitalize the Star Wars brand that the new films feel so much a piece of the original trilogy, while the prequels fade into obscurity where they belong. Certainly this new batch of films could have been Phantom Menace redux and I’d be heaping scorn instead of praise. But these filmmakers (both Abrams and Rogue One helmer Gareth Edwards) are Gen-Xers who grew up on the original trilogy and felt just as betrayed by the next batch as the rest of us. So they took care to make sure their films both look and feel like the movies everybody fell in love with in the first place.
I won’t say much about Rogue One, given that it came out only three days ago, but I loved how seamlessly it leads into Star Wars and all the connections it makes along the way. It really ramps up the stakes in a way that brings new resonance to the central mission of the first film. It isn’t as fun or funny as Star Wars (or The Force Awakens, for that matter) but that feels appropriate given the subject matter. It’s more in the vein of The Empire Strikes Back.
Ultimately, it’s a perfect palate cleanser while we wait for the Rian Johnson-directed Episode VIII, which promises to take the whole series to new heights.