La La Land (2016) — PASS

Microcosmos (1996) — PICK

The Red Turtle (2016) — PICK


For about 15 seconds, La La Land was the “Best Picture” winner among 2016 films at the Oscars — but I don’t recommend it. On the up side, it’s got a nostalgic vibe, a catchy score, strong choreography and appealing stars in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. On the downside, it’s sloppily directed, Gosling and Stone aren’t good singers or dancers, and it’s hard to care about their characters.

The clincher is a cynical ending that doesn’t work at all.

If you can overlook that, I guess you might enjoy it.

Instead, I highly recommend a pair of slow but transcendent films about the natural world, linked by amazing imagery and an absence of dialogue.  The Red Turtle (my No. 4 film of 2016) brings together Oscar-winning Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit and Studio Ghibli for an imaginatively dazzling fable-like tale of survival and love, set on a deserted island where a castaway struggles against the natural world.It’s a rare feature-length movie with the power of the best animated shorts.

Also new on Blu-ray is one of the best nature documentaries ever, Microcosmos, from Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou. It’s an astonishingly up-close look at the world of insects — an infinitesimal world as alien as anything captured by the Hubble telescope, but also a world of strange fascination and unexpected beauty.

 

CAVEAT SPECTATOR: Microcosmos: Documentary footage of invertebrate carnage and mating. Kids and up. The Red Turtle: Scenes of peril and thematic elements. Fine for patient/tolerant kids.