Best of 2016: The Cultural Moments That Defined the Year

With 2017 just ahead of us, we take a critical look back at the most significant highlights and lowlights that made 2016 a year for the history books.

David Bornfriend / Courtesy A24
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Black Film Matters

Back-to-back years of #OscarsSoWhite trending sufficiently embarrassed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences enough that President Cheryl Boon Isaacs opened the floodgates to younger membership and restricted Oscar voting among the institution’s older (and much whiter) members. This year, the Academy has no excuse. American cinema experienced a flood of magisterial films dealing with all facets of the African American experience. The Academy literally has an embarrassment of staggering performances by black actors to choose from: from the entire cast of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight to Ruth Negga’s breakout performance in Loving to Denzel Washington and Viola Davis tearing down the silver screen in his adaptation of August Wilson’s classic Fences. Hollywood still has a long way to go in confronting its own implicit biases, but with films like these to guide it, the future suddenly seems a lot more hopeful.