As 2016 winds down, we catalog another year of great films. Movies such as “Moonlight” and “La La Land” cultivate true artists emerging as growing talents in the industry. The Phoenix decided to compile a list of some of today’s rising stars. Here are 6 of the best actors and directors.
Damien Chazelle (“La La Land,” “Whiplash”)
With only two feature films on his resume, Chazelle has already proven himself to be an impactful director. He has a pension toward the marriage of film and music, which are two of his passions. In his stunning directorial debut, “Whiplash,” Chazelle shows his ability to receive great performances from his cast, craft a tight story and direct tension as well as anybody in the business. His new musical, “La La Land,” has been all the rage at film festivals across the country, including the Chicago International Film Festival. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and opens in theaters on Dec. 9.
Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight,” “Medicine for Melancholy”)
We return to “Moonlight” for the No. 2 spot, which goes to the film’s writer-director, Barry Jenkins. In one of the best films in years, Jenkins tells a delicate story of Chiron, a young black boy who begins discovering his sexual and emotional identities. Visually gorgeous, impeccably crafted and thematically rich, “Moonlight” proves Jenkins to be a true artist. He is an intelligent filmmaker whose honesty pours out of every frame. Don’t be surprised if he ends up with an Oscar this year.
Denis Villenueve (“Arrival,” “Sicario,” “Prisoners,” “Enemy”)
French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villenueve has gained quite a bit of traction in recent years. His films are visually driven, relying heavily on tension and atmosphere more than dialogue and exposition. Villenueve is a modern master of suspense with a deep understanding of his viewers, effectively manipulating their emotions, especially in his films “Sicario” and “Prisoners.” In his new film, “Arrival,” he ventures into the realm of sci-fi with a thought-provoking, intelligent story about making first contact with alien life. He is also set to helm the upcoming “Blade Runner” sequel.
Ryan Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”)
Exploding onto the film scene with the immensely moving “Fruitvale Station,” Coogler seemingly came out of nowhere to become one of the brightest young names in film-making. His follow-up film, “Creed,” further cemented his bright future by beautifully advancing the “Rocky” franchise, proving he could tell a great story while handling a big-budget movie. He is now signed on to direct Marvel’s “Black Panther” in 2018. With an urban, hard-nosed edge to his films, Coogler brings a modern flair to any project he directs.
Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “13th,” “Middle of Nowhere”)
A revered indie filmmaker, Ava DuVernay finally got her big break with 2014’s “Selma.” Since then, she has signed on to direct the upcoming adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time.” Her films are powerful and emotional, exploring black identity and humanity with a voice heard far too infrequently in Hollywood.
Taika Waititi (“What We Do In The Shadows,” “Hunt for Wilderpeople,” “Boy”)
New Zealand’s multi-talented Taika Waititi, who holds the No. 6 spot on our list, often writes, directs and stars in his own films. Waititi has created hilarious movies such as the indie breakout “What We Do In the Shadows,” a mockumentary-style, deadpan comedy about the menial lives of vampires. Traces of Wes Anderson and Edgar Wright are apparent in Waititi’s acting style, although his work is uniquely his own.