I’m not going to lie, it’s been a pretty s**t year. During all the innumerable celebrity deaths, national disasters, Trump becoming president, it’s not been a great time. The one thing that has been a bit of an escape from the dreariness is movies and there has been a lot of good movies. Here are 10 of my favourite.
A couple of rules I abide by are as follows
1. UK release dates (obviously)
2. Must be a film I have seen IN THE CINEMA. This might be a strange rule for some but I’ve been using it for years. It’s hard enough picking these films if I had to count home viewings I would NEVER get this done. So, unfortunately, I couldn’t put The Nice Guys or The Greasy Strangler anywhere in this list and I REALLY wanted to.
I would like to begin by giving my list of honourable mentions. Films I really liked but I just couldn’t fit on the list (in order);
Captain America: Civil War
War on Everyone
Hell or High Water
I, Daniel Blake
Childhood of a Leader
Kubo and the 2 Strings
A Monster Calls
David Brent: Life on the Road
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
10. Ethel and Ernest
It IS very episodic but this animated film, based on the graphic novel by Raymond Briggs chronicling the lives of his parents, is an absolute delight to watch. Important moments in history are bought to life in stunning animation, reminiscent of Chomet’s The Illusionist (which, incidentally, was my favourite film of 2009), The Great Depression, WWII, the invention of television up to and including their deaths. Gentle, funny and heartbreaking in equal measure.
9. Nocturnal Animals
Tom Ford follows up his 2009 movie A Single Man with this neo-noir, mystery, crime, character drama. Boasts career best performances by Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, there is a place on their shelves for Oscar gold come awards season.
It’s hard to watch at times, just due to the brutality it contains. Opening credits aside, it is a thing of absolute beauty.
8. When Marnie was There
A film that spoke to me on a personal level, I really identified with the main character and the problems she faces. It’s a simple story but I think that works in its favour. A small, personal film it really holds on to your emotions and never lets go. IF this is Ghibli’s last film, they’ve gone out with a bang.
From the genius mind of Charlie Kaufman and co-directed by Duke Johnson this is an animated film Jim, but not as we know it. Bleak but beautiful, it finds beauty in the mundane, just like life. A creative, alarming, sensual, hard-edged, hilarious masterpiece and unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Forget the stupid name change, this film is called Zootopia, NOT Zootropolis. Even though it is about animals, it has a lot to say about OUR world. Discrimination, “racial” stereotyping and diversity are explored incredibly well. Politicians could learn a lot from this film. It still has tons for kids to enjoy, great action/chase sequences, interesting story and snappy dialogue.
2 words…sloth scene.
Shot in 1 continuous 138-minute take over 1 night, Victoria is an urgent, fascinating, impeccably made drama. I know some people pass it off as a gimmick but it’s much more than that. It’s an interesting character study about a young woman who gets swept up in a night that, let’s say, gets a bit out of hand. A woman with underlying narcissistic tendencies and is somewhat unhappy with her life. It starts off as a fun drama and turns into the best heist movie in decades.
4. Green Room
Of all the celebrity deaths this year, none of them hit me harder than Anton Yelchin. It was a completely tragic accident and we have been robbed of one of a most exciting talent. Now come on let’s not be maudlin, let’s talk about a film about young musicians being murdered by nazis. Jeremy Saulnier is on my list of must see directors. He still has low budget tendencies but, given the chance, I think he would do very well in a bigger budget environment. He has a real passion in what he does and he has absolute faith in his cast and crew, he has a lot of humility. It might be a bit too violent for some people but I think it fits the dark tone of the film, there’s parts that made me genuinely flinch.
Journalist David Farrier stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition online. Even though he comes up against legal firewalls he decides to delve deeper.
Don’t watch trailers, don’t read any info, go into it blind and watch your jaw hit the floor. Equal parts disturbing (seeing the tickling videos is extremely frightening) and fascinating, it takes you on a ride. You expect it to go in a lighthearted direction but quickly takes a sharp turn into something far more sinister than you can imagine including legal battles, fake names and creepy automated voice messages.
The most disturbing film I’ve seen this year…and I’ve seen The Greasy Strangler.
2. The Hateful Eight
Every new Tarantino film is an event, I’ve said this numerous times. What I love so much about Tarantino’s films is his style, his respect to the cinema a lot of us grew up with.
A sprawling western cinematic opus it follows a group of people, a bounty hunter and his haul, the new sheriff who hole up in a haberdashery to survive a terrible blizzard. As they spend more time together paranoia and violence take over.
Dialogue and characters crackle with life, cinematography blows you away and Ennio Morricone coming out of semi-retirement to compose its Oscar-winning score is incredible. As expected, the script is sharp shootingly good, full of insulting, derogatory slurs and loaded with expletives. There are more showdowns of tongues than shootouts, but what comes should surely quench anyone’s blood thirst.
MAN, what I would have given to see this in its Roadshow version.
However hard this list was to put together (and trust me, it was hard), picking my #1 was the easiest decision I’ve made in a long time. Have you ever seen a movie and instantly known that no other film will come close? That’s what happened with this film.
Who knew a film about aliens would be the most human film this year. Never before has a science fiction movie come along that has made me feel what this film did. After Enemy, Prisoners and Sicario, this film cements Denis Villeneuve as THE most exciting director working today. With the aforementioned masterpieces and now this, he has had different collaborators. DP’s Deakins on Prisoners and Sicario/Bradford Young on this, writers Taylor Sheridan on Sicario/Aaron Guzikowski on Prisoners/Eric Heisserer on this, composer Johann Johannsson on all 3. Who has been a constant? Villeneuve. Enough said?
So that’s it, that was 2016…let’s hope 2017 is better.
Films that I liked (but that never would have made the list): The Big Short, Hail Caesar, Batman v Superman, The Here After, The Jungle Book, King Jack, Versus: the Life and Films of Ken Loach, The BFG, Wiener-dog, Sausage Party, Brotherhood, War Dogs, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sully, Creed, Me Before You, The Girl with All the Gifts, One More Time with Feeling, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Deadpool.