Here are my ten favourite films of 2016. Undoubtedly a good year for cinema and an amazing year for critiquing media, 2016 brought us films both problematic and downright cringe (please tell me if you thought of any film other than Suicide Squad just now). Other films, however, brought me joy, repeat viewings and Blu-ray purchases.
10. 10 Cloverfield Lane
Although this film has understandably fallen off people’s radar since its March release, 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s incredible use of tension and suspense brings it forward as one of 2016’s finest films. A spiritual sequel to Cloverfield (2008), 10 Cloverfield Lane answers little of the questions posed by its predecessor, opting to create a twisted thriller instead. If you haven’t seen this film yet, please do. It’s a real treat and will make you deeply mistrust John Goodman.
You can read my review of 10 Cloverfield Lane here
9. Captain America: Civil War
I wasn’t going to put this title on my list but then I remembered that I paid to see it three times in the cinema, making it the film that I spent the most money on this year. And I enjoyed it every time (Non, je ne regrette rien!). Wonderfully executed by the Russo Brothers, Captain America: Civil War‘s conflict and action feel deserved, with emotional stakes underpinned by years of character development (ahem, DC). I am practically jumping with excitement with where Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is taking us (although I still want a Black Widow movie STAT. C’mon now).
Paterson was really such a lovely watch. With so many of our films relying on heavy plot twists and development, Paterson uses our gained understandings of characters to create the drama and plot. If you want an easy yet insightful watch, go for Paterson. You’ll also get to see the most adorable dog ever to be filmed. Ever.
You can read my review of Paterson here
7. Swiss Army Man
Every time I try to explain the concept of this film to people, they look at me with a mix of disgust and confusion. Swiss Army Man employs exactly the brand of humour that I seek out. It is entirely absurd and bizarrely moving. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe (two of my favourite boys out there) are both fantastic, with Radcliffe exercising an expert skill level of physical comedy. The film is a quasi-musical (weirder still) and the soundtrack is tremendous. All over a fun, strange watch.
When this film went into production, I joined with the hoard of Marvel comic fans with a resounding ‘FINALLY’. With my favourite Marvel wing being X-Men, the last few years (prior to First Class) have been rather gruelling. Deadpool could have been a disaster. But they did it. They stuck to an R-rating and kept Mr. Pool’s voice perfectly imperfect and his sexuality after everyone. Deadpool worked to comment on our culture and the culture of superhero franchises, opening up new opportunities within the X-Men universe (Logan is our reward).
5. Nocturnal Animals
For me, Nocturnal Animals still remains as one of the stranger films on my list – and Swiss Army Man is about a farting corpse. Ultimately a story within a story with flashback sequences, Nocturnal Animals relies on what we know, or think we know about characters to form perspectives. The story is fantastic but the visuals are to die for. Tom Ford has again proved himself as a brilliant filmmaker with a distinct eye for detail. To top it off, Michael Shannon is peak Michael Shannon in this film.
You can read my review of Nocturnal Animals here
Jackie is kind of messed up. It takes subject matter which is very well-known by the public audience and sets it against a bizarre soundtrack which feels more horror/sci-fi than drama. However, against all odds, it really works. These strange elements, along with Natalie Portman’s extreme performance make for a particularly alienating viewing experience. The film is as disturbing as the experience that Jacqueline Kennedy underwent. The expectations for a film about the Kennedy assassination are for a slightly melodramatic, camped-out biopic. Jackie is a psychological thriller.
You can read my review of Jackie here
Moana is truly beautiful. Disney Animation have perfected their art with a world that feels genuine and tangible. The story is wonderful with characters who feel authentic. Moana herself is incredible and I’m so excited to have young girls and boys shift their attention from Elsa and Anna to a truly driven female character. But it’s probably Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music which ties all of the elements up, giving the world roots. The songs get stuck in your head, but like Hamilton, it is easy to find new details on repeat listens. It is a spectacular experience to watch Moana. I can’t wait to take several other people to see it again.
Seeing Arrival for the first time was one of the best movie-going experiences ever. It is a beautifully constructed film, underpinned gloriously by Jóhan Jóhannsson’s other-worldly soundtrack. Arrival poses its audience with grand ideas regarding space and global identity, only to return it to something far more human. I’ve seen critics say that Arrival is a cerebral film, but I truly believe that, although still interior, it speaks to the heart. Arrival is completely brilliant, and I am ecstatic to see the science fiction genre come back to question what it is to be human and to love.
1. La La Land
The first time I saw La La Land, I really liked it. I thought to myself (and wrote, of course) ‘that was a lovely, well constructed film’. The second time, I was an utter mess. It wasn’t the love story that did it, no. It was the innermost ideal that one must follow one’s dreams, no matter the cost. As a person in the creative industries who works a second job to support myself, I saw myself in both Sebastian and Mia, identifying that it is not a want, but a need. La La Land inspires me to keep pushing, because the alternative is to stay still. Not only does it make me love being creative, but it makes me remember why I love cinema and musicals so much. That need to discover and learn and notice when homages and references are made within films. They are referenced because they are remembered and treasured. I know that this film will be treasured, even if it is only by myself.
You can read my review of La La Land here