Apologies in advance if you’re not into end of year recaps or lists, my next couple of posts may well be that. First up though, my top 10 of 2016. No easy feat either, let me tell you. I started this a week ago. I thought I had it nailed down, then I went to see Rogue One and knew upon leaving it, I needed to kick something out to let it in. I also then watched The Neon Demon and Under The Shadow, making the choice tough all over again. So after much deliberating, I have the list. It’s in a sort of order, though I suspect the order is open to change.
2016 saw me buy my first Odeon Limitless card in the second half of the year, so while I made it to the cinema more than in the last 5 years, I still haven’t seen a LOT of the key films making other lists. For example I’m yet to catch Son of Saul or I, Daniel Blake. I have a lot of catching up to do in January 2017 I think, so perhaps I’ll lament not being able to put Manchester by the sea in or having seen film X far earlier.
I’ve done the list, and then a little bit about why for each below, plus some honourable mentions
- Green Room
- Kubo and the two strings
- The Nice Guys
- Rogue One
- Zootropolis (Zootopia depending on country)
- The Neon Demon
- Nocturnal Animals
Arrival:- This was one of a few films this year where I sat there watching, came out afterwards and thought ‘That was exactly the film I needed right now’. So perhaps that influenced my thoughts, but I was bowled over by this latest offering from Denis Villeneueve, starring Amy Adams. I’ve still only seen it once, but it felt rich, clever, heartwarming and thought provocative. I enjoyed the performances, the set design, the approach to alien life-form and the messages it delivered. It had one of the scores of the year for me and I thought about the film for weeks after seeing it. For that alone it gets the number two spot for me.
Green Room:- I almost forgot that we only got this in the UK in April. A friend lent me earlier on in the year and it was a tense watch where by the end I realised I’d unconsciously hunched up my shoulders and fists. I let out a sigh of relief when it ended and actually felt my body relax. It’s super violent, more gory than many of the horrors I’ve seen in 2016 but it’s never gratuitous. Being one of the last films starring Anton Yelchin to grace our screens following his tragic, too early, death, it’s a stark reminder of how good an actor he was. I’m a fan of the kind of music used in the film, so that helped. I gave this a re-watch earlier on this week (it’s on Netflix if you’ve still not seen it yet) and despite knowing what was coming, it still packs the same punch. But you also get a chance to appreciate the fine craftsmanship and details in the film-making. Jeremy Saulnier is an exciting director and his second film deserves to be so high up on this list.
Kubo and the two strings:- The fourth feature film from Leica absolutely blew me away. Stop-animation tends to look more unique, but this is probably the best use of it I’ve seen. Every frame was gorgeous and the design of the world and the characters easily makes it my favourite from the studio. Whether it’s the paper Kubo crafts that comes alive, or his witch Aunts, everything is so beautiful. The use of music was clever and it’s a gentle score that’s equally pleasant isolated from the film. It may well be a film made for children but there’s so much for adults to enjoy about it. Sadly I never made it back to the cinema for a second viewing, so I’ll have to eagerly await the blu-ray instead. It’s got an important message behind the tale and deals with some tough emotions in a sensible way. It both upset and uplifted me and as with Arrival, I thought about it and the intricate details in its animation a lot.
The Nice Guys:- I wasn’t sure this would retain its place in the list as I watched it after a long, tough working week on a Friday night having enjoyed a heart to heart, and pizza, with my best friend. I laughed very early on and the laughs didn’t stop coming. It was another case of being exactly the film I needed at that time. So when I got bought the blu-ray for my birthday, I sort of nervously sat down to re-watch it (with my boyfriend who’d yet to see it) hoping that it hadn’t just caught me on a good night. I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Ok, maybe it’s not Shane Black’s finest ever but I adored it. Funny, a good throwback with convincing 70s design and costume, a rather silly but cool plot I could get behind and great pairing in Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. It was refreshing to see Gosling in a more goofball, loser role and he’s absolutely hilarious. It held up on a second viewing and I can see it being one I’ll watch plenty. I’m picky with comedy so when I find one I like, it means more to me.
Rogue One:- The last film to force its way into what was already a finished list. Gareth Edwards is a director whose career I’ve followed with affection and great interest given it was so fledgling when I first saw Monsters. A film that blew me away and one I probably watch once a year. He then tackled arguably a juggernaut in Godzilla, which was far better than it’s given credit for. So I admit that between that factor and the cast, I wanted to like Rogue One. I needn’t have worried. It pays homage to the Star Wars world, tying in to pieces of it and setting us up for A New Hope, but manages to have its own stamp, its own identity. I don’t imagine that was easy so I admire it more. It’s a war film and finely acted by a great ensemble cast. Ok, so the ending isn’t the usual happy-happy but I thought it was pretty damn perfect.
Zootropolis:- Want to know something I hadn’t realised until I sat down to wrote this? Most of the films in this list I’ve seen once (only Green Room and The Nice Guys don’t count, I’ve seen those twice). This film, I’ve seen four times now. It’s my most watched of 2016. We saw it in the cinema, the only people in there, and loved it. The jokes hit home, the world it’s set in is absolutely brilliant and it’s a good story. I then watched it again, then again and now again, having got it for Christmas. It hasn’t gone down in my estimation at all during this either. It’s got a vital message about integration and not pre-judging people at its core but packages it into a loud, vibrant and fun world. The attention to detail on a re-watch you can spot is insane. Take the train scene towards the beginning for instance, the amount of little detail it has for each set of animals. Again, I’m not the target audience but it’s done well with adults and I think it’ll be one of those cult ones that people keep discovering and keep watching.
Mustang:- I had to wait to see this, meaning all I kept seeing and hearing was just how good it was. It got built up meaning by the time I did see it, my expectations were high. That’s often a mistake. Mustang is brilliant enough to topple expectations. It’s one of the most important films in terms of how it made me feel that I’ve watched in 2016. I don’t think it’s been seen by enough people yet so I’ll skirt the plot and just say watch it ASAP. Centred about women and being a female in rural Turkey, it moved me in so many different ways. I went through the full range of emotions and most of all, I took away hope. 2016 has been an important one for me. I’ve tried to take back control, to stand up for myself and for women, to be more aware. To have a bigger voice. Mustang feels like the perfect companion for that.
Room:- There are some films where the credits start to roll and you just sit there, temporarily stunned, trying to take it all in. Room was very much one of those. It’s a fantastic film and if Brie Larson does take home an Oscar for her performance, it’s fully deserved. How anybody could watch this and not be moved to tears at some point is beyond me. So why is it not higher up in the list you ask? It’s fine film-making at its best. It also tells a difficult tale, so it’s not enjoyable in the usual sense of that word. It’s an important film and deserves all its plaudits and more. I can’t see myself rushing to revisit it though because of how dark the subject matter is and how much certain elements upset me.
The Neon Demon:- Another late entry into the list, I’m not surprised that this made it. I’m a fan of Nicholas Winding Refn and was frustrated to miss out on seeing this on the big screen. Drive still leads the way for NWR’s best film and while I feel Only God Forgives was a little misunderstood, I did prefer this. Yes it’s style heavy. Drowning in it perhaps. But I still think there’s more substance than many have found in it. It says a lot about what it is to be a younger person these days, the obsession with image and how we love to corrupt anything innocent and pure. The soundtrack is one of my favourites of the year and enhances how you view the film. The cinematography is ridiculous too and I have been thinking about it quite a lot since watching it, which means it forced its way into this list, though it was a tough call to kick out the film already in its spot.
Nocturnal Animals:- It’s interesting that this should sit in my list below The Neon Demon. I’d like to watch both as a double-bill feature as I think they’d compliment one another. I went to the cinema on my own for this and I don’t think a lot of the audience in there with me knew anything about it. The opening credits made everyone around me uncomfortable. One person left, most just didn’t know what to do, so some laughed to compensate. This was, is, a film that will divide people. I really enjoyed it, confirmed more so when it kept popping into my head for a couple of weeks after seeing it. It’s Amy Adams again, she’s had a good year, providing a good performance in a vapid world where life beings to start imitating art in a terrifying way. Tom Ford’s second film looks as good as his first and I may have enjoyed it slightly more too. It’s got a story within a story and plays them out together. The story in the story is the more interesting, but it does tie in well. I’ve yet to see this a second time so I am curious to see whether I still admire it as much, or maybe even more.
The films that missed out but were all in here at one point
Under the shadow
The Magnificent Seven
The Hateful Eight
Captain America: Civil War