Top Ten Best Films Of 2016

It’s that time of year again. The nights are drawing in, the festive period is over, and every film critic is creating their best and worst list of the year. And here is mine.

Quick note, scores aren’t a factor on this list. These were just my personal favourites. Before we get going a few honourable mentions:

Love And Friendship

War On Everyone

Everybody Wants Some!!

And now…

10.

Ten is a tie because I couldn’t pick between them, Room and The Hateful Eight. I had no clue what I was expecting with Room, but I never though I would get a emotive family drama, focussing on the interactions of a mother and young son, with an Oscar-worthy performance by newcomer Jacob Tremblay. The shot when he first see’s the sky is still one that I think about regularly even after all this time. The Hateful Eight is a return to the old-fashioned QT, focussing on colourful dialogue with an array of interesting characters in a secluded location rather than the weird genre stylings of his last few films. Fantastic performances from Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason-Leigh, with a perfect accompanying score by Ennio Morricone.

9.

I’m not a romance film person, but The Light Between Oceans lands itself on my Top-Ten List. Stunning performances by Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander (two of my favourite actors) and exquisite cinematography by Adam Arkapaw save the sometimes clichéd story and dragging second half.

8.

A Wild Western reset in the modern day, Hell or High Water was a pleasant surprise at the tail end of the summer. An actor defining performance by Chris Pine, backed up by powerful supports such as Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. The story may seem like one you’ve seen before, but the modern trappings add a refreshing touch that separates it from similar films with much bigger budgets (I’m looking at you, Magnificent Seven).

7.

Nobody thought Eye In The Sky was going to be good. Even I saw the trailer and thought it looked pretty hackneyed. But the tense arguments, the shocking ideas of collateral damage in war and powerful performances by Helen Mirren, Barkhad Abdi and the late Alan Rickman really make this one stand tall. Here’s hoping for a posthumous Supporting Actor nomination for the latter actor.

6.

At number six, the Master Of Ultra-Violence, Nicolas Winding-Refn, is back with The Neon Demon. An odd mash-up of fairytale and the modelling business in Los Angeles, this is one you don’t want spoiled for you. Just go watch it, but be prepared for some jaw-dropping moments that you’ll be replaying long after the film is done.

5.

Modern horror usually doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t like being jump scared, I don’t seek it out for entertainment. But then The Witch came along, a film of no jump scares or silly noises, and it freaked the heck out of me. The endless tension building, the moody and ominous score by Mark Karven and the debut of lead Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch may not be for everybody, but for horror fans it’s a must-see. A great directorial debut by Robert Eggers.

4.

It took over forty years to make, but High-Rise is worth the wait. A wide selection of great actors including Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Elizabeth Moss and Luke Evans converge in an entertaining and slightly frightening orgy of sex, drugs and violence. High-Rise is the height of decadence and it’s a blast.

3.

Hell Or High Water was a Western through the lens of modern day. Our number three is a Western through the lens of horror. Bone Tomahawk was a sprawling 132 minute exercise in bloody torture and gruesome death and it was one of the my top picks for this year. Another one you don’t want spoiled for you, it’s a remarkable debut by writer, musician, cinematographer and director S. Craig Zahler.

2.

2016 has been a very good year for animation. With soon-to-be classics from Disney with Moana and Zootropolis, and Japanese efforts of When Marnie Was There and Your Name, animation buffs have been spoiled his year. But two films beat them all. Our number two is Laika’s Kubo And The Two Strings is an impressive stop-motion film with inflections of Eastern mythology and settings and a heart of gold underneath. Excellent performances by Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron, along with some near-perfect shot compositions, Kubo will be winning awards left, right and centre at this year’s Oscars.

1.

I saw this all the way back in March, and since then it’ been at the top of my list of 2016. And still, nine months later, Anomalisa has stayed on top. An awe-inspiring dream of a film, written by Eternal Sunshine writer Charlie Kaufman and directed by Duke Johnson, I consider Anomalisa to be a perfect film. Mesmerising stop-motion, beautiful portrayals by David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason-Leigh and a story that is heartfelt and crushing, this will be one for the ages.

That’s been 2016, happy new year and may 2017 be a great one!

Why not read my look back at the bad stuff, The Worst Of 2016?

Anomalisa Review

Anomalisa has been on my watch-list for about half a year. It featured on many critics best of 2015 lists and one of my fellow students has been raving about it seemingly forever. Today, it opened, so I went to the very first screening at 9:15. The things I do for cinema…

Anomalisa stars David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan (yes, only three actors) and is directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. The film follows Michael (Thewlis) who on a business trip to Cincinnati meets Lisa (Leigh) who he becomes enraptured with.

Charlie Kaufman is well known in the film industry. He’s the writer and director of films like Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Anomalisa fits perfectly into the quirkiness and the engaging script of the other three films. It doesn’t have the cutting wit of a Tarantino or a Sorkin, but that is actually something in its favour. It’s more nuanced and believable and the dialogue between Michael and Lisa feels like we are peeking into a real life conversation. The film is full with dark humour, luckily none of which was spoiled in the trailer. I was almost in tears at some of the jokes, especially a extended computer segment at the hotel between Michael and a concierge, or an encounter with a golf buggy being driven through the hotel. Thewlis also has a speech during the final third that will become a defining moment of cult cinema, much like Sam Jackson’s “Ezekiel” or anything by Morgan Freeman.

The film is stop-motion, with the models being created by 3D printers. It took over two years to create and it looks stunning. There are moments when I stopped seeing puppets and began to see them as actors. That might be down to Thewlis and Leigh, who do a fantastic job at voicing the characters. Leigh especially, coming off the back of The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa is a complete change of character and shows her range as an actress. There is a third act reveal that uses the puppetry to great effect. I’m trying not to spoil it here, but it will go down as one of the greatest mind trips in the history of surrealist cinema. I’ve done some stop-motion before and I know how taxing it is, but Kaufman and Johnson have transcended a lot of what has come previously.

The BBFC gave Anomalisa a 15 certificate and it earns it well. Strong language is throughout as well as a fully animated sex scene. It’s not over-sexualised but is still a bit out-there in terms of weirdness. I guess it’s the fact that it’s stop-motion, it makes it seem very awkward but in a good way. It reminds me of a similar scene in The Spectacular Now, which is my favourite love scene due to its realism.

I don’t want to spoil the film, as it’s one of those rare ones that works wonders if you know nothing about it, but you have to be prepared for some out-there scenes. I already talked a little bit about the surrealist scene, but there some moments which will throw certain audience members. A lot of the oddness comes from the third member of the cast, Tom Noonan, who plays every other character, be it male or female, young and old. All of Noonan’s characters have the same face, which is a nice visualisation of Michael knowing there is something special about Lisa. It takes a while to realise what the film is doing with Noonan’s characters and it’s a bit strange to see female characters talking in a deep bass voice (which then is the same voice for their child). But it all adds to the feeling of there being something not right underneath the surface of Anomalisa.

I came out of Anomalisa feeling so many different emotions. It’s changed my perspective on certain things, it’s something that hits on a very deep level. If you watch Anomalisa, you’ll laugh, you might cry and you’ll have watched one of the greatest films of the 2010s.

Score: 10/10 Just go watch it. There is no equivalent. This is perfection.