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?

The Witch Review

The Witch has been getting very mixed reviews by many different people, some praising it, calling it one of the best horrors films of recent times, while others saying it’s boring and nothing happens during the run time. After a friend showed me the trailer, I decided to go along and see for myself.

The Witch stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie and Harvey Scrimshaw and is written and directed by Robert Eggers. Set in the 1630s, the film follows a family in New England encountering evil forces in the forest next to their farm, not knowing whether they are real or imagined.

While the film is labeled as a horror film, The Witch doesn’t really fall into that category. Horror is more to do with disgust, what The Witch is, is what I like to call a terror film. There are only a few brief moments of blood and mutilated bodies, what we have here is building of tension to an almost unbearable degree.

Most of the shots in the film are long takes, mainly just focusing on the surroundings. The film is set in New England during the winter, so everything has a grey/brown colour to it. Everything around the family is dying, which adds to the sense of foreboding. There are many times when the film focuses on the forest and it’s amazing what the rustling of leaves and the creak of trees can make your mind think up.

The film’s subtitle is A New England Folktale, which says a lot about the film’s story. At the end of the film, on-screen text reveals that all the events in the film were based off several true events and dialogue was taken straight from the record (that’s means the dialogue is all thou’s, thee’s and thy’s, get used to having to decipher Old English). It’s a mishmash of different ghost stories and they all fit perfectly together. The whole story reminds me of stories I was told in my home town about the woods, it does what The Blair Witch Project was doing with its use of the story and setting. The film’s story plays off the idea that this could all be in the characters heads, or creeping paranoia or childish games, until we are as confused and scared as the character’s are. It’s a good way of creeping out your audience without anything scary popping up on screen with a loud bang.

Many movie-goers will see that last point as a deal-breaker on whether they want to go see The Witch. Yes, there are no jump scares, or loud musical stings to jolt you out of your seat. This might have been why it’s been labeled as boring by some critics. Sure, it’s a slow build, but that’s its charm. It doesn’t need to rely on the tired and overused gimmicks of films like Sinister or the Paranormal Activity franchise. It builds to a terrifying conclusion, still holding up its ideas of it being an illusion or reality.

The film covers a lot more than just the horror/terror side of the story. It brings up several themes and has many parallel connections, things like sexuality, religion, persecution, pride, puberty and paranoia, all are explored to some degree within the film. It feels more like a game of chess, with each move of a character to a certain place has some significant meaning to the story or to their development.

Many movie-goers who like their Sinister/Paranormal Activity/Insidious types of films will be disappointed in The Witch. It takes a while to get going, and doesn’t have the same set-piece style scares that those franchises rely on. But for a more thoughtful, methodical terror piece that will haunt you long after you leave the cinema, The Witch is a solid recommendation.

Score: 9/10 A slow build leads to a startling, terrifying film.