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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Adventures in Movie Watching 2016 - My Favourite Films of the Year


Well it's that time of the year again when I make lists that a few people look at, here's a long list of the films that I enjoyed that were around cinemas (and online) this year.....

50. The End of the Tour - dir. James Ponsoldt
A film exploring the five days spent between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace, promoting his bestselling novel, 'Infinite Jest'. Segel gives a more subtle performance than people would expect and Eisenberg does his usual thing.

49. Departure - dir. Andrew Steagall
A mother (Juliet Stephenson) and her teenage son (played by Alex Lawther, young Alan Turing in The Imitation Game) head to their holiday home in the south of France to prepare it for sale, something neither seems to want. The son, Elliot, spends his days working on his poetry which goes by the wayside when he develops a crush on a local boy he spots swimming. The film then follows whether their friendship develops into something more or not and also deals with the fallout when the reasons for the sale are revealed. Lawther is excellent as the vulnerable yet outwardly smug Elliot and is the main reason the film is worth watching. It's also beautifully shot and captures the south of France in all its glory.

48. Bone Tomahawk - dir. S. Craig Zahler
Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins excel in this western horror that slowly (very slowly!) grows from humble beginnings to full on horror.

47. Maggie's Plan - dir. Rebecca Miller
‘Maggie’s Plan’ stars Great Gerwig as a young woman who comes up with a plan to have and raise a child on her own but this begins to go astray when she begins to fall for a professor, played by Ethan Hawke, who wishes to break out from the shadow of his more successful wife by writing a novel. The film initially feels like every other middle class New York romantic comedy you’ve ever seen but after the first act the plot goes off in unexpected directions and there are plenty of laughs to be had if you’re willing to go with the flow.

46. Eddie The Eagle - dir. Dexter Fletcher
A big barrel of fun basically, full of every sports film cliches going, but Taron Egerton in particular as Eddie makes it worth watching.

45. Things To Come (L'avenir) - dir. Mia Hansen-Løve
Isabelle Huppert plays a philosophy teacher who has to deal with everything falling apart in her life all at once. Huppert is typically brilliant and completely outshines everyone else in the movie.

44. A War (Krigen) - dir. Tobias Lindholm
Pilou Abaek (Borgen, Game of Thrones) plays a commander in the Danish army who's placed on trial, accused of killing civilians while trying to defend his squad after they come under fire. Director Lindholm wrote and directed "A Kidnapping" and also wrote on "Borgen", and while not as good as either of these, it's a very ably told story.

43. A Bigger Splash - dir. Luca Guadagnino
Fiennes and Swinton play every else off the park in this remake of "La Piscine" which sizzles while they're onscreen and falls a bit flat when they're not.

42. The Mule (aka The Smuggler) - dir. Tony Mahony, Angus Sampson
"The Mule" deals with Ray Jenkins, a local loser who's coerced into smuggling heroin (internally) back home while his team are on a trip abroad. He gets caught and the cops sit patiently waiting for him to pass the drugs, but if he can go seven days without doing so, they must let him go free. Over the top, gross at times, sure, but ultimately a very decent watch with Weaving in particular, having a load of fun playing the asshole no-nonsense cop.

41. Pete's Dragon - dir. David Lowery
Disney remade one of its lesser known 70's films this year and it did little at the box office, but director Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) manages to make a kids film that can please both children and adults. Features Bonnie Prince Billy, Leonard Cohen and St.Vincent on the soundtrack as well.

40. Hitchcock/Truffaut - dir. Kent Jones
Francois Truffaut's book "Cinema According to Hitchcock" influenced a whole generation of filmmakers, the film lets these directors discuss its impact such as Scorsese, David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Paul Schrader and Peter Bogdanovich.

39. King Jack - dir. Felix Thompson
An atmospheric coming of age tale about a young boy dealing with an older violent bully and his annoying cousin staying over.

38. Marie and the Misfits (Marie et les naufragés) - dir. Sébastien Betbeder
An offbeat film about a very strange love triangle with Eric Cantona. Sebastien Tellier provides the music.

37. High-Rise - dir. Ben Wheatley
An adaption of JG Ballard’s book of the same name about the occupants of a luxury high rise apartment block where people are offered all the mod cons that they need. However, there is a hierarchy in the high rise and problems begin when power failures start to occur. The film, shot in Northern Ireland, brilliantly captures the 70’s chic and look and casts all the characters quite well but it’s hard to connect with any one of them too much.

36. The Clan (El Clan) - dir. Pablo Trapero
The story of a family whose trade was kidnapping and murdering people in 80's Argentina. It's a little bit Scorsese lite but worth a watch anyway and the ending is different.

A middle aged man who tries to please everyone but himself has to deal with an unhinged co-worker who turns to him when he gets fired. Quirky but very funny.

34. Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising - dir. Nicholas Stoller
The same as the first one but with some unexpected social commentary thrown in, enough laughs to keep you going.

33. The Young Offenders - dir. Peter Foott
Two ne'er-do-wells cycle hundreds of miles to try and pick up some cocaine bales that washed up on shore and featured on the news. Surprisingly really warm hearted and the two leads play it pitch perfect throughout.

Well where to start with this one? It's a comedy that deals with God’s ten-year-old daughter, Ea, telling us that God is pretty flawed and a bit of an arse really who created man so he could indulge his nasty side. She also tells us he has no special powers but controls everything through a computer which she locks him out of so she can recruit six new apostles from Brussels and write a Brand New Testament to make life on Earth a lot better. Not you're average comedy basically, but plenty of fun.

31. Louder Than Bombs - dir. Joachm Trier
Isabelle Huppert plays a celebrated war photographer who dies in a car crash and leaves behind her husband (Gabriel Byrne) and sons (Jesse Eisenberg, Devin Druid) struggling to pick up the pieces after and move on. Trier’s film beautifully illustrates male grief and the problems a failure to communicate can bring.

30. Bridge of Spies - dir. Steven Spielberg
Tom Hanks plays a lawyer who defends a man accused of being a Russian Spy and then gets involved in a swap deal with the Russians for an America pilot they captured. No frills or surprises from Spielberg, fills the film with great actors and gets on with it.

29. 10 Cloverfield Lane - dir. Dan Trachtenberg
Plays like an extended Twilight Zone, but some taut direction and excellent performances keep you guessing right up until the end.

28. Hell or High Water - dir. David Mackenzie
Well executed film about two bank robbers and the sheriffs on their trail, only real problem is it just feels like you've seen it before.

27. Nocturnal Animals - dir. Tom Ford
An artist receives a manuscript from her ex husband who she hasn't seen for years and is asked for opinion on it, the rest of the film then switches between her story and the book she's reading. Everyone's great in it but just expected a little more, not sure what though to be honest...

26. Love & Friendship - dir. Whit Stillman
Stillman continues to deliver his signature dry wit, this time channeling Jane Austen. Beckinsale delivers her best ever performance and Tom Bennett's performance as a rich idiot marks him down as one to watch.

25. Creed - dir. Ryan Coogler
Everything you want from a great sports movie, few cheesy bits which were to be expected and still not sure why Michael B. Jordan wasn't in the acting awards conversations more.

24. Green Room - dir. Jeremy Saulnier
The team behind ‘Blue Ruin’ returned with the tense story of a punk band who end up in a fight for survival when they witness a horrible event while playing a gig in a venue run by white supremacists. In a word, tense.

23. Amanda Knox - dir. Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn
Solid documentary about the infamous "Foxy Knoxy" murder trials in Italy that doesn't really leave anyone in a good light.

22. Tickled - dir. David Farrier, Dylan Reeve
When an entertainment journalist does a piece on a video he found online about extreme tickling he gets bombarded with threats, so he decides to figure out who's behind it all. You can probably figure out a few things ahead of when they're revealed but the thrilleresque structure works well in maintaining your interest.

21. The Big Short - dir. Adam McKay
An energetic and damning look at what happened during the financial crash of the previous decade.

20. Mattress Men - dir. Colm Quinn
A film about viral ad sensation Mattress Mick and also the man behind the videos, Paul Kelly. The film, while full of laugh out loud moments, is at its best when focusing on the daily struggle for everyone involved just to make ends meet.

19. One More Time with Feeling - dir. Andrew Dominik
Nick Cave made this movie after not wanting to talk to the press after the death of his son. It captures him, his friends and family trying to cope with their loss and try to carry on with their lives, heartbreaking and uplifting.

18. Weiner - dir. Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
Documentary all about a disgraced politician trying to get himself elected as New York mayor seemingly oblivious to the damage it's doing to his family, particularly his wife, chief aide to Hillary Clinton. Car crash stuff.

17. Viva - dir. Paddy Breathnach
Shot in Cuba, Viva that tells the story of Jesus, a hairdresser who is tired of just doing the hair for a group of drag performers and wants to become one, at the same time he's also forced to reconnect with his unapproving father.

16. The Unknown Girl (La fille inconnue) - dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
The Dardennes continue their brand of understated social dramas this time about a doctor who tries to figure out what happened to a patient that she turned away and is then found dead.

15. A Date for Mad Mary - dir. Darren Thornton
Well judged coming of age tale dealing with one woman's attempt to start over after coming out of prison, well acted and deserves a big audience.

14. The Revenant - dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu
A simple revenge story made special by dazzling cinematography.

13. Son of Saul (Saul fia) - dir. László Nemes
Set in a concentration camp where one of the prisoners tasked with cleaning up after the gassings is determined to give a child a proper burial. The film is shot in the Academy aspect ratio of 1.375:1 to achieve a narrow field of vision and whether this was an artistic or budgetary decision, it works. You feel right there in the horror even though most of it is off screen, the sound mix is incredible using background noise and multiple voices in various languages adding to the viewers’ immersion in what it must have been like and how hard it must have been to endure.

12. I, Daniel Blake - dir. Ken Loach
Tells the story of a man forced to find work despite still recovering from a heart attack due to changes in government policy. It's a film that covers nearly every spectrum of emotion, very funny, deeply sad and full of anger.

11. Arrival - dir. Denis Villeneuve
Amy Adams steals the show as the language expert trying to figure out what the recently arrived aliens want or are trying to tell us.

10. Hail, Caesar! - dir. Joel & Ethan Coen
Essentially a Coen Brother's Greatest Hits Vol.1 which is fine by me. ‘Hail, Caesar!’ deals with Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) a fixer for a Hollywood studio who has to deal with all the foibles of the creatives on and off the set but is pondering a change of career. When the lead of the biggest picture on the slate goes missing, Mannix has to spring in to action. The film has plenty of subplots going on, some work a lot better than others but all are at least interesting and enthralling.

9. The Nice Guys - dir. Shane Black
Shane Black does his thing, uneven but very enjoyable. Crowe and Gosling are excellent as two private eyes trying to investigate a missing girl and the mysterious death of a porn star.

8. Midnight Special - dir. Jeff Nichols
Close encounters of the very cool kind, Jeff Nichols continues his good run. Michael Shannon plays a father who runs off with his son because the government and a cult want to use the young boys "special powers" for their own benefits. If you haven't seen it and not many seemed to head to the cinema to watch it upon release, I highly recommended it.

7. The VVitch - dir. Robert Eggers
Set in the 1630s New England "The Witch" tells the tale of a family torn apart by the disappearance of their newborn baby and failing farm. Super moody, supernatural period drama with an amazing performance from Finch from "The Office".

6. Mustang - dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Compelling film about five young sisters dealing with being oppressed by their strict family.

5. Paterson - dir. Jim Jarmusch
A week in the life of a laid back bus driver with a sideline in poetry, one of Jarmusch's best.

4. Anomalisa - dir. Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
Very odd animation dealing with one man's alienation and boredom, it somehow manages to be really charming and have plenty of laughs but not for everyone

3. Spotlight - dir. Tom McCarthy
The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. A very unshowy reminder about how much we need good journalism. Well structured, paced and acted.

2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople - dir. Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi nails it again with this larger than life New Zealand set comedy. Julian Dennison plays a delinquent kid who gets his last chance at foster care and forms a bond with a very reluctant Sam Neill while being the subjects of a national manhunt after they go missing in the bush.

1. Room - dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Most captivating film of the year.... Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay deserved all the plaudits and awards they received for their stellar performances and the tight direction from Abrahamson keeps you on edge at all the right parts


NOTES: Yes I did see Sing Street, I did not see the following....
Star Wars: Rogue One, The Danish Girl, The Assassin, Chronic, The Survivalist, Dheepan, Welcome to Me, Eye In The Sky, Zootropolis, Embrace of the Serpent, Notes on Blindness, Queen of Earth, Author: The JT Leroy Story, The BFG, Cafe Society, Chevalier, Julieta, Traders, Weiner Dog, The Girl With All The Gifts, Swiss Army Man, Captain Fantastic, The Greasy Strangler, Little Men, Sausage Party, War Dogs, DePalma, The Edge of Seventeen, Train To Busan, Don't Breathe, Doctor Strange and lots more I'm sure....


See all 85 ranked over on letterboxd.com