(This is a re-publish of the post made on 31st December, but with a much tightened-up video and the text presentation of the top 10 added).
I’ve gone video for this Top 10 countdown of my Best Films of 2016, but for those who are ‘trailer averse’ a written presentation of the Top 10 is also provided below!
Number 10: Nerve
“Nerve” is both a teen-flick and – to be honest – a bit of a B-movie, but I really liked it for its energy, its style, its topicality – coming out as it did at the height of the Pokemon Go craze of this summer – and the vivacity of its young leads: Emma Roberts, niece of Julia Roberts and Dave Franco, younger brother of Tom and James. Remember: “Snitches get Stitches”!
Number 9: The Big Short
Adam McKay’s “The Big Short“ is a real ensemble piece but features some heavyweight star turns in the form of Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale,Steve Carell and Brad Pitt. Having personally lost a significant amount of money on a failed US property deal in the late noughties, this is a pretty hard film for me to watch, but it’s worth it as it’s done extremely well. Intelligent and requiring your full attention, this is a film I can watch again and again.
Number 8: Midnight Special
At Number 8 is Jeff Nichols’ Sci-Fi film “Midnight Special”. This might be a bit of a “Marmite” movie in that some may love it and others might hate it, but for me as a thinly veiled tribute to one of my favourite films of all time – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” – it was mesmerising. The story of the lead character, played by Michael Shannon, apparently kidnapping a strange, light-sensitive boy from a religious cult was both mysterious and gripping. The script assumes an audience IQ of at least a hundred by only revealing its plot points in stages – a really great screenplay. With a great supporting cast including Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Sam Shepard this is a great Sci-Fi-cum-Roadtrip movie that is truly memorable.
Number 7 – The Shallows
At Number 7 – a shark tale. Like “Midnight Special”, “The Shallows” is a low budget but very tight and well-constructed little film. Blake Lively who (#sexistbutappreciative) fills out an orange bikini very nicely indeed, plays a surfer babe who gets into trouble a few hundred yards offshore an isolated beach. Attacked by a very persistent shark, she clings to a rock with the choice of either waiting for high-tide and certain death or swimming for it. Possibly by virtue of the low budget, the film metes out its special effects frugally focusing more on reaction shots, and that adds greatly to the film’s suspense. Despite being cursed with a rather lame ending, this was a great premise and an entertaining night out at the flicks.
Number 6 – The Nice Guys
At my number 6 is an anarchic, violent and at times very rude comedic buddy-movie, “The Nice Guys”. Russell Crowe would not be a natural choice in a lead comedy role, but here paired with Ryan Gosling the pair make a memorable double-act. The film also notably features young Australian actress Angourie Rice as Gosling’s* morally centred and very bright daughter Holly who just about steals every scene she’s in. Set in 70’s LA with some really nice period touches, the “Nice Guys” is hilarious in places and seldom have I laughed out loud more in the cinema in 2016 than with this one.
* By the way, I appreciate I incorrectly referenced her as “Crowe’s daughter” in the video.
Number 5 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Making my Number 5 slot is “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story“, although why they needed to add that suffix to the title is beyond me. This is a real return to form for Star Wars with Felicity Jones feisty and dynamic as Jyn Erso; a young rebel leader out with a small force to steal the plans of the ‘Death Star’. Although a little uneven in pace, particularly at the beginning of the film when there is a lot of CGI planet-hopping, the film builds to a memorable and moving finale that is truly Shakespearean in its scope. I just can’t wait for the sequel!
Number 4 – Nocturnal Animals
Tom Ford’s second film – “Nocturnal Animals” – is a multi-layered telling of Amy Adam’s fatuous existence as an LA art dealer, shaken to the core when she receives, out of the blue, a cutting manuscript from her ex-husband played by Jake Gyllenhaal. The cinematography deliciously changes from the cold blue tones of her LA reality to the rosy glow of her past memories of young love through to the harsh tones of the ‘story within the story’ – a truly horrific journey into darkness in the Texan desert. I’ve seen review comments that this was “over-designed” and “too-perfect”. All I can say to that is that I love perfection!
Number 3 – Room
Despite having an horrendous trailer that gave far too much away, “Room” was a really special drama concerning a teenage girl who was locked away in ‘Room’ against her will by a Josef Fritzl-style character. Born into that claustrophobic life is her young son who knows of no other existence. This was a justifiable Oscar win last year for Brie Larson but also fabulous was Jacob Tremblay as the young boy. Gripping, moving and really getting to the heart of the damage that these evil people do to whole families, “Room” well deserves its position at my Number 3 spot.
Number 2 – The Girl With All The Gifts
You might find my Number 2 slot a real surprise: a Zombie pic! “The Girl With All The Gifts” transcends most of the other dubious flicks in this genre. A genuinely intelligent treatment of apocalyptic goings-on building the tension between two forces: on the one hand the maternal love felt by a teacher, played by Gemma Arterton, for one of her young pupils, played with great style by young Sennia Nanua; on the other hand the desperate search for a cure by a scientist, played by Glenn Close, supported by no-nonsense military man Paddy Considine. This is a career best for Glenn Close and her final scenes in this film should become a lessen in effective acting. Again done on a shoestring budget – you could actually make FIFTY of this film for the cost of “Batman v Superman” – the director has eked out every cent of that budget onto the screen. Recommended.
Number 1 – Arrival
At my Number 1 it’s another Sci-Fi flick, but what a flick! “Arrival” was a film I went to see without any expectations whatsoever. This film’s trailer suggested that this was going to be another “Close Encounters” meets “Independence Day” wannabe. I’m normally really critical of trailers that give too much of the plot away, but in this case the trailer gave absolutely nothing away about the fundamental story that lies underneath the alien visitation wrapping. Central performances by Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner were excellent and the twists when they came were novel and unexpected. Even the exposure of the aliens was done well, with no need for sniggering at dodgy plastic monsters or fake CGI effects.Director Denis Villeneuve will hopefully now forgive me for leaving his “Sicario” out of my Top 10. This is a film I expect to do very well at the Oscars in a few month’s time.
So, that’s my eclectic mix of my Top Films of 2016. Clearly I didn’t get to see more than a fraction of the hundreds of films released in the year (including films like “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and “Anomalisa” which some other reviewers have raved about). If I didn’t include your personal favourite, then please let me know what I got wrong in the comments section below!
Here’s hoping for another bumper crop of films in 2017!