Movies of the Year 2016
The cop working his last case before retirement, the white colonist making arrogant demands of natives, the recently divorced private investigator caught in a tangled web, the superhero fighting the big bad guy and saving his girl.
2016 cinema certainly trod familiar paths but it was also something of a war against cliche. There was depth and intelligence in all of the films on the list, and tired tropes were for the most part avoided.
An enjoyable year at the movies.
Everybody Wants Some!!
Like many millions of others I have been waiting for a sequel to Dazed and Confused since Wooderson’s Chevy Chevelle went over that hill and the credits started to roll. And while this is not an official continuation it’ll do fine until one comes along.
Taking place in the three days before the start of a new college year this is brimming with the laughs, wry observation and charm that Richard Linklater does so well.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Anyone depressed by virtue-signalling care workers or flummoxed by safe spaces and microaggressions will love the social services officer in pursuit of juvenile runaway Ricky in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Sure, she wants to ‘leave no child behind’ but she also wants to kick his ass when she does get her hands on him.
How does a city kid weaned on nothing more than the wise words of Tupac Shakur survive in the jungle with the entire New Zealand army on his tail? Well, he does have Sam Neil and his pitbull to hand but still, it ain’t easy.
This was definitely the wackiest universe dreamt up in film this year (yes, even more bizarre than Doctor Strange). In a future dystopia singletons are sent to hotels so they may pair up with kindred spirits and live a happy life together. Failure to find a mate after 45 days will see them turned into animals and released into the wild.
Played totally straight by both cast and crew, this was both odd and fascinating.
Imagine being a politician trying to recover from the fallout of a sexting scandal who invites a documentary crew to record his comeback campaign for Mayor, only for it to be derailed mid-film by yet more, identical shenanigans.
A weaker man might have topped himself or bailed out of the race but Anthony Weiner is so dogged and so weirdly sincere he soldiers on towards a defeat that gets more humiliating by the hour. A mesmerizing car crash.
The Nice Guys
Ryan Gosling, one of the two PIs working the streets of 1970s Los Angeles in The Nice Guys is so poor at his job his only regular income is looking for missing spouses of senile geriatrics. That his clients have simply forgotten their loved ones are dead is of no consequence, he’ll still take the fee.
When his path crosses that of hard boiled Russell Crowe, and he realises he might, just possibly be able to up his game and crack a proper case.
Embrace of the Serpent
Set in the ‘infinite jungle’ of the Amazon basin, this plays out like a molasses slow Apocalypse Now as two European explorers, separated by decades but united by the same Indian guide, travel upriver to search for a mythical, life-giving plant. Perhaps too many trippy dream sequences on show but, overall a beautiful piece of work.
Hell or High Water
Bank robbers with hearts of gold, being pursued by a sheriff just a few days from retirement? Come on, that cliche has been done to death.
Well sure, but when you see sparse landscapes shot as beautifully as this, characters as attractive as the ones in this the picture and a plot as devoid of holes (ok, perhaps one plot hole) as this one, you realise there is quite a bit more mileage in the genre yet.
Manchester by the Sea
Director Kenneth Lonergan demonstrated he could navigate grief with subtle mastery when he helmed You Can Count on Me 16 years ago. He’s returned to the same territory here, jumping back and forth between the present day malaise of a broken man and the unspeakable events of a half decade ago that caused the wreckage.
Of course you’d expect a film directed by a fashion supremo to look beautiful, more surprising is that Tom Ford can effortlessly construct a film that blends current events, a series of seismic flashbacks whose consequences echo through the present and the chapters of a novel that bridge both eras. Expertly done, in the closing moments the codas of all three stories chime perfectly.
As enjoyable as the recent run (glut?) of superhero movies has been, the products on offer often lack substance and play the safe game of genesis story followed by pitched battle of hero versus comparable villain. Against this Deadpool is a pure delight. Knowing, meta-theatrical, sharply observed and funny as hell this should act as a template for any future spandex clad cinematic outing.
Childhood of a Leader
Could a sweet, intelligent young boy brought up in a nice house by loving parents really transform into a Fascist monster? Set during the negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles, this serves as an allegory of the treatment Germany received immediately after WWI and the slights, humiliations and insults that led to the rise of the Third Reich.
Points for effort
- The Wailing
- Green Room
- La La Land
- High-Rise (a glorious mess that almost worked)
- The Wave
- The Hateful Eight
- Doctor Strange (probably the best CGI I’ve ever seen)