I could start this wrap-up by talking about how terrible 2016 was with the cultural genocide that the universe has decided to throw upon us this year. But, I refuse to focus on that, and instead focus on the films, as 2016 was actually a pretty great year for them. Now this is a list but it’s not really in highest-lowest order, I just personally find it too hard to put these fantastic films in any such condescending order. So this is just wrap up of some great movies that I think are very much worth your time.
The Nice Guys
Written and Directed by one of the finest filmmakers out of Hollywood, Shane Black. The Nice Guys is a 70’s Buddy Cop comedy that feels like something to come out a few decades ago, but instead it came out this year and we should be so thankful for that. Starring a surprisingly enigmatic Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe the two main leads back and forth banter, a staple of Shane Black movies is on point as usual, but I was surprised just how much chemistry there was between the two of them. A perfect companion piece to Shane’s previous work (such as the equally fantastic Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) it’s funny, intelligent and a highly enjoyable experience, and so it made its way here to my top five.
I wanted to include Your Name on this list for a couple of reasons, firstly, Your Name is a true example of just why you shouldn’t just subtract anime for stereotypes that are associated with the medium. Presenting far more intelligence than I even expected, it takes the previously underutilised body-swap idea and really uses the most of it, to say would be to spoil it, so I’ll just leave it at that. Personally, I think that this is Makoto Shinkai’s best piece of work to date, as most of his movies, though beautifully animated, tend to be far more face value than Your Name, which comes with a thematic richness that makes the stunning animation just as good as the film craft.
I still find it hard to believe that this is the second feature made by Director / Fashion Designer Tom Ford. I will say that this is probably my favourite feature of the year, not by much, but this is my favourite type of film. From the second you start watching the film you can see that everything has been meticulously designed, it evokes Kubrick, Lynch or Fincher and that is about the highest praise I can give. Everything has a purpose, even if it’s not initially clear why everything was shown is for a reason. For example, the movie opens with a scene of some large naked women dancing, odd, but it serves a purpose. It’s movie direction at its finest.
I, Daniel Blake
Now if you’re reading this you’re more than likely a UK Citizen, and if that is this case, I would go as far to say this is essential watching. Ken Loach (now 80!) paints a bleak portrait of the faceless benefits system in the UK. I think the thing I love this movie so much for is this one of the purest forms of purpose for cinema, social action. It does a wonderfully painful job of showing just how bad the situation has gotten, there is a scene at a food bank that really shows this for what it is. Although I should be keeping this objective, I just wanted to bring something up; I’m from Cumbria and the movie is set in Newcastle, just about a 2-hour drive from where I live, but if you had told me this was set in my hometown, I would have believed you. The main character of the film Daniel could be swapped out with my Grandad (who was also a carpenter) and nothing would change, and that scares the living shit out of me.
One thing I hope that I demonstrated with this list is a variation in film styles with this list. From a Hollywood mainstream to foreign animation, something that I think that American Honey has the others don’t, is that it comes with a certain poeticism. It’s hard to objectively criticise, but through its use of ethereal visuals and somewhat unusual characters, it just feels real. Although it took a very different route, I found that I was having a very similar experience to I, Daniel Blake where it all just felt real. There are things to the film that I can say contributed to this; for a few examples the amazing constant handheld camerawork creating documentary realism, or the pop-music soundtrack or maybe the editing with a lot of long drawn out takes, but it just had a pulse to it that made it feel alive and here it is on the list.