Overall 2016 has been a good year for cinema, though many of the best cinematic works were scattered throughout the year alongside several of Hollywood’s worst films for some time (see Gods Of Egypt and Ben Hur). Expectations were higher than planet Krypton for some films, whilst others snuck onto Netflix without any publicity to be quietly discovered. While Batman Vs Superman was a fun and messy let down for DC, Marvel continued their comic book world domination with their strongest films to date (excluding X-Men Apocalypse which was a little more DC than we hoped it would be). Many of the greats had films out this year, Tarantino, Woody Allen, Shane Black, Cohen Brothers, but it was the independent up and coming directors that really shone, Ryan Coogler and Mike Flanagan to mention but two. It was also a stronger year than usual for documentaries and horror.
It was an impossible task to get this list down to ten films, I drew a short list of over twenty with relative ease. However the following ten films were the ones that stayed with me. These films challenged, divided, delivered and pushed cinema boundaries to new levels. There are of course films I haven’t seen yet, which may have had a good chance of making this list (Arrival and The Greasy Strangler I’m looking at you) and others which weren’t released in the UK in 2016, and therefore don’t qualify. But this is the cream of the crop of 2016, and the films I strongly advise each and every one of you lovely people to check out as we go into another new year….
10 – Hush
Mike Flanagan’s original, tense and refreshing horror appeared on Netflix not long after its April release date. I watched it without expectation, but was pleasantly surprised to find a new angle on the home invasion movie, not to mention an outstanding performance from Kate Siegel. Siegel plays a woman who is terrorised at her country retreat by a man who is trying to enter her home, with the twist being she can’t see or speak and therefore has to use her wits and creativity to outsmart him in order save her own life. The best horror film of the year by some distance….
09 – Supersonic
I have to confess, I’ve never been a huge Oasis fan. In fact I was always more a Blur fan. But after watching Supersonic, I found myself downloading and listening to everything Oasis have ever made like some sort of deranged super fan. Like Amy and Senna, Supersonic tells a story with simply archive footage and voice overs, charting the first few years of the band up until their humongous gig at Knebworth some twenty years ago. Revealing, heart-breaking and with one of the best soundtracks EVER, its essential viewing. My favourite documentary of the year by some distance.
08 – The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn makes films on his own terms, and doesn’t appear to give a flying fuck about what anyone else thinks of him. He doesn’t care if his films lack story or narrative structure, he just wants them to look visually stunning and stay with you long after you’ve watched them. The Neon Demon falls nicely into this category. It borrows the visual sparkle of Drive, the alienation of Valhalla Rising and the absurdness of Bronson, and chucks in a bucket load of Kubrick, Lynch and perfume adverts! It’s the most interesting film you’re likely to see anytime soon, but will divide audiences into two categories. Those who just go with the ride and enjoy the madness, or those that refuse to buy into it and want to slap Winding Refn around his arrogant self-absorbed little face. Thankfully I’m in the first category…
07 – Victoria
Director Sebastian Schipper’s one take Berlin set drama is ground-breaking. For over two hours the camera rolls without cutting and follows our protagonist (the perfectly cast Laia Costa) at the end of a night out, as she unexpectedly gets mixed up with the criminal underworld. At times it’s hard to believe they have achieved something as frantic and busy as any regular edited movie, with scenes in nightclubs, fights, conversations in cars whilst driving, going up stairs and in lifts, all without a single edit. But when you look past the single take gimmick, you also see a genuinely brilliant drama that twist and turns with your own heart. Incredible cinema, that deserves a wider audience…
06 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I was nervous of what Gareth Edwards would do with the Star Wars franchise, as I didn’t enjoy his previous work Monsters, though found his take on Godzilla interesting. There was no need to worry, as Rogue One (and I’m battling not to write Rouge One here, which sounds like a brand of lipstick) is solid entry into the Star Wars film canon. Let’s be clear, it’s not perfect (too many characters you can’t relate to and don’t care about, the CGI doesn’t quite work) but there is enough to enrich the Star Wars universe and add some new scenes to your favourite Star Wars moments (see Vader unleash his full wrath towards the end). It’s a darker world than we’re used to in the galaxy far far away, but a war movie in space isn’t a bad thing and it’s easily better than the prequels….