TOP TEN FILMS OF 2016

There are many films that have only just come out yet or I have missed, including Silence and Manchester to the Sea, but also countless others from around the world, a world I want to explore further in 2017. I look forward to what I uncover. As for my list, March isn’t too late, right? Right??

My list will not reflect the subjective ‘quality’ of a film. It will be based on films I felt the need to watch again and again; the films that mesmerised me the most and therefore stuck with me.


10

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ARRIVAL

The most intelligent and thoughtful sci-fi film I have seen since 2001. It may have minor flaws, but they sure didn’t stop me from seeing this one three times at the cinema. The cinematography, that score, those alien crafts… everything felt so fresh, and it was nice to see a sci-fi movie with my father where we talked for a long time after the credits rolled, trading our opinions. We both saw it a little differently, and I was a little disappointed with the very final scenes, but we both loved it and decided to see it again. It really is incredible how a film about an alien invasion can feel so human.


9

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EYE IN THE SKY

Alan Rickman’s last role will be remembered, not just because he was an incredible actor, but his last film was a powerful and relevant political thriller revolving around drone warfare. While I felt the accuracy of drone strikes was exaggerated, there is no doubt that the film grips from from the opening scene and does not let go. Helen Mirren is incredible as the hard-nosed Military woman who is calling the shots, as are her allies and enemies that are on the ground.


8

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HIGH-RISE

A fantastic socio-political film that is fuelled by insanity, High-Rise won me over with this pure madness and its visual beauty. The lower and upper classes are battling for supremacy in the modern-looking High-Rise – an ultimately fruitless task – and it is a battle that intensifies as the film grows. Conditions are insane, much like many of the occupants, and almost all of the behaviour becomes beastly – all of it routinely ignored. The irony that the song SOS by ABBA is covered twice in this movie is not lost.


7

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THE RED TURTLE (La tortue rogue)

A collaboration between Studio Ghibli and Dutch director Michael Dudok de Wit, the story is at the same time rooted in reality while still retaining the dream-like aesthetic of so many of Ghibli’s great films. A film free of any dialogue, as soon as it starts we are presented with incredible hand-drawn animation, as well as excellent sound design as we clearly hear waves slapping together, throwing around a nameless man and what is left of his boat. It is an arresting introduction, and from then on, even without words, it is hard to look away. Just what does The Red Turtle signify?


6

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CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

An extremely unique film, Captain Fantastic offers a little something for everyone. It is also an intelligently written comedy, with many humorous philosophical debates. It amusingly and thoughtfully makes a statement on what really is the best way to raise children in this era. Does it really matter that Ben’s children have no idea what Nike is, but do know what the bill of rights represents, and how to survive, right down to Ben’s youngest child? He doesn’t have the smoothest ride throughout the film, but you can’t help but root for the guy, and his family.



5

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THE WITCH

A Puritan family is banished from town for their beliefs (perhaps based on these events), forced to move to a farm that feels like the edge of the world, as from the opening the woods that line the farm are presented in an ominous fashion, almost creating a character that could serve as the scariest element of the film. What exactly goes on in there? Why can’t the children venture inside? Without warning, tragedy strikes. The family clings to their faith to prevent them from starving as their crops die, but it is that very faith that caused their banishment, while also dividing the family. A horror film has never said so much.


4

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SON OF SAUL

I have never seen a film like Son of Saul; it feels like so much more than a film. It is a heavy experience that repeatedly batters you over the head with its subject matter, and this is chiefly due to the way the film looks. Never has a film so effectively placed the viewer in the middle of horrific action. The way this film is shot is a reason to see this alone; it is essentially a moving portrait, as all we see in constant focus is Saul’s face, or the back of his head. Consequently, we are constantly seeing what Saul witnesses, or his reactions. And what he is experiencing is his own kind being forced to exterminate others of their own kind. If that isn’t horror, then what is?


3

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HELL OR HIGH WATER

From the standpoint of pure fun, this film was the best of 2016. Period. Flawlessly executed, a wicked sense of humour, oh, and we have Nick Cave and Warren Ellis arranging the score. The post financial-crisis is in the background, and the theme of poverty running through the brothers’ blood is evident and both of these are triggers for why these men are robbing banks. With some action packed, bullet-riddled scenes and a belting climax that isn’t only entertaining as all hell, it also packs some emotional heft, this is one to watch.


2

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HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

Both hilarious and touching, carrying a strong message about the treatment of young adults in New Zealand (and Australia for that matter), this is easily my favourite comedy since The Wolf On Wall Street. On re-watches I was consistently impressed with Julian Dennison’s comic timing, and his chemistry with old Aussie vet Sam O’Niell. It looks beautiful, it sounds incredible (and unique, get the soundtrack!) and above all else, its exaggerated ending was the icing on the cake, as many ‘youth welfare officers’ have very similar, authoritarian attitudes.

Kudos to Taika for going with the bombastic finale to nail the film’s point home, while still retaining that sense of humour to the very end. I shall be keeping a close eye on young Dennison, and with New Zealand film culture growing each year, I hope to see him in another home-grown production. Let’s hope that is a comedy!


1

THE NEON DEMON

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Perhaps the most divisive film released last year, with a rating of 57% on RT at the moment, this is easily my favourite film of 2016. Some violent critical responses to this film demonstrate just how effective it is in holding a mirror up to society and portraying everything that is ugly about a glamorous profession.

This has everything I look for in a film: thought-provoking material, incredible visuals that match an incredible soundtrack, and ambiguity abound, making repeat viewings a near necessity. The latter is probably why so many people dislike the film, but hey, its their loss!

They also may not have been aware that Refn explicitly hired two female screenwriters so that his film wasn’t an obvious masculine look into the profession.

Not only is this the perfect film for repeat viewings, but given the fact that it is filled is symbolic references, each viewing will reveal more about one or more characters. Another layer will be revealed. A new perspective on the story will be formed, one totally different from what you thought when you first saw that final scene. I’ve watched this five times since I bought the special edition blu-ray, and not once I have I been bored, nor have I failed to come out with a new understanding of the film. All this, and I still haven’t watched it with commentary from Refn and Elle Fanning yet!

The word pretentious is thrown around when talking about this film, and this perhaps may be true. But faulting a film for having a brain seems utterly ludicrous to me. This has gradually become my favourite film of the decade.



As for documentaries, I only saw a few, but there is certainly one that stands out and if I were to include it in my list, there is no doubt that it would sit comfortably at Number One

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ONE MORE TIME WITH FEELING

If I were to include documentaries in my list, this would certainly be at number one, as this feels like more than a documentary. Not only are we able to see Cave at his most personal, raw, uncensored self, but we also are privileged enough to witness (what certainly look like) the actual takes of all but one of the songs from the album that coincided with the release of this film. Given this album was made as an effort to process the grief of losing his son, the album and film are appropriately sombre; some of the album tracks are particularly haunting. The black and white camerawork is perfect, as it matches this incredibly bleak and grief-filled period of his life. Pairing this with his last film, 20,000 Days on Earth, is the perfect double-bill for any creative person looking for inspiration.

The blu-ray is out on March 3rd, don’t miss it!! You have never seen a documentary like this, music-related or otherwise. Having seen Cave and the Seeds live recently, I am counting down the days until I can get my hands on a copy of this extraordinary film. Any lover of music should see this film, whether they are a fan of Cave or not. He is a very unique individual; a true poet.


Honourable mentions:

Bad Moms

Dheepan

Don’t Breathe

Elle

Fences

The Founder

The Girl on the Train

Hail, Caesar!

Goldstone

I, Daniel Blake

A Month of Sundays

My Mother (Mia Madre)

The Nice Guys

Nocturnal Animals

Rams (Hrutar)

Sully

Swiss Army Man

10 Cloverfield Lane

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Your Name (Kimi no na wa)