My 30 Favourite Films of 2016

By Kryshan Randel

2016 was a very strong year for science fiction, thriller/horror – and musicals! Never thought I would love three musicals in one year, as they are a rare breed these days, especially exceptional ones. Considering how dark the real life 2016 got, some joyous song-driven relief was a welcome addition to the movie mix.

1. ARRIVAL

Alien visitation seen through a riveting new perspective; a linguist trying to understand their language with the fate of the world at stake. The result is thought provoking, original science fiction storytelling. By the perfect ending, the film becomes even better – a tearjerker that earns every tear honestly. The overall experience is a transformative reminder to wield empathy over judgement, love over fear, evolution over stagnation, striving to find a common language over getting stuck in lost in translation traps. Lessons to keep in mind as we enter the Trump era.

2. THE WAILING

A comedy of errors turns into a genuinely scary horror show, complete with demonic possession and other nightmare-worthy events. The Korean genre hybrid convincingly puts a police officer with a lot of relatable weaknesses through hell on earth without mercy.

3. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

The best zombie film since 28 DAYS LATER takes the genre in a radical new direction. Zombie stories are great opportunities for visceral metaphors and this one, about a new generation making their way through a broken world, is a stunner.

4. LA LA LAND

Starts out a as clever tribute to classic musicals, then finds its own voice and rhythms, breaking free from tradition while simultaneously honouring its inspirations. Emma Stone is incredible as a wannabe starlet, selling both the intoxicating fantasies and stark realities bouncing playfully off of each other, complete with drastic lighting and music cue changes.

5. A BIGGER SPLASH

Sex, thrills and rock and roll. Like running into an old friend in an Amsterdam mansion on a hot and sweaty summer night, carrying all sorts of irresistible secrets they can’t wait to share with you. A truly alive, invigorating, hard to categorize film featuring Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes doing some of their best work.

6. SING STREET

A pitch perfect coming of age story, ’80s tribute, and musical love story with the most memorable original songs of the year. There is a repeat formula to this one (start a band to impress a girl), but who cares when it’s so well executed?

7. DOCTOR STRANGE

Possibly my new favourite Marvel film. Relentlessly fun and creative, with genuinely mind blowing action and other psychedelic spectacle that picks up where MATRIX and INCEPTION left off. Also features the best use of 3D since GRAVITY.

8. TOWER

Brilliant animated documentary about the Charles Whitman sniper shootings. Matches voiceovers from real life survivors with younger versions of themselves rotoscoped onto the screen, taking you inside the mind of each and every character, big and small. An ideal match of expressionistic form and riveting content.

9. I, DANIEL BLAKE

Sometimes a great message movie doesn’t need metaphors and subtlety, it needs to scream “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”, NETWORK-style. Starts with a fight against small bureaucratic annoyances and builds to a battle against infuriating ones. You will not only root for Daniel Blake, you will never forget him. A hero for our insane modern times.

10. POPSTAR: DON’T STOP NEVER STOPPING / DON’T THINK TWICE (tie)

The comedies of the year. POPSTAR was several-laughs-per-minute musical satire executed to goofy hilarious grandeur. DON’T THINK TWICE makes you care enormously about an improvisation troupe’s insecurities and jealousies that arise when one of the their members becomes a co-star of an SNL-like show.

ALSO

The animated splendour of THE RED TURTLE; the star studded ultra-violent Tom-and-Jerry-spirit shootout FREE FIRE; the documentaries about geniuses MAGNUS and BURDEN; the riveting filmmaker portraits VERSUS: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF KEN LOACH and DEPALMA and cinematographer portrait KEEPERS OF THE MAGIC; the visceral shock doc horror of RATS and WE ARE THE FLESH and psychological horrors of SUNTAN, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, THE STUDENT and THE INVITATION; the brilliantly written heist Western HELL OR HIGH WATER; the deeply personal and authentic coming of age dramas SLEEPING GIANT and TWENTIETH CENTURY WOMEN; the mumblecore Ghostbusters-esque dark comedy ANOTHER EVIL; The fascinating Herzog Internet documentary LO AND BEHOLD; and Verhoeveon’s morally complex and confrontational ELLE.

Even though they aren’t entire films, I was also very impressed by the modern dare-driven adventure NERVE, except for the last five minutes; The DIY spirit of the first half of CAPTAIN FANTASTIC; Rebecca Hall’s wrenching lead performance in CHRISTINE; another amazing Martinez soundtrack for THE NEON DEMON; the rousing final third of ROGUE ONE; and the several unforgettable scenes in SILENCE that fulfill Scorsese’s uneven soul searching mission of bringing unconditional religious devotion to brutal life.

WORST FILM: SUICIDE SQUAD

Incoherently directed, shot and edited; overexplained and underdeveloped; aggressively misogynistic, lazy storytelling – the list goes on. Remind me never to watch another DC film again, at least not while Snyder’s in charge of that universe.

MOST DISAPPOINTING: TONI ERDMANN

The most critically acclaimed comedy of the year was the biggest missed opportunity of 2016. Promising setups either end prematurely or dissolve into nothingness – and those were the three or four scenes that almost worked.

MOST ANTICIPATED 2017

The coming of age horror film RAW, Aronofsky’s new thriller MOTHER, Wright’s musical action crime thriller BABY DRIVER, Villeneuve’s retro future noir BLADE RUNNER 2049 sequel, and Nolan’s 70mm war epic DUNKIRK.

The Reemergence of Super 16mm ­- Aesthetics and Practicality

Cinematography in indie filmmaking is a constant negotiation between financial reality and creative vision. With that in mind, should indie cinematographers consider Super 16mm more seriously? There are some sound arguments for it.

Financially, film may not be as expensive of a choice as most would think. Arri CSC still rents out Arri 416 and Arri SR3 packages to students, and indie filmmakers. Rental houses will often work to make packages that are appropriate for their budget and the project. If you opt for Arri SR2, the option becomes even cheaper. In the Vancouver area, for example, Cineworks offers SR2 packages for $400 a week. With the trend moving towards digital, the cost of rentals for film cameras is expected to go down even further.

Of course, one should take the cost of stock and processing into account. The good news is Kodak is very friendly towards low-­budget, indie filmmakers. You can negotiate the price to get a discount or if you play your cards right, even get them to donate a percentage of the stock. You can always consider recans and shortends as well. Technicolor is also quite helpful in figuring out a realistic budget and will provide discounts to filmmakers when possible. And if you’re lucky enough they might have a pricing agreement with your local film association or collective. (In Vancouver, ByDeluxe offers film processing and Telecine).

The aesthetic side of the argument is a bit more obvious. Super 16mm will give you that old, nostalgic, grainy, raw look that is quite hard to replicate in post. Sure, you can add grains and highlight blooms in post when you shoot digital, but whether fake grains and blooms are as good as the real, organic ones is up for debate.

Still from Beasts of the Southern Wild

Still from Beasts of the Southern Wild

Ben Richardson, the cinematographer of the Oscar­ nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, has talked about his choice to shoot on Super 16mm quite extensively. He praises film’s superior ability to capture beautiful pictures in challenging lighting situations, as compared to a digital medium. He also states that shooting on film actually turned out to be a better financial and creative choice for the movie.

Of course, shooting on film isn’t an easy task. The price will take more negotiating and networking to get a good deal, and perhaps most importantly, you need to find a DOP who is experienced and competent in shooting on film. However, with some of the solid arguments for using Super 16mm, it is once again becoming a viable option for indie filmmakers.

Recent films shot on Super 16mm or 16mm (partially or entirely)

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Black Swan
  • Fruitvale Station
  • Hurt Locker
  • Half Nelson
  • I’m Not There
  • The Wrestler
  • The Runaways
  • The Walking Dead (AMC Television Series)

Resource links

  • Raw­stock
  • 1-800­-821­-3456 (Kodak)
  • 1-888­-424-­3854 (Fuji)

Written by Freddie Kim

This post was originally published on February 4, 2014 and was updated on December 13, 2016.

HOW TO CREATE AN AMAZING DEMO REEL

A well constructed demo reel might be the key to your dream job.

Follow these tips to make sure yours stands out!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a demo reel is worth a million. An expertly crafted demo reel can quite literally kickstart your career if your resume is less than prolific. On the flip side, all it takes is a few seconds of poorly assembled footage for a producer to make a snap judgement and move on to other applicants. So what does it take to make a demo reel that will sell your skill?

PICK A SKILL TO FEATURE

You may be a jack-of-all-trades on set, but when it comes to your demo reel you should choose only one or two skills to focus on. Consider what sort of gigs you are hoping to gain with your reel, and what kind of footage you have on hand.

IDENTIFY YOUR GOALS
Take some time to really think about what kind of jobs you want to apply for. If you are trying to get hired as a extreme sports cinematographer, a reel that is composed entirely of subdued dramatic scenes may not be the best choice. That said, it doesn’t hurt to show versatility, so if you want to keep your options open, put together a sample platter of the different genres that you have worked in.

CONSIDER YOUR CONTENT

If you find yourself with more ambition than useable footage, then it may be time to get out there and get working. It might seem counterproductive to ask friends if you can volunteer on their indie projects when you’re trying to get paid work, but the truth is that you need good content to populate your reel. Another option is to make your own material, specifically for the reel. Good footage is good footage, and the most important thing is that you created it yourself.

InFocus Film School alumni Marina Caviglia’s reel. 

KEEP IT TIGHT

When you have enough material to start your editing process, it can be very difficult to choose exactly what you should use and what you should cut. If you find yourself with a seven minute mega-reel it may be a smart move to get someone else to edit for you. The truth is that many producers may only make it fifteen seconds into your reel before they decide to consider you for a job. With that in mind, a minute to a minute and a half is a great length for your reel.

ASSEMBLE A FOCUS GROUP

Once you’ve got the initial cut of your reel together then it’s time to assemble your most honest friends and family members, and get them to give you some feedback. Ask them to specifically note which parts jumped out at them, and which they could have done without. Compare their notes, watch your reel again and re-edit. Repeat the process with some new participants, and then go tweak it a little more. Sit back at your computer and take a moment to celebrate your killer demo reel.

This process can seem a little daunting at first, but in order for you to establish yourself as a professional you have to make some pretty big strides. The film industry is extremely competitive, but if you’re willing to put in the extra effort to make your demo reel shine, then you are already on the right track to having a long and prosperous career.