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.
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.
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 (It’s a 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.
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.