We are almost at the end of 2016, so here are a few more of my favourite films from this year.
As with Part One, several of the movies I saw are technically 2015 films, but I only got to see them this year.
And before you ask, I still haven’t seen Son of Saul or The Lobster or Sully or Sing Street or many of the other films that are making everyone’s Top Ten lists.
Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion treatise on what it is to be human is strange, confusing, warm, moving and ultimately heartbreaking. Featuring excellent voice performances by David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason-Leigh and Tom Noonan.
Charlotte Rampling delivers the performance of her career (and that’s saying something) along with an excellent Tom Courtenay in this quiet and quietly devastating marital drama.
Notes on Blindness
I reviewed this wonderful documentary by Pete Middleton and James Spinney about God, faith and family for Film Ireland. Go look for it – it’s a moving meditation on blindness, and it has a distinct look (and sound) that breathes new life into that old standby of documentaries, the reenactment.
It’s not subtle, but when has Shane Black ever done subtle? A gloriously politically incorrect slice of cheesy macho heroics, a buddy movie with two idiots (Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling), a confusing neo-noir comedy filled with all the tropes of the genre you’d expect, and a remarkable Angourie Rice, giving one of the year’s best performances.
Emma Donoghue’s novel was supposedly unfilmable. Nuts to that. Superb.
Leo gets mauled by a bear and gets an Oscar for it. Tom Hardy mumbles menacingly. You’ll feel cold just watching it.
Pick your take on it:
It puts the war in Star Wars.
It’s a space opera for grown-ups.
It’s the Saving Private Ryan of Star Wars films.
It’s not perfect (there are already grumblings that the finished film left out all the interesting bits from the trailers; maybe we’ll get a Director’s Cut) and the appearance of –SPOILER! – Grand Moff Tarkin (a CGI Peter Cushing) is distracting (he’s in the film too much for me), but those criticisms aside, this is a brilliant film.
Firstly, it’s properly diverse, featuring Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic and Black characters in a way that – as Kevin Smith points out in his lengthy review – feels organic, not just the result of a Hollywood executive’s nervousness about offending audiences by loading the movie with a lot of Caucasians.
Secondly, it looks and feels suitably gritty and genuinely battle-scarred; at times, it resembles Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket, and although I am sure there is tons of green screen stuff going on, there is also a heap of practical effects.
Thirdly, it has characters you care about, not simply archetypes (a criticism you could level at several Star Wars characters).
Finally, and this is a SPOILER, it delivers fully on its premise. This is, after all, the story of the rebels who steal the plans to the Death Star, and well, there’s a reason none of these characters has ever been mentioned in any of the films before …
… that reason is …
I saw it with beanmimo in the Savoy and we were sitting beside a small child who had to be consoled by his parents at the end.
Hey, that’s life, kid.
Director of the moment Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Arrival, the upcoming Blade Runner sequel) ratchets up the tension in this high-stakes drama about the Mexican cartel. Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin are all on top form in a film with a fantastic look (thanks, Roger Deakins), amazing sound, and an amazing score by Jóhan Jóhansson. A sequel is in the works.
It looks amazing.
It gives old fairytales a new spin.
It’s very, very funny.
And it features:
Toby Jones lovingly raising a giant flea; Salma Hayek devouring a giant heart; and a priapic Vincent Cassel jumping on everything that moves. What the hell else do you want in a movie?