My Favourite Films of 2016

Once again, I haven’t been able to see some powerful films that were released in 2016 due to living in Australia but of those I did catch, here are my best.

10. A Bigger Splash


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Superbly written and acted, this film was dialogue heavy with some serious work being put into tension and implications. The characters in A Bigger Splash were all too real. Frustratingly human, they invoked many feelings in the viewer, mostly negative. Personally, I was angry and disgusted by the end of the film. It affected me in a big way and I didn’t forget it. While I may not have ‘liked’ the characters, the way this film was crafted has to be appreciated.

9. The Lobster



Wholly unique, The Lobster is weird and offbeat for sure. At times it’s funny, at others disturbing. Effectively a satire, it points a laser beam at the pressures of contemporary society and adulthood and lets us see some of them for what they are: ridiculous and dangerous. Grounded by a great performance from Colin Farrell, it may be too strange and uncomfortable for some but for those who go along, it’ll serve up some serious quality.

8. Swiss Army Man

swiss-army-manAnother extremely quirky film that rests on a fresh idea. If you can get past the abundance of flatulence, this is a beautiful and heart-warming (also slightly creepy) film of emotional connection and discovery. We can all learn a little about ourselves watching this. Some magical imagery and an outstanding score make this one of the year’s most immersive movies.

7. Deadpool


Yet another superhero film hit the cinemas but this time we got something different, something that recognised all the usual tropes and turned them into a joke. Not only did Deadpool dare to be outrageously violent, crass, and hilarious but it was a passion project for Ryan Reynolds and it shows. His performance as the titular character is one of the most charismatic of the year. It’s his commitment that made this film work as well as it did, and propel it above other Marvel or DC entries.

6. Arrival


Director Denis Villenueve is quickly proving himself to be a master. This is another example of his refusal to sacrifice storytelling for the sake of cheap thrills. His movies always deal with complexities in a way that is perfectly balanced. His movies are made to settle into, become entrenched in. They always offer something you don’t quite expect and Arrival is no exception. Stunning cinematography is combined with a tense, multi-faceted, and emotionally wrenching story. The moral conundrum is a punch to the gut.

5. Demolition


The writing in this film does fluctuate somewhat from very good to not so good but the good is brilliantly affecting. There are many interesting things it has to say about life; about relationships and about ourselves. It doesn’t always hit the mark and the approach it takes to convey its messages is sometimes flawed but at the end of the day the tone and mood (slightly depressive and resigned to the sadness while also finding ways of experiencing joy) of Demolition is something I gravitate very strongly towards. To top it off, Jake Gyllenhaal can do no wrong and he’s amazing again here.

4. Zootopia


Rare for me to include an animated film and as fun as Zootopia was, it wouldn’t have been enough to get it over the line. What makes it stand out is the positive messages it makes accessible to the children who watch it. It also speaks of some broader issues like gender equality in way that more serious films haven’t been able to. Adults will almost certainly pick up on some thought provoking stuff. To be able to present this within such a fun-riot of a film and have it all still work must be celebrated.

3. The Nice Guys

the-nice-guysWriter and director Shane Black sure knows how to do noir. He’s got buddy films down to a tee at this point. The Nice Guys might be his best yet. It’s a film that is just so stylish, funny, and exciting you can’t help but like it. There’s also an undercurrent of emotion driving the main characters that never explodes but bubbles every now and then just to remind us that there is more at stake than making us laugh. But laugh we do. The chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe is seamless. Gosling again proves his comedic talent, confirming he’s as diverse an actor as exists right now. Australian actress Angourie Rice also shines as a newcomer, playing Gosling’s plucky daughter.

2. Nocturnal Animals


A second entry for Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. They both deserve it. There is something about this film that gets right under your skin and stays there. Director Tom Ford adapts the novel into a screenplay that is so tight and well balanced it’s almost a masterpiece. The intricacy of the story and the way it’s told was doomed to fail and yet it doesn’t. It triumphs. Nothing can be criticised. The drama is intense, scary even. The emotion is gut-wrenching, the violence shocking. Amidst all this is a vein of black humour that strikes at exactly the right moments. This film has one of the best endings I think I’ve ever seen. In the context of the rest of the movie, it’s perfect. Tom Ford shows his background in design with a beautiful aesthetic throughout and the two leads are faultless in their performance as is Michael Shannon. Superb.

1. La La Land


When you hate musicals but happen to adore a film that is a musical, it says something about how good it is. La La Land brings back the magic of cinema. You just don’t see films like this anymore. A simple plot does nothing to diminish the complicated nature of the characters lives in a story where dreams are chased and lost and chased again. Along the way, love is juggled back and forth with various consequences. There’s so much passion and beauty in this film. It shines down from Director Damian Chezelle through every aspect of the project. Every scene is gorgeous and interesting to look at. Every musical and dance number is engaging. The composition and choreography is off the charts. There’s context to every set-piece and real weight to every conversation. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone work so well together, injecting the humour of the film with even more laughs, the drama with even more heartache, the love with even more ‘feels’. La La Land has captured a lot of Oscar buzz and for once, I agree with the buzz.

Top Ten 2015 Films

Please note the following list is based on films that saw a release in Australia in 2015, which unfortunately discounts films such as The Revenant and The Hateful 8.

So in no particular order, here are my choices for the best films of 2015.

1. Ex Machina

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Here is a great example to show that you don’t need a massive budget, cast, or set to make a great film. All you need is good writing and good performances. The four main contributors for this film; writer/director Alex Garland, actress Alicia Vikander, actors Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac, delivered in spades to create a beautiful, interesting, and tense sci-fi movie that asks a lot of questions about humanity. Also has a great and unexpected dance scene.


2. Dope


This is why we love indie films. We’ve got three lead performers who are relatively unknown so we’re just seeing them purely as the characters they are playing. Dope is a joy. Original, creative, crazy, funny, and most of all heartfelt. It’s a great take on the story of finding your place in the world with a great score to boot and be assured, it will take you by surprise in more ways than one.


3. Inside Out

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Without doubt one of Disney – Pixar’s best films. Equally accessible by children and adults, it’s an incredibly imaginative exploration of the human psyche. Funny and touching, it can also teach us a lot about how we perceive ourselves and others. I’d watch it for Rage alone.


4. Chappie


Some critics couldn’t get past the casting choices or tonal shifts of this film. On the contrary I think the injection of Die Antwoord as main characters and the use of humour through the middle act made this film all the better and unique. Director Neil Blomkamp stamped it with his typical style of balancing serious issues with offbeat jokes and casting Sharlto Copley, who did a good job by the way. Chappie is essentially a condensed version of childhood, nature vs nurture, and what it means to be human. It’s charming, funny, and emotional on top of also being a good action film.


5. Mad Max: Fury Road

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Not much needs to be said here. It’s one of the most intense action films you’re ever likely to see. It never lets up, it never slows down. Incredibly stark cinematography combines with amazing stunt work to create a full-on experience that may be overbearing for some but heaven for others. Although most of the plaudits are for guitar guy.


6. It Follows

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I’m not a horror fan but I think that’s because the genre has lost its way. It Follows is an example of how it should be done. Instead of relying on unnecessary shocks like gore and loud noises it uses tension and a far more interesting story than you’ll find in other horror films. There’s a good film here in general with an underlying theme, not just a good horror film. Don’t watch if you’re overly worried about sti’s.

7. The Martian

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Ridley Scott returns with this extremely surprising survival story. After the ultra serious Gravity and Interstellar, The Martian turned towards levity with great effect. Matt Damon’s central performance was outstanding and made the movie work as well as it did. As someone who was never thrilled about Damon, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this film and he deserves a lot of praise.


8. Lost River

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Ryan Gosling’s debut as a writer/director was not loved by critics who criticised him for borrowing and meshing the styles of some of his mentors like Nicholas Winding-Refn and Derek Cianfrance but who isn’t inspired by the artists they love? In reality this is very much Gosling’s film. The way he chose to tell his story was as original and creative as it gets. Every shot in this movie is beautiful to look at and his actors gave their all for him, they’re faultless. The music, curated by Johnnie Jewel is magnetic and there are so many scenes in this film that are hypnotic. Yes, it will be a little on the strange side for some but if you see film as an art form, this is one to watch. Ben Mendelsohn also challenges Oscar Isaac for best dance of the year. Hmm, is dancing becoming a theme here?

9. A Most Violent Year



Oscar Isaac gets his second mention on the list and neither have been Star Wars. Sue me. Here’s a film that received very little media attention. It’s not a blockbuster, not a comedy. It’s not even violent, as the title would suggest, just a supremely tightly wound drama that is terrifically acted by Isaac and Jessica Chastein. Understated and intimate, it slowly makes an impression on you, one you won’t forget.


10. Sicario


Director Denis Villenueve is a master of tension and suspense nothing has changed here. Sicario is gritty, grimy, shocking and might have you grinding your teeth. Look out for some exceptional cinematography alongside brilliant performances from Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro.