I know I’m pretty late to the party but to my discredit most of the fall movie films take pretty long time to reach my country and when it comes to finalizing and compiling these kind of lists, I tend to take a pretty long time. I thought last year was a brilliant year for film. I know I say that every year and it’s kind of an obligatory line with these year end lists but 2016 truly was a brilliant year for film. And despite all of the outstanding films I saw over the year, I ultimately wanna focus on just the best final ten.
Honorable Mentions: The Salesman, Everybody Wants Some!!
I’d like to start off by giving a little shout-out to Everybody Wants Some!! and The Salesman, two films I really loved that narrowly missed my final ten. Everybody Wants Some, I loved purely because of how much of a joyful and delightful film it was to experience. It reminded me of Linklater’s early films particularly Dazed and Confused, a film this film is quite clearly a spiritual successor to. The Salesman, on the other hand really resonated with me because of how compelling and intriguing it was in a typically slow-burning Asghar Farhadi way. Few filmmakers are better at exploring stories of domesticity and marital bonds than Farhadi, and he does it again, quite expertly with The Salesman.
10. Toni Erdmann
Toni Erdmann really surprised me, primarily because I never expected a nearly three-hour German comedy to be this funny and profoundly moving. Powered by wonderful performances from Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek, it explores the delicate relationship between a hard-working, work-horse daughter and her practical-joker of an estranged father. And does so quite beautifully. It’s one of those films that stirred in my mind for days aswell. And that for me is always the mark of a great film.
9. The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn continues to walk the line of making films with less talking, more brightly colored, neon-soaked images and syth music throbs & pulses with The Neon Demon, a film which pretty much one-ups all of Refn’s previous work in-terms of disturbing depravity, but also affirms his place as one of the most bold and daring voices in cinema. Is it more style than substance? ofcourse. But what style.
8. Hail, Caesar!
It had been a while since I truly ‘loved’ a Coen Brothers film. 9 years to be exact. But that changed with Hail, Caesar, quite possibly the funniest film the Coens have made yet, which also happens to be a love letter to both the business and the Golden Age of Hollywood. Almost all the Coen regulars show up offering hilarious performances but it’s Alden Ehrenreich who is the highlight in his show-stealing turn as Hobby Doyle.
7. Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea paints a striking portrayal of grief and loss whose rock-hard essence lingers in the mind for days. Like much of Lonergan’s previous work it’s beauty lies in the subtle and quieter moments which is what also makes it so authentic, true to life and powerful. None of it would be possible ofcourse without Casey Affleck’s outstanding central performance that’s just as authentic and real as the film he’s starring in. And watching the emotional journey his character goes on as each layer of emotional impassivity is stripped down makes for one of the most outstanding acting showcases I’ve witnessed in recent times, that also happens to be devoid of any showy hysterics.
6. Green Room
It was only inevitable that the guy behind Blue Ruin would upstage his brilliant sophomore feature soon enough and he did, with his very next film. Green Room. Gristly, gnarly yet somehow never lacking when it comes to restraint, Green Room has the feel of an early Tarantino, but also feels like something John Carpenter would have made in the 70’s, a vicious, backwoods genre flick. A boiler-pot thriller in a haze of punk rock and brutal violence, all captured by the unflinching and uncompromising of vision of Jeremy Saulnier.
Tender and moving, lyrical and authentic, whimsical, in its view of the world yet also grounded in reality, Paterson is a real rarity. It’s a film of minor pleasures that feels abundantly full. It’s an ode to just the simple job of getting out of bed every day and doing what you do, as well an observant portrait of the creative process. And it’s a film that could only have been made by a master like Jim Jarmusch whose grasp of characters, details and little nuances is unmatched by any filmmaker in the world.
4. The Lobster
Yorgos Lanthimos showed flashes of his genius with Dogtooth. With The Lobster he truly affirms his place as one, aswell as one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. How do you begin to describe something like The Lobster? It’s the most utterly fucked-up film to come out in recent years and it’s bitingly dark and satirical portrayal of society and dystopia is as darkly humorous as haunting and completely unforgettable.
3. Nocturnal Animals
I wasn’t too high on Tom Ford’s debut feature A Single Man, but he most definitely won me over with Nocturnal Animals. A meta, stylish and immaculately crafted revenge thriller. And by combining two very different stories of revenge, Ford is able to craft a gripping and mesmerizing experience that always had me captivated. Also, Michael Shannon gives an utterly unforgettable performance. Like, he steals every fucking scene.
But ultimately, what makes Arrival such an incredible piece of cinema is it’s deeply emotional core. It has unparalleled emotional depth and as it’s enigmatic story unfurls and the film arrives at it’s disarmingly emotional ending, book-ended by Max Richter’s magnificent On the Nature of Daylight, it all starts to make sense and you finally begin seeing it for what it truly is: a beautiful and profoundly moving portrait of the human condition.
Issues of identity, sexuality and masculinity has always been a fascinating subjects in cinema, but rarely have they ever been explored with such beauty, mastery and eloquence as they are with Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. A film that simultaneously feels both grand and intimate and a film that leaves a lasting impact on you, whether it be through it’s subtle, fleeting touches, or it’s vibrant, vivid images.
Moonlight is cinematic poetry. It says a million things just by a moving glances of it’s characters. Each frame, each moment washes over you. And the themes this film tackles and explores are as timeless as they are universal.