Embrace of the Serpent was not only my favourite film of 2016 but immediately bumped it's way to the top of my favourite films of all time list. Refreshingly told from the perspective of an indiginous people, it's a profound film by Colombian writer/director Ciro Guerra that takes a completly unique approach to story. Through it's cyclical narrative it has us exploring who we really are as people and how we connect with nature and each other and serve our species and planet. I've wanted to review it for ages and can't seem to find the right words to describe this film. Shot stunningly in black and white 35mm it's worth taking a look at for the cinematography alone but this is a very different sort of film if you love cinema at all I think you will see the value in it.
Love & Friendship. Everyone says the British do period drama well but what we really do well is wit dressed up in brocade. This archly fun adaptation of a Jane Austen's 'Lady Susan' novella is a pretty treat, ripe and rutheless in the way that only British drama can be when filmed in Ireland and told by an American writer/director. Whit Stillman of course brought ample wit of his own to add to this lush production.
The Revenant. Bare earth, bear man, a bear! This film is a primal experience. If you didn't catch it then maybe try to, for a studio movie it was pretty artistic cinema on a number of levels. Your survival instincts will be strong after this one!
David Lynch: The Art Life is a wonderful, wonderful documentary I caught at the London Film Festival. Narrated by Lynch and offering a perspective on this extraordinary creator that is very intimate, but it's also a journey into Americana itself. This is recognisable Lynch but also Lynch as you've never experienced him before.
La Mort de Louis XIV was another favourite of mine from this year's London Film Festival. It is a rare style of filmmaking brought to us by Catalan director Albert Serra. Almost like a kind of ye olde big brother we quietly look on at the minutiae of court pomp around an elderly monarch and realise we are experiencing the death of the Sun King. It ought to be boring but it's stunning and human and meditative and mesmerising.
Deadpool. My brother insisted I'd like this which is the only reason I saw it. It's stupid, it's crass, it's politically incorrect and sexist, it doesn't have great characters, a good story or a point to it and when it's not being all those things it's a sentimental dramady. The initially cool self-referential fourth wall stuff get's old after a while, and the CGI is plasticky but I laughed and loved it anyway. I'm ashamed of myself but it's very entertaining, you totally missed out if you missed it.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a biographical war comedy drama based on the memoir of real life Afghanistan reporter Kim Barker. Yes, you read that right it's a comedy about Operation Enduring Freedom (I know! WTF right!) but it's a super fish out of water tale of the trials of journalism, full of pathos and feeling and politics and is wonderfully funny while not ignoring the complexities of war.
The Pass. Another from this year's London Film Festival this had a UK cinema release recently but actually premiered back in March at the BFI Flare LGBT Festival. Ben A Williams' debut feature is a beautifully directed, fun, meaningful and really relevant film about premiership footballers. The film has added a lovely vibrant freshness that expands it into something more cinematic and fresh than the play it is based upon. A director to watch.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi was an action film based on a true story that I knew little about but watched on a whim because I like war films. It's your average action stuff but I really enjoyed it and was surprised when I looked and discovered it was actually a Michael Bay film. I'm recommending you check it out as this was more nuanced than his usual fayre and really clearly and emotionally told. You might not get many more like this from that director.
The Magnificent Seven remake has a great cast, fab score, and, sorry film snobs, I much preferred it to the original.
Une Vie (A Woman's Life) was again a delight I discovered at the London Film Festival. It's an epic adaptation of a Guy de Maupassant novel detailing a nineteenth century woman's life. From the moment she leaves her idyllic childhood behind she becomes governed by adult choices of both head and heart, and not all of her own making. It's a beautiful emotional timespan of a film where the past affects the future and the present reflects on it's past and it's all relevant to what womanhood is and isn't today. This will resonate with a female audience but is not girly in any way and men should appreciate it too.
Films that looked promisingly good but that I didn't yet get to see were Doctor Strange, The Nice Guys, Childhood of a Leader, Snowden, The Witch and Son of Saul. Hopefully I'll get to these as soon as I can and share whether they are as good as I expect them to be.
Disappointments of the year included The Hateful Eight, Ghostbusters, The Neon Demon, The Accountant, Suicide Squad, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, The Girl on the Train, all of which I feel could and should have been better than they turned out to be. Still you can't win em all and 2016 was that kind of year. Onwards and upwards.