10. The Neon Demon
Nicholas Winding Refn may have something wrong with him. To create such a depraved single focused work of real life horror is brilliant and concerning. The Neon Demon is a ride into the beauty industry dripping with colour and noise. Elle Fanning burns the screen from start to finish. And if you can predict the end of this film at the start, maybe you are as disturbed as Winding Refn. Best viewed late at night with the lights off.
9. The Nice Guys
The Nice Guys is fun. Shane Black has created a film that doesn’t bother with subtext or social issues. All we get is two incompetent private detectives in over their heads bumbling around 1970’s Los Angeles. As much as Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are great in the film, Angourie Rice steals every scene she is in. The setting is real, the jokes land and the plot keeps you invested without ever trying to overreach.
8. Hail, Caesar!
A common theme amongst some of the better films of the year was nostalgia and especially for classic hollywood. As we continue to lose those involved with classic movies, some like the Coen Brothers, look to remember and celebrate that time. Hail, Caesar! won't be everyone’s cup of tea, but criticism of the lacking plot couldn’t dampen my enjoyment of the film. So many individual scenes stand out and will be quoted forever. We have also discovered a new star in Alden Ehrenreich, he lassoed us in with charm and innocence and i can’t wait to see him as Han Solo.
Denis Villeneuve can do no wrong. He is the only reason i have supreme confidence in a new Blade Runner film. Arrival is not as advertised, it may revolve around alien craft landing, but this is purely window dressing as we are taken on a journey to discuss love, communication, secrecy and destiny. A visual masterpiece, Arrival represents a blockbuster that refuses to play by the rules. With a female lead, no major action scenes and a willingness to take his time, Villeneuve continues to make films the way he wants. Each one is distinctly different but have a similar feel and style, making Villeneuve one of the most exciting directors working today.
How could a film by a New Zealand pop journalist be this high on my list? Because it shook me to my very core and took me on a story that made me want to personally fight against injustice. An injustice that i had never heard of before and still am unsure is actually real. David Farrier goes on a mission to discover the sinister roots of an underground tickling video ring that lashes out at anyone in their path. Never could you anticipate the sheer evil in this film upon its description, but with each new revelation i became more and more engrossed in discovering the world with Farrier. Could Farrier be the next Louis Theroux? I think this film is already better.
5. Hell Or Highwater
Sometimes one film is all you need to put yourself on the map. Damien Chazelle did it with Whiplash, Alex Garland had Ex Machina and next off the rank will be Taylor Sheridan, writer of Hell Or High Water. After writing Sicario in 2015 (as well as follow up Soldado for 2017) his directorial debut Wind River is highly anticipated. Hell Or Highwater is more than the sum of its parts, beautifully shot, well acted and a subtle and moving script but the whole is so much more and a real surprise. No doubt the modern crime western will be a new craze as Sheridan continues to write such golden material.
4. Hunt For The Wilderpeople
Sometimes you just want a film to delight you. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is just delightful. A beautiful blend of heart and humour, Taika Waititi knows how to balance his films to never be too bogged down in melodrama or too humourous to be one dimensional. Sam Neill is a perfect foil for newcomer Julian Dennison as an odd couple forced together. Alongside them are Waititi’s colourful cast including Rachel House, Rhys Darby and the director himself. Waititi is a special director and will hopefully not lost to the hollywood system, his signature blend of dry humour and heart makes people’s lives better.
3. Green Room
Hardcover punk, neo-nazis and a bit of a misunderstanding. For most of its runtime, Green Room takes place in a single location, a dank club that starts to feel like a claustrophobic tomb for the protagonists as the film tells their horrible story of a night trapped in a neo-nazi hell. Jeremy Saulnier has put together a masterpiece in suspense and terror while Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat and Patrick Stewart own the screen. A surprisingly great film.
2. La La Land
It’s hard not to have La La Land as my top film of 2016. It filled me with joy and a repeat viewing did nothing to dampen it, in fact it may have been better the second time around. It's a clique and a generalisation but I hate musicals, which makes my top two even more surprising to me. Damien Chazelle has a perfect record with Whiplash being my favourite film of the last ten years and La La Land being all but perfect. The music is perfect, the visuals are beautiful and the acting is exactly what it needs to be. Some criticism can be made for the ending of the film, but i prefer to look at the film as a celebration of filmmaking and classic hollywood and each scene stands by itself, the ending subverting tradition with a nod towards convention. As far as soundtracks and joy goes, there is only one film that did it better in 2016.
1. Sing Street
When you look ahead at the year in film you see the big tent pole superhero films and the releases by critically acclaimed directors and actors you like. Sing Street by John Carney wasn’t on my radar until I sat down in the State Theatre for the Australian Premiere. Having seen Begin Again, I knew Carney could direct a feel good musical film, but Sing Street is something else entirely. An unknown cast, a classic soundtrack mixed with new music, Sing Street is a delight that rewards repeat viewings and had me playing the soundtrack for weeks afterwards. If you don’t have Drive it Like You Stole It stuck in your head after you see Sing Street you may need to check for a pulse. Heart and comedy are delivered in equal measures by a cast that doesn’t miss a beat despite many of them stepping in front of the camera for the first time. Seek out this film, then once you have watched it, give it two days then watch it again.