2016 was a good year for movies, if you wipe away the carcasses of mainstream flops, remakes and franchise bombs there was diamonds in the rough. Film is subjective and there are some unfortunate gaps in my viewing list (mainly Oscar buzz films that haven't been theatrically released in Australia yet such as Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea) but let me be your truffle pig of cinema and let you catch up on some of what you may have missed. Lets start with 20-11.
20. The Invitation
A film that came from nowhere and stunned many. Best seen without any prior knowledge, the film is a wash of moody scenes and unknowable twists, ending with a scene so chilling it stands as perhaps the most jaw dropping final scene this year. An almost unknown cast each plays their roles well and the film is visually satisfying, but the script is the real star here.
19. Midnight Special
Jeff Nichols foray into Sci-Fi with the ever fabulous Michael Shannon in the lead was a winner for its moody atmosphere and breakneck pace. A step away from a film like Mud or his follow up Loving, Nichols delivers raw emotion blending into a supernatural mystery. The plot is nothing new, a young child with unknown powers is hunted by the government and sheltered by his father but the acting from Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst turns the film into something special.
18. The Accountant
I had lots of problems with The Accountant, there is deus ex machina running the plot and more twists than were really necessary (some of them visible from the outset), but when the credits rolled I was grinning ear to ear and couldn’t shake the film for days afterwards. Ben Affleck shines in the titular role, a classic anti-hero working for criminals but fighting for the underdog. Anna Kendrick is unfortunately underutilised but shines in her scenes, a warmth to Affleck's cold. If you have a night to kill, this is a very fun way to go.
17. 10 Cloverfield Lane
The contentious finale to 10 Cloverfield Lane was the only thing that kept the film out of the top 10 for the year. I have learnt that any film with John Goodman in it will be made better by John Goodman. The exception to the rule is The Flinstones. I have high hopes for Dan Trachtenberg’s future as well as the future of the Cloverfield franchise. J.J Abrams touch is magic and the film is a triumph, despite being buried early in a year, 10 Cloverfield Lane still stands in the memory.
16. Swiss Army Man
Have you ever seen a film like Swiss Army Man? Have you ever felt like you are watching the stupidest thing you have ever seen but can’t stop because you know it’s also brilliant and moving. The story of a shipwrecked man finding friendship and salvation with a corpse packed with surprises is more moving that it should be. With the most original plot in years mixed with music video style visuals, it’s hard to dismiss Swiss Army Man as just cheap laughs or gross out humour.
15. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I think it’s important to avoid superlatives when discussing Star Wars. Too many people try and lump each film with a tag of best or worst and Rogue One is neither. It is highly enjoyable and epic and a new sort of story we haven’t seen from this franchise. With a few stand out scenes to really pump the energy levels including a soon to be iconic Darth Vader sequence, Rogue One wasn’t good enough to push a top 10 spot but it still stands as a great entry into the franchise.
14. Kubo And The Two Strings
Kubo And The Two Strings was easily the best animated film of the year. Zootopia was fine if viewed as an allegory for race relations and tolerance and the less said about the secret life of pets the better. Kubo is full of imagination and heart. It presents new characters and provides a new world to discover. The stop motion animation of Laika is a constant joy to witness and i am always spellbound by how captivating something so obviously animated can be.
13. The Witch
The Witch should not be on this list. I’ve never categorised myself as a horror fan and yet this film took me by the throat and didn't let go. Less straight horror more unnerving cautionary tale The Witch drips with atmosphere. Throughout the film you feel trapped in the New England, Robert Eggers has created on screen. The occasional jump scare isn't nearly as effective as the claustrophobic feelings this eerie movie induces.
12. High Rise
Dystopian and reminiscent of other film makers, High Rise left me mixed as i watched it back in the middle of the year. But i find myself still considering it now as 2017 starts. Playing with ideas of class, violence and mental stability, Ben Wheatley leaned heavily on Kubrick while presenting his own masterpiece. High Rise is a film that demands a conversation afterwards and likely a repeat viewing down the line.
11. The Fits
A film without flashy names or settings, a small film about big ideas, The Fits is beautifully shot and well acted. Royalty Hightower is just delightful as a young tomboy entranced by the local dance troupe when the girls suddenly experience unexplained seizures. A film that has been rated highly by all that have seen it, The Fits is more than the sum of its parts and I would recommend it to a wide array of audiences. It has lessons for teens, reflections for adults and beautiful cinematography that make it a delight to view, even for those used to the big blockbuster fare.