Though some may disagree, 2016 for me was a year of both escapism enjoyment and emotional investment at the cinema.
Horror films such as Don’t Breathe and Blair Witch embraced exciting marketing campaigns and found box-office success, mainstream releases surprised us with well-handled referential elements and audiences were treated to thoughtful, well considered dramas.
There were of course lowlights, the most notable involving super heroes and their stoic quest to lower the public’s expectations for them, but simply seeing even a few of the best was enough to remind us all of why we anticipate particular upcoming films so much. Below is my summary of the year that was in 2016 (from a film perspective anyway… you won’t find any mention of Trump).
Please note that the films featured here are based on their Australian release dates, and may have been released earlier in other countries.
For Eddie’s take on the best and worst of 2016 CLICK HERE
10 Best Films of 2016:
10. The Nice Guys
Shane Black’s long-awaited return to the style of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang reignited the fire that burned away inside the pulpy detective movies of a bygone era. With a suitably sleazy plot and equally grimy (though highly likable) characters, The Nice Guys made for a fun, smile-inducing reminder that all good actors need great characters, and all great characters need a worthy script.
9. Knight of Cups
Actually released at the end of 2015 in Australia (weird, right?), Knight of Cups perhaps stands as legendary filmmaker Terrence Malick’s most polarising work, featuring a lost and lonely protagonist whose quest to find meaning is hampered by outsiders’ desire that he needn’t, and doesn’t. The imagery and music are suitably magnetic, as are the fleeting performances of its ensemble cast.
8. Blair Witch
A clever marketing campaign was followed by an entirely worthy concept in Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s sequel to the highly influential Blair Witch Project. Of course, there were many better films released this year, but Blair Witch earns its place here by showing what can be achieved through passion and intelligent writing, even in a genre not commonly known for possessing such traits.
7. Bone Tomahawk
A brutal Western filled with bone-crunching violence and a uncompromising characters, Bone Tomahawk uses its fine cast to full effect – eliciting sublime, unexpected performances which bolster an already impressive package. The horror elements that begin to escalate towards the third act elevate S. Craig Zahler’s film to immediate cult status.
6. The Witch
The Witch arrived shrouded in mystery and anticipation, and had its genre fans salivating with a distinguished purpose of remaining scary as it touched on many deep themes. There is a sense of dense claustrophobia from beginning to end, as the inwardly unravelling family fall victim to paranoia, hysteria and become susceptible to the lure of the woods around them.
5. The Conjuring 2
Few horror film of the past decade can stand alongside James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013), an instant classic that was made all the more haunting thanks to outstanding production design and commitment from a talented cast. Few films other than The Conjuring 2, that is…
Adding a greater sense of menace and evil, the second entry also carefully furthered the endearment of the Warrens, whose lot is a heavy one and whose terror now captivates a very wide and receptive audience.
4. Blood Father
Blood Father was the surprise packet of 2016: a grungy Southern revenge thriller with a starring turn by Mel Gibson and adrenalin to burn. Michael Parks provides the type of wide-eyed crazy support we’ve come to know and love over a respectable career, in a small release that in time will achieve the recognition it deserves.
3. Hacksaw Ridge
Few war movies of recent years have been as impactful as Hacksaw Ridge; Mel Gibson’s passionate and respectful tribute to pacifist army medic Desmond Doss, whose bravery in battle helped saved the lives of many and whose stoic stance changed the attitudes of stubborn (though often equally brave) men he encountered. Accomplished in every act, from the prelude to boot camp and in its scenes of unflinching terror, this is a meaningful production of heart and skill.
2. Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater is undisputed as the master of nostalgia and capturing those seemingly uneventful, but wholly influential moments of time that shape our lives. Dazed and Confused is his timeless masterpiece, but 23 years on he has made its outstanding peer. Everybody Wants Some!! is funny, thoughtful and true to the fears and feelings of its characters.
1. Your Name
In my review of Makoto Shinkai‘s Your Name, I referred to his animated masterpiece as being the most magical movie of all time; a statement I say with absolute confidence after multiple cinema viewings left me inspired by the continual artistic possibilities in animated Japanese film. Love, loss and fate are intertwined in a narrative so wonderfully structured, with breezy body-swap humour making way for stirring, emotionally satisfying ideas that rival the very best of Studio Ghibli. After this and Garden of Words (2013), Shinkai has established himself as a leading talent in original heartfelt stories.
5 Worst Films of 2016:
5. The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train was one of the most widely discussed of the year, capturing an audience enthralled by its cocktail of suburban intrigue and sensuality. Tate Taylor’s film revealed too many of the novel’s secrets far too early, and relied on a strong performance from Emily Blunt to carry its moments of power.
4. Independence Day: Resurgence
I have especially vivid, fond memories of the inspirational speeches, wise-cracking one-liners and human v alien showdowns of the original Independence Day, that Independence Day: Resurgence seemed hellbent on destroying with its post-Michael Bay cacophony of uninspiring barrages of action thinly veiling one-note characters.
3. The Shallows
A swab of positive reviews cited The Shallows as thrilling creature-feature entertainment; reviews that I in no part could relate to. It might be fun if it didn’t take itself so seriously yet still evade logic and even the vaguest definitions of common sense, and I might not of felt so uncomfortable watching it had the cinematography not been centred almost entirely around Blake Lively’s carefully revealed figure.
2. Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad is the very definition of a lost chance; a joyless, directionless trudge through a formulaic plot redeemed in-part only thanks to charismatic portrayals of Deadshot and Harley Quinn. The post-production is almost unbelievably heavy handed, hampering any thrills or comedic relief that would otherwise be apparent, and The Joker is almost written out of relevance entirely. DC desperately need a good 2017.
1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Remember Dawn of the Dead, 300 and Watchmen? The days when the same Zack Snyder was synonymous with stylish, risky adaptations of beloved source materials? Thanks to Sucker Punch, Man of Steel and now Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, those days seem long, long ago…
This dreary slog is more closely aligned with being a product than a movie; casting aside actual entertainment and seemingly embracing a cold desire to push a brand in sorry preparation for future instalments. We’re all doomed.
My Favourite Guilty Pleasure:
Gods of Egypt
Alex Proyas’ eclectic catalogue grew even more varied with Gods of Egypt, an old-school fantasy adventure that never denies its flaws but rides a continuous wave of mythological fun from beginning to end. Ultimately, its ridiculous, but sometimes that’s just what you want when heading to a late night cinema session with a bucket of popcorn and a choc-top. Elodie Yung represents the best of its attractive visuals, as the CGI unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired.
The Biggest Disappointments:
A promising director, unique cast and secretive premise all hinted at Midnight Special being something, well, very special. Unfortunately, while it captures the rhythm of an 80’s John Carpenter sci-fi, it doesn’t boast the payoff – with all the intrigue it conjures and its deliberate pace culminating in an underwhelming revelation. Still, we should never discourage original, meditative science fiction, and I’m sure that this would’ve been a beneficial opportunity for Jeff Nichols.
Jason Bourne was not a bad film. The action scenes were well orchestrated and Matt Damon slotted comfortably back into the role that has defined this stage of his career. There were however elements that left it wanting, namely its diluted handling of a highly interesting social network subplot and Riz Ahmed’s tech genius Aaron Kalloor, and the uncharacteristic changes of Heather Lee as the film draws to a close. The ever-underrated Julia Styles’ appearance was also sadly cut short, albeit in a moving fashion.
The Best Scene of 2016:
The Conjuring 2
Ed Warren looks away from the old lounge chair situated in the dusty corner of the Hodgon residence in Enfield, London, where the ghost of its past inhabitant, the malicious Bill, has possessed the young Janet. He speaks with him to uncover more about the haunting, and as he does the appearance of the out-of-focus Janet morphs into something far meaner…
The techniques that Wan employs in his tremendous sequel are both experimental and assured, and this scene is a very effective example of his confident directorial style. It’s also one of many guaranteed to give you goosebumps.
The Worst Scene of 2016:
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
“Why did you say that name??!!”
Need I say more? Batman defeats Superman (spoiler alert), but releases him from his raged grasp upon the revelation of his mothers name. After all the build-up, all the suspense, this is what the writers deemed a worthy pinnacle to their battle? The only line more humorous this year was Wayne then comforting Martha with “It’s okay, I’m a friend of your son’s.”
Best Actor of 2016:
Although the rising talent only featured in two films this year, it is a matter of quality over quantity that deems his work worthy of mention. As Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge he took a role that could’ve so easily led to grandstanding, and in later scenes melodramatic tendencies, and instilled it with the earnestness that catapulted the film to another level. Although it is yet to be released here in Australia, having the opportunity to star in Martin Scorsese’s long gestating Silence is another very fine string on his bow.
Best Actress of 2016:
Its always pleasing to recognise Australians in these categories, and an actress of the quality and versatility of Teresa Palmer makes it very easy. Highly likable in Hacksaw Ridge, super cool in Lights Out and capping a busy year in the romantic drama The Choice and thriller Triple 9, it appears that 2016 has been the defining year in sparking a successful career. Those wishing to see where it all started should track down the high school drama 2:37 (2006).
Best Director of 2016:
Mel Gibson released his first film as director since 2006’s Apocalypto, and emphatically showed that his meticulous and passionate approach hadn’t left him. Juggling the personal story arc of a single army medic with the need to sensitively portray a horrific battle during WW2 and be informative as to the heroes to risked their lives fighting in it, he steered Hacksaw Ridge to emotionally charged heights that should see him back in the publics conscious for the right reasons.
Worst Director of 2016:
While all his long-time fans eagerly awaited the release of Mallbrats and fresh details on Clerks III, Smith instead unleashed a quasi-sequel to his most maligned/utterly bizarre movie yet in Yoga Hosers. Taking the Canadian store clerks from Tusk and expanding on the worst cameo performance the world has ever seen, Yoga Hosers is surely (hopefully) the iconic director reaching the strangest ebb of his career before it reaches heights akin to the ’90’s.
Best Tagline of 2016:
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
Best Quote of 2016:
“I’ve been poor my whole life, like a disease passing from generation to generation.“
– Toby Howard (Chris Pine) in Hell or High Water
Best Poster of 2016:
A suitably lurid and striking poster for a meticulously designed and polarising thriller.
What are your thoughts on the film year of 2016? Agree? Fervently disagree? Let us know in the comments below!
As this is my last article for 2016, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of those who joined us for another year of The Movie Guys. I look forward to watching many more films, both new and old, in the new year, and sharing my thoughts and opinions with those courteous enough to read. Have a fun, safe break and happy watching!