2016: A Year in Film

by Joanna Orland

For some reason, best of 2016 film lists have become somewhat controversial this year. Internet arguments have arisen over which year a film was actually released – caused by a lot of release dates still being vastly different between the US and UK. We’re not into the controversy and as usual choose to do our own thing. The following list, ranked in order of enjoyment, covers all films we watched in 2016. Some films may be notably absent from this list as we probably saw them in 2015. Some on this list may not actually come out until 2017. But, this is our year in film. We’ve seen these films either in the cinema, at a film festival or on DVD, so all of them officially screened, premiered, or were just a big deal at some point in 2016:

Toni Erdmann – This German family drama is beautifully naturalistic, tense, touching and hilarious.

Arrival – Sci Fi done right.  A beautiful existential masterpiece.

Anomalisa – Subtle, touching, genius.

Elle – A very controversial but fascinating film.

A Bigger Splash – Alluring visuals, fantastic performances and a standout soundtrack – A Bigger Splash is a sensual, unpredictable, beautifully filmed erotic thriller.

Love & Friendship – Jane Austen and Whit Stillman meet at last!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Perhaps the best film in the Potter universe.  Well written, a visual feast, wonderful characters, and it thrives in spite of its two lead performances being less than stellar.

Moonlight – Poignant, beautiful and doesn’t fall into the melodramatic trap that it so easily could.

Captain Fantastic – Viggo Mortensen is either the best or worst father of 6 feral kids.  Either way, it’s awesome.

Don’t Think Twice – A fabulous film about improv, but really, it’s more about creative people and relationships.

The Nice Guys – It’s like Lethan Weapon for the next generation!

Eddie the Eagle – I can’t believe this wasn’t made in the 80’s!  It’s got that 80’s film heart and soul.  <3

The Handmaiden – I love every film made by Park Chan-wook!

Bone Tomahawk – A Deliverance style horror film in the guise of a brilliant western with an excellent cast.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – They did it! They made a great Star Wars film without the Skywalkers!

Where to Invade Next – Michael Moore’s finest film in years! Funny and poignant.

Doctor Strange – It’s always hit & miss with me and Marvel, but this one is a big hit!

Free Fire – A ridiculously fun shoot out movie.  Literally a 90 minute gun fight!

Sully – I love a good Tom Hanks movie.  Another classic performance from the icon.

Moana – Good job Disney! Another classic!

Manchester by the Sea – A wonderful drama with humourous touches and true emotion through excellent lead performances from Casey Affleck (the better Affleck) and Michelle Williams.

The Neon Demon – Trashy, bold, stylish and offensive!

Tale of Tales – A fairy tale film that stays true to the genre a la Princess Bride / early Terry Gilliam.

Under the Shadow – Terrifying but genius feminist and political allegory.

Maggie’s Plan – A mature comedy full of rich characters and performance

Finding Dory – It’s no Finding Nemo, but I do love these characters!

Goat – Ben Schnetzer is the greatest actor you’ve never heard of, with the potential to become either an iconic character actor or a huge star.  His performance in Goat suggests he’s striving for the latter.

Paterson – I disliked this film when I watched it, but it lingered and grew into something more in the days to follow.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – New Zealand film with charm, humour and heart. <3

Lion – Classic Oscar bait, tug-on-the-heartstrings, true story stuff.  Very effective.

Loving – Watch out Oscar, Jeff Nichols is baiting you!

Mindhorn – Silly and hilarious.

Deadpool – Refreshing and fun, but still just another Marvel superhero film at the end of the day.  Ryan Reynolds is fab, but the support cast are WEAK.  How hard is it to craft and cast an interesting villain!?

Creed – This film perfectly balances the nostalgia with the new.  The Coogler / Jordan combo is champion!

War Dogs – Jonah Hill’s laugh is enough reason to watch this film.

The Mermaid – WTF hilariously amazing film is this from Chinese director Stephen Chow?  Absurdly wonderful!

Ghostbusters – It’s not the original, but it’s still awesome, notably the Hemsworth and McKinnon!  Trolls should give it a rest.

The Intervention – A lovely Sundance relationship drama – The Big Chill for our gen.

Two Lovers and a Bear – A bit boring to watch, but resonates long after.

Miss Sloane – Very solid performances in this lobbying film with lots of twists and turns.

Frantz – A bit too melodramatic, but an otherwise poignant piece about grief and hope.

Zero Days – Upsetting and informative documentary by Alex Gibney about STUXnet and the advent of cyber warfare.  Spoiler alert: We’re all doomed.

Silence – Scorcese’s epic begins with such promise, but halfway through it loses its way.

Things to Come (L’avenir) – Things to Come uses subtlety and grace in its depiction, with Isabelle Huppert’s beautiful and vulnerable performance as the heart and soul of this film.

Trumbo – Surprisingly good biopic with a sense of humour and wonderful performances!

Christine – A bleak examination of the life and on-air suicide of news anchor Christine Chubbuck. There’s no way to enjoy watching this film.

X-Men: Apocalypse – The 3rd film in the new X-Men trilogy is the stupidest yet (not counting the 3rd in the original X-Men trilogy), but bring on the popcorn!

Blue Jay – Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass are charming enough to fully carry this film.

Shepherds and Butchers – Not for the faint of heart or necessarily the big screen, Shepherds and Butchers is a powerfully distressing courtroom drama exploring some of the injustice in this world.

Snowden – Oliver Stone is somewhat on form in this Edward Snowden drama, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s strange performance has me on the fence.

Mascots – Not Christopher Guests’ best film, but it’s been a long time since seeing one of his wonderful mockumentaries!

Neruda – A bit confusing in its surrealist portrayal of a true-ish story.  Great dynamic between lead characters.

The Commune (Kollektivet) – Not Thomas Vinterberg’s finest work, The Commune is a lighthearted narrative film at best, with a strong dramatic performance from Trine Dyrholm carrying it through.

Alone in Berlin – Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson are wonderful.  They fully carry this film.

Florence Foster Jenkins – Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant make a wonderfully charming pair.

Tallulah – An OK flawed film that gets all of its heart from its stars Ellen Page and Allison Janney

Kubo and the Two Strings – Such potential from this stop motion animation, but a badly written script and stunted performances let it down.

Bleed for This – A pretty decent boxing biopic about a true animal.

Truth – A solid drama depicting the Dan Rather Killian documents controversy. It’s missing that je ne sais quoi.

The Founder – A ridiculously mediocre film about the start of McDonalds, saved only by excellent acting from Michael Keaton and Nick Offerman.

La La Land – I am in the minority here, but I didn’t like this film. Ever since Les Miz, movie musicals have been giving me panic attacks.

Little Men – Both what I like and dislike from director Ira Sachs’ previous film Love Is Strange can be found in his latest feature Little Men.

Amanda Knox – The Netflix documentary that hasn’t cleared things up at all.

Barry – The Barack Obama biopic nobody has been waiting for, Barry follows a young college student version of Obama as he contemplates his racial identity and the absence of his father. Well performed to a tee, but so dull.

Juste La Fin Du Monde – A shouty and disappointing movie from the great Xavier Dolan.

When Marnie Was There – A disappointment sappy melodrama for Studio Ghibli’s farewell film.

King Cobra – A true crime thriller gay porn drama.  Needs better pacing.

Other People – Indie melodrama that has a good cast and some good content, but some horrid stuff to watch.

Remember – I’d rather not.

Ma’ Rosa – Important film, but not for me.

Zoolander 2 – Disappointing, but at least we got more of Derek and Hansel after all these years…  I can’t defend it, but I did laugh out loud on a number of occasions.

The BFG – Magical, yet so dull.

London Town – This film is far too twee to be about The Clash.

Phantom Boy – Trite.

I Saw The Light – Hiddles in a Hat and nothing more.

Genius –  Anything but.

Victor Frankenstein – Not even James McAvoy can salvage this… and that’s saying a lot.

Boris sans Beatrice – A disappointing and pretentious film from French Canadian director Denis Côté.

Mother’s Day – A film most definitely not made for me.

Dog Eat Dog – Paul Schrader of The Canyons fame strikes again.

Indignation – This is potentially one of the worst films ever to be screened at a prominent film festival.


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