Part 1 – the good movies of the year
There were several really high quality, high profile movies this year that were, in general, pretty solid, and all though they were defnitely not in contention for my top list, they are deserving of mention.
Best Picture Oscar 2016 nominees The Big Short and Spotlight both impressed. The Big Short definitely being Adam McKay’s best film, it’s funny, insightful, and angry. It breaks down complex political and economic issues into something really comprehensible and provides the human side to the story without straying into I, Daniel Blake gratuity. Spotlight is also angry at a very different thing and displays it, instead of post modern asides and sly, jet black humour, Spotlight employs, slow and methodic but powerful pacing, real, well defined characters and a strong message. I thought it was really good and I left the cinema angry, a deserving best picture winner.
We also had some really interesting, also politically charged, odd ball, meeting the minds movies. I just got J. G. Ballard’s High-rise for Christmas purely on the strength of the movie. Although it’s not the first time Ben Wheatley has worked off someone else’s material it is the first time he’s adapted to feature length and it bears fruits with this vision of the past looking to the future. It is a great adaptation to how the 70s might look ahead to the future, and although it’s not perfect it is absolutely bonkers in a really great way. We also had Train to Busan this year which combined the style of western and eastern horror traditions beatifully, and tells a narrative that has a lot ot say, and angrily, about world politics. It’s a taut, tense, action thriller and it’s a lot of fun.
Midnight Special was a blow completely from left field. The Americans get Loving this year too from Jeff Nichols which might well be the superior Nichols film but if it is it’ll feature in my list next year. As it happens, Midnight Special is a nostalgic look back at movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind but with a modern thriller sensibility. It’s lean, emotional, and visually dazzling. And it stars Adam Driver and Micheal Shannon which is a great cast.
We also some great mainstream efforts this year, the visually dazzling trip-a-thon Doctor Strange might be my favourite Marvel film and was my first review for The Gryphon so will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason. Also, Fiding Dory brought a tear to me eye as Pixar seem to be able to do effortlessly, although it’s no Inside Out, although really what is?
Part 2 – The misunderstood gems
A few of these types of movies will feature in my top list so if you don’t see a movie you think didn’t get enough vocal supporters this year, wait a bit.
These are the movies that either flew under the radar of many critics, received bitter reviews, or just didn’t get the plaudits it deserved.
I have very, very fond memories of the TV debut of Alice Lowe in Black Mountain Poets, I had a lovely time getting absolutely wasted to this touching black comedy-drama. With two great central performances from Alice Lowe and Dolly Wells. Never better from them.
My friend is a pretty hardcore gamer, I’ve mentioned him on this blog and he’s off studying video game design and I certainly couldn’t be more proud of him, but that being said I am defintiely not a hardcore gamer type. When Hardcore Henry dropped into theatres this year, the only most critics could say about the world’s first first person shooter movie was that ‘video game fans will love it’ which isn’t necessarily true. All the games I have a real passion for a things like Portal, The Stanely Parable, and Inside. Visually intersting puzzle games with an element of dark, impending horror. So if you’re talking about movies for gamers Hardcore Henry doesn’t really immediately jump out at you a key text. However, my friend and I went in and we cackled like hyenas, it’s a very tongue in cheeck, explosive, funny, over the top, gory, stunt heavy, action packed thrill ride with a climax to put the Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill to shame.
Similar experience with Money Monster, which frames itself as a financial based seige thriller but is really one of the funniest and most on the money contemporary satires in years. My friend and I laughed a lot at this comedy/thriller. It does at points seem a bit Hollywood but that does seem to be part of it’s satirical, post modern aestetic. I have to give props to Jodie Foster, now in her 50s for having her finger on the pulse so well.
Part 3 – The near misses
Some of the best films of the year that didn’t make it into my top list
This taut seige thriller/horror will leave you rattled and drained, but in a really, really good way.
The Girl With All The Gifts
This superior YA adaptation doesn’t pull any punches and is actually for once aimed squarely at the actual Young Adults instead of 12 year olds.
Saw it in IMAX, saw it on my TV, it was great, and I’m about to watch it on a crappy airplane screen, and it’s probably still gonna be great. A subversive super hero movie that focuses on a well told story and an engaging cetral character instead of huge explosions and huge over arching cinematic universe narratives, and actually seeks to undermine that.
I watched it on the plane, spoilers, it was still really good.
This film took a while to come out here in the UK but Kurt Russel shines in this lood soacked western horror that tops the lackluster The Hateful Eight for sheer thrills and spills.
It’s fucking good fun.
Stay tuned for my sum up of the year’s biggest let downs, and my top list for the year
Love you babes xx