Releasing your film as close as you can to the Oscar deadline may keep it fresh in the mind of Academy voters, but it does make it tricky to keep a track of for your more casual viewer.
Throw in the time delay between US and UK releases and even the most fervent cineaste could be forgiven for forgetting exactly when their favorite film was released. The fact I occasionally get to attend advance screenings just to tends to skew things further.
That’s essentially a long-winded way of saying that films hold up in the memory to different extents and the rankings below may not always exactly correlate with star ratings. One particularly flawed masterpiece may have leaped higher up the chart than a few outright five-starrers.
So, without further ado, here are my top 16 films of the year.
16) The Witch
“The Witch is a theological nightmare that will get under your skin – and, just possibly, that bit deeper… an eerie study of human suffering and the absence of God.” FULL REVIEW
15) Hell or High Water
“The West Texas portrayed in Hell or High Water is less No Country For Old Men than no country for anyone… [the film] manages to escape from the long shadow of the Coen Brothers’ 2007 Best Picture winner by introducing a vein of social commentary and lightness of touch without compromising the essential spareness and determinism that characterize the modern-day Western…” FULL REVIEW
14) The Nice Guys
“The Nice Guys is your standard Shane Black neo-noir buddy comedy with a ’70s retrofit but that’s no bad thing… a wild and seedy ride from the top of the derelict Hollywood sign, through — occasionally literally — the deluxe shag pads of Beverly Hills, and all the way down through the mean streets of L.A.” FULL REVIEW
13) Captain Fantastic
“… that rare film that manages to be both sentimental and spine-tingling, often simultaneously. It’s also true to itself… Finely balanced and highly entertaining, touching on both joy and despair, it’s no wonder Cannes embraced it and you should, too.” FULL REVIEW
12) The Hateful Eight
“The Hateful Eight boils down to wit and blood (often in tandem) and a few under-cooked notions about racial relations in Reconstruction Era America. Self-indulgent? Certainly. Revisionist? Undoubtedly. But with apparently only two films left till self-imposed retirement, it’s hard to think how Tarantino will top this magnificently abominable spectacle.” FULL REVIEW
“After the elegiac overtones of 2006’s Rocky Balboa, Creed signifies a rebirth for the franchise. Essentially a soft reboot in the manner of the new Star Wars or Mad Max, the film throws away the worst of what’s come before while doing justice to the very best.” FULL REVIEW
“Based on a Nebula-winning novella by Ted Chiang, Arrival may sound like a purely intellectual exercise, but at its core are questions about time and human connection, of which language is apparently a crucial part.” FULL REVIEW
9) The Big Short
“The Big Short goes long on edudrama and it pays off – magnificently. You wouldn’t think the recent global financial crisis would be the stuff of comedy, but The Big Short makes it funny – and educational, and genuinely moving.” FULL REVIEW
8) Son of Saul
“A transfixing Bruegelian nightmare of one man’s precarious place amidst the chaos and ugliness of war… Son of Saul‘s narrow scope provides for an un-sensationalized, un-sentimentalized, as-yet unseen look at life in the camps.” FULL REVIEW
“Full of hope, horror, heartbreak, and Cyndi Lauper… Anomalisa is both funny and moving, and manages to say something truly unique about individuality, disillusionment, and love.” FULL REVIEW
6) Green Room
“Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier is certainly not a director afraid to deal in primal colors: the bright green woodlands of Oregon… visceral red… Saulnier turns what could be standard exploitation fare into a gruesome exercise in tension… Green Room has a nihilistic streak to it that may deter those who like a moral to their carnage. We, however, can’t wait to see what’s next on the palette.” FULL REVIEW
“Spotlight digs deep and finds light in the darkness… Within the broader scope of these systemic abuses, [the film] also singles out heart-rending individual stories… deftly handles complex moral and social issues.” FULL REVIEW
“As directed by Frank‘s Lenny Abrahamson, Room starts off a study in microcosm and mythology… Room‘s first half is extraordinary in its presentation of a tight, self-contained world, but it becomes more so when it dares to take the lid off that box.” FULL REVIEW
3) The Neon Demon
“A tantalizing Under the Skin about the skin itself, Cronenberg’s Crash where the paraphilia is flesh instead of steel, The Neon Demon is a masterpiece — albeit a hugely flawed one.” FULL REVIEW
2) Everybody Wants Some!!
“… the feel-best film of 2016… Everybody Wants Some!! is a perfect fly-on-wall encapsulation of the college experience as dwelt on over the course of an adult life, lovingly and expertly recalled; polished to a shine by the passing years… its two-hour run-time flies by till you suddenly finds yourself walking out of the cinema, scarcely believing it’s all over. And, in the end, what’s more true of the college experience than that?”
“Films do not have to be dark in order to be profound. Sometimes the human condition can, in fact, be hopeful. No better is this demonstrated than in Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s heartfelt ode to blue-collar life in all its ordinary extraordinariness.” FULL REVIEW