As the year draws to a close, our staff start to countdown their top 10 best and worst movies of the year, which will culminate in the official Jump Scare top 10 by the end of December. This week is the turn of guest writer, Christopher Burns, as he lists his best movies of 2016.
Sebastian Schipper’s crime thriller set over one night in Berlin stole the headlines for its ingenuity of being the movie that did it all in one take, and while that is the most remarkable element of the organic freewheeling film, Victoria is prone to being slightly clunky and frustrating. Despite this, it is without doubt worthy of its place here in terms of its sheer breath-taking ambition.
9. Deepwater Horizon
One of the surprises of the year came in the form of Peter Berg’s angered and resolute depiction of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion of 2010. Mark Wahlberg leant an admirably restrained blue collar vulnerability and bravery to a story that alongside the (superbly choreographed) pyrotechnic chaos never talked down to its audience. Deepwater Horizon was one of 2016’s smartest, most exhilarating and deeply moving films, which bodes very well for Berg and Wahlberg’s next collaboration, Patriots Day, based on the Boston Marathon Bombings of 2013.
8. Hell Or High Water
Calling to mind some of the neo-westerns of the Coen’s and Andrew Dominik, Taylor Sheridan’s wonderfully economical tale of mid-western recession and revenge was a visceral and bleakly droll story of a local grizzled cop on the tail of two bank robbing brothers which contained three magnificent performances from Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges.
7. The Neon Demon
The Enfant-terrible himself, Nicholas Winding Refn was back this year with a predictably warped and damaged mediation on the fashion industry, with added necrophilia. Calling to mind the likes of Lynch, Argento and De Palma with its sickly shades of red and blue, its creepy eroticism and blackly comic bloodshed, The Neon Demon felt a true return to form after Only God forgives. With the film’s devilish final act becoming as divisive as anything movie related all year, TND was a brash but defiant film that also featured a puzzlingly miscast cameo from Keanu Reeves, which somehow ended up adding to its seedy charm.
6. American Honey
Yes, it’s too long but Andrea Arnold’s first American feature is on the surface, a joyous, fun loving and ill-disciplined, road trip. Debutant Sasha Lane stole the show and her chemistry with Shia Labeouf was sizzling and dangerous but American Honey’s ace was its Instagram filtered lens that made everything look sun drenched and exquisite (even Shia’s rat’s tail haircut got off lightly), however underneath the glamorously aimless Harmony Korine-esque stylings there was a merciless grasp of poverty, domestic abuse and the great American class divide that gave the film a heavy heart.
5. Midnight Special
Jeff Nichols’ fourth feature was on one hand a beautifully delicate paean to the Amblin films of the theme that’s ran deeply through all of Nichols’s work so far, albeit here with an other -worldly twist. Michael Shannon is the father on the run from the authorities with his exceptionally gifted child and to say any more would ruin what is a haunting mood piece with bursts of rage and sorrow that also includes a rich supporting cast featuring Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton, Sam Shepard and Kirsten Dunst.
4. The Nice Guys
Shane Black was back behind the camera for the first time since 2004’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and brought back everything we love about him; charmingly irresistible dialogue, prickly humour, redeemable rogues and, of course, a labyrinthine plot. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe were the misfit duo at the heart of the noir-ish mystery involving a dead movie star in 1970’s Los Angeles and it was the undeniable chemistry of the two leads that really brought The Nice Guys to life. Welcome back, Mr Black.
Denis Villeneuve continues his hot streak ahead of the highly anticipated Blade Runner sequel with an understated and alarmingly relevant story about the nature of communication and grief dressed up as an alien invasion film. Touching on heavyweights such as Close Encounters and Contact, Amy Adams gave one of the year’s finest performances as the linguist with an impossible task but the lyrical poise and melancholia of Villeneuve’s direction, gave its biggest moments a chance to really hit home, namely that devastating final act.
2. Nocturnal Animals
A cruel, vindictive yet sophisticated film which featured the second best Amy Adams performance of the year, Tom Ford’s second movie as a director featured Jake Gyllenhaal tormenting his ex-wife through some vicious prose after he sends her a tragic novel he has written. The framing device of a story within a story could easily have been haphazardly botched but Ford nails it thanks to his lucid direction and a delightfully executed screenplay. Featuring some of the year’s most distressing sequences, the film is wrestled away from maybe being exploitive or brazenly nihilistic by a stunning neo-noir tone and some mesmerising performances none more so by the brilliant Michael Shannon as a cop with nothing left to lose.
1. Green Room
Jeremy Saulnier’s brutalist siege thriller follows the misfortunes of a young punk band who stumble upon something they shouldn’t while playing a gig in a back wood club run by neo-Nazis. Saulnier’s rapid and skilled direction, and bloody resolutions brought on comparisons with the likes of Sam Peckinpah and Sam Raimi but Green Room’s major strength is in its inimitable flair and authenticity. A lean, tight and gory survival horror is also a mature arbitration on subculture violence and what it means to be an outsider. With a truly unnerving and exceptional performance from Patrick Stewart as you have never seen him before, Green Room also serves as a fine epitaph for the late great Anton Yelchin who tragically passed away earlier this year.
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