My blind spots for 2016 are many, but I still managed to make it out to the cinema a handful of times this year. Nonetheless, here is an assortment of the ones that really stood out amongst those outings. The latter half of ‘16 looks like it has some great surprises up its sleeve, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of these remain on my end of year Top 5. In chronological order:
In chronological order:
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
I wasn’t looking forward to Hail, Caesar! despite the duo behind it. The February release date, the confused marketing; it was all spelling disaster of the worst sort, but that’s what made it my greatest surprise of the year. While it does have what some could conceivably consider a plot, the Coen’s are less concerned with hitting story beats and instead on the joys of watching golden age Hollywood at work, for better and for worse. Hail, Caesar! doesn’t exist only to put the era on a pedestal and nor does it wish only to judge it. Instead, it wants us to appreciate the mess and the magic and all that is overcome in the pursuit of telling stories on the silver screen
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Before someone burns me at the stake for putting a music video on here, I would like to state that I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen (and on film, no less) so I sure as hell am going to count it. Daydreaming is simple like a music video should be. It works to elevate the music through visualisation, not diminish it through explanation or distraction. PTA captures Thom Yorke’s daydream in the simple conceit of a man moving effortlessly through his thoughts and memories. The devil is in the details with Daydreaming and with every rewatch I find something new that brings it another wrung upward.
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier
So much of Green Room’s brilliance comes from the simple truth that in situations of great violence, either party would make the day disappear if they could. We dress ourselves up and project an air of grit, letting everyone else know how hardcore we are, but trap us in a room fighting against an onslaught of skinhead nazis and suddenly we don’t feel so tough. Saulnier’s second feature deconstructs the tough persona, not only for his punk-rock protagonists but also for their Aryan aggressors. Everybody wants to look like a threat, but you never know how threatening you really are till having to be one is your only chance at staying alive.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
The classic saying goes that a film should be two sides of a good argument, and The Lobster is the case in point. Equal parts a critique on the overbearing societal expectation for people to settle down and get married as it is a retort to those who buck the system for a bachelor’s life, The Lobster is composed of Lynchian extremes, aching laughs, and earnest emotion in the way only Lanthimos can deliver it. It immediately sent me on a spiral through his previous filmography that I have yet to see to completion nor recover from fully.
The Neon Demon
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
The glow of Dario Argento’s Suspiria has long hung over the works of NWR, but finally, I get to see the homage to it I’ve been pining for. Refn hasn’t always impressed me; I was even beginning to worry he was a one-trick pony, but man did this ever hit me hard in the gut. The entire run time I couldn’t decide who to be more afraid of, the innocent Jesse (Elle Fanning), or everyone she meets on her journey into hell. There is a power that comes with knowing when you’re beautiful, and it is a power that Jesse envelopes herself in gratuitously. Unfortunately, power is one of those few things that can always be devoured.