It’s been quite a year in film, with blockbusters competing for space with terrifying ferocity. There’s still quite a few films to come in the last month of the year as the Oscar race heats up (and beyond- can’t wait for La La Land!), so whilst some may have made it here, for now here’s what I’ve enjoyed most over the last year. It’s highly unlikely you’ll agree with all/any of my choices, but this is a very personal list – I make no apologies.
It’s worth stating before the list that in the rush of completing a degree, moving cities and starting a new job, there were a few films that I regret missing and still need to see. In particular, those titles are: I, Daniel Blake, American Honey, Love & Friendship, Eddie The Eagle and Genius. Promise I’ll get to them. Anyway…
10. Kung Fu Panda 3
Yep, it’s a controversial choice for the first one, but like my undying belief in Shia LaBeouf as an actor and my complete adoration for the Mission Impossible movies, the Kung Fu Panda series charms my socks off. Although the characters stay the same, the lessons it teaches kids (and adults), the new plot ideas influenced by classic stories and the breathtaking animation all combine to make a treat. This sequel lost none of that. Sure, when the next one comes out, you’ll be surrounded by families, but otherwise what you’ll miss is some true movie magic.
9. 10 Cloverfield Lane
This was definitely a surprising one for me. I went along to see the film on the back of some unexpected positive reviews – after all, the original Cloverfield hadn’t really been anything special. However, what I got was a great mix of horror and psychological thriller, that only slightly dropped the ball at the end. I’m not sure I even caught my breath for 90 minutes. Can you blame me? My first experience of John Goodman was as Fred Flintstone in that terrible live action movie. Now I no longer see him as cuddly.
8. Swiss Army Man
With my eternal obsession with geniunely-nicest-actor-on-earth Daniel Radcliffe and my more recent obsession with the adorable Paul Dano, I knew I wanted to see this one when it first hit the film festival scene. Combine that with the fact that one of the main actors plays a flatulent corpse and I didn’t know what to think. What I got was a strangely sweet, bizarre and reflective film on life and loneliness, with a great acapella score created almost entirely by Dano and Radcliffe. And you know, a few fart jokes. Also, in one of my favourite trivia finds of the year, Dano said that he took on the film instantly after one of the directors described the plot as ‘the first fart makes you laugh and the last fart makes you cry.’ That’s about right.
You’ll notice as the list goes on that I tend to focus on films from the last three months or so. That’s because the summer really sucked unless you wanted to watch mediocre superhero blockbusters, and so when the autumn rolled around, almost everything felt like a breath of fresh air. Arrival was one of those, a fantastic science fiction that deserved the hype. I also loved that instead of the formulas and calculations that often take centre stage in sci-fi, this film focused instead on the beauty of language and communication.
6. Nocturnal Animals
Whenever someone mentions this film to me, or asks what I thought of it, my answer is always the same – ‘Well, I wept at this film more than I have at a film in two years, and it shook me to the point of an emotional meltdown. I’ll be traumatised for a long time… It was amazing though!’ Funnily enough they never seem very convinced by my last assertion. Yet it was a stunning film, reaching emotional pains and creating something that is both stylish and hideously brutal. I can’t really say much more, you just have to watch it.
5. The Light Between Oceans – full review
Period dramas are taking over my life currently so this became essential viewing. It was stunningly beautiful though, presenting a painful dilemma with empathy for both sides. Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender really did excel themselves in portraying the central couple and everything was sufficiently epic in visuals. Also, Alexandre Desplat did the score, which is an instant benefit.
4. Bridget Jones’ Baby
I fully expected this film to be terrible, having read all the books and loved the previous movies for years and years. In fact, the original Bridget Jones’ Diary had an appearance in my undergrad dissertation and it has been a sad day cheer-up essential. Shockingly however, Bridget Jones’ Baby was amazing, a definite treat for established fans of the series and side-splittingly funny. Renee Zellweger was as adorable as she’s always been and Colin was Colin (which is to say, perfect).
3. A Bigger Splash – full review
It’s all indie films from hereon, and A Bigger Splash is a tense one, capable of wrapping you up into a beautiful world that is poisoned from the inside. Masterfully shot, it has a top set of actors who are perfectly cast for each of their roles. Tilda Swinton once again proves just how good she can be, even if you remove 99% of her lines, by playing a mute rockstar whilst Ralph Fiennes taps into his more comedic side with a man who still bristles with seething rage under a mask of bravado. Matthias Schoenaerts also utilises his power as an actor where understatement becomes a strength, and they all set each other off in a way that captivating to witness.
2. Captain Fantastic
The only good movie this year to start with the title of ‘Captain’, I loved this one, not least because it handled a complex central situation in a way that was fair to all involved. Viggo Mortenson plays a father who has brought up his children in an unconventional fashion and when faced with the outside world, the extent of that upbringing causes questions and conflict. However, it’s all handled carefully and in the end, I left feeling moved. I also cried twice but I am a crier sometimes.
1. Hunt For The Wilderpeople
Empire got to this one first in naming it as number one, but this was always going to be my choice. It’s my perfect film – touching and inventive with a dry sense of Kiwi humour. Taiki Waititi has been on my watch list since he made my favourite of 2014, What We Do In The Shadows, and he’s continuing a fantastic streak. This one is much more along the lines of Boy, a heartfelt earlier film that retains that imaginative approach, and if you like Wilderpeople, go watch that immediately.
In this movie though, Julian Dennison and Sam Neill trade great lines and Dennison is a complete star. Everything is timed to perfection and I honestly loved every second, although particular highlights include an early hunting scene with the adorable Bella and a strange vicar. Cinemas showed the movie for barely any time, which was criminal, but I intend to start fixing that by buying this movie for everyone on my Christmas list. I’m doing it an injustice really – just know that it’s the best. Go watch it.