Films of 2016

10. The Nice Guys (Shane Black)

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After digressing with a Marvel movie and the pilot for a Western show for Amazon, Shane Black returns to the kind of wise-cracking buddy movie which made his name. Ryan Gosling’s hopeless PI teams up with low-level enforcer Russell Crowe to solve the disappearance of a porn star. The retro 70s’ era stylings add a new element to Black’s familiar tropes (yes, we’re in L.A., yes it’s Xmas) and while I’m not entirely sure what’s going on it’s very entertaining.

9.  Creed (Ryan Coogler)

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Successfully paying tribute to the franchise’s history while also moving it forward Ryan Coogler’s Creed mixes the pathos of Stallone’s wonderful Rocky Balboa (2006) with the gritty underdog status of John G. Avildsen’s original Rocky (1976). Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed follows in his father’s footsteps, only this time he’s the unfancied contender given a shot at the big time in a show fight with the champion while Rocky is the grizzled seen-it-all Burgess Meredith figure. Creed can rightly be ranked alongside Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, and Rocky Balboa as being the best movies in the franchise.

8. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

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Excerpt from LFF review.

“Though Elle may seem like Verhoeven is being deliberately provocative it’s his most restrained film to date, a character study of somebody who has already suffered a horrendous trauma (the matter-of-fact way Huppert reveals this is shocking and hilarious) and is now more than capable of dealing with anything else life might throw at her.”

7. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)

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Excerpt from LFF Review

Touching on themes of a disenfranchised youth, Europe’s collapsing institutions, misguided political idealism, and materialism, Nocturama perhaps the most prescient film of the year.

6. Hail Caesar! (Joel, Ethan Coen)

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Eddie Mannix was by all accounts a son-of-a-bitch and totally undeserving of being the centre-piece of the Coen Brothers love letter to classic era Hollywood, but hey it’s the movies and this is essentially what the film is about. Everything being awful behind the scenes but turning out perfectly in the final cut. Particular highlights are Channing Tatum’s “No dames” routine, a Christopher Lambert cameo, and the exchanges between haughty English film director Ralph Fiennes and Aiden Ehrenreich’s singing cowboy. The payoff to their celebrated “would that it were so simple” scene is beautiful.

5. Pikadero (Ben Sharrock)

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Hoping Ben Sharrock’s melancholic but very funny movie gets a UK release. It’s about a young couple trying to consummate their relationship while also trying to deal with effects of the financial crisis in Spain and the limited options now available to them.  

Excerpt from EIFF review.

“Both are still living at home with their parents. Mostly they just hang out having conversations about their hopes for the future. Their ambitions are modest. She’s contemplating going to Edinburgh. That’s how bleak things seem, working in a hotel in Scotland seems like an attractive proposition.”

4. Tale of Tales (Matteo Garrone)

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Something of a departure from the director of the gritty gangster film Gomorrah (2008), this anthology of fairytale stories is filled with beautiful images, occasionally grotesque sequences, characters who are selfish and cruel but who retain out sympathy, and dark humour. As adaptations of fairytales go it’s up there with the best of Borowczyk, Demy’s Donkey Skin (1970), and Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves (1984).

3.Goldstone (Ivan Sen)

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That rare thing, a sequel that not only improves on the original but adds depth to it by showing how much events in the earlier film affected the protagonist.

From LFF review.

“Like Mystery Road the film utilizes the Western genre to tell a story about the culture clash between the disenfranchised indigenous community and those who seek to exploit the land for profit. The charismatic Pedersen’s taciturn hero is a wonderful creation, a man trapped between cultures but increasingly drawn back to his roots. “

2. The Love Witch (Anna Biller)

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Excerpt from EIFF review.

“Anna Biller’s stunning retro-styled fairytale borrows the iconography from classic movies but the result is anything but derivative. There are nods to Hitchcock’s Psycho, Douglas Sirk melodramas, and Jacques Demy’s fairytale romances but The Love Witch has most in common with Angela Carter’s feminist reworking of Brothers Grimm stories with Biller critiquing female roles and masculinity.”

1.Personal Shopper (Oliver Assayas)

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Assayas audacious ghost story is an unpredictable and moving study of grief with a tremendous performance from Kristin Stewart. It also has a scene in an empty mansion which is more terrifying than anything I’ve seen in a straightforward horror movie in years.

Excerpt from LFF review.

“there is a hint of ambiguity present suggesting Maureen’s grief may have taken form, just as Eleanor’s anguish might be the cause of the strange occurrences in Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House.’ Yet Assayas and everybody in the movie treat her gift with respect which suggests this is a world where the supernatural is possible and the dead exist alongside the living.”

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