PETER GRAY’S BEST FILMS OF 2016
Whilst 2016 was a stellar year for box office profits at the cinemas, the actual value of what was on offer was more mediocre than must-see. Blockbusters proved underwhelming, sequels more often-than-not were unnecessary, and you could pretty much guarantee that any movie that generated considerable hype was going to bitterly disappoint. All that being said, amongst the misfires, displeasures, and downright terrible, there were some genuinely amazing films that proved superior filmmaking is still evident in an industry that is consistently valuing quantity over quality. Here’s a look at my personal best for 2016…
10. GREEN ROOM
Tightly coiled and vastly intense, ‘Green Room’ is a vicious attack on the senses that doesn’t let you go once it wraps its macabre hands around you. Bringing to mind classic filmmakers like John Carpenter (‘Assault on Precinct 13’, ‘Halloween’), the film bases itself almost entirely in the titular space as director Jeremy Saulnier lets the tension boil before lacing the screen with brutally realistic violence that, thankfully, feels more organic than gratuitous.
9. THE JUNGLE BOOK
The Jungle Book’ is an absolute gem of a feature, a family-aimed adventure that once again plays in the favour of its older viewers with the humour, themes and violence all appearing more suitable for an audience old enough to remember growing up with the original animated film.
‘Spotlight’ stands as one of the great films detailing journalism and all its aspects, and as sharply written as the film is, ‘Spotlight’ is ultimately an actor’s showcase with the ensemble presented here featuring a slew of actors who fail to skip a beat between them. Michael Keaton, Live Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, and Stanley Tucci are all so in tune with their characters, and each other, that it’s like watching professional sportsmen ace their craft.
7. THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Quentin Tarantino has never been the type of director to display warmth on-screen but with ‘The Hateful Eight’, fittingly his 8th film, the filmmaker presents us with material that perhaps reigns as his nastiest yet. As to be expected though the morally-grey, violent and psychotic cast of characters Tarantino has assembled are a highly enjoyable bunch of degenerates, and through his unique dialogue and their brave performances, the 187 minute running time never feels like a chore.
Paul Verhoeven has always excelled in pushing the boundaries of sex and violence in cinema. For every moment of brutality that laced the frames of ‘Robocop’ or ‘Total Recall’, there was the erotic extremities of ‘Basic Instinct’ and (shudder) ‘Showgirls’, and in his latest opus ‘Elle’ (the director’s first film in a decade) he blurs the lines of both, resulting in a truly twisted thriller that stands as one of the finest films 2016 had to offer.
Grounded by Amy Adams’ breathtaking performance, ‘Arrival’ is a departure of sorts for director Denis Villeneuve, opting to showcase the lighter sound of humanity here as opposed to the more pessimistic tones he showcased with ‘Prisoners’ and ‘Sicario’. A film that feels both personal and grand, ‘Arrival’ intertwines the beginnings and endings of time, creating a sense of intrigue that makes us feel like we are witnessing something that is distinctly life-changing.
A difficult but rewarding film, ‘Room’ is a major accomplishment for all involved. The career-making performances from both Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are enough to recommend this incredibly affecting film to anybody who values quality cinema.
3. THE REVENANT
Personally, I was floored by the violent beauty and unflinching realism that was screened before me, with the unmatched Leonardo DiCaprio delivering the type of performance that defines what it is to be an actor. Unpleasant but brilliant all the same, ‘The Revenant’ is a technically stellar achievement that, regardless of individual reactions, deserves respect above all else.
2. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS
Verifying his debut feature ‘A Single Man’ was no flash in the pan, Tom Ford juxtaposes a relationship drama feature with a violent revenge tale in such an effortless fashion you’d swear you were watching the work of a seasoned director. Cross-cutting between his various stories without sacrificing their individual ingredients, Ford has delivered an enthralling film that not only demands your attention but deserves it as well.
1. LA LA LAND
Contemporary in its setting but timeless in its tone, Damien Chazelle’s joyous mixture of the past and the present is sheer brilliance and, quite frankly, the best thing cinema has produced in 2016.