It’s that time of year when critics at all levels look back at the best and worst films they saw in the year, with a handy side-dose of early speculation on the big awards season. 2016 seems to have been a particularly good year for film. I haven’t the slightest idea who’ll win the Best Picture Oscar; the last film I walked out of certain to be a winner was 12 Years a Slave, with The Artist as my only successful pick before that – which makes me right twice in my life.The only film I saw twice in the cinema this year was Deadpool, and however highly I might rate it, I guarantee it will not get a look-in at any major award. Actually Deadpool wasn’t the best film I saw this year, nor the film I thought about the most. I’ve seen a tonne of really great films this year that I think in other years might have made some kind of best-of list which I haven’t even seriously considered this year. Arrival, for example, or The Hateful Eight, or Hell or High Water, Love and Friendship, Hail, Caesar!, or Hunt for the Wilderpeople, or … The upshot is that after writing this list I’ve been browsing other top lists, I’ve not found much in common with mine, but not much on those lists to really disagree with.
So, given that Deadpool was in all likelihood my favourite film of the year but not the best, what am I offering you in my top-5 for the year?
In no particular order:
A Bigger Splash
The film which had the biggest impact on me this year turns out to be A Bigger Splash. It wasn’t a film that had an immediate effect on me – I left the cinema thinking it was a pretty slight tale anchored by some acting heavyweights. As the months have passed though, I find myself thinking about it at odd times and so it’s resonated and stuck with me in a way I hadn’t expected at all. I have reflected many times on the dynamic of the main quartet, especially the denouement.
The Guardian also liked it.
Without a doubt, this is one of the darkest films I’ve ever seen. There is almost no hope for anyone at any time, and yet it made me care about the protagonist and her trials at every moment. It was hauntingly beautiful too.
I didn’t expect to like this film at the time. I saw it because I thought as an aficionado of the detective I aught to see the only straight-up tale of detection at TIFF 2016. Yet it so beautiful, so calm and assured, and with such instantly-compelling characters, that it has stuck with me and I’ve found myself recommending it to everyone. I really want to read an Australian critic deconstruct the politics and details of this for me, because as wondrous as it was as an insight into foreign subculture, I’m sure it’s more important to an insider who wants to pierce their own perceptions.
This also made the Guardian’s best-of-Australian-film list.
Film is often described as an empathy-engine, a way of understanding lives alien to our own. No film better exemplified this in 2016 than Mustang, a story about 5 Turkish sisters and the dying embers of their childhood. At times funny, at times dark, always poignant and always fascinating, this was also perfectly shot and edited. If a film of this quality were in English, I’d be absolutely sure of at least a couple of Oscars – it should be up for Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Picture.
Eye in the Sky
This is as taut and sharp as a thriller can get, picking up hugely significant modern problems around Drone warfare. While this film ultimately comes down in favour of the extra-judicial killing of terrorists, it absolutely probes the moral questions involved. This is essential viewing for our modern world, an important story for us in the West.