As we watch Die Hard and listen to The Pogues, let us pause this festive season to consider that besides snatching away a clutch of our childhood idols, 2016 has brought us some kick ass films.
10) The Beatles: Eight Days A Week: In a year that saw some great rock documentaries, this was probably the most carefully constructed. Ploughing through tons of footage Ron Howard brings us the perfect balance to appeal to both fans and newcomers, giving us a potted history of the band that still seems comprehensive.
9) Swiss Army Man: Quirky doesn’t begin to do this film justice. It sails past that description within the first few minutes on its way to utterly strange. The Daniels’ have such a whimsical style about them that this strangeness is very engaging, but it does have a dark heart about it which it reveals towards the end.
8) The Revenant: One of the most beautifully shot, completely realized, “bloody revenge” epics you will ever see. The bear sequence alone, is excruciating, but so exquisitely executed that you can’t look away.
7) Embrace Of The Serpent: A journey that crosses the Amazon, two time periods, and reality itself. This black and white road trip melds science and tribal tradition into an eye popping quest for knowledge.
6) La La Land: A magical reality with firm ties to the real, and an idealized fantasy with a strong dose of cynicism. La La Land may harken back to the Hollywood musicals of yore, but it is certainly its own devastatingly beautiful beast. There is a sad fragility at its core that makes this something much greater than pure escapism.
5) Kubo And The Two Strings: Studio Liaka brought us a visually rich treat that tugged soundly at the heartstrings. This is achingly beautiful, proving that there is certainly room for traditional animation processes.
4) The Witch: Creates such a convincing sense of place that I’m assuming a time machine was required to make this. A slow burn horror that really delivers, creating a devastating finale. It does this by staying true to its period setting and treating its source material with utter conviction. There are no sly genre winks here (although a more modern explanation is provided for those that look closely enough), just puritanical horror as the devil’s minions come calling.
3) Son Of Saul: Brutal and heart-wrenching, but this is the sort of film you need to experience at least once in a lifetime. By tucking the camera in close to the main actor, and never leaving him this grants you a very personal view of a concentration camp. It is shocking, moving, and absolutely compulsory viewing.
2) Arrival: Another genre film that treats its subject with utter conviction. A razor sharp script combined with breathtakingly beautiful execution creates a thoughtful piece of science fiction. Amy Addams haunted performance make this one of the most sweetly melancholic experiences in you will ever have in the genre.
1) Hunt For The Wilderpeople: This is pure unadulterated joy delivered straight to your eyes. An engaging comedy, that is perfectly timed. Sam Neill and Julian Dennison just light up the screen as two unlikely outlaws on the run. There is not a wasted moment in director Taika Watti’s film, and it is by far one of the most charming films you will ever see.
Honorable mentions: Room, Hell or High Water, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Sherpa, Chasing Asylum.