MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
For the TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS, SCREEN-SPACE gave to thee…
(to the tune of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’)
TWELVE VIRGIN VIEWINGS
ELEVEN NEW STARS RISING
TEN SOARING SPIRITS
NINE SORRY SEQUELS
EIGHT WONDROUS ONE-SHEETS
SEVEN CARTOON CLASSICS
SIX STUDIO SCORECARDS
FIVE T’RIFFIC TRAILERS
FOUR FLEDGLING FESTIVALS
THREE TARNISHED IDOLS
TWO PERFECT PARTNERSHIPS…
…AND A LIST FIT FOR 2016
Finally, the obligatory end-of-year indulgence we film types preposterously call ‘The Best of… List.’ Smart film critics have taken to calling them ‘My Favourite Films’ or ‘Standout Pics We Loved’ or something like that, because to assume that one’s personal picks are inarguably better than anyone else’s personal picks is a bit dickish.
Thanks for reading Cine-Mas, my 12-part, 18,000-ish word review of the year in film. With 4 likes, 3 shares and 2 comments via Facebook, it clearly tapped the zeitgeist. I’m joking, of course. Thank you for the support and kind comments about Screen-Space, this soon-to-be-5 lark that you’ve come to know and disregard. I love you all, except those who commented on my review of The Red Pill, you fucking psychos. Appreciate the traffic numbers, of course, but the whole bigotry and misogyny thing…not cool.
So, in a year that saw me suit up for my first Cannes Film Festival, discover the (now-defunct) delights of the Hanoi Cinematheque and spend 40 minutes chatting movies with Ted Kotcheff, I’ve chosen a bunch of films that lingered longest in my increasingly bewildered mind. Some I saw in general release, when I was forced to sit with the phone-checking Neanderthals; others, in the rarefied palaces of the festival circuit or at press screenings (also, Neanderthals). I grant you the respectfully-titled “Screen-Space’s Indisputably Perfect 10 Best Films of 2016”… (no particular order, although we all know which is clearly the best, right?)
THE NEON DEMON: Nicholas Winding Refn paints a lurid, dazzling nightmare-scape of the LA fashion scene, in which competition is cutthroat and the ambition of unwary ingénues is consumed like mince. It is all perfectly shallow, magnetic to the gaze and wrapped in the execution of the most thrilling, divisive director working today. Left me stunned and giddy, but expect it to surface on a few ‘Worst of…’ rants as well; its Cannes premiere was raucous, and distributors have shied away from it in droves.
SING STREET: John Carney (Once; Begin Again) takes as his starting point the hoary old ‘Let’s start a band’ premise and proceeds to make a work that soars beyond that simple premise into something truly extraordinary. The feel-good, toe-tapping vibe hits a crescendo at the start of Act 3; how the film plays out is daring and utterly beautiful. Gets everything about '80s teen culture wonderfully right; the music, the fashion, the belief in romance is beat perfect.
LA LA LAND: Damien Chazelle does for dreamy LA romantics in La La Land what he did angry drummers in Whiplash. That is, paint a richly realised fantasy existence, where heartbreak, longing and struggle is every bit as crucial to the creative process as the journey of falling in love. The dance sequences exhibit old-school expertise and genre understanding; the all-in freeway opener is grand Hollywood, while the purely fantastic planetarium showstopper reveals a Euro influence. Emma Stone’s emotionally resonant spin on the ‘pixie dream girl’ archetype is the role she was born to play.
YOUR NAME: 2016 was a stunning year for animation (see the names I’ve regretfully bumped to ‘The Next 20’ pile below). Makoto Shinkai’s romantic fantasy, which weaves the story of a dream-state connection between two teens separated by time, place and an impending act of God, struck a chord with Japanese audiences; a country healing from a run of natural tragedies found strength in this spirited, special fairytale love story. International audiences are responding to the deeply emotional, profoundly lovely ‘Romeo & Juliet’-like journey; if Shinkai’s story takes a hold of you, like it did your cynical critic, expect to be reduced to a sobbing mess.
THE WAILING: A schlubby cop and his slightly goofy precinct offsiders are drawn into a murder-mystery that runs the gamut from ‘random act ugliness’ to ‘serial killer intent’ to something otherworldly entirely. Hong-jin Na’s slow-burn horror classic wasn’t the breakout hit of his South Korean peer Sang-ho Yeon’s zombie rush Train to Busan, but in hindsight that level of audience acceptance seemed unlikely; few films in recent memory have kept doubling-down of the unblinking moments of inspired terror like The Wailing. Not for the first time in film history, Asian filmmakers offered the year’s most truly revelatory genre works.
THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS: In collating and cutting together photos, footage and audio that spanned the great band’s vast, superb and turbulent history, Ron Howard (yes, that Ron Howard) has crafted both a vivid account of the scope of Beatlemania and an intimate insight into the dynamic of the greatest songwriting unit in the history of pop music. Some of the content will feel warmly familiar, but so much seems new and fresh and purely ecstatic; Howard captures the raw energy and unique personalities that brought the band together and the price they paid for attaining idolatry.
ROGUE ONE: “A Hollywood franchise entrant that harkens back to an era before those words carried ugly loading.” Read our full review here.
RAW: “Raw is above all else a gut twisting work of classic body horror.” Read the full review here.
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE: “A superbly crafted, white-knuckle chamber piece.” Read the full review here.
PERSONAL SHOPPER: “A moody, occasionally frustrating, often brilliant study in isolation, grief and disenfranchisement.” Read the full review here.
THE NEXT 20: THE FINEST HOURS; TONI ERDMANN; WAR ON EVERYONE; SULLY; FUKUSHIMA MON AMOUR; BLOOD FATHER; THE WITCH; DEADPOOL; PETE’S DRAGON; HELL OR HIGH WATER; SWISS ARMY MAN; GARY NUMAN: ANDROID IN LA LA LAND; THE SHALLOWS; DON’T BREATHE; KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS; ZOOTOPIA; FREE FIRE; THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE; ARRIVAL; TONIGHT SHE COMES.