Full of ups and downs, 2016 has somehow managed to be an even bigger year than the last. Despite its fair share of sadness, including the tragic loss of some of our most iconic childhood characters, 2016 in film has been a pretty good year on this end. I had the fantastic opportunity to intern with not one, but two of my favourite publications in the film world, and got to tick off my bucket list some amazing firsts, like getting published in my favourite magazine! I also managed the seemingly impossible task of seeing 50 movies in cinemas this year, plus countless ones at home, and I definitely feel like I’ve grown in my love and knowledge of film.
I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings me in the movie world, what knowledge I’ll learn and what fantastic films we’ll all get to experience, but before we look forward, let’s take a look back at the films of 2016. There were certainly a lot of busts, some movies that didn’t meet expectations or just sucked in general, but tonight’s not about them. It’s about the brilliant, the ones that moved us, made us laugh, and got us extremely excited. To celebrate the year that was, here’s my top five favourite films of 2016:
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople
This film has made pretty much all of my top five lists this year, and that’s because my love for this film is endless. I notoriously don’t like Australian film, but New Zealand film is one of my new favourite loves, and all because of one man: Taika Waititi. His entire back catalogue is brilliant, but this one film, about foster kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) and his Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) going bush to avoid being caught by bumbling child services officer Paula, is his best work, equal parts funny and touching. Sam Neill is utterly enjoyable as he navigates his way around firecracker Dennison, and their experiences with crazy bush men and haikus will keep you laughing for hours. But the little moments, as Ricky recalls his days as a foster kid and Hec mourns his lost family, are just as brilliant, testing its talented cast and drawing you in all the more. It’s an absolute joy of a film (plus I saw it on my birthday, so bonus points), and one of the highlights of my year.
2. Captain America: Civil War
As a massive Marvel fan, the build up to this movie for me was so intense: not only was it the Russo Brothers’ return to the studio after the smash hit of Winter Soldier, but it also heralded the debut of Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, and the first ever Spider-Man (AKA my favourite superhero) appearance in the MCU. It had a lot of expectations to match, and it did that and more. Not only did we get brilliant characters, who all got the perfect amount of screen time, and the best Spider-Man performance to date by the wonderful Tom Holland, but we also got a tense political and family drama in Steve Rogers’ battles with Tony Stark. As they warred over which path to take the Avengers next, lines were drawn and crossed, but the most important thing this movie did? It made you wonder how the MCU will ever be the same.
3. Kubo and the Two Strings
It astounds and saddens me how few people saw this film, but then again, I got to see it, and for that I am grateful. In a year of reboots, sequels and adaptations, Kubo was fresh and original, a beautifully simple tale about a young boy with mystical powers who sets off to find his father’s suit of armour and finish his ancient quest. Laika Studio’s stunning stop-motion animation added another layer to this already magical fairy-tale, as Kubo meets new friends and old enemies on his road through his family’s history, but despite its animation, Kubo is more than just a kid’s movie. It’s actually haunting, full of ghosts and the supernatural, and this blend of the pure and the scary added depth to the film’s opposing forces. With an unforgettable shamisen soundtrack, Kubo is wondrous, each moment deserving to be savoured.
Oh, man. Arrival was absolutely breathtaking. Amy Adams is brilliantly flawed as Dr Louise Banks, a linguist who is recruited by the military to create a new language after 12 alien vessels land across the Earth. Denis Villeneuve is a visionary, armed with a powerful script that explores human interaction and our severe distrust of each other, and from this he gives us stunning visuals, stark glass and cloudy ink, creating life right before our very eyes in the most poetic way. And yet the highlight of the film is still Amy Adams; her Louise is strong but scared, smart but selfish, and it is her ultimate sacrifice and act of courage that gives the film its heartbreaking twist, leaving the audience thinking about the powerful story for days after. Blade Runner 2049 could be in no better hands then Villeneuve’s.
5. La La Land
My final film in theatres for 2016, La La Land was hyped for me to the point of near disbelief – the craziest thing is that it still exceeded expectations. As we follow aspiring actress Mia and jazz pianist Sebastian as they fall in love and try to find their place in Hollywood, we are treated to a beautiful blend of tradition and modernity. La La Land is a love letter to the Golden Age of Cinema, but still manages to be its own thing; it has the glitz and glamour of the city and the time, but is still grounded, achingly real and sweet, and as Mia and Sebastian fall for each other we fall for them too, flaws and all. More than this, La La Land music is infectious and sublime, full of inspiring showstoppers and sombre themes, and its masterful cinematography and direction gives Hollywood a special magical glow, an iridescent purple shine at night and a bubbly sunshine during the day, which makes the audience dream of being there, no matter the struggles. Here’s to the ones that dream; foolish as they may seem.
And that’s a wrap on 2016! Here’s to 2017; may it gift us even better movies, characters and stories!
Photos taken from IMDb.com: