Dienstag, 17. Januar 2017

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2016

 Hello there puny humans,
2016 was an weird year. Politically, for me personally and even movie wise. There were so many highly anticipated blockbusters. Star Wars was back, Independence Day, Marvel Studios, DC, Star Trek, The X-Men and even Harry Potter. Some of these even with two new entries to their franchise. Quite a few of them were huge hits, others were destroyed by critics and audiences alike, and in between we even got indie flicks about blood drinking models or corpses with a thirst for adventure. And while, having a life and all that, I was not able to watch every single movie that came out this year (I've missed gems like Sing Street, The Lobster or the afore mentioned The Neon Demon), I think I've covered all the big ones and a few more. So much so, that for the first time, I acquired a "Most Disappointing Films of 2016"-list this year (coming soon). Further more, this list is based on German release dates, meaning that some films from late 2015 could still make it, while other more recent films couldn't. It was tough to put this list together, but for this year I decided to look at what movie personally stuck with me the most. But now without further ado, here are my 10 favorite films of 2016:

The number ten spot on my list was hard-fought, but in the end, the Merc with a Mouth came out on top (his healing factor might have something to do with that). I initially missed this film in theaters and only caught up on it recently on DVD. Till then, the movie had already been hyped up so much that it annoyed me, and I went into full "I read Deadpool Comics before he was mainstream"-huffy-Hipster-Mode. But exactly that statement is one of the reasons I ended up enjoying this film so much. Deadpool is a spot-on adaptation of the comic-book character. It's bloody, it's vulgar, it's childish and just a whole lot of fun. Additionally, it was refreshing to see a small-scale superhero film for once. To all who couldn't get enough of Wade Wilson, I recommend to read Deadpool: Dracula's Gauntlet and Deadpool/Spider-Man Vol. 1 - Isn't it bromantic.

I usually don't watch a lot of animated movies. Even though they entertain me well enough, they usually fail to make a big impression. Zootopia however was different. On the one hand, it took heavy inspiration from the classic film-noir. Its story-line played out less like a kids movies and more like the mystery crime dramas I love so dearly. With the addition of the comedic buddy cop element, the whole thing felt like a film that Shane Black would write if someone forced him to go PG. And there were pop-culture references galore. It was fantastic. On the other hand, the film very openly dealt with the topic of discrimination, which I feel quite strongly about. While some accused the movie of being unfocused on that regard, I think it just holistically depicted the complexity of the topic. My future children will have to watch this!

When I first saw the trailer for this December release, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the film. I decided to skip this one for now, and catch it some time later. After a recommendation of a trusted friend however, I bought the ticket anyways, and I am so very glad that I did. Nocturnal Animals was a cunning thriller that was suspenseful through and through. It is a tale of love and revenge, two things we can all relate to, and it completely engages you. You can tell that writer-director Tom Ford is first and foremost a visual artist, as this is an incredible visually driven film. The way he weaves the two stories into each other is brilliant, and as the film progresses he even begins toying with the audience's expectations. With its recurring themes and images, the film is so carefully crafted that I felt I immediately had to watch it again to analyze it.

I mentioned earlier that I liked Zootopia because it felt a little bit like a Shane Black movie. Well, this one actually is a Shane Black movie. And a damn good one. The creator of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has done it again. This film is a neo-noir buddy cop movie that is absolutely hilarious. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling get to show off their great comedic chops, and as usual the dialogue, no, the whole film is written with a very special kind of humor. Wrapped inside of it, is a fun mystery that demands to be solved. Black has the gift to make his characters seem like everyday-people by letting them make mistakes and have their stupid moments. It is so beautifully random that it is almost impossible to foresee when a scene will be told straight or end in a goofy way. Therefore, it becomes incredibly unpredictable. The Nice Guys is one of those films where you quote your favorite scenes back and forth with your friends with whom you just left the theater. Absolutely Golden.

If the name Denis Villeneuve doesn't ring a bell by now, it should after this article! The french-canadian director has one hell of a resumé, with psychological thrillers like Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario under his belt. Arrival marks his first venture into sci-fi and shows that the guy can apperently do anything. The film is an incredibly intelligent science-fiction piece, that takes a more realistic approach than some others: The aliens do not land only in America (nor on its landmarks), they are not immediately aggressive and the first action of the government is not to draw weapons, but to find a way to comunicate with them. It is in a way a film about language and how it affects our way of thinking. Might sound boring to some, but I assure you it is the exact opposite. Villeneuve is a master of suspense and even catches you off guard with an unexpected plot twist. On top of that, the design and concept of the heptapods, their space-ships, and they're language is so imaginative that you want to explore it just as much as our main characters do. This film is smart. I love smart films.

Kicking off the Top Five is a film that I knew I would enjoy, but didn't know I would enjoy this much. 10 Cloverfield Lane sucked me in from minute one and gave me an absolute thrill ride. In its core, the premise is simple: After a car accident, a young women finds herself in a locked shelter/bunker with two men who claim the outside world was contaminated by a chemical attack. But as you read this you are already asking yourselves some intriguing questions, that the film attempts to answer. Sure, there are a lot of claustrophobic thrillers where a person doesn't quite know what's going on, but this film stands out because of a few simple things. Firstly, there is John Goodman's performance as Howard, the man in charge. He proves once and for all that he is one of the best character actors working today. He creeps you out and simultaneously evokes empathy. Few actors can do that. Secondly, Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Michelle is not your typical helpless protagonist you often see in such films. On the contrary, she is smart and inventive and thinks of possible solution before the audience does, rather than afterwards. Lastly, the whole film refrains from jump scares or cheap tricks, and instead masterfully combines the actors, the plot, the camera work and the music to create an atmosphere with a huge tension. And then at the very end, the film goes wild and almost enters a new genre, but viewer's who actually read the title of the film will know what's going on.

So many big budget blockbusters came out this year, but only Captain America: Civil War managed to make this list. Why? Because it is just f**king entertaining. The Russo brothers completely nailed this film. They properly adapted the themes of the original comic book story-line (incidentally being one of my favorites) for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They managed the difficult task of handling so many different iconic characters. They introduced a brand-new and spot-on Spider-Man. They crafted amazing action-pieces that just make you jump with joy. They even managed to put in a little plot twist in and create an unexpected third act. They were the perfect directing duo to make this film. My initial review had nothing but love for this film, and eight month later I still stand by every word. It is a dream-come-true for Marvel fans, and a nightmare for the Warner Bros.-executives in charge of the DC cinematic universe. I want to watch that airport scene again right now. Man, what a blast it was!

Just above Captain America, on the third spot on my list, sits yet another Captain. But the film at hand is not about caped vigilantes or spandex wearing super-humans. It is in fact an independent comedy-drama about a man who is forced to travel to the "outside world" with his kids, who he has so far raised in the woods under intensive physical and intellectual education. This movie is as funny as it is thought-provoking, as charming as it is surprising. It has a message, something to say about our society, but it doesn't paint things black and white. While other indie-flicks are just all about a bunch of hipsters and/or misfits sticking it to "The Man", this film dares to question its protagonist. Its big themes are obviously parenting and the down-sides of modern society, but what gets overlooked by many viewers and reviewers is the beautifully realistic, respectful and subtle way the film portrays manic-depression and how such a mental disorder affects a whole family. This film is wonderfully sweet and endlessly charming. I've said it before in my review. This film is, indeed, fantastic.

Yes. That "farting corpse movie" you heard about is my second favorite film of 2016. It is almost frustrating to try to talk to people about how good this film is. Most people are already put-off when I explain the plot to them. "A guy walks around with a dead body and uses it as a multi-functional tool? That can't be a proper movie. That is just too damn weird!" Of course that is weird. But it is glamorously weird! Swiss Army Man is unlike anything you have ever seen before, and while original doesn't always mean good, this film will certainly surprise you if you give it a chance. It is a heartfelt story about friendship, love, loneliness, social etiquette and life itself. In all its oddness, it is a very sincere movie. Radcliffe and Dano have great chemistry and sell every single scene their in, no matter if it is emotional or outrageous. Further more the two directors, the Daniels, have a unique visual voice and their film is highly stylized. Coming from a music-video background, they are quite experienced in saying things through images rather than words. Speaking of music, the Soundtrack of this movie is something quite special as well. It is used as an additional canal to bring the thoughts and feelings of the characters across. I praised it in my initial review and gave it a Cinemartian Movie Award. So when you put it all together, Swiss Army Man is truly one of a kind. I really wish more people would have checked it out.


1. "ROOM"
There was never any doubt! No movie was able to top the emotional response this film evoked in me when I watched it early this year. Having premiered as early as September 2015 in the US, this film deservingly took home an Academy Award for Best Actress at last years ceremony (and if you asked me, it could have gotten even a few more).
Its pre-Oscar buzz had intrigued me, and yet I had no idea what the move was about when I sat down and watched it. From then on, it made me curios, thrilled me, scared me, made me laugh, made me incredibly sad, and filled me with joy. It broke my heart and patched it up again all in the course of 118 Minutes. I was blown away. Completely. And after buying the DVD and having re-watched it multiple times, it still has that same effect. While the movie convinces on so many different levels, its greatest strength is that it feels very real and very honest. A brilliantly written, beautifully acted and perfectly executed roller coaster, this is the best film I've seen in 2016. As well as one of the best films I have seen, period.

There you have it. My Top Ten of 2016. As you might have noticed, not many big budget films made the cut and my Top Three solely consists of independent films. Maybe I am suffering from a little bit of blockbuster fatigue, or this was just an especially strong year for smaller films, who knows. But what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Are you a hardcore Potterhead that now hates me for not including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Or a Star Wars geek that would prefer Rogue One over any of these films?* Feel free to comment below and don't forget to spread the word by liking and sharing. And if you wonder what movies could end up on next year's list, you might want to check out my "Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2017".

Your Cinemartian

*FYI: I did enjoy those two films quite a lot, just like Doctor Strange, but the competition was too strong this year.

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