From the get go, I'll be clear that it was a small struggle to pick the number one movie this year. All three were fairly equal and only the experience pushed one above another. Unlike last year where Whiplash would never be toppled, this year was tougher to choose.
All three films in my opinion are five star films and should be watched and hopefully you will be inclined to watch them if you haven't already based on the post.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Heard of it? Don't worry about it but you missed the best comedy of 2016.
A tale about a troubled boy sent to the outback with a foster family, he quickly tries to get himself sent back to the orphanage but a series of events leads him and his new father figure into the wilderness and into the hearts of their homeland. They are explorers, fugitives, celebrities and legends to everyone else but to us they are simply two people looking for peace and quiet and acceptance with each other.
Made and filmed in New Zealand, the director, Taika Wahiti, is responsible in part for the success of 'Flight of the Conchords' and his last directorial effort 'What we do in the Shadows' was a vampiric spoof success. So much so that his next project is helming the new Thor movie which has been described as a interplanetary road buddy film with the Norse God and Hulk. Can't wait for that.
Back to the wilderness however.
This film is sweet as hell. You find the young lad (played by newcomer Julian Dennison) charming and likeable straight away but as the movie nears its end, you notice how perfect his performance is which is subtle and OTT at the same time. For this to come out of someone so young can only be described as natural talent. Whether he continues this journey or becomes a one hit wonder remains to be seen.
A film that came to mind whilst watching this was 'Son of Rambow' which was an inventive indie spirited film involving young actors with a sweet syrupy centre. If you saw that film, you should LOVE this one.
In a nutshell - if you don't laugh or smile during this, you need some severe film education pronto.
Also known as...
The role that finally got Leo the Oscar.
Also known as
The Runner Up.
Although Leo got the statue he always wanted, he doesn't get the award that mattered...mine. But he came so close. The Revenant not only features a tremendous cast at the peak of their abilities performing in harsh conditions, it's a filmmaking masterpiece that will be deconstructed in film study classes for decades. Editing, cinematography, music, design, production. They are all used to their full potential to create a world and to make us believe that these characters are actually there. Some of that is simply because they were there. A lot of crew and even cast were unsettled by the locations used for The Revenant and I'd assume most stayed because of who they were working for.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is behind such works as Birdman, Babel and 21 Grams but I first saw his talent back in 2000 with Amores Perros. His skills were clear to see and his ability to match clever camera set ups, long continuous shots with camera trickery in locations that wouldn't look out of place in wintery Westeros is mesmerising. I felt cold just watching it. At least with Birdman, the countless long scenes could be redone in a warm sound stage but there were no safety nets on the side of a mountain.
Enough about technical, what about story. It's pretty simply really. It's a classic tale of retribution. Avenging a death. Righting a wrong. The plot isn't rocket science, it's about the journey physically, mentally but also spiritually that Leonardo DiCaprio's character takes to give him the strength to make right on his family and his people. It's hard to say if Leo got the Oscar for simply this role or for all the times he's missed out in the past. The same was said for Martin Scorsese who finally won a statue for The Departed but should have won many times over before that and arguably not for the one he did win it for. DiCaprio's is more ambiguous and his role in this film was commended for his dedication to the cause and work rate perhaps more than his actual ability to emote. Which is a bit harsh as he actually does a great job in his character's despair. To say that he won Best Actor because he ate a raw liver on screen sounds laughable but based on the past decisions of Oscar voters in the past, sadly not too far a stretch.
In a nutshell - Arguably more style than substance but the style is beyond comprehension and the substance isn't all that bad either.
The Hateful Eight
A January release tops the list for the FOURTH year in a row. It was also the first film I saw of 2016.
A simple trading post in rural America post Civil War is the backdrop for nearly 3 hours of backstabbery, revenge, mystery, grudges and suspicion amongst multiple violent and aggressive parties who are forced to spend their evening together due to a treacherous blizzard. Sound like a play? Then read on...
The plot of its development is almost as interesting as the film itself. After Django Unchained, director Quentin Tarantino planned Hateful Eight as his next project but the entire script was leaked online and Quentin swore that he would not produce the film after such a blatant and personal attack. However soon after, an idea was hatched to perform the film as a stripped down play using well known actors and have them simply act out the dialogue on stage. The night was met with lavish praise and soon after, the film was announced to be back on course with nearly all of the actors who came to read for the stage version.
The film ended up with a cast including Tarantino veterans, Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and a slew of character actors (Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh). There is also the odd cameo that can be quite distracting but I won't spoil that for those who haven't seen it.
So why is it my film of the year? Well I give some credit to a variable that doesn't even invoke the film. Where I saw it. I saw Hateful Eight at the Odeon Liverpool in the gallery. For those not in the know, the gallery is an premium experience where you get a great seating area (over 18's only) with unlimited popcorn, drinks, toilets and a seating lounge. Not to mention a bar. It was also the first film in a few years where I went at a tremendously late hour. And it all just clicked into place. The screen was well behaved, the facilities top notch and the film capped it all off. But I think that the situation helps the film which is why cinema is the place to go over home viewing if you have the time, which I don't normally. The rest of the credit lies in the film of course. I can't say I'm a massive fan of Tarantino's last releases (Django and Inglorious Basterds) that is not to say I dislike them but they didn't make me itch to see them again soon). That streak ended with Hateful Eight. I'm a fan of films that are stripped down and use dialogue rather than force a plot. Although this has a basic plot, the real fun is how the characters interact whilst being confined to a small space and learning how their objectives are contrary to the others. Tarantino has basically done this film before with Reservoir Dogs but on a budget, a group of criminals and low lifes, confined to a space, learning truths and dealing justice. It's simply a western rather than modern jewel thieves.
It would be curious to see if viewers who aren't fans of Quentin, end up liking this film but I doubt it. He can sometimes be his own worst enemy such as being unable to trim his running times (see:Judd Apatow) and sometimes he can concentrate more on music than plot (See:Dark Knight Rises) but on the latter, he struck gold in its composer Ennio Morricone. The master of the western score agreed to produce the music for Hateful Eight and it's another reason to fall in love with the movie. The music is hauntingly epic. He has had a hand in other Tarantino films before but not on this scale in a official capacity.
Fans of theatre should give this a shot despite their opinion of its director as it is basically a play with bells on. Fans of Tarantino will have already seen it and will have their own opinions. Fans of this annual list should check it out to see if I'm right and be sure to tell me if you do.
2013 - Silver Linings Playbook
2014 - Wolf of Wall Street
2015 - Whiplash
2016 - The Hateful Eight
5* Hateful Eight
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Captain America : Civil War
Swiss Army Man
Eye in the Sky
Eddie the Eagle
10 Cloverfield L
Hell or High Water
The Big Short
3* Lights Out
Hannibal Takes Edinburgh
Florence Foster Jenkins
where to invade next
Secret life of pets
X men Apocalypse
2* batman vs superman
The Finest Hours
London has fallen
Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children
Purge : Election Year
Star Trek Beyond
How to be Single
Elvis and Nixon
Bad Neighbours 2
Our brand is crisis
The Greasy Strangler
1* Mechanic : Resurrection
Independence Day : Resurgence
Best TV of 2016 -
line of duty,
game of thrones,
people vs OJ,