Pillow Shots’ Top Ten Best Films of 2016 plus a few more things worth mentioning.

hero_silence-2016

The Oscars are upon us which brings in the final nail in the coffin of the films of 2016, meaning all discussion of last years films are usually brought to a close and we look ahead to 2017 and see what is different. For the past few weeks I’ve been playing catch up with a lot of films last year had to offer for my own. Even though I’ve missed quite a few that I wish I could’ve seen namely “Paterson”, “Toni Erdmann”, “The Handmaiden”, “Hell or High Water”, “20th Century Women” and “Certain Women” among others, I figured I’ll see them all in their good time. So why lists? Well I guess they’re fun for one thing, but I know it’s difficult comparing one film to another, it’s hard saying one film is the best, and I’ve seen my share of great films this year, in face 2016 has been a fantastic year for films in general, it was hard narrowing down a top ten. So as you will see I didn’t stop with a top ten as I couldn’t leave out some gems that garnered my attention. So without further adieu, here are my top ten films plus ten more for good measure.

1. Silence: A special film in so many ways, this started as a passion project for director Martin Scorsese, something he’s been trying to get off the ground for almost 30 years. There were rumours when Scorsese would begin filming it, but countless delays almost made it seem like it would never see the light of day. Finally the time came where cameras would role on this masterpiece of filmmaking. The film tells the story of Jesuit Priests who travel to Japan to find their old mentor who, it is rumored committed the sin of renouncing his faith which is something unforgivable. Scorsese has battles with religion and spirituality before most prominently in “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “Kundun”. But the idea of faith, God, sin, and redemption has found its way in his less obvious films right from the very beginning with his first feature “Who’s That Knocking?” and onward to “Mean Streets”, and “Raging Bull”. “Silence” continues that ongoing struggle we see with him, it’s personal film making on an epic scale, something we see very little of these days. Scorsese has talked of film being like a religious experience for him, just listen to his countless discussions, very few filmmakers carry that passion in them. “Silence” didn’t garner the type of awards attention Scorsese has become accustomed to over the past few years now, instead the Academy chose to award a more straight forward less complex Christian fable with “Hacksaw Ridge” which is shallow by comparison. I believe “Silence” will be regarded as a classic in later years and ranked among the very best Scorsese has to offer.

2. The Lobster: A deadpan comedy directed by the eccentric Yorgos Lanthimos, this sets up a world I have never would have envisioned before. Sort of a post-apocalyptic society where all people must find a mate or else they are transformed into an animal of their choosing. Hilarious, dark, sad, strangely romantic, with an ending that leaves you wondering about the idea of love. A comic masterpiece.

3. A Monster Calls: Sometimes you just judge a film by counting the tears it leaves at the end. Last year “Room” did it, this year it was this wonderful film. So many great family films were made this year, but this was the best. A moving story of a child who’s mother is slowly dying. A great many family films have dealt with grief, but this one pulls no punches, I was a wreck by the end.

4. Love and Friendship: Whit Stillman’s adaption of Jane Austin is in my opinion, the best Jane Austin adaption I have ever seen. Funny, witty, and sophisticated, this is the type of escape film they used to make all the time when audiences hungered for such things. Kate Beckinsale is a wonder, she owns every scene she’s in.

5. Nocturnal Animals: Tom Ford’s wildly entertaining, darkly funny, and twisted tale of love, revenge, and art.

6. The Witch: A dark atmospheric horror folk tale, doesn’t rely on jump scare but rather that feeling of dread. Also a tale of a girl growing into womanhood and how scary that can be.

7. Moonlight: Small, poetic, intimate, and quiet look into a life of a young man growing up in a tough black neighbourhood and coming to terms with his sexuality. Barry Jenkins creates a cinematic sensory overload and it’s quietly moving.

8. Hail Caesar: The Coen Brothers’ latest is a comedy but the second most spiritual film made this year after “Silence”. Hearkening back to golden age Hollywood, the Coen Bros. turn away from nihilism to find something to believe in: the movies! This is their “Sullivan’s Travels”.

9. Knight of Cups: Terrence Malick will always be a man who will never be everyone’s cup of tea, but I am in love with his movies. Like David Lynch, Malick becomes more experimental as he grows older, if you can believe it creating an almost empty landscape for his characters to interact. The story is non-linear mostly told in voice-over, but feels personal, and intimate.

10. Manchester by the Sea: Powerful, long story of grief, and moving on in life. Despite all this, the film is full of warm humour, deep humanity, and understanding. A very feel good movie.

And the 10 more are….

11. Sunset Song

12. La La Land

13. 13th

14. Kubo and the Two Strings

15. The Invitation

16. Midnight Special

17. Arrival

18. Pete’s Dragon

19. The Nice Guys

20. Loving

Best Director:

Martin Scorsese: Silence

Barry Jenkins: Moonlight

Yorgos Lanthimos: The Lobster

J.A. Bayona: A Monster Calls

Tom Ford: Nocturnal Animals

Best Actor:

Denzel Washington: Fences

Colin Farrell: The Lobster

Ryan Gosling: The Nice Guys

Casey Affleck: Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield: Silence

Best Actress:

Kate Beckinsale: Love and Friendship

Sally Field: Hello My Name is Doris

Ruth Negga: Loving

Viola Davis: Fences

Taraji P. Henson: Hidden Figures

Best Supporting Actor:

Michael Shannon: Nocturnal Animals

Tom Bennett: Love and Friendship

Alden Ehrenreich: Hail Caesar

Lucas Hedges: Manchester by the Sea

John Carol Lynch: The Invitation

Best Supporting Actress

Naomi Harris: Moonlight

Rachel Weiz: The Lobster

Michelle Williams: Manchester by the Sea

Angeliki Papoulia: The Lobster

Sigourney Weaver: A Monster Calls

Best Screenplay

The Lobster

Love and Friendship

Manchester by the Sea

A Monster Calls

Hail Caesar

 

 

Things I Saw in January

moonlight2-01. Nocturnal Animals (2016): One of my favorite movies of 2016 to be sure, “Nocturnal Animals”, is a great, darkly funny film from director Tom Ford who hasn’t directed a film since 2009s “A Single Man”. Ford has wonderful look to this film which goes back and forth between the real story of a profoundly sad, empty artist (Amy Adams) who receives a manuscript from her writer ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). The other story that unfolds is what Adams is reading in the manuscript which is a southern gothic tale of revenge from a man who wants justice to the men who raped and murdered his wife and daughter. The story acts as a parallel to Adams’ story in a way as it recounts her unhappiness. The film, for the most part is wildly entertaining and original which great performances from everyone, even though I would say Michael Shannon walks away with the film as Southern Marshall who goes beyond the law, it’s weirdly wonderful and one of my favorite performances of the year. 4 stars out of 4

2. Moonlight (2016): A quiet, and riveting film and one that feels purely cinematic. This one stayed with me for a very long time after, not knowing what I thought of it, but thinking back at it, I came to the conclusion that it is a great film, beautiful and poetic. It tells a somewhat simple story following a young black kid through three stages of his life, from boyhood to manhood. We see basically three separate vignettes as he matures and the incidents which make him into the man he is. This is a film of wonderful self discovery as it deals with identity, finding out the type of person you are, and the idea of being lost and disillusioned. Writer/director Barry Jenkins does a masterful job establishing small intimate scenes with a wonderful cinematic flare. The fact that this film is getting awards attention seems sort of unprecedented, not many films this year can touch the type of artistry on display here. Truly a film that deserves the attention it’s getting. 4 stars out of 4

3. The Trouble with Harry (1955): Alfred Hitchcock’s darkly comic tale involving a group of small town eccentrics and their connection with a dead body that keeps popping up isn’t what I would call one of the master’s most essential films. Still this is a fascinatingly weird film that had me chuckling more than once in its complete grim comedy. In a way it hearkens back to Hitchcock’s early british films that had that same dry wit to it. The film is wonderful to look at, and Edmund Gwenn is a standout as a local hunter, still this is all much ado about nothing. 2 and a half stars out of 4

A Monster Calls (2016): For me 2016 has been a great year in movies, but there have been a lot of overlooked gems mostly in the films for children department. Most children’s films this year have dealt with ideas of orphans and coping with loss most prominently in films like “Pete’s Dragon” and “Kubo and the Two Strings”. “A Monster Calls” falls under this same category and had me bawling uncontrollably in its last act. It deals with a lonely young boy whose mother is dying slowly as he watches her. Throughout the film, he is full of anger, sadness, and loneliness, pretty much everything you feel when you are forced to watch a loved one dying. One evening an old tree comes to life in the form of a monster he tells the boy three stories that all relate to what he’s going through in some way or another, and in the end the boy must tell his story. There is so much about “A Monster Calls” that words so well, I’m not sure why it was so overlooked. A children’s film like this which is also a fantasy showed up nowhere in regular theatres where I am and only showed up in cheap theatres, yet this is the type of children’s film that should be getting some traction. If you look at 2016 and notice all the great family films that were overlooked, it’s a real shame. “A Monster Calls” is for me one of the best movies of 2016 and if you get a chance to see it, go see it! 4 stars out of 4

Fences (2016): Another film I’m catching up with based on the broadway play by August Wilson which garnered Tony awards to its stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Washington directs this film and basically follows the play verbatim, so much so that the playwright receives soul screenwriting credit. This is a purely emotional story of Washington who plays a working man in his fifties, disappointed with the way his life turned out after losing out to a promising career in baseball. His actions end up having dire effects on the people around him, namely his sons, and his wife (Davis). The film remains dialogue heavy but it sings coming out of all the actors, this probably rivals “Malcolm X” as Washington’s best screen performance yet, and he directs the film beautifully as a play adaption, it doesn’t feel closed in like some play to screen films do, he uses wide shots effectively, so we can breathe in the world of the story. The acting never seems to be over the top or theatrical, but more nuanced than you would expect. I hope for all of the awards for Washington and Davis, a real achievement. 3.5 stars out of 4

Split (2017): The latest of M. Night Shyamalan is a nice twisted horror thriller, with a tour de force performance by James Mcavoy to boot. Mcavoy plays a man with split personalities who kidnaps three young teenage girls, but it’s slowly revealed that his motives behind the kidnapping may not be what we expect. This is a nice thriller with unexpected results and good performances. Shyamalan gets a lot of flack for his stories, but he shows that he is a very good director when he wants to be. The ending seemed a little far-fetched and silly in some cases, as Shyamalan grasps for a supernatural twist, but it’s eerie enough the keep your interest, all in all a wonderful genre film that is sure to delight fans. 3 stars out of 4