10 Best Films of the Year
Arrival was exactly the movie we needed at exactly the right time. We have been offered so many dire, apocalyptic visions of alien contact, in the form of invasion, that it was… well, truly inspiring for director Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer to approach the concept from a place of hope. There’s a quiet, unassuming quality to Arrival that reassures the audience that even though it appears, at face value, to be frightening, there is ultimately nothing to fear. Amy Adams delivers a stellar performance that impresses without being showy.
- The Witch
The Witch‘s selling point is the mood. It’s a horror film, but in the classical sense. It’s as tense as they come. And the way writer/director Robert Eggers is able to layer everything together to create such a gorgeous film is damn fine filmmaking. If one aspect of the process didn’t work, it would have thrown everything else off. If one performance was out of place, if the cinematography didn’t quite work. But everything was on point.
- Hell or High Water
What’s great about Hell or High Water is that it doesn’t reinvent the Western. It sort of wanders through the first act unremarkably. But the deeper we get into Taylor Sheridan’s script, the more Ben Foster, a career-best Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges unfold the story, the more they pull you in. They build characters you really care about.
- Everybody Wants Some!!
It’s no secret Richard Linklater’s Dazed & Confused is my all time favourite film. There’s a brilliance to the film where nothing happens, and everything happens. Much like D&C, Everybody Wants Some!! is about the characters growing. There’s no hero’s arc. There’s no goal to accomplish. It’s just here are these guys in the first week of college. No one does character pieces like Linklater. And the cinematic world is better for it.
- The Nice Guys
I can’t pin down exactly what worked best with Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, but it’s a whole lot of everything. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was the delicious appetizer in his meta-sans-the-wink examination of comedy noir, while The Nice Guys was a fantastic main course. Black plays like a less bleak, not quite as a dark Coen Brother. He toys with your expectations of storytelling, of comedy, of mystery thrillers, and delivers some damn fine cinema.
- Captain America: Civil War
Civil War is as damn near a perfect superhero movie. We get the best aspects of the genre all rolled into one film. The modern era god myths. The political and social allegories. We get fantastic performances, a wonderful, intricatly crafted story. One thing the Marvel films struggled with early on was serving the universe, while still being a great film in their own right, but Civil War perfects that.
- Green Room
Jeremy Saulnier crafts beautiful, tense thrillers. Green Room is a beautiful bottle-episode thriller. He film’s an aesthetically pleasing film that locks its characters in a box with wasps and kicks that box. Every step of the way, Saulnier ups the ante, but it doesn’t feel over the top. The film goes precisely where it needs to go each and every time, and it’s anchored by great performances from Patrick Stewart and the late Anton Yelchin.
- Kubo & The Two Strings
The first thing you notice about Kubo & The Two Strings is how gods damn beautiful it looks. The major animation houses have a great technical appreciation of creating animation, but Kubo focuses on the art of it. Yet where Kubo excels is the amazing family story that’s told. A boy and his family. A son and his parents. Kubo is a glorious marriage of masterful storytelling and gorgeous animation-as-art.
Not to downplay Denzel’s directorial efforts, but this film belongs to the writer and actors (which, Denzel also is among, so he doesn’t escape praise-free). August Wilson adapted his own stage play for the film (though the screenplay was unfinished when he passed over 10 years ago, and was finished by Tony Kushner), and all of the adult cast members reprise their roles from the Tony winning Broadway revival. What we’re treated to is a powerful character study in Troy’s role as a father, a husband, an employee and a black man in 1950s Pittsburgh. Denzel delivers one of his career best performances, then Viola Davis walks on set and puts him to shame.
- Midnight Special
I’ll preface this by saying that there were certainly better films this year than writer/director Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special which could occupy this 10th spot. But I loved this film on a level that it didn’t feel right not including it in the top 10. And really, any of the honourable mentions below could also occupy this spot, but this is one I didn’t feel got a lot of love over the year, getting lost in the shuffle. Which is too bad because it truly is a remarkable film. Netflix gave us a great modern take on the kid-adventure flicks of the 80s with Stranger Things. We got that in the cinemas with Midnight Special. It’s a less whimsical look at E.T. or Flight of the Navigator. Not as dark as Stranger Things. But still a great small scale sci-fi flick with great performances from Joel Edgerton, Michael Shannon and the kid, Jaeden Lieberher.