Every 2016 film I watched in 2016 from my least favourite to my favourite, 140-131

140 – Room

OK, yes, I know, you’ve got it higher on your list, and yes there are some brilliant performances, but hear me out on this one…

The structure of Room is similar to Hunger in that it can be very clearly be divided into three parts, a long, almost still, beginning and ending, each representing an abstract amount of time and a short, frenetic, middle where every second seems essential. The beginning and end sections mirror each other and the middle defines their meaning. However, in Hunger you have Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham’s conversation, and in Room you get the least convincing escape in, well, ever. Every single beat of the escape relies on you believing in the possibility of something happening that the film has already established couldn’t happen. Most pertinently, the escape asks you to believe that a man this extremely controlling of his victims would concede control of the potentially most risky moment of his life to the very people under his control. It’s nonsense, and the rest of the film falls apart around it.

The most infuriating thing of all is that there is absolutely no need, dramatically, to show the escape. All we need to know is that the child escapes. If you started the film with the scene in which Jack jumps out of the pick-up truck you could establish the escape without having to justify it. The film would also freed to move away from a straight chronological narrative.

I know, I know, you don’t care. You loved it. That’s fine, of course.

Oh, and while you’re here, we may as well do…

139 – High-Rise

I always felt that Ballard’s novel was far more about how fiction works than how society functions. It pushes realism into places it doesn’t want to go, where it isn’t comfortable, exposing the limitations of the form as well as its (usually unexplored) potential. The idea of a ‘straight’ adaptation of what is essentially a game between the writer and reader is far more problematic just than putting events from the page onto the screen in the right order. Violence in the book can be played for laughs because both the writer and the reader are complicit in the understanding that what is described as ‘happening’ is improbable and ridiculous. When you transfer that vision to the screen, the scene portrayed moves perceptibly away from the anecdotal and toward the experienced. In short, it’s funny until you have to watch it.

138 – Being George Clooney

Documentary about film-dubbing. Reasonably interesting.

137 – Bastille Day / The Take

Everything about this film, the script, the plot, the twist, the pointless nudity, Richard Madden’s performance, is a bit shoddy. Everything except Idris Elba, who is immense, as always.

136 – Dragon Blade

Ever wanted to see John Cusack play a Roman general in a Jackie Chan film. OF COURSE you have. Here you go. OK, so this isn’t the greatest film ever made, by any stretch of the imagination, but on top of the Cusack as a mighty warrior bit you get Adrien Brody doing one of those deliciously over-the-top bad guy performances that you don’t get to see very often any more. Not quite Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or Tim Roth in Rob Roy, but getting there,

135 – The Assassin

I get it, it’s beautiful. Really beautiful. But bland as shit.

As an aside, I do find it interesting that the critics who love this film, and who say, “a masterpiece, but to truly appreciate it you have to read a bit of Chinese history, and it’s really only on the second viewing that the narrative falls in to place,” are the same people who claim to be, and are seemingly proud to be, totally flummoxed by the very simple plot of Batman vs Superman.

What?

I’m just saying.

134 – Victoria

While I salute the technical achievement of shooting a film in one continual shot. There isn’t a single problem with this two-hours-and-eighteen-minutes-long film that couldn’t be solved by editing that single shot into a series of shorter, snappier, scenes.

133 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows

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Yeah, it’s stupid, but you go in knowing that. They ruined Krang though, and there is no forgiving that.

132 – Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World

Surprisingly patchy documentary. The good bits are good.

131 – Alice Through the Looking Glass

Better than the first one because there is considerably less Johnny Depp in it. Not a classic but it ticks along.