10 – Yi ju ding yi wan ju / Someone to Talk To
OK, fine, I’m starting my top ten with something obscure and that makes me a pretentious idiot. I’m not your mom. I’m not here to tell you that Anomalisa or The Assassin or Nocturnal Animals are great because all of them proper annoyed me for one reason or another. I’m my own man. I like what I like. If you don’t like it, stick it up your nose.
And yes, Someone To Talk To, the 649th most successful film at the UK box office in 2016, is well worth checking out. Chinese films tend to only get a wide UK release if they fit in the one or two genres that have already established a market (martial arts, wuxia) or are by directors that have a hit already, so we are hugely lucky in Manchester to have an Odeon with a firm commitment to Chinese cinema. It means we get to see things like this.
Someone to Talk To is a quiet, calm, reflection on marriage, divorce, and loneliness. The script and the camerawork both cleverly show that our inner turmoil is huge to us but nothing to the universe by letting things bubble up and then get swallowed by the world. It’s great. Check it out.
9 – The Edge of Seventeen
OK, I’m just going to put the trailer here, and then you can see how wrong you were not to see this film, and then you can do something about it. Don’t feel bad. Nobody is angry with you. Just watch the movie.
8 – Dangal
Same here. Sorry. I’ll go back to using words in a minute.
Dangal is a joy from beginning to end. The best sports film of the year by a mile, both in terms of enjoyment and technical skill – the wrestling scenes are superbly shot. Yes, we know what will happen at the end, but as it’s based on a true story that’s kind of a moot point anyway. Just because a film is a crowd pleaser, doesn’t mean it isn’t great.
7 – Hail, Caesar!
I know what you’re going to say. You weren’t convinced by the narrative pull, it was too bitty, too sketchy, it’s a minor Coen Brothers film, a curio, an oddity, it has its moments but it doesn’t work as a whole. Respectfully, I disagree. I think that Hail, Caesar! like The Big Lebowski before it, will show itself to be a far more tightly constructed film than appears on first viewing. Yes, it deviates, but oh my, those deviations are wonderful. Being angry with this film for being playful would be like being angry at a kitten for playing with a ball of wool. It would make you a monster.
6 – Miles Ahead
I think the main problem this film had with the critics (who generally liked it, but didn’t love it) was that as a society we have little concept of how a jazz song works anymore. It isn’t in our thought process. As a consequence, too many critics saw Miles Ahead as a biopic and got bogged down in the discrepancies between truth and fiction. But Miles Ahead is not a film about jazz, it is a jazz film. It plays like jazz. It sets up a theme, riffs around it, and then returns to the theme. What happens between the beginning and the end is not true to the life of Miles Davis but to the spirit of the life of Miles Davis. It is not about what you view, but what you see. There is no more point comparing Miles Ahead to other biopics of musicians than there is comparing a Miles Davis album to a Rolling Stones album. They are two different things, doing different things. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, or better or worse than the other. Analysed on its own terms, Miles Ahead is a classic.
5 – Arrival
I think this is everyone’s list, yes? A beautiful, bewitching science fiction movie that is more about family than the future.
4 – Your Name
In a truly brilliant year for animation, Your Name still managed to totally floor me. Makoto Shinkai is being talked about as a new Miyazaki, and while he says this is an ‘overestimation’ it is easy to see why people are so excited by his work.
Your Name is about two teenagers, a boy in Tokyo and a girl who lives in the countryside, who regularly swap bodies. From this Freaky Friday-like premise though, Makoto Shinkai weaves a beautiful, funny, smart, heartbreaking masterpiece. And the animation? Well, have a look at the trailer and see…
3 – Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Shit just got real.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople has colonised my brain like no other film this year. There are so many great lines, ideas, moments. I saw it twice at the cinema and have already watched it again on Netflix. I’ll watch it again soon. Then I’ll watch it again. And then I’ll boringly quote it at you, forever. I didn’t choose the skux life. the skux life chose me.
Taika Waititi is getting better and better. The best actor category at the Oscars should have two candidates – Sam Neill and Julian Dennison – nobody else this year has delivered a performance fit to the lace their boots. Everyone else in it should win awards too, for being totally awesome.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is majestical.
2 – Captain America: Civil War
Oh, man, the airport scene. The airport scene. The airport scene.
I saw this four times at the cinema. Too much? Not enough? Probably not enough. I absolutely loved this movie. The effort and the love that have gone into creating the MCU is phenomenal, and what separates Marvel from everyone else’s efforts at a shared universe is Marvel spend as much time establishing a superheroes personality as they do their powers. So, when a film like this gathers a dozen major characters together, their motives and actions are already largely established. The separation of the Avengers into Teams Cap and Iron Man are natural and logical. The fact that the film manages to make both sides the good guys is a masterstroke. You genuinely can pick a side. (Team Cap for me, obvs. Total obvs.)
And oh Jesus, that airport scene. Oh my.
1 – Moana
As the credits began, my daughter said, “Can I see this again?” and I said, “Yes. Yes we can.” The second time we watched it, as the credits began, my daughter said, “I think rabbit might like to see this.” I think rabbit would too. So we will have to go again. And then maybe again.
Moana is a bloody triumph. The soundtrack is incredible, the animation brilliant, the story a winner, and the performances perfect. If you haven’t seen it by now there is probably something seriously wrong with you. Something lacking. I’m not really sure if I can be bothered trying to convince you to see it. You are past help.
Not really. GO SEE THIS FILM IMMEDIATELY. Moana is the jewel on the crown of Disney’s near perfect 2016. Treat yourself. Go on. You deserve it.
Let’s end with a song, shall we?