With everything urban civilisation has been through this year, it seems as if real life has taken to the reel with major drama and movements popping up in news headlines like movie titles on a theatre marquee. Yet people are still flocking to the cinema like Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Bob Peck in a Jeep racing to safe lands in that iconic T-rex scene from Jurassic Park. If people are that desperate to take a break from reality, the film industry has to be doing something right, or maybe life is just really horrible – we choose the former.
Sift through 2016’s ocean of cinematic mediocrity and you have this year’s best films countable on one hand, listed here for your convenience and viewing pleasure. Sit back, press play, and be more than entertained.
La La Land
From the release of its dizzying teaser trailer to the final epilogue scene, director Damien Chazelle takes us back to the 1950s – a decade of singing, dancing, and big old timey jazz music in one of 2016’s most talked about film, La La Land. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling taking the lead in this whimsical ride, crooning and pirouetting their way around love, their dreams, and the City of Angels. With an infectious beat, a mesmerising score and an instantly hummable overture, Justin Hurwitz’s beautiful and timely compositions step in perfect harmony with the film’s up-tempo and lively setting. Be transported through a fantastical voyage of wishful nostalgia that will send even the most jaded of souls twirling in a ray of sheer bliss.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Animated movies have taken a great leap forward this year, with epic creations of talking animals, sequels to classics, and even an adult animated movie that came alive in 2016. But none can compare to the aesthetic finesse and heartfelt story of Travis Knight’s stop-motion masterpiece Kubo and the Two Strings. The thing about this film is that you hardly catch yourself marvelling about the masterful execution of the clay figures, which makes the seamless progression of this stop-motion adventure even more impressive. Coupled with magical and supernatural elements that will enthrall viewers of all ages, we’re definitely looking at an awards season contender right here.
2016 wasn’t short of stories that induced fear terror for many of us, and the horror film genre also lived up to its name. But while the latter group had its exceptional storytelling moments from The Love Witch to 10 Cloverfield Lane, perhaps none was as insidious and suspenseful as The Witch. In an era where stories about evil spirits have been replicated facetiously and tirelessly, director Robert Eggers delivers a fresh new take on the hysteria and anxieties of 17th century witch mania, having consulted pundits on the subject matter to ensure the integrity of the period. He seems to have nailed it right down to the language – which is why you probably also want to turn on the subtitles for this one. Best enjoyed in darkness (or bright daylight for you jittery, glass-hearted folks out there), this film will reinvigorate those suffering from The Exorcist-type movie fatigue, and perhaps even make you a little grateful for how our world is now – or not.
Another unconventional creation from the tresses of Korean director Park Chan Wook’s mind, The Handmaiden is one of the most beautiful movies made this year. Park once again delivers aesthetic brilliance meshed with his recognisable narrative idiosyncrasies in this 1930s pre-WWII thriller. But while this story isn’t as insane as the ones in the Vengeance trilogy (it is, by any standard, still pretty out there), he makes up for it with beautiful shots of a forgotten period and an acute tale that keeps the audience off their footing. A windy roadmap is charted in this story full of twists, in which this journey of love, crime, erotica, and aesthetic beauty come together to become one queer story.
Swiss Army Man
One of the most bizarre films to have come out of one of the weirdest year of humankind, Swiss Army Man is the most artsy fartsy movie of the year – literally. From the directors of DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” – yes, that music video – comes a tale with an odd premise: a marooned man named Hank (Paul Dano) finds a human corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) of a Swiss Army Knife variety and sets out to find his way back to civilisation while the audience find a poignant story about friendship in the oddest of circumstances. The film features the two actors for the most part of the movie, and the camaraderie and closeness are charmingly convincing. Thanks to Daniels’ direction, this movie is easily one of 2016’s best feel good, laugh hard film, but it is also more than just that, with a subtle but steady stream of the average man’s existential philosophy running deep into the plot. Coupled with its own fair share of plot twists, this is a show about castaways that will definitely be more enjoyable than the last five torturous seasons of Lost.