2016 hasn’t been all bad. Yeah Brexit happened, our Transatlantic cousins voted for *him* and lots (and lots) of famous people left us, but beyond the signs of the Apocalypse there were a few cinematic silver linings to keep us entertained.
So here it is, the run-down of my top five favourites of 2016 with a few honourable mentions thrown in for good measure.
Close, but no cigar: Captain Fantastic, Eye in the Sky, Nocturnal Animals, I, Daniel Blake, Queen of Katwe and Zootropolis.
Hunt for The Wilderpeople
Let’s start with a funny one. Taiki Waititi’s Hunt for The Wilderpeople is a quirky riot as Sam Neil and newcomer Julian Dennison take us an a run-about through the New Zealand bush.
Silly, strange and random, Waititi’s addictively spirited spectacular manages to charm your socks off whilst landing the laughs on a regular basis by doing stupid stuff. It wears its over-sized heart on its torn sleeves; chuckles will arrive regularly in what is 2016’s funniest outing.
The Jungle Book
I think everyone and their Grandmas felt a little sceptical when it was announced John Favreau was to re-make this Disney classic in the increasingly popular ‘live-action’ format, but we need not have feared.
Although describing this heavily CGI-ed beauty as ‘live-action’ seems a bit of a stretch, you’ve got to give it to Favreau: he knocked it out of the studio-built jungle. Capturing enough of the youthful spirit of the original and merging it together with a new-age dose of awe-inspiring visuals (and a nicely orchestrated dark edge), the new Jungle Book is a treat for the eyes, ears and soul.
Other than a questionable cameo from a Scarlett Johansson voiced Scar, the revamped music, a star-making turn from lead Neel Sethi as Mowgli and some great casting (Bill Murray as Baloo and Idris Elba as Shere Khan, in particular) made this the most enjoyable cinema experience I’ve had all year.
It’s a love story, but not as you’d imagine it. Set in 80s Dublin to a backdrop of economic decline, music man John Carney twists the ol’ cliché of ‘boy meets girl, boy starts a band’ shtick with a large dosage of Irish charm and some top-notch original music.
As we’re given a lesson in 80s pop, the increasingly impressive boy band ‘Sing Street’ deliver one catchy tune at a time in this lovable musical dramedy that’ll make your mouth sore through smiling.
Hell or High Water
It’s a western, it’s a thriller, it’s a drama. David MacKenzie’s slow-burning genre bender is one of the biggest surprises of 2016. Gorgeously shot, Hell or High Water is very moody, very Texan and just extremely well-made.
A tale of family, revenge and redemption, it sees a career best turn from the mild-mannered Chris Pine who emphatically bins the notion he’s just a pretty face as the Deep South’s version of Robin Hood.
If it weren’t for a certain film that rhymes with ‘doom’, this’d be my film of the year. Its closing moments – an uneasy stand-off between Pine’s character and a brooding Jeff Bridges – is a moment that’ll stay with me for a long time. Chilling.
Stab, stab, stab. That’s my heart, in pieces. Lenny Abrahamson’s magical Room is not just the best film of 2016, but one of the greatest flicks released this millennium.
The trailer suggests that it’s all about a Josef Fritzl situation, but it is much, much more. There’s tragedy and heartbreak in abundance, but there’s also a layer of hope, a smidgen of joy, and a growing, if slowly, sense of freedom shared between its two fantastic leads, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, as the brave mother-son combo.
I watched it twice and blubbered both times. Tremblay is astounding – one of the truly great child performances – and robbed of an Oscar nod, while Larson – an Oscar winner for the role – holds it all together.
It’s just a beauty; a masterpiece of its time. Have I sold it enough, yet? Go watch it… Now!