Three weeks into the new year and 2016 already feels like a distant memory of an entirely different world. This probably has more to do with the latest events in “good God, what the fuck, this is real life now?!” history, rather than the quickening passage of time. But nevertheless, the longer I wait to make my annual list of bullshit, the less likely I am to even remember or care as we get further away. So without further ado, here are some things I enjoyed consuming last year, as well fifteen of my most successful (self designated, obvs) photos from my personal work.
Truth be told, I barely saw any of the end of the year contenders after suffering from some major year end burnout. I’ll get around to Jackie, Silence, Elle, and LaLa Land someday probably, but no point in holding things up any further.
- Green Room - For the pure visceral experience a movie can provide, nothing really did it better for me this year. Add in the timely subject matter of fighting for your life against psycho white supremacists, and I think this may be a new resounding call to arms for our increasingly turbulent times.
- The Lobster - Like a fantastic George Saunders story brought to life. Dark, hilarious, and completely on point. Longer than necessary perhaps, but I loved it.
- Arrival - There has yet to be a year when Denis Villeneuve directs a film that it hasn’t landed on my list. Last year was no different. Bring on Blade Runner 2049.
- The Neon Demon - Fully formed “cult” movies, straight out of the womb, are a rarity. So thank God for Nicolas Winding Refn and his crazy compulsion to appease his own artistic desires, and flip the bird to anyone who’s not on board. Critics and audiences be damned! Keep that crazy train rollin’
- The Handmaiden - Great, twisting, lush filmmaking. Typically over-long like most S. Korean films, but still worth it. Plus, I swear its got a very specific reference to the scene in Predator when Schwarz and Weathers grasp hands ("Dillon, you son of a bitch") and flex biceps, except in this scenario its during a ridiculous sex scene and makes me laugh just thinking about it.
- Tickled - My favorite doc from last year. What starts as a look into the world of competitive tickling competitions, turns into a crazy rabbit hole as the filmmakers try to get to the bottom of a fully engrossing mystery. Don’t read any more about it. So much better to go in blind. Hat tip to using Shane Carruth’s fantastic score from Upstream Color too.
- Hell or High Water - Solid modern western. Watching the spineless banker at the end try and wiggle out of the climactic final moments was oh so satisfying.
- Moonlight - Lotta hype around this one, and it certainly was deserved on many fronts. But as with any product of the hype machine, it might end up hurting it in the end. And thats a shame, cause it really is a strong little film.
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Just a goddamn fun time hanging with some Kiwis doing their crazy Kiwi things. And its got a whole lotta heart that really hit me unexpectedly.
- Louder Than Bombs - Even when he’s good, Jesse Eisenberg can be so hard to take. In any event, he’s just a part of an ensemble here. The bummer of a plot description is about a father and his sons dealing with their grief after the matriarch of the family dies. But its a much broader film than that logline would have you believe. Fantastically edited, and a truly novelistic film.
- Sing Street - I didn’t see La La Land partially because I can’t stand musicals, but I made an exception for this cause it was on Netflix, and I’m glad I did. More of a love letter to 80s music and just an all around good time.
- American Honey - If you can stand Shia Labeouf and largely plotless movies with plenty of improvised dialogue that run nearly 3 hours, I got your next favorite movie right here. That all sounds like an insult, but I really did enjoy this. Beautifully shot, and appears to balance right on the line between documentary and fiction.
- Childhood of a Leader - This has one of the most abrasive scores for a film I have ever heard (by Scott Walker), and I really dug it for its hutzpah in that department. Add in some great cinematography and a pretty timely subject matter, and I will for sure be keeping an eye on what Brady Corbet directs next.
- Voyage of Time (Ultra-Widescreen, Non-Narration Version) - Feel pretty grateful I got to see this for the week it was screening, as a 40 minute Terrance Malick “documentary” about the evolution of the universe with NO poetic musings or narration is unquestionably the best way to see a Terrance Malick film. Complete visual storytelling with heavy shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey and his own Tree of Life.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane - Why anyone was the least bit surprised by the ending of this, when it has fucking “Cloverfield” right there in the title is beyond me. But that issue aside, still a good time with a terrific John Goodman performance.
Though I did have one or two documentaries in the main list, they get their own section here too cause there are always a handful of standouts that deserve mention.
1. OJ: Made in America - Excellent long-form filmmaking with a subject that just kept revealing deeper and deeper layers.
2. Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang - A broad yet still focused profile on the prolific artist as he tries to make his dream art project (the aforementioned Sky Ladder) a reality after two decades of failed attempts. Inspiring to say the least.
3. Weiner - What a fuckin shit show the filmmakers were lucky enough to have access to. A mesmerizing train wreck.