Sunday, 1 January 2017

by Paul & Patrick Gibbs

2016 is now behind us, and it was quite a year, fraught with political upheaval in both the U.K and the U.S.,  and assigned anthropomorphic status on social media as a serial killer of celebrities. But as film critics, we come to praise 2016, not to bury it. Choosing the best films of the year can be a daunting task, and it should be noted that we have not yet seen the Awards season's biggest wildcard, Martin Scorsese's Silence. But upon reviewing our individual picks, we discovered that our thoughts were on similar enough wavelengths that we chose to present a combine them into one lists. Here are our choices for the Best Films of 2016, starting with "Movie of the Year", followed by the top ten other films.

MOVIE OF THE YEAR:


LION

In a year of exceptional filmmaking, Lion stands out as a unforgettable piece of storytelling and as an experience you will carry with you. It speaks to the universal truth of
who we are versus who we were, and putting our best foot forward while daring to look back. It's a story about the tumultuous journey that is life, the people who are with us on that journey (even when we can't see them) and above all, about love.

Based on the true story of Saroo Brierly, Lion follow an impoverished five-year old Indian boy in 1986 who became separated from his family when he and his older brother were at a railway station late one night looking for work, became separated, and young Saroo boarded a train while looking for his brother. Falling asleep, Saroo awoke to find the train moving, and when it finally stopped he had no idea where he was and could find no one who spoke Hindi. The story of this remarkable boy's fight for survival, and later, the remarkable young man's quest to regain his past and to bring peace to the family who never knew what happened to him, is hard to even write about without being overcome with emotion. Director Garth Davis and his talented cast, led by Dev Patel, Rooney Mara Nicole Kidman and a truly magnificent performance by young Sunny Pawar, give us characters who real and understated in their execution but larger than life their hearts and ours. Lion has earned its place as our pick for movie of the year through  a perfect combination of skill, sincerity and love.

THE TOP TEN OF 2016


ARRIVAL

Cerebral and beautiful, director Denis Villenueve's adaptation of the short story The Story of Your Life is a masterpiece of true cinematic science fiction that sets a thoughtful new standard for the genre in years to come., and was the perfect antidote to our choice for the year' worst film,  Independence Day: Resurgence.




THE BFG

Steven Spielberg's 2016 offering may have been one of his bigger box office flops, but it was an enchanting and delightful tale highlighted by gorgeous production design and a soulful motion capture turn by Mark Rylance.




HACKSAW RIDGE

Leaving aside his personal scandals, few people can direct an old fashioned epic like Mel Gibson can, and Hacksaw Ridge has the sweeping scope of Braveheart and adds a certain directorial maturity with its tighter pacing, lack of soap opera plotting and its message of non-violence.




HIDDEN FIGURES

Smart, timely, moving and briskly entertaining, Theodore Melfi's telling of the story of the black women at NASA who calculated figures behind the Mercury spaceflights is one of the most important and inspiring films of the year. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae headline the film, long with an entertaining supporting turn from Kevin Costner.



THE JUNGLE BOOK

Director Jon Favreau remains true to the spirit of the Disney classic (literally the first film we ever saw in a theater) while providing one of the most eye-popping and thrilling blockbusters in years, with a voice cast and astonishing CGI that combined to create some of the year's most memorable performances.


KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

Daringly melancholy, beautifully uplifting ad visually marvelous, Kubo helped Laika animation mark it's ten year anniversary with an amazing achievement that managed to stand out even in the most remarkable year in recent memory for animated films.


LA LA LAND

Director Damien Chazelle never hits a false note or misses a step in this delightful salute to the great cinematic musicals and to all who dare to dream. The casting of two of Hollywood's most charming young stars in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone doesn't hurt, either.



A MONSTER CALLS

A good alternate title for this sweet and hauntingly thoughtful film from J.A. Bayona
would have been "There Will Be Tears." But the tears are never forced, and every ounce of emotion is thoroughly genuine. This wonderful film is a gift to lovers of fantasy and to those who dare to endure the real world.


ROGUE ONE

Director Gareth Edwards and his team delivered arguably the best Star Wars entry since The Empire Strikes Back, and certainly the boldest, and cemented what Kathleen Kennedy and the new Lucasfilm have been trying to tell everyone: relax, guys: we've got this.



ZOOTOPIA

By far the funniest movie of the year, Zootopia is both an audacious commentary on race relations and  clever take on the buddy cop formula. It's as sophisticated a film as Disney has ever delivered, but with plenty of fuzzy animals for the kids, and unforgettable and endearing characters (just don't call Officer Judy Hopps cute unless you're also a bunny.)


Honorable Mentions:

Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Fences, Finding Dory, The Founder, Florence Foster Jenkins, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail, Caesar! Hell or High Water, The Nice Guys, Manchester By The Sea, Moana, Sing Street, Sully, Star Trek Beyond


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