Matt Rooney, Film Editor: Paterson
A tale of everyday people and their everyday compassion, in a year such as 2016, is just what the doctor ordered. A good friend of mine made an excellent point to this end upon coming out of this movie: “the thing I always hated about films about writers is that we’re expected to believe that the guy is always somehow an amazing talent”. This is exactly why Paterson worked so well: as a poet, our eponymous protagonist is fine; he’s not the next William Blake but, really, who is? It is a breath of fresh air to find a story so honest, so down to earth and so tender-hearted.
Adam Driver also gives a career-best performance here which, as a self-proclaimed Adam Driver fanboy, was very satisfying to see. I also fell head over heels for Golshifteh Farahani in her role as Laura, who gave a perfectly pitched supporting performance.
Beautifully written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, this ponderous, beautiful and endlessly endearing gem had me walking with a furrowed brow for a week afterwards. It had an effect on me which was unrivalled by anything else I watched this year which has earned it a place on this list.
Maddie Haynes, Film Editor: Anomalisa
If you saw Anomolisa this year, directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson have ensured that you won’t easily forget it. Michael sees everyone the same: his wife, son, and everyone he’s ever met all look like the same pale, middle-aged man. That is, until he meets Lisa.
This instant classic is a far cry from the stop-motion features audiences are more familiar with; don’t watch this film expecting Wallace and Gromit. Kaufman and Johnson’s vision is an honest and often deeply disturbing look into the human condition, and David Thewlis’s dulcet tones as Michael add to the sense of a mundane yet nightmarish world of sameness.
This is the film of 2016 because in Anomolisa, Kaufman and Johnson have achieved something genuinely remarkable. Visually, the animation is stunning, and moments of intimacy between Michael and Lisa are so beautifully choreographed that it’s very easy to forget that there are no humans on screen.
While perhaps not the best watch for the festive season (unless you want to be woken nightmares instead of Santa on Christmas eve), Anomolisa is shocking in its truthful exploration of adult life in the modern world.
Nico Marrone: The Witch
Undoubtedly there were some absolutely fantastic films released throughout 2016, but there was one film in particular that remained in my mind and kept me up at night. That film was The Witch.
Robert Eggers’ directorial debut film, a supernatural tale of a puritanical family exiled from their community in 17th century New England, was a tour-de-force in slow-burning horror that also served as a thought-provoking critique on religion and standard coming-of-age narratives. It feels odd that my film of the year should once again be a horror film but The Witch -like It Follows last year- did something truly different, which in a genre as stale as horror is not a statement made lightly.
While some criticised The Witch for its slow and methodical nature, I felt it was a breath of fresh air that helped distinguished it from the jump-scare filled, shock-a-minute drivel that has been made recently. Moreover, it made truly uncomfortable viewing as one watches as the family the slowly descend into madness with the back-drop of newly colonised America emphasising the sense of isolation and desperation; all of which was beautifully captured by Eggers’ excellent direction and cinematography. I still can’t look at goats in the same way.
Imogen Herd: American Honey
The film which stood out most to me from what has been released throughout 2016 was without question: American Honey by director Andrea Arnold. A future cult classic, starring the notorious Shia LaBeouf, effortlessly portrays the new ‘Americana’ culture and youth’s cutting their teeth on themes much bigger than themselves.
A film which flourishes upon its own stark contradictions which plague the tragic lead of Star (Sasha Lane), the reason as to why the film is so effective in triggering the audience’s empathy is due to its raw honesty throughout. The story is rough, hard hitting and effective, especially in its cinematography, which is able to achieve a high sense of iridescence.
The acting throughout has a coarse quality which allows for an honest portrayal of the human condition. However, the quality of the film which makes it stand alone is the sense of chaos and anarchy which it uses to paint the age old coming-of-age tale. It is a breath of fresh air to the genre, unique in its tackling of the loss of innocence; a haunting film, leaving the audience with more questions than answers.
Lila Pitcher: The Accountant
Let’s be honest, choosing a favourite film is a tough one: 2016 has been a great year depicting Arrivals of Strange Nocturnal Beasts, but when it comes down to a number one, personal experience usually makes the difference. Which film made me feel drunk on cinematic emotions? The Accountant.
To be honest, it was not a film that I had planned to love, perhaps mainly because of my then lack of appreciation for Ben Affleck; however, he unexpectedly changed my mind, which is perhaps one of the essential factors for a preferred film. Affleck gives a surprisingly good performance as the genius autistic accountant Christian Wolff who manages to survive whilst working for the most notorious criminals.
Whether it was the uncertainty of genres – where thriller meets drama, comedy and even a dot of romance- or the amazing Radiohead soundtrack, I was completely taken over. The plot twists kept me on my toes, whilst more importantly, introducing a powerful hero who is also autistic felt like something that should have been done earlier. A hero, who, whilst having all these extraordinary skills, seems more beautifully human than any other.
Beth Adams: Sing Street
With the end of 2016 in sight Sing Street, an uplifting teen drama set in Dublin, is definitely what we all need. As the age old tale of starting a band to get girls, Sing Street beautifully captures that obsessive teen love of music.
It’s funny, uplifting, has a cracking eighties soundtrack and I think speaks to the melancholy teen inside all of us. The phrase teen spirit is terribly overused but it certainly applies here, this film made me nostalgic for a decade I didn’t even live through.
The band trying to shoot a new wave music video with nothing but some crappy costumes and ill-advised eyeliner, was a particular highlight for me. It’s gorgeously romantic and although there is a general sense of make believe throughout, a fair amount of grit comes along with the glamour. At the end of the day though, I’m not that difficult to please, just give me a sweet romance with a few good tunes and I’m happy.
Lydia Blythe: I am Bolt
This is the story behind the greatest track and field athlete of all time, Usain Bolt. Seeking to complete the triple at the Rio Olympic Games in the summer of 2016, this film gives audiences a unique insight into what it takes to be an iconic athlete, and how his legacy will serve to shape the future of worldwide athletics.
Bolt discusses his motivations, pastimes and training: all of which prove him to be the regular, fun-loving, party animal he is known to be along with such a wonderful talent. This film undoubtedly aims to inspire the future generations of athletes to follow in his footsteps. His tenacity, determination and strong will have set him apart from others since competing as a junior, with his lively character captured perfectly on camera.
Without a doubt, this is the best feel good and inspirational film of 2016. Bolt is someone so easily relatable, and there is no way better to depict the life of such a revolutionary sporting icon. He may not take to the track again, however his rise and unprecedented achievement will never be forgotten.
Andrew Black: Arrival
No film has made me feel more optimistic about the future, in light of the prophetically apocalyptic year we’ve had, than Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. A film rooted in the very best qualities of humanity, Arrival follows expert linguist Louise (Amy Adams) as she attempts to communicate with extra-terrestrials for the first time in human history.
However, the film puts more of an emphasis on the dangers of not communicating amongst ourselves, as petty differences and secret-keeping nearly cause catastrophe by the film’s climax. Jeremy Renner provides some welcome levity as Louise’s physicist side-kick and both act with natural and believable chemistry.
In addition, the film’s cinematography is nothing short of breath-taking to provide a sense of how truly epic an alien landing would feel, as well as building tension naturally on a smooth, upward curve. Although by no means perfect, Arrival is not afraid to convey a humanitarian message in a hostile time in human history, while still being a film which audiences can simply sit and enjoy.
Image: Jeremy Yap