By Morgan Cairns, Philip Clarke and Jonathan Lawrence
CALGARY — The year of 2016 is coming to an end, and while there have been some outstanding films this year, perhaps none compare to the thrill ride that was The Election. There arguably hasn’t been a film in recent history that has had such interesting dialogue. And that plot twist sure had everyone talking.
This year wasn’t unlike any other previous years in film; there were some truly great and original films, such as Manchester by the Sea and Kubo and the Two Strings. Yet, we continued to see a disturbing trend of rehashed films, unnecessary sequels, and generally poorly made films: Zoolander 2, Independence Day: Resurgence, Gods of Egypt.
It would be nice to say that wholly original and well-made films are what keep the movie industry alive, but we know that films like Batman v. Superman have to be made to keep the dollars rolling in. So, all we can do is learn to filter the good films from the bad. It’s always a challenge, but the good ones are there.
The BeatRoute film contributors weigh in on what they think stood out in 2016. (JL)
If there was ever only going to be one way to top his hard-hitting, flawless film, Starred Up, David Mackenzie certainly did that with Hell or High Water. The film tells the story of the Howard brothers, Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who steal from every Texas Midlands Bank there is, and nowhere else, in the Lone Star State. Mackenzie faultlessly directs a brutal neo-noir tale of family ties and savage violence deep in the heartland of America. Tayler Sheridan (writer of Sicario) keeps the script tight and the sun-drenched characters at the heart of the proceedings. Pine eschews his pretty-boy good looks for a grounded and authentic performance. As his older brother, Foster once again proves that he’s one of the most criminally underrated actors working today. (PC)
Paterson often feels beautifully inspired without ever devolving into schmaltz. This is largely due to the genuine nature in which writer/director Jim Jarmusch presents his story. The titular character played by Adam Driver is so absolutely adorable that you can’t help but smile throughout his entire cinematic week on the job. Paterson diligently wakes up every single morning and has the exact same routine. He works on his poetry, eats breakfast, walks to the depot, and then drives the exact same route. All of this is before returning home to his quirky girlfriend, played by Golshifteh Farahani who’s the definitive poster-child for Hot Topic. The city of Paterson, New Jersey feels like its own character throughout. Jarmusch delivers a film that demands repeat viewings due to the immense mastery both in front of and behind the camera. (PC)
Often labeled as a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! is equal parts nostalgic ‘80s culture and college ritual. When Jake (Blake Jenner) joins the collegiate baseball team, he forms a bond with his friends that will certainly last longer than the weekend timeframe in which the film takes place. Linklater writes and directs a pitch-perfect cast of actors. Their chemistry is what makes the film great. The extended sequence of them all riding together in a ’72 Monte Carlo while singing “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang is a definite standout. The film runs at a breezy pace and never feels its length of just under two hours. It’s honest, relatable, hilarious, heartbreaking, and in typical Linklater fashion, has a killer soundtrack. (PC)
Michael Curtis Johnson’s debut film, Hunky Dory, is a CIFF standout for many reasons, but none more so than Tomas Pais’s brilliant performance as the film’s lead, Sidney. A washed-up former glam rocker and current dive-bar drag queen, Sidney, who was once content with his fluid, non-conforming identity, must suddenly re-evaluate his life when his young son George (Edouard Holdener) is suddenly put in his care. Sidney is one of the most enigmatic and interesting characters that film has seen in a very long time, and even the most seasoned actors would have trouble doing the role justice. That said, Pais does so with ease in easily the best performance of the year, if not the decade. (MC)
Ryan Reynold’s love child 11 years in the making is rude, crude and absolutely hilarious, even after repeated viewings. Mixing excellent fourth-wall breaking dialogue, meta-humor and equally amusing physical humour, Deadpool was one of 2016’s surprise hit comedies that played much better than its trailer did. The film also has some fantastic action scenes, and a great romantic story to boot. The film did suitably come out on Valentine’s Day after all. (JL)
In Harry Potter meets The Great Gatsby, Fantastic Beasts finds a socially awkward wizard (Eddie Redmayne) buddying up with native New Yorker Jacob Kowalski (with an endearing performance by Dan Fogler) as they attempt to return a magical creature back to its homeland of Arizona. Along the way, they’ll traverse a glitzy 1920s New York while avoiding Colin Farrell, who plays a detective attempting to thwart their efforts– a wizard detective, of course. It’s certainly darker than the previous series from which it is spun off from, but it’s a welcome change in tone. (JL)
It’s no secret that director Shane Black loves offbeat dialogue and buddy-cop films, notably 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, yet the snappy back-and-forths between the two detectives played by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in this noir-influenced comedy caper seem much more natural and less whimsy for whimsy’s sake than the aforementioned cult film.
This is a good thing because The Nice Guys is both funny and intriguing. Crowe and Gosling get to show their comedic side, and the film takes the viewer through a ‘70s-influenced Los Angeles – full of debauchery as one would expect. The film’s breakout star, however, might be young Australian actress Angourie Rice, who plays Gosling’s audacious teenage daughter. She may just be a kid, but it’s a joy to watch her hold her own with the nice guys’ tough guy language. (JL)AB, Alberta, Deadpool, Everybody Wants Some!!, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, films in 2016, Hell or High Water, Hunky Dory, Paterson, The Nice Guys, year in film