The Best of 2016 in Film – Dreamers, witches and nice guys.

It seems that the events of 2016 have birthed a new generation of cynics, and at the turn of the new year, all one can hear around are people crying over the horrible year that has passed. However, being one who prefers to count gifts over curses, I consider ourselves blessed to have received a stellar list of films, taking various different genres to stranger waters, and realizing the full potential of some others. Now while the movies that big franchises and studios have churned out were more in the form of financial investments than works of art, 2016 has witnessed masterpieces from global filmmakers and the independent categories. The following is the list of films that I think made the most of their run-time this year, and deserve to be seen by one and all. (This year, I’ve added suggestions of old movies similar in some way to each film on this list, so the doubtful ones can decide what to watch.)
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‘La Tortue Rouge’ review – The story of life woven in fairytale yarn

They say the best pictures need no words, and what are films but moving pictures? La Tortue Rouge (The Red Turtle) is the latest animated feature from Japanese giant Studio Ghibli, and has its signature themes of surreal journeys, humanity and ennui written all over it. In fact, it was the studio’s wonder child and animation maestro, Hayao Miyazaki who saw director Michael Dudok de Wit’s previous work in Father and Daughter and convinced the studio to take him on. Free of the restraints of language and dialogue, this Robinson Crusoe-esque tale of a man washed ashore on an island sings a universal song of isolation, dreams and the cycle of life.
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‘Zootopia’ review – A neo-noir social allegory for the times

A place where beings of different natures and ethnicities have evolved beyond violence and animal instincts on the surface, to coexist with irrational animosity working itself into every action. This describes both our world, and Zootopia, the utopian city where mammals of all species first joined hands in co-operation, and which proclaims with pride that ‘anyone can be anything’. So it isn’t really a surprise when the idealistic Lt. Judy Hopps finds herself out of her depth in the metropolis, yet met with as much speciesism as back in her hometown of Bunny Burrows, if only not more. Disney’s Zootopia, helmed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush, is a success in modern animation and world-building, filled with rich and relatable characters. On the surface, it is an entertaining and extremely hilarious neo-noir buddy cop tale, while just beneath lies a socio-political commentary which tackles the pertinent societal problems of today within fictional political situations that hit too close to home, employing the effective narrative allegory that George Orwell pioneered in Animal Farm.
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‘The Jungle Book’ review – A triumph in adaptation and animation

If you ask today’s movie-going audience about the biggest bane of Hollywood today, chances are the answers you get would resound those notorious three letters which religiously populate the screens of every film released since the advent of the blockbuster – CGI. So, it was only natural for people world over, myself included, to let out huge groans at the news that Jon Favreau’s ‘live action’ adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book would feature a child actor running around in front of a green screen, where the jungles of India, and the beasts it serves as home to, would be created. But the fact was, Favreau was a man with a plan, and as millions worldwide sat down, presumably with their kids, with the simple hope of hearing Bill Murray sing ‘The Bare Necessities’, they were treated to a computer-animated experience which should only have been possible in the distant future. Favreau’s take on the Disney classic offers up something that, even if you do not care about the original or think these films are solely for children, deserves to be seen on the big screen for the sheer magic of the world it creates.
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‘Anomalisa’ review – A heartbreaking existential masterpiece

Perhaps the only screenwriter working today whose work shines through above and beyond that of the director is Charlie Kaufman. Be it Being John Malkovich (directed by Spike Jonze) or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (directed by Michael Gondry), the distinctive feature of all these films is that they were conceived in the bizarrely introspective mind of Kaufman. Anomalisa, his second directorial outing (the first being the phenomenal Synecdoche, New York), while not failing the vision of this auteur, is also strangely the most human story put to screen in a long time. Done entirely in stop-motion animation, it allows us an intimate gateway into the mind of a lonesome narcissist who is perpetually depressed by the boring characters around him. Continue reading

The Nightmare Before Christmas – You are now inside the mind of Tim Burton.

Oh sweet, delicious and irresistible animation! Since this is Christmas time, I have decided to join in the holiday spirit and bring out some reviews right from under the mistletoe. And what better one to re-watch and talk about than Tim Burton’s spooky and sweet The Nightmare before Christmas? Despite what the title suggests, this tale that looks exactly as the inside of Burton’s mind would was directed by Henry Selick. This is not to say that Burton is just along for the ride, for this dual-holiday flick was his brainchild, one that he had been nursing ever since he started out of school. Completely filling out the extent of stop-motion, the tale of Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King creates a dreamland you can find yourself getting lost in. Deceivably a children’s movie, it does not escape enjoyment from the young and the old, a great musical that stands the test of time.
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