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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‘The Lobster’ review – The most inventive film in years

In Season 2 of Friends, I remember Phoebe making an analogy of lobsters to describe the relationship between Ross and Rachel, considering how the crustaceans mate for life. Whether that inspired Yorgos Lanthimos (an admitted fan) to choose the title for his debut film in the English language, I do not know, but there would be no better animal to describe the essence of The Lobster’s satire. Set in a future where mating has transcended love to become a legal and social necessity, Lanthimos’ latest is the most inventive take on modern society centered on courtship. A creative masterstroke carrying itself with deadpan hilarity, The Lobster isn’t for the faint-hearted or conventional moviegoer. Balancing off-kilter humour and dystopian horror in a masterful blend, this is a film the likes of which has never graced the screen before, and perhaps never will again. Continue reading

‘The End of the Tour’ review – Of admirer and the admired, and the delusions that drive us.

“I’m not so sure you want to be me.”

“I don’t.”

These are the words that we are left with at the end of End of the Tour, the most sombre road trip movie I can imagine shared by star and fan. It is the voice of David Foster Wallace (author of Infinite Jest) that helps transcend convention for this feature, and it is raw human condition that is under scrutiny. Filled from beginning to end with insights that hit you as hard as iced water on a chilly morning in Illinois, the movie is immaculately scripted and questions the pursuit of our idols, and the never-winning nature of human pursuit. One perhaps a little closer to home for readers of Wallace, this is one film that will easily slip under the radar for the majority of cinematic audiences, but will prove that much more effective for those who are familiar with the man. As Dave Lipsky says early on in the film, “reading you is another way of meeting you”; where the film succeeds is in its intended incomprehension of Wallace through the eyes of a Rolling Stone interviewer who in a matter of a month has become perhaps one of his biggest fans. Continue reading

‘Ex Machina’ review – A masterful work of cerebral sci-fi, the best of the year so far

There is a subgenre of sci-fi that the masses are unaccustomed to, one that includes in its ranks Moon, Primer and 2001: A Space Odyssey; one that contemplates and meditates in the ideas that exists within. Last year, we found perfect execution of this in Under the Skin, and this year, it’s Ex Machina. Alex Garland (screenplay for Sunshine and Dredd) in his directorial debut has crafted a pensive, tense film that makes all the right turns and is centered on a myth since the days of Frankenstein: to create Artificial Intelligence. Instead of resorting to a clichéd AI plot, Ex Machina is incredibly clever and manipulative of its audience through its questions on the extent of consciousness. This is a most engaging science fiction fare that manages to captivate with excellent performances, minimalistic imagery and displays a level of intelligence that is absolute pleasure, making it the best of the year so far. Continue reading

Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance – A veracious walk through existence and art

Where I come from, Kerala in India, there is a folk theatre form called ‘Theyyam’ which has performers dancing out the tales of mythology to the varying beat of the drum, and that is what struck me first about the use of the jazz beat to which the actors dance in and out of character. Birdman was a movie I had been waiting for the entire second half of last year, but was rewarded only recently. After two hours of the most intricately powerful drama, and gathering my thoughts about the same, I can confidently say that Alejandro Inarritu’s latest is one to stand the test of time, with the volumes it has to speak to the world at large. Pregnant with its thought-manure on popularity, existence and art itself, the film descends into a river of the meta, with references thrown all over the place in a none too messy manner, all the while not getting ahead of itself. If the intention of cinema is to send out a message, this is the one where it succeeded.
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