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 La Land’ review – Here’s to the ones who dream

What makes a great song, a great film or, for that matter, any great work of art? Damien Chazelle’s answer to that question is that great art is anything done by a person who is passionate about it. His latest film La La Land is then a testament to great art, combining the passionate performances of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling with the equally passionate filmmaking by Chazelle in a story that brings two characters, equally passionate in their own arts, into each other’s lives. While being a refreshing revival of the grandiose Hollywood musical, La La Land also turns out to have the biggest heart of any film in a long time. And in this year when most of the world seems to be taking a step back for the worse, isn’t an escape of optimism something we could all use?
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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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‘Doctor Strange’ review – Marvel can only go so strange.

At the time we meet them, the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are all connected by a thread of similarities: they are all battling their own inner demons, facing problems with their personal relationships, played by the best talent that Hollywood can muster and communicate solely through jokes and openers to exposition. After the premise, however, the filmmakers are allowed to experiment and be creative with their stories – as long as the essential ingredients of an infinity stone, references to other Marvel films, and villains exasperated enough with our reality to open portals for other worlds to take over, are not missed out in the process. Doctor Strange is the nth film in the franchise (Where n is twice the number of years since Iron Man came out. Well, almost.) for which an end looks nowhere near,  which tells the story of a doctor who learns to forget everything he knows, as he embarks on a journey of endless metaphysical possibilities. Armed with an extremely intriguing premise, an exceptional cast and amazing visuals, this is a film that hits all the notes required of the franchise in its race to that last portal battle, while also trying some new things along the way.
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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

‘Goodnight Mommy’ review – The creepiest experience of the year

There’s something about twins that makes our hair stand on end and generally give us the chills, and it’s for that same reason that they have remained staples of the horror genre for ages. There’s something innately unnatural about biological copies, something that may be seated in our confusion in telling them apart, which guarantees the creep factor with mere stares. Goodnight Mommy, or more appropriately Ich Seh Ich Seh (original German title) utilizes this and much more to take us on a psychological ride that unnerves the viewer at every moment. Similar to The Babadook from last year, this is a film that plays games with emotional connections and exploits real human bonds with creative fortitude. Continue reading