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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‘Little Sister’ review – From an unconventional premise, an unexpected masterpiece.

If there’s one thing you can count on your kids to do, that’s rebel. And what better way is there to rebel against your ultra-liberal, atheist parents than to run away and become a nun (especially when those parents wished you to grow up as a lesbian Satanist)? Set against the backdrop of a pretty unconventional American family, Little Sister follows its protagonist’s return to her family home for the first time since she ran away, and the seven days she spends there to dig her family out of the metaphorical dirt. Directed, written and produced by Zach Clark, this film gives the homecoming cliché its own wacky spin, balancing glee and gloom as brilliantly as it works the dissonance of the premise into the story.
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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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‘Arrival’ review – A sci-fi masterpiece has arrived.

Language is the cornerstone of our civilization.

So begins the book written by Dr. Louise Banks, the protagonist of the latest film from Denis Villenueve, who has been making his mark felt in the world of cinema with a string of thought-provoking films including Prisoners, Sicario and Enemy. Arrival is based on a short novel by Ted Chiang, titled ‘Story of your Life’, which seems a more appropriate name for this all-encompassing film than the uninspired ‘Arrival’, which seems to suggest little more than an invasion. Taking on heavy themes of bridging languages, colonisation and questions that hit the core of our existence and our perceptions of reality, this latest child of the science fiction genre carries them confidently and with the seriousness they deserve, all the while having us hooked to a plot that gets more interesting with each passing second.
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‘Hell or High Water’ review – A perfect Western for these imperfect times.

The reason why movies that came to be known as the ‘old west’ genre came to be so popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s was the tense, dangerous atmosphere which elevated a simple story of people pitted against each other by circumstance or desire. In Hell or High Water, David Mackenzie tells such a simple story of two brothers and a cop on the hunt, their motivations and tenacity made to resound in our minds through the bleak environment and the discomforting tension pouring out of every scene. Embracing the formidable setting and the sepia palette that comes with it, it is an exercise in restraint, never flinching in the face of the terror it creates, and not allowing you the use of more than the edge of your seat.
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