It’s that time for me once again to vomit forth my Favorites Films of the Year. This is my opinion, but I think all of the below films are worth your time. Oh, there are others for sure, but the tradition of a top 10 prevents me from including them. Tough choices had to be made but I went with my gut.
Don’t put too much importance on the order. I agonized way too long about ranks and then gave up when I realized it doesn’t matter. Next year I might take a stand against ranked lists but not this time. I’ll be posting my top 10 reasons why I would do that soon. In the meantime, check out these films:
10) Crimson Peak – Guillermo Del Toro, USA, 119 min.
Old school big gothic drama. Del Toro’s talents work very well for a genre like this and it shows.
9) Hateful Eight - Quentin Tarantino, USA, 167 min.
This film flummoxed me. I went to see the 70mm Roadshow, which was a huge epic ceremonial event with a program, overture, intermission, etc. But the film is such a simple chamber piece story that it felt out of place. The 70mm experience was great, and the dialog, characters and scenes are Tarantino at his best. But those two didn’t match and it threw me off.
It sounds like I was disappointed. Hardly. Taking a step back this film is a rollicking and unpredictably good time. Lots of cool dialog. Lots of blood. And lots and lots of great acting from all involved.
8) Wild Tales - Damián Szifrón, Argentina, 122 min.
This collection of short stories is wonderfully bold and cinematic. And because it was made by one director, the style and theme remain consistent throughout.
7) Room - Lenny Abrahamson, USA, 118 min.
The first half of this film is surprisingly emotional. And the second half is surprisingly tense. Those aren’t meant to be back-handed compliments. Just observations on how good the film actually is. Brie Larson is great in a very complicated role, but the real surprise is Jacob Tremblay as her son. Their relationship to each other and to those around them is very complex but they manage to bring the film down to earth by grounding it in real emotions. It was quite affecting.
6) Spotlight - Tom McCarthy, USA, 128 min.
This film is a procedural. And a good procedural needs to have a sense of urgency, a sense of discovery, a script that makes the mundanity of research seem exciting, and a goal that you care about. This film has all of those things, plus a very heartbreaking story, and a cast that invests in the material. It’s just a solid film that pretty much everything right.
5) Sicario - Denis Villeneuve, USA, 121 min.
One of the most intense films I’ve seen in a long time. The world this film portrays is brutal, sinister, untrustworthy and uncompromisingly bleak. Emily Blunt is amazingly understated in this as the FBI agent who joins an anti-drug task force. It becomes clear quickly that not all as it seems. What’s great about the whole thing is that the story isn’t really about her. She is a vehicle for the audience to see the real story. A confused, scared but resilient vehicle that doesn’t know nearly as much as she needs to. Villeneuve continues to surprise and impress.
4) It Follows - David Robert Mitchell, USA, 100 min.
What a great concept for a horror film! But even better than the concept is Mitchell’s unique direction. Very understated. Very confident and not in-your-face. He doesn’t spell thing out or throw things in your face. He just lets you see it slowly happen. And that’s a great style for this story. Not only that, but it contains some of the most terrifying and disturbing scenes in any movie in a long time. And the score! A vintage Carpenter-esque score is just the icing on the cake.
3) Kingsman: The Secret Service - Matthew Vaughn, USA, 129 min.
Matthew Vaughn continues to show everyone that he understands movies. He understands their history, their impact, and more importantly: what makes them great. He pushes all the right buttons in the audience, but in a way that you want them to be pushed. This making-of-a-secret-agent tale is an almost perfect crowd-pleasing action/comedy/drama. It knows its tropes so well that it uses them to coax the audience in and then twists them in surprising and fun ways.
2) The Lobster - Yorgos Lanthimos, USA, 118 min.
Lanthimos’s follow up to Dogtooth is filled with the same distorted reality and deadpan humor. This time the story is about a world where everyone has to be part of a couple. If they aren’t in a couple, they are given time at a resort to find their mate. If they don’t, they are turned into an animal. Why? Well, that’s not the point. What is the point is the commentary on love and relationships, and telling a bizarre and entertaining story in the process. I laughed a lot, gazed in amazement even more, and thought about that ending for long after I’ve seen it.
1) Anomalisa - Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman, USA, 90 min.
Charlie Kaufman has an amazing mind. He manages to be surreal, bizarre, and entertaining, all while examining real human emotions in unique ways. This is his latest fully stop-motion masterpiece. I don’t want to give away the plot, which is very simple, because as it unfolds you begin to appreciate how profound the ideas are. It’s very sad, complicated, and true. And it speaks volumes about relationships, love and loss. Experience it yourself, but be warned, you might not like what you learn about yourself.