Ethel & Earnest
A completley wonderful adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel about the lives of his parents. His beautiful illustrations are brought to life with tender care as we are taken through British life from the 1920s to the 1970s by his warm and, in his words “unremarkable” parents. Through this quiet, simple peek through the window of history we see the politics, war and social and domestic changes of the 20th Century but with an honesty and humour that is profoundly touching and personal. Thoroughly enchanting and guaranteed to make you weep into your tea.
I didn’t know anything about Dennis Villeneuve’s latest release except that I had enjoyed his previous film Sicario and that it was a sci-fi staring Amy Adams, which was pretty much enough for me to get excited about seeing it. If you haven’t yet seen it then avoid all spoilers and plots and seek it out as soon as possible. All I can really say is that Arrival is, among other things, about finding hope in humanity at a time when we need it the most. Despite its powerful themes, at heart, it’s a fairly low key and understated drama which only adds to the more awe inspiring elements of the production such as Johann Jóhannsson’s beautifully ethereal score and the jaw dropping cinematography. Come February, this is surely the film Amy Adams should finally win an Oscar for.
One of two to remain on the list since my Jan to June halfway point, I’ve since watched it again and I still think it’s joyous.
A perfectly poetic and quietly contemplative drama about human interaction and the nature of art, told in a way that could potentially be excruciatingly twee, yet I can’t decide if it’s Jim Jarmush’s direction or Adam Drivers performance or mostly likely the winning combo of both, but it is in fact subtle, compelling and extremely likeable.
I, Daniel Blake
Ken Loach’s powerful Palme d’Or winning film on social injustice and the nightmare of the UK benefits system. Sometimes unbearable but always captivating, with fantastic acting all round.
The VVitch: A New England Folktale
This dark and unsettling folk horror is the second choice from my halfway list to stay put.
The Childhood of a Leader
A rather flawed but exciting directorial debut from actor Brady Corbet about the early years of an imagined future European Dictator. The film evokes a strong sense of unease which lingered in me for days afterwards but now, months since I first saw the film, it is the amazing and unnerving discordant soundtrack from the masterful Scott Walker which continues to thrill. It’s said that Corbet insisted the soundtrack be mixed “5% louder” than the theatrical standard which gives it greater significance in the horrifying last act and puts it up there as probably my favourite soundtrack of the year.
I’m never sure about that funny January period where films are part of the last year’s Oscar race but released at the start of the year… anyway seeing as this was released in the UK in January 2016 and I left it off my midpoint list, I’m sticking it back here because there hasn’t been such a good ensemble cast all year and I still think it’s a brilliant film about journalism and justice and entirely deserved to win the Academy Award.
Train to Busan
Excellent Korean zombie horror.
Bridget Jones’s Baby
Look, of course it’s not a great piece of cinema but I enjoyed it so bloody much, and on two separate viewings I might add. After the awful mess that was Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, it was nice to wipe the slate clean with this; a funny, charming, proper British rom-com, and I’m not saying it’s waving any feminist flags particularly strongly but it’s always positive and not that often big mainstream films like this are directed, written by and starring women. I’m already looking forward to watching it again on bluray.
So it would seem on reflection, that the films which have struck a chord with me most are not the disappointing franchise explosions which we often look to when in desperate need for escapism, but this year I have craved the optimism in the small dramas which show that love and kindness and justice and art are not merely still present but that they are imperative and we must, if nothing else, value that.
Cinematic Stinker of the Year…
Still to see…
Films that would probably have made it to the list if I had gotten around to watching them instead of drowning in my ‘metropolitan liberal elite bubble’ tears by re-watching The West Wing for the millionth time:
Son of Saul
Embrace of the Serpent
Under the Shadow
Notes on Blindness