Best Films of 2016: Part Two
Concluding our cinematic features for the year of 2016 is the second part of our countdown of the best films the past twelve months have had to offer, and whilst the likes of Tarantino, Star Wars and Marvel haven’t made the top ten, it just reasserts the power and strength of cinema in the modern era. Beginning our final foray into the best of 2016 therefore, we start with…
Not only does Ryan Coogler’s Creed gain kudos for putting Goodison Park, the home of my beloved Everton, on the big screen, it also deserves a rafter of plaudits for reinvigorating the Rocky franchise, resurrecting it from the dead-end many had thought it had drove itself into and proving that with enough solid elements holding it together, such a series can continue to thrive. With Stallone arguably giving the best performance of his career, alongside a superb physical performance from Michael B. Jordan, a continuing collaborator with Coogler, Creed is a thrilling masterclass in how to create a successful sports movie, one which boasts impressive cinematography and sets things up nicely for Coogler’s venture into the MCU with Black Panther, a film which of course also stars the magnetic screen presence of Jordan in a leading role.
9. The Revenant
As many predicted, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s visual masterclass The Revenant was indeed the movie which finally brought Oscar success for Leonard DiCaprio, and whilst perhaps in my own opinion the prestigious gong should have gone to Michael Fassbender instead, the reality is those Oscar lot just love a man to suffer before rewarding him, and boy does he. Whether it be being ripped to shreds by a bear, swimming in freezing water or eating a bison liver, a brave decision considering DiCaprio’s vegetarian ways, The Revenant takes delight in punishing poor old Leo, yet the movie really shines when admiring the simply stunning cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki who too walked away with a deserved Oscar win, one which made him the first person in history to win three consecutive Oscars for his respective cinematic craft. Not a bad way to enjoy Christmas I suppose.
8. The Big Short
Whilst there are those who are clever enough to dissect and understand the financial crisis of 2007/8, films like The Big Short act as the sort of gateway many of us cry out for when it comes to understanding an event so critically important yet so fundamentally confusing. With a top-end cast featuring the likes of Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Steve Carell holding it together, Adam McKay’s comedic take on the unfolding drama works perfectly, creating a film which not only requires the audience’s utmost attention throughout but one which is clever enough to not underestimate its’ subject matter by resorting to cheesy basil exposition. How does the film manage to bypass this? By not only breaking the third wall but knocking it down completely, with guest stars such as Margot Robbie turning up and doing the explanations for us, something of which seems strange on first watch but suitably fits the feel of the film on repeat viewings, an easy feat when considering the superb nature of the movie.
7. The Neon Demon
As with High-Rise, Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is undoubtedly a movie viewers will either really love or really hate. Whilst Refn has some done some superb work in the past with the likes of Bronson and Drive, films like Only God Forgives prove that every once and a while even the most gifted of film-makers can make a real stinker. Fortunately for Refn, The Neon Demon is most definitely a film which sides on all the good things the great Dane can accomplish, with its’ simply marvellous cinematography rivalling that of the most accomplished movie-makers, whilst the Cliff Martinez soundtrack continues the solid collaboration between director and composer which began on Drive. Part Lynchian fairytale, part exploitation horror, The Neon Demon is an engrossing and overly arty B-Movie which puts to shame all the weaknesses of his past and poorer attempts to create such. Not only does god forgive Mr. Refn, but so does your trusted audience.
6. The Witch
“She’s a witch!”. Trying to avoid thinking up that particular famous Monty Python scene when it comes to anything resembling witchcraft is a particularly hard feat, yet Robert Eggers’ unbelievably tense cinematic debut The Witch is a movie which creeps you out from beginning to end, destroying any hopes of a break from its’ melancholic appeal by being just too darn intense and oppressive from the outset. Set in the remote outset of a secluded 17th century New England settlement, one camped right next to the freakiest looking forest of all time, The Witch is a superb and intelligent piece of horror film-making, one which doesn’t rely on cheap cattle-prodding as its’ main selling point and instead one which focuses on the oppressive state of madness and the ambiguity of an age in which witchcraft was a notion taken very, very seriously. If you want the full effect, turn the ligths off and listen with headphones. It’s a guaranteed creeper.
5. Son of Saul
Cinematic interpretations of one of history’s most appalling acts are always a tough watch and whilst Son of Saul adheres to such a notion, this Hungarian Oscar winner is perhaps one of, if not, the definitive Holocaust movie, one which completely disregards the Hollywood based nature of a film like Schindler’s List and instead goes for a much grittier approach, one which boasts some outstanding cinematic qualities and a standout performance from its’ leading man. With its’ sheer harrowing and shocking fundamental nature not exactly being the most enjoyable cinematic experience, Son of Saul rewards the audience in a range of different ways, not only by giving some sort of cinematic justice to the terrible events of the Holocaust, but also confirming the hype surrounding first-time director and actor double of László Nemes and Géza Röhrig respectively who between them leave the audience feeling numb and in awe of such a monumental and powerful depiction of the horrors of war.
4. Nocturnal Animals
Whilst director Tom Ford is perhaps best known for creating some lovely looking suits in the fashion industry, Nocturnal Animals continues the critical success achieved by Ford with his debut feature A Single Man with this dark, white-knuckle tale of revenge and hatred, one which features top-form performances by both Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal respectively and a movie which revels in its’ Kubrick-esque attention to detail. Some may say indulgent, I say beautiful, and with obvious nods to the likes of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick himself in terms of art direction, cinematography and narrative, one which features all the ambiguity and mystery of a film such as Mulholland Drive, Nocturnal Animals is one of those rare cases of going into a film knowing absolutely nothing about it only to be blown away completely come the end. Aside from an opening title sequence which is a rare obvious mis-step, Tom Ford’s second feature is a superb piece of drama and one which deserves all the awards recognition it can get, particularly for the performances from its’ leading actors.
Arriving during Oscar season at the beginning of the year, Lenny Abrahamson’s cinematic adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s critically acclaimed novel went on to receive rapturous plaudits from pretty much everyone, resulting in a deserved win for Brie Larson for Best Actress at the Academy Awards and more importantly, a place in Black Ribbon’s top three films of the year. Whilst Room begins in a melancholic and overtly dark manner, yet one which is necessary to the overarching narrative, the concluding half of the movie is an expertly managed portrayal of discovery and wonder. Featuring arguably one of the best performances from a a child actor ever, one which undoubtedly will see young Jacob Tremblay being a name to remember in the future, Abrahamson’s latest is an uplifting tale of the unbreakable bond between mother and son, even in the darkest of moments, resulting in Room fully deserving its’ place within the best the year has had to offer.
Along with Christopher Nolan, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has swiftly become one of the most interesting and reliable film-makers working out there today, and with Arrival, Villeneuve ventures into the realm of science fiction and pulls it off spectacularly, a particularly good omen when thinking ahead to the much anticipated Blade Runner 2049 in the coming year. Based on Ted Chiang’s short story, “Story of Your Life”, Arrival takes its’ ques from the best of sci-fi cinema, choosing to thrive on the understated rather than the spectacle and featuring a powerful leading performance from Amy Adams, an actress who has really taken 2016 by storm. With its’ heartbreaking narrative and time-bending twists, Villeneuve’s latest is a beautifully crafted gem, one which stays with you long after leaving the cinema and really emphasises its’ brilliance by being a film you simply have to keep coming back to.
And here we are at last. Who would have thought that after the widely panned bore/cringe-fest which was The Cobbler last year, director Tom McCarthy would have redeemed himself completely with his next cinematic outing, a film which bucked the trend at the Oscars by actually being the deserved winner of best picture and a film more than deserved of being top of the pile for the best films released this year. With an absolutely outstanding cast including the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton, all of whom could have potentially walked off with Academy Awards themselves, Spotlight tells the tale of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal and its’ subsequent exposure by The Boston Globe during the early years of the 21st century, and whilst the subject matter is fundamentally hard to examine on any platform, Spotlight manages to mix the winning formula of understatement and unrelenting drama in portraying a story so integral to recent history. With 2016 being such a stupendous year for cinema, picking the top spot may have been a unforgiving challenge, yet with Spotlight the choice was clear, resulting in a winner that concurs with those on the Academy Award board. Who’d thunk it?
Next Time: Looking Forward to 2017
So this time tomorrow, we here at Black Ribbon will be fully stocked up on coffee, energy drinks. those small cocktail sausages from Asda and perhaps the contraption that keeps Malcolm McDowell’s eyes open within A Clockwork Orange in a brave attempt to keep awake during the early hours to which the latest incarnation of the Oscar ceremony will no doubt take place unto. For now however, it is time to examine the last and perhaps most important category of the 88th Academy Awards; the Best Picture category, a category which features a wide range of brilliant cinematic achievements, all of which have shocked, thrilled and stunned audiences across the world over the course of the past cinematic year, ranging from the all-out action craziness of Mad Max: Fury Road to the understated drama of Spotlight, two completely different movies, but both exceeding in critical acclaim nonetheless with the former being the favourite film of last year for two of Black Ribbon’s leading contributors.
As for the bookies, The Revenant is all set to continue its’ success at the BAFTA’s and walk away with the prestigious award yet it may face stiff competition from The Big Short and Spotlight, the film I believe deserves to win. There is no doubt that The Revenant is an excellent piece of cinematic achievement but Spotlight is a film that arks back to the fundamentals of film, one that believes telling a story in a straightforward fashion with a superb ensemble cast on top form is the most organic way to achieve true drama. Much like Whiplash last year, Spotlight is a film nominated for best picture and one that I hope wins against all the odds. We shall see. As for those who may have been overlooked, Inside Out, although odds on to win Best Animated Feature, should have been part of the Best Picture nominations, whilst films such as Sicario, Macbeth, The Gift and Straight Outta Compton all would have been on my own personal Oscar list for their achievements but in the eyes of the “prestigious” Oscar voters (See Link Below) such films were not worthy of Oscar stardom. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the ceremony as much as we will, and for the last time until this time next year, here are the nominations;
Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
The Revenant – Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Spotlight – Tom McCarthy
The Big Short – Adam McKay
Room – Lenny Abrahamson
Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg
The Martian – Ridley Scott
Brooklyn – John Crowley
Within this penultimate examination into this years’ Oscar ceremony, with the annual event set to take place this Sunday evening and heading ever so early into the bright and early hours of Monday morning (Screw you time zones!) we finally come to the nominations for Best Director, a category currently filled with the winning shoes of one Alejandro González Iñárritu for his work on last years’ big winner Birdman. Once again Iñárritu is one of the five nominees for his work on The Revenant, a film which may indeed walk away with the top trio of awards in which it is nominated for with it standing a solid chance of winning Best Picture, Best Director and of course, Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio. Although Iñárritu may indeed carry on his success at the BAFTA’s and win at this years’ Oscar ceremony, being only the third director to win consecutive directorial awards after John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, there are of course four other nominations in the directorial category with Adam McKay for The Big Short, George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road, Lenny Abrahamson for Room and finally Tom McCarthy for Spotlight.
Inevitably, the odds are stacked highly in the favour of Iñárritu for The Revenant who is on course to make Oscar winning history, yet both Abrahamson and McCarthy shouldn’t be forgotten for their understated yet brilliant work on both of their respected films. As for those who may have been overlooked entirely, Denis Villeneuve should have had a look in for his brilliant work on the sublime Sicario whilst F. Gary Gray should have been rewarded for keeping control of the egoistic mayhem that must have ensued on the set of Straight Outta Compton. Looking further afield, maybe J.J. Abrams could have been praised for getting the Star Wars franchise back on track. I mean the decision to have no Jar Jar Binks in the latest entry deserves some recognition right? Right? Anyhow, here are the nominations:
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Next Time: BEST PICTURE!
Could this finally be the year. Howard Hughes in The Aviator. Sorry, Jamie Foxx deserves that this year. How about Billy Costigan in The Departed? I’m afraid not. But how about my roles in either Django Unchained or The Wolf of Wall Street? Once again, I’m afraid not Leonardo, you just aren’t good enough to deserve an Oscar. Fine. I’ll find a director who will put me through sheer hell and force me to cut open a horse and sleep inside it, proper Luke Skywalker style from The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, I’m sure this isn’t how the life of Leonard DiCaprio actually played out after countless times of Oscar betrayal but it does seem that his dedication to his role in The Revenant was that of a man giving all he possibly can in order to claim what has bypassed his clutches in the past. Everyone and their mum’s believes it is time for Leo to win his Oscar and if somehow such did fail to occur this year, I fully believe the Leo supporting masses would violently and swiftly burn the Dolby Theatre down to the ground with Leo being the sole survivor of such a terrible tragedy.
Extreme I know, but without even looking at the betting for this years’ Best Actor category, it is obvious that Leo is the firm favourite. In fact, it is such a safe bet I would recommend putting your life savings on it. Trust me, I know these things. If however you are not privy to the odd bet or two and believe that the Oscars will continue to starve DiCaprio of his glory, the other contenders for the award include Bryan Cranston for Trumbo, Matt Damon for The Martian, Michael Fassbender for the brilliant Steve Jobs and Eddie Redmayne for the not-so-brilliant The Danish Girl. As for those who may have been overlooked, Fassbender, if not for Steve Jobs, would have been nominated for his role as Macbeth in Justin Kurzel’s cold-blooded adaptation of the Shakespearean classic, whilst it was a shame Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t recognised for his eye-locking performance in The Hateful Eight, one which kept the film intriguing and captivating for its’ ridiculously over-long runtime. Also, what about Jacob Tremblay’s simply stunning performance in Room? Sure he’s only nine but Tatum O’Neal won an Oscar at the age of ten. One to ponder upon anyhow. Here are the nominations:
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Best Supporting Actor
Here we are once again… The 88th Academy Awards is upon us, swiftly bringing with it a rafter of talent, talent that has simmered and shone throughout a cinematic year in which bears have been fought, evil deeds exposed and Mexican drug-lords being dispatched quicker than you can whisper Sicario. Beginning Black Ribbon’s venture and exploration into the realms of Oscar Nomination goodness is the category of Best Supporting Actor, an award currently clutched onto by the majestic J.K Simmons for his electric portrayal of Terrence Fletcher in last years Whiplash, Black Ribbon’s favourite film of 2016. Aiming to steal the limelight from under Mr. Simmons’ shoes is a string of actors well accustomed to critical acclaim in the past with theatre legend Mark Rylance being nominated for his role in Steven Spielberg’s Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies, Christian Bale for Wall Street comedy-drama The Big Short, Tom Hardy for his role in the sublime The Revenant, and of course, Mark Ruffalo for the equally brilliant Spotlight. Oh yeah, and there’s Sylvester Stallone for Creed.
Looking at the bookies and by word of mouth on the movie grapevine, favourite this year for winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor lies on the shoulders of both Mr. Stallone for Creed and Mr. Rylance for Bridge of Spies, with both being successful at previous movie ceremonies; Stallone at the Golden Globes and Rylance at the BAFTA’s. As for those who may have been overlooked, both Benicio Del Toro for Sicario and Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation would have been potential winners for their roles in two superb films, whilst the fear of Oscar white-washing isn’t helped by the fact that the cast from Straight Outta Compton was completely ignored, particularly Jason Mitchell for his role as Eazy-E. It maybe just me, but the inclusion of any of these overlooked talents may have made this years’ ceremony a bit more thrilling. Anyway, here are the nominations:
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Sylvester Stallone – Creed
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight
Next Time: Best Supporting Actress!
“I Ain’t Afraid To Die Anymore. I’ve Done It Already…”
Within the space of just twelve months, director Alejandro G. Inarritu has swiftly become the toast of Hollywood, a man whose last film Birdman generously took home the best picture award at the Oscars as well as slowly but surely imprinting it’s own brilliance upon myself after an initial bout of skepticism and uncertainty. Continuing such critical success is The Revenant, Inarritu’s adaptation of Michael Punke’s novel of the same name which focuses on the real-life story of American frontiersman Hugh Glass and his quest for revenge. So after the success of Birdman last year, what on earth would you expect Inarritu to do in order to try and replicate such critical attention just one year on for his latest pet project? Keep to what you know and love of course, with the commanding presence of Inarritu being sent aid from the returning duo of cinematographer and two-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki as well as editor Stephen Mirrione, and it is this triplet that once again leads to success with each upping their game and becoming the sheer backbone of The Revenant, a film in which not only has a undeniable film-making sense of beauty but one that surely, surely, surely finally wins Mr. DiCaprio his long-awaited Oscar.
Although slightly stealing tactics originally from Hitchcock in Rope, Inarritu’s much acclaimed use of the seemingly one-take tactic of Birdman is ditched within The Revenant yet the Sergio Leone-esque desire to shove the camera right into the face of each and every actor that was prevalent within Birdman makes it’s way instead, with Inarritu choosing to place the viewer right into the heart of the danger and chaos that ensues throughout the many set pieces within the film. This particular way of filming is undeniably breathtaking and creates a sense of pain-staking realism on a entirely new level, resulting in being the first film in a long time to physically make me turn away and close my eyes from what our man DiCaprio has to endure in order to survive. Of his miraculous tale of sheer human endurance is the much talked about bear attack scene, a scene in which, although CGI designed, is without limits in showing the sheer brutality of such an attack. It’s a scene reminiscent of the velociraptor hunt within Jurassic Park but with an added R rating, and a scene which sets up the tone for the entire movie. It’s hard to watch, but beautiful nonetheless.
With twelve Oscar nods on its’ side already, The Revenant is undoubtedly a classic in the making. A dark, desperate revenge thriller that feels as claustrophobic as it does epic thanks to the sheer brilliant cinematography by Mr Lubezki, a man set to win yet another Oscar, whereby the breathtaking wilderness is gorgeously examined all within the backdrop of natural light, a time-consuming yet worthwhile tactic that has resulted in in The Revenant being a true cinematic experience, one that should most definitely be witnessed on the biggest screen possible. Understandably, all the talk has all been pointing towards the performances of both DiCaprio and Hardy, with the former literally going through hell in order to adhere to the realistic feel of his surroundings, and even though it is a performance of little speech, it is one of sheer brutality, one that brings with it a sense of sympathy for a man who so clearly wants to collect that prestigious academy award. Don’t let DiCaprio’s performance be the only thing you take from The Revenant however, it is a film made with exquisite skill and talent, a film that creates a world of dark, desperate despair and a film that, Hardy’s sometimes inaudible dialogue aside, is pretty much perfect. A excellent example of modern cinema.
Overall Score: 9/10
Looking Forward to 2016
Another year always brings with it a heightened sense of hype for the new array of movies that are set to be distributed across out screens over the course of the next twelve months, 52 weeks, so many days, etc. and it is no surprise to say that 2016 is set to be another significant time for the self-proclaimed cinema lovers throughout the country with distinct directorial returns, sequels upon sequels within respective universes and of course, the treasured independent low-key masterpieces that tend to spring up out of nowhere and make stars out of certain hidden newcomers. With this in mind, it’s time to examine those films that are set to grace our cinemas over the course of the year and highlight some of my personal favourites that are set to be released throughout 2016.
The opening few months of the year always brings with it the head-scratching, elongated and highly overrated ceremonies that attempt to tell anyone and everyone what indeed have been the finest works of cinema over the course of the past six months or so. Of course, coming from that of a film critic, I can hardly snot my nose at someone’s attempt to proclaim whether films are indeed any good or not, but sometimes it does get rather harrowing when facing the prospect of a whole bunch of Oscar contenders within the space of 8 weeks or so. So to begin our year of film, we are treated to a wide range of films inherently laced with Oscar-based catnip, particularly films such as Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl and David O. Russell’s Joy, both of which have already had substantial attention drawn in its’ general direction. Elsewhere in the Oscar calendar, we have The Revenant, the new film by Oscar winner Alejandro G. Inarritu and a film that has a substantial amount of buzz regarding the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio. Could it finally be the year he wins an Oscar?
Also upon the grapevine is the new Tarantino film, The Hateful Eight, a film so ambiguous in its’ nature that Tarantino himself has decided upon himself to release different versions of the film depending on the time and place you see it. Okay Quentin, we get it, you love the old fashioned way of cinema. Please stop becoming an embarrassment in the eyes of a massive fan. Cheers. Not only do the big hitters get the floor but we also have the indie-sensation, Room, which like its’ predecessors has also gained substantial awards buzz, as well as Creed, the latest installment in the Rocky series, a series in which many thought it had truly run its’ course with Rocky Balboa in 2006 yet continues to flourish under the guise of Fruitvale Station director, Ryan Coogler. Ending the first month of the year is the biographical drama Spotlight, Tom McCarthy’s take on the investigation into the widespread reports of child sex abuse cases in the area of Boston featuring a cast of A-Listers including Micheal Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams. Check it out.
Heading into February and March we have a wide range of distinct and different title heading our way including the new Coen Brothers picture Hail!Caesar! which, from the trailers, looks like a wacky, zany and completely ridiculous comedic venture similar to that of previous Coen pictures such as The Big Lebowski and Burn After Reading. Moving swiftly on we have the return of the mega-buck comic-based movies such as Deadpool and everyone’s favourite of the year already (NOT) Batman v Superman, directed by the self-proclaimed auteur of modern amazingness, Zak Snyder, the “genius” who brought us Sucker Punch and Man of Steel. Oh boy, how I am eagerly waiting. March also brings with it two of my own most anticipated pictures in the form of The Witch, a dark and delicious Gothic horror, and Anomalisa, a remarkable piece of animation which looks like something completely radical and is set to continue the rafter of success in the animation category over the past few years or so.
Into the halfway point of the year we have anticipated sequels in the form of X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day 2, and of course, Captain America: Civil War, the continuation of the Marvel universe in which our beloved Captain seemingly has a tiff with Tony Stark and half the Avengers team excluding, of course, Thor, Hulk, and erm anyone else with their own standalone films out soon. How we love the MCU. More importantly, we also have the release of Oliver Stone’s Snowden, a biographical drama based on, you guessed it, Edward Snowden, as well as Zowie Bowie’s (I mean Duncan Jones of course) Warcraft, maybe the first attempt at making a proper decent movie based on a popular video game. Heading into July, we have the return of Spock and Captain Kirk in Star Trek Beyond whilst we have Paul Feig’s “re-imagining” of Ghostbusters featuring (EEK) Melissa McCarthy who somehow has managed to become the hottest thing in comedy since evs, much to my own bemusement. Adding to the shock factor is the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur around the same time. I mean come on guys, why?
Finishing off the year, where there are so little confirmed movies at this moment in time, is a rafter of movies such as David Ayer’s much anticipated Suicide Squad in August, Patient Zero in September featuring the Eleventh Doctor himself, Matt Smith, whilst October and November bring with it Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the newest incarnation of the Harry Potter universe. Finishing off the year in style is the spin-off Star Wars pic, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, directed by Godzilla’s own, Gareth Edwards, whilst Macbeth’s trio of Fassbender, Cotillard and director Justin Kurzel reunite for the hugely anticipated live-action take on Assassins Creed. Surely not two good video game adaptations in the space of a year? 2016, you are spoiling us already. So all in all, a pretty fab year in film is upon us and we should all be rather excited. I am for sure, but the real question is, are you?