With the 2017 awards season in full swing, we at The Finer Cut will take one last, extremely opinionated, look back on the film of 2016 in the first annual Finer Cut Top 10. The criteria for entry is to have been released in a majority of territories between January 1st and December 31st, 2016. Most of these films have not been reviewed by The Finer Cut, however, scores will not be given in the small blurbs describing each film. This is a subjective List and I would love to see lists of your favourite films from the last year as well. Without further ado…
Deadpool was the comic book movie we needed. It moved away from the norms that have been so set in stone within superhero films from the last decade and was something very refreshing in a genre clouded by mediocrity. The Oscar-worthy screenplay, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, is where this film flies the highest. Both in-your-face and self-aware, the screenplay for this film is a brilliant expose to what the film industry has become and manages to balance that with the most raunchy, childish humour that everyone loves but is too proud to admit. Strikingly loyal to its source material and constantly entertaining, Deadpool was the surprise of the year.
Sherpa was a little-seen documentary detailing the lives of the Sherpa’s in Nepal who aid the adventurous climbers looking to summit Mt. Everest. Like many documentaries nowadays it looked to raise awareness for the unfair treatment that the Sherpa’s undergo, but Sherpa stands out due to its frenetic editing and jaw-dropping visuals. Littered through this film are expansive wide shots of Everest and the surrounding Himalayas that remind you of how desolate and dangerous that part of the world is. Sherpa is a great documentary that deserves your attention.
8. Sing Street
Few films have captured the ‘feel’ of the 80’s quite as well as Sing Street (at least according to my mother). This coming of age story tells the tale of a group of friends growing up in North Ireland in the mid-1980’s during a time of economic struggle where many of the Irish youth would cross the Great Britain to live in London. While on the surface this film is about a boy who starts a band to impress a girl, there are greater themes of youth and abandonment that populate the film and elevate it from being a simple coming-of-age story. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has seen this film loved it and if nothing else, agreed that the soundtrack was fantastic.
7. The Edge of Seventeen
Every year has its American high school film. The Edge of Seventeen is that for 2016. Featuring Hailee Steinfeld’s best performance since her turn in 2010’s True Grit, this is a raw and emotional film about the teenage experience. It’s a film that everyone can relate to and is full of snappy dialogue and relatable characters. Many comparisons have been made between this movie and the work of the late John Hughes and upon viewing, it’s easy to see why. The collection of pop music and wacky clothes that drape the character’s shoulders harken back to the days when Hughes was the king of this genre. Fans of John Hughes should absolutely give this film a look.
Dennis Villeneuve will be remembered as one of the great directors to come out of this decade. His films like Sicario and Prisoners were critically lauded for their complex stories and dark themes. Arrival follows the tradition set by Villeneuve’s previous work with this sci-fi epic that tales an alien invasion of earth. The film is slow and methodical, focussing primarily on the character played by Amy Adams as she attempts to decipher the strange, alien language. This film succeeds in a great deal due to its off-kilter story structure, which might leave you confused for most of the film but comes together excellently in the last act. Villeneuve is was tapped to direct the new Blade Runner, releasing this year, and Arrival is the perfect work to show that he is ready to take on such a classic property.
5. The Nice Guys
They don’t make them like this anymore. Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is a 70’s style action comedy featuring Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe that was left, for the most part, unseen in 2016. This is an exciting film full of intrigue, suspense, and class. It’s a movie that just makes you smile. I won’t say too much more, as its best to go into this film knowing as little as possible. Just know that you will not be disappointed.
4. The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge)
This French, studio Ghibli animation is possibly one of the single greatest examples of visual storytelling in that last decade. Completely void of any dialogue past simple grunts and yells, The Red Turtle tells a story of a man trapped on an island and the life he spends there. This is a very mature story that grabs your attention from the first frame and does not let go until the credits begin to roll. You fall in love with these characters who remain nameless for the entirety of the runtime, only to be heartbroken at the end because you cannot spend just one more minute with them. Perhaps that is the beauty of this film. The Animation is also gorgeous. Soft, hand-drawn figures line the screen and everything moves so fluidly from frame to frame. This is without a doubt the best animation of the year and is a film anyone interested in visual storytelling needs to see.
3. La La Land
La La Land is a film that lives in a world of its own. It’s the only movies I have seen in years, maybe even decades that has captured the same magic that I felt when I was watching old Disney movies as a kid. It’s a film that lives and breathes jazz and ambition. It’s filled with colour and movement and has dozens of long takes that aim to show rather than to hide. Perhaps the greatest achievement of La La Land is that it succeeds at being a wholly original musical without making any token references to the golden age of Hollywood. Critics of this film have slammed it for things like Gosling not being a stunning vocalist or that the dance numbers are not as jaw-dropping as those made by Gene Kelly, both of which ignore the core theme of the film, which is about people striving to achieve their dreams. I could not disagree more, however. This is not a perfect movie but it is a damn great one that will be remembered for years to come and deserves every award it gets. This is a joyous picture that everyone should see.
2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
I was convinced that I would not see a better film than Hunt for the Wilderpeople in 2016 after walking out of the cinema having just seen it. It’s an excellent film. Endlessly entertaining and very quotable, this film does an excellent job of balancing comedy with heart. It’s also a film that is more mature than you might expect as the plot takes a number of turns that are impossible to see coming and leave you on the edge of your seat. Evoking techniques used by great directors like Wes Anderson and Steven Speilberg, this film looks great and uses its epic scale to great comedic effect. It’s a masterwork of indie cinema and is a great film for those who might not be able to sit through less accessible faire.
1. Embrace of the Serpent
This film left me demolished. As the credits began to roll I found that I had forgotten to breathe and I was covered in sweat. This is not a scary movie, however. This is the type of film that makes one question who they are as a man and what their purpose is in this life. The film asks questions like what truly has meaning, and the extent men will go to gain more power. Following the story of a tribal shaman in the Amazon Rainforest in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as he acts as a guide for two expeditionary men, decades apart but following similar paths. Shot in stunning black and white, this film is exquisitely made and is filled to the brim with some of the best shots I have ever seen. Embrace of the Serpent is The Finer Cut’s best film of 2016.