films_10_2016

 

2016 has been a funny old year, what with the grim reaper taking most of beloved celebrities from us yet leaving behind a bunch utter subhuman buffoons hell bent on destroying our countries through their own pernicious megalomaniac whims. But one constant remains and that is the fact great films are still being made.

However 2016 has also seen a revolt against the comic book genre with many seemingly “can’t miss” prospects dying a death at the box office and feeling the sharp edge of the critics tongues. The latter is not unusual due to the inherent snobbery in some film reviewers, but the former was a bit of a shock; once you break down the components that led to the film’s failures however, it was a case of too many cooks going to the well once too often, if you’ll forgive the mix of metaphors.

That at least was in mainstream Hollywood, while the rest of the world continued to flourish by letting their filmmakers make films with heart, soul, originality and creativity at their very centre, eschewing ridiculous budgets and the quest for a easy cash return. That is not to say nothing good came out of Tinsel Town but for those of us who like to spread their net a bit further afield, the diamonds in the rough were easier to find. 

As ever the choices below belongs to me and me alone, meaning you can agree or disagree as is your wont. And if you want to quibble over some of the release dates these are based on when they were released here in Old Blighty in 2016, with the odd exception of titles from overseas I was fortunate to see that have yet reached our shores.

So here we go:

 

10. Uzumasa Limelight (Japan Dir. Ken Ochiai) 

uzumasa_limelightA loving tribute to the jidaigeki (Samurai drama) genre and the long lost tradition of the kirare yaku (extras who die on screen) that doffs its cap to Chaplin’s Limelight. This gentle, heart warming tale sees a young actress keep this tradition alive with the help of an aging legend in the field who is on his last legs. Poignant and respectful, this a beautifully shot film offers us a rare look behind the scenes of a specialist field of Japanese cinema.

Read the full review HERE

 

9. Our Little Sister (Japan Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)

Our_Little_Sister

Hirokazu Kore-eda cements his status as Japan’s master of the thoughtful family drama with another gentle but acutely observed tale, concerning three adult sisters who discover they have a younger half-sister at their estranged father’s funeral. In anyone else’s hands this would have been a mawkish, overwrought melodrama showing the worst side of female relationships, but Kore-eda, even at his most passive, delivers an uplifting treat of a film.

Read the full review HERE

 

8. Spotlight (US Dir. Tom McCarthy)

SpotlightThe shocking true story of sexual abuse by catholic priests in the US shocked everyone a second time by nabbing the Best Picture Oscar this year ahead of some formidable competition. It is a taut, well researched and credibly played out recalling of the dogged pursuit of the truth by the team of the Boston Globe newspaper at the turn of the Millennium, that opened the floodgates for similar global investigations. A compelling film that avoids sensationalism. 

Read the full review HERE

 

7. Sing Street (Ireland Dir. John Carney)

sing_streetTapping into that rich vein of 80’s nostalgia, the cheeky Gaelic charm that made The Commitments such an enduring hit is applied to this tale of a lovestruck teen trying to rock and roll his way out of a deadbeat life and into the arms of his dream girl. With a credible soundtrack of newly composed songs befitting the era, rich social commentary and personable performances from the young cast, this is a delightful resonant trip down memory lane for us oldies.

Read the full review HERE

 

6. The Revenant (US Dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu)

the-revenantGoing for the double at this year’s Oscars, The Revenant didn’t bag Iñárritu his second Best Picture award but did earn star Leonardo DiCaprio his first Best Actor Oscar. The true story of trapper Hugh Glass left for dead in the frozen mountains of Dakota is told over a decidedly overlong duration but it is still masterfully executed. A tale of survival and revenge, the vicissitudes Glass endures is palpable to the audience through some of the most impressive visuals captured on film.

Read the full review HERE

 

5. Train To Busan (Korea Dir. Yeon Sang-Ho)

train_busan_bdZombie apocalypse Korean style! Director Yeon Sang-Ho posits the flesh eating carnage of the rampaging undead on a group of unsuspecting travellers on a hi-tech moving train. These zombies aren’t the regular slobbering, lumbering type either – they are agile, alert and relentless. The highest grossing film in its native Korea, there is actually a cautionary environmental and social commentary driving this glorious juggernaut of gore. 

Read the full review HERE

 

4. Mustang (Turkey Dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven)

MustangWhilst Our Little Sister is about expanding a family, Mustang is about a trying to keep one together. A stunning debut from Turkey, exposes us to the plight of five sisters oppressed by a strict patriarchal society and the myopic hidebound purview of equally pious women. The young quintet struggle as they are forced into marriage, kept under lock and key by their grandmother and governed by archaic ideals. Heartbreaking but powerful and vital filmmaking.

Read the full review HERE

 

3. The Handmaiden (Korea Dir. Park Chan-Wook)

handmaidenHaving given Hollywood a try, Korea’s Park Chan-Wook returns home with his most subversive film to date. A sensuous and shocking outing set in Japanese occupied Korea in the 1930’s, a young thief infiltrates a rich family as a handmaid in order to help her boss seduce the lady of the house and claim her riches. But the handmaid and the lady fall in love and all plans go awry. An engrossing and stimulating look into the sexual mores of the high society sees Park firing on all cylinders once again.

Read the full review HERE

 

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (US Dir. Gareth Edwards)

rogue_oneI didn’t apologise for The Force Awakens last year and I’m not apologising for Rogue One this year either. This interim adjunct to kill time before Episode VIII arrives is everything that George Lucas’ bloated prequels should have been, telling the story of how the plans for the Death Star came into the possession of the Rebel Alliance to take us into A New Hope. A gutsy female lead, a sarky robot and Donnie Yen kicking all kinds of butt, this starts a bit slow but ends on an orgasmic bang!

Read the full review HERE

 

1. THE WAILING

(Korea  Dir. Na Hong-Jin)

wailing

After pushing our senses to the limit with action thriller The Chaser and the bloodbath that is The Yellow Sea, Na Hong-Jin goes for broke with this supernatural crime thriller that defies its genre boundaries from start to finish. A spate of unexplained murders in a small rural village are blamed on an itinerant Japanese tourist until the police chief’s daughter is taken ill, believed to be possessed. An exorcist is called in but he only makes matters worse. 

Manipulating the audience with its skillful blend of light and shade tones only to hit them between the eyes with unspeakable scenes of grotesque horror and psychological discord, Na takes no prisoners with this epic outing and is not apologetic about it either. A film that needs to be seen to be believed.

Read the full review HERE

 

And that is my list. Like every year there were more than ten films in the running. There are still some outstanding titles from my viewing list which may have been contenders (Elle, Julieta, I, Daniel Blake, Your Name, etc.) which I won’t see until next year while others are still waiting a UK release in 2017.

Films just missing out on a Top Ten spot after much deliberation include: Lowlife Love, Suburra, Life+1Day, Embrace Of The Serpent, Love & Peace, Son Of Saul and Dheepanall very worthy contenders, making this one of the harder year-end lists I’ve compiled over the years.

Well, that’s 2016 in the books! One has to wonder if any lessons from this year will be learned by the Hollywood studios in 2017 and maybe we’ll get the blockbusters with substance instead of confused CGI heavy horrors hampered by the interference of the ignorant. And let hope that world cinema continues to maintain the lofty standards it sets itself into 2017 too.

Please check back in twelve months time to see what ten films will have earned themselves the MIB seal of approval!

Thanks for reading and until next time, this is the Man In Black saying Sayonara!

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4 thoughts on “MIB’s Top Ten Films Of 2016

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