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JSHmoviestuff Review of the year 2016

January 25th, 2017  |  Published in Commentary

Welcome to the JSHmoviestuff Review of the year 2016.

“Memory is a strange thing.”

That thought, articulated so beautifully by Amy Adams’ by Dr. Louise Banks in Denis Villeneuve’s amazing new movie Arrival sums up for me the choices that made my Review of the year 2016.

Whether I’ve been watching a person struggle to escape their past and build a new life in another part of the world, or pull themselves out of a rut they’ve been stuck in to become something better; whether it’s seeing someone let go of a painful remembrance to finally push them to action, or chronicle their thoughts and feelings to make sense of their world, these movies have given me richly rewarding viewing.

So quite a bit later than I usually post this Review of the year and before we head into too much of 2017, here (in release order) are the movies that completely thrilled me in 2016:

Adam McKay, known previously pretty much exclusively for comedy movies (like Anchorman), knocked me and pretty much everyone else sideways with The Big Short his brilliant examination of the credit and housing market collapse in 2008. But he told that story from the perspective of a group of people (among them Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt) who fuelled by their anger of the big banks reaping ripping off consumers for years along with well calculated theories that the stocks would eventually fail, crazily bet against the market. It’s an urgent, frightening, exhilarating piece of story-telling.

Jacques Audiard is one of favourite film-makers. He’s a true artist and so any movie he makes, I’m there. His latest Dheepan scooped the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2015 and I was very fortunate to see it at that year’s London Film Festival. It didn’t get a UK release until spring 2016, hence it being part of this list. Like the wonderful Mr Mark Kermode, I only include movies in my yearly list that have been released in the UK in that year, not ones that have premiered elsewhere – no matter how stupendous they are. And Dheepan was stupendous. With the same kind of lyrical quality that Audiard brings to all his stories, it had me in awe.

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have to be the on-screen partnership of the year. In Shane Black’s hysterically funny comedy thriller, The Nice Guys, they were quite simply dynamite. As a heavy for hire and a pretty useless private detective respectively, they stumbled gloriously through an increasingly labyrinthine murder mystery to eventually win the day. With that razor-sharp line he treads between drama and comedy that was displayed so fantastically in Iron Man Three, Black gave us both in a glimpse into a wistful regret of past actions from Crowe’s Jackson Healy and a masterclass in comic buffoonery from Gosling’s Holland March and a toilet cubicle door – outstanding.

Denis Villeneuve – what a superlative film-maker he is. His latest Arrival, following up the magnificent Sicario (my film of the year in 2015), was truly epic in both scope and ideas. And the superb Amy Adams delivered the first of her brace of knockout performances this year in this (the other was in Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals) as the smart but vulnerable linguistics professor at the core of this sci-fi contact story. Her chemistry with Jeremy Renner’s sparky scientist was delightful or in fact with any of the cast that included Forest Whitaker and Michael Stulbarg – she’s fab.

Jim Jarmusch has had quite a career. But I feel he made his finest film yet this year with his absorbing drama showing a week in the life of his title character, the eponymous Paterson. Adam Driver delivers one of the year’s standout performances as Paterson, a bus driver who takes time out on his lunch break to write poetry. With an effervescent Golshifteh Farahani as his wife Laura and a near scene-stealing bulldog called Marvin, this is a wonderfully quiet film that completely draws you in to its minute observances of people’s lives.

And so there they are. A pretty fab bunch of films in my opinion.

I did also see some absolutely magnificent new movies at the London Film Festival in October but of them, as only Paterson was released in the UK in 2016, it’s the one I can rave about here. But you can now see Kenneth Lonergan’s stunning, emotionally wrought drama Manchester By The Sea (just released in January) with a quite exemplary lead performance from Casey Affleck at its centre. And it won’t be long now before Xavier Dolan’s exquisite family drama It’s Only The End of the World hits screens. Don’t miss either.

Finally, a couple of great 2016 releases that I’ve only recently caught, courtesy of On Demand, which didn’t quite make my list but are so worth mentioning – writer Taylor Sheridan’s lauded follow-up to his brilliant Sicario, Hell Or High Water is a powerful, very contemporary drama whose backdrop is straight out of The Big Short, where due to the unethical behaviour of the banks, a pair of brothers turn to robbery to save their farm. Great performances from Chris Pine and Ben Foster as the brothers and Jeff Bridges as one heck of a laconic sheriff; and a completely charming treat of a movie from New Zealand, Hunt for the Wilderpeople has Sam Neill as the gruffest of old guys throw together with Julian Dennison, the wackiest of teenage boys in a lovely comedy drama about connecting, even if it’s with the most unlikely person you could think of. Majestical.

So onwards into the movies of 2017! When’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi out??!

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