Year In Review: Saam Das' Top Ten Films Of 2016

on Monday, March 06, 2017
Words: Saam Das

With the 2017 Oscar results now finalised, I suppose I should also get around to celebrating the best in film in 2016. As per usual, our top ten list is based on UK release dates, meaning that Best Picture winner 'Moonlight' and multiple Oscar winner 'La La Land' will have to wait for my consideration. It should be noted that I would have liked to have caught the likes of Jim Jarmusch's 'Paterson' and Richard Linklater's 'Everybody Wants Some!' but nonetheless, this list represents the cream of the crop from over 50 movies seen in 2016:

10. 'The Revenant' (UK Release: 15 Jan)

The film that won Leonardo Di Caprio a well deserved Oscar, while also giving Alejandro G Iñárritu back-to-back Best Director wins, only for the latter to be outdone by the film's cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, notching up his third Oscar in a row. This based-on-a-true-story tale of a 19th century frontiersman employed a particularly stunning opening, reminiscent of the earth-shattering beach scene in 'Saving Private Ryan'.

9. 'Trumbo' (5 Feb)

Director Jay Roach has been best known for comedic films such as 'Meet The Parents' and the 'Austin Powers' series, but his biopic of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is arguably a career peak. A timely film about the vilification of people based on their relatively tame beliefs, albeit with some liberties taken with historical accuracy. Bryan Cranston's rise continues strongly, with his portrayal of Trumbo recognised with a debut Best Actor nominations at the 2016 Oscars.

8. 'Finding Dory' (29 July)

Did we need a sequel to 'Finding Nemo'? Probably not. But 'Finding Dory' proved surprisingly pleasant and poignant, offering a more emotional experience than its predecessor. Certainly it lends strong hope to another Pixar sequel, 2018's 'The Incredibles 2'.

7. 'Arrival' (November)

The recent misleadingly-named 'extended version' (an eight minute behind-the-scenes video added after the film ended) hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for 2016's standout sci-fi film. Denis Villeneuve's first foray into the genre was a striking one, driven by Amy Adams emotive central performance and Max Richter's stirring 'On The Nature Of Daylight'.

6. 'The Hunt For The Wilderpeople'

Actor-writer-director Taika Waititi's New Zealand adventure comedy was arguably head and shoulders above all else in terms of funnies in 2016. It even successfully navigated the trenches of musical comedy, with an amusing ode to the film's central miscreant Ricky Baker, played with panache by the youthful Julian Dennison. I am eager to see what Waititi can do with the big bucks on the forthcoming 'Thor: Ragnarok'.

5. 'The Nice Guys' (3 June)

'Lethal Weapon' writer Shane Black's third directorial feature was surprisingly not more of a commercial success considering its positive critical reaction and its demographic-spanning leading actors in Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. A smart, nostalgia-driven blend of wit and action, a sequel with director and cast back on board would not be unwelcome.

4. 'Kung Fu Panda 3' (11 March)

While the runaway success of the animation world in the last year was Disney's 'Zootropolis' (aka 'Zootopia') but it was the latest installment featuring Po the Panda that proved to be the most delightful animation for me. While unlikely to win over those unfamiliar with the series, this third effort expanded the trilogy's ambitions thematically and visually, while retaining the heart that characterised the first two films.

3. 'Chronic' (19 Feb)

Mexican writer-director Michel Franco's examination of teen bullying in 2012's Un Certain Regard-winning 'After Lucia' will surely go down as one of this decade's most arresting films. Franco also came away with an award at Cannes last year, picking up Best Screenplay for this slow-burning character drama that shared its predecessor's penchant for a provocative denouement.

2. 'Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World' (28 Oct)

The enigmatic Werner Herzog is not only one of cinema's longest standing stalwarts, he remains as prolific as ever. A festival run for 'Salt & Fire' starring Michael Shannon and Gael Garcia Bernal came alongside two documentary features in 2016 - Netflix's hypnotic 'Into The Inferno' and this engaging adage to technology. Special mention to the terrific Q&A that accompanied the satellite screenings of the film's UK premiere, hosted by the irrepressible Richard Ayoade.

1. 'Room' (15 Jan)

It's taken me a long time to whittle this list down, and consider a worthy winner. Lenny Abrahamson's adaptation of Emma Donoghue's best-selling novel was nominated for four Academy Awards, coming away with a Best Actress win for Brie Larson. This story of a trapped mother-and-son particularly benefits from a relative lack of knowledge prior to viewing so all I should say is that 'Room' is powerful, heartbreaking, tense, and rewarding.

Read Saam's top films of 2015 here, and find more in our Best Of 2016 series here.

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