I know this is a bit late, but I wanted to watch all the films surrounding the brilliant year 2016 was for cinema (as opposed to whatever went down otherwise). I have finally seen all the films I wanted to check out before writing this list. I may have missed a few, that’s what the comment section is for. Also, this is MY list, it’s okay if you disagree with it. The list is in order of preference.
1. O.J: Made In America: This is an 8 hour long documentary. Let that sink in. The film talks about O.J Simpson, his life, his racial opinions, his athletic prowess, the world around him and of course, the infamous court case. I’ll be honest, I had no idea who O.J Simpson was. I’m from India and I have no interest in American football. I had vaguely heard about his murder trial but didn’t really know much. Despite that, I was glued to the screen for 8 long hours. Though promoted for T.V as a mini series, it is structured as a film, which it absolutely is. The reason I’ve put this on the Number one spot is because this is the most complex film I’ve ever seen when it comes to race relations (probably since ‘Do The Right Thing’) even though it is fairly simple to follow. The film looks at race with such a holistic point of view that it’ll leave you confused about which side of the fence you’re on. This is a must watch, take some time out of your schedule and please check it out.
2. I, Daniel Blake: Winner of this years prestigious Palme d’Or, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ is a simple story about a retired carpenter and a single mother trying to get access to their social allowance. A fairly simple story, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ takes us through an exhausting journey into what helplessness really feels like. This film talks about bureaucracy and those who suffer when it fails, which it does very often. The film takes a hard look at social security, humiliation and poverty with the respect these themes deserve. Which is why it ranks so high for me.
3. The Handmaiden: Of course this one had to be here. After all it’s by Park Chan Wook. The Handmaiden is a story of deceit and love. Two themes that don’t always mutually compliment each other. Or shouldn’t. The Handmaiden, at its core, is a ‘fun’ film. It truly is. It will leave you on the edge of your seat for the most part. What I like about the film is that it’s not a very unique plot. Very typical actually. But it’s done so well that you can’t help but fall in love with what you’re watching. This erotic thriller is going to be remembered for a while. The Handmaiden has some great performances and the cinematography is impeccable. It will really suck you into its world of some twisted and other well meaning characters.
4. The Salesman: Iranian master Asghar Farhadi’s latest film. I was really curious to watch this film because I have been a huge fan of his since ‘A Separation’. I was not disappointed. I saw this film at a film festival and I had to watch another one after this. But I couldn’t because I was so drained by the intense drama created by Farhadi. I think what mainly sets Farhadi apart from any other director in the world is the way he treats all of his characters (He also writes his films) as human beings. Now that may seem like Screenwriting 101 but it’s harder that it looks. Because to really treat every character like a human being, you have to explore their motivations, feelings and justifications. Most films stick to their protagonists, while Farhadi seems to go after as many characters as possible. Which is a very rare quality and that makes this film the most sympathetic of any other on this list. Anyone who watches this film, will come out a better human being. The last time I saw a film like this was the Marathi film ‘Court’ which released in 2015.
5. Sairat: I’ve written extensively on this film and I’ll keep saying that this film is a master class in film making. Director Nagraj Manjule followed his brilliant 2013 film ‘Fandry’ with Sairat. And that just proves that he’s one of the most intellegint directors working in India right now. If you want to read more on this film then I’ve already written about it on this blog, I haven’t given any spoilers so you can read it by clicking here.
6. The Red Turtle: This is probably the best animated film I’ve seen in my life. Okay, one of the best. The Red Turtle is a film with no dialogue. The whole film revolves around a man trapped on an island. His every attempt to escape is foiled by a giant turtle who keeps destroying his rickety raft. This film is more about the experience. It looks at every aspect of life carefully and portrays them only through visuals. Birth, childhood, adulthood, old age and eventual death. This film has one of the most beautiful endings I have seen in all of cinema, not just animation.
7. Everybody Wants Some: One of my favorite movies of all time is ‘Dazed & Confused’. Which is why, needless to say, I was super excited to watch its spiritual sequel, Everybody wants some, and I loved every bit of it. The film totally embodies the themes that director Richard Linklater showed in ‘Dazed & Confused’ without seeming like a cheap reboot. Like its predecessor, not much happens in this film when it comes to the plot, it’s just a hang out film. Where you’re practically living with the characters than exploring them like a third person. You’re one of them. And that’s what makes this film special. It doesn’t exactly judge the characters, neither does it justify them, they’re just there to have a good time because at the end of the day, everybody wants to have a good time. And that’s kind of the point.
8. 10 Cloverfield Lane: I must admit, I haven’t seen the spiritual prequel of this film, ‘Cloverfield’ which was made in 2008. I saw this film because a friend suggested it and I’m glad I did. Because this is truly a great film. I’ll give you the basic plot of this film (trust me, it doesn’t spoil anything) and you try telling me you don’t want to watch it – ‘A young woman wakes up in an underground bunker after an accident where she’s told by two men that the world had an apocalypse and there’s nothing left on this Earth’. This film is a roller coaster of emotions from fear to comfort to anxiety and finally realization. Another plus point, watch John Goodman in a role that suits him best, Creepy or Kind? I’ve never seen another actor juggle those two traits as comfortably as he does.
9. I Called Him Morgan: I watched this documentary by accident. I was at a film festival and didn’t get entry into a film I wanted to watch so I decided to check out this one. And I’m so glad I did because this is a really well made documentary. It’s about the life of late jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan who was shot to death by his wife in 1972. The best part, the film is mainly told through the perspective of his ex wife (It’s kind of hard to maintain a marriage if you kill your husband, hence ex). It’s one of the most ambient documentaries I’ve ever seen. It has a truly great background score and sound design that will transport you to a smoky Jazz room from the late 60’s. This film will probably never get very popular but it really deserves too.
10. Moonlight: A lot has been spoken and written about this film and rightly so. This story of a Homosexual Black man’s life is probably one of the most important films of this past year. The film is divided between three phases. Childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Each part of the film is more moving than the other with brutally honest depictions of what people have to go through if they’re homosexual and living in a harsh and uncompromising environment. One of my favorite aspect from this film was the selection of music. The classical score really accentuates the emotions wherever it has been used.
SPECIAL MENTIONS: Arrival, Raman Raghav 2.0, Visaranai, Nocturama, The Lobster, La La Land, Silence, American Honey.