Listen, 2016 has been a real turd of a year and my memory is not as good as it once was (it was never good). So, presented here (in no particular order) are five movies that even at the end of December 2016, still stand out as memorable.
The Lobster is not a fun movie. There’s a fair argument that the film actively challenges you to enjoy its two-hour runtime. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to admit that I actually enjoyed watching it. However, the one-two gut punch of this movie’s midpoint and finale left me reeling in a way that I rarely experience from film. Coupled with humor so bone-dry and dark as the night that it could break even the toughest skin, The Lobster, left an impression that still haunts me months later.
Arrival’s heady brand of sci-fi expertly postulates the question of first alien contact with a far out metaphysical twist that sunk in deep. How would we ever communicate with extraterrestrial beings whose very principle understanding of reality may seem foreign to us? Would the governments of the world remain peaceful and cordial, or react to invaders with itchy trigger fingers? With a twist that may leave certain literature fans with a familiar “ah-ha” moment, (I won’t name the book, just to avoid spoilers) Arrival delivers an emotionally heavy story in conjunction with a hard sci-fi setting that fills a similar niche to last year’s Ex Machina, another of my favorites.
Swiss Army Man
The surreal nature of Swiss Army Man presents a story that blurs the line between delusion and magic. You’re never quite sure whether the events that unfold are all in the mind of a very sick, very lonely person, or if Daniel Radcliffe's farting corpse actually has magical survival abilities. And that’s exactly where the beauty of this film lies. Ultimately for Paul Dano, the film’s lead protagonist, it doesn’t matter whether or not his conversations with this corpse are real. To him, he’s found a true source of love, compassion, and friendship in a world that has otherwise rejected him. For me, that’s a pretty warm message, especially for a year that I think left the majority of us in dire need of a hug.
Bone Tomahawk saw limited release among festivals in 2015, but only gained wide release when it landed on Amazon Prime in 2016, so I’m counting it. Bone Tomahawk expertly blends the lines between western and horror, creating a genre mash-up that practically has my name stamped right on it. Kurt Russell’s grizzled lead chews scenery and slings six-guns like he was born on the back of a horse. The design of the horrific troglodytes is nightmarish, and the use of gore is incredibly effective while remaining restrained and tactful. There’s a real sense of tension and danger throughout that leaves an unrelenting feeling of unease. On top of all that, I’d challenge anyone to come up with a name harder than Bone Tomahawk.
That thing I said about no particular order to this list? That was a lie. The VVitch is my #1 movie of 2016 by a very, very wide margin. I rarely watch movies more than once, and I hardly make it out to theaters anymore. I saw The Witch in theaters three times. The film oozes with atmosphere brought to life by Robert Eggers’ washed out color pallet and haunting soundtrack that provides the feeling of starving to death in the harsh New England winter. Seeds of cancerous paranoia plague the characters as they turn on each other, one by one, in the same religious hysteria that caused the Salem Witch Trials. The Victorian English is beautiful to listen to, and the hushed, rapid dialogue left me picking up more and more detail with each successive watch. The VVitch was not only my favorite movie of 2016, but has firmly solidified itself amongst my all time favorites.
Jack makes drugs for a living, but not necessarily the fun kind. He enjoys international travel and discussing music, movies, and games in excruciating detail.