2016 film review

Continuing my not-edtech related end of year roundup, as well as trying to read a book a week, I tried to see a new film weekly. This was largely successful, but they weren’t all cinema trips so the film may have been delayed somewhat from release, and I didn’t get around to seeing lots of films I should have (eg Nocturnal Animals).

In general terms, like most years but even more so, this was a crap sandwich, with good stuff at the start and end, but a real mess in the middle. Even the blockbusters were exceptionally awful. Batman vs Superman, Independence Day 2, Suicide Squad – these were like Donald Trump’s toilet, flashy, expensive and full of shit. But if comic book movies continued to be devoid of any value, there were some other genres that fared quite well: horror saw some atmospheric, taut, films with secondary interpretations (The VVitch, Blackcoat’s Daughter, Don’t Breathe, Green Room). Animation began to emerge from Pixar domination, and quirky, whimsical indie movies provided blessed relief (Captain Fantastic, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sing Street).

Because I’m not adverse to an end of year list, here’s my top ten:

Hateful 8
The VVitch
The Big Short
10 Cloverfield Lane
Eye in the Sky
Son of Saul
Hell or High Water
Captain Fantastic
The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Rogue One

You’ll probably have seen most of these, but the Blackcoat’s Daughter (aka February) may have passed you by. I loved it – moody, brooding horror with an amazing score, it deserves to be better known. A special mention for turkey of the year, the truly, truly, awful Zoolander 2.

Increasingly I found it difficult to watch films in isolation of the context of the rest of 2016. I couldn’t get behind the “the best of New York came together” message of Sully in a year of Trump and Black Lives Matter. I couldn’t pretend Eddie the Eagle represented a version of Britain I could identify with after Brexit. And I couldn’t watch Son of Saul and flatter myself that it could never happen now. Even Rogue One had some people rooting for the Empire. I get the feeling this will be a recurrent theme in 2017.

The Barracuda 100 films of the 21st Century

You will probably have seen the BBC list of top 100 films of the 21st Century. Like all such lists it generated a lot of debate. It contains a lot of great films, a lot of films I haven’t seen (I’ve done about half of them) and a lot of films I don’t want to see. It was a bit, well, film critic in its taste (erm, unsurprising as it was compiled form film critic choice, but you know what I mean). Genres, such as horror or action, tend to be dismissed by critics.
It got me thinking how my list would compare. Now there are a lot of gaps in any list I would create: I watch a lot of films but I don’t watch a LOT of films, so there are many great ones that I’ve missed. Secondly I was raising my daughter for much of the 00s so my cinema going experience was often limited to Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squequal (not a contender). Thirdly, I’m biased towards certain types of movies. So what you have is not so much 100 Greatest Films of 21st Century but 100 Films Martin has Seen that He Remembers and Thought Were Good.
In compiling the list I deliberately didn’t select films because of what they might represent in cinema terms. For example you might argue the Kings Speech was a vey influential film in that it made studios realise that people over the age of 50 went to the cinema also. I also allowed myself repetitions, rather than one film standing for a genre (so for example there are three examples of what is labelled French Extremism in my list because they’re all good movies). My only criteria were that they were good films, well made, which I can recall and would recommend. Coming up with 100 films is quite difficult, so some in my list I wouldn’t deem “great”, but rather just good, neat films.
While I doubt you’d like all of my list, my bet is that you’d have more enjoyment watching them than the BBC list. But you might not learn as much about cinema. I haven’t ordered them, because that would require too much internal debate.
For what it’s worth then, the Barracuda Top 100 Films of the 21st Century:

12 Years a Slave
21 Jump St
25th hour
8 mile
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
A History of Violence
A Prophet
The Act of Killing
Anvil: The Story of Anvil
Ashes of Time Redux
Battle Royale
Before Sunset
Best in Show
Blue Ruin
Bombon el Perro
Bourne Identity
Burn after Reading
Dark Water
Dead Mans Shoes
Dead Snow
Eye in the Sky
Grand Budapest Hotel
Harry Potter Deathly Hallows pt 2
High Tension
Hunger Games
Hurt Locker
I Saw the Devil
Ichi the Killer
In a World
Inglorious Basterds
Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside out
It Follows
Ju-on: The Grudge
Kill Bill v 1
Kill list
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kumiko Treasure Hunter
Lady Vengeance
Lego Movie
Let the Right One In
Little Miss Sunshine
Lost in Translation
Mad Max: Fury Road
Minority Report
Mulholland Drive
Never Let Me Go
Notes on a Scandal
Only God Forgives
Only Lovers Left Alive
Pan’s Labyrinth
Searching for Sugar Man
Sexy Beast
Shaun of the Dead
Son of Saul
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.. and Spring
Straight Outta Compton
Tale of Tales
Tale of Two Sisters
The Drop
The Witch
These Final Hours
This is England
Touching the Void
Whale Rider
Wild tales
Wolf Creek