Accurate representation of 2016

Accurate representation of 2016

Well, 2016, we think you won't mind if we say you've not been the happiest and loveliest of years. But one thing we can safely state: it's been a good one for films and there was indeed something for everyone. 

Here the Curzon team select their favourite films of 2016.

THE RULES

For the sake of clarity, here are the ground rules set for all contributors:

Accurate representation of the Editor of the Curzon blog when she received some of these entries

Accurate representation of the Editor of the Curzon blog when she received some of these entries

1) Only films released in UK cinemas between 1 January and 31 December 2016 qualify

2) Theatrical re-issues of classic or cult films can be included but the writers must have seen the films in cinemas for the first time in 2016

3) Festival screenings and previews may not be included

4) Rules are made to be broken

AAAND - ACTION!


JON, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: MUSTANG

For fans of a narrative, if I was energetic enough to run a film blog, there are two tenuous strands I would pontificate about 2016 being ‘the year of’: the documentary (WeinerTickled and Louis Theroux’s record breaking if unspectacular My Scientology Movie) and the child actor (MustangUnder the ShadowChildhood of a LeaderLittle Men, Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

Some films on larger release this year particularly seemed to struggle from being filmed without the script being finished, ending up a ramshackle mess.

By contrast, Arrival was a brilliantly focused and contained sci-fi drama, which deftly combined plausible concepts with humane drama. It wasn’t for everyone but I loved it, and found the properly-planned plot twists very satisfying.

But Mustang was the best.

  1. Mustang
  2. Arrival
  3. Rams
  4. Dheepan
  5. I, Daniel Blake
  6. Paterson
  7. Everybody Wants Some!!
  8. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  9. Victoria
  10. Embrace of the Serpent

 

MARK, CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE: EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!

Son of Saul would absolutely be numero uno, it's one of the affecting and brilliantly original films I've seen in years, utilising the best aspect of cinema - the story and the image being vitally bound at the hip. However, since I'm going to guess at least two other people will put that as their top choice I'll elevate second place to my top spot... Everybody Want Some!!
Another slice of über-nostalgia from possibly the best contemporary American filmmaker. No one takes you by the hand through their own past life which, in turn, speaks about your own as well as Richard Linklater. He shows how small, inane, and in this case often silly, moments which other directors would play solely for comedic or romantic value actually, in hindsight, say a lot about one's brief time alive and the ever-changing, amorphous quality personal identity can have. The film is also another testament to the fact that films aren't primarily about plot but operate more like memory... moments glued together by a cohesive tone, atmosphere and characters.

1. Everybody Wants Some!!
2. Son of Saul
3. Victoria
4. The Hateful Eight
5. Anomalisa
6. Arrival
7. The Nice Guys
8. Spotlight
9. Hunt For the Wilderpeople
10. Bone Tomahawk


CHRIS,  CURZON KNUTSFORD: DEADPOOL

Controversy tends to often live just inside of film, so perhaps classifying an obscene comic book film as amongst the top movies of the year will probably be viewed as such. Just to be clear, Deadpool is a good film, but it is not the best in superhero genre. You’d have to cover over 50 years of material to try figure that one out. What’s great about this film is what it is and what it has accomplished. It’s the enjoyable popcorn film you want it to be and it was the little film that shouldn’t have been. The amount of faith in the project from the beginning was well, less than stellar, mainly reflected via the budget provided and the actors previous outings in other films. But through the power of public opinion, not only did this project see the light of day, but it had the privilege of saving the career of Ryan Reynolds. His dead to rights interpretation of the comic book anti-hero, mixed into a well done origin story and over populated with interesting side characters, made Deadpool a genuinely fun film experience.

But just don’t let the kids watch, ok?

1) Deadpool
2) Zootropolis
3) Kubo and the Two Strings
4) High-Rise
5) Captain America: Civil War
6) The VVitch
7) Spotlight
8) Anomalisa
9) Doctor Strange
10) The Nice Guys

ANDERS, CURZON RICHMOND: captain america: civil war

The title says it all, really: America (and the world) at war with itself. In a time of global division in culture, religion and - the one which amalgamates them all - politics, Marvel's latest Captain America instalment did the brave thing of tackling in a refreshingly nuanced way this situation, through the microcosmic struggle between Captain America and Tony Stark - without taking definitive sides. No other film in 2016 did that this well (and certainly not from a similar platform!) and it deserves high praise for that.

My two cents: in years to come, this film will be seen as a time document for the "immediate-post-Obama age", and is a brilliant artistic accomplishment from a Hollywood machine that is apparently still well-oiled in the right hands and with the right material. This is Marvel’s The Dark Knight - and the best movie of the year.

  1. Captain America: Civil War  
  2. Son of Saul
  3. Anomalisa
  4. Childhood of a Leader
  5. The Big Short
  6. Wiener-Dog
  7. High-Rise
  8. Hell or High Water
  9. Revenant
  10. Deadpool 

 


MICHAEL, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: NAPOLEON (1927)

I found it much too difficult to rank my top films of 2016 into a meaningful order, so this year my top ten is in order of duration. By default, the 333-minute Napoleon triumphs at number 1. Abel Gance didn't muck about. His version of Napoleon's rise in four acts uses a myriad of stylistic innovation in its story telling, from complex superimposition of images to the famous three-screen projection in the final scenes, patriotically tinted red, white and blue. My favourite is Act 1, of Napoleon's childhood, as he directs a mass snowball fight among the kids at his school, and gets his taste for strategic warmongering - something I identify with closely. The gleeful abandon is on a par with Jean Vigo's later Zéro de conduite. Young Napoleon then retreats to a bleak attic with his only true friend, a spooky eagle. 

1. Napoleon (333mins)
2. Victoria (138mins)
3. Paterson (117mins)
4. One More Time with Feeling (112mins)
5. Fire At Sea (108mins)
6. Son of Saul (107mins)
7. The Assassin (105mins)
8. Survivalist (104mins)
9. Mustang (97mins)
10. Little Men (85mins)

PHIL, CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE: Anomalisa

Anomalisa is succinct and restrained at first glance; an intimate story of a failed romantic venture, told with warmth and humour that lacks some of the more outlandish narrative devices used in Charlie Kaufman's previous films. Though comparatively simple in form, Anomalisa delves deep into the same pools of existential malaise and psychological despondency. It's Kaufman condensed, brought to life by the startlingly human puppetry of co-director Duke Johnson.
The Fregoli syndrome suffered by customer service guru Michael Stone (a psychological condition whereby human voices all sound identical) is not only used as a means of character study, to emphasis loneliness and self-absorption. It is also intended as something universally relatable; a way of exploring the insurmountable distance between our own lived experience and those of other people. Given the ongoing divisions and fractures that this year’s events have exposed, these are distinctly resonant themes that, for me, echoed long after the film’s release in March.

1. Anomalisa
2. Son of Saul
3. Embrace of the Serpent
4. Cemetery of Splendor
5. The Assassin
6. Our Little Sister
7. Victoria
8. The Wailing
9. Little Men
10. Notes on Blindness


JOE, CURZON SHEFFIELD: I, DANIEL BLAKE

2016 was a year for stories of personal plights - from a lost generation in American Honey, the rejection of the modern way of life in Captain Fantastic, to the personal battle against the banking system in Hell or High Water, but it was the story of an individual being failed by the state that had the most relevance in UK society today, the Ken Loach directed I, Daniel Blake.

A well-researched portrayal of the benefits system from the point of the individual, we see how a financial impact brought about through a change in health and circumstance can increasingly take its toll (all too familiar for those of us with personal experience), with standout performances where you will rarely see the raw feelings and emotion of an increasingly hopeless situation conveyed so superbly. It confronts unpleasant truths and is unapologetic in its uncompromising seriousness of the subject matter.

1. I, Daniel Blake
2. American Honey
3. Kubo and The Two Strings
4. Captain Fantastic
5. Hell or High Water
6. The Neon Demon
7. The Girl With All The Gifts
8. Victoria
9. Room
10. The Revenant

 

IRENE, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT

For sheer cinematic experience, the BFI’s re-release of Abel Gance’s 5-hour, 3-screen Napoleon was in a category of its own. Likewise, my first time seeing Ivan's Childhood, thus ticking off the last box in my complete Tarkovsky checklist (thanks to the amazing Sculpting Time Season), was remarkable and El Sur was haunting. But neither was a “film of the year” for me - they are films for all ages and I shall cherish the memories for many years.

My favourite films of the year are all about human struggles to preserve nature, selfhood and art under assault from various threats: capitalism, disease, imperialism, fundamentalism of all sorts, philistinism and ecological disaster. I drank their refreshing juices with eager thirst in a year that seemed to treat culture, thought, beauty, language and their indomitable values with particular violence. 

  1. Embrace of the Serpent
  2. Notes on Blindness
  3. Francofonia
  4. The VVitch
  5. Homo Sapiens
  6. Arabian Nights - vol. 1, 2 and 3
  7. Paterson 
  8. Mustang
  9. Our Little Sister
  10. Things to Come

HEATHER, CURZON HOME CINEMA: LEMONADE

From the mesmerising Embrace of the Serpent, to the pure delight of Hunt for the Wilderpeople, to I, Daniel Blake's urgent and vital message – 2016’s offering has been both varied and impressive. My special mention this year though, which also made Sight & Sound’s Best Films list, is for Beyonce’s Lemonade; an impressively original and powerful film which tells the story of a woman moving through the various stages of betrayal. Drawing on an array of cinematic references – including, notably, Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust – Lemonade is a rich text that bravely and unapologetically centres around black women and their experiences, and is the title I’ve revisited most this year. It’s without a doubt one of the most unique and bold audio-visual propositions I’ve experienced in 2016, and has raised many important questions, including opening up a dialogue on the definition of film itself.

Film of the Year: Lemonade
1. Embrace of the Serpent
2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
3. Victoria
4. Rams
5. I, Daniel Blake
6. Mustang
7. Kate Plays Christine
8. Mirror
9. Notes on Blindness
10. Anomalisa

GRACE, CURZON SHEFFIELD: Hell OR HIGH WATER

  1. HELL OR HIGH WATER

    I'm a Springsteen fan and this felt like a Springsteen song bought to life. I saw this and then listened to Darlington County on the way home. It's brothers on dusty roads in dead end towns - my truest loves! 

  2. KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

  3. THE HATEFUL 8

    Part of the reason this ranks so high is genuinely because of a slow motion shot of a horse's legs walking through snow. 

  4. ROOM

  5. I, DANIEL BLAKE

  6. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

  7. NICK CAVE: ONE MORE TIME WITH FEELING

  8. GOODNIGHT MOMMY

  9.  Don't Breathe

  10. GHOSTBUSTERS

Perhaps not the coolest choice, but this film has set me on course for a lifelong love of Kate McKinnon. 


PATRICIA, CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE SON OF SAUL

  1. Son of Saul
  2. Mustang
  3. Rams
  4. Tale of Tales
  5. Sonita
  6. Evolution
  7. The Measure of a Man
  8. United States of Love
  9. I, Daniel Blake
  10. Starless Dreams

JOE, CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE: SON OF SAUL

Nothing this year has given me a more profound, deeply moving and immersive cinematic experience than László Nemes’ award winning Son of Saul. Both heart-breaking and breath-taking, the film plunges you into a true representation of hell as we follow our titular Saul, a doomed man trying desperately to hold on to any semblance of humanity in a place where all humanity has been eroded.

1. Son Of Saul
2. Evolution
3. Fire At Sea
4. Ivan's Childhood (Re: 2016)
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
6. Hell Or High Water
7. Things To Come
8. Arrival
9. Weiner
10. Napoleon (Re: 2016)


MARGOT, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

In no particular order:

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM - Couldn't not mention it, I had very high expectations - I don't know if it met them but it definitely thrilled me A LOT and I cannot wait for the next one! (Please bring back Colin Farrell) (<-- Best Film Hair of 2016, Editor's note)

ROOM
Very touching performance from Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson

THE HATEFUL 8
Saw it at Odeon Leicester Square on the massive screen in 70mm with introduction form the staff - all which made it a wonderful experience for some great heavy Tarantino.

THE ASSASSIN
Absolutely enchanting

HAIL, CAESAR!
It was just so much fun, nothing else to say apart from Clooney + Cohens = <3

THE JUNGLE BOOK
I was not very impressed by the Disney Classic live-action reboots, and then this one came. So amazing - a great new way to tell this story in beautiful realistic animation, and what a cast!

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP
Always up for an Austen adaptation, the witty humour from makes this one so easy to love.

MUSTANG
Everyone's fave! 

VALLEY OF LOVE
Really enjoyed this one ! Maybe it's because I'm French? I found it hypnotising, with an almost Lynchian ambience.

LITTLE MEN
Just as in Love Is Strange, there is something very sweet and comforting in Ira Sachs' films

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LYDIA, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: THE GREASY STRANGLER

In no particular order:

THE GREASY STRANGLER
0 star reviews! That says it all. A masterpiece and an instant cult classic.

EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT
Reminiscent of Werner Herzog's early work (Aguirre, the Wrath of God; Fitzcarraldo) this brought out my inner anthropologist. Stunning.

HELL OR HIGH WATER
After a drought of decent films, it was refreshing to see this. It takes a British filmmaker (and the Nick Cave/Warren Ellis soundtrack) to convey the beauty and desolateness of the Southwest - a contemporary Western, with none of the clichés. 

UNDER THE SHADOW
Without wishing to give away any spoilers... It starts as one thing, and ends in another.  

GREEN ROOM
It's got horror, it's got punk, it's got a low budget - what's not to love? 

VICTORIA
No, I'M Victoria. Completely could've seen myself in that situation when I was young and carefree and living alone in Berlin. And it really WAS filmed in one shot [coughs-Birdman].

UNITED STATES OF LOVE
Bold and brave and very, very dark. I found it immensely aesthetically pleasing - both the film and the director.

ZOOTROPOLIS
I never cease to surprise myself, but I think this is the best Disney film ever made - it's original, funny, subversive with a complex and nuanced message. 

WEINER
What a d*ck.

BONE TOMAHAWK
And with this becomes apparent for the first time even to me, what my favourite genre is. I loved that it took so long to get to the point and when it finally did, what a point it was: pointier than a boney stick. And it urinates on the Tarantino film that came out around the same time. [can I say that?]

THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER
It's Scott Walker's genre-bending score that makes this film. Screening notes, plus intensive Hannah Arendt and JP Sartre-reading recommended prior to watching this. 
Honourable mentions should also go to NOCTURNAL ANIMALS and CHEVALIER and MUSTANG and ONE MORE TIME WITH FEELING.
 


JENIFFER, CURZON BLOOMSBURY: VICTORIA

  1. Victoria
  2. Embrace of the Serpent
  3. Mustang
  4. Room
  5. Nocturnal Animals
  6. Spotlight
  7. The Man Who Fell to Earth
  8. Anomalisa
  9. Julieta
  10. I, Daniel Blake
  11. The Clan

 

KATE, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: AMERICAN HONEY

A cinematic adrenalin shot and discovery of a new star, Sasha Lane propels American Honey straight to the top of my list. Endlessly seductive, this is 21st century cinéma-vérité partnered with a Romeo + Juliet like love-story.

American Honey

Victoria

Mustang

A Bigger Splash

Youth

Room

Nocturnal Animals

Captain Fantastic

I, Daniel Blake 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople


ROB, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT

Embrace of the Serpent on a warm early evening in Bloomsbury. What more can you want? 

  1. Embrace of the Serpent
  2. Mustang
  3. Julieta
  4. The Pearl Button
  5. Victoria
  6. Things to Come
  7. Miles Ahead
  8. Love and Friendship
  9. Deadpool
  10. Homo Sapiens
     

EMMA, CURZON HEAD OFFICE I, DANIEL BLAKE

Ken Loach’s Palme D’Or winner I, Daniel Blake is not a perfect film by any means but for me its powerful message transcends its flaws.  It’s a rare thing for a film to illicit an emotional response in me but with I, Daniel Blake I was forced to give in to heaving, shoulder shaking sobs.  The depiction of the best of humanity juxtaposed with the soulless, labyrinthine bureaucracy of the system was so disturbingly real that it broke my heart.  The much talked about food bank scene is one that I haven’t been able to shake since the the lights came up, I left the cinema that day feeling angry and devastated in equal measure.  Just talking about the film to family made me weep in public and for that reason it’s my film of 2016.

1.      I, Daniel Blake
2.      Victoria
3.      American Honey
4.      Son of Saul
5.      Mustang
6.      Anomalisa
7.      The Revenant
8.      Hunt for the Wilderpeople
9.       Room
10.     Spotlight


JAKE, CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE, FIRE AT SEA

5. THE HARD STOP - George Amponsah

Seven Sisters high road has always had a particular hold on my imagination. When my Grandad moved to London from Ireland in the 1950s he chose Tottenham as his football team. He and my Uncle would often take me to games at White Hart Lane (even though I’d chosen to support North London rivals Arsenal as an act of youthful rebellion). I now live in Walthamstow and often walk past the spot where Mark Duggan was shot or jog home past Pentonville Prison where his friend Marcus Knox Hooke was imprisoned for his part in the riots that shooting sparked. What George Amponsah cleverly does with The Hard Stop is use the interest in the London riots to draw us into a portrait of the lives of two young black men who would not otherwise be seen on our cinema screens. Marcus Knox Hooke and Kurtis Henville resist at every turn the stereotypes that sections of the media and the government painted of those involved in the riots. What is palpable is the history of prejudice that allows different people to experience the same streets in such drastically different ways.

6. THINGS TO COME - Mia Hansen-Løve & MY NIGHT AT MAUD'S - Eric Rohmer

Is there a director working today better at conjuring-up the texture of life than Hansen-Love? David Foster Wallace used to describe the experience of reading something elegant and simply put together as having the “click”. Boy do you get the click watching Things to Come. So much so that having watched it you hanker for more of these tiny epiphanies. I headed straight home from Things To Come and watched Eric Rohmer’s My Night at Maud's. The clickiest double bill ever.

7. CHEVALIER -  Athina Rachel Tsangari & EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! - Richard Linklater

At the risk of sounding like a #notallmen nutter I thoroughly enjoyed the bonhomie and male bonding of Everybody Wants Some!! As a Sunday league football / Hackney Marshes regular I could recognise camaraderie and boisterous competitiveness. That said what man didn’t also feel themselves accurately skewered by Athina Rachel Tsangari and her excellent Chevalier? Although men seem to hog the cultural landscape it’s regrettably rare that masculinity is ever itself scrutinised, especially with such aplomb.

8. LOVE & FRIENDSHIP - Whit Stillman  

An absolute delight of a film. Preston Sturges rages from his grave wishing he had made this. Tom Bennett should be locked up forever for his scene stealing antics.   

9. MCCABE & MRS MILLER - Robert Altman

We screened Mccabe & Mrs Miller at Curzon Soho in memory of Leonard Cohen and what a delight it was to remember him through this film. Robert Altman has said that he was listening to Cohen obsessively during the edit. The result is that the music and the rhythm of the edit combine in a beautifully hypnotic way. My girlfriend and I left the screening entranced and spent the rest of the weekend drinking whiskey sours. Perfection.

10. VICTORIA - Sebastian Schipper

What a thrill. A pure adrenaline rush conjured out of thin air with a camera, a handful of actors and one glorious take.

 

 

1.FIRE AT SEA - Gianfranco Rosi & SON OF SAUL- Laszlo Nemes

Whether we consider Donald Trump to be heralding in a new era of fascism or simply a  despicable buffoon one can’t help but notice the contraction of historical time recently. Where once we felt the nazi death camps as belonging to a strange and terrible past we now, through the recent coarsening of language and behaviour, sense their horror in closer proximity. Gianfranco Rosi’s recent Fire at Sea was the most eloquent attempt to document the ongoing refugee crisis. The sleepy residents of Lampedusa standing in for the whole of Europe that wants to ignore children dying in the back of lorries crossing the channel or the thousands dying at sea, a few agonising miles from it’s shores and sunbathing tourists. Laszlo Nemes’ searing and clear eyed Son of Saul was not so much a film but an attempt to simulate an experience of the camps. With so few survivors left to give their testimony this struck me as necessary and vital. So much of cinema is about beautiful dreams but these two films serve, via different means, as violent jolts that attempt to awaken us.

2. THROUGH THE WALL - Rama Burshtein & NOTES ON BLINDNESS - Peter Middleton and James Spinny

Through the Wall (released 16th December) is something of a rare beast in cinema, a rom-com set within the hasidic jewish community, a film where faith is explicitly front and centre. Likewise Peter Middelton and James Spinney’s exceptional Notes on Blindness tenderly brings to life the diaries of theologian and avowed, though thoroughly tested, christian John Hull and his experience of going blind. Independent cinema is often seen as the secular church and I sense that religion can make the congregation uneasy but both these films have insights to impart even to the most resolutely godless. As psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan said "Only theologians can be true atheists."

3. HIS BLOODY PROJECT - Cristian Mungiu

Okay this isn’t a film that currently exist or is ever likely to exist, but an idea I became preoccupied with when reading Graeme Macrae Burnet’s excellent novel whilst working on Cristian Mungiu’s press trip for London Film Festival. Something about the books slippery revelations and ambiguous perceptions of truth butting up against ideas of justice and the machinery of the state seemed ripe for Mungiu’s ease with complex psychological material.

Of course the film industry is awash with dreams of unmade projects. Films that flounder without finance or become stuck in endless legal battles. Filmic dreams are the lifeblood that keep the wheels of the business turning. But there is also something about the imaginary film that is integral to the film watching process. We often judge a film against its perfect, but illusory, double.

With the industries much maligned diversity issues we’re also right to wonder about the films and stories that haven’t made it to our screens. So at a time when we’re celebrating our films of the year I want to pour one out for the ones that never made it.  

4. IGUANA vs SNAKES- PLANET EARTH II

Has there been anything more daring, experimental or cinematic than the filmmaking exhibited in Planet Earth II? The scene of Iguana’s desperately attempting to escape growing hordes of snakes showed complete mastery of camerawork, editing and music and rivals any action film made this year. When the golden statuettes are being handed out come spring, consider the Iguana.


CATE, CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE: THE CLUB

I've been very restrained and only put 3 Artificial Eye titles on here. The re-issues on this list, when seen for the first time on the big screen, reminded me why I love the cinema experience so much and for that same reason I've included HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT which resulted in me dusting off the respective directors' box-sets. WEINER was fascinating and absolutely needs to be seen, especially considering the man is now partly responsible for President-Elect Trump... LITTLE MEN and NOTES ON BLINDNESS restored my faith in human nature during a grisly year; THE ASSASSIN was pure cinematic poetry, and ANOMALISA I found utterly original, only adding weight to the word "Kaufmanesque". When it comes to celluloid punches in the gut however, THE CLUB and SON OF SAUL have to be at the top of the list - both phenomenal filmmakers putting two fingers up to the "Cinema Is Dead" naysayers.

  1. THE CLUB
  2. ANOMALISA
  3. SON OF SAUL
  4. HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT
  5. WEINER
  6. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
  7. LITTLE MEN
  8. NOTES ON BLINDNESS
  9. THE ASSASSIN
  10. BARRY LYNDON

 

SEAN P., CURZON MAYFAIR: FIRE AT SEA

My number one spot goes to the poetic and symbolic observational documentary Fire at Sea by Gianfranco Rosi. The films thought provoking juxtaposition examines life on Lampedusa from refugee and native alike and metaphorically expresses the ignorance that represents the Wests euro-centric view of the Mediterranean refugee crises, a just and objective critique. Starless Dreams comes in a close second as another poetic and heartbreaking documentary, this time exposing the trials and tribulations of young Iranian women on their path to redemption via a young offenders institute. Finally Embrace of the Serpent, with its amazonstyleroadtripthroughthejungle-butdownariver inter-generational and extra-cultural wisdom which combines to an enchanting tale that addresses identity crises and spiritualised intellectualism all in one hit, magnificent! 

And one more thing; “Nocturnal Animals barely feels like a film made by a human being” via Time Magazine. Hands down my favourite review of the year. But I say good! There should be more films made in 2017 by non-humans.

No.1 spot to No.3 in order of opinion, the rest are in no particular order...

1. Fire at Sea
2. Starless Dreams
3. Embrace of the Serpent

American Honey
Julieta
Into the Inferno
The Revenant
Things to Come
The VVitch
Nocturnal Animals


JAMES KING, CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE: SON OF SAUL

  1. Son of Saul
  2. Our Little Sister
  3. Cemetery of Splendour
  4. Notes on Blindness
  5. Things to Come
  6. Queen of Earth
  7. Victoria
  8. Rams
  9. The Wailing
  10. Paterson

JACK, FUSION MEDIA SALES: SWISS ARMY MAN

  1. Swiss Army Man
  2. Victoria
  3. Tickled
  4. Wiener-Dog
  5. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  6. Ran
  7. Ivan's Childhood
  8. Under the Sun
  9. Mustang
  10. The Nice Guys

HANNAH D. CURZON HOME CINEMA: AMERICAN HONEY

1. AMERICAN HONEY

Don't even care if it's too long - I think it's a masterpiece

2. SON OF SAUL

The way that much of the atrocities take place of-screen/ out-of-focus is so effective. I've never seen anything like this. 

3. THINGS TO COME

Was a bit "meh" when I read what it's about, but was blown away. Looking forward to Mia Hansen Løve's next film!


4. FIRE AT SEA

Found the disconnect between the awfulness of the migrants' experiences and the charming portrait of Lampedusan daily life very powerful. Also: Samuele is great! One critic said he is the spiritual heir to The Bicycle Theives' Bruno - so true!


5.MUSTANG

A rousing portrayal of stolen girlhood, but surprisingly uplifting despite what the sisters experience


6. THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER

Thrilling watch with a brilliant score by Scott Walker. Loved the wee demon-child Prescott - he stole the film from the adult cast.


7. EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT

Unexpectedly really enjoyed this. Was mesmerised for the whole two hours. 


8. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

Funniest film I watched this year. Definitely Team Ricky Baker. 


9.I, DANIEL BLAKE

Loach certainly gets his point across in this timely film. A few funny moments, but through most of it I was bawling

10. LOVE & FRIENDSHIP

One of the few Austen adaptations that captures the writer's wit. Well done Whit.

 

 


 

RYAN, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: QUEEN OF EARTH

Embrace of the Serpent is my film of the year, but I’m not going to talk about that. By this point you’ve probably heard all that you need to about that most fantastic of films.

I would never have guessed it at the time, but my number two film of the year is Alex Ross Perry’s Queen of Earth. Talk about being put through the wringer. That film was nightmare incarnate, a tale of toxic, codependent friendship that has lingered in my waking life like a cruel ghosting.

Pulling the story into linear alignment, Virginia (played by Katherine Waterston) is hurting from a break-up. The bitterness she feels towards those around her, especially her bestie Catherine (played by Elizabeth Moss) who has the audacity to be happy in love, leaks from her sharpened teeth like venom. On account of her acidity, she doesn’t receive the undivided attention that she so craves at this vulnerable time and something changes between these life-long friends.

But the tables soon turn. Oh, it is vicious.

When Catherine’s relationship falls apart she comes to Virginia looking for comfort, Catherine now the one exuding resentment towards the newly coupled gal pal before her, and she is met with the same degree of distant support. It’s pretty cold, actually. Choosing to teach a friend a lesson about emotional support while they’re at their lowest ebb and descending is a classic worst best friend move. But perhaps Virginia is not withholding, maybe she just isn’t cut out to deal with this. For while Catherine initially appears to be in the throes of a juvenile, narcissistic tantrum over her friend’s preoccupation with her own happiness, she rapidly descends into a devastating, full-tilt nervous breakdown fed by the neglect of a vital life-line. That hurts. This film hurts. It leaves you feeling abandoned. Correction: it doesn’t leave you.

Watch it, then dump that worst best friend of yours.

  1. Embrace of the Serpent
  2. Queen of Earth
  3. The Nice Guys
  4. Things to Come
  5. Knight of Cups
  6. The Big Short
  7. Anomalisa
  8. The Measure of a Man
  9. Victoria
  10. Green Room

DAMIAN, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: THE REVENANT

The greatest outdoor pursuits movie ever made (fans of The Deliverance and The Eiger Sanction, see me afterwards), The Revenant put my senses through an office shredder. A grizzly bear in horse clothing, Iñárritu wheeled DiCaprio, the world's biggest star, into cinemas like a Trojan Horse; and out jumped an uncompromising arthouse punch in the face to all who bought tickets. I saw it in a packed and noisy screen of multiplex punks, and crikey did this film shut them up and make them put their mobiles away. Emotively brutal, technically innovative and with action sequences that make your eyes bleed and ears vibrate, it's also highly instructional, should you find yourself lost in an icy tundra with only a sharp penknife and a horse to keep you warm. Death, revenge, endurance, survival and scrapping with massive angry bears. What else is there?!


1. The Revenant
2. Son Of Saul
3. Neon Demon
4. Mustang
5. Wiener Dog
6. The Big Short
7. Spotlight
8. Paterson
9. Rams
10. Dheepan

Highly recommended: Arrival, Nocturnal Animals, Bone Tomahawk, American Honey
 

ALLY, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: EL SUR (1983)

One of the added bonuses of Pedro Almodóvar releasing his stylish and brooding Julieta this year was the opportunity afforded him by the BFI of a curated season of some of his favourite Spanish films at BFI Southbank. The highlight of this season came in the form of El Sur (The South) by Victor Erice from 1983. El Sur is the opposite to those works of art that Malcolm Gladwell talked about in his Revisionist History podcast earlier this year, those works that the creator finishes imperfectly once, comes back years later and finely tunes to create a different, better whole. El Sur was meant as a three hour epic but the producer pulled his funding and Erice had to make do with what he had. 
The result is a fascinating tone poem of a young girl Estrella's relationship with her father Agustin (Omero Antonutti), a fallen Republican doctor who is now largely sidelined by the Nationalist Franco regime. Agustin contains a melancholy mystery, one which Estrelle (played at aged 8 and 15 by Sonsoles Aranguren and Iciar Bollain respectively) tries, but ultimately fails to uncover. But not before Erice weaves his camera round them as they dance and Estrelle grows up before our very eyes. Beautiful and haunting, unfinished yet perfect.

Best re-release: El Sur

1. The Revenant
2. Son of Saul
3. Paterson
4. Arrival
5. Anomalisa
6. Victoria
7. Things To Come
8. Spotlight
9. Train to Busan
10. The Club

 


MEGAN, CURZON HOME CINEMA: NAPOLEON (1927)

Even for those of us happy to spend a few hours binge-watching Netflix, dedicating over five hours to one film can seem daunting. Abel Gance's restored and re-released monumental epic Napoleon (1927) was the most memorable afternoon I spent in the cinema this year, its beautifully constructed shots etched in my mind. Kubrick labelled the silent work a masterpiece, and as the famous triptych finale filled the screen, I felt something of my understanding of cinema and its history had changed in one screening.


I may have chosen a classic from nearly a century ago as my 2016 highlight, but an intertitle quoting the historical Napoleon inspired applause, and I left with the feeling that silent cinema remains relevant to audiences today: “Europe will become a single people, and anyone wherever he travels, will also find himself in a common father-land”

  1. Napoleon (2016 re-release)
  2. Embrace of the Serpent
  3. Son of Saul
  4. The Assassin
  5. Paterson
  6. Your Name
  7. Julieta
  8. Anomalisa
  9. Behemoth
  10. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

 

 

 

CAITLIN, CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE: Notes on blindness

2016 was truly awful, but Notes on Blindness has been a light shining in the blackness of my pessimism since I saw it back in February. John Hull’s insight and courage in the face of impending darkness gave me some much-needed emotional strength this year. 

I also watched Ran for the first time, in the BFI’s impressive NFT1 screen. After the film, two audience members got into a fight at the back of the cinema. Apparently one had been shushing the other and the shushed was offended by the shusher, or something like that - it's not important. Plastic wine glasses were overturned; there was some light slapping and heavy swearing. Clearly Kurosawa’s moving lesson on the futility of petty rivalry had not been heeded. 2016 in a nutshell. 

Special mention goes to The Wailing and its charismatic shaman. Last, but not least, is the excellent footage of Donald Trump being attacked by a bald eagle during a 2016 photo shoot, fingers crossed for a sequel in 2017. 

  1. Notes on Blindness
  2. Son of Saul
  3. Ran/Rams 
  4. Fire at Sea
  5. The Assassin 
  6. The Wailing
  7. Anomalisa
  8. Mustang
  9. Measure of a Man
  10. Queen of Earth
  11. Non-theatrical Highlight - Donald Trump Attacked By Bald Eagle on YouTube

MANDY, CURZON RIPON: YOUTH

YOUTH

Beautifully shot, rich and vibrant a fabulous soundtrack and interesting themes. There were so many moments that I wanted to reflect on, I wanted to breathe in that mountain air and contemplate life. I love the way that Sorrentino's camera seems to find beauty and humanity in all kinds of people.

I, DANIEL BLAKE

A strong and moving message, told with warmth and compassion for those who struggle with an unnecessarily complex system.

VICTORIA

An extraordinary piece of storytelling, a compelling one take in real time, that covered a range of emotions and relationship changes in a couple of hours. I was taken on a journey along with the characters and utterly convinced by unfolding events. Amazing.

MUSTANG

THE CLAN

JULIETA

SON OF SAUL

A UNITED KINGDOM

PATERSON

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP

 

 

 

BEN, CURZON CINEMAS HEAD OFFICE: BONE TOMAHAWK

It’s been an interesting year for the Western, with the brutal cannibal horror Bone Tomahawk gaining instant cult status, Tarantino’s whodunnit The Hateful Eight causing one or two arguments off screen and Leo bagging that elusive Oscar in survivalist epic The Revenant. Even TV got in on the action with HBO’s sci-fi/western mash-up Westworld.
Perhaps most interesting of all though was David Mackenzie’s (Starred Up) scintillating neo-western heist thriller Hell or High Water. Featuring an epic score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and a razor-sharp script from Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, the film has cowboy brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) playing cops and robbers with Jeff Bridges’ drawling Texas Ranger (think Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men). 
Released some months ahead of Trump’s election win, Hell or High Water offers a unique window into the forgotten white working class who represent a large part of rural America. During the film’s opening robbery scene we see the words “3 tours in Iraq but no bailout for people like us” graffitied outside the Texas Midland Bank. As the brothers cruise through dusty, decaying towns in beat ups cars we see signs for loan sharks and foreclosed properties. This is a landscape shaped by an overriding sense of hopelessness and mistrust of institutions, be it banks or the political establishment.
To a certain extent, Hell or High Water foreshadowed the election result by conceiving the destructive lengths some people are willing to go to disrupt the status quo.

Bone Tomahawk
Embrace of the Serpent
Hail, Caesar!
Hell or High Water
I, Daniel Blake
Little Men
Paterson
Under the Shadow
Victoria
The VVitch
 


Notes on Blindness

THE PEARL BUTTON — After Nostalgia for the Light, Patricio Guzmán brings us his latest docu-poem, which shares its predecessor’s other-worldly beauty and chilling historical and political commentary. Guzmán takes our attention away from the secrets of the stars to meditate on the poetics of water, the ‘intermediary force between the stars and us’. In the exploration of the diverging narrative threads, we discover the fascinating history of Chile’s indigenous water nomads and their haunting destiny to become ensnared in colonial subjugation. As the film takes us further into Chile’s dictatorial past, the narrative threads converge around a central object, a pearl button, which links two devastating histories lying far apart from one another. Memory is crucial in Guzmán’s films, we must never forget such painful truths and equally we should hold dear such poetic truths—‘we are all streams from one water’.

CHEVALIER — This latest Greek Weird Wave film brilliantly lampoons male bravado and one-upmanship. I enjoyed this ‘buddy movie without buddies’ much more than The Lobster for its slightly less dark and twisted approach towards its absurd and hilarious plot. By the end, the alpha-male’s pathetic qualities are brought to the fore but somehow we are still sympathetic to his charms. This success is surely down to its direction by Athina Rachel Tsingari, who has managed to make what one reviewer has called ‘a feminist film in which women are virtually absent’.

ANOMALISA — With this stop-motion animation film, Charlie Kaufman slightly reigns in on the weirdness but homes in further on the existential struggle of loneliness and alienation in contemporary society. Such downbeat undercurrents are offset by plenty of wry humour and affecting moments, including one of the most tender and ironically true-to-life sex scenes ever committed to film.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM — I did not expect to enjoy this film so much. It’s so refreshing to see special effects being used inventively and—for lack of a better word—magically. The characters are amiable, quickly earning our affection whilst the delightful creatures and ‘beasts’ offer plenty of laughs. This wonderful film provides us with a much yearned for warmth to cap off a year that has been particularly cold and bleak.

VICTORIA — The sheer visual spectacle of this single-take feature film cannot be overstated. Perhaps somewhat more overlooked is Nils Frahm’s score which plays an indispensable role in this film’s makeup. Set in Berlin, a city renowned for throbbing techno, Frahm’s minimalism contributes to the film with a well-administered palliative, allowing the viewer space to contemplate what’s happening during the often hectic events ensuing on-screen. Frahm’s score succeeds in adding essential layers of meaning to the film that couldn’t be achieved from just the cinematography.

PATERSON — This film is a celebration of unembellished, everyday wonder. Adam Driver’s gifted performance is reaction-heavy but so effective in allowing us a shared space to revel in the awe-inspiring minutiae that can percolate through the humdrum of daily routine. A young girl in the film reads one of her poems to Paterson. It begins naively and proceeds straightforwardly but on reflection her poem reveals a humble profundity; the same can be said for Jim Jarmusch’s film. 

SIMON, CURZON MAYFAIR: notes on blindness

NOTES ON BLINDNESS — A beautifully photographed, dreamlike portrayal of John Hull’s life after the total loss of his sight during the 1980s. Hull voice-recorded all of his reflections, which are reenacted here by actors lip-syncing the content. The effect of this technique—directly influenced by Clio Barnard’s The Arbor—has an oneiric quality, which, coupled with Gerry Floyd’s ethereal, sensorial cinematography, unexpectedly brings Andrei Tarkovsky to mind. As Hull muses in his notes, ‘There is something so totally poetic about blindness, that one is either destroyed or renewed’; the filmmakers’ great accomplishment is to open and renew a world to us, ‘a world beyond sight’.

ROOM — This film is remembered for its knockout central performances from Brie Larson as Joy Newsome, —well-deserving of the Academy Award for Best Actress—and the exceptionally impressive Jacob Tremblay, as the androgynous young boy, Jack Newsome. These performances are in part testament to the quality of Lenny Abrahamson’s somewhat underrated direction, overshadowed by the other heavy weights in that category earlier this year. Abrahamson takes a minuscule room and makes it a world of childhood innocence and playful imagination, revealed through Jack’s perspective to which we are tethered throughout the film. For those that have avoided seeing this film due to its grisly subject matter, be assured that this is a majestically life-affirming film that conjures feelings of childhood wonderment.

FIRE AT SEA — Gianfranco Rosi’s film is about the seemingly workaday lives of a community on the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa. What’s distinctive here is that there just so happens to be a grave humanitarian crisis taking place right at this community’s doorstep. Rosi is deeply respectful of his subjects, in one moment capturing the unworldly affairs of the young Lampedusian boy, Samuele, and, in the next, deftly shifting to document the brutal seafaring struggles of the African migrants attempting to find safe haven. What I admire most in this film is its eschewal of responses to questions far too complex to justify in such a small amount of time; instead, Rosi’s approach is more poetic, subtly revealing what unites us rather than what divides us—a crucial message in any contemporary society.

THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER — Brady Corbet’s directorial debut, written with Mona Fastvold, brings to mind the detached, austerity of the films of Michael Haneke, who directed Corbet in the US version of Funny Games. Tom Sweet gives a precociously formidable performance in the eponymous role—a stark counterpoint to Tremblay’s naive wonder in Room. Scott Walker’s ominous, frenzied string-heavy score is one of the best of the year, perfectly encapsulating both the inexorable, nascent evil of the young boy and the mechanical, fascistic dystopia that is foreshadowed. Corbet is certainly a director to keep an eye on.

 


Lemonade

TIINA, CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE

Whilst my year's most memorable cinema trips were experiencing all the works of Tarkovsky on the big screen, 2016 had no shortage of emotional and visual thrills when it came to new films either. Topping my list is Beyonce's Lemonade, a perfectly crafted landmark piece of music and cinema that shook me to my core in the splendid, astonishing way only art can. And then there were films that kept my spirits lifted when world news did their very best to mess with them. These were stories that stayed with me thanks to their hope and humanity (Paterson, Notes on Blindness, Mustang, Anomalisa) or because of their endless energy and at times almost unbearably anxious atmosphere (Victoria, Chi-Raq, A Bigger Splash, Nocturnal Animals). Last but not least was the surprising treat that is Kate Beckinsale's deadpan delivery of endless one-liners in Love & Friendship. To (mis)quote her, "Be gone, 2016, or I'll have you whipped."

1. Lemonade
2. Paterson
3. Notes on Blindness
4. Mustang
5. Anomalisa
6. Chi-Raq
7. Love & Friendship
8. Nocturnal Animals
9. A Bigger Splash
10. Victoria