Following the cliched tradition, here’s my round-up of the sixteen best films I’ve seen for the first time this year, both new and old. There are many I’ve yet to catch up with, but these are my personal highlights:
16. CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA
Sublime. Assayas has handed us more than a film: this is a reminder that while we are bookended by eternity, the years can still overlap and speak to us. And this is where Kristen Stewart won me over again. Bring on Personal Shopper.
A worthy addition to the Star Wars canon. The first half mumbles somewhat, but the second half sings.
The most powerful moment in this devastating exposé of sexual abuse and coverups? Not the narrative’s revelations, nor Liev Schreiber’s robust insistence, but the gut-wrenching lists of further locations as the film closes. White truth on black cloth. Necessary and awful.
Life-affirming, exhilarating, hilarious. Omar Sy shines.
This tugged at my heart; Reese Witherspoon’s fragile determination to find rescue in hope is outstanding. (I wrote about this one back in February)
Body horror in an unexpectedly touching tale of metamorphosis, colliding hearts, murder and eternal life. The divulged secret is a worthy one, and the final scene is understated and pitch perfect.
Yes, it ticks the rising-from-the-ashes boxes in most ways, but does so with a fresh delivery and I can’t say I didn’t have a lump in my throat in the final rounds.
9. GREEN ROOM
Still buzzing from this one. Brutal, tense, gets-its-teeth-in-the-dirt survival tale. And who ends up becoming the pushed-over-the-edge hero comes out of left-field and made my day.
8. THE BIG SHORT
Who knew housing bubbles and sub-prime mortgages could be so fascinating? This funny and resourceful journey through chancers gambling on their economy about to collapse is engaging enough for Brad Pitt’s suddenly sober reminder at the end to truly knock the wind from your lungs.
7. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Amidst the “war” (more a family squabble) is a much more personal triangle at stake between three men thrown together by governments and terrorist threats. Fantastic action and sweet interplay between the large cast too.
6. THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Even better on repeat viewing, this is both hilarious and shocking. Tarantino does it again.
5. PANDORA’S BOX
Finally got round to finding out why Louise Brooks is everything people said she was. Ahead of her time.
4. DOCTOR STRANGE
A fabulous surprise. I went in expecting a Marvel film that simply entertained, and discovered one of the deepest entries in the MCU canon. An honest acceptance of death? Sacrificial saviour? Fighting forwards through reverse time? All the applause. (Here’s my piece on it from November)
This is one brave film that pitched high and reached it. Totally absorbing, this single-take (genuinely so) transports in a way an edited tale could not have done. Breathless at times, beguiling at others.
2. THE WITCH
Such an immersive nightmare, yet while attempting to scare us it also makes us take a long hard look at our own human condition (see my review here from March). Which only adds to the horror. Brave and essential storytelling.
WELL. A sci-fi that opens your mind to the possibilities of whole other facets to our existence, while still retaining the personal connections of love, betrayal and loss. Villeneuve has long been one to watch. At this rate, I figure he’ll remain so for the rest of his career.