Here are the 25 greatest films of 2016, according to Crack Magazine.
Visit 2016.crackmagazine.net for more end of year coverage.
Chi-RaqDir. Spike Lee Starring Teyonah Parris, Samuel L Jackson, Wesley Snipes
Spike Lee returns to form by fusing a classical Greek play, musical, and his take on the African-American experience in a call for peace on the streets of Chicago. The unpolished nature of Chi-Raq echoes back to Lee’s films from the 80s, now with an added potency – a sort of antithesis to the rigorous post-truth media. Lee’s reproach against gun-violence uses grand Gene Kelly-style set pieces, Samuel L Jackson monologues and sex to achieve an infallible anti-establishment, pro-community message that can’t and won’t be ignored.
The RevenantDir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter
What did Leonardo DiCaprio have to do to get a bloody Oscar? A lot, as it turns out. With its two and a half hour running time, Alejandro Iñárritu’s latest acts as a sort of endless, gruelling endurance test for DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass and viewer alike. Fortunately it’s a rewarding experience. As the film wears on with a steady, deliberate pace, you find yourself lost in the trance-like, revenge-focused tunnel vision of the film’s protagonist. A gripping, poetic, beautifully rendered vision of one man’s unholy struggle against nature itself.
The Nice GuysDir. Shane Black Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice
Shane Black’s dark, slapstick Neo-noir quickly became 2016’s unexpected popcorn hit. A pair of mismatched private detectives (played by an on-form Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling) stumble through the seedy streets of 1970s LA investigating a murderer. Aside from the action sequences – equally as funny as they are violent – it’s worth watching just to see Gosling’s funny bone, delivering every line like Groucho Marx, with the timing of Charlie Chaplin all the while still managing to look bloody gorgeous
JulietaDir. Pedro Almodóvar Starring Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao
Pedro Almodóvar’s heightened sensibilities mean his melodramas play out like thrillers. Julieta sees a return to his trademark female-centred story. This is the director of High Heels and Volver, dramas that manifest his adulation and fascination of mothers and daughters baring all. Yet no one expected Julieta to be as quietly devastating. A drama of estranged familial love where painful decisions that will reverberate through decades are considered and carried out without a single word. Almodóvar deploys silence and costume as the only true way the characters can express themselves.
Under The ShadowDir. Babak Anvari Starring Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi
In Babak Anvari’s debut, a claustrophobic and abstracted depiction of the war in revolutionary 1980s Tehran, the director showed us how few tools a good director needs to create sharp and gut-wrenching horror. With nods to David Fincher’s Panic Room and Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone, plot and setting are pared down to the absolute basics: a physical and psychic siege on a woman and her young daughter. Rendered through shock tactics and restrained symbolism, the film cleverly and efficiently re-situates a network of female anxieties, sexual politics and cultural shifts while scaring the absolute shit out of you.
Embrace of the SerpentDir. Ciro Guerra Starring Nilbio Torres, Jan Bijvoet, Antonio Bolivar
Ciro Guerra’s portrayal of the spiritual demise of the Amazon and the extraction of it’s resources at the hand of the West is made with tranquil precision, luring you onto a journey with no respite or purpose. Embrace of the Serpent explores man’s intricate relationship to nature and one another. Adding to the story’s solemn mood, it is Guerra’s decision to shoot in black and white that proposes a haunting distance between the Amazon and the viewer as if it was now unreachable.
VictoriaDir. Sebastian Schipper Starring Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski
‘One girl. One City. One night. One take.’ is the tagline for Sebastian Schipper’s contemporary thriller. Balancing a fleeting social commentary about 20-somethings’ in modern day Berlin (minus the stag-dos) with a cinematic craft by which the entire film’s story is captured in one take. This results in Victoria’s realism switching from being unbearable to intoxicating. The rigidness of the production crystallises the frivolous lifestyles of modern day Berliners – a highly entertaining time capsule.
I, Daniel BlakeDir. Ken Loach Starring Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Sharon Percy
For something to cut through the noise in the way I, Daniel Blake has is an astonishing accomplishment. An unending cycle of injustice, an aggressively individualist political agenda and a merciless austerity regime has too often left the UK feeling hopeless, whilst inscrutable statistics and hostile headlines have left the more well-off feeling emotionally detached. The story of Daniel Blake, a carpenter who requires state welfare support after suffering a heart attack, commands you look past the numbers – however desensitised you’ve become. An exhausting depiction of austerity’s most distressing ramifications are made all the more harrowing by Loach’s unflinching realist lens.
Everybody Wants Some!!Dir. Richard Linklater Starring Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman
The only film that all of Crack’s film team voted for, just how the hell did Richard Linklater make a film about freshman baseball players so great? Is it because his rose-tinted period film reminded us about how life used to be a whole lot that simpler than today – like a Downton Abbey for stoners? Or is it just a calming but clear message saying ‘Everyone, chill out’?
Everybody Wants Some!! has all the hallmarks of a teen movie where characters grapple with sex, navigate social hierarchies and dream of the future. But after Linklater applies a dose of philosophy too, you’re fully launched back to 1980, where under Linklater’s wing, we witness endless absurd conversations, the too-tight short shorts, the exuberant dancing, the flagrant rule-breaking and a Rappers Delight reprise.
As the spiritual sequel to 1993’s Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! exhibits Linklater’s same willingness to run with improvisation, a cultivated application of music and a simple lo-fi cinematic style.
AnomalisaDir. Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman Starring David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Michael Stone is a British expat and motivational speaker, living in America. He has a wife and a child, and enjoys middle class pleasures like nice hotels and customised Martinis. Like many of Kaufman’s protagonists, he is undergoing a midlife crisis; he is depressed and alienated from the world around him.
Like Kaufman’s earlier screenplays for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, Anomalisa questions what it means to be alive. Themes of identity, and consciousness are all shown from the point of view of Kaufman’s protagonist. All the characters have the same voice (voiced by David Thewlis), the same stunted appearance and the same, marionette faces. Stone’s interaction with other people is almost always shown in real time; checking into the hotel and having a one-night stand are depicted with a tedious realism that is uncommon in even the most lifelike, non-animated films.
What follows are a series of surrealist dream sequences and hallucinations. In one scene, Stone becomes conscious of his malfunctioning puppet face, while in another, a meeting with the hotel manager sees Stone running through a Malkovich-esque sea of hotel workers. Are the characters aware that they are puppets? Is everyone in Kaufman’s world being controlled by an all-powerful puppeteer? Do we have freedom over our lives or are we all seeking validation through sex, money and other people? Once again, Kaufman turns the seemingly mundane into the extraordinary.