Daniel, Deadpool, and the delightful Mary: The 20 best movies of 2016

Philip Molloy of 'The Picture Show' rounds up a better-than-expected year at the cinema

Daniel, Deadpool, and the delightful Mary: The 20 best movies of 2016

[Pixabay]

As the presenter of Newstalk's weekly movie, Philip casts his eye back over the cinematic fare of 2016. In a year marred by celebrity deaths and shock election results, 2016 will not be remembered as a year f good blockbusters. But defying the odds, the following 20 films stood above the rest. 

20: A Date for Mad Mary - Truly remarkable directorial debut from Darren Thornton with a vivid, career-shaping performance in the title role from Seana Kerslake. One of the major surprises of the year.

19: De Palma - You don’t really have to love or understand or appreciate the movies to enjoy the Jake Paltrow/Noah
Baumbach documentary De Palma, a funny, informed account of a series of meetings between one of the cinema’s great stylists and his two young friends over a period of five years. In another good year for documentaries, this was a stand-out.

18: Love and Friendship - One of the comic joys of the year, Whit Stillman and Jane Austen converge in a droll adaptation of her epistolary novel Lady Susan, which was shot last year on location in and around Dublin. It follows the exploits of a calculating aristocrat as she attempts to find partners for herself and her daughter.

17: Deadpool - Just when it seemed the superhero movie had little or nothing to say or recommend it, along came this inventive late instalment in the X-Men franchise about a mocking mercenary whose body is severely scarred when he experiments with an operation to cure his cancer. Charged with personality it has a hilarious central performance from the former Canadian stand-up Ryan Reynolds.

16: Zootropolis – Computer-animated 3D comedy adventure set in a teeming city that straddles several colourful time zones. The Disney hit has a rabbit police officer and red fox con artist investigating the disappearance of a collection of predators. The journey undertaken by the two main characters shows Disney animation at its testing best.

15: Nocturnal Animals – That instinctive feel for performance, rhythm and visual story-telling which was such a characteristic part of A Single Man is again on display in Tom Ford’s stunning second feature. If there is an Oscar nomination going, Amy Adams should be at the front of the queue.

14: American Honey – Andrea Arnold captures what it is like to be young and restless and radically alive in modern America in this pungent road movie for the ages. Was accompanied by one of the most enjoyable interviews - with the director - which we’ve done on The Picture Show over the past year.

13: Mustang – Dubbed the “Turkish Virgin Suicides,” Mustang is another first feature that focuses on the adult awakening of five restless sisters and the ruin that follows their family’s attempt to contain it. Shot in a loose, meandering style, it is built around a wonderful ensemble cast.

12: Green Room – Jean-Luc Picard or Charles Xavier were never like this. Patrick Stewart stars in a riveting horror/thriller in which the members of a punk band are trapped in a remote club by a gang of neo-Nazi skinheads after they have witnessed a murder. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier (of Blue Ruin fame) it has a 1970s feel for the way it makes atmospheric use of its single-setting location.

11: The Childhood of a Leader – Exquisitely shot and carefully designed psychodrama set on a farm outside Paris as a tyrannical American diplomat (Liam Cunningham) attempts to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles, while imposing himself on his wilful, pre-teen son. Has a near-operatic score by Scott Walker (of The Walker Brothers) and a brilliantly sustained sense of repression and foreboding by actor turned director Brady Corbet.

10: Sing Street – John Carney’s flavourful coming-of-age comedy/drama about a Dublin teenager who discovers music and a young love. Many elements of it will be familiar but Carney brings them together with personality and a genuine feeling for his characters. Ferdia Walsh Peelo as the boy Cosmo and Jack Reynor as his opinionated older brother are wonderful together.

9: Life, Animated – The functioning definition of inspirational cinema, this biographical documentary focuses on a profoundly autistic boy who retreats into himself until his family discovers that he is talking to them
through characters from Disney cartoon classics. Mixing stylish animation and up-close live action, it is sensitively adapted from a book which was written by the boy’s father, Ron Suskind. Highly recommended.

8: Son Of Saul – Winner of the Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and last year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, this is a truly gripping account of a day-and-half in the life of a Jewish- Hungarian prisoner at the Auschwitz extermination camp in 1944. The Second World War, from its various vantages, has become a fruitful source of material for both documentary and live action cinema but this is unlike anything we’ve seen for its honest, unswerving portrait of life in the camp.

7: Room – We had long recognised that Lenny Abrahamson was a major talent and he proved it beyond doubt with this vividly observant adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel. He makes small, everyday, common details talk with insight, wisdom and understanding.

6: Spotlight – Revisits some of the issues that were so ably, and so pointedly, explored by All The President’s Men well over four decades ago. Has a real and reliable feel for the day-to-day workings of a major newspaper and a smashing ensemble cast. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more from the director Thomas McCarthy very soon.

5: Paterson – Deceptively modest and affecting character study from Jim Jarmusch that observes a New Jersey bus
driver over eight days with genuine human feeling and grace. Stars, the ever-welcome king of the hang-dog countenances, Adam Driver.

4: Arrival – Someone said that Arrival was such a beautiful and thought-provoking film that it almost made up for every bad-aliens-coming-to-earth movie you have ever seen. And, I have to say, I tend to agree.

3: Hell or High Water – Technically flawless modern-day western from Scottish director David Mackenzie that addresses the changing times and the breakdown of community through the lens of old- fashioned good guys and bad guys. Jeff Bridges took many of the kudos for his performances as a grizzly old sheriff on his last assignment but Chris Pine, as one of a pair of bank-robbing brothers, is equally good.

2: I, Daniel Blake – Ken Loach told us he had retired but he returned to duty to do this script that examines the crumbling British welfare system with authority, insight and feeling. You can call it propagandist but is the kind
of propaganda we need more of. Won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last May.

1: The Revenant – An epic tale of revenge and redemption that was released in the US last year but didn’t open here until mid-January. 2016 was a better year in the cinema than some analysts have attested but we had nothing to compare to Alejandro Iñárritu’s grim, graphic, expansive chase western.

Tune into The Picture Show on Newstalk at 6pm on Saturday, or you can listen back to the podcasts here.

For more movies on Newstalk.com, please click here.