I barely saw anything at the cinema in 2015, so this year I decided to give myself a good kick up the backside and go as often as possible. My first step was a subscription to Cineworld Unlimited, so I would be guilt-tripped into making sure I at least got my money’s worth (and it would maybe encourage me to see films I wouldn’t usually rush to see), and my second step was to renew my subscription to the IFI so I could still enjoy their more obscure film selection.
The first quarter of this year kicked off with 3 Westerns (and Jane’s Got A Gun is out soon), making for a sort of surprise renaissance. The most talked about of these was The Revenant, which is partly a dark masterpiece and partly a giggle at the lengths Leo will go to win a Best Actor Oscar (I spent the entire film wondering what crazy thing he was going to do next). Seriously, I kept forgetting I was watching a movie and instead felt like I was watching a bizarre episode of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, where a washed-up Leo has to fight a Bear and then eat a Bison liver to win meals for his camp-mates.
The Hateful Eight may have lacked the propulsive narrative of the best Tarantino’s, but I still thought it was a great ride – especially at the stunning 70mm presentation I saw at the IFI. The epic white shots of the landscape had the same atmospheric efficiency as its obvious influence the Day Of The Outlaw, which set it apart from the more scenic landscape of the other “Western in the snow” this year, The Revenant. As good as it was though, the best Tarantino-esque Western of 2016 so far isn’t by Tarantino: it’s by a new guy and it’s called Bone Tomohawk.
Yes, Bone Tomohawk is very Tarantino. As well as sharing his sharp ear for dialogue and penchant for extreme violence (actually, to be honest, the ending is closer to the brutality of Takashi Miike’s Audition), Bone Tomohawk also borrows its structure from From Dusk till Dawn. But, like all the best Tarantino films, it has bags of originality alongside the influences. Somehow the “The Searchers meets The Hills Have Eyes” plot really works and it is also very scary in places. Another great entry into the “new wave” of more interesting horror that is currently building momentum in the post “torture porn” world (see also, The Babadook and It Follows).
The film I most need to re-watch so far is martial arts film The Assassin. This is partially because it was filled with beautiful images and atmosphere – filmed in an unusual aspect ratio for an epic – but also partially because it was impossible to follow. That’s not really a criticism, the dreamy logic was part of what made the film great; even if I did, at times, wish I wasn’t deliberately being held at such distance by the director.
Heading deep into Oscar Season we had plenty of serious films, made by serious people and filled with serious performances, to enjoy. It doesn’t get more serious than Spotlight, which was an enjoyable twist on All The President’s Men. Room, along side the Revenant, was the best of the Oscar contenders, turning a pretty dark concept into something great that was filled with humanity. These films really earned their nominations, but I was disappointed not to see Straight Outta Compton up there too.
Its not Blockbuster Season yet but we have already had some good ones. Mercifully, The Force Awakens wasn’t a let down, largely thanks to BB8. Seriously, I could have happily spent the 2 hours watching him roll about with no plot or context, and would have still bought the T-shirt. Deadpool is the breakout super hero of the year (although not as original as some people claim, has everyone forgotten Kick Ass?) and it was a great romp.
For pure entertainment value this year though, there hasn’t been a film to beat Disney’s Zootopia. It is up there with Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Wall-E as one of the best cartoon films since the start of the computer animation boom. The world building of the city is outstanding, showing up many more serious sci-fi and fantasy films with its vast levels of detail, really showcasing the potential of CGI. Kung Fu Panda 3 may have paled in comparison, but was still an enjoyable watch – perhaps the best of an already solid franchise.
As well as films by Tarantino and Iñárritu, the other great directors to release a movie this year were the Coen Brothers. Hail Ceasar! is enjoyable, filled with pastiches of Hollywood and nods to Barton Fink, but is also possibly their least emotionally engaging work to date. Ben Wheatley’s High Rise was even more decisive and even though I loved it, many didn’t and at least 10 people walked out of the showing I was at. I missed Ballard’s prose but enjoyed the laugh-out-loud dark humour (which you would expect from the team behind Sightseers). It may be a failure in some ways, but I prefer interesting failures to boring successes.
…and that was the first 3 months! 12 films is already more than I saw all of last year, so lets keep this up. What have I got to look forward to? Lots! A new X-Men film, Suicide Squad, Finding Dory…lots of good looking independent releases. Pheww!