Hil List 2016: Film

The top 10 films of the calendar year (according to yours truly), with blurbs from my Sunday Independent reviews.

  1. Spotlight66914


    “An irrefutable argument for longform journalism is made. Process, procedure and exposition define the narrative, but this Oscar hopeful is full of the quiet detail and thematic nuance that grant it “classic” status. There is no arch villain cackling in the shadows. No gory flashbacks and no all-American grandstanding. The cast is an impressive ensemble but
    Spotlight’s genius is in its calmly urgent take on historical events. In doing so, it makes them all the more sobering and gravid. Compulsory viewing.”

  2. Hell or High Water

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    “Always an actor of huge vitality, Ben Foster gives a career best while Chris Pine shows he’s far more than just a pretty face. The landscape belongs to Jeff Bridges, however. The veteran brings much sensitivity and nuance to such a trope character, and is mesmeric when quietly observed by David Mackenzie’s masterful lens.”

  3. Arrival

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    “Stealthy signals, unforgettable moments and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score coalesce magnificently as an iconic classic of sci-fi cinema, something to cherish for life, is created before your eyes.”

  4. Sing Street

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    “A glorious and irresistible teenage dreamscape opens up before our eyes. It’d be nothing if John Carney didn’t slow the rhythm and let the pulse of young love, and indeed brotherly love, shine through. Between this and the soundtrack – penned by Carney and Gary Clark – expect to be charmed to tears between the bellylaughs. A classic, and yet another durable blossom in Irish cinema’s current purple patch.”

  5. The Childhood of a Leader

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    “US actor Brady Corbet’s first outing behind the lens is an oddly chilling study of the conditions that can create a fascistic ego. Beneath peering camera direction, chiaroscuro cinematography and Scott Walker’s seismic score are ominous discussions on control and rebellion that are handled with a Haneke-like poise belying the 27-year-old’s lack of film-making experience. He secures superb performances from his cast (including Robert Pattinson), most impressively that of his smouldering young lead.”

  6. Paterson

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    “Lean back and let this graceful protracted tremor of a film slow you down to its speed. Paterson will be looked back on as something of a career high for Jim Jarmusch, and also as a signpost that in 2016 screen acting had uncovered something unique and supremely adaptable in Adam Driver.”

  7. Anomalisa

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    “There’s much to take from Anomalisa that belies its soft-eyed dolls and dry wit, not least its meticulous mix of the whacky with hard, uncompromising realism. Even David Thewlis’s bleating feels like “textbook Kaufman”, which is saying something. It’s great to have him back.”

  8. Room

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    Room feels like the culmination of Irish cinema, a sublime interplay of story, talent, vision, sound and feeling that pushes rare buttons. As for Lenny Abrahamson? Well, for many years I swore he was among Europe’s finest film makers. Make that the world’s.”

  9. El Club

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    “Pablo Larrain’s roving direction and cool framing, Carlos Cabezas’s strings and a roundly excellent cast combine to stunning effect in this magnetic and highly original critique of the Church. Rarely does a drama balance a range of colours – intrigue, repulsion, beauty, dread, humour – with such brazen confidence.”

  10. The Revenant

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    “Some men have all the luck. Others, like Leonardo DiCaprio, are preyed upon by man, beast, element and Alejandro González Iñárritu. In The Revenant, the Birdman director put DiCaprio, his co-stars and the crew through such endurance feats that there was talk of breakdowns and walk-outs on set. Iñárritu’s steel has paid off, however, because this mud ‘n’ blood survival-revenge epic is a genuine masterpiece of 2016 and deserves any further awards coming its way after its Golden Globes rout.”

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Published by

Hilary A White

Dublin-based arts journalist and reviewer, specialising in film, books, music and human-interest stories. Sunday Independent / Irish Independent / State.ie / RTE Radio 1 / Today FM

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