The Decade in Review: 2016

Check out our last year in review right here! This will be our last dedicated article to the Decade in Review, as 2017 (here and here) and 2018 (here and here) have already been covered on No But Listen.

Lou’s Pick: Hounds of Love

Honourable Mentions: Moonlight, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Arrival

Now, this is a pretty good example, in my opinion, of how much an initial opinion on a movie can turn out to be far removed from what you wind up thinking about a film. When I first saw Hounds of Love,I wrote a long article about the function of violence in film, and how I strongly believed that Hounds of Love had gone too far in what it depicted. But now? Now, I think it’s probably the best film of this year.

Part of that is because I’ve seen so many films which I consider fantastic happen to have just wild amounts of graphic violence in them, but let’s be honest – I think that the negative reaction I had to the violence in the Austrailian Ben Young’s directorial debut is proof that this film really knows what it’s doing.

Of course, there’s plenty more to speak to the quality of this film than just the sheer impact it has – Young uses a fantastic score and evocative, smoky, sun-parched cinematography to settle that sense of time and place beautifully, and the three central performances should have been star-makers for everyone involved. It uses horror tropes to unfold a distinctly grounded story, and, I suppose like all great horror, it has to actually find the horrible stuff in there to disturb one way or another.

Because the violence is meant to be near-unwatchable, even though the movie deals with it as carefully and non-exploitatively as possible – after all, this is a film that deals with the abduction and physical and sexual abuse of a teenage girl by an adult couple. This shouldn’t be pleasant viewing, not one minute of it. The fact that I wanted to scrub the memory of this film from my head is proof that it achieved exactly what it set out to do. It’s hideous and brilliant and I can see it now for the masterpiece it is. Not that I have any plans to watch it again anytime soon.

Kevin’s Pick: Arrival

Honorable Mentions: The Nice Guys, Moonlight, Midnight Special, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Hell or High Water, Paterson

Denis Villeneuve has been in the conversation for my best film of each year every time he has released one. Prisoners, Sicario, and Enemy are all brilliant and were a whisker away from top spot in their respective years – but Arrival is something else altogether.

Put simply, this film is absolutely beautiful. Arrival is what would happen if Terrence Malick made a first contact film, though I have a feeling that if he did it would still be no match for this masterpiece. Villeneuve was always threatening to blow up, his previous films always felt like his own version of genres made famous by other directors. Prisoners had a distinctly Fincher feel, Enemy was a mix between Lynch and Cronenberg, and Sicario is the type of film that I wish Michael Mann was still making.

Arrival feels like itself; a film that surpasses its influences by using a very simple conceit to build a narrative around: communication. Art is about communication, at its core it is about communicating a feeling, and Arrival uses the very narrative conventions we take for granted and turns them around. Even the casting of Amy Adams as linguist Dr Louise Banks communicates something very simple. Adams is a terrific actress, a screen presence that we can rely on to entertain us and convince us of the validity of the story that she leads. Villeneuve knows that because of Adams, we want to follow Louise along her journey, to communicate with an alien race. It’s simple. It’s incredible. It’s my film of 2016.

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