2016 has been on a roller coaster all year. I've been terribly low and really high. It has been the same with movies - I've seen many incredibly good ones but, unlike previous years, quite many have disappointed me. Luckily, by the end of the year, I could put together a very decent list of 10 of the best movies that really got to me. This year in music was, unlike previous years, just awesome! So many great albums too chooce from, so it was really difficult to put together a top 10 list. But here it is - my sinusoidal year in movies and music.
10. Hell or High Water (Film 44)
Director: David Mackenzie
102 minutes| Drama
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, IMDb: 7,8
Texas brothers--Toby (Chris Pine), and Tanner (Ben Foster), come together after years divided to rob branches of the bank threatening to foreclose on their family land. For them, the hold-ups are just part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that seemed to have been stolen from under them. Justice seems to be theirs, until they find themselves on the radar of Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last grand pursuit on the eve of his retirement, and his half-Comanche partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their scheme, and with the Rangers on their heels, a showdown looms at the crossroads where the values of the Old and New West murderously collide.
This movie was definitely worth seeking out. It is a simple tale told complexly and presented beautifully. The music done by Nick Cave is also perfect.
9. Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Director: John Crowley
Country: UK, Canada, Ireland
111 minutes| Drama
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, IMDb: 7,5
Brooklyn tells the profoundly moving story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother's home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.
This movie is a good reminder that you can tell a great story without too many twists and effects. With the great performances from the whole cast there is not a dull minute in the film and it only gets more and more interesting towards the end. I later found out that it's written by Nick Hornby. So there's a cherry on top as well.
8. (M)uchenik / The Student (Hype Film)
Director: Kirill Serebrennikov
118 minutes| Art House & International, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, IMDb: 7,2
A high school student becomes convinced that the world has been lost to evil, and begins to challenge the morals and beliefs of the adults around him.
This movie has very strong performances and cinematography. I loved the humor, the sarcasm and the presence of the true Russial Soul.
7. Bacalaureat / Graduation (Les Films du Fleuve)
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Country: Romania, France, Belgium
128 minutes| Art House & International, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, IMDb: 7,7
Romeo Aldea, a physician living in a small mountain town in Transylvania, has raised his daughter Eliza with the idea that once she turns 18, she will leave to study and live abroad. His plan is close to succeeding - Eliza has won a scholarship to study psychology in the UK. She just has to pass her final exams - a formality for such a good student. On the day before her first written exam, Eliza is assaulted in an attack that could jeopardize her entire future. Now Romeo has to make a decision. There are ways of solving the situation, but none of them using the principles he, as a father, has taught his daughter.
I love how this movie handles complex issues with great care and compassion.
6. El abrazo de la serpiente / Embrace of the Serpent (Buffalo Films)
Director: Ciro Guerra
Country: Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina
123 minutes| Action & Adventure, Art House & International
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, IMDb: 8,0
Embrace of the Serpent features the encounter, apparent betrayal and finally life-affirming friendship between an Amazonian shaman (the last survivor of his people) and two foreign scientists.
This is filmed in black and white but is stunning at capturing the beauty and majesty of the Amazon and the people. This movie is portraying humanity and our weaknesses in the west. It will not tell the viewer what to think but provides a side that is rarely seen. A lost culture and so much lost knowledge.
5. Spotlight (Open Road Films)
Director: Tom McCarthy
Country: USA, Canada
129 minutes| Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, IMDb: 8,1
Spotlight tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world's oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper's tenacious "Spotlight" team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston's religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Tom McCarthy, Spotlight is a tense investigative dramatic-thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest cover-ups in modern time.
This is a brilliant film for both cinematic and cultural reasons. The acting, script, direction, design and pace of the movie adds a lot to an already strong and heart breaking story.
4. The Revenant (20th Century Fox)
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Country: USA, Hong Kong, Taiwan
156 minutes| Action & Adventure, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, IMDb: 8,0
Inspired by true events, The Revenant is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man's epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption.
The Revenant is a visual treat and I loved how I got absorbed by the immense landscapes and poetic atmosphere the director has given it. This is a masterpiece.
3. Toni Erdmann (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Maren Ade
Country: Germany, Austria, Romania
162 minutes| Art House & International, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, IMDb: 8,2
Winfried doesn't see much of his working daughter Ines. The suddenly student-less music teacher decides to surprise her with a visit after the death of his old dog. It's an awkward move because serious career woman Ines is working on an important project as a corporate strategist in Bucharest. The geographical change doesn't help the two to see more eye to eye. Practical joker Winfried loves to annoy his daughter with corny pranks. What's worse are his little jabs at her routine lifestyle of long meetings, hotel bars and performance reports. Father and daughter reach an impasse, and Winfried agrees to return home to Germany. Enter flashy "Toni Erdmann": Winfried's smooth-talking alter ego. Disguised in a tacky suit, weird wig and even weirder fake teeth, Toni barges into Ines' professional life, claiming to be her CEO's life coach. As Toni, Winfried is bolder and doesn't hold back, but Ines meets the challenge. The harder they push, the closer they become. In all the madness, Ines begins to understand that her eccentric father might deserve some place in her life after all.
Toni Erdmann starts slow and takes its time. This movie is a genius mix of tragedy and comedy which leaves your one eye laughing and the other eye crying. Toni Erdmann is constantly entertaining, really well acted and emotionally compelling.
2. Arrival (21 Laps Entertainment)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
116 minutes| Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, IMDb: 8,3
When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team--lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams)--are brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers--and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.
This is a beautiful piece of science fiction. The film forms a package of visual, intellectual and audible bliss. Also, the composition of Jóhann Jóhannsson is second to none.
1. La La Land (Liongate Films)
Director: Damien Chazelle
128 minutes| Comedy, Drama, Musical & Performing Arts
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, IMDb: 8,9
La La Land tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.
Chazelle did it again! It's one of those movies that you just don't want to end and when it does, you feel as if you could watch it all over again.
The most striking thing about La La Land is just how beautifully crafted a film it is - the story, performances, music, dance numbers and cinematography all playing their part in making this such an unforgettable cinematic experience.
10. Anderson .Paak - Malibu (Steel Wool/OBE/Art Club)
Genres: Rap & Hip-Hop
This is a funky, soulful album that showcases Anderson's distinct style.
9. De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody (AOI)
Genres: Rap & Hip-Hop
A very smooth hip-hop album that has a certain warmth about it and feels quite laid back at times. This has much more to offer than an average hip-hop album as there's plenty of depth musically.
8. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd)
Genres: Alternative Rock
Wonderful emotional and personal album which at times is an almost unbearably emotional listen. It is a sad yet beautiful piece of work, of life, and loss.
7. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)
Genres: Alternative Rock
The beauty of this album is how it grew on me slowly, listen after listen. It floats, it fills the room with an ethereal atmosphere.
6. Michael Kiwanuka - Love & Hate (Polydor)
Genres: R&B and Soul
What an amazing second album from Michael Kiwanuka! This album is an absolute gem, full of gorgeous melody, lush production and an emotional honesty within the songs which is refreshing and moving. Beautiful and soulful.
5. Frank Ocean - Blonde (Boys Don't Cry)
Genres: R&B and Soul
A brilliant blend of love, lost, nostalgia and everything in between over eclectic beats. An incredible album that carries me along its melody waves where I can absorb the rawest of Ocean's emotions. True art.
4. Blood Orange - Freetown Sound (Domino Records)
Genres: R&B and Soul
Another incredibly good R&B album of 2016, full of good tunes with some pretty funky touches. Atmospheric and honest. I love getting lost in this album. The warm mixtape vibe and fluid sequencing helps draw me in.
3. Snoh Aalegra - Don't Explain - EP (Artium Recordings)
Genres: R&B and Soul
This voice... It took me 30 seconds and... I'm Snohed in! And I don't want to come out. So much passion, soul & organic instrumentation. This EP gives me chills. It's dark, sexy, passionate, spiritual, emotional… It's a complete effort.
2. David Bowie - Blackstar (ISO / Columbia)
Genres: Pop Rock
What can I say. A brave album from a man staring his own mortality in the face. It’s a peaceful, vibrant farewell. There can be no finer goodbye than this brilliant album. Farewell Starman, thank you for the inspiration you gave so many. Your beautiful soul lives on!
1. Solange - A Seat At The Table (Saint / Columbia)
Genres: R&B and Soul
Solange came out of nowhere and blew me away. A beautifully empowering, thought provoking and powerful album. It brings about a sense of peace and it’s spiritually uplifting. Absolutely love this album from start to finish.
20+ great albums were left out... Amazing year!
My 2016 Mixtape
You can listen to this playlist at @Spotify.
I was feeling really low in spring and found myself listening to music more than ever. Thanks to YouTube’s auto suggest I stumbled upon an artist I’d never heard of before. This song just blew me away. This live session is so raw, real and emotional. God knows how many times I listened to it on repeat and it literally healed me. If this isn’t music therapy, I don’t know what is.
1. Movie: Whiplash
1. Album: Ane Brun - When I'm Free
1. Movie: True Detective - Season 1
1. Album: The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream
1. Movie: The Broken Circle Breakdown
1. Album: Arcade Fire - Reflektor
1. Movie: Intouchables
1. Album: Jessie Ware – Devotion
1. Movie: Beginners
1. Album: Jamie Woon - Mirrorwriting
*Cover photo illustration: Ragne Selis