“Hi I’m The Brave Little Toaster, star of the 1986 film The Brave Little Toaster and its direct to video sequels The Brave Little Toaster To The Rescue, and The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars. You know, the late 80’s was a brilliant time to be a Toaster, we were flying all over the place on screensavers, being fancipantsed up by Duralit, and then there was me, an honest to god appliance hero for a consumer age. These days though, you’re all in tha cloud, and there is no room for toast in the cloud, so I have been told. So I sit with my friends, Lampy, Air Conditioner and Two Faced Sewing Machine and watch Entertainment Centre and all the great films that came out last year like these ones. I mean, I assume I got back from Mars, I have to admit I didn’t watch it, it seemed far fetched. ”
Cheers Toasty, and you should just be proud that as a Toaster you got your own film franchise. The mind boggles. Anyway here is the top ten:
Aka Zootropolis due to an Irish theme park, but the original US name is a better joke in a film full of better than average jokes. The lines between Pixar and Disney have blurred enough for me to expect any original Disney computer animated film to be as good as Pixar, and Zootopia certainly is up there. Plenty of thought is put into this shared world of animals, its somewhat honest conversation about prejudice and typecasting, and that whilst you can “try to be anything you want to be”, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. In the centre is a great pair of characters, Judy the rabbit cop and Nick the conman fox both constrained by the perception of their nature. Along with that though it is really funny, properly suspenseful and the visual design is detailed and exceptionally layered. It could do without the Shakira gazelle dance party ending but it’s pretty perfect outside of that.
9: Things To Come
Mia Hansen-Løve’s film is an odd beast, its a year in the life of a woman getting a divorce. Isabelle Huppert is controlled in the lead, this is not a film about histrionics. Instead it is a film about how life goes on, how there is no such thing as stability and how to cope with that change. The result is a very lived in film, it feels totally real, whilst still feeling totally like a French film (no other country has philosophers as lead characters). There are hints of regret, and political capitulation, though Huppert is too young to be active in ‘69, that seemingly French national spirit has dissipated in her life. Which leaves cynicism, and perhaps a slow lonely crawl to death. So the fact that the film ends up mildly optimistic is rather remarkable.
I’ve never liked the character of Deadpool, it’s difficult to write an ultra-violent, mentally damaged pop culture spewing character well. And whilst I don’t think the film is brilliant, it does find a way of walking that line in making the character likeable enough to tolerate his smart arsed nonsense whilst revelling in the scatalogical violence. Nearly all of the credit should go to Ryan Reynolds, an actor with a seemingly bottomless well of smarm, who manages to turn that liability into a positive. I thought some of the jokes were tin eared and obvious, but there were a lot of them, and the central sex scene is a highpoint and its game cast (bland villain notwithstanding) were good enough to keep things ticking over – though I think there is a much tauter, more subversive film waiting to get out.
Did it destroy your childhood?
I liked Ghostbusters. I didn’t really like Ghostbusters II. I liked Ghostbusters. A weird cover-version remake, perhaps with too many nods to the original, but a really good central gang cast of very funny women being pretty funny. And saving the world. Clearly cut to pieces in editing, with a very long Chris Hemsworth sequence relegated to the credits, and yes the villain is in the end a big whirly light in the sky, this exhibit A of the culture war was just a fun summer competence porn blockbuster. With female leads. Get over it.
Victoria is primarily a gimmick film, a single uninterrupted take following our heroine first through a night out in a club, with young love, romance, and then into nastier crime shenanigans. However the gimmick here works, the actors stay on point and in character for the two hour running time and there isn’t too much tedious wheel spinning improv to keep things going. And considering where the story goes, and how serious everything gets, there is a degree to which enjoying the film is due to its technical difficulty. But there is also the joy of following Victoria herself as she undergoes massive changes (a great performance from Laia Costa), a film about spur of the moment choices, and also, presciently a film about Europe.
5: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I was promised a heist, I was promised some spies, instead I got some dour dirty rebels arguing with each other and climbing things because there is one thing about the Star Wars Universe, there are lots of times when you have to climb. I thought it was a kind of mediocre film about a footnote to the original film, and whilst I think it did some good work fleshing out the universe (and certainly adding some diversity), it did that at the expense of telling that much of a compelling story. There were attempts to give the characters back story, but you know they are still fighting the space Nazi’s so good on them. But it was rarely boring and has opened the door for other types of Star Wars stories, hope they have a bit more oomph to them.
Or, if you will Rocky 7. Because despite the focus on Apollo Creed’s son, this is a film about the end of Rocky, about legacy and about what all of that means. And it cleverly has Michael B.Jordan embody the question – what does a rich kid have to fight for (and convincingly answers it)? Our highest scoring remnant of last years Oscar race, this is an exceptionally made commercial film, hitting all the right beats a boxing movie needs, and taking smart notes from the original Rocky. A smart archivist could probably make a Boyhood like epic watching Stallone age through these films, but writer director Ryan Coogler understands when to homage, when to steal and when to go to Goodison Park.
3: Love And Friendship
There is a degree of relief to see that Kate Beckinsale can not only be in a good film again, but be so good in what is basically a minor Jane Austen adaptation. Minor Jane Austen, quite major Whit Stillman, who manages to combine his ability with a dry wit, with the grandmother of the form. But it is absolutely Beckinsale’s film and she uses the opportunity to be catty, manipulative, despicable and thoroughly convincing that this is the only way for a woman in her position to get by. Excellent dimwitted support from Tom Bennett (which perhaps is part influenced by his Dad Mr Bennett) and a fluid filming style makes it a really satisfying, and very funny, watch.
It is interesting that a lot of the films tiptoeing around award season have split audiences, with some very extreme reactions. I really liked Arrival, in the way of enjoying something really well made, this continues the idea of competence porn to an extreme position. Amy Adams is great in the lead role, managing her melancholic air through the machinations of the plot, making the piece feel tonally satisfactory. Others hated it, many sci fi fans felt the plot development was obvious, lots of people hated the tone, and that the whole thing was slow. I think I worked out what was going on about two minutes before the reveal, and just enjoyed how it had been set-up in form and content. Villeneuve uses the history of idea-based sc-fi film well to ground the film and also deliver his story, and the film is never not beautiful. A terrific bit of big screen film making.
1: Hail, Caesar!
I was underwhelmed by Hail, Caesar! the first time I saw it. I thought it was flippant, too light about the HUAC and blacklisting, its pastiches broad and I didn’t need to see George Clooney doing his comedy mugging again. I wanted the singing and the dancing and the comedy: you shouldn’t tease me with a Esther Williams homage and leave me hanging on for more. But on rewatch I actually saw what was going on, The Coen Brothers were throwing everything against the wall to create an alternate Hollywood where Charlton Heston had been enlightened with communist philosophy, where Gene Kelly was actually a Russian spy and this was all not going to destabilise the USA. Hail! Caesar posits the world actually suggested by the HUAC, but also one overseen by gold hearted thugs like Mannix. None of this really matters, you can enjoy the screwball plot, the set pieces and sweetness of the sprawling cast. But it was interesting that the things I wanted to give more on the first viewing, became the very things I wanted them to be on repeat, comforting and fun. And frankly its refreshing to have an adult comedy voted the best film of the year.
So there you go, argue in the comments. Exactly 50 films got more than one vote, the bottom nine (which I think is on a par with the top ten for average quality) were:
48: Edge Of Seventeen
47: Train To Busan
46: Where You’re Meant To Be
45: The Nice Guys
43: Pete’s Dragon
42: Childhood Of A Leader
And there you go. Will you remember this months big movies when we get round to December this year or will LaLa Land and Cameraperson fade? See you in December to find out.