Jan 17

The FT Top 41 Films 2016 – #30 – #21

Do You See + FT3 comments • 543 views

Zilla98_01“Hi I’m Godzilla. No honestly I am. I know what you’re thinking, that doesn’t look like Godzilla, he stands up on his hind-legs and stomps Tokyo. Well firstly who are you calling a “he”. Godzilla, ie me, is a lady. And secondly, that Godzilla is stupid – I’m the kind of more realistic Godzilla that people were crying out to see in the 90’s.”

“What’s that?”

“They didn’t? What even with Matthew Broderick? Jean Reno? What about the twist of my babies? Jamiroquai? His song is the best bit? Well that just makes me angry, makes me want to destroy Manhattan with my atomic breath.”

“I don’t? Well nuts to that.”

“Sorry about that, it turns out that I’m not the crowd pleasing monster I thought I was, instead I am a punchline to a number of jokes and I have been assigned to one of the great flops of history. Well just as well I spent last year watching the ten films which appear to come in between #30 and #21 in the FT film poll.”

Thanks rubbish 90’s Godzilla and that is a remarkable coincidence isn’t it. Well here’s what I thought of this run of movies.

30: Julieta

Almodovar returns to family psychodrama, telling the story of Julieta and her daughter, who slowly vanishes as the film goes on. That said he is working against his natural style, playing a much straighter Hitchcockian bat as he unspools his take on a couple of Alice Munro stories. At the heart is two performances (where we get to say yet again how good Almodovar is with his female actors) – Adriana Ugarte as young Julieta and Emma Suárez as the older one, and a very clever coup de cinema when they transition in the film.

29: Hell Or High Water

A hugely assured neo-Western which perhaps becomes a little too interested in making a big statement about the decline of the West, but is really good fun on the way. Chris Pine is oddly the films secret weapon, playing around his movie star looks to paint a morally conflicted man trapped by his family and situation. The small heists are fun, sometimes funny but always to the point, and the slow pursuit by Jeff Bridges in grizzled mode is perhaps a bit too mannered (and the racism to his partner becomes a little too formulaic when you discover where it is going) but this is a neo-Western with something to say and it says it pretty well.

=27: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

It cannot be faulted for its ambition, but it can be faulted for an appallingly unengaging lead character. Eddie Redmayne (he’s an Edward really) channels Matt Smith’s Doctor Who but without the competence. Your tolerance for this stuff depends on your connection with Potter, though the 30’s New York setting is well created in Watford and the supporting leads are good but another five films of this, well I’m not sure I have the stamina.

=27: Doctor Strange

A competent Marvel movie (aren’t they all) which lacks originality in its origin story plot beats, but does have some impressively psychadelic visual effects which, by being visually interesting, marks it out from a lot of the other Marvel movies with their drab house style. Never quite dodging the controversies of its casting, but earning points for trying to engage with the hand dealt with it by the source material, it does a pretty good job of what I always thought was a dour character.

26: 10 Cloverfield Lane

A personal favourite of mine, 10 Cloverfield Land shouldn’t be tarred by the Cloverfield brand, instead be appreciated for the gnarly little kidnap drama with a wrinkle it is. Whether you like, or can get with the wrinkle probably judges how much you’ll like the film, but the first three quarters of the film where John Goodman terrorises Mary Elizabeth Winstead with life-saving kindness over uncontrollable rage is a study in small stakes terror. Goodman is excellent, and as the screws turn we get to see how resourceful Winstead is. And by the end of the film (with a properly satisfy close) she moves herself into one of the truly great screen heroines.

25: No Home Movie*

Our highest rated film voted for by only two people, so they really really liked it, is Chantal Akerman’s last film which flitted too briefly through the cinema last year. Akerman’s film is the story of her mothers life, a Auschwitz survivor though capure by casual surreptitious filming in the last few years of Maman’s life.

24: Spotlight

Oscar winning journalism proceedural from early last year. From the director of the terrible film The Cobbler. Spotlight tells a terrific tale in a taut manner, with a killer ensemble cast. It also shows how the recent history is already so far away, pre-mobile phones and the internets deconstruction of the press. Perhaps no great shakes cinematically, it is still an tense watch, and is part of a sub-section of films about people being good at their jobs that came out this year, the triumph of competence porn.

23: Kubo And The Two Strings

Laika move their stop-motion animation away from horror for kids and towards something a bit more mythical in this stab at an original Japanese folk tale. Its originality also comes with a price with issues around cultural appropriation in the voice work, and some idea of generic folklore from outsiders. Nevertheless it is ravishing to look at, and as ever the tangible stop motion animation gives a different kind of weight to the story. Its great to see Laika still ploughing their idiosyncratic forrow, and Kubo is an imperfect but charming addition to their cannon.

22: Captain America: Civil War

The popcorn film to beat last year had two things going for it. First the Russo Brothers following up Captain America: The Winter Soldier – everyone favourite Marvel film. Second, Age OF Ulton being a bit disappointing this seemed to promise a more personal tale. And it does though in reality everyone really came for the moment in the poster, two sets of superheroes running at each other and fighting at an Airport. What latterly turns out to be an almost completely animated sequence is breath-takingly well done. It is a pity the film limps on for another half hour and isn’t really about anything substantive, but at least no-one was called Martha in it.

21: Everybody Wants Some!

Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to Dazed And Confused is also a very personal period piece about going to college at a particular place and time (very early eighties). Its characters live in that moment and the film doesn’t seem to want to be too critical of the sexual politics and antics and basically this is what sort of lost me. I went to University about ten years later, but these were the guys, the sports guys, who bullied and irritated us then and so I couldn’t easily make the sympathetic leap. If you can, or if you want to look at it more anthropologically, the evocation of time, mood and nostalgia is peerless.

See you next week for the next ten.


  1. 1
    Mark M on 13 Jan 2017 #

    I voted for: Hell Or High Water, Spotlight and EWS!! On EWS!!, I know you’re far from alone in your issues, and I’ll admit that if it was a film about rugby players at, say, Bristol University rather than baseball players in Texas, I would have been incredibly reluctant to see it. But did indeed take it as a portrait of that time and a place, and it is – as I think you acknowledge – a hugely accomplished bit of film-making, deceptively so like Linklater’s best films (as in, it just feels like stuff happening).

    10 Cloverfield Lane was on the list of films I was trying to see before the end of last year, but ran out of time. I’m very much looking forward to it. Will also make an effort to see Kubo And The Two Strings.

    With Julieta, beautiful as it was, I ended up feeling that Almodovar was straining to be sombre, whereas in previous films he’s been so good at mixing grief with laughs. It felt too much like ‘this is my grown-up film’ to me. And in consequence, I didn’t think Emma Suarez actually had that much to do except look very unhappy.

    Doctor Strange I didn’t mind when I was watching it, but the further I get from it, the less I like it. The trip sequence is awesome, and I know someone I know has made a good case for resolution of the plot/climax, but: the only possible thing worse than Inception is a film nicking from Inception, and dear god, has there ever been a part more unnecessary or more poorly written than poor Rachel McAdams’?

    Cap: CW* – it was obviously meant to be this year’s thing, but I’m so uninterested in the idea of superheroes v superheroes. And I felt that the plot machinations to make that happen were clunking as hell. With both Marvel films, my instinct had not been to bother seeing them in the cinema, in both cases I heard enough good things to change my mind, and in both cases I regretted it. (I thought the Luke Cage TV series, for all its flaws, was far better than either big-screen effort).

    *Incidentally, Winter Soldier is nowhere near my second favourite Marvel (CU) film. It’s where the pompousness starts to set in for me.

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 14 Jan 2017 #

    Yes, I know what you mean about Julieta, and it does feel that Almodovar trying to de-emphasise his strengths is a bit odd, but I think there is enough in the story to carry that (and my companion was in floods for most of it so…) I think Suarez does a little more than look unhappy, though Ugarte gets the lions share of the acting.

    I think I am as jolly as I can be about the Marvel films, but your “Inception lite” is taken for Dt Strange (though the effect in Inception wasn’t really justified but then I don’t dream so…)

  3. 3
    Kerry on 15 Jan 2017 #

    Oh whoops I did also see Civil War! Or as it is know round these parts, The One With That Bit With The Helicopter And The Biceps.

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