Now I may not be a fancy pants lover of indie cinema, I typically don’t analyze themes and plots, as my life and interest is dedicated to crafting the imagery. I leave the story and to the writers and idea people. But I know what I like and this is what I come away remembering most in 2016, either for striking images or a unique story.
It’s a top 5 (I’ll pick my 5 others in Jan.), because I’m too lazy to spend time making it longer.
Capsule – Andrew Martin
This is one of those technically released in 2015 ones.Set in 1959, a British astronaut (Edmund Kingsley) is trapped, hopelessly alone, in a malfunctioning capsule orbiting the Earth. After missing his re-entry window and with limited contact to his Mission Control, the deeply suspicious Russians and Americans attempt to intervene. But the reason I’m including it is because of the long tracking shot at the end, it’s a shot that has been on my mind since I’ve watched it.
The Witch – Robert Eggers
Set in 1630’s England, Eggers’ directorial debut is fantastic. I found the sound, and visuals completely stimulating. It has some VFX but it is used few and far between, adding the perfect texture to the film. It’s scary, claustrophobic, and seems realistic. The plausibility of the filmmaking sucks you in to believing the events could have been historical. Shot by cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, it looks to have been shot using mostly natural available light, with the lighting & color creating a tense moody atmosphere. Another one I’ve thought about many times since viewing.
Hell or High Water – David Mackenzie
Shot in a favorite aspect ratio, 2.39:1, Hell or High Water is a western heist film involving bank robberies. Awesome. Due to amazing writing, and fantastic performances from the entire cast (when is Jeff Bridges not sucking the talent from the room?) There is nothing brand new or revolutionary to the tale that is told here, but the slight twists and personal touches from the director give this same old tale some brand new life. A film that is about the characters and touches on the themes of right, wrong, and how most of life exists in a grey area, I think it may be my favorite of the year.
The Neon Demon – Nicolas Winding Refn
I have such an affinity to the director Nicolas Winding Refn and his strong in your face visual style, that I am going to put it on my list. More people dislike it than not, but I’m here to talk about the cinematography and art direction. It is eye candy. All style, not much substance but…the style. The plot involves a sixteen-year-old model Jesse (Elle Fanning) and three older models. It’s an experience.
Green Room – Jeremy Saulnier
This is Saulnier’s follow up the another film I loved Blue Ruin in 2013. It’s been billed a horror film, I felt it was more a thriller. Extreme, extreme nail bitingly stressful and intense. Involving a punk band stumbling onto a horrific act of violence. The band are the only witnesses, and become the prey of a gang of skinheads who want to make sure all the evidence is eliminated. Not as original as Blur Ruin, it is very focused in it’s tale and execution and will leave a mark as you experience the terror the band goes through in their backwoods nightmare. Probably the only one on my list that I didn’t really care about the visuals as much as the story and feeling of dread.
I’ll see how I feel about these choices plus my other 5 at the end of the year. I’m hoping Rogue One can be added, because if we get a Star Wars film that actually goes beyond being a solid film I will be very happy.