by Benjamín Harguindey
Here’re my Top 5 Films of 2016.
Tom Ford’s second feature is a haunting psychological drama, based on the novel of Austin Wright. To say it’s the story of a woman reading a manuscript is to do a disservice to the complexity of its structure, which plays like a nightmarish stream-of-consciousness. Call it a ghost story if you will: the somber existence of Susan (Amy Adams) becomes unhinged by things that are not there, a brutal piece of fiction that takes hold of her life and burdens her with a powerful yet distressing emotion. Crude and stylish, grotesque and beautiful, Nocturnal Animals is my favorite movie of 2016.
2. La La Land
Damien Chazelle’s second feature La La Land isn’t just a lavish send-off of the classic golden age Hollywood musical, it’s also a heartfelt romance between two dreamers whose dreams, tragically, come before their romance. Despite dabbling in magical realism and imagining an L.A not that different from the glamorous ’50s, La La Land manages to feel more realistic (and touching) than any other cynical modern-day romantic comedy because it tells a compelling character-driven story that relies on psychology and motivation rather than plot contrivance, and with a catchy musical score to boot.
Arrival is as good as science fiction can get, really. You take an enthralling idea such as communicating with alien life and speculate about the many ramifications on a personal and ultimately global scale. Here Amy Adams plays a linguist tasked with brokering communication with aliens who may or may not be invading, the weight of the weak and the paranoid on her shoulders. Goes to show Denis Villeneuve is as ductile with sci-fi as with any other genre, and a fine fit to helm the coming Blade Runner movie.
4. The VVitch: A New-England Folktale
This is as auspicious as film debuts get. Robert Eggers delivers an entirely original horror film that not only manages to sidestep the tired tropes and clichés of the genre but also taps into a kind of psychological bedrock rarely reached in dramatic film: the themes of love, trust, faith, shame and guilt are dissected in this folktale about a Puritan family, outcast from their religious community “for pride” in the early 1600s and left to turn on each other within a haunted backwoods.
5. Free Fire
Ben Wheatley’s ravenous, offbeat movie seems to have been born out of a bet, perhaps with executive producer Martin Scorsese: can you make a movie out of a single, uninterrupted shootout? Turns out you can if you wanna make a black comedy film and you imbue it with Wheatley’s trademark irreverence. The characters in Free Fire are slowly driven insane by the loud, relentless action flick they find themselves trapped in, but from the audience’s perspective this is slapstick gold and absurdly brilliant.
Benjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).