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The 89th Academy Awards are just a few days away and as usual countless places on the Internet are throwing out their own awards for the year in cinema so I figured why not throw my own hat into the ring.

Some of the films I’m nominating for my makeshift awards/look back you will have seen and heard of but hopefully there’ll be one or two sprinkled in there that you may have missed and will now give a second look.  So without further ado lets jump into my “Look Back at 2016 Awards”


My Favourite Film of the Year That Everybody Else Agrees is Awesome:


"Arrival" is an amazing film. In a time where the majority of science fiction cinema has to have a world destroying device or a catastrophic alien invasion “Arrival” chooses to approach the notion of extra terrestrials and our first encounters with them through the world of communication. It’s pointless to say how poignant and timely this film is, given the state of world politics at the present, but the construction of the narrative that Denis Villeneuve and his team weave is something of beauty, a film where characters use language and understand to help put aside differences rather than aggression and fear.. It’s a film best seen with as little prior knowledge as possible and one best seen multiple times.


Best Performance by an Actor:

Daniel Radcliffe in Swiss Army Man

Casey Affleck was broken, Denzel Washington was mad, Daniel Radcliffe was dead. In “Swiss Army Man” Radcliffe managed to deliver not just the best supporting performance of the year but, in my opinion, hands down the BEST performance of the year. I can explain this opinion with one simple fact: he played a farting corpse that gets navigational erections and made you care. The innocence and charm that he brought to the lifeless body of Manny is something to behold and is the emotional glue of a wonderful and bizarre masterpiece.


Best Performance by an Actress:

Rebecca Hall in Christine

In this little seen film Rebecca Hall put on a master class of acting. Playing the real life news reporter Christine Chubbuck, who committed suicide on live television, Hall delivers a performance that constantly teeters between a strong, powerful woman attempting to gain control in a male driven world to a woman on the edge of her sanity, drowning in her own depression and anxiety desperately reaching for a lifeline. Heartbreaking and oddly inspiring, her performance not only elevates the film but propels her to new heights as one of the best working actresses today.


Best Direction of the Year:

Chan-wook Park for The Handmaiden


It goes without saying that Chan-wook Park is a brilliant director, his previous films Oldboy and the Vengeance trilogy are amazing feats, but his latest film (a period piece containing multiple plots of revenge, deception and love) is a step above for the established director. The cinematic language he incorporates in the film is not only subtle but visually stunning and he slowly plants little seeds throughout setting up his inevitable twist narrative that you can’t help but become enamoured with.


Best Screenplay of the Year:

Paterson by Jim Jarmusch

I am a HUGE fan of Jim Jarmusch and have been for many years. “Paterson” is, I feel, a return to form for the writer/director, utilizing his masterful wordplay and world building in a way his more recent films have lacked. Harkening back to the care free attitude of his earlier work (films like "Stranger Than Paradise" or "Down by Law") the script for Paterson can be viewed as meandering, as we slowly follow a poetry writing bus driver through a week in his life, but the inherent beauty in its simplicity shines through in the words the characters both speak and write. It’s a film I connected deeply with and it made me fall in love with one of my favourite filmmakers all over again.


My Personal Favourite Films of the Year That Nobody Saw:

Midnight Special

2016 was a good year for science fiction. While “Arrival” served as the big budget, award winning affair “Midnight Special” was the indie gem reminiscent of the classic films of the 70s. With a narrative that is somewhere between “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Starman”, the film is one about fathers and sons, the bond they share and the lengths one will go for his loved ones. Wonderfully directed and paced, the film never treats its audience like idiots, slowly drip feeding them information as its needed so that they can draw connections and discover the mystery and wonder of the fascinating narrative as it develops.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Easily the funniest film of the year. I have been a huge fan of The Lonely Island dating back to their Channel 101 days and it was fantastic to see them on the big screen again (it’s just a shame nobody else did). “Popstar” is a film that is both absurd and oddly warm at the same time filled with music that is hilarious and catchy. Samberg delivering a somewhat grounded performance as the world’s most narcissistic singer as his world falls apart around him with plenty of memorable moments from a brilliantly comedic supporting cast.

Green Room

A nasty, dirty thriller that grabs you and doesn’t let go. The simple story of a punk band trapped in a green roomhaving to fight their way out through a pack of neo-Nazis is built with such authenticity that it's probably the scariest movie of the year. Fans of Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film “Blue Ruin” will understand how good the man is at setting mood and tone and “Green Room” turns that up to 11 as it’s Peckinpahesque story slowly and horrifically unfolds before your eyes.


Honourable Mentions for Films You Really Should See:

Operation Avalanche

Easily the craziest film you will see from 2016. Filmed in NASA under false pretences, the movie tells the story of the A/V department of the CIA as they set out to fabricate the moon landing. What starts as a fun and crazy faux documentary slowly becomes something more sinister as the group find themselves in way over their heads in a world of espionage and intrigue that rivals most thrillers to come out this year.


A small independent film that not many people saw but has stuck with me throughout the year. “Joshy” is about a small group of friends who take a man who’s wedding has been cancelled away for a weekend to try and get his mind off things. Deeply personal and filled with brilliant performances it’s a film that cleverly sneaks the emotions up on you, taking its time and allowing you to get to know and fall in love with its characters leaving a cinematic experience that, while small, stays with you long after the credits roll.


So that’s it, my picks for 2016. Hopefully you once again enjoyed my makeshift awards and have found a couple of films you may not have seen and will now seek out and, fingers crossed, enjoy as much as I did and pass along for others to experience too.

Written by Chris Swan.