Every year, hundreds of films in a multitude of genres are released. With so many films on offer, it is easy to miss out on smaller, independent, less successful or less publicised films. The 2016 box office was dominated by blockbusters, sequels, and franchises, with the top ten most successful films of the year falling into these same categories.
This list looks at some great films, released in 2016, that may have fallen slightly under the radar. Each of these films is definitely worth a watch.
This revealing autobiographical documentary film from Director and Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson brings together a collection of footage collected over the years of her career behind the camera. From a war-torn Bosnia to a boxing match in Brooklyn, from daily routines to shocking revelations, this film creates an insightful look into life behind the lens, and the human condition.
The film takes the form of a collage of clips which are taken from Johnson’s many projects. Not all the clips are refined final cuts from her projects though. There are some clips which are setting up a shot or trying to get the right angle. These unrefined parts invite the audience to experience the more technical side of filmmaking, whilst some of Johnson’s comments that you hear as she films, let the audience see that the footage that she captures, affect her personally.
Cameraperson premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and has received critical acclaim, including winning several international awards. Cameraperson can feel slow-paced, and disjointed at times. But the payoff is in the thoughtful examination of life, and a life’s work. There are several haunting scenes and the resulting feeling for the audience is that they’ve been given a poetic insight into a bit more of the world.
2. Little Men
Little Men follows two boys living in Brooklyn, whose friendship is put to the test when their parents’ have a disagreement over money, and the lease of a dress shop. It might have ‘little’ in the title, and only be eighty-five minutes in length, but Little Men is not a small film. Director Ira Sachs has created a warm and thoughtful film, that is quietly engrossing.
The cast is great and includes acting stalwarts such as Alfred Molina and Greg Kinnear. But relative newcomers, Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri, who play Jake and Tony respectively, are brilliant. Jake is a quiet introvert, and Michael is a charming extrovert, and no matter your age, you can relate to one of them.
The relationship between them also brings back wonderful memories of adolescent friendship where the differences between people seem smaller, and less significant. The adults in the film are also wildly relatable, with their money troubles and career issues. Little Men plays out the little moments in life that seem insignificant, but as with all actions, they have meanings and consequences.
This observational and bittersweet film is certainly worth a watch. Little Men may not play out massively exciting drama, and a conclusion that satisfies everyone, but as is life. And Little Men is more than anything, a film about life.
3. Captain Fantastic
The title of this film may sound like another comic book blockbuster but that is a misnomer. Viggo Mortensen was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role in this film as a father who is raising six children in the wilderness, when they are forced to reintegrate back into society.
He is supported by a brilliant cast of young actors who play a range of colourful and quirky characters. The young cast deliver brilliant lines and are the heart of the film. Writer and Director Matt Ross sought inspiration from aspects of his own life, and you can tell in the clever and thoughtful writing.
Captain Fantastic is a slow burner to begin with, but as it finds its feet it becomes a rich mix of different genres which work very well together. It is a drama, a road movie and a coming of age film. It is also thought-provoking, raising questions about the society we live in, how we raise our children and what it means to be a family.
What is most wonderful about this film, is that ultimately it is about being true to yourself and the importance of family. This message resonates more as the film progresses, so by the conclusion Captain Fantastic has a feel-good and heart-warming effect.
4. Kubo And The Two Strings
Animations often have universal appeal, and Kubo And The Two Strings definitely falls into this category. It has something to offer all ages and audiences, and will leave an impression on everyone who watches it.
The stop motion is brilliantly done, and fits in so well with this richly told tale. Kubo And The Two Strings feels like storytelling at its most wonderful – it is captivating, and captures the imagination. From the opening scene, and throughout, Kubo And The Two Strings is engrossing and engaging.
The story follows Kubo, who makes a living telling stories to the people of his village. But when he accidentally summons a malevolent spirit, he ends up on the run, on a perilous quest. The story feels really original, and is an epic tale of courage, magic and love.
There are moments that are genuinely scary, and other moments that are utterly heart-breaking. There is no doubt that there are some more mature themes addressed in this film. But they are addressed with such creativity and finesse, that they never feel too much or too dark. After watching Kubo And The Two Strings, you will feel as though you’ve learnt a bit more about the world. Laika is best known for its stop motion films, and in Kubo And The Two strings, it has made a masterpiece.
5. I, Daniel Blake
This film from Director Ken Loach, won the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and the Prix du Public at the 2016 Locarno International Film Festival. It follows the story of Daniel Blake, an unemployed widower, who is denied employment and support allowance and must fight against bureaucracy to maintain his dignity, and the dignity of those around him. It is a damning portrayal of the United Kingdom’s welfare state, and an eye-opening look at life on the poverty line.
It is a simple film in terms of its style and narrative, there aren’t any fast-paced scenes or massive twists. But it is deeply complex in its raw emotion, and gritty realistic drama – this is a film which reflects what is happening in society today, and how the government is failing some of its most vulnerable citizens.
Screenings of the film were met with strong reactions. In some screenings, many applauded as the credits rolled. In other screenings, audience members left in tears. There is no doubt, that this is a hard-hitting film, which will invoke emotion in those who watch it. I, Daniel Blake feels like a film that should be required viewing – everyone, no matter their background or circumstances, should be made to watch it.