No less than THREE great zombie films got released?
Seriously... when I wrote about Sato Shinsuke's great I Am A Hero (seen above) earlier this year, I marvelled at the fact that people could still manage to make fun or otherwise interesting films with zombies. I mean, THAT record had been thoroughly played until it had turned grey and noisy, right? I never expected that my favourite film of 2016 would be a zombie one...
Little did I know the year would see two other great films being added to the sub-genre: Yeon Sang-ho's Train to Busan and Colm McCarthy's The Girl With All the Gifts. Will it never end? Well, with output this good, we may never want it to.
Having fun with alternative Superheroes.
These days, superhero movies can expect to be met with a massive gnashing of teeth, especially on-line. Many people are sick and tired of what they see as an easy money-grabbing exercise by the big studios, churning out the same content over and over again. Therefore it shouldn't come as a big surprise that those movies which rebelled a bit, poked fun at tropes, or contained a dash of batshit-crazy in them managed to buck that trend.
Tim Miller's Deadpool turned out to be terrifically entertaining, despite being obviously still unfinished and showing the scars of a very difficult production history. Scott Derrickson's Doctor Strange had the most psychedelic sequences in it I've ever seen in an IMAX 3D.
But the grand prize was for an Italian superhero film full of sad, damaged people, which showed what becoming superpowered did to those people's minds. Gabriele Mainetti's They Call Me Jeeg Robot had a hero and a villain impossible to look away from, and its massive domestic success may indeed usher in a new age of Italian genre greatness.
You need THE FORCE to lift this book!
Last year in my overview, I mentioned that my most cherished film-related acquisition was not a Blu-ray, but a book. Well, guess what? That happened again this year.
Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie is a massive, MASSIVE double-tome of science fiction design greatness. It has 800 pages, contains over 2000 images, and weighs over 20 pounds.
Check out this gallery of pictures of it. I'm going to stop writing now and leaf through the volumes again for a few minutes, as I'm still nowhere near discovering every detail. See you back in five! (minutes, hours, days...)
South Korean cinema (re)started kicking ass, AGAIN.
In the late nineties and especially the early oughties, South Korean cinema broke through in a big way, enough so to be called a wave. Directors like Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho and Kim Jee-woon became superstars, while Kim Ki-duk ruled the art-house and Lee Chang-dong consistently left festivals with awards.
It got a bit quieter after that, though all of those gents and their veteran forbears still make the occasional waves. But looking through the year-end lists this year, South Korea was back with a vengeance, from Yeon Sang-ho's zombie epic Train to Busan, to Na Hong-jin's chilling The Wailing, to Park Chan-wook's gorgeous The Handmaiden and indeed Kim Jee-woon's even more gorgeous The Age of Shadows (seen above).
And there was more. Indeed, Pierce Conran had a big list of South Korean greatness for us all last week, full of entries to check out!
Anime Limited went craaaaazy.
Anyone who's kept tabs on my "Pretty Packaging" articles knows that I'm a big fan of Scottish distributor Anime Limited. Functioning in a difficult market which shows signs of becoming a lot more difficult (cough-Brexit-cough), the small company nonetheless managed a staggering output in 2016, with some very impressive releases.
This culminated a few months ago in a veritable slew of special editions, all released within days of each other, arriving at my door in a stack large enough for my family members to give me "that look" of resigned exasperation.
Seriously, check out that Fullmetal Alchemist set. It's insane...
I still like Oshii Mamoru a lot!
The Imagine Film Festival Amsterdam showed Oshii Mamoru's Nowhere Girl, a film which rekindled in me the love I have for this man's output. Being a fan of him can be hard sometimes (or hard work at least), but this film showed me that the streak of genius in Oshii is still very much alive, even if it pops up only sparsely.
Everybody hated Warcraft, except me...
Yeah, yeah, throw stuff at me and call me names. I stand by my opinion that most of the "dreadful mistakes" in Duncan Jones' Warcraft, mentioned in so many reviews, were concious decisions, taken on purpose and fully defendable.
Not that that means you need to like the film; the combination of a twee colorful world with a leaden serious story is definitely not for everyone.
But the film sure did scratch MY itch.
"When Studio Ghibli returned..."
In 2014 I lamented the news that Studio Ghibli would stop making feature-length films, and in 2015 I lamented that When Marnie Was There marked the end of an era.
Well, Miyazaki Hayao (who turned 76 yesterday) has announced he's working on a short and is failing to prevent it from becoming a full-length feature, making him one of the world's worst serial retire-ists. But furthermore, this year we got treated to an international Studio Ghibli co-production, with one of its founding fathers Takahata Isao attached as art director. Oo-er!
And what a treat it was: Dutch director Michael Dudok de Wit's The Red Turtle turned out to be a magnificent cross between Robinson Crusoe and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring Again.
Denis Villeneuve arrived.
Remember when we had the "Lists of Shame", in which we writers had to confess about a classic film we hadn't seen yet? In the past few years, you could have chalked me up for any Denis Villeneuve film. Hell, when his Incendies won the audience price at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, I bought the Blu-ray and... have failed to see it so far. Same with Prisoners. Same with Enemy. Hell, I even managed to miss Sicario even though I was dying to see it when it played in theatres here.
Well, this year, I did manage to see Arrival, and I loved it. With his new Blade Runner film just around the corner (and is he really doing a Dune one after that?!) I fully understand the hype around him. And I can't wait to check out his earlier films...
Shinkai Makoto has made a name for himself.
For years people have debated "who the next Miyazaki Hayao" is going to be, and the same names always appear, with Shinkai Makoto high on that list. Me, I find the whole discussion absurd; you might as well be looking for a new Mozart or a new Gaudi. Sure, I hope we'll eventually encounter an artist of similar impact. But a new version of a known master? Why would we want that?
Also, the one time Shinkai really ventured deep into Studio Ghibli territory, it resulted in quite possibly his least interesting film (Children Who Listen To Names Of Films With Really Long Names).
That all changed this year, when Your Name premiered and struck a nerve like a bad dentist. Lazy comparisons with Studio Ghibli are unnecessary: Shinkai Makoto has put a bona-fide records-shattering anime classic on the planet, and for good or for worse has become a household name.
When "Nice" became "Genius".
I had a lot of fun with Shane Black's thriller The Nice Guys, a film which was very entertaining indeed. But I do wonder about it appearing on so many year-end lists as one of 2016's best films. I mean, seriously? This is what we used to call a clever or fun action comedy, but I seem to remember we had plenty of those in the eighties and early nineties.
Is the film actually that good, or were we all just seriously starved for a half decent buddy-action-comedy? I wonder.
And my most-read article was...
As it's hard to pay the rent by just reviewing films, I actually do have another job: I am a financial analyst. I have an affinity for money and statistics, so the powers-that-be here at Screen Anarchy often allow me to peek behind-the-scenes at the traffic.
I was surprised to learn that generally, the "Have Your Say" articles perform much better than, say, the Friday quizzes, or even my reviews.
Most seen by far was last year's question about Evangelion's fourth reboot film. "Would it happen or not?", I asked, and a swarm of readers avidly searching for news about it landed on the page, throughout the entire year. Hmmm... maybe I should check if there is any new news to be found about it.