The year 2016 was a terrible year, one that won’t be easily forgotten. We lost so many important figures – from Lemmy to David Bowie, Prince to Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman to Carrie Fisher and so many others. Not only that, but the people, events and movements that gained power and notoriety made it even worse: Trump, Brexit and multiple terrorist attacks across the globe. Personally, it was a devastation as well – my brother Ville sadly passed away suddenly in December.
All this put together, it’s not a surprise the year wasn’t great in film, either. I actually had trouble picking 10 films I thoroughly enjoyed, but here it is nevertheless. Note, I haven’t seen films like La La Land and Manchester By The Sea yet, so it might turn out a bit different in the end.
1: I, DANIEL BLAKE
The story of two society’s outcasts teaming up together to fight the world has never been this bleak, sad or frustrating. Rarely do I stop to really think the challenges the modern world poses on those not signed up for the digital revolution, but Ken Loach rubs it in our faces so hard it’s hard to miss. Terrific performances from Dave Johns and Hayley Squires, both relatively unknown faces, brought the gritty world of UK bureaucratic wasteland alive.
2: CAPTAIN FANTASTIC
Another us-versus-the-world film, but with much brighter and positive, Captain Fantastic brought Arago… I mean, Viggo Mortensen to herd a hippie family who just lost their mother. Basically, it’s a road trip movie to the funeral, to be arranged by a stiff upper-class family of the deceased. Lively, sparkling and fun, yet guaranteed to squeeze bucketful of tears, Captain Fantastic left me happily smiling.
3: TONI ERDMANN
The world has truly gone mad: Trump is the president of USA, UK is no more in EU and the Germans make the best comedy of the year. Disconnect with his daughter leads Winfried to a desperate offensive into her personal life and to the invention of a fake persona with fake teeth, Toni Erdmann. The extremely long film, Toni Erdmann takes advantage of the time available and spends it with the main characters and the crazy events that take place in the world, and carefully convinces us that it’s OK to like, even to laugh at a German comedy.
A supplementary film to the 2014 Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour is a dramatised account on events that took place, peppered with fictitious characters and scenes, but Oliver Stone‘s tough directing and Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s eerily Snowden-like performance make up for them. A solid techno thriller about one of the most important people alive today.
5: HACKSAW RIDGE
Looking for an absolution of the Hollywood, Mel Gibson makes an American war hero movie, but finds a twist never seen before: about a man who never shoots a bullet. Based on true story of Desmond Doss who wanted badly to become a medic but refused to carry a weapon is a cruel, rough WWII portrayal the next film, but with a bit bigger heart and message to carry around.
6: THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MÄKI
Olli Mäki is a legend I never heard of before the movie got made, but fell in love with quickly as portrayal of his personality, brought alive by Jarkko Lahti, made its’ way in the big screen. The under-stated boxing film is an exact antonym of American boxing films like Rocky, but the twist is brilliant: a boxer who falls in love. Shot in black and white, the film has been appraised for its’ humane qualities.
Selma director Ava DuVernay continues her work on the black history, this time digging into the big, gaping hole in the US legal system that is the prison system, a legalised form of slavery. While made in a very American style with all the bells and whistles clanking and tooting to keep the the attention of the kids, the film reminds us that while US is so concentrated on fighting the racism by condemning the “N”-word, it’s actually not doing anything to the very problem itself.
While Ghostbusters is definitely not worthy of its’ predecessor in 1984, it’s a really fun and quite original, but definitely not without flaws. It remains to be seen whether the film makes enough dough to deliver a sequel, it’s not really looking like that, but there is much gas in the ladies still left. What resonates the most in the film is that it’s being made with loads of love and fun, real trust in the end result. It’d be shame if they weren’t given another chance just because Internet trolls did what they do best, bash women, and marketing team failed to swing the hatred to their advantage.
9: STAR TREK BEYOND
Star Trek (2009) was a great start new start for the beloved Star Trek franchise, but stumbled with the second part Into Darkness. Picking up the pieces left by Abrams as he jumped the ship to the Star Wars world, director Justin Lin managed to pull off a completely decent Star Trek movie, not a masterpiece but not among the worst ones out there. The “every second Star Trek movie works” -rule still applies.
Happy to be able to bring in a two mentions of a Finnish movie this year, Bodom managed to surpass all the expectations by being just a very well made teen slasher film with a script that actually worked. Fresh faces on the screen (Nelly Hirst-Gee is going to be a star!) and fresh energy behind the camera, Bodom was a good, original and damn beautiful horrorish, mildly slashery piece of entertainment.