Edited by- Aurna Nidamarthy
Before kicking things off, I'd like to announce that this is a purely subjective list some of my favorites out of the all the films I've seen this year. It's more of a long sweet talk to get you to watch the good stuff you probably missed this year. You might find films you hated, and you might see that some of your own favorites are missing, but hey, that's exactly why I love reading other people's lists. So please feel free to sound off below.
This might just be the most popular one of the entire list. Christopher Nolan crafts a heart-pounding and truly immersive World War II survival experience at his experimental best. He defies the narrative structures of today's more familiar blockbuster tailoring styles, to deliver an absolutely visceral and claustrophobic wartime thriller, that goes all in for its cold-blooded portrayal of the historical evacuation. It has some of the best air dogfights ever put to film, and every attack sequence has you pushing yourself back and tightly gripping the armrest. There's also a commendable sense of impending chaos throughout, rising every time you hear the battle sirens. You never really get to see the faces of the German soldiers, making the enemy all the more terrifying.
Its constantly shifting time frames, finally converging in a high-stakes 'oil'-splashed finale is one of the most finely executed sequences of the decade.
Probably the strangest and quirkiest comedy of this year. It's refreshingly original and charmingly whimsical. It's a hysterical work of satirical magic-realism, that very creatively plays with its lead duo's dynamic in ways you've rarely seen. Anne Hathaway plays a derailed alcoholic who finds out she controls the body movements of a colossal kaiju destroying Seoul. Things get sweet, personal and completely insane after this, but yeah, Seoul gets absolutely wrecked!
The Lost City of Z
Like the band of explorers in it, you too will probably look back after a few years and rediscover this hidden gem. It's a ravishing ode to the classical adventure-quest epics of Golden Age Hollywood, and one of the top cinematography achievements of the year. With pacing reminiscent of paint drying on a wall, Lost City of Z isn’t exactly an easy watch. However, it feels like a journey you that will be glad you took when it's all over. I found myself exhausted after it, because it feels like a whole lifetime spent with the protagonist. You share his wild obsession with the lost land he discovers in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, and the inner conflict he faces back home. Charlie Hunnam is perfect here in a criminally underrated performance and so is an almost-unrecognisable Robert Pattinson (yes, the angsty vampire teen from Twilight *shudders*). This one is possibly my favourite of the entire list.
India's official entry to next year's Academy Awards was a storytelling marvel (something almost alien to Bollywood this year). It presents important social commentary with a subtle and squib-like sense of humour, in a story of the little man vs the whole system. Its charm lies in its the sheer audacity of its small-scale and appeal.
It's one of the best films to come out in the industry in a long, long time. Rajkumar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi have a lot of fun on-screen, with their own tiny war of ideals and compromise.
Blade Runner 2049
2049 surpassed all my expectations, and turned out to be greater than its original in almost every way. Villeneuve expands the universe with a majestic, neon-drenched and flawed masterpiece. Dearkins' cinematography makes every frame truly magical. His wizardry enticingly demands multiple viewings. The visual eye-candy offers an overwhelming experience, coupled with absorbing questions on reality, which in a way, teach you to honour what it means to be human. Hans Zimmer's score is a hypnotic spell!
On a whole, it's personal in its appeal yet unpitying in its approach.
An honest and realistic Telugu indie drama that shows us the life of the brash and usually self-obsessed jock, we all know in college life, and most likely despise. It's a journey of love and self-destruction presented in its raw entirety, devoid of lazily written caricatures. It boldly moves into territory where only a few films of Indian Cinema have ventured and managed to win over the mass audience.
Vijay Deverakonda is outstanding as the titular character, and he lives and owns this role. You hate to love him, and you might even imitate him.
It also has one of the best soundtracks this year, with background songs by Modern Talking, Louie Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Jennifer Lopez, Black Eyed Peas, Bombay Jayashree and Chinese Man.
Wonder is an adorable little film that sees the world has a happy place and provides the lens for you to do the same. Sugar-coated with a giddy innocence and uplifting life perspective, it's easy to relate to the characters in this one. With the empathetic connect it so effectively establishes between the audience and the main characters, it either delicately tugs at your heartstrings or makes you grin like an idiot throughout. There is no in between. Today's world definitely needs more movies like it.
Coco is Pixar's most sensitive and spiritually elevating work since Up. It's got the traditional Disney feels, and spectacular animation. The ending is genius, and in an otherwise dull year for animation, it strikes the right chords at every point. If you thought Frozen's soundtrack was catchy, this is on another level, with classy touches of folklore and Mexican culture.
Overall, it appeals to all generations and as usual, it delivers its message sincerely, without an ounce of pretentiousness.
Taylor Sheridan's debut directorial-writing venture is a devastating yet important portrayal of the grief, survival and brutish crimes of the 'Wind River Indian Reservation', situated in the U.S. state of Wyoming. The frosty and chilling setting is intricately built by Sheridan to seem constantly forbidding and hostile to its inhabitants. Cinematographer Ben Richardson's grim aerial shots of the land's sombre sheets of snow are always unflinching, suggesting a kind of curse over it. Tension rises when the guns come out, and everyone comes into place for a cold, neo-western standoff. You sit there motionless, watching a chaotic and sporadic spurt in the body count. It feels as if the film's anchors have been shook off. The remarkable sound design and raw execution of this sequence keep it totally consistent with the rest of the film, and not once does the gore feel stylised.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The most recent one of the lot. The Last Jedi is easily one of the best Star Wars films in my opinion, second only to Empire Strikes Back. It's got some of the most exhilarating and emotional sequences in the whole saga. Rian Johnson challenges the ethos and lore of the Original Trilogy to create a wild and divisive hybrid, that launches the franchise in a pleasantly fresh direction. Johnson's excellence leaves an indelible mark that you can notice from the beginning till the end. He closes a few arcs, while taking others to places you probably didn’t expect after Episode 7. Once again, the characters are magnified and at the centre of the peril, bringing more dramatic tension than ever before in the series. The brilliant new sense of aesthetic and fantastical imagery make it one of the most ambitious big-budget blockbusters in the last twenty years.
Edgar Wright’s new offering is the definitive multi-genre experience. It’s probably the most rip-roaring and exhilarating action blockbuster since George Miller’s ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ but also one of the sweetest, emotion-charged, off-beat musicals ever made. It feels like it’s set in a groovy and neoteric yet old-school world alternate to Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’ (2011). Although Ansel Elgort and Lily James have a brilliant chemistry, they’re no match for film’s coolest romance, which is between the music and the perfect editing. The most pivotal supporting character in the film, is, of course, the addictive soundtrack (over 30 unforgettable songs!). Again, where Wright doesn’t go wrong at all is the glossy imagery and visual humour. ‘Baby Driver’ is a killer work of cinematic pop art.