‘Tis the season for traditional best-of-year lists. So without further ado…
International Movie of the Year: The Revenant
Cinema didn’t escape the general sucky-ness of 2016. Let’s be honest; it was another substandard year for film. Anything vaguely risky or innovative continued to be marginalised by sequels, prequels, reboots and retcons (and retcons of reboots). But the odd flower of originality still managed to break through the hard ground. For his follow-up to the extraordinary Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu significantly upped the ante with this mesmerising survival western. Visceral, gruelling, and utterly compelling, The Revenant is simply without comparison. And the inevitable making-of documentary is probably as fascinating as the film itself.
Runner-up: Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
2015 Winner: Birdman (Alejandro G. Iñárritu)
Irish Movie of the Year: Viva
Paddy Breathnach ended a prolonged period in b-movie wilderness with this rousing drama set in the slums of Havana. One stand-out performance in a movie is doing pretty well, but three is just showing off. Luis Alberto García, Jorge Perrugoría and Héctor Medina (playing Rocky in drag) should be right proud of what they achieved here. With an exceptional screenplay by Mark O’Halloran, Viva was uplifting and profoundly affecting, with more heart than a bucket of offal.
Runner-up: Room (Lenny Abrahamson)
2015 Winner: The Queen of Ireland (Conor Horgan)
Best Director: Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
2016 was the year that the Lenny Abrahamson scales tipped in my favour (love Garage and Frank, loathe Adam and Paul and What Richard Did). Room was undoubtedly a tough shoot in claustrophobic conditions, but Abrahamson’s camera found the magic in Emma Donoghue‘s source material. This is the movie that finally put Abrahamson (and Producer Ed Guiney) on the world stage – and rightly so. Score one for the good guys.
Runner-up: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant)
Best Actor - Male: Michael Shannon (Midnight Special)
The Spielberg and Carpenter Appreciation Society was in full effect, but in the end Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special was too tonally askew to deliver on its initial promise. But Michael Shannon’s performance as a devoted father in exceptional conditions was a masterclass in understated charisma. Shannon had a very busy year, with standout turns in Elvis & Nixon, Nocturnal Animals and what must have been a career highlight as a corpse in Batman V Superman. Regardless of the material, Shannon was never less than exceptional.
Runner-up: Jacob Tremblay (Room)
2015 Winner: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Best Actor - Female: Amy Adams (Arrival)
From low-budget drama to big comedy, Amy Adams is consistently remarkable in any genre she throws herself into. Adams has quietly achieved the status of one of the finest actors of her generation. Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival was one of this year’s high points, and a good deal of what made it work was down to Adams’ portrayal of a grieving linguist coming to terms with a universal language. it’s impossible to picture anyone else in the role.
Runner-up: Seána Kerslake (A Date for Mad Mary)
2015 Winner: Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Best TV: Stranger Things
Of course it sometimes jumped from homage to outright pastiche, but when something is this good… Honestly, who cares? Stranger Things reminded us of everything that was brilliant about being 10 years old, all in the space of eight perfect episodes. And made Dungeons and Dragons cool again. I want a pair of Barb jeans for Christmas. The only (upside) down side? Season 2 is already in production. Don’t mess with perfection.
Runner-up: Happy Valley Season 2
2015 Winner: Fargo Season 2
Worst Movie: Independence Day: Resurgence
Using a cleverly worked-out system that combined self-preservation with common sense, I managed to avoid any deliberate acts of cinematic self-harm this year. So no Dirty Grandpa for me. Gods of Egypt? Nein, danke. I did, however, sit through a whole bunch of really average movies. Roland Emmerich‘s utterly pointless sequel to a 20-year-old movie (that wasn’t much cop to begin with) was like the answer to a question that nobody asked. Independence Day: Resurgence represents the very worst of the creative vacuum at the heart of mainstream film. And by God was it dumb.
Runner-up: Everybody Wants Some!!! (Richard Linklater)
2015 Winner: Love (Gaspar Noé)
Worst TV: The X-Files Season 10
It’s hard to say which was worse: The sight of Gillian Anderson desperately trying to take it all seriously or the sound of a million X-philes’ hearts breaking in unison. This revival of the much loved 90s classic looked great on paper, with series creator Chris Carter back with both leads, but in the end it wasn’t so much The X-Files as The Why-Did-They-Even-Bother-Files. At least David Duchovny managed to sleep through most of it. I don’t want to believe.
Runner-up: Peaky Blinders Season 3
2015 Winner: True Detective Season 2
Coming Soon: The Screentime.ie 2017 Preview of Film and TV