Best on Screen in 2016

BEST FEATURE FILM

Our vote goes to Florence Foster Jenkins, directed by Stephen Frears. Meryl Streep plays Foster Jenkins, a wealthy socialite and music society patron in mid-1940s New York. She’s also an amateur operatic soprano — despite lacking any sense of rhythm, pitch, tone or even knowing how to pronounce clearly.

Frears crafts a nuanced, morally ambiguous film that is at turns hilarious and moving. Streep first opening her mouth to sing was one of the funniest moments we saw on screen this year. The score is by the magnificent Alexandre Desplat, and music supervision by Karen Elliot.

Rent it now on iTunes. The soundtrack album is available to stream or download.

Special mentions to Whit Stillman’s witty, bitchy adaptation of Jane Austen’s Love & Friendship, and Taika Waititi’s charming Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY

And the winner is Ron Howard’s The Beatles: Eight Days a Week. This is a magnificently crafted film about the Beatles’ touring years, from their performances at the Cavern Club in Liverpool to their final concert in 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.  The archival footage has been beautifully restored,  both in its visual and sound quality, and the film provides a window into a fascinating time.

The Beatles were an unprecedented global phenomenon. They were lovable, cheeky lads. They were unusually assured musicians and vocalists. They shared an inextricable bond and an indefatigable drive. And they were only in their early 20s. Eight Days a Week is required viewing not only for Beatles’ fans but for anyone interested in the rise of pop celebrity and the development of pop musicians from songsters to conceptual artists.

Rent it now on iTunes.

Special mentions to 2  unbearably powerful Australian films: Jen Peedom’s Sherpa,  and Eva Orner’s Chasing Asylum.

BEST TV DRAMA

The Crown, the victorious, happy and glorious 10-part original Netflix series, is the honourable recipient of our gong. It is the most expensive TV drama ever made, costing more than $100m, but not a cent has been wasted. All the elements come together beautifully — acting, writing, music and direction — to create a satisfyingly aesthetic experience as well as an engrossing story. Who would have thought the monarchy could be so damn compelling!

Rupert Gregson-Williams provides the exquisite score, and Hans Zimmer a suitably majestic theme.

The Crown streams on Netflix. The soundtrack is available here.

Special mention shoutouts to HBO’s disturbing The Night Of, and another imaginative Netflix original, Stranger Things.

BEST TV DOCUMENTARY

This goes to the brilliant Soundbreaking — one of the best music documentary series we’ve ever seen. It examines a century’s worth of innovation and experimentation in music, and gives an insider’s look at the genesis of new sounds and recording techniques. We hear songs in a whole new way.

Soundbreaking tells its stories through an intelligent selection of interviews with, and archival footage of, the music industry’s most celebrated recording artists, record producers and pioneers.

Rent it on iTunes.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Biggest TV Let-Down of the Year Award: Baz Luhrmann’s The Get-Down
  • Film Stinker of the Year Award: Sacha Baron-Cohen’s turgid Grimsby
  •  Best Re-versioning of a TV Theme Released Before the Original Award: Luke Million for his cheeky viral take on the Stranger Things theme
  • Best Use of Beatles’ Music in a Kids TV Show Award: Josh Wakely’s Beat Bugs
  • Best TV Score Composed for One Guitar Award: Bryony Marks for Barracuda (featuring Shane O’Mara)

Strange Loops is a blog that celebrates the mysterious power of words, music, dance and the moving image. Each month or so we present a roundup of the best of what we're reading, what we're viewing and what we're listening to right now.