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The Best Double Features of 2016

Written by on December 23, 2016 

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As a cinephile, few things are more sublime than finding back-to-back features that hit some specific thematic sweet spot. Drive-in theaters may not be the popular viewing spot they once were, but with the overwhelming accessibility we now have, one can program their own personal double bill. Today, we’ve run through the gamut of 2016 films to select the finest pairings. Check out list the below, and we’d love to hear your own picks, which can be left in the comments.

10 Cloverfield Lane and Green Room

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A claustrophobic’s worst nightmare of a double feature, 10 Cloverfield Lane and Green Room share a similar strand of thematic plotting — a tyrannical force imposing their way on an innocent party — but it’s their directorial approach that truly makes them the ideal twins. Helmed by up-and-coming directors, Dan Trachtenberg and Jeremy Saulnier, respectively, there’s not a wasted shot in either film, both sturdily built to eke out each moment of grisly tension. If one wants to extend this to a triple feature, add in the less-accomplished, but still fairly thrilling Don’t Breathe. – Jordan R.

Dheepan and Fire at Sea

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Europe’s immigration crisis was deftly, heartbreakingly captured in a pair of films this year, one in narrative fiction form from Jacques Audiard and another on the ground (or, we should say, sea) from Italy’s Gianfranco Rosi. While the Palme d’Or-winning Dheepan takes an unexpected left turn by its finale, what comes before is an immersive, painful look at the immigration experience. As for Italy’s Oscar entry, Fire at Sea, we can’t imagine a more immediate documentary on the subject will arrive anytime soon. By capturing the incoming immigrants hailing from Africa Lampedusa, Rosi leaves out all embellishments to pare down to the human suffering taking place right next to us. – Jordan R.

Nocturnal Animals and Hell or High Water

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If you want 1.5 movies worth of west Texas-set desolation and crime, then this double feature will satisfy every last dusty bone in your body. Despite having similar subject matter and setting, the executions of Nocturnal Animals and Hell or High Water couldn’t be more different. As Tom Ford‘s film favors style and relies on Michael Shannon once more knocking it out of the park, David Mackenzie‘s feature, thanks to Taylor Sheridan‘s sharp screenplay, is a well-oiled machine that we imagine will age like a fine can of… well, anything but Mr. Pibbs. – Jordan R.

13th and I Am Not Your Negro

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This year’s election confirmed that America still has a substantial ways to go before there is equality for all, and a pair of documentaries reflected the centuries of racism — both institutional and individual — that pervade the country. Ava DuVernay‘s 13th is a comprehensive exposé of systemic oppression at the hands of our government. Raoul Peck‘s I Am Not Your Negro is a fiery, poetic journey as we’re placed inside the mind of the late James Baldwin, bringing to life his unfinished novel Remember This House. To extend this to a triple feature, seek out Ezra Edelman’s sprawling documentary O.J.: Made in America. – Jordan R.

The Neon Demon and Always Shine

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In any profession measured by outward appearance, insecurities abound. If one wishes to see a fairly intelligent, well-acted dissection of this psychological toll, there is Sophia Takal‘s Always Shine, featuring a stand-out performance from Mackenzie Davis. For a hypnotically stylish, albeit brainless jaunt on the topic, we have Nicolas Winding Refn‘s The Neon Demon. Both including a splattering of blood (or more) by the end, the finales of each daring to unravel what’s come before — but if you’re willing to take the plunge, each have their savage delights.  – Jordan R.

Manchester by the Sea and One More Time With Feeling

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“Grief changes shape, but it never ends,” Keanu Reeves once said. One fiction film, Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester by the Sea, and one documentary, Andrew Dominik‘s One More Time With Feeling 3D, this year captured grief with more searing, subtle devastation than most other films have this century thus far. “I can’t beat it,” Casey Affleck‘s Lee Chandler says in the film’s most cogent scene, years after his character’s initial trauma, while, for Nick Cave, with the wounds still fresh from his son’s tragic death, he painfully pushes through the creative process to reveal something raw, imperfect, and profound. – Jordan R.

Kate Plays Christine and Christine

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The most obvious double feature of the year may have been difficult for many to immediately experience due to distribution, but Sundance programmed both Kate Plays Christine and Christine this year, each of which explores the on-air suicide of Christine Chubbuck — or, more accurately, the factors surrounding it. The former, directed by Robert Greene, takes a meta approach as Kate Lyn Sheil‘s preparation for a performance we don’t see gets deconstructed in fascinating ways. The latter, directed by Antonio Campos, is a more straightforward character study with a fantastic Rebecca Hall taking the lead. While there was no shortage of commentary on preferring one over the other, having seen these nearly back-to-back, I found them to inform each other in captivating ways. As a recommendation, I’d seek out Greene’s picture first; it enriches Campos’ work when one imagines what preparations Hall went through. – Jordan R.

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