2016 has been a rather brutal year around the world outside of people’s individual lives. There’s been a huge amount of tragedy and upheaval from the continued war and deaths in Syria to the countless shootings in the USA. In the world of politics the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the impeachment of Brazil’s first female president Dilma Rousseff and Britain’s vote to leave the EU has left many rattled and the state of affairs unpredictable as we enter 2017. There have been a number of scandals that have further tarnished 2016’s reputation including, but not limited to, Samsung’s phone & Hoverboard product recalls after they started catching fire whilst on charge, the Panama papers and the Zika virus outbreak. On top of all this, this year has been noted for a huge number of celebrity deaths. Many icons have passed away this year and according to the statistics, 2016 will be just the beginning of this grisly affair.
Having discussed such bleak topics, it seems difficult to find a modicum of optimism but it’s important to do so. Hope may have been described as the last evil to leave Pandora’s Box and Love is complicated at best but really they are important things to hold on to in darker times. Hope is the light that guides us to open land and, to quote “The Future” by the late and great Leonard Cohen, love is the only engine of survival. We may have lost some great starts of the big screen but it’s worth remembering their work and be glad they existed at all. In that vein, here is a list of film recommendations featuring people who’ve died this year.
Labyrinth – David Bowie – Lee-Ann Pawley
Celebrity deaths rarely touch me in a significant way I have to admit. But I cried over David Bowie. And I think it was because of this film. I watched it so many times as a child/teenager/adult that Bowie’s voice and mannerisms are forever etched in my minds eye. And his junk. Jareth’s tight tights were my sexual awakening. In general this film is still amazing. Puppetry is an art form when it’s done right, allowing you to suspend reality and really believe a cockney worm could invite you in for a cup of tea. Watching Bowie interact with his goblin subjects I am sure he felt the same. When Bowie announced all those years ago that he was taking the lead in a children’s film, he was laughed at. What came of it, however, was one of the most iconic performances ever for those who grew up in the 80s/90s. To all those still mourning the loss of this idol, remember: it’s only forever, not long at all.
Sense & Sensibility – Alan Rickman – Jennifer Drewett
When trying to recommend a film to remember Alan Rickman by, one is so spoilt for choice that a decision is difficult to reach. You could actually have a proper movie marathon based on this actor’s work and enjoy yourself silly. If I really had to choose one film that I would recommend seeing Rickman in (and for the sake of this list, I must), I whole heartedly suggest watching Sense and Sensibility. The adaptation of the Jane Austen classic novel sees Rickman play the caring yet complicated Colonel Brandon, a military man who falls for the passionate Marianne Dashwood (played by Kate Winslet). The gentlemanly hero that make audiences swoon isn’t the kind of role people usually would think to put Rickman in but he nails the role. This role gives him ample opportunity to show how versatile and nuanced he is as a performer. One moment he’s a smouldering brooder trying to reconcile his difficult past, the next he’s acting as a selfless ally to the Dashwood family and then he is the bold hero who rescues his love interest from succumbing to cold in the pouring rain. He’s the ideal man: someone who is respectful of women and their boundaries at a time when that wasn’t an entirely popular notion. Rickman performs him so well it’ll be difficult to find anyone who could do as good a job at the role.
Green Room – Anton Yelchin – Sarah Cook
Losing a star so young is a tragedy. With a career blossoming and acclaim coming their way, to be torn from the world so brutally is unfair and fills everyone with sorry. The tragic loss of Anton Yelchin this year has hit us all. The Russian born 27 year old was involved in a car accident at his home and died due to his injuries. The actor whose career started young and was cemented in the reboot series was mourned by Hollywood and fans alike, many noting his good humour, inquisitive nature, and wise personality. He left behind a legacy of terrific and unparalleled performances that are now too small a collection of an actor in his prime. But I urge you, to see him at his prime, you have to watch him in Green Room. Ever since watching Green Room a month ago, not a day has gone by where I haven’t thought about the film. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, the film is an immersive, heart-thudding thriller that doesn’t skirt around the grim elements either. Yelchin stars as Pat, the lead singer of a punk band who unwittingly play for Neo-Nazis who later trap them in the titular room after they witness a murder. The claustrophobia is rife here and Yelchin’s wide-eyed, scared Pat is wrought with anguish, courage, and strength. Yelchin uses his boyish charms to develop this panicky troubled guitar player into the hero of the piece, and greatly so. Spouting one of the best monologues in cinema, he is engaging, gut-wrenching, and his will to survive completely intense.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Carrie Fisher – Jennifer Drewett
When the news hit that Carrie Fisher had passed away, many were quick with complimentary words referring to her as Princess Leia but much like fellow writer Anne Thériault I believe Fisher’s performance to remember in the Star Wars saga came from The Force Awakens. She’s the leader of the Rebellion as she was destined to be. She has remained steadfast in her duty to save the rest of the Galaxy throughout everything including the loss of her son to the Dark Side, the disintegration of her relationship with Han Solo and the disappearance of her brother Luke. She is clearly affected by what happens to her but she doesn’t let it stop her work for the Rebellion. She’s the epitome of the strong female character we should all aspire to be like much like the woman who made her a legend. Fisher’s death was irrevocably sad and we can all do her legacy some good by practising some honesty, humour and compassion.
Singin’ In The Rain – Debbie Reynolds – Jennifer Drewett
There’s barely a musical film in existence as legendary as Singin’ In The Rain. Whilst many will rightly point out Gene Kelly’s performance as a highlight, Debbie Reynolds as the leading lady really stands out. This role was her breakout and it rightly made her a star. She strikes the right balance as the sweet fan of her love interest (played by Kelly) and the strong and talented woman determined to achieve her dreams. She was a more than capable leading lady and her determination wasn’t limited to the roles she played. Reynolds faced adversity many a time during her life but her unique sense of honesty always seemed to see her through which passed on to her beloved daughter, Carrie Fisher.
What were your favourite roles of the stars who passed away this year?
Let us know in the comments.