Seattle Cinema Survey – Best of 2016 So Far

Welcome to another edition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, where the area’s most pretentious people try to out-pretentious one another when it comes to – ahem – cinema.

We’re at the midway juncture of 2016, a time in the calendar that is ripe for looking backwards. As such, I asked our crew; What’s your favorite movie to get released in 2016?

I’d like to think I have the most arrogant of answers. It’s also my legitimate response. Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday finally made it’s way stateside after sitting on the shelf since 1991 as one of the many superb Studio Ghibli films in Japan. It is the animated story of Taeko, a woman in her late-20s that is, of a sorts, the outlier of her family. The proverbial free spirit, Taeko travels outside her usual city dwellings to work at a farm, where her life begins to take new shape, all while she can’t stop recalling her life as a pre-teen. Based on the manga by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone, Only Yesterday is a kind, quietly moving film that bares the feel and rhythm of a novel, where scenes can take their time and the plot is never too interested in making itself known.

Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
This is a tough one. Though we’ve seen a number of massive potential blockbusters face plant into the concrete, 2016 has, at the halfway point, been kind of great, and depending what time of day you ask, my favorite movie thus far will probably be different.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a tight, tense three-handed thriller that’s so, so much better than its predecessor. The farther I get from it, the more I dig Steven Caple Jr.’s skate rat crime drama The Land. Under the Shadow and The Witch are both destined to be new horror classics. Sion Sono’s Tag is not only bonkers, it’s a surprisingly sharp take on sexism in geek and gamer culture. Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution is an unnerving body horror nightmare, and the Turkish horror Baskin is a brutal genre hellscape with an unusual narrative construction. It’s divisive, but I love the shit out of Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, and Shane Black’s sleazy, nasty, foul-mouthed buddy cop yarn The Nice Guys may wind up the most enjoyable movie of 2016.

As far as the top of my list, I’m going to cheat and name two. South Korean director Na Hong-jin (The Chaser) took his sweet time following up The Yellow Sea, but The Wailing was worth every second we waited. Eschewing gritty crime thrillers for supernatural horror trappings, it’s soaring and operatic, gorgeously photographed, and rough, unsettling stuff. Pulling elements from various horror subgenres, Na synthesizes them into something simultaneously hideous and exquisite, and The Wailing is never what’s expected.

Then there’s Green Room. Jeremy Saulnier delivers a full frontal blast of punk rock energy; a compact, streamlined, punch-you-in-the-teeth thriller. Unflinching in its violence or relentless pace, the story of a hapless band fighting for survival against vicious white supremacists, sets Saulnier up as one of my favorite up-and-coming filmmakers. Green Room may forever change the way you look at Patrick Stewart, though there’s an added layer of sadness after the tragic death of Anton Yelchin, who’s just ferocious in the lead.

Jason Roestel of Examiner @filmbastard
I hate playing my hand early, but Saulnier’s Green Room might be the best thing I’ll see in 2016 in six months. It’s like watching two cars going 130mph – one with SKINHEADS painted on the hood, the other with PUNK BAND – smash into each other, with every passenger ejected through the windshield to collide, yet again, with each other. It’s a spectacular mess. Green Room is as raw, basic, and uncompromising as one of my favorite cult films of all time – George Miller’s original Mad Max. Green Room and Mad Max are easily the most punk rock films ever made.

Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @filmjabber
While I loved most of 10 Cloverfield Lane and Green Room was a blast, I have to go with The Witch, a movie that is consistently unsettling, gripping, and different from most movies you see these days. From the music to the aesthetics to the performances, The Witch is just a perfect brew of ingredients (see what I did there?). Of the three films I listed, it’s also the one that is least likely to appeal to mainstream audiences, however. Oh well.

Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak/The Seattle Gay News @MovieFreakSara

At the midpoint of 2016, I find I could easily construct a list of top ten films for the year I’d be perfectly comfortable with if this were December and not the end of June. Knight of Cups, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Viva, Green Room, Nina Forever, The Witch, The Fits, Sing Street, Finding Dory, A Hologram for the King, Midnight Special, The Lobster, One More Time, The Wave, the list is a strong one, each of these motion pictures an inspiring, thought-provoking achievement worthy of additional exploration.

For my money, though, Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship stands head and shoulders above them all. A glorious adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan, this pithy, pitch-perfect comedic jaunt is a joyous evisceration of gender hierarchies and male-female relations that is borderline perfect. The man behind late 20th century classics like Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco is working at the top of his game, his handling of the material and its myriad plot tangents absolutely superb. Coupled with a career-best performance from Kate Beckinsale as the notorious woman at the center of this late 1790’s British society maelstrom, the movie is a consistently inventive marvel, one that navigates increasingly murky interpersonal waters with confident aplomb. Make no mistake, this film is a marvel, and right now to my mind is easily 2016’s best, most invigoratingly entertaining cinematic feat.

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