Listen, those out there saying they don’t make them like they used to, at least in terms of quality, are either not looking or have bad taste. 2016 has been so rich, it’s tough to find what to see in a given weekend. So, without further waste, for you need to get to the movies, here are the Top 10 Films of 2016 So Far….at least that I’ve had time to watch.
Captain America: Civil War
It’s peculiar how the title of this movie fixes so many of the Disney Marvel Cinematic Universe problems. This is Captain America’s story, of his friends, former enemies turned friends, and friends who have turned into enemies. Sure, there are, give or take, dozens of other characters. They are spices. Spices for an action scene here or a motivation there. Superhero movies are a dime a dozen right now, when done well though, as the Russo Brothers have done for a second time in a row with the Man Who Throws His Mighty Shield, there’s a pop, fun and energy to them that is sorely missing elsewhere.
Cemetery of Splendor
The latest by acclaimed filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul is as impenetrable and as rewarding as the majority of his work. The story of a kind woman who takes care of soldiers in a quiet community, while also chatting it up with deities, isn’t a casual watch. Rewarding is a better word, with it’s mysteries only being a background element to its views on war, religion and the simple impact of caring for others.
Tight as a drum. White Knuckle. Edge of Your Seat. Whatever way you want to describe Jeremy Saulnier’s tale of a punk band trying to – literally – survive a night fight a bunch of Patrick Stewart led skinheads, as long as it’s a compliment about it’s excellence, we’re cool.
The Jungle Book
This year, Disney is making all of the money. All of it. If the outcome is lush, stunning pieces like Jon Favreau’s reworking of The Jungle Book, both the animated original and Kipling’s book, than that’s fine by me.
Yorgos Lanthimos is a master of the weird concept, and his most recent film The Lobster is further proof. In a universe eerily close to ours, being in a relationship is mandatory, and those unable to (including Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Wheatley), are sent to kind of an adult-summer camp to find love…or be turned into an animal. Strange, yet wholly relatable in its loneliness, The Lobster is fucked up. It’s fantastic too.
The Nice Guys
Shane Black is a master with words, especially when they’re used as weapons. In The Nice Guys, two idiots at life opt to use their skills at finding people decide to do good, if that comes with a bit of bloodshed, frequent vulgarity and Richard Nixon, so be it. Pound for pound, it’s hard to argue there’s a film with better big laughs this year than The Nice Guys.
Originally released in its native Japan in 1991, where it was the year’s biggest hit, Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday is one more Studio Ghibli masterpiece. Less visually ambitious than Takahata’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya or devastating than his Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday almost has more in common with a Mike Leigh picture, where ordinary people do ordinary things and it’s the well-drawn humanity of it all that resonates so deeply.
Grimur Hakonarson’s yarn of two brothers working in the same town and profession, whom just happen to loathe one another, is a mix of emotions. It’s blistering in how horrible they feel for one another, sad for how their bond fell apart and deceptively funny in how darkly absurd their rivalry gets.
10 Cloverfield Lane
This sort-of-sequel, sort-of-not-a-sequel-at-all, is better classified in this manner; Terrific. Dan Trachtenberg’s thriller features a strong cast, led by a perfect Mary Elizabeth Winstead, so powerful and electric, and a narrative straight out of “The Twilight Zone,” where our heroine is either the victim of a kidnapping or a woman saved by a weirdo from an alien invasion. Maybe both. It’s nerve-wracking, while also not taking itself deathly seriously for every minute, and features a whopper of an ending.
In documenting the attempted re-rise and eventual re-fall of former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg point out all of the ways the media, politicians and we ourselves are mucking up the cogs of progress. We wee Weiner, a man of passion who succumbs to too many of them. There is the media, too hungry for an easy narrative, like a dog licking a bowl for the last remnants of a crumb. Finally, we have us, desperate for perfect leaders when we ourselves are as flawed. This isn’t a hit-piece or a love-letter. Weiner is a screed on modern America.