27 July 2016

Best of 2016 (so far)

We're a few weeks past halfway, but I feel I need to catch myself up for my own sake. Plus, best lists are awesome.

It's been a strange year for me, movie-wise. I endured the most stressful year of my career, then I got off for summer and sort of checked out. Writing a lot has been hard, since, well, I've been increasingly busy (especially by Summer standards) and tired and all the political craziness started really hazing my brain...to the point where I had to either quit Facebook for good or commit myself to the crazy house. (I chose the former.)

Also, I quit using tobacco (praise me!!) after wasting half my life (and way too much money) as a slave to nicotine. It has been a quite draining challenge, but I'm there and not turing back.

So, some of my busy-ness was for good. I have filled the nicotine void with regular trips to the lake and have a really good tan as a result. I went on two separate week-long vacations (Denver, CO, and St. Augustine, FL). I played bar trivia a few times in lieu of blogging. (And don't regret it.) And I actually watched way more movies than I've had the time (or desire really) to write about. That's changing. I'm really feeling it right now.

I'll start with my biggest regrets. Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon and Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups came and went too fast for me to get to them. I also haven't bothered to see a single superhero movie this Summer. The only one I regret is Captain America: Civil War. I'll see all of these soon enough.

Here we go:

The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2016 (so far)

The Worst of the Worst

Dirty Grandpa
dir. Dan Mazer

Honestly, if this film had a better director and script (and/or script supervisor, for that matter), it might not have been that bad. De Niro seems to have had some fun. And I laughed a lot. But I also cringed a lot too.
A Minor Spielberg

dir. Steven Spielberg

A good movie about good things featuring Spielberg's new muse and now Oscar winner, Mark Rylance (the most charming actor alive) as the title CGI giant. It doesn't reach the triumphant or emotional heights of Spielberg's best though. Not even close.

The Weird

Hail, Caesar!
dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

There is some religious subtext that doesn't quite work, which is frustrating considering I usually am right on the level with the Coen Brothers. However, this film uses its expansive cast to crazy oddball comedic perfection. And that Alden Ehrenreich as the studio cowboy--Best Movie Character of the Year.

Swiss Army Man
dir. The Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Sheinert)

Or is the Best Movie Character of the Year a dead guy dubbed Manny and played by Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe? This is seriously one of the strangest, grossest films I've ever seen that could also be easily called beautiful. The odd chemistry actor Paul Dano gets to create with the Radcliffe character just works.

The Suspenseful

Green Room
dir. Jeremy Saulnier

I may be in the minority, but this movie is a step down from Blue Ruin, Jeremy Saulnier's heart-pounding debut. It warrants another watch, but it's nihilistic attitude, in every regard, really hurts it. It does contain some of the most amazing, realistic, totally gory violence I've ever seen. It will actually shock you.

10 Cloverfield Lane
dir. Dan Trachtenberg

Homage, tribute, sequel? How about all of those things? This movie lives in a movie world, nodding to clasic thrillers like Hitchcock's Psycho and taking its title (among other things) from a secretive found footage movie from a few years back, while simultaneously becoming its own unique tale of suspense. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of the great final girls, and John Goodman delivers his best performance in years.

The Hilarious

Everybody Wants Some!!
dir. Richard Linklater

Linklater's follow up to the critical darling Boyhood gets back to his roots as a true voice of the slacker generation. This is a movie about guys, college ballplayers, living it up in the few days before the first class of the semester. It's all about the characters (such great characters!) and how they talk to each other. I can't wait to hang out with these dudes again and again.

The Nice Guys
dir. Shane Black

As action comedies go, I think it's safe to say that Shane Black has the market cornered. This one always lands on its feet with a fun, witty script and great action pieces met brilliantly by a tough guy Russell Crowe, a bumbling Ryan Gosling, and a precocious young genius named Angourie Rice.

The Power of Humanity

Midnight Special
dir. Jeff Nichols

It'll take another watch for me to fully decide how I feel about the ending, but the power of Jeff Nichols as a storyteller has never been more evident than in this one. The story of a boy with a special gift and the father, played by Michael Shannon, who will stop at nothing to protect him plays like a two-hour Spielberg chase, coming to an end that is as befuddling as it is fascinating. This movie should've stayed in theaters longer. What is wrong with you people! 

dir. Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush

Grand message movies don't always work, but, when they do, they really do. This one shines with gorgeous animation brought to life audibly by the voice talents of Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Batemen as a Rabbit Cop and Thief Fox, respectively, as they try to defy stereotypes in service of a better world.

The Best of the Best

The Witch
dir. Robert Eggers

Yes. I would like to live deliciously. Over and over and over. This movie should be studied by anyone who wants to make a period piece. Robert Eggers spent five years researching the film, finding just the right locations and looks and dialogue. And he's created a chilling family thriller up there with Kubrick's gold standard, The Shining. 

The Lobster
dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

I don't know what goes through the Greek genius Yorgos Lanthimos' head, but I want to keep finding out. The Lobster is one of the most original works of art I've ever seen, a meditation on societal pressures and sex and love and relationships riddled inside an odd alternate sci-fi reality not that far from our own. Colin Farrell leads a brilliant cast. 


  1. I hated Hail, Caesar lol. I love a lot of the ones you've listed here though!

    1. My initial love for Hail, Caesar has waned a bit, but I laughed constantly. I loved a lot about it but certain elements just didn't work.

  2. Congratulations on quitting tobacco! I hope you stick with it.

    For some reason, I haven't seen a lot of films on your list that I want to see: Hail Caesar, Cloverfield, Everybody Wants Some, and Nice Guys. A lot of the films I actually want to see don't stay in the theaters for long around me. I did see The Lobster and I really enjoyed it! Perhaps my favorite of the year so far.

    1. Thanks! It's been a struggle.

      Isn't The Lobster just crazy good? See all the rest of those you mentioned, especially Everybody Wants Some and The Nice Guys. Both totally solid comedies.

    2. Oh, good luck!

      I really like what Lanthimos did with The Lobster, very out there. I definitely will see those films, especially Linklater's, I love him.

  3. The Witch is currently my top movie of the year so far, and I can't wait for the movies coming out this Fall!

    1. Same here. I think we're in for a good rest of the year. The Witch is damn close to the top. So much better than I expected, and I had really high expectations.

  4. It's been a strange year for me movie-wise as well. And I've been pretty stressed as well, more stressed than usual, considering that I'm always pretty stressed. And the political craziness is this close to destroying my sanity. I'm really afraid that Donald Trump could be elected President. There are so many Trump supporters up here in Michigan that it sickens me. If only Bernie Sanders was the Democratic nominee.

    Congrats on quitting tobacco! Hope you stay off of it! I've already promised myself not to start chewing tobacco.

    Anyway, there are some movies I regret not seeing: Knight of Cups, The Neon Demon, Midnight Special, Swiss Army Man & The BFG. They weren't at any of the theaters around me for long.

    I haven't seen any bad movies this year. The movie that was the worst (for me) this year was The Brothers Grimsby, which was ok. It was funny at times, but it didn't make me laugh as much as Sacha Baron Cohen's other movies, namely Borat.

    My Top 10 of the year so far:

    10. The Conjuring 2 - Never have I been more genuinely terrified at a movie than I was when I saw this. I literally almost had a heart attack at one scene. If you see it, you'll know what scene I'm talking about. It was the first real horror movie I ever saw at the theater. It was excellent, with Vera Farmiga & Patrick Wilson leading a great cast. But the cinematography was brilliant. Such excellently bleak shots.
    9. Deadpool - Definitely the funniest superhero movie I've seen. I could easily quote 20 lines from that movie. Ryan Reynolds was hilarious. Can't wait for Deadpool 2.
    8. X-Men: Apocalypse - This is one of the best X-Men movies. The acting, direction, screenplay & editing were excellent. And the fight scenes were spectacular.
    7. Finding Dory - An excellent sequel to Finding Nemo. The voice acting was excellent, the score by Thomas Newman (who in my opinion is one of the 3 best film composers ever) was excellent, & the animation was spectacular.
    6. Everybody Wants Some!! - One of Linklater's best films, along with Boyhood, & Dazed & Confused. The acting was great, the direction & screenplay were excellent, & the soundtrack was (in my opinion) one of the top 5 greatest film soundtracks of all time, along with Boogie Nights, Purple Rain, Almost Famous & Drive.
    5. Green Room - An excellent thriller. The acting, direction, screenplay & editing were all excellent. And the violence was some of the most gut-wrenching violence ever in film history.
    4. Captain America: Civil War - The greatest superhero movie ever made. The acting, direction & screenplay was excellent. The fight scenes were some of the best ever.
    3. The Nice Guys - There definitely won't be a better comedy this year. Crowe, Gosling & especially Angourie Rice were excellent. The chemistry between Crowe & Gosling was brilliant. The direction & screenplay were brilliant. And the soundtrack was brilliant. (Speaking of Shane Black movies, have you watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang yet?)
    2. Demolition - This is Jean-Marc ValleƩ's best film yet, & this is Jake Gyllenhaal's best performance yet. Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, & especially young actor Judah Lewis were excellent as well, & the screenplay was great. This film was criminally underrated.
    1. The Lobster - Wow. Just wow. This is the best film of 2016. Nothing can top this. The acting was excellent, the direction was marvelous, the screenplay was absolutely one of the best original screenplays of the 21st century, & the cinematography was absolutely terrific. Was it the weirdest film I've ever seen (even weirder than Mulholland Drive & Being John Malkovich)? Yes. It was like David Lynch, Lars von Trier & Wes Anderson came together & directed a dark romantic comedy. But did I enjoy all 118 minutes of it? You bet I did.

    1. The superhero stuff just doesn't do it for me anymore. I wish it did. I have promised myself to catch up, at least, on the Captain America/Iron Man/Avengers stuff.

      I really want to see Demolition and X-Men. The only two on your list I want to see that I haven't seen already. The Conjuring 2 is probably great, but I need to see the first one first. Glad to see you have The Lobster so high. It's my favorite as of now as well.

      Good for you for saying no to tobacco, man. I wish I'd listened to the adults in my life who warned me not to start it. It is every bit as addictive as they say and will make you extremely unhealthy. And speaking of unhealthy...Donald Trump. The fact that so many people are buying his fear and hate is beyond me. And even worse is that all of the Republicans in my home state, including the Governor, my Congressman, and both Senators are endorsing him. Ugh!

    2. Yeah, I get what you mean with the superhero stuff. At least ctch up on The Avengers stuff.

      Definitely watch Demolition. You won't regret. Out of Jean-Marc ValleƩ's films, it's his best. Even better than Dallas Buyers Club & Wild.

      X-Men: Apocalypse was great. And it had the best use of Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" I've ever seen.

      You really need to watch The Conjuring. And then watch The Conjuring 2.

      Glad to see we both have the same favorite film of the year so far. The Lobster comes out on Blu-ray tomorrow, & I can't wait to get it tomorrow.

      Tobacco, for me, just seemed pointless. I didn't understand why anyone would use it.

      Donald Trump... don't get me started on that pompous, rich, Oompa-Loompa lookalike. I can't stand him. It's a shame that your Congressman, your Senators, & your Governor are endorsing him. Thankfully, in my home state of Michigan, my Senators (Democrats Debbie Stabenow & Gary Peters), my Congressman (Democrat Sander Levin), & even my Governor (Republican Rick Snyder) are all not endorsing Trump. All but Snyder are endorsing Clinton. But even with all of them not endorsing Trump, it sickens me how many people I know that are voting for Trump. It's saddening that so many people are buying what he says. I don't understand why so many people would vote for him.

  5. I have not seen any of these but want to and that one called The Witch sounds intriguing even though I am not one for horror

    1. The Witch is not horror. It's a mood piece...suspense...with some stronger horror elements in the end. It has a brain and is great to look at. That can't be said for 99% of horror movies, in my opinion.

  6. LOL, Dirty Grandpa. BAH...that's one De Niro I'll never see.

    I have ONLY seen kids movies this year. I need some adult entertainment. I can't wait for Redbox to get The Lobster next month!

    1. My wife and I love to sit down to stupid comedies. Dirty Grandpa was only half funny though. I'm glad I saw the good parts. Wish I hadn't seen the bad parts. Ugh...very bad parts. De Niro...I just don't get him anymore. I think he just likes to work, which is admirable.

      I can't wait for you to see The Lobster next month and tell me what you think. All for the kids, man. They are our future. Did you love Zootopia as much as I did?

    2. Zootopia was kind of brilliant. Loved it!

  7. Great list. I LOVED The Lobster, it actually comes in on 3 in my list with Green Room being 2 and Son of Saul in the No. 1
    I'm one of those people who didn't like The Witch that much but it had some interesting elements. Will be interesting to see if any of these end up on our final 10

    1. Nice. I considered Son of Saul a 2015 release, since it won the Oscar for last year, even though I didn't see it until Feb. Other than that, Green Room just wasn't as good for me as I thought it would be. Probably won't end up in a year end list. Pretty damn badass though. The Witch will be there firmly for me, as well as The Lobster. I'm fairly certain.