The Best Movies of 2016… So Far

neon demon

I’m posting this a little later than I would’ve liked, but I’ve been living in the middle of nowhere so cut me some slack. Here are the ten movies I’ve liked most out of the forty or so I’ve seen so far this year. In alphabetical order because ranked lists are for the end of the year.

A Bigger Splash
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Tilda Swinton plays a rockstar that could be best described as a mix of David Bowie and Björk. We see her vacationing -and soaking in mud- with her young lover Matthias Schoenaerts. Ralph Fiennes plays her ex-lover and dances around to the Rolling Stones for a solid five minutes of movie. Dakota Johnson is also there being smart and sexy. This all takes place in an Italian island, and is directed by the guy who made I Am Love. Sometimes a mere description should be enough to make you want to watch something.  

Hail, Caesar!
Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
I am a big Coen devotee, so I understand that where I see a profound existential statement and a wonderful puzzle to be solved, others might see a shapeless, aimless movie. But even then, the Coens’s recreation of classic Hollywood comes with an arsenal of movie star cameos and delightful pleasures such an extended Channing Tatum tap-dancing number. Nevermind the fact that it’s a brilliant film about faith.

The Lobster
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Ok, ok, after little under a year and three viewings, I’ve finally started to see some minor flaws in this movie. It is still, however, the best movie of the year (and the indie hit of the summer, oddly enough). Anyway, I’ve written about it plenty in this blog so I’ll just say two words: see it!

Love & Friendship
Directed by Whit Stillman
Stillman and Jane Austen make a killer couple. Almost as killer as Lady Susan, the fearless mean girl protagonist of what might very well be the funniest and most clever movie of the year. Kate Beckinsale plays Susan with intense fierceness, thanks in no small part to the sharp words Stillman delivers her in the script. If you want to be delighted by one of the most wonderful heroines in recent memory, then I got a movie for you.

The Neon Demon
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (currently in theaters!)
I’m not quite sure how I feel about The Neon Demon except that I like it more with each passing day. You will probably not get much out of it if you go in expecting any kind of thoughtful satire of the fashion industry. I think the movie isn’t really interested in that sort of thing, but in using the imagery and vocabulary of the fashion world for its own grotesque purposes.

The Nice Guys
Directed by Shane Black
Black used to be the king of the action-comedy when the action-comedy was the king of all genres. Since then, Hollywood has moved on to superheroes, and after proving that he can play in that genre with Iron Man 3, Black goes back to his forte and makes a movie that, no, is not the best thing since sliced bread, but it’s just the kind of funny, violent thing you payed your money for.

The Shallows
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (currently in theaters!)
There is inherent pleasure in seeing Blake Lively fight a shark. This is the kind of summer movie I wish we got more often. No CGI cities being destroyed and no bloated mythologies, just the age old story of a girl fighting a shark. This is mean, lean, effective commercial moviemaking of the highest caliber. Steven Seagull forever!

Swiss Army Man
Directed by Daniel Kwon, Daniel Scheinert a.k.a. Daniels (currently in theaters!)
The reason why so many people walked out during Swiss Army Man‘s first screening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival had nothing to do with the fact that this was a movie in which Harry Potter plays a farting corpse, and everything to do with the fact that sometimes it’s just a little too much to stare straight into the face of audacity for two hours straight. How dare a fart joke of a movie try to get an honest emotional reaction out of you!

Directed by Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
You might have an idea of what to expect when you hear there’s a documentary about Anthony Weiner’s disastrous mayoral campaign, and if you’re anything like me, then I doubt you pictured something as insightful as Kriegman and Steinberg’s film. You could easily go cheesy and say something like “this movie says a lot about America”, but I won’t do that. Even thought it’s true.

The Witch
Directed by Robert Eggers
The best horror movie since The Babadook, and maybe even better than that. There are so many things to love and appreciate about The Witch, like its intricate recreation of 17th Century New England, its wonderful usage of found text from the time, its amazing performances, its haunting imagery, and its complicated (feminist?) allegory. But the thing I appreciate the most about The Witch is how freaking fun it is to watch it.

And because we like talking about performances and we like making lists and award shows and talking in plural when we’re just one person, here are my favorite performances of the year… so far:

Lead Actor

  • Josh Brolin carrying existential dread under the role of straight man in Hail, Caesar!
  • Colin Farrell committing to the unique tones and rhythms of The Lobster
  • John Goodman playing with all of our expectations in 10 Cloverfield Lane 
  • Ryan Gosling in a killer physical performance and perhaps the best of his career in The Nice Guys
  • Daniel Radcliffe as the most adorable farting corpse in Swiss Army Man

Lead Actress

  • Kate Beckinsale as everything I would want to be as a person in Love & Friendship
  • Tilda Swinton without a voice but as great as ever in A Bigger Splash
  • Anya Taylor-Joy breaking through and carrying all of The Witch 
  • Rachel Weisz shining emotion through a dense aesthetic in The Lobster 
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead emerging as a kick-ass leading lady in 10 Cloverfield Lane 

Supporting Actor

  • Tom Bennett as a delightfully aloof buffoon in Love & Friendship
  • Alden Ehrenreich breaking through as the hilarious heart of Hail, Caesar! 
  • Ralph Fiennes equal parts unbearable and delightful in A Bigger Splash 
  • Ralph Ineson lending his tremendous voice to the emotional turmoil of The Witch 
  • Glen Powell brings loads of charisma and nails the tone of Everybody Wants Some!! 

Supporting Actress

  • Olivia Colman for on-point deadpan and singing in The Lobster 
  • Kate Dickie diving right into the horrendous deep end of The Witch 
  • Bella Heathcote icy, sharp, and vulnerable in The Neon Demon
  • Dakota Johnson solidifying herself as the smartest young actress in A Bigger Splash
  • Angourie Rice giving the rare seamless child performance in The Nice Guys