The Best Films of 2016 ... So Far

 Top movies, one sheets.

Top movies, one sheets.

Now that we’ve reached the halfway point of 2016, it’s time to look back on the year in film and reflect on some of our favorite movies. Traditionally, the first few months of any year are notable only as dumping grounds for the films that Hollywood wants to get off their shelves and forget. Sure there have been some clunkers (cough 'Batman v Superman'), but through the garbage we’ve also watched some truly remarkable films in the early months leading up to the summer. Our venerable banterers on all things Oscars have chosen their Top Five movies for the first half of 2016. This wasn’t easy, but they've done the hard work so you, the reader, don't have to. Without further ado, The Seat Fillers present their best films of 2016...so far.

Brett's Top Five

The Invitation
This is my favorite movie of the year, or at the very least my favorite viewing experience.  'The Invitation' is a tense, guessing-game of a thriller that “wraps you in a blanket of dread” as my co-host would say. A few old friends (and a couple strangers) gather in the home of the protagonist’s ex-wife after she has returned with her new husband from a long stay elsewhere. A dinner party ensues, and while everything seems normal, nothing feels quite right either. You’re left wondering what exactly is going on until the very end.  I watched this movie in bed, in the dark, on my iPad, and that made it all the better.

Could It Win Any Oscars?
This film reminds me a lot of 2015’s 'Ex Machina' in that it is a small, independent movie that takes place in one location and takes time to reveal its secrets.  'Ex Machina' won the Best Visual Effects Oscar, and was also nominated for Original Screenplay.  If The Invitation is up for any awards, it would have to be Screenplay, as well. I doubt it will win any, but look for this as a writing nomination dark horse.

10 Cloverfield Lane
I’ve written extensively about John Goodman’s star turn in this film, and while a second viewing helped ease my initial complaints, I still think he’s too famous for his co-stars.  That said, much like 'The Invitation', this excellent film takes place in one isolated location with characters who may have motives they aren’t sharing with everyone. It’s also another movie that flew under the radar until shortly before its release and benefited from the anonymity. John Goodman is brilliant, and while I don’t want to give away the ending, it pays off. If JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot plans to continue making anthology Cloverfield movies, I hope they’re as good - and different from each other - as the first two.

Could It Win Any Oscars?
Goodman deserves his first Oscar nomination for this role.  He’s been so good, for so long, that I think we take him for granted. But he’s disturbing and scary as Howard, and a perfect foil to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s protagonist. Could it be nominated for anything but Supporting Actor? Probably not, but again, keep an eye on Goodman come January.

Finding Dory
Adam prefers 'Zootopia' in the battle of likely Animated Feature nominees, but I fully back Dory, Nemo and the gang. This is the rare sequel that is as good or better than its predecessor, and I could watch it again and again. Like most Pixar movies, the animation is incredible, and the aquatic setting is just beautiful. Every voice actor nails their roles, and honestly, I can’t think of a bad thing to say about this movie.  It’s great, just go see it.

Could It Win Any Oscars?
The only category it likely has a shot at is Animated Feature, but it will definitely be nominated, and probably win.  The Oscars love Pixar, after all.

The Witch
This is what scary is all about.  You don’t need jumps or gore to make you feel cold and scared - just a gray haze, quiet and a foreboding sense of loneliness.  This film has all of those in spades, and is probably in the top 3 scariest movies I’ve made it all the way through. I won’t discuss the plot here, because that seems almost pointless - look at the movie poster if you want to know what it’s about. Just know that it’s a perfectly executed period piece wrapped in terror. If you like horror films, you’ll love this.  If not, you probably won’t.

Could It Win Any Oscars?
This won’t likely win any major awards, but the setting and tone of the movie are spot on. If it did receive any nominations, they’d likely be in the technical categories - I’m thinking Costume Design and Production Design.  The Academy likes period pieces for Costume design, so this fits well with that trend.

Hail, Caesar!
The Coen brothers generally make two broad types of movies (#hottake alert!) - very serious or goofy as hell.  Think ‘No Country For Old Men’ vs. ‘The Big Lebowski’. 'Hail, Caesar!' decidedly falls in the latter camp. It’s not an important or consequential movie, and there’s not even really much plot, but I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as during the “would that it were so simple” scene between Ralph Fiennes and Alden Ehrenreich. Young Han Solo’s breakout performance alone makes this movie worth watching - the man can lasso with spaghetti! Watch it once, but don’t pay too much attention - it doesn’t need or ask for it.

Could It Win Any Oscars?
I seriously doubt this will be nominated for anything. The Coen’s do have a knack for getting writing nominations, though, so who knows!

Adam's Top Five

The Conjuring 2
This is one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen and director James Wan has perfected the haunted house movie. The incredible attention to detail, the palpable tension, and wonderful makeup work on the undead spirits make for a thrilling movie-going experience. A fun highlight for me was a creatively-shot scene of Patrick Wilson’s character in the foreground speaking to the possessed girl in the background, her character blurred enough that the audience can only barely see her transform into the ghost of an old man. It’s just one neat trick in an inventive horror film..

Could it Win Any Oscars?
A horror film getting any sort of Oscar attention is a long-shot to say the least, but if it were up to me it’d get noticed for Best Makeup and Best Cinematography.

The Lobster
Maybe the most unique film on my list, The Lobster takes place in a dystopian future where single people are required by law to get married or else they’re turned into animals and sent into the wild. The completely absurd premise is complimented by the absurd dialogue and actions of the characters, who seem to exist in an alternate plane of reality from the audience. This is one of Colin Farrell’s best performances in a nuanced role and Rachel Weisz is equally wonderful as his potential love interest.

Could it Win Any Oscars?
I would not be surprised to see Colin Farrell in the Best Actor discussion and perhaps Rachel Weisz for Best Supporting Actress. The quirky dialogue and unique setting could garner a Best Original Screenplay nomination as well.

The Witch
On one of our first episodes I described watching 'The Witch' as if you’re wrapped in a blanket of dread for two hours, and I stand by that description. This colonial-era horror follows a family, newly banished from their town, attempting to make a life for themselves in the wilderness while being tormented by an unknown presence (spoiler: it’s a witch). The sense of isolation and foreboding is in many ways more terrifying than actually seeing the evil manifested. I’ve seen it twice, and both times were equally unnerving.

Could it Win Any Oscars?
It has a shot at the artistic awards like Best Costume Design and Best Production Design because of the intricate detail of the colonial era set pieces and costumes.

10 Cloverfield Lane
The spiritual sequel to JJ Abrams’ 2008 found footage monster movie came out of nowhere (the first trailer featured during the Superbowl just two months before its release). The tense thriller about a woman who wakes up trapped in a bunker after a car accident slowly reveals the cards up its sleeve. John Goodman is terrifying and absolutely perfect for the part of the (maybe) crazy bunker-dweller during (maybe) the apocalypse. The final act is a fun swerve in a whole new direction that was refreshing to the genre.

Could it Win Any Oscars?
It’d be a shame for the Academy to look the other way at John Goodman’s terrifying and brilliant performance for Best Supporting Actor.

Green Room
From the highly-talented director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) is a relentless and brutal horror-thriller about a punk rock band caught up in a remote roadhouse by a group of murderous white supremacists. Patrick Stewart’s low-key turn as the leader of the white supremacists was a perfect casting choice, and the film really hits the gas after the first act and never lets go. This is a creative, low budget thriller with great performances from Stewart and the late Anton Yelchin.

Could it Win Any Oscars?
No particular aspect of the film is Oscar-worthy, but the sum of its parts made for a thrilling movie-going experience.

Adam’s Worst Film of the Year:

Hardcore Henry
Hardcore Henry isn’t so much a movie as it is a 90 minute experiment in GoPro film-making. It’s an entirely first person action yarn about a man with bio-implants, and convenient memory loss, looking for the bad guys who kidnapped his wife. Most of the action scenes are completely unwatchable from this perspective as the man is running, jumping and dodging gunfire. I appreciate the ingenuity but this was the only film in recent memory that’s caused me physical pain to get through.

Brett’s Worst Film of the Year:

Captain America colon Civil War
I don’t know why, but something about this movie just made me snap.  Before this I was mostly tolerant, if not outright enthusiastic, about the Marvel/Avengers deal. The first few individual character movies were pretty good (think Iron Man, Thor, Capt. America 1) and the first Avengers was lots of fun.  This one just pushed me over the edge, though.  The story has devolved into a self-serious slog of action and terrible dialogue that you can’t keep up with if you haven’t seen the previous installments.  Curious where Paul Rudd came from? Well, you should’ve seen Ant-Man! Wonder why there’s another new Spider-Man? Don’t worry about it, he’s got a movie coming soon! I hate it all, and I’m done.