My favourite movies of 2016 so far are anomalies. As our southern neighbours have stooped closer to madness with each passing day of their erratic election campaign, a few great films are returning to simple sincerity; clinging to an older time to mask the current one. Here are my top five movies of the year thus far, all of which are more than worth your time.
1. Knight of Cups
This peculiarity by Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life) is the only film on this list with its sights set on the future. Progressing the director’s form to a realm even more fractured and ethereal, we can sense the soul of the cinema separating from its body, ascending to something higher.
The film leaves conventional narrative behind for images that are solely metaphorical or emotional in signification. Knight of Cups borrows themes from The Pilgrim’s Progress and sets them against Hollywood’s hedonism. The film, dense with meaning, is about now — economic inequality, representations of women in the media and pop culture, the hegemony of materialism — but it also taps into something more eternal, more spiritual.
2. The BFG
Steven Spielberg’s return to family movies is an instant classic; your kids will be showing it to their kids. With spellbinding visual effects, the film immerses us in another place, another time, and another reality. Based on a novel by Roald Dahl, we follow an orphan snatched into a world of giants by the klutzy and kind Big Friendly Giant. It’s a simple story of friendship that is beautifully told, accessible to children but universal in its expression of pathos.
3. Midnight Special
Jeff Nichols’ sci-fi chase movie, following a messianic boy who is being pursued by the FBI and members of a cult, feels like a lost classic someone dug up from the mid-’80s. Midnight Special harnesses and pays homage to films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and John Carpenter’s Starman, harkening back to when films about faith demanded a little of it from their audience. Its emotional pull sneaks up on you, building to a powerful and understated climax.
4. The Wailing
I gave up piecing together the perplexing plot of this gonzo Korean horror film, which is about a series of mysterious murders in a small, secluded town. What I’m now left with are the eerie sounds, the nightmarish images, and the overarching hysteria. The Wailing jumps between genres and effortlessly maintains a chilly atmosphere. A crime drama, a zombie film, a slapstick comedy, an exorcist flick; despite all of the different ingredients, the film is remarkably singular and coherent. This is the best horror movie I’ve seen this year and by far the scariest.
5. Everybody Wants Some!!
Over 20 years after Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater returns with a film he calls its “spiritual sequel.” Moving us from high school to college and from the ’70s to the ’80s, Everybody Wants Some!! is a painfully funny look at early adulthood at the end of an era. Linklater balances escapism with sadness, and nostalgia with unblinking truths about the period and the characters in it. Among many miraculous things, it’s a film that somehow manages to make moustaches cool again, which is no small feat if you ask me.