Top 10 of 2016 Seattle International Film Festival
As the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival winds to a close, it's a good time to reflect upon all the films I managed to cram in during 25 days of movie madness.
I once again managed to catch more than fifty movies screened at SIFF - which is hardly a dent in the hundreds of feature-length and short films featured at SIFF each year. But in the opinion of this one humble film critic, here are the 10 best films I saw at SIFF 2016:
Honorable mentions: "Girl Asleep," "Finding Babel" and "Kedi."
#10: 'The Eyes of My Mother'
Going into this movie blind is the best way to get the most out of this nuanced and intimate horror story. "The Eyes of My Mother" is a stark, beautiful film that takes one dark, horrifying turn after another. This is a genuinely surprising film on virtually every level - it's surprisingly empathetic of its main character, a lonely and isolated woman in a story that follows one shocking moment after another.
#9: 'Captain Fantastic'
iggo Mortensen is the dramatic core that grounds this film, keeping the story focused on his sometimes narrow-minded efforts to raise his family the way he wants. "Captain Fantastic" charms when it could have been corny and walks the razor's edge between sincerity and saccharinity.
#8: 'Love & Friendship'
Kate Beckinsale is absolutely exquisite in one of the very best - and certainly the most hilarious - adaptations of a Jane Austen work to date. Writer-director Whit Stillman has wonderfully adapted a dramatic film about romance (more for convenience than true love) that is first and foremost a hilarious comedy that maintains a regal air in tone with a clever wit.
#7: 'A Man Called Ove'
Cinema is packed with films with cantankerous old characters who - one way or another - rejoin their happy/annoying neighbors. The difference with "Ove" - this is a surprisingly sweet and heartfelt story of a suicidal old man too annoyed with his neighbors to kill himself.
#6: 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople'
Director Taika Waititi maintains a light-hearted, adventurous tone that makes "Wilderpeople" totally enjoyable for older kids, but is sentimental (but not saccharine) and sharply written enough for adults to embrace. Anyone who fondly loves "The Goonies" should check out "Wilderpeople."
#5: 'The Fits'
Star Royalty Hightower delivers one of the very best performances of 2016 in this bold, confident and abstract coming-of-age drama. This atmospheric, psychological drama taps into very elemental adolescent anxieties - isolation, inclusion and identity - to tell an emotionally true story.
This is a masterwork of political satire that has all the key ingredients of gripping drama. This is a man looking for redemption. His mayoral bid is an absolute trainwreck. His politically savvy wife stands by his side - even when many say she should leave him. Having a front-row seat to this disaster is entertaining, but this doc's candid peek into the inner-workers of a political campaign team is fascinating. "Weiner" is one of the most entertaining, insightful and riveting films of 2016.
#3: 'Don't Think Twice'
The joy of this comedy is watching a close-knit group of friends completely implode and consume each other with envy. "Don't Think Twice" makes the most of its brilliant ensemble cast, giving each of them a complex and empathetic character arc. Writer-director Mike Birbiglia throws his cast of characters from the relative safety of their hopes and dreams into a genuine crisis of ambition and jealousy.
"Tower" punctuates the shock and terror everyone should feel when anyone mentions any mass shooting anywhere - be it any one of several dozen that will happen this year or the first one in Austin. This is not merely a documentary about an event - this is a gripping story about survivors. "Tower" succeeds in making the past feel immediate and timely.
The best film of SIFF 2016: 'Cameraperson'
This collage of moments is a masterpiece of editing. Each individual clip could stand on its own - but when woven together, "Cameraperson" is a riveting and powerful work of unconventional storytelling. This mesmerizing documentary bounces through space and time, connecting seemingly unrelated moments to create stirring exploration of trauma and living with the memories.