The Best Movies on Seattle Screens in 2016 (So Far)

Since it is the halfway point of the year, I ran a quick poll of the primary contributors to Seattle Screens Scene to find out their picks for the best movies to play theatrically (or at SIFF) for the first time in the city this year. These are the results:

Mountains-May-Depart-4

Mike Strenski:

  1. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)
  2. My Golden Days (Arnold Desplechin)
  3. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)
  4. Three (Johnnie To)
  5. Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier)
  6. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  7. Kaili Blues (Bi Gan)
  8. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)

homepage_Sunset-Song-2016

Melissa Tamminga:

  1. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)
  2. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
  3. Love and Friendship (Whit Stillman)
  4. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)
  5. Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Koreeda)
  6. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)
  7. Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen)
  8. Long Way North (Remi Chaye)
  9. I Am Belfast (Mark Cousins)
  10. Under the Sun (Vitaliy Manskiy)

SPL 2 Simon Yam and Wu Jing

Jhon Hernandez:

  1. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)
  2. Everybody Wants Some!!! (Richard Linklater)
  3. Fan (Maneesh Sharma)
  4. Three (Johnnie To)
  5. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick)

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Sean Gilman:

  1. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)
  2. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)
  3. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)
  4. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
  5. Kaili Blues (Bi Gan)
  6. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  7. Three (Johnnie To)
  8. Everybody Wants Some!!! (Richard Linklater)
  9. Hail, Caesar! (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  10. The Mermaid (Stephen Chow)

Out 1

Seema Pai:

  1. Out 1: Noli me tangere (Jacques Rivette)
  2. No Home Movie (Chantal Ackerman)
  3. Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  4. The Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
  5. SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)
  6. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
  7. Three (Johnnie To)
  8. Fan (Mannish Sharma)
  9. Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
  10. My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin)
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Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert, 2016)

hank and manny on beach

(NOTE: I also reviewed this film with Adam Kempenaar on the Filmspotting podcast, when I was a guest host for the show. You can take a listen here.) 

It isn’t a new idea, the idea that mental health and happiness are related to accepting yourself as you are. We could reference Free To Be You and Me, that album of the 70’s that challenged gender norms and promoted a celebration of individuality –

Come with me, take my hand, and we’ll run
To a land where the river runs free
To a land through the green country
 . . .
 To a land where the children are free
 And you and me are free to be

Don’t be afraid, the song encourages children. There’s no shame in anything that you are. Just be yourself. Celebrate that.

It’s a message that you can find everywhere now.  Children’s movies, in particular, often contain some version of this idea. If you have short term memory loss like Dory in Finding Dory, if you’re a bunny like Judy Hopps in Zootopia, you are still just as important, just as valuable as anybody else.

In Swiss Army Man, the debut feature film from Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, we have a return to this essential kind of story and these themes. It centers on a man called Hank (Paul Dano), who can’t live with himself anymore. He’s alone, literally and figuratively. He feels bad about life, he feels bad about himself. He feels like “broken,” “dirty,” “trash.” He lacks the courage to seek out a relationship with the woman he admires. He’s ashamed of his desires and his own corporeal reality. And that’s his basic problem. He can’t stand himself and his disgusting body and “weird,” disgusting self.  The film’s journey is, then, about the way he struggles with coming to terms with himself and all of the weird, gross, socially unacceptable bits.

So far, so good.  And so far, a lot like something we’ve seen or heard before.

The film has received attention though for the conceit it employs to tell its story. You’ve probably heard about it already: it’s the farting corpse movie.  The story isolates Hank in the wilderness and gives him a dead body for a companion (Daniel Radcliffe), a companion whose most socially uncomfortable bodily functions take center stage. It is through his interactions with this embarrassing corpse, whose name is Manny, and a very literal dealing with bodily functions, that Hank has to face himself. In Manny, he sees his corporeal, death-fated human reality, and ultimately, must decide, whether or not he will reject it or embrace it. Continue reading Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert, 2016)”