“Two” of the Best Films of 2016 (so far)

August 14th, 2016

A few hits you may have missed

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Sooooo … halfway through the movie year, there are two films I’d like to share and encourage you to see.

“What,” you ask, “August comes eight months into the year, Rodney, how can you say we’re halfway?”

Actually, I’m a bit early. The Academy Awards this year were on February 28th. Everyone knows nothing of note gets released in the new year leading up to the Oscars. (Well, except one of my favorites, but that’s not important right now and it destroys my premise.)

Since the summer blockbuster season has been one of the worst in recent memory, I’d like to restore some hope as I highlight a few of the best movies I’ve seen so far.

Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next is a wide-ranging, sweeping documentary told in his classic style where he sits himself squarely inside of the narrative. On camera and in voice-over segments, Mr. Moore shows Americans what’s great about other countries and how we can bring those traits back here. There’s a fantastic surprise ending, too. Suffice it to say, the movie exudes hope and encouragement for the United State’s future.

Fans of Michael Moore — and I’m definitely one of them — will love everything about the movie. Detractors will find a lot to like too. If you’re a citizen of America or the world, you’ll probably come away inspired by Where To Invade Next.

I met the man back during the summer of 1987 in Flint, Michigan. He showed up at a few different news events that I was covering as a photographer and it was great chatting with the then largely unknown writer/director/star. He was working on his landmark documentary Roger & Me. Since then, he’s gone on to make many memorable contributions to cinema. His latest is one of his finest. You can rent, stream or buy it anywhere.

The other fantastic film of 2016 is Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice. The funny and frantic world of improv comedy is viewed through a loving, emotional and seemingly very real-life lens. A New York City band of comedians is thrown into turmoil as some of their members are invited to audition for “Weekend Live,” a fictional Saturday Night Live substitute.

Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci and others react to and deal with the shakeup to their tightly woven team. It’s a fantastic psychological glimpse into group and individual dynamics. Poignant, yet playful, the movie hits lots of different notes: abandonment and contentment; sadness and joy, responsibility to self & group; and — oh yeah — it’s awfully darn funny!

Unfortunately, Don’t Think Twice is still in a limited movie house run. Fortunately it’s playing at my favorite independent theatre — The Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, Michigan. But it’s bound to hit more theaters before it starts its second life streaming or on the DVD rental and retail market.

Oh yeah, there’s one other movie you might want to look for, Sam Neill’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Longtime Jemaine Clement collaborator Taika Waititi wrote and directed the movie about a troubled foster child coming to live with Neill’s character in the wilderness of New Zealand. Look for Rhys Darby, Murray from Flight of the Conchords. It’s still in some theaters, but it hits the rental market next month.

And for now, here’s hoping for a bumper crop of extraordinary films amongst the upcoming fall and winter releases.

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