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The Best Movies of 2016 So Far

As 2016 hits the halfway mark, here are the films we're championing as the best released in theaters so far.

Eric Kohn, Deputy Editor and Chief Critic

10. “The Treasure”

This surprisingly warmhearted Romanian effort from “Police, Adjective” director Corneliu Porumboiu finds a good-natured blue collar worker invested in the peculiar effort to help his neighbor find buried treasure beneath an old family property. From the makings of a deadpan comedy, in which the high pitch wail of a metal detector becomes a hilarious audio motif worthy of Jacques Tati, “The Treasure” transforms into a bizarre thriller about Romanian bureaucracy — not unlike the ending of Porumboiu brilliant “Police, Adjective,” where the conclusion revolved around a superior officer forcing his employee to look up several words in a dictionary. In the case of “The Treasure,” Costi and his neighbor are warned of state regulations that force them to report any riches they find. Whether or not they discover anything of value, it’s bound to be subjected to the same drab rules that dictate their working class routine.  Porumboiu manages to deliver this heady thesis with a disarmingly light touch, something we’ve never quite seen in other movies of its ilk. The triumphant finale suggests that victory lies not with material goods but the way we choose to perceive them.

The Fits

“The Fits”

9. “The Fits”

Anna Rose Holmer’s first feature is a surreal portrait of an unlikely young heroine. Eleven-year-old Toni (breakout Royalty Hightower) aspires to be a dancer while making her way through boxing training at her Cincinnati youth center. As a convulsive disease begins to affect several of her fellow dancers, “The Fits” gradually transforms into a “Twin Peaks”-like look at communal alienation. Hightower’s astonishingly subtle performances meshes perfectly with the movie’s rhythmic portrait of the mysteries and alienation of adolescence. Holmer’s ability to remain within her young protagonist’s wondrous perspective of the world imbues “The Fits” with a disarming simplicity that’s also deeply poignant.

8. “Krisha”

More than once in writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ grimly fascinating drama “Krisha,” the camera slowly closes on the title character’s troubled face. With her wizened features, sunken eyes and unkept white hair, Krisha (Krisha Fairchild, the filmmaker’s aunt) wears the beaten-down look of a woman baffled by a world that has slipped beyond her grasp. Shults’ dizzying filmmaking technique compliments that distant gaze, as he chronicles the alcoholic woman’s attempt to convince her estranged relatives that she has managed to stabilize her life over the course of a Thanksgiving dinner that careens into chaos. It’s no surprise that things don’t go as planned, but “Krisha” derives an extraordinary sense of mystery around the nature of the character’s problems — and whether she possesses the ability to control them.

"Chevalier"

“Chevalier”

7. “Chevalier”

An early poster for Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari’s “Chevalier” features the cryptic tagline “a buddy movie without buddies,” which aptly describes the macho rivalries at its center. Tsangari’s inventive story follows six apparently wealthy men on a ship in the Aegean Sea playing a vaguely-defined game to determine which of them holds the greatest traits. It’s never entirely clear whether they’re all just messing around or feel a deeper urge to triumph in their eccentric contest. The only certainty is Tsangari — whose “Attenberg” was a lovely and unconventional coming-of-age story — has delivered another intriguing and thoroughly original character study, which this time serves as an apt metaphor for Greece’s larger problems.

6. “Everybody Wants Some!!”

Richard Linklater’s movies are filled with energetic observations in small doses. Dense philosophical ramblings surround the flimsiest of plots; a casual air meets existentialism. While discussed for ages as a “spiritual sequel” to his seventies-set high school classic “Dazed and Confused” — and set just a few years later — the college baseball comedy “Everybody Wants Some!!” contains many of the best ingredients found throughout Linklater’s career: A carefree attitude about life paired with sneakier observations about its deeper mysteries.

As with his sweeping “Before” trilogy and the ambitious 12-year production cycle of “Boyhood,” the new movie also cleverly toys with time. Cramming three days of hard-partying antics into slightly less than two hours, “Everybody Wants Some!!” unfolds in the final days of summer at a small Texas college, in which the responsibilities of adulthood lurk just outside the frame. Endlessly charming and sneakily wise, “Everybody Wants Some!!” epitomizes Linklater’s unique ability to magnify human behavior with levity. There’s nothing showy about “Everybody Wants Some!!”, but that’s the brilliance of it. Life sneaks up on you, and so do Richard Linklater movies.

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