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The 10 Most Underrated Sci-fi Films of The 21st Century

We’ve almost made it to the roaring ‘20s, which means it’s time to analyze the past twenty years. The 2000s have been great to filmgoers so far. More jaded cinephiles may find something to complain about, but in reality, there have been some tremendous motion pictures. In fact, there have been too many tremendous motion pictures.

There’s an overabundance of great cinema being released, and that means that certain films are bound to be forgotten. That’s why this list exists. Below, you’ll find ten science fiction films that are, to one degree or another, underrated.

As with most “underrated” or “overrated” lists, it’s hard to define what makes something underrated or overrated. To simplify things, we’ll just say that the ten entries on this list deserve more recognition than they have gotten up until this point. This could mean that they are critically divisive. This could mean that they failed to find an audience. Regardless, something is holding them back.

 

1. Snowpiercer

In this political climate, it’s no wonder Snowpiercer is divisive among casual moviegoers. It’s a fiercely political piece of work that left viewers expecting escapism frustrated. Of course, it’s not only the political message that left a sour taste in peoples’ mouths. Roughly half a decade later, it has become clear that Snowpiercer didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations for one reason or another. While it has a strong enough fanbase, Snowpiercer really should be considered a science fiction classic rather than a polarizing slice of entertainment.

In other words, its placement on the list is relatively complicated. It’s hardly an unknown movie. On the contrary, it has done significantly better than one might expect from a movie that only got a sizeable release in Asian territories. At the same time, the division among viewers is as fascinating as it is frustrating.

It’s hard to talk about movies objectively because art is largely subjective. Still, it’s easy to get frustrated when people try to hurl insults at something so finely crafted. Bong Joon-ho’s direction is unparalleled, his script is razor sharp, and the visual effects are breathtaking. Put simply, this is how you make a sci-fi movie.

At the end of the day, Snowpiercer isn’t exactly a hidden gem, but it’s a movie that likely won’t be discussed in the inevitable “best of the decade” lists even though it fits the criteria. This is a sci-fi film with guts. It’s a movie that looks at Hollywood clichés and laughs at them. Something like this doesn’t come along often. Because of that, we need to cherish it rather than forget it.

 

2. Moon

Before Duncan Jones was given heaps of money to direct Warcraft, he made a little indie darling called Moon. Like most movies on this list, reviews were strong and the movie has its share of fans, but it never really caught on like it should have. It nabbed a BAFTA nomination and earned its money back at the box office, but it certainly wasn’t a smash hit.

Here’s the thing: it should have been. Moon is, to this day, the best movie Duncan Jones has directed. While Source Code was a decent follow up, it can’t measure up to the brilliance of this film. This is a directorial debut done right, even if it meant that every follow-up had the potential to be a let-down.

Jones delivers a thought-provoking script that gives star Sam Rockwell plenty to do. Rockwell is the heart and soul of this film, but he clearly works in conjunction with a well-thought-out screenplay. The small budget is hard to ignore from the opening scene, but it never takes away from a breathtaking experience.

 

3. The Endless

The Endless is a phenomenal science fiction movie by itself that’s only enhanced alongside it’s pseudo-prequel, Resolution. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have crafted a fascinating a sci-fi universe with layers upon layers of content. Strap in when viewing The Endless because you’ll need to do some serious rewinding to catch everything.

There’s one downside: nobody has really seen this movie. To be fair, it’s more popular than its predecessor, but it’s still relatively unknown outside of cinephile message boards. Considering the effort put into such a refined script, it needs to be more popular. The Endless rocks. Resolution rocks. The cohesion that comes from watching them back-to-back is borderline unforgettable.

The Endless is one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade. It’s brilliant from start to finish. The fact that so few people have seen it feels like a crime. Readers who haven’t seen it need to stop whatever they’re doing, track it down on a streaming service, and watch it in one glorious sitting. It’s worth the time investment.

 

4. Coherence

Coherence

Filmed on a budget of $50,000, Coherence puts the “micro” in “microbudget.” Unfortunately, Coherence didn’t get the Paranormal Activity treatment where it was given a wide release that helped it make over $100,000,000 at the box office. No, it got a very limited release before making its way to VOD hell. It’s time for it to make its way out of that hell though.

Spoiling Coherence is a big no-no, so we’ll have to keep this short. The less you know, the better. Just know that it’s big on science fiction ideas even with its tiny budget. It’ll make you think, but know that the mental exertion is worth it.

 

5. Sunshine

Sci-fi fanatics will label Sunshine a necessary viewing experience, while casual moviegoers will likely wonder what the hell it is. Like several films on this list, the decision to include Sunshine was tricky. It has a fiercely loyal fanbase, but it’s not nearly as popular when you factor in mainstream audiences. Because of that, its inclusion makes sense even if it may be controversial.

First, a little background. Sunshine came out after Danny Boyle had already established himself but before he really broke through with Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. He had developed clout through releases like 28 Days Later and Trainspotting, but he wasn’t a household name. As such, handing him $40 million for an ambitious science fiction disaster movie turned out to be a poor decision.

Sunshine underperformed at the box office, and frankly, it never really recovered. As previously stated, a lot of people really love this movie. They love the mind-bending story that feels as fresh today as it did twelve years ago. They love the ambitious scale, which only adds to the complex themes and motifs. They love the entire thing, but that doesn’t make it a success.

Sunshine was a flop back in 2007, and it’s not doing much better by today’s standards. The ferocious defenders are wise to push this movie onto people. Hell, they should continue to do so. Danny Boyle’s creative journey should not be forgotten.

The 10 Weirdest Movies of The 2010s

The adjective “weird” can mean and be applied to many different things when it comes to movies. Whether it is the content that is weird or the execution, the following 10 movies of this past decade prove that cinema remains truly unique and has the potential to entertain us with its strangeness. There has always been a place reserved for odd movies and though it is usually the independent features that revel in weirdness, some mainstream content makes its way in there too.

 

10. Sorry to Bother You

sorry_to_bother_you___still_1_37952712494_o.0

Sorry to Bother You is a movie that trods along as if it’s your above-average comedy with sharp social commentary but in its final moments takes a turn way into left field. The marketing team for this movie did a great job hiding the absurdist twist at the end, making the revelation all the more effective and surprising.

Coming out just last year, the film industry was seeing many movies aimed at reinforcing a political agenda, but Sorry to Bother You has the gall to be more ambitious and, though a little too heavy-handed for its own good, it largely achieves what it’s reaching for to make for a truly unique movie experience like none you’re likely to see get wide release.

 

9. Lost River

Lost River

Coming off of acting in two Nicolas Winding Refn movies, it seems Ryan Gosling was inspired by the director to try his hand at directing. Very much borrowing from Refn’s unique style, Gosling tries to make a lurid, nihilistic take of poverty in modern America. Everything that can go wrong with the main character, played by Christina Hendricks, does and it relishes in its unpleasantness.

A mixed to negative response from the critics kept this movie from surfacing to mainstream awareness and it’s likely due to the movie’s pervasive weirdness. The neon drenched color scheme compliments the movie’s embrace of sex and violence and keeps the movie feeling more fantastical than realistic. As a result, the movie is off-putting and singular but worth a watch for people who like traces of David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn in their movies.

 

8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Director Yorgos Lanthimos has propelled himself into the mainstream with his most recent movie, The Favourite, earning accolades across the board but The Killing of a Sacred Deer flew relatively under the radar and it’s not hard to see why. With a far more specified audience than a movie like The Favourite, The Killing of a Sacred Deer sees characters behave aberrantly, an over-bearing sense of the supernatural, and close-up shots of surgery with no intention on explaining why or how it all connects.

It’s one of the director’s most dense works but it’s perhaps best looked at through religious allusions. Making references to the plagues of the Old Testament as well as other stories like Abraham and Isaac, The Killing of a Sacred Deer seems to be a modern interpretation of Biblical stories and one whose weirdness lingers in the audience’s memory.

 

7. The Forbidden Room

The Forbidden Room

Those familiar with Guy Maddin won’t be surprised to find that one of his movies makes it on this list. A movie that many critics said was another brilliant outing while audiences seemed to find it more impenetrable, The Forbidden Room’s appeal will be based on the viewer’s willingness to search for a true meaning. While many will find such an effort not worth it, those who have engaged with Maddin’s work in the past will likely find themselves enjoying this experience. The Forbidden Room serves best as a disconnected sequence of images featuring recurring subjects as opposed to a classical narrative.

It is near impossible to assemble any kind of coherent narrative with the material given and that innate weirdness is only complimented further by the aberrance of its subjects. Impossible to classify and certainly not for everyone, The Forbidden Room will likely prove to frustrating for viewers that haven’t taken prior enjoyment in experimental film and Maddin’s work in particular.

 

6. The Lure

The Lure is a truly bizarre bit of genre-blending. A musical-fantasy-horror-romance is the best way to describe this truly singular movie about mermaids working at a nightclub. Following two mermaids in particular, one who is looking to eat people and the other who is looking to have sex with them, the movie is about as wild as that premise would suggest.

Gleefully showing the audience exactly how someone copulates with a mermaid and making The Shape of Water look like a Disney movie in doing so, The Lure’s allure comes from its utter strangeness. Truly nothing like this movie has been made and 120 years into film’s existence, not every movie can easily say that. You may not “enjoy” the movie per se, but you can’t say its weirdness doesn’t have an intrinsic charm.

The 20 Best Cult Movies of The 2010s

Cult films have been alive and well in the 2010s, a decade that saw a wealth of memorable midnight movies, eccentric oddities, sleeper stoner comedies, and other “out there” genre films.

Movies designated with cult status attract special audiences because they’re so very different and much more provocative than mainstream populist fare. The cult film experience differs from conventional cinema by appealing to unique sensibilities, be it the counterculture, genre films, or niche audiences that joyfully indulge in taboo content and proscribed subject matter that deliriously upends convention with razor-sharp satire, exploitation, and/or legitimate ideological dangers or controversial content.

The following list looks at the decade’s best cult films––these are movies that foster unhealthy obsession, stylish strangeness, and offer feelings of connection for the bravest or most eccentric viewers out there. Enjoy!

 

20. Turbo Kid (2015)

Turbo Kid

Set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of an alternate 1997, Munro Chambers plays an orphaned teen who must do battle with a ruthless warlord named Zeus (Michael Ironside) to save Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), this dream girl.

After the film’s SXSW premiere, Matt Donato of We Got This Covered, raved that “[Turbo Kid] is a magical can’t-miss experience that’s like a Saturday morning cartoon turned into an apocalyptic 80s fever-dream […] A stunning visual masterpiece that redefines the phrase ‘low-budget filmmaking’.” Other genre-appreciative blogs son chimed in, with Dread Central calling it, “Funny, gory, hugely enjoyable and – most importantly – shining with spirit […] Everyone involved should be thoroughly proud of themselves.”

Written and directed by the pastiche-loving triumvirate of François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell, Turbo Kid is a goofy, gory, and fist-pumping cult film offering, and finger’s crossed the rumored sequel will materialize before too long.

 

19. Deathgasm (2015)

Deathgasm

New Zealand writer/director Jason Lei Howden hilariously resurrects the splatter comedy with Deathgasm. If combining the crude fanboy nobility of Bill and Ted with the stomach-churning carnage of The Evil Dead sounds delectable, then this indelicate and scatological midnight movie masterpiece is a sweet course.

Brodie (Milo Cawthorne), a serious heavy metal fan, along with bad-boy bff Zakk (James Blake) front a band, the titular Deathgasm, who up their street cred and Satanic celebrity by incorporating demonic lyrics from an ancient text into their music. It turns out that doing so summons an assortment of teeth-gnashing nasties that only they can stand up to.

Deathgasm’s hyperbolic, fluid-spewing violence is a morbid revelry––what other film offers up a slo mo assault on demons with an ebony dildo and a string of anal beads?––and with rapid-fire quotable quips and put-downs that are laugh-out-loud funny, this is a film meant for repeat group viewings.

 

18. Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

With a title like “Hobo with a Shotgun” you’d best expect a crass, off-color, gloriously off-kilter, and utterly over-the-top exploitation experience, because that’s exactly what you get. This deranged black comedy/horror-thriller doesn’t just leave good taste at the door, it gouges out its eyes and defiles it’s still kicking corpse as director Jason Eisener and writer John Davies go hardcore, with shotguns ablazin’.

Inspired by the mean-spirited trailer of the same name featured in the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez 2007 omnibus film Grindhouse, and the South by Southwest Grindhouse contest that coincided with it, this is a gory spectacle for exploitation fans.

Rutger Hauer is the eponymous homeless avenger who takes on the Drake (Brian Downey), a sadistic crime boss––sadistic being an understatement––and his cruel sons (Nick Bateman and Robb Wells), who rule over Hope Town with an iron fist.

The antithesis of cinematic subtlety, this gloriously gruesome homage to low-budget horror is actually pretty damn enjoyable if you can get past the deliberately vile content (mistreated hookers, horrible pimps, a pedophile dressed as Santa), blood-splattered gore, colorful dialogue, and guiltily enjoy the revenge-fuelled awfulness of it all.

 

17. The Raid (2011)

Mad Dog in The Raid (2011)

Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans made quite a name for himself with the adrenaline-pumping Indonesian martial arts-fuelled, siege-driven mini-epic, The Raid. A first-rate midnight movie that spawned a sequel (2014’s The Raid 2), a graphic novel, a spin-off comic book series, and a still gestating American remake from Joe Carnahan, The Raid detonates the screen as Rama (Iko Uwais), a rookie and possible weak link in an elite police team, is charged with the task of taking down the fearsome crime lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy). But lo and behold, the team’s cover is blown as they infiltrate the imposing high-rise apartment block Tama runs, leaving Rama on the outside as Tama has the team trapped and at his mercy in the massive fortress-like lodgings.

Faster than you can say “Assault on Precinct 13 meets Escape from New York” the shit is hitting the proverbial fan, ultraviolence is erupting all around, and whomever is left of Rama’s team on the inside most compete with a garrison of criminals Tama’s protecting to bring in their heads.

The simple premise is second fiddle to The Raid’s nonstop action sequences, which dazzlingly showcase the traditional Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat, with gob-smacking fight choreography led by star Uwais and Yayan Ruhian (who plays Tama’s badass sidekick Mad Dog). The Raid is a riot.

 

16. Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

Beyond The Black Rainbow

Beyond the Black Rainbow is an artful, experimental, and inspired visual feast that pastiches the seditious leanings of Mario Bava, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and just a dash of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Rarely are small-scale sci-fi films this adventurous and smartly surreal.

Set in the distant year 1983, writer-director Panos Cosmatos (Mandy) offers up a feverish, chimerical miracle of strange cinema, like an artifact from another era. Stylish to a fault, fantastic to the hilt, the story of a heavily sedated Eva Allan, cursed with ESP, desperate to escape the enigmatic institution that keeps her captive.

The synth-driven score from Sinoia Caves adds immeasurably to the film’s appeal and helps make Cosmatos’ idiosyncratic, strange, and onerous emotional environment all the more arresting. This isn’t a film for everyone, but those that it will resonate with will cherish this dark, impending jewel.

 

15. Climax (2018)

Argentinian enfant terrible filmmaker Gaspar Noé (Enter the Void) may now at long last finally have his masterpiece with Climax, an unimaginably beautiful nightmare mixture of ecstatic dance and horror most extreme. An absolutely mindblowing, and occasionally frustrating experience, Climax is as detailed and delirious as an Hieronymus Bosch hellscape.

After a hasty, though engaging introduction to our cast of characters, members of a hip-hop dance troupe in 1996, we witness a whirlingly choreographed dance sequence in their rehearsal space, set to pulsating era-appropriate EDM and shot in a single, staggering, trance-inducing take. To say that it’s riveting feels too basic, it’s an all-consuming feat of strength, and probably the most engrossing dance number you’ve ever borne witness to. So many different dancing styles coalesce; krumpers, voguers, and wackers, and all with an astounding fluidity, energy, and grace, it’s druggy just to take it all in. Wow.

But before long the film moves from Saturday Night Fever-style dance drama to full-on drug horror as the troupe comes to realize someone has spiked their celebratory sangria with some obscenely high-dose LSD. For the very brave or perhaps the youthfully naïve, Climax is a shocking and sinister pièce de résistance.

 

14. Tangerine (2015)

Tangerine

Director Sean Baker (The Florida Project) co-wrote Tangerine with Chris Bergoch, and their small-scale success is an utter joy. Perhaps best known as being “that indie film that was shot on iPhones”––slightly modified, of course––Baker’s neo-screwball transgender comedy is a surprising, startling, color-saturated sliver of chimeric cinema.

Radium Cheung’s cinematography is dreamlike in the best sense, bringing a hyperreality to the rough hewn guerilla aesthetic that may well be lost on mainstream audiences but deeply appreciated and applauded by the more analytical eye. Tangerine is gritty, as you might expect, but it’s also riotously entertaining, emotionally honest, and precious to look at, like dime store jewellery that somehow manages to beautifully reflect a gorgeous and unusual light.

 

13. The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

The Duke of Burgundy

Peter Strickland (In Fabric, also on this list) makes a pastiche of erotic exploitation cinema from the 70s––Jesús Franco and Jean Rollin float to mind with soap bubble inertia––with no deficit of idiosyncrasy, imagination, or veiled decorum, either. Existing in a pocket universe inhabited wholly by women, The Duke of Burgundy offers tactile pleasures at every turn, Euro-smut has never looked so lovely, salacious, or finely detailed.

Nic Knowland’s overripe lensing, Pater Sparrow’s effete yet plush production design, and Mátyás Fekete nostalgic and almost gimmicky editing––featuring, for instance, freeze-frames that relax into fleshy pink ambiguity––makes for an artificial world that moans with titillation and mystery at every inviting wheeze. This is a film of mystery, lucid dreaming, closed door transgressions, and artful fetish from an exciting cinematic pariah.

 

12. Enemy (2013)

Enemy is Denis Villeneuve’s inscrutable adaptation of José Saramago’s 2002 novel “The Double” and it’s a chilling, indulgent, yet always audacious affair.

Jake Gyllenhaal gives an understated yet riveting dual performance, is Adam, a history professor in a passionless relationship with Mary (Mélanie Laurent) who soon discovers, after renting a DVD, that an actor in a small role appears to be his doppelgänger. After a little legwork, Adam finds the actor’s talent agency, intercepts some mail and learns his name, Anthony Clair.

As the puzzle-like film unravels, the viewer is treated, amongst other existential horror high-jinx, to troubling imagery of spiders, gossamer (a web-like appearance of a cracked windshield is especially chilling), stifled femininity, a tough, washed-out looking Toronto landscape, and increasing dreamlike delusions building to an arresting conclusion and a final shot that is totally terrifying.

Enemy is a resonating work that presents itself as seductive cinema, sensational at times, and quick, guaranteed to pervade the viewer while offering up nightmare fuel, dark fantasy, and more than a few interpretations.

 

11. Attack the Block (2011)

Attack the Block (2011)

A near perfect distillation of horror, humor, science fiction and class polemic, writer/director Joe Cornish’s feature length debut, Attack the Block, is a monster movie with bite.

Set in the inner city of South London, the film artfully and carefully follows a teen gang caught up in an alien invasion. Now, as the at risk youths find themselves defending their besieged residential block from extraterrestrial forces Cornish captures the zeitgeist of contemporary England, a country in the midst of urban renewal and retrograde, where, apart from the alien invaders, alienation thrives in the stark and stalwart disconnect between age, class, and race.

The creatures themselves have a unique and distinct look; razor-sharp teeth that glow amidst jet black fur in a posture and stance close to a dog but also with a gorilla’s gait and size. They’re original and unforgettable creations that, combined with a breakout performance from John Boyega as teenage hoodlum Moses, Attack the Block is a modern cult classic and an astonishing directorial debut to boot.

10 of The Darkest Movie Endings of All Time

Incendies (2010)

A dark ending doesn’t always mean a violent one. Sometimes the silence and ambiguity of an ending causes one to feel uneasy and unfulfilled by the story. A movie ending should solidify the themes and concepts that the film intended to interpret over the course of its scenes. In the case of these films, the ultimate theme that carries through is that real life is filled with tragedy, and that many times, it ends with it.

It would be unfair to write and break down the ending of each of these films if readers haven’t seen the films yet. This is why the following article is intended to provide a sense of the energy that each of these films carry with them, in hopes that it will urge readers to experience their ambitious attempts to project the dark realities of truth on film.

 

1. Dancer in the Dark

Dancer In The Dark

Bjork’s performance as the self-sacrificing Selma in Dancer in the Dark is one of the most gut wrenching, haunting journeys of a mother giving all that she has to provide a better life for her son. Selma and her son Gene travel to the United States from Czechoslovakia in hopes of living a better life. She works tirelessly in the assembly line of a factory to save money for an operation for her son. He is unaware of the disease his mother has passed down to him that will soon make him lose his eyesight.

Selma too is losing her eyesight, but tries to keep it a secret in order to not scare her son of her imminent incapability to provide for him. She hides her sorrow behind her deep love for musicals, and although her blindness is quite tantalizing, the idealistic, fantastical world of musicals radiates into her perspective, and into the way she transforms her life from a tragedy to a broken but beautiful song and dance.

Despite the depressing tone of the film, Selma embodies a pure innocence that is constantly shut down by the reality that she cannot control her destiny with money or love. The ending falls nothing short of scarring, stripping Selma of her freedom, of her sight, and ultimately of her son.

 

2. Brazil

Brazil is thought provoking, it’s strange, but above all it is relevant in its reflection of a future revolving around technology. It runs through the wild possibilities of imagination and dreams, but also on the errors and excessive control that technology is able to impose on a civilization.

In this futuristic dystopia, the government has complete control and constant surveillance of its citizens, amongst them being Sam Lowry. Sam becomes a civil worker who is put on a fraud case. He becomes involved in an error that has accused a shoe repairman to get arrested for the crimes committed by a man named Harry Tuttle. After making the error, Sam tries to run from it, only to be hunted down by the government.

Amidst all of the commotion, Sam escapes his reality through his dreams. He continuously dreams about a woman with which he falls in love with and attempts to draw her in order to keep him with her. One day he miraculously finds her sees her in real life, and discovers her name is Jill. With her by his side, Sam continues to dream of escaping the dark realities of his life with Jill, going to a place far from control and the punishment they are about to impose on him for his errors.

The end puts weight on the importance of fantasies to cope with reality, as well as the way in which forces of power can use technology to control and diminish people to points of ultimate desperation.

 

3. Requiem for a Dream

There is no doubt that the last ten minutes of Requiem for A Dream will absolutely shock every cell in your body. The shock effect comes from the slow pace of the film. Aronofsky is no stranger to building a story up only to completely blow your mind with its conclusion

There is no doubt that the last ten minutes of Requiem for A Dream will absolutely shock every cell in your body. The shock effect comes from the slow pace of the film. Aronofsky is no stranger to building a story up only to completely blow your mind with its conclusion.

Aronofsky’s sharp and quick use of camera is intended to shock viewers with a sense of paranoia and restlessness that starts with the beginning of the film, but only escalates to dramatic effect at the end. In the meantime, the plot keeps viewers focused on the disturbing qualities of drug addicts, and the different ways in which people can become addicted to drugs.

The main lesson of the film is that drug addiction does not affect any particular group. Young, old, male or female, it has no face, or rather, carries many faces. This film allows viewers to experience the different ways in which drug use penetrates people’s characters and eventually their physical bodies in ways that make them lose absolute control over themselves.

It is a ride like no other. Somehow, the film embodies a pace similar to that of reality, beginning slow and unintimidating (the way in which drugs enter people’s lives), then taking the same explosive and unexpected turn that changes one’s life (in this case, where drug addiction has stolen every ounce of pride and joy from a once happy human being). Viewers bear witness to four people crumbling into the delusional and grimy situations that seem quite impossible to come back from.

 

4. Taxi Driver

taxi driver you talking to me

Where does one begin when talking about Taxi Driver? To say the least, the film explores the mind and life of an ex veteran working as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, struggling with his own sanity. Travis Bickle is an insomniac, drowning in loneliness and a depressive attitude towards the disturbing and corrupt society in which he lives. Travis carries with him a sense of deep isolation, lacking any sort of ambition to connect with others or be involved as a citizen of the world. He has a difficult time finding meaning or a significance to his existence.

Over the course of the film, his violent nature and mental instability is painted on the surface, but there are enough instances in the film where his good intentions are apparent. The tragedy of his life comes from the fact that no matter what he tries to do, the depression that rules his thoughts diminishes him to a helpless man with a broken soul. This makes viewers pity Travis instead of understand the circumstance of his nature. It’s unfortunate that no matter how much Travis may want to bond with others, they either don’t want to help him, or his bitter paranoia stops him from even trying.

The end of the film is nothing short of his delusional nature, and explores the realities of a man, lonely and distraught, finding validation only in his own fantasies.

 

5. Chinatown

Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown is another renowned classic, an iconic film that is still studied for its impeccable script, but also for its realistically unsatisfying ending. It has an eerie tone that is fueled by strange events that seem to add up at every discovered clue, until plot twist, they don’t.

Jake, a detective, is hired to spy on a woman’s husband in order to see if he is cheating on her. From this plot point on, viewers believe they are solving one mystery while within this storyline, is many others. Jake goes down a rabbit hole of murders and deception, ultimately ending up in the same place that he started at the beginning of the film. He is unable to help people or serve justice for the crime and corruption happening in Chinatown.

The ending leaves viewers reflecting on corruption, and how easy it is for people in positions of power to get away with crime. Another key element of the film is how neighborhoods, such as Chinatown, become so corrupt. Is it because citizens don’t care about Chinatown due to its crime rate, or is it the neglect of law enforcement that causes it to be this way? It also regards themes of inescapable fate, or the idea of feeling like you have control over things when in reality, you don’t. The inescapable pain that comes with Jake’s inability to save those who deserve to be saved enhances the transcendent tragedy of his experiences.

10 Great Recent Movies That Were Snubbed By The Oscars

The Academy Awards are always a source of controversy due to the highly politicized event that it has evolved into. It often seems as if the show is more of a checklist than an actual awards show that wishes to recognize the best that the year has to offer.

In many cases, independent or semi-independent movies are overlooked in exchange for lesser films that are either more recognizable to a mainstream audience or relevant in terms of its politics. The Academy Awards is the most esteemed awards show for cinema, therefore they should be representative of all of cinema. This list will highlight ten films in the last three years that were overlooked or relatively ignored by the Academy.

 

1. First Reformed (2018)

First Reformed is a gloomy, overbearing film assaults its audience with a sense of genuine truthfulness. The style of this film is the quality that differentiates and thus illuminates it. The impending doom born from the deterioration of the environment, in essence, pollutes Reverend Ernst Toller’s (Ethan Hawke) mind. He becomes overcome with radical ideals and combined with his repressed past and general personality it forms an all together caustic mix.

Paul Schrader – acclaimed writer of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Last Temptation of Christ – took on the challenge of constructing a film steeped in undertones of religion, the environment, and the radicalization of ideology and somehow fit it all together into a tight 113-minute run time. It is rapidly paced for a film with such a domineering tone and does not hesitate to catch its audience off guard.

The color pallet also adheres to this principle, as it matches the film’s tone and themes to a tee. First Reformed Church puts up a simple visage – all white and wood, no excess- yet, as the film plays out the audience realizes that it is more of a museum or souvenir shop, as the characters sardonically refer to it. Consumerist nature has caused this building of worship into a building of profit – making something pure into something else entirely.

The film is also about people in denial, as the movie’s characters refuse to accept responsibility so very often. They do not heed the warning signs and Schrader parallels this with humanity’s disregard for the warning signs that the environment clearly displays. While one can complain that First Reformed revels in indulgence, one might argue there lies the point. The film partakes in an excess of gloomy imagery to serve its main character, whose grip on reality seems to fade further and further away as he continuously delves deeper into his newfound obsessions.

It is true that this film was nominated for best original screenplay one could reasonably maintain that it was deserving of so much more. Best actor, director, and cinematography are only a few examples of the areas in which this movie shines.

 

2. Hereditary (2018)

Rarely is it the case that a first time director can produce a product so refined, yet so saturated in subtlety such as Ari Aster accomplishes with his first feature film Hereditary. The genre of horror so frequently lends itself to cheap scares and shallow characters, especially when ghosts are the source of such fear. However, this film is able to deftly subvert these tropes and manifest fear through two main elements – a subtle aesthetic spookiness and masterful performances from its cast.

Hereditary tells the story of the Graham family, who endure grief and horror enough so that the two elements merge until they become inseparable. Annie (Toni Collette) must grapple with the loss of her mother and deal with tribulations of her family, as the events of the film spiral their lives out of control. Family dynamics, one’s relationship to their mother, and grief are a few examples of the themes that Aster seamlessly weaves into this movie. The stark contrast of color, ranging from the dark interiors of the family home to the brightly lit exterior add to the pent up suspense that this film develops.

Collette as well as Gabriel Byrne and Alex Wolff all shine, as the brutal horror of this film is routinely emblazoned on their faces. This is one example of how Hereditary defies the typical ghost story. There are no jump scares to startle audiences, rather they rely upon shock and awe and leave it to the performances to portray the horror, rather than employed a repetitive, trite music track to convey scares.

In terms of awards season, the Oscars completely ignored the masterful work put into A24’s daring ghost story. It did not acknowledge Aster’s writing or direction, which is typical for a first time feature filmmaker. However, the actress in a leading role award was a perfect landing spot to acknowledge this film’s excellence. Once again the Academy chose to honor lesser films and condemn this one for the mortal sin of being of the horror genre.

 

3. They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)

The next entry onto this list is a film that clearly missed out on best documentary feature at the past year’s Academy Awards. This was a passion project of Peter Jackson’s that evolved from a short film for the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I into a full-length feature.

In short, this film is an all-encompassing glance into the past at the people, whose lives were indelibly changed by this conflict. The conditions they faced were abysmal, unsanitary, and revolting. The threats they faced would paralyze some with fear and eventually took an innumerable number of their lives. They Shall Not Grow Old preserves the individuals in the time period that changed their lives forever.

The most striking thing about this documentary is the lack of a narrator, in the place of one there is significant voiceover from the men that the film is honoring. It bookends the film – even though it appears throughout – detailing their sense of duty and honor, to the backdrop of a steady whistle.

The proud voice of one of the men says, “There was a job to be done, and we just went out and did it.” This not only encapsulates the entire film’s sentiment, but also allows the viewer into the mindset of these men. They Shall Not Grow Old is an enlightening, revealing, and emotional tribute to the exceptionally brave generation of men that put their lives aside to sacrifice themselves, or as they saw it to do a job.

 

4. Mission Impossible Fallout (2018)

An action film being nominated for an Academy Award is rare, especially when it is the product of a long-tenured franchise. The precedent that Mad Max: Fury Road was not enough in this case. Christopher McQuarrie’s second entry into the world of Mission Impossible was exceedingly similar to George Miller’s fourth Mad Max in that both were displays of outstanding filmmaking.

Their camerawork was enthralling, the scope was immense, and both even possessed a distinct color pallet to allow viewers to discern the said entry from previous films of the franchise. Both serve examples of stand-alone films that shine as part of a series. Yet, one was ravishingly bestowed with nomination upon nomination and the other was scoffed at by the Academy.

The probable answer to this quandary is that the media surrounding the release of Fury Road hailed it as a commentary on gender issues. No such clamor arose for Fallout. The determining factor was simply the perceived politics of one movie and the lack of such a theme in the other. This is not to suggest that films that deal with serious social issues should not be valued.

Those films are an important portion of the overall discourse, however, it is not fair to ascribe these values to a film that does not possess them and prop it up due to that. All films are nuanced and comprised of many feelings and themes, the overriding aspects that are paramount in analysis for awards should be the quality of the filmmaking.

 

5. Good Time (2017)

The second feature film by the Safdie Brothers is a thorough exploration of the criminal justice system and the way in tramples upon the poor. Many of the film’s characters are downtrodden, unable to break loose from the constraints of their society. A multitude of these characters make contemptable choices that the audience can clearly see as wrong or immoral, yet there is enough nuance to create a realistic picture. They are marred in a cyclical pattern that refuses to yield, yet their choices simply cause them to dig a deeper hole for themselves.

Good Time provides no discernable pleasure to those within it, yet the audience will be swallowed up the fast pace and manic aesthetic of it. The Safdie brothers have a propensity for the close-up, yet in this film, it does not become excessive, rather it adds to the tone. The aforementioned nuance of the characters allows one to relate to them, while also realizing their stupidity and unreasonable decisions. They can understand the characters without having to agree with them, thus it appears as events in real life are unfolding as opposed to a film.

This film is far too independent to ever get any recognition at the Academy Awards, yet that should not be an acceptable standard. Robert Pattinson was captivating in his role as Connie Nikas, as he disappeared into his character. A nomination for him or any form of recognition for this film would have been an exceedingly encouraging sign for the progressiveness of the Academy, unfortunately, it did not.

The 25 Best Movie Performances of The 2010s

The decade trundles to an end, so naturally enough everyone is reflective. How have the last ten years been? In the face of naysayers such as Bret Easton Ellis, who decry the death of this and that as though they weren’t really bemoaning their own increasing irrelevance, this has been a decade with stunning acting. So here are some of the best who occupied our screens these past ten years.

 

25. Julianne Moore – Gloria Bell

Julianne Moore, despite assuredly being an incredible, exceptional artist, here, she becomes a charming everywoman. She brings real excitement and understanding to her character, a mid 50s woman undergoing a midlife crisis—unfortunately still a rarity on our screens, decent roles for middle-aged women, that is. You can really tell that Moore is taking pleasure in the role and relishes the opportunity, which only adds to the viewing experience.

 

24. Yalitza Aparicio – Roma

Aparicio brings a naturalism and sensitivity to this role as a maid for a middle class Mexican family. Her days are mostly spent looking after others and their needs, but she also finds time to squeeze in her own personal experiences. Her compassion and lack of resentment is remarkable as she is used and neglected by those around her.

Aparicio also brings moments of joy to this role, her face brightening when she chats conspiratorially with her fellow maids or plays with the children. It is a rounded and well balanced performance, taking in fear, despair and happiness, which is especially impressive from an actor who had no intention of being an actor previous to the film.

 

23. Denzel Washington – Fences

Denzel Washington - Fences

Washington is a powerhouse. This role is something different for him. Playing a working class, family man he gives due attention to the micro dramas of everyday life and the difficulty of raising a family and being part of a marriage and all the frustrations therein. It’s great to see Washington in a role where he can focus on the minute, human condition, opposed to the super-cool, ass-kicker type in which we are used to seeing him. In Viola Davis, Washington has a screen partner who can give as good as she gets and so the two elevate each other respectively.

 

22. Leila Hatami – A Separation

Simin is a mother who wants to bring her daughter to live abroad, to a higher standard of life. Her husband won’t leave Iran because of his sick father and so legally Simin is trapped. What follows is a complex emotional conflict between the couple. They care for each other but, nonetheless, they have found themselves at cross purposes. Pressure mounts for Simin who feels increasingly frustrated, and Leila Hatami conveys this desperation and powerlessness beautifully.

 

21. Ben Mendelsohn – Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom (2010)

Probably the creepiest character on this list, Mendelsohn plays Pope, who has recently been released from prison and has come home to a criminal family hoping to pick up where he left off. He sets about manipulating and terrorising his family members either with direct menace or through disingenuous innuendo. His strange relationship with his mother is also unsettling. All in all, every time he enters the frame he’ll make your skin crawl.

 

20. Kang-ho Song – Parasite

Kang-ho Song is the poster boy for Korean arthouse cinema, having worked with the biggest names in his home country over the last 20 years. In Parasite he is at the peak of his powers. He has a brilliant, quietly expressive face and can shift from comedy or levity to sorrow smoothly, which was essential in this film in particular. As his family slowly start infiltrating the wealthy Park household he provides a comic edge but when their plan starts to fail, he takes on the burden of suffering.

 

19. Amy Adams – Nocturnal Animals

Playing a rich art gallery owner called Susan, Adams is tense and refined. When her ex husband publishes a novel about a traumatic crime, we see Susan’s dissatisfaction and regret surface. Adams is never a showy actor, but here, with the right direction and attention, she gives a performance all the more affecting for its patience.

 

18. Ruth Negga – Loving

Ruth Negga in Loving

Negga had a break out performance alongside Joey Edgerton in this civil rights romance. Together they are a mixed race couple living in Virginia of the 1960s. Negga’s character Mildred is strong willed and determined to fight the system, the country, that insists that her relationship to a white man, her husband, is illegal. She bears the hardships and pain of this struggle while also maintaining the difficult balancing act necessary of any relationship. This is a true and human romance, played with real understanding and heart.

The 25 Most Beautiful Movies of The 2010s

Now that the sun is setting on the 2010s it’s apparent that it was an astounding and simply stunning decade for cinema. There seemed to be no end to the awe-inspiring visuals lighting up living rooms, bijous, drive-ins, and multiplexes the world over.

Taste of Cinema’s tireless and exciting search for the most visually exquisite films of the past decade has been no easy charge, though several films stood out straight away. The assembled list presented here offers up films of dazzling depth, stirring symmetry, impeccable production design, gorgeous framing, and assured grace.

Please add any titles we overlooked in the comments section below (be nice!), but above all else, seek out those listed that you’ve missed out on and don’t skip a chance to see films where they should be seen; on the big screen!

 

25. Stray Dogs (2013)

Stray Dogs

Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs is an operation of conscious, cold-blooded constraint. The Malaysian-born Chinese master of slow cinema demands you idle at this film’s peculiar pace, to quiet yourself to its rhyme, and wonderment awaits you if you can.

Opening on a protracted medium shot, the camera static, elegantly framed we see two children (actual siblings Lee Yi-chieh and Lee Yi-cheng) sleep while a woman (Yang Kuei-mei) brushes her silky hair, then she stops, then she stares. And stares. Eventually we discover that the father (Lee Kang-sheng) of these children is homeless. That his family is also homeless, and that their mother is missing or maybe a ghost (we are left to draw our own conclusions on this). He works for little pay holding a sign at a busy intersection while his kids dally unattended on their own till his shift is over.

Cinematographers Liao Pen-jung and Sung Wen Zhong create trying tableaus with very little camera movement at all, save for gentle pans. We watch characters eat entire meals, smoke entire cigarettes, piss, play, and become bored. Ennui is a part of the story, as Lee carries his signpost like a cross, we feel its burden, and how it must torture him.

Stray Dogs once seen, is confounding and difficult to lose sight of and not to be forgotten.

 

24. Monos (2019)

Monos

This atmospheric and dream-like antiwar mini-epic from the visionary Brazilian-born director Alejandro Landes (who co-wrote the film along with Alexis Dos Santos) unfolds like a beautiful dreamscape from another time and place. If you were to imagine what Werner Herzog’s take on Lord of the Flies might be like than you’ll enjoy splashing in the warm waters Landes generates in this unforgettable exploration of humanity set on the remote and expansive Monos, a Colombian mountaintop where eight child commandos armed with guns watch over a war prisoner of war (Julianne Nicholson).

Cinematographer Jasper Wolf presents breaktaking and wildly surreal visuals from the Colombian jungle and mist-shrouded mountaintops, while Landes’ cast on non-actors dominate the screen with their unclouded and candid faces in documentary-like portraiture of war orphans, these savage youth in revolt are given the perfect, ethereal and haunting background musical score from Mica Levi (Under the Skin, Jackie) making for one of the decade’s most moving and mercurial cinema experiences. Not to be missed.

 

23. La La Land (2016)

The gliding camera of cinematographer Linus Sandgren eddies and whorls with a stately simplicity in Damien Chazelle’s old-fashioned yet present-tense musical La La Land. Not since Jacque Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) has so visually distinct decor, primary-colored scrims, and aerated mise-en-scène looked so miraculous. Sure the engaging ensemble choreography and dreamy close-ups of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone add to the novelty, nostalgia and cinematic sorcery on bright and brilliant pedantry, how could they not?

La La Land is a knockout that makes the “City of Stars” shine in a Cinemascope rhapsody, and full of feeling in a musical that’s in the noble and imposing tradition of Busby Berkeley. It may not quite reach those impassable heights but it dares to, and that’s more than enough.

 

22. Spring Breakers (2012)

spring-breakers

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers took us and a lot of people by complete surprise in 2012, with its neon-lit delusion taking on empty contemporary American ennui and fashioning a run-down but delicious rainbow with it.

Vanessa Hudgens is Candy, a college student who, along with her shallow pals, Brit (Ashley Benson), Cotty (Rachel Korine), and Faith (Selena Gomez), find themselves penniless leading up to spring break, and so they ill-advisedly rob a dinner to afford a trip down to Florida. Befriending a drug dealing, wannabe rap artist named Alien (James Franco), the gang alludes the law and embrace a bizarre life of crime, until… well, perhaps the less said the better. No spoilers here.

A word of advice for those who try watching this film and are easily put off by the film’s bratty slow build, work past the first 30 minutes and wonderful and very worthwhile awards will await you (not to mention the eye-popping visual delicacies!). Spring Breakers spins a seductive web, hewn with immense and colorful artistry in what Huffington Post critic Emma Seligman describes as “Scarface meets Britney Spears.”

 

21. The Love Witch (2016)

the-love-witch

Anna Biller’s delightfully macabre exercise in sassy seduction and strange, vintage sensations feels like it was made in another era but adorned with bracingly modernistic designs. The Love Witch is stunning to see and thrilling to think about as it throws back to the Technicolor melodramas of the swinging 60s and the sexploitation cinema that supervened. Starring a smashing Samantha Robinson, who looks like she stepped out of the Golden Age of Hollywood era, she is note and picture perfect as Elaine, the eponymous witch.

Beautiful but bloodthirsty, Elaine is determined to find the man of her dreams and will cast spells and brew strange potions to manipulate the men around her until she finds her ideal muse, even if her mental health is in constant question.

Biller’s inspired and kaleidoscopic set design, sumptuous costumes, and deliberately superannuated aesthetic is a crafty coup de cinema, combined with an excellently effective soundtrack that makes The Love Witch a ravishing and ineffable entertainment, and one of the decade’s very best.

 

20. Upstream Color (2013)

Upstream-Color-628x348-628x348

Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color is an otherworldly experience that will make the right kind of audience absolutely ecstatic and frequently fighting tears of joy and wonder when not wholly hypnotized by its visual versification and bold narrative.

Amy Seimetz shines as Alex, our put-upon protagonist who finds herself brainwashed into emptying her bank account by a thief (Thiago Martins) who uses a combination of drugs, parasites, and bizarre hypnagogic neuro-linguistic-type programming to dupe her.

Alex eventually regains herself and learns she’s not the only one who has been manipulated in this way to similar dubious ends. Drawn to Jeff (played by Carruth), the two are similarly uncertain of what they lost through their mind-meddling ordeal but, as their lives spiral and entwine, the film, like an amorous Möbius strip, outshines itself, and its heart reaches a hard fought and rather miraculous crescendo.

The artistry on hand is wondrous, with sequences of such aching, ingenious elegance. Upstream Color ranks high as one of the most transformative and spellbinding cinematic experiences of the decade.

 

19. The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

The Duke of Burgundy

The third film from writer-director Peter Strickland (In Fabric [2019]) is a pastiche of erotic exploitation cinema from the 1970s––Jess Franco and Jean Rollin float to mind with soap bubble inertia––with no deficit of idiosyncrasy, imagination, or veiled decorum, either. Existing in a pocket universe inhabited wholly by women, The Duke of Burgundy offers up seemingly endless tactile pleasures at every velvety turn. Euro-smut has never looked so lovely, salacious, or finely detailed.

Nic Knowland’s generously overripe lensing, Pater Sparrow’s effete yet plush production design, and Mátyás Fekete nostalgic and almost gimmicky editing––featuring, for instance, freeze-frames that relax into fleshy pink ambiguity––make for an artificial world that moans with titillation and mystery at every inviting wheeze. This is a film of mystery, lucid dreaming, closed door transgressions, and artful fetish from an exciting cinematic pariah.

 

18. Black Swan (2010)

Arguably Darren Aronofsky’s finest film, Black Swan is a dark, dirge-like thriller pitting two ballerinas, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) and Lily (Mila Kunis), as rivals during a tumultuous production of Tchaikovsky’s highly-esteemed ballet, Swan Lake.

It’s a sweeping, creepy, and disconcerting film, chronicling amongst other themes; descent into madness, stifled femininity, patrist desires, mental and physical fatigue, and much more. There is considerable melodrama, too, and perhaps some calculable and regrettable clichés, of the type often found in formulaic competition films, but the dizzying cinematography and peerless performances make it easy to forgive any shortcomings of story. Aronofsky articulates and captures a thematically dense and illusory film of darkness, identity, duality, and divine will. On a visual and intuitive level, Black Swan bends the throttle.

The 25 Best Thriller Movies of The 2010s

To say that this has been a great decade for cinema would be an understatement, as films this decade have pushed all sorts of boundaries and broken many barriers. The thriller genre has been one of the most popular, and for good reason- it can mean so many different things, and thus the films considered to be “thrillers” are an eclectic and diverse group. Sometimes a thriller is something with real visceral scares that borderlines on horror, while other thrillers can take elements of science fiction, biographical stories, action, and comedy to create unique subgenres.

Ultimately, a good thriller should enthrall its audience in the story it’s telling and keep them glued to their seats as they watch the mystery unfold. Due to the sheer quantity of great thrillers produced this decade, it would be impossible to mention everybody’s personal favorites, but these films are meant to reflect the great variety of options that cinemagoers have had over the past ten years. Here are the top ten thrillers of the 2010s.

 

25. Nocturnal Animals

While the “story within a story” framing device is commonly used for expositional purposes, Nocturnal Animals explores the soiled relationship between an art gallery operator (Amy Adams) and her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) through a novel he writes that alludes to various circumstances within their marriage. Both the events in the real world and the novel use many of the same actors and visual cues, and as the story goes on the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur.

It’s unclear of what the intentions of the Gyllenhaal character are, as he frames himself as the hero within the story he writes and shocks his ex-wife with a brutal story of rape and revenge. Brilliant side performances by Michael Shannon as a grizzled sheriff who’ll go to any means to find justice and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a wicked sociopath bring this metaphorical crime saga to life.

 

24. All the Money in the World

all-the-money-in-the-world-movie-stills-Michelle-Williams

While Ridley Scott is often a brilliant filmmaker and has made some of the greatest films of all-time, his filmography throughout the 21st Century has been hit and miss. However, Scott proved that he still can tell suspenseful, clever stories with this breathless kidnapping thriller that doubles as a searing indictment of the rich elite who value nothing but their own fortune.

Michelle Williams is phenomenal as a desperate mother who exercises all her resources to rescue her kidnapped son, but the film’s show stealing performance comes from Christopher Plummer, who famously replaced Kevin Spacey in a week of reshoots after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct. Plummer is a much better fit for the role of John Paul Getty, and is able to explore the grim indifference of the wealthy with a sinister lack of humanity.

With a thrilling final act in which everything seems to go wrong related to the botched rescue, All the Money in the World is proof that Scott remains one of the industry’s most distinguished veterans.

 

23. Zero Dark Thirty

zero dark thirty

While Zero Dark Thirty was initially shot to reflect a seemingly endless and unfulfilled manhunt, its production ended up coinciding with real developments regarding the death of Osama bin Laden. Kathryn Bigelow has long been known as one of the greatest action filmmakers of all-time, but with Zero Dark Thirty she cuts down on the set pieces and shows the slow process of maneuvering through international relations and legal red tape that is required to spark the greatest manhunt in history.

While Bigelow does not always condone the actions of her characters, she offers a compelling lead character in Jessica Chastain’s Maya, an obsessive analyst who is gripped by her obsession with finding justice. Maya’s perspective adds a valued emotional weight to this mystery, but when the film deviates from her perspective to show the final compound raid, it’s equally as gripping and shows Bigelow’s unparalleled ability to capture close range combat.

 

22. Annihilation

One of the most unique science fiction films of the decade, Annihilation is a layered text of depravity, death, and illness that features some terrifying creature designs and thought provoking arthouse imagery. With allusions to the ways in which both mental and physical demons infect a person’s essence, the story follows a team of scientists who venture into a mysterious area called “The Shimmer,” in which the traditional laws of physics and biology don’t apply, and as the team falls deeper into this maze, their own personal hardships are unveiled.

It’s a viscerally scary film that doesn’t rely on jump scares, but does feature terrifying moments, particularly a mutant bear that terrorizes the group. It’s a testament to writer/director Alex Garland that the film’s final act, in which Natalie Portman’s character Lena faces her own doppelganger in the heart of “The Shimmer,” is able to rivet an audience who may not always understand what is happening. Annihilation asks big sci-fi questions reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, yet never lets go of its gripping nature.

 

21. The Stanford Prison Experiment

Ezra Miller - The Stanford Prison Experiment

This is a film that questions what human beings are capable of, and explores the boundaries that young men can push when they’re designated as remorseless, unsupervised authority figures. Based on a true experiment, The Stanford Prison Experiment shows a psychological study conducted by a researcher (Billy Crudup) in which he designates a group of young college students as guards and prisoners in a simulated prison environment.

At first these students approach this study with an indifference to their roles, but as they get more into character, the study begins to go too far as the guards inflict severe physical and psychological trauma upon their subjects. Crudup plays a character so curious about the ramifications of his study that he’ll watch this experiment play out until the bitter end, regardless of the violent ramifications.

 

20. Green Room

Green Room is a film that puts its audience directly within its environment, crafting a claustrophobic standoff between punk rockers and neo-Nazis after a murder takes place in a skinhead bar. This is a film that is terrifying due to the way in which it isolates it characters- the bar itself is in the middle of nowhere, the band has no social media presence and have no way to contact help, and as the band become trapped in the green room they must test the limits of how long they can survive.

The late great Anton Yelchin delivers the best performance of his career as the band’s sole survivor who makes it to the bitter end, and Patrick Stewart sheds all parts of his traditionally warm persona to craft a cold and calculated skinhead villain. With unrelenting gore and nauseating suspense, Jeremy Saulnier crafted a claustrophobic and unnerving modern classic.

 

19. Black Swan

Black Swan movie

Darren Aronofky’s psychological thriller explores how the literal manifestations of chasing artistic perfection can torment a person, and used the ballet of Swan Lake to contrast grace and darkness. Much of the film’s scares come from the duality of the main character, Nina (Natalie Portman), who wrestles with a darker side of her personality as she seeks to embody the villainous, seductive Black Swan.

Portman gives one of the best performances of her career, and contrasts Nina’s dainty sincerity with her suppressed dark side, and seeing Nina wrestle with defining herself is perfectly suited for her loss of grip on reality. It’s a film so metaphorically rich that the nightmare sequences perfectly visualize Nina’s thoughts, and the mix of the beautiful dancing with shocking horror elements makes for one of the most unique thrillers of the decade.

 

18. Wind River

Wind River

Between Hell or High Water and both Sicario films, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has reinvented the neo-Western, and his directorial debut Wind River is another gripping mystery with relevance to current issues. Exploring the frequent murder of young women on indigenous reservations, Wind River follows a veteran tracker (Jeremy Renner) and a novice FBI Agent (Elizabeth Olsen) as they search for the suspected murderer.

A major theme is the absence of justice, as the lack of a presence by law enforcement on the reservations has resulted in an uptick in deaths. This ties into the backstory of Renner’s character, who is also dealing with a family tragedy. Renner has never been better than he is here, and is able to show a considerable amount of pain and trauma through a rough exterior. The bitter visuals and realistic depiction of a murder investigation make Wind River a timely mix of intrigue and activism.

10 Great Movie Classics You’ve Probably Never Seen

The following films are of amazing narrative and aesthetic quality. Most of them have been Oscar-nominated, or at the very least, swept the National Awards of the respective countries of their production.

For one reason or another, they have been unjustly semi-forgotten or relegated to a kind of second-tier of cinematic achievement by many critics and film historians.

 

1. Bye-Bye (1995, Karim Dridi)

The 25-year-old Ismael and 14-year-old Mouloud move from Paris to their benevolent uncle’s crowded house, in a working-class neighborhood of Marseille. Ismael and Mouloud don’t just leave Paris behind, but they also try to escape their past,  as a tiny bit of subtle dialogue alludes to a tragedy that occurred while in they lived in France’s capital.

The parents – immigrants from Tunisia, Northern Africa – return for good to the old country, while they instruct Ismael to send over Mouloud after some time in Marseille. While Ismael scores a job on the docks of Marseille and befriends Jacky, the owner’s son, major complications throw both brothers’ lives into turmoil. Ismael falls for his new buddy’s girlfriend, precipitating Jacky’s older brother’s blatant racism into violence; while Mouloud, unwilling to return to Tunisia, ends up being recruited by Renard, a paranoid crackpot and sociopathic heroin dealer.

The film captures an extremely atmospheric Marseille, while also offering an entertaining exploration of relevant contemporary social issues in France (racism toward the North African community, the difficulty of social integration and coping with accidental tragedy) all presented in a fresh and intoxicating manner. However, the storytelling is somewhat fragile.

 

2. Machuca (2004, Andres Wood)

An elite all-boys school in Santiago, Chile during a time of great political volatility, the early 1970s. The 11-year-old Gonzalo, belonging to an upper-class Santiago family, forges a genuine friendship with Pedro, a courageous and determined shantytown kid, who was brought to the elite school by the integrative vision and no-nonsense character of Father McEnroe, the school Master.

Gonzalo is an intelligent kid on the verge of adolescence with an affectionate but snobbish mother, who despises the poor, and a cool and permissive Dad (who is mostly absent.) Gonzalo doesn’t buy into his classmates’ hostility for the recently integrated peers, who come from extremely poor families. Also, Gonzalo instinctively can’t stand his sister’s violent zombie crypto-fascist boyfriend.

Gonzalo’s innocence and benevolent nature don’t disintegrate despite being subject to bullying on the school patio, and even after accompanying his mother to an embarrassing rendezvous with an older rich guy who tries to both keep Gonzalo entertained and buy his complicity by offering him Lone Ranger comics. The friendship with the new school peer, Pedro, somehow transcends all the rigid caste beliefs of the Chilean upper class, as the new classmate goes to play at Gonzalo’s house and is finally accepted as a friend.

The director Andres Wood allows the historical facts to speak for themselves, yet manages to keep the friendship at the forefront of the story and the rising political temperatures in the background. The cinematography and the period details are extremely realistic, while the weather, mostly overcast and somber, succeeds in suggesting a bleak “all is falling apart” mood.

The brutality unleashed by Pinochet and the junta completely destroys the slums where Pedro and his family live, under the pretext of “reinstalling order” and “hunting down communists.”All of the kids from the slums are thrown out of the school by the soldiers, while Father John declares that the place has been desecrated and is arrested. Shortly after, Gonzalo is reciprocating Pedro visits by playing at Pedro’s parents’ house, during another intervention of the army.

Not only does Gonzalo witness firsthand the army’s arbitrary dragging out of people from their homes, but he barely saves himself with his wits and a piece of brilliant improvisation, asking a soldier to look at his face and at his fancy sport shoes, in order to signify his belonging to a very different socio-economic class.

The soldier, who is no doubt familiar with Chilean society’s extreme “classism,” has a moment of utter perplexity and then releases Gonzalo. The official propaganda claims the next day, with a mix of typical right-wing ludicrous euphemisms and mindless junta triumphalism, “that order is restored and everything is perfectly normal.”

The children’s performances are extremely convincing and almost flawless. The film holds extremely well, while the portrayals are nuanced and well balanced. Gonzalo’s father, a member of the upper class, is a laid-back, hedonistic guy and a sincere believer in “equality of opportunities” while Pedro’s father is a cynical alcoholic.

The children’s limited comprehension of the darkest hour in Chilean history is compensated by virulent emotions and a lack of adherence to adult dominant values (ambition, hypocrisy, and opportunism). Also remarkable is the fact that the children never fall into Hollywood black-and-white heroism.

 

3. Four Days in September (1997, Bruno Baretto)

The true story of a group of idealistic middle-class students in Sao Paulo that, in July 1969, kidnap the American ambassador in order to circumnavigate the severe censorship of the press and call attention worldwide to the brutality of the Brazilian military dictatorship.

Three college students discuss their views on the dictatorship in Brazil and possible involvement with MR 8, an underground organization fighting the military dictatorship.

Fernando is a talented speechwriter but certainly no ”guerilla warfare material” as he’s hopelessly uncomfortable and inept with guns, while his chubby buddy Cesar is a naive seminar student completely unaware that he will be soon in something well over the top of his head.

After an anonymous bank expropriation that no one finds out about, Fernando, now rebaptized “Paolo” inside the communist guerilla group, has a “brilliant” idea – to kidnap the U.S. ambassador in order to force the military junta into ”collaboration” and pass all the revolutionaries’ messages on national TV, in order to avoid the killing of the American diplomat.

A smart, nuanced and well-written political thriller, Bruno Barreto’s “Four Days in September” was a well deserved Brazilian entry for the Oscars and certainly carries the “gravitas” of a real story.

 

4. Lovers of the Arctic Circle (1998, Julio Medem)

A lush, mesmerizing, and ravishingly beautifully shot love story. A complex poetic vision encompassing Basque director’s Julio Medem’s vision of destiny.

Anna and Otto meet at the age of eight as they attend the same school. Later, as teenagers, they become siblings as their single parents fall in love and move together. Finally, they are reunited in their mid-20s in a hut in Finland, precisely the mythical and geographic place crossed by the imaginary line of the Arctic Circle.

Medem nonchalantly plays with the unfolding of the story, as time flashes forward and then we go back in time to experience the same scene through the eyes of a different character. Both Anna and Otto have comprehensive voice-over narration that border on excessive at times. Even so, these film passages are rendered intoxicating by the very fluid mise en scene and Medem’s particular brand of delirious melancholy.

 

5. Exiled (2006, Johnnie To)

Exiled

Two mob squads arrive in Macau before the island will be returned by the Portuguese to China, in the very late 1990s. Wo is a former hitman who retired from the mob and live a quiet existence with his wife and infant child (at least, before the arrival of mob former buddies). While one squad comes to claim Wo’s head for having retired without the blessing of mob’s boss Fay, there is another squad, composed of old buddies, that come to warn and protect Wo.

After an initial fight, all of the participants clean up the place and sit down to a feast as Wo apparently agrees to the last hit of his career, in order to generate enough income for his family.

The plot doesn’t have any great depth or any mind-boggling twists. However, what catapulted Johnnie To’s film to the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, as well as the hearts of scores of fans worldwide, is the wild, extravagant, and extremely polished mise en scene. Style over substance? Yes, unfortunately, up to a certain degree!

While the characterization might have had more depth and the plot might have been elevated by a bit of either black humor or absurd detail, the cinematic experience is still absolutely phenomenal. The wind blows through open windows during the Antonioni-esque shootout while wide-angle highly stylized spaces give the arena, where extremely choreographed confrontations occur, a spectacular feeling.

A really amazing tour de force in the crime genre with superbly crafted camera work, highly suggestive framing, and a consistent hard-boiled mood that suits the tough and violent lives of the hitmen. Johnie To’s film is in tune with the subtle and complex codes of the Hong Kong crime genre. Yet “Exiled” is not a cold and virtuoso masterpiece in terms of mise en scene, but also really engages the audience emotionally. Another fascinating aspect is that the characters’ emotional bonds and childhood friendship still somehow at times transcends loyalty to the mob.

The 9 Best Movies Influenced By Romanticism

It is no mystery that cinema has been influenced several times by some of the most important philosophical and artistic movements. Through its history, cinema has proven its capability of using images as a medium to evoke abstract ideas. With the arrival of cinematography, artists found a new and powerful way of penetrating their surrounding reality.

Filmmakers and spectators started to realize that cameras could show us aspects of our existence often invisible to the naked eye. Some directors continually try to push the boundaries of what can be filmed by addressing concepts such as nature, divinity, and death in their films. These subjects once were the primary concern of writers, painters, and philosophers of Romanticism.

The Romantic movement mostly had an impact in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, especially in Germany, but not exclusively. Romanticism gave rise to an avalanche of influential philosophers such as Schelling and Herder, poets such as Goethe and Lord Byron, and painters such as Delacroix and Caspar David Friedrich, to name a few. All of them have a common interest in the relation between man and nature, a relation that has deteriorated, resulting in a separation between mankind and Absolute.

While many existing films took inspiration from romantic ideas, the following exhibit fascinating aesthetic and ideological influences from a variety of Romantic sources. Before starting with the list, we must make a necessary clarification. The films included were chosen because they display important characteristics of romantic thought, but the following interpretations are not intended to be final. The purpose of this list is to show a different perspective of these widely-known films. Enjoy!

 

9. Baraka (United States, Ron Fricke, 1992)

Baraka (1992)

Roger Ebert wrote on his review of this American documentary that if men could only send one film to outer space, this film would be the most appropriate choice. Perhaps he was right. The film gently dances between images of nature as she shows herself and pictures of what we have done with her. Fricke’s influential project dispenses of verbal language because the sequences themselves are the ones speaking at us. Much like the romantic spirit, this film transforms art into an instrument of contemplation.

Baraka holds structural similarities with the well-known Qatsi trilogy and with Fricke’s most recent work, Samsara. This style of filmmaking that prioritizes visual language over verbal language is dedicated, as Herder may say, ‘to see the world.’ The world is where we exist, where we show our true selves. We watch different rituals, traditions, and customs throughout the film. Religion and art are fundamental parts of what we are, Romantics would say (and later Hegel would agree), and that is what Baraka strives to show us. This documentary appears to be always approaching the romantic concept of Volksgeist, i.e., ‘national spirit.’ Some certain features and traits characterize us as people that belong to a collective.

The film’s ultimate message, much like most of the following films on the list, is the contraposition between humanity and nature that resulted in man’s desire to dominate nature, in this case, with industry. This is what romantic philosophers wanted to emphasize. Baraka includes not only sequences of beautiful human traditions but shots of despicable industrial practices as well.

 

8. Princess Mononoke (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki, 1997)

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Most readers would find counterintuitive to include a Japanese film in a list of films influenced by a predominately occidental movement, but there are solid reasons to relate Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece with Romanticism. The film follows the story of Ashitaka, the young prince of an Emishi village, and his quest to find the cure to a curse given to him by a god-turned-demon.

Princess Mononoke is full of beautiful hand-drawn images accompanied by Joe Hisaishi’s impressive score, which helps to set the naturalistic tone of the film. This 1997 film was neither the first nor the last time that Miyazaki has demonstrated how essential nature is in his work.

From the sympathetic creatures in My Neighbor Totoro to the River Spirit in Spirited Away, Miyazaki’s filmography has shown us that there is something mysterious in nature. In the case of this film, the objective is to show the permanent divinity present in nature. Gods are animals that interact in the forest; when the forest is affected by human industry, the gods resent it.

This conception of a divine nature is shared, one way or another, by almost every German idealist philosopher. Concretely, Schelling’s Philosophy of Art centers in this matter and embarks on an examination of our universe as the perfect reflection of God. Furthermore, we see how disastrous is Lady Eboshi’s faith after she dares to defy nature’s order. This is a subject where not only German romantic philosophers converge, but some novelists as well. We can see the same issue in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (often associated with Romanticism). When men want to surpass God’s power, they encounter consequences.

 

7. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Germany, Werner Herzog, 1972)

herzhog-aguirre-the-wrath-of-god

Very few films have attempted to create a cinematic experience like the one we get when we sit to watch Herzog’s Aguirre. This historical drama takes place in the Amazon River in South America, as it is explored by a group of Spanish conquerors hoping to find El Dorado. The commander of this group is the stubborn Lope de Aguirre, whose aspirations of finding wealthiness and glory have repercussions on the expedition.

What we see in the film is a story of insanity, a descending course to redemption with nature. Herzog’s film blurs the line that separates art from reality by merging both. The German filmmaker threw himself and his whole crew to the Amazonian landscape. The evolution of mental states we witness in the characters mirrors what the cast and crew experienced. The film lets us immerse ourselves in the environment. For the most part, we are left alone with the sound that nature emits, with the striking score provided by Popol Vuh only appearing when necessary.

Klaus Kinski’s performance as Aguirre is superb; rarely have we seen a historical figure portrayed with this level of complexity. Many interpretations can be made on Aguirre, depending on how we may approach him, but, for our list, let us allude the archetype of the romantic hero. This subject is strongly present in Lord Byron’s poetry. Some other examples of the romantic hero appear in Hölderlin’s poetic work and Schiller’s William Tell, for example.

Romantic heroes are tragic. They are forced to accept a superior order they cannot control, that is why they are so tenacious. In their eagerness to impose their will, they often end up acting irrationally. Aguirre’s antithesis is Pizarro, whose common sense led him to decide that continuing the expedition would be insane. The romantic hero struggles with a tension between his will and the superior powers to which he must surrender. This tension, far from being immobilizing, motivates our hero to fight against the destiny that has been imposed on him. Aguirre insists on continuing the expedition, only to find himself hindered by the powers of nature. No film can show this dialogue between hero and nature the way this epic drama masterpiece does.

 

6. Pan’s Labyrinth (Mexico/Spain, Guillermo del Toro, 2006)

Ivana Baquero in Pan's Labyrinth

Frequently cited as one of the best films of the 2000s, Guillermo del Toro’s fantastic tale of a young girl who loves to read fairytales is a stunning, dark and imaginative film. The story takes place in Spain during the Francoist era. We follow Ofelia as she struggles with having to live with her stepfather, a ruthless military man. Ofelia’s only companions are her books, which would keep her distracted from a place she does not want to be. Soon Ofelia finds out that her new home is not as dull as she might have thought.

We have almost exclusively referenced philosophers in our list, this time, let us recognize how Romantic painters have impacted filmmaking. It is a well-known fact that Del Toro is an art enthusiast, and he may have received influences from multiple artists when filming Pan’s Labyrinth. The Mexican filmmaker, though, seems to honor the country where his film takes place. He takes inspiration from one of the most beloved Spanish painters, namely, Francisco de Goya.It isn’t entirely clear to which artistic movement Goya belongs, but many historians have agreed to label him as a Romantic.

VFX supervisor Everett Burrell has confirmed that the scene where the Pale Man devours the fairies was initially inspired by Goya’s most famous painting Saturn Devouring His Son. The fleshiness and the goriness of the scene, combined with the dark color palette and the dim lighting, indeed resemble the overall aesthetic of Goya’s painting. The generally accepted interpretation of this painting is that it reflects the unstoppable course of time that men can only submit to. The scene has echoes of this as well: Ofelia must come back to the ‘real’ world before the hourglass stops.

Another inspiration from Goya we may find in Del Toro’s wonder is the faun. The characterization of this mythological creature is closer to a devil than it is to a faun or a satyr. The faun’s design is relatively similar to the demon portrayed in Goya’s Witches’ Sabbath. The painting is often interpreted as a tension between reasoning and passion, between reality and imagination. This was a matter of interest in multiple romantic authors, from Novalis to William Blake. We dare to say that Pan’s Labyrinth depicts this in its story. Ofelia lives in a fantastical realm of the unknown, as opposed to Vidal, who embraces an empirical reality: a reality of war, politics, and moral rigidness.

10 Great Movies About Femenine and Subversive Fantasy

Far from traditional narrative, there is a cinema which subverts all conventionalism. With a vibrant sense of freedom, defend its own rules.

We are talking about fairytales, romantic dreams and paradises that later get lost on to cold nightmares, full of danger and mystery, where the loss of innocence is portrayed.

These young ladies, wander around, searching for a game to entertain themselves or something for discover: a creepy mansion, a desert landscape, the train tracks of a ruined city or just a way to get lost onto fantasy.

Childhood is the main weapon of these characters to create parallel worlds where they can shelter from adulthood’s decadence. Although they are not out. Sometimes they fall into the trap, to the hole as Alice did, and get exposed to hypocrisy, corruption, abuse, addictions, lies, waste and war emodied by monsters, mud beings, dead who revive, nymphs, witches, vampyres and ghosts.

The feminine becomes a performance, through a deceitful inoccence that hides, in the background, the empowerment of sensitivity in a world ruled by men’s logic. The random and the magical take over this femenine world.

There is no doubt that we are in front of an avant-garde cinema, which confronted its times. These “open” stories are full of hidden symbols in themselves that give us infinite interpretations. Many use surrealism as a mockery of political oppression just to hide themes that later could be banned. Others play with surrealism to fight against the boring reality of everyday life and show us the richness of imagination in a dream world.

Some of these movies were made with scenarios of wars and tyrannies behind or were misunderstood by critics for being too provocative. Daisies was banned 20 years by the communist in Czechoslovakia. Jodorowsky was almost killed at the premiere of Fando and Lis. Hausu pretended to be a Japanese version of Spielberg’s Jaws and ended up being a script based on the ideas of the director’s daughter, Zazie in the Subway was born from a last minute decision of the director and it was a risk because was based in a novel with really complex language.

 

1. Daisies (1969, Vera Chytilova)

“If the whole world is corrumpted, we will be too”. Under this premise, the film begins. While the two female sunbathe on a roof, war explotions occur in parallel. These two daisies share a symbiotic relationship where they do everyting together. Whimiscal and irreverent, eating pickles and watermelon in a grassy room, they play phone jokes and cut out magazines.They get out with older men to take advantage of their money and eat for free until they are satisfied.

Then just pretend they must take a train and end up sending the man away to repeat the story again and again. They are liars, they change names and invent diseases. Go round taking tubs of milk, wondering the meaning of existence. But, often, as a good child, they feel bored and declare that there is nothing. Finally, they enter a palace where they were not even invited and found a banquet. Putting slowly their fingers in cakes, pretend to be carefull, but then they hang on the big lamps, they dance on the table, step on the food and end up throwing and breaking plates.

Daisies mimic the bad behaviours of the world, playing to be amoral. With an experimental treatment that combines color, black and white and twist monochromes, in a collage technique of edition, with a breaking narrative, we can find slapstick, dadaist style, different speeds and magical ellipsis, that represent a childish spirit.

From the words of its own director, the film is a moral tale about the destruction, showing how evil does not necessarily manifest itself in an orgy of destruction caused by war, that its roots may be hidden in the malicious joke of daily life.

 

2. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1974, Jaromil Jires)

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

Valerie, an angelic-looking girl, wanders through a gothic village subject to extreme religion.

In a mythical and poethic tone, she wanders through edenic landscapes with white scenarios that are abruptly interrumped by dark vampires wishing her young blood.

A daisy is stained with blood and we know, symbolically, that Valerie is already a woman, who loses her attention in a beautiful pair of earrings (that represent her virginity), while grandmother forces her to pray. It seems that Valerie is not innocent anymore because of the way she eat fruits and because she has already spied lesbians having orgies and has seen punishment like a sexual delight.

In the midst of her sexual awakening, Valerie will be exposed to taboos, where the dialecthic between guilt and desire, fear and curiosity get harder.

This is a bizarre version of Alice in Wonderland, a perverted fairytale, where innocence and virginity play with its darkest counterpart: obscenity, abuse and incest. An allegory of the end of childhood or maybe, it’s just Valerie’s dream.

 

3. Fando and Lis (1968, Alejandro Jodorowsky)

Fando & Lis (1967)

Jodorowsky’s cinema has always sought to provoke and this is not exception. Fando and Lis walk their love through demolished buildings, cemeteries, chasms, marshes in a random journey through the search of a mythical city called Tar. Lis is paralyzed and carried by Fando, through this violent world where snakes enter the vaginas, where some beg for blood, where they jump and dance on corpses.

This teatrical nightmare, in a dystopic world full of subconsciousness, show us death, abuse, dependence, punishment, sick love, idealization, selfishness, sacrilege and trauma.

All the cities crumbled and the only hope is Tar, a place where “you know wine and water, play with a music box, help harvest, know eternity, become a cat, a child, a swan, and you will be alone and you will get love and you will find extasy”.

“If the city doesn’t exist, we invent it” said Lis. But Tar does not exist in a dehumanized era.

 

4. Zazie in The Subway (1960, Louis Malle)

Zazie-dans-le-metro

Zazie, a capricious and burlesque young woman, insolent but not innocent, spends time disturbing others. She run away from her uncle’s house in search of adventures, wanting to explore Paris by her own, meeting strangers and then escaping through absurd persecutions.

Under the spell of strident violins, fast-speed images, jumpcuts, magical ellipsis, slapstick and a satured photography we know Zazie’s fantasy world. But while she sleeps, the dark and destroyed world of adult is portrayed.

A world who started to industrialize, with traffics everywhere, consumer society, misogyny, false appearances and obssesed love. It hides a strong social criticism of stupid masses, fighting each other, breaking and destroying without reasons, scenarios that fall, the futility of life, dynamites exploding and everyone applaud in midst of chaos. Paris is dressed of modernism and great architecture, but in a post war mood, we can find existentialist crisis.

Zazie has an adult and challenging psychology in this world ruled by clumsy adults. She recounts her childhood’s traumas, as if she didn’t care of it. Her perspective of good and evil is twisted. She is just the result of a world that has lost its values.

 

5. The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming)

Dorothy is a Kansas girl who will leave the black and white desert, through a tornado, to inmerse herself in the amazing Technicolor world of Oz. Munchkins and witches will help her to find her way back home with one clue: “Follow the yellow path”. With the help of three eclectic partners (the scarecrow, the tinman and the coward lion), she will go in search for the Wizard to find her way back home. Beyond the rainbow, they will found witches appearing from smog, trees that talks, garden of poppies that make you sleep, flying monkeys and tramps.

But this film is not just fantasy. In the time it was written, fascist dictators dominated Europe. Everyone praises any authority figure just for having carisma, technology is a mechanism used to dominate, a society with deep ignorance can be manipulated, industry doesn’t have a heart, politicans are coward, drugs are the perfect anesthesia for dominate people. But Dorothy was just having a bad dream they say. Nothing exists but on her mind.

Wizard of Oz is a story of marginal beings, of misfits who don’t fit the social stereotypes. And it’s also a girl that had to leave the repressive home and go out into the unknown in a struggle with her maturity. The world begins in the end of your comfort zone.

The 10 Best Black and White Films of The 2010s

Every year there are a few films that are made in black and white. Some are hardcore genre pieces, some are low-budget nostalgia films, or mainly just as an element for the storytelling. Black-and-white films are filmed that way for a specific reason, regardless of why. Therefore, as we conclude this decade, here are the 10 great black-and-white films from the 2010s.

 

1. The Turin Horse (2011) – Bela Tarr

Starting off the decade with his swan song, Tarr crafts a film about the aftermath of the famous Turin breakdown from Fredrich Nietzsche. Instead of focusing on the famed philosopher, we follow the mundanity of a local family living in the countryside on their farm.

Composed of 30 long takes that pace out in real time, regardless of where the camera goes, we feel Tarr coming to the close of his career as he contemplates on subjects without answers, much like his filmography. He collaborates again with DP Fred Kelemen for this world he created. It’s almost like Tarr can’t create a mood or atmosphere without a black-and-white aesthetic, nor do we want him to.

The film can almost be deemed perfect for its black-and-white imagery and roving camerawork. Unfortunately, Tarr has stuck to his retirement, but he kicked off the decade in a great grey way and left us a film to rewatch endlessly in a deep, reflective state of mind.

 

2. Blancanieves (2012) – Pablo Berger

blancanieves-2012

A film that was being written during the release of “The Artist,” Berger crafted a film that he referred to as “a love letter to European silent cinema” based off of the classic Grimm tale of Snow White.

Updating the story to the 1920s in Seville and focusing in on a Spanish female bullfighter, we can tell where the story will go. Therefore, since the audience is already familiar with the narrative, Berger has to make a visually striking film and he certainly achieves this in pure originality. From the photographic framing of close-ups to the claustrophobic circus settings, fighting areas, skulls in apples, and so much more, every image to the next is one to behold.

With no dialogue or speech, the sound and score are always present, which only heightens the emotional stakes of tension, suspense, and the ever-gazing close ups of love. Berger proved you can take classic tales and make them surprisingly fresh, even told in ways from nearly 100 years ago.

 

3. Frances Ha (2012) – Noah Baumbach

Frances+Ha

A light-toned coming-of-age comedy reminiscent of the French New Wave, including some musical cues as well, that brought Greta Gerwig to her full deserved attention. Despite the film having an indie feel-good vibe, it doesn’t adhere to that at all.

Within its first few moments, you can sense that we are watching a film made and composed by film lovers. With numerous visual homages or mise en scene where the characters move, talk, and act in a specific way, it’s a film that is hard to not adore.

Co-written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, it allows its lead actress to shine in her aloofness in zany, and colorful ways, despite being filmed in pure soft-focused black and white. With its low budget and having been shot on Canon EOS Mark II, the film delivers a pure filmic quality. From start to finish, the film feels like a classic New York indie feel with a European twist, only made in black and white.

 

4. Nebraska (2013) – Alexander Payne

Nebraska (2013)

When asked why he shot this film in black and white, Payne casually responded with, “It’s cool and against the norm of the beautiful Nebraska plains.” Therefore, maybe with his go-to DP Phedon Papamichael, he simply wanted to make their most visually stunning film, and they certainly did.

The story revolves around an estranged son taking his delusional, alcoholic father from Montana to Nebraska to claim his million dollar prize. And the look of the film perfectly fills out the feeling, mood, and characters of this film. In spite of Payne talking nonchalantly about the filming, he wanted an iconic, archetypal look and it certainly is effective. It adds to the ennui, the comically confused and desolate lives these characters live and the world they live in.

You can’t really visualize this film in color (despite being filmed in color) after you’ve experienced it the way it is presented. Payne usually tells stories that take place in his native Nebraska, but somehow here, regardless of the title, it feels personal, astute, and important.

 

5. Ida (2014) – Paweł Pawlikowski

A transcendental, minimalist film that struck a chord in world cinema has seemed to be forgotten. Pawlikowski tells the story of a young woman about to take her vows to become a nun in Poland in 1962, and her road trip of self-discovery to find her Jewish origin.

The film is told in static full-framed images with little to no camera movement until the closing moments, which evoke a sense of dread, patience, and observance, especially of non-actor Agata Trzebuchowska’s Ida and her family’s past. The feeling of this film and the path Ida takes make us ponder, question, and accept this journey. However, Pawlikowski really reached new heights by radically changing his filmmaking style and creating a film that would have Bresson or Ozu applauding.

It’s hard to not feel the emotional weight of the mood and atmosphere in the film, truly drenched from the never-recovering wounds of World War II and communist Poland. Therefore, this film could exist no other way than black and white and specifically the aesthetic in which it was told.

10 Great Recent Comedy Movies You May Have Missed

Comedy is often the most subjective of all film genres, and regardless of subgenre, budget, or story, a good comedy should first and foremost make an audience laugh. However, great comedies don’t need to pander to the masses to be successful, and comedies that find their niche can be insightful, touching, and even inspiring. Some great comedies use their humor to deal with serious issues, while others use these comedic elements to keep their audiences engaged in a complicated or nuanced story.

This decade has seen the emergence of many great comedies, and due to the advent of smaller studios, streaming services, and other digital distribution platforms, there are many great comedies that were released to little fanfare. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of great comedies out there, but these films reflect a wide variety of the types of films that deserved more attention this decade. Here are another top ten great recent comedies that you probably haven’t seen.

 

10. Fading Gigolo

John Turturro has long been one of the most interesting character actors in Hollywood, and his directorial debut Fading Gigolo is a delightfully offbeat and quirky romp. Turturro stars as Fioravante, a down on his luck massager living in New York who is encouraged to become a gigolo by his former employer Murray (Woody Allen), who helps him break into the trade.

This untraditional practice begins to cause unrest within their Hassidic community, particularly as Turturro begins to help a young woman named Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), who is grieving the loss of her husband. The community’s local patrol officer Dovi (Liev Schreiber) falls for Avigal, and begins investigating the curious pair of Fioravante and Murray.

Turturro doesn’t play Fioravante as a sly or even confident figure, but uses his sexual exploration as a means to rediscover youthful bliss and find a new way of making a living. In his heart, Fioravante is a healer who wants to help people cope with their trauma, and his non intimate relationship with Avigal is built on his desire to help her with her grief.

It’s a well-rounded ensemble where each character is sympathetic in some way; Schreiber’s character, while he is the antagonist, is also tragic in that his unquestioning dedication to duty has often left him separated from the rest of the community. While the story itself is ludicrous, it does make for a fascinating exploration of middle age, religion, and sexuality, and establishes Turturro as a writer/director to watch.

 

9. Private Life

Over ten years after her breakout feature Savages, Tamara Jenkins returned with Private Life, another brilliant depiction of middle age and adult relationships. Richard (Paul Giamatti) and Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) are a couple who are unable to conceive a child, and despite continuous medical attempts and applications to become adopted parents, they still are childless.

When Rachel’s 25-year-old niece Sadie (Kayli Carter) drops out of college and lives with her aunt and uncle in their New York apartment, she eventually agrees to become their egg donor. Not only does Sadie represent a hope that Richard and Rachel could start a family, but she also inserts a youthful spirit that has all but disappeared for this couple.

Private Life never shies away from the uncomfortable nature of Richard and Rachel’s intimate issues, and their willingness to exhaust any resource in order to find a child is often a heartbreaking process. The humor comes from the optimism that Giamatti and Hahn bring to the characters, as their quips about the people living in New York and other parents establish the couple as snippy, yet relatable outsiders. The inclusion of Sadie within the story adds a lot of humor, as her aunt and uncle challenge her optimistic view of what her future as a writer will look like. While it’s often melancholy, Private Life turns its characters’ honesty into an affecting and humorous look at what adulthood really means.

 

8. Elvis & Nixon

Michael Shannon in Elvis and Nixon

The 1970 photograph of Elvis Presley posing alongside President Richard Nixon is one of the most famous in modern American history, and Elvis & Nixon imagine an outrageous comedy surrounding how these two iconic figures decided to meet. Both men have reached the end of their golden period, with Nixon (Kevin Spacey) dealing with a soured American public and is overwhelmed by the rise of the counterculture, and Elvis (Michael Shannon) is feeling unrewarded and forgotten, and aims to convince Nixon to make him an undercover agent. While at first skeptical, Nixon actually finds a lot about this jaded, past his prime rock icon that he can relate to.

Michael Shannon offers a very different take on Elvis than one may expect, playing him as a delusional and overconfident faded icon who is convinced that his experience making films has prepared him for a real life of espionage. While he’s still able to impress common people with his swagger and overconfidence, Shannon shows that Elvis’s reversion to routine has made him out of touch with a country that is growing up, which is something that resonates with Nixon. The excellent performances from the two leads elevate these larger than life figures into real people with relatable anxieties, and they are able to play on their public perceptions to great comedic effect.

 

7. A Futile and Stupid Gesture

The National Lampoon gang were the ultimate group of outsiders, with most of their films revolving around uprooting the system and sticking it to the man. A Futile and Stupid Gesture tells the story of National Lampoon’s founder Doug Kenney (Will Forte), and how his provocative magazine inspired generations of comedy writers, leading to the success of Animal House and Caddyshack. Rather than trying to get all the facts right and condense Kenney’s remarkable life into a generic three-act structure, A Futile and Stupid Gesture uses Kenney’s life as a raunchy story of rebellion that borrows the best elements from the National Lampoon films.

It’s a very cheeky film, using a fictionalized older Kenney (Martin Mull) to narrate the story, even though Kenney died by suicide at the age of 33. Forte is perfect at representing the zanny energy of Kenney and the power of how he conducted his writer’s room, and the film satirizes the fact that the 49-year-old Forte is meant to be playing a character from ages 18 to 33.

The heart of the film lies in the relationship between Kenney and his longtime collaborator Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson), and the stone faced Gleeson makes for a good counterbalance to Forte’s wackiness. A respectful and often thought provoking tribute to a great artist lost way too soon, A Futile and Stupid Gesture is a great companion piece to the National Lampoon films.

 

6. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

dont-worry-he-wont-get-far-on-foot_

While Gus Van Sant was once thought of as one of the most influential directors in Hollywood, a series of recent flops has somewhat dampened his reputation. This is a shame, as Van Sant has proven that he can still make thought provoking character pieces, and Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot is a poignant biographical film that uses indecent humor as a means of catharsis for the lead character. Following the true life of cartoonist John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix), the film shows how Callahan’s alcoholism crippled him and lead him down a path to both sobriety and artistic inspiration.

While seeing Callahan’s life getting uprooted by his disability is often grueling to watch, he’s such a witty character that he’s able to find the warped humor in each situation. Phoenix is absolutely fearless in his performance, and seeing Callahan struggle to get through everyday tasks helps to explain how his observant, often unpleasant depictions of real life in his comic strips came to be.

The film also gives some normally comedic actors a chance to show their dramatic chops, with Jonah Hill giving a scene stealing performance as Callahan’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and Jack Black as a fellow partygoer who is partially responsible for Callahan’s accident. Just like Callahan’s strips, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot finds humor in the mundane and seeks to explore just how ludicrous a supposedly “average” life can be.

The 10 Most Entertaining Western Movies of All Time

For the initiated, the western is only rivalled by science fiction for excitement. Yet it also has the capacity to tackle broader themes at the same time; and so within the sweaty confines of these westerns there are layers of cultural criticism, existential dilemmas, satire, comedy, history, revisionist history, politics and more besides. Some of these films are also interesting for their unrestrained violence and cynical world view, others for their commitment to the long standing traditions of the form, but most are marked by their departures.

 

1. The Great Silence

The Great Silence (1968)

This is one of the great spaghetti westerns. Like in McCabe & Mrs Miller, Corbucci set this bleak and bloody film in snow covered mountains. The cast is incredible. Arthouse darling Jean-Louis Trintignant plays the ever silent (hence the title of the film) wandering hero, who had his vocal chords cut as a child, and who now roams the west serving the downtrodden, albeit for a fee, for he is no Robin Hood. His counterpart is played by Klaus Kinski, perhaps better known for his collaborations with Werner Herzog, despite being a spaghetti western regular. Kinski’s villain is a psychopathic bounty hunter who relishes inflicting pain on the weak and vulnerable. These two characters worthy of Greek tragedy clash in the Utah mountains.

 

2. The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch (1969)

Commonly referred to as an orchestra, or ballet, of bullets, Peckinpah’s film stands up today as an exciting masterpiece, sweeping us up in the intrigue of its plot. Like many of the films on this list, The Wild Bunch deals with the modernisation of the west. The simple world of our protagonists who live by an old school code of honour is disappearing and they are being left behind. This makes them desperate and vulnerable, so like all of those squeezed into a corner they lash out and collide with the new establishment. In its day, The Wild Bunch caused, due to its success, and the melding of the cynical 70s sensibilities of New Cinema with the genre’s classical elements, a revival of the western which had died out in the Hollywood of the 60s and launched one of the eras distinctive cinematic voices.

 

3. Pat Garrett and Bill The Kid

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)

Another Peckinpah classic. This is a laconic western, lyrical where others opt for relentless action and certainly slower paced than the other Peckinpah film on this list. That’s not to say there isn’t excitement here, but it is cut up with existential quandaries. These are the last days of Billy The Kid. With his legend secured he kicks around the Mexican border evading the authorities and planning further robberies. Pat Garrett, his old gang member and father figure, has given up the life of crime and has taken a law enforcement position. Already tired and world-weary and looking to settle down, he is tasked with bringing The Kid in to answer for his crimes, he being the only one deemed capable of the job.

The film focuses more on Pat Garrett, played by the ever swaggering James Coburn, as he grapples with the nature of his position and the knowledge that The Kid will never give himself up peacefully. The soundtrack was done by Bob Dylan, cast as a knife throwing outlaw who falls in with The Kid and his gang.

 

4. Death Rides a Horse

Death Rides a Horse

This is a violent one. It opens with the murder of a family and quickly gathers the elements of a revenge caper: a young survivor (John Philip Law) consumed by rage, a veteran mentor figure (the maestro, Lee Van Cleef) who admires the kid and watches out for him, and a band of villains who live up to their mantle of casual violence and mindless cruelty. The trajectory of the plot is crazy, in a good way.

Between numerous shoot outs and flippant tough-guy exchanges, the two heroes’ are variously snared and freed from numerous traps as they individually seek the same prize. One of the film’s great assets is, of course, Van Cleef. He is endlessly watchable, especially in extreme close-up as his wrinkle-cracked face rises into a condescending smirk. In short, Death Rides a Horse has it all.

 

5. Dead Man

In ghostly black and white William Blake (Johnny Depp) travels into the west to take a job. When he arrives he learns his position has been filled: the first of numerous indignities and misfortunes to be thrown the way of this fish out of water. This is a journey film, and like in many of Jarmusch’s movies, the characters are on a quest. It may not be clear just what the object or destination of this quest is, but that’s beside the point.

Our hero is never static, always on the move. He even has a spiritual guide, the Native American Nobody (Gary Farmer). We quickly see that his wanderings are taking on a supernatural aspect. Part of the fun here is trying to figure out what is really going on, where are these characters leading us and why. There is an element of surreality throughout the film. The fuzz of Neil Young’s guitar soundtrack further carries this stylised western into the realm of dreams.

The 10 Best Movies That Explore Human Mortality

amour

There is a saying by David Wark Griffith (often wrongly attributed to Jean-Luc Godard) that all one needs to make a movie is a girl and a gun. Sex and death are definitely the two things that are sure to sell, and both are featured prominently in cinema as we know it today, but they mostly function as plot details and do not necessarily make the spectator ponder about them in a deeper sense. Mortality is a fundamental part of the human condition, so movies with a more central role of mortality deserve more attention.

Not all of the movies in this list have mortality as the main subject, but all of them say something interesting about it. These dramas explore mortality in a way that can inspire our personal outlook.

 

1. Le Petit Soldat (1963, Jean-Luc Godard)

Le Petit Soldat is a French New Wave classic about Bruno and Veronica who fall in love with each other despite being on opposite sides of the Algerian war for independence from France. Bruno is often faced with life or death situations and although he tries to leave his dangerous business behind when spending time with Veronica, they still discuss death and suicide quite a bit. The backdrop of war creates an atmosphere of urgency about life when every moment feels precious.

One of the most interesting moments of Le Petit Soldat is the ending. It is so abrupt that it might seem that the movie is unfinished. In this way, it offers a metaphor for how life ends. While fictional stories usually have a nice resolution at the end, they are unrealistic to how the story of one’s life actually ends. So the takeaway regarding mortality here is twofold: the interesting thoughts in the character’s conversations and the formal cinematic language.

 

2. Youth (2015, Paolo Sorrentino)

On one hand, Youth seems to be a nostalgia-fueled movie that circles around two elderly men looking at their best times in the past. On the other hand, the movie does not paint this picture in dark and melancholic colors. The subject of mortality is presented here as that which should not appear scary to us. There is a grace to how the characters in Youth approach death.

This courage in the face of death is largely based on how the characters understand their identity. It is their achievements in life that bring them strength and peace of mind when it comes to mortality. What we make of ourselves during our life makes the time spent worth it and that is one of the things that can allow us to accept even the prospect of death.

 

3. Biutiful (2010, Alejandro G. Iñárritu)

biutiful

Biutiful is set in a poor neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain. Uxbal has custody of two of his children and is struggling to earn money by doing illegal jobs. Suddenly, he learns that he has only a couple of months left to live due to his health worsening at a rapid rate. This makes him look at his life in a different light. Uxbal used to be impatient and angry at his children, but faced with mortality he appreciates every moment with them. Although that might sound like a cliché idea, the movie communicates it powerfully.

The point that Biutiful makes is that even a life full of hardships can appear beautiful if for a mere second. The knowledge that we have of our mortality renders all worries meaningless. It opens space for clarity and inspires to dwell in the here and now.

 

4. Melancholia (2011, Lars von Trier)

The plot of Lars von Trier’s visually beautiful Melancholia takes place in the days leading up to the apocalypse as another planet is traveling on a collision course with Earth. The metaphor of this plot communicates the truth that mortality concerns every human being, for it is our inevitable fate.

Different characters in the movie react to the doomsday situation differently. Some of them enter into a state of denial, some become desperate to find a way to avoid the apocalypse, while others surrender to it in an either nihilistic or peaceful attitude. In any case, the initial panic and anxiety induced by the certainty of death is universal and it is a striking point of Melancholia.

 

5. The Seventh Continent (1989, Michael Haneke)

The Seventh Continent

The Seventh Continent tells the story of a middle-class family that decides to commit suicide. As horrible as that sounds, it is based on real events that the director read in a news article. This drama truly carries a disturbing effect on the spectator and it is a worthwhile piece if only for that experience.

The interesting spin to mortality here is that the family seems to understand their possessions as an extension of themselves. Humans are inherently technological beings, so to really annihilate oneself requires not only to kill one’s physical self but also to destroy one’s belongings. The movie puts the focus on things rather than people from the very beginning: the camera angles deliberately show inanimate objects at the center.

The 10 Best Horror Movie Sequels of All Time

This past decade has seen the rise of so-called “elevated” horror. A host of budding auteurs have re-upped the genre with doses of prestige, social relevance, and awards prospects. While this is mostly good news, it has turned attention from one of the genre’s most enduring, and trashy, facets: the sequel.

Sequels don’t get much or respect in general, save maybe superhero movies, but horror sequels have a long history as downright awful, schlocky, unnecessary cash grabs that insult one’s intelligence and offer little to anyone except diehards and completists. Still, some horror sequels transcend this no man’s land of crap, and when they do, they do so in a big way. Some horror sequels that succeed enter the cannon as great films in their own right. Not great for a sequel. Not great for horror. Just great. Many of the films on this list do just that, the rest are just damn good.

Some films ultimately fell off this list for certain reasons. Both The Exorcist 3 and Halloween: Season of the Witch (the third instalment), do well on lists like these, but both films were envisioned as standalone, non-franchise efforts that had the sequel label attached later. Both the Paranormal Activity and Final Destination franchises delivered sequels that were bigger, better, and more effective, but they just couldn’t match the quality already in the cannon. We also excluded anthology sequels because even though V/H/S 2 and The ABCs of Death 2 were both as effective as their predecessors, their omnibus structure takes the pressure off continuing a story.

A number of recent entries have also impressed: The Conjuring franchise has built its own cinematic universe; It 2 was a box office powerhouse that more or less delivered in grand style; Happy Death Day 2 U and Unfriended: The Dark Web both went to clever new places that made critics grin and will hopefully be appreciated over time. These films might make the list in a few years.

Without further ado:

 

10. Inferno and Noriko’s Dinner Table

Inferno

While starting with a tie may not be the most straightforward gesture, it’s hard to deny that both films occupy a similar place in their cannons. Inferno is Dario Argento’s sequel-of-sorts to undeniable horror classic Suspiria, and Noriko’s Dinner Table is a sequel and prequel to the mid-2000s exercise in discomfort that is Suicide Club (also called Suicide Circle). Both sequels are oft incomprehensible (especially if you’ve not seen the prior films) and utterly wild forays into terror.

Inferno is a thematic sequel to Suspiria, and while this might not be enough for some fans, it carries Argento’s trademark menace and hallucinatory images while delving deeper into some of his former film’s mythology. Inferno is the second part of the Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy, and it was initially so derided that the final film wouldn’t be released until 2007, 27 years after Inferno. Over time, it has come to be described as underappreciated and eventually great.

Unlike Argento, Noriko’s Dinner Table director Sion Sono hasn’t been able to finish the trilogy he envisioned with Suicide Club, and it’s unclear if he ever will. Noriko’s Dinner Table occurs during the events of the first film and offered some clues as to its mysteries. While it drags at times and its ambiguity can be frustrating, Noriko’s Dinner Table also gives depth to the first film and acts as a puzzling, disturbing observation on changing values and the role of family. Hopefully, this series will get closure the way Argento’s did.

 

9. Gremlins 2

Gremlins 2 The New Batch

Gremlins 2 almost didn’t make this list partially because there’s really nothing else to say about it that Key and Peele didn’t already say in their behind the scenes documentary [sic] looking at how the film came together. But as a sequel, Gremlins 2 really is something.

Gremlins hasn’t aged well in some regards as its origin element is an especially problematic representation of orientalism and exoticism. But Gremlins 2 is such a tonal shift that it’s hard to hold the mythology against it. Itself a comment on sequels and how corporate synergy worms its way into every attempt at art or story in order to maximize profits even as it desiccates the actual resource, Gremlins 2 is an almost literal madhouse. Gremlins literally run wild, and if the first film veered in and out of the horror lane, this instalment is fully committed to the comedy.

And despite what decades of critics and online commenters have said, it still works largely because the titular creatures are terrifying and cleverly grostesque, the visual equivalent of an LSD-dosed Salvador Dali willing into existence gargoyles for a new generation. Director Joe Dante’s career has never been the same, as if Hollywood is punishing him for running his mouth and raising awareness of a studio system that is, more often than not, intellectually corrupt. But what a sword to fall on.

 

8. Hostel 2

It’s easy to dismiss the Hostel series as shameless torture porn, and it’s even easier to dismiss Hostel 2 as unnecessary and repetitive. But Hostel 2 smartly built on the mysteries of the first film to expand the universe, recognizing that the most horrific aspect of the premise wasn’t the actual violence so much as the system that turns the unspeakable into matters of logistics.

Franchises like The Purge and Unfriended recently delivered effective, even superior sequels by growing the in-movie world and attaching social relevance to the plot, but it’s hard to imagine them getting there without Hostel 2 to guide the way. While its other torture porn forebearer, the Saw franchise, looked inward with each instalment carving out a place in an earlier film, Hostel 2 wisely built out.

Eli Roth may be one of Hollywood’s most bro-iest directors, and Hostel 2 begins (and was marketed as) the braindead T&A model that horror sequels were known to be, but it turns these tropes inside out, wisely subverting expectations and gender roles despite unfortunately never shaking that male gaze. More than this, as a sequel, Hostel 2 doesn’t play it safe. The world it depicts is hopeless. Ruthlessness and cruelty reign, and no one is safe from the bitter truth that anything can be bought. It resembles our world more than ever and is scarier than ever because of it.

 

7. 28 Weeks Later

Imogen Poots - 28 Weeks Later

The 28…Later series, steered by Danny Boyle and Alex Garland, was always supposed to be different, like an antidote to years of stale, studio-driven horror fare that failed to excite or scare. 28 Days Later used a handheld approach with a sped-up tweak on the zombie and a refusal to ever actually say zombie to reinvigorate the genre.

28 Weeks Later stands alongside its predecessor. With a bigger budget, fans were prepared for a soulless retread that would forever damn the franchise to mediocrity. Instead Boyle and co. brought in new talent, upping the stakes but retaining the stripped-down aesthetic and dread that defined the first one. It also asked bigger questions, riffing on themes of survivors’ guilt, bravery and family while making room for more monsters and more tension. Most horror sequels are happy to recycle, but 28 Weeks Later does something rare: it inverts the structure of the first one, highlighting things the first movie couldn’t deal with, and the result is equally thrilling and horrifying.

 

6. Halloween

Late 2010s-Hollywood had a moment where it saw the value in treating intellectual property with respect. The new It films were produced and cast with care. Doctor Sleep is a high concept, high budget follow up to one of the greatest horror films ever that was made with top talent. It’s hard to imagine these productions moving forward without the support of the 2018 Halloween entry, which made the case for re-writing the cannon and ensuring the right talent was on board.

Ignoring every Halloween sequel, this film dispenses with numerous lukewarm efforts to continue the Michael Myers saga. What it delivers is a curious summation of all its parts and extra ones too—benefitting from what amounts to decades of trial in error, Blumhouse enlisted prime indie talent and John Carpenter for music and mood while grounding the series.

This Halloween manages to retrofit the entire franchise with gravity and self-respect even as it amps up the menace and dread. Laurie Strode is a survivalist who has made her PTSD into a battle cry, and despite the many throwbacks to the original and to slasher archetypes, it’s refreshing and effective to see a film engage with the effects of slasher violence realistically. That the whole thing works is a testament to the respect the filmmakers have for the material. Given that Blumhouse greenlit two more Halloween sequels off the back of this one was enough to make fans wonder if the quality would keep or if the industry was reverting to old tricks.

The 25 Best Movies of The 2010s

best-amy-adams-movies

The 2010s have been an exciting, variable, and unpredictable period for cinema, hasn’t it? Even a cursory glance at the titles listed here show a wide-ranging assortment that includes auteur-driven films, influential movies, astonishing international fare, a few blockbusters, plentiful arthouse gems, genre films, and many magnificent female-led projects, too (that’s truly been one of this decades best progressions), each of which represent the very best of the cinematic artform.

PLEASE NOTE: While listing a mere 25 films means that many worthwhile films and filmmakers had to be left by the wayside, we encourage you to join the conversation and list your favorites in the comments section below (be nice!).

Additionally, the following list does NOT include non-fiction films. A best documentaries list of the decade will be forthcoming.

And now, with all that said, here are the best films of the 2010s. Enjoy!

 

25. Certain Women (2016)

Further demonstrating her dactylitic mastery of the form, writer/director Kelly Reichardt continues her neorealist reconnaissance of contemporary American life with Certain Women. Adapting and interconnecting several short stories from Maile Meloy’s 2009 anthology “Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It”, three women (Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Reichardt regular Michelle Williams) in small-town Montana stay the course in separate and interconnecting struggles.

Dubbed by Senses of Cinema scribe Sam Littman as “The poet laureate of the Pacific Northwest,” Reichardt once again proves to be a patient, powerful, and luminous auteur, compassionately capturing the tangled and sometimes torturous emotional expanses––namely loneliness and bereavement––via flawed and occasionally Delphic women.

Tiny but imperative victories and workaday tenacity rests at the soft-touch crux of Reichardt’s film, and while some of the ambiguity will estrange some viewers, the frequent flashes of brilliancy and nuance will deeply satisfy the adventurous. This is a measured masterpiece from a refined and elegant original filmmaker.

 

24. Goodbye to Language (2014)

A ciné-poem from the father of modern film, Jean-Luc Godard, 84-years-old at the time of this production (and still going strong as he nears 90), proves to be light-years ahead of us all. Will we ever catch up to him? The aural-visual array of Goodbye to Language is often suggestive, on occasion very deep, sporadically goofy, seductive, and everyplace suspicious. Combining a cast of cool characters rapt in irascible and odd conversation, Godard’s delightful dog, Roxy, and at least one gob-smacking sequence of technical derring-do, this is a landmark psych out all the way.

 

23. The Turin Horse (2011)

A sedate and somber showpiece from Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, The Turin Horse depicts the meaning of life in microcosm, and would we expect anything less from the Hungarian husband and wife duo? Perhaps their greatest achievement, the repetitive and routine daily lives of a horse-owner (János Derzsi) and his daughter (Erika Bók) take on Bresson-like dimensions that are both perfunctory and profound.

Fred Kelemen’s black-and-white lensing may not at first seem all that flashy, but the film, comprised of only 30 long takes, is a measured miracle of nuance and heartache.

 

22. American Honey (2016)

american-honey

Andrea Arnold’s American Honey seems to move from one desultory random moment to the next; arranged with radiant, tantalizing possibilities, and unsettled questions. A rambling masterpiece, this is both a road movie, and a coming-of-age odyssey of singalongs that is both luxurious to look at and dazzling to contemplate.

Sasha Lane shines as Star, an unfettered 18-year-old, she escapes her abusive scumbag father and joins a mysterious young man named Jake (a shockingly good Shia LeBeouf), whom she had a chance meeting with. Soon Star hits the road with Jake and other teens; a tattooed and glitter-bombed crew who sell magazine subscriptions door-to-door as they zigzag across America.

When we first meet Jake he seems to move with an unpredictable and meteoric energy, like he could just leave the scene or even exit the movie altogether on a whim, if he wanted. And by the end, this meteoric energy has moved on to Star in some sort of cinematic transmigration. And that’s American Honey; a narratively audacious, picaresque pageant of youth, exhilarative spectacle and aspiration.

 

21. Get Out (2017)

Intelligently satiric, incredibly horrific, profoundly funny, and deeply resonant for anyone who thoughtfully ponders the issue of race in North America, Jordan Peele makes an outstanding directorial debut with Get Out (which he also wrote).

Riffing on Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), with some well-placed reservations, reluctantly but good-naturedly accompanies his new girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) for a weekend in the country with her upscale folks (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford). Knowing that the only other African Americans within screaming distance will be the Armitage’s servants, it’s no wonder that Chris is nervous about how Rose’s family will receive him, even knowing that they are liberal-minded, educated, and easy-going.

Get Out is great as an uncomfortable comedy, but it excels at social commentary and reconstituted horror movie hyperbole. Funny, frightening, and perpetually thought-provoking, Peele expertly provides a slow-build with some great twists, palatable payoffs, and plenty of wit. This is an excitedly ambitious film from Peele, and a poignant one, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.

 

20. Cold War (2018)

Gracefully charting the delirious highs and heartbreaking lows of the excited love affair between a composer named Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and a folk singer named Zula (Joanna Kulig) as they conform to the sour vagaries of life in post-war Poland under Communist rule, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War is an achingly lovely achievement.

Like Ida (2013), Pawlikowski’s previous period drama, Cold War shares a similar setting and luminous black and white view, but the two films are vastly different in their emotional approach and expression.

Kulig, as Zula, is absolutely electrifying. As she vibrantly descants Parisian torch songs that sets the enraptured mood of the film it’s easy to see why so many have suggested she may be the new Jeanne Moreau. With a sentimental sigh and a quick wiping away of tears, Cold War is a film of burning seduction and charming, cryptic truth.

 

19. The Favourite (2018)

Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) does it again, adding yet another absurdist gem to a collection that shows no sign of slowing down in quality and fanfare. In The Favourite, he reimagines the reign of Queen Anne and the periodically playful, somewhat sexy competition between her two ladies-in-waiting, Lady Sarah Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and her cousin Abigail (Emma Stone).

Avoiding the common pitfalls of the set-up, Lanthimos manages to earn sympathy for each of the characters, no matter how low they’re willing to go––if only because they’re doing it to survive. It’s easy to cheer on every player when the game is as cutthroat as the 18th century could be, especially for women.

Lanthimos loosens the corset strings in the most surprising ways, creating room to breathe in a period piece that could have been stuffy and heavy-lidded. Every frame is a treat for the eyes and its razor-sharp comedy and precise editing delivers a near-perfect film that is not soon to be forgotten.

 

18. A Separation (2011)

“A Separation will become one of those enduring masterpieces watched decades from now,” wrote an enthusiastic Roger Ebert of writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s stirring film. A narratively complex, stylistically dense and morally confrontational tale of class, gender, justice, and morality as a secular middle-class family grapples with the dissolution of a marriage.

Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi) are a married couple who live in Iran with their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi) at odds as she wants to leave the country but he needs to stay to care for his Alzheimer’s afflicted father. And so Simin, painfully, files for divorce.

And while A Separation is a compelling divorce drama, it is so much more than that as Farhadi’s expertly told tale moves beyond being only about men and women, husbands and wives, children and parents, as the familial upheaval winds up in conflict with an impoverished religious one, too, as well as bringing Iranian society into a sharp focus so rarely seen in cinema. Not to be missed.

10 Best Picture Winners From The 2010s Ranked From Worst To Best

Emma Stone - Birdman

The decade is almost up which means, as of the most recent ceremony earlier this year in February of 2019, there have been 10 Best Picture Winners given this decade. I’ve said before that the Academy is not something I particularly care about, often times their winners fail to stay relevant in the years that follow, unlike the actual best films that never get nominated.

With that said though, the Academy is a historically known institution that shines a spotlight on the films they recognize. Whether for better or worse, today we’re going to rank the films they’ve recognized this decade. I’m going to keep this more in conversation of the individual films quality rather than what should’ve won over it. But regardless, these are the last 10 Best Picture Winners (2009 – 2019) Ranked from Worst to Best.

 

10. Green Book (2018)

“Green Book”, at its best, is a decent film that’s well acted and plays itself universally, so the subject of racism isn’t unbearable to watch. But with that said it’s also a textbook basic movie that fits into the same problems of the worst films of its kind. Many criticisms were brought against the film in the months leading up to the ceremony, ranging from allegations against its director Peter Farrelly to accusations from the family Dr. Donald Shirley that the friendship between him and Tony Lip was depicted inaccurately in the film. But truthfully, these matters don’t concern me much.

“Green Book” is a film that falls in line with what writer, Wesley Morris, calls a ‘Racial Reconciliation Fantasy’. Meaning: “A movie that teaches falsehood about the causes of racism and the solutions to racism, starring a white character who overcomes their own racism or the racism of others through simplified means that reassure white audiences they are not racist.” The Shirley family itself claimed the film as a “Symphony of Lies”, to which Mahershala Ali (who plays Dr. Shirley in the film) apologized for. “Green Book” obfuscates its own subject matter with neglectful insincerity and stands as the worst winner since “Crash”.

 

9. The King’s Speech (2010)

When “The King’s Speech” won Best Picture it was a very eye opening experience for many viewers because it cemented exactly who makes up their membership. Were they going to play it safe with tradition or were they going to recognize the innovative world around them? Well, we saw what happened here. That’s not to say the film is devoid of impressive moments, the performances of Collin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham-Carter are some of the best in their respective careers.

The film does have a great look as well, fog overtaking the streets brings us to its time period of WWII Britain. Where the film gets lost the most is in playing itself too safe. This is an old guard movie that feels more in tune with a previous time period, not caught up with the modern tempo of filmmaking. Its story is more or less a feel-good that takes no chances and doesn’t break any new grounds. It’s the kind of period piece that usually makes the Academy’s line-up regardless of whether it truly is one of the best.

 

8. The Artist (2011)

“The Artist” is a film that had a lot of buzz surrounding it at the time, it’s not often you see a silent film in this day and age. As the years have gone on its reputation has seemed to fade away, as is typical with a lot of Best Picture winners. But it isn’t completely worth skipping, it is a technically impressive film in its own right. Despite feeling like it relies on a gimmick, it is a fairly unique perspective on a very large transitional period in film history. I’ve heard many comparisons to “Singin’ in the Rain”, but there’s a key difference between the two.

Whereas “Singin’ in the Rain” was largely optimistic and happy, “The Artist” takes a fairly dark take on the show business as films went to sound. A lot of actors at the time went out of a job due to this transition, not having the right voices to transition with the shifting innovation that was happening. That’s the basic gist of the film as it pertains to the dueling careers of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). But it is a nice tribute piece to the silent era of film and does rely on some very good performances from its actors. Not as great as the classic silent films, but impressive in its own right for sure.

 

7. The Shape of Water (2017)

The cool thing about this victory is that with this Guillermo del Toro finally received the honor of winning Best Director along with his two friends in the Mexican Revolution of filmmaking, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu.

“The Shape of Water” is a starkly mesmerizing film, feeling other worldly but grounding itself in our modern politics. Setting itself back in the high point of Cold War paranoia makes it feel like something from a world long ago that most of us don’t remember. Through these elements del Toro tells a story of “The Other”.

The obvious metaphor for this is in the form of a creature not of this world that humanity abuses. But the feeling of otherness stretches across to many characters throughout the film. From Elisa (Sally Hawkins) being obfuscated for being mute, or her neighbor Giles who’s a closeted homosexual who can’t reveal his attractions in his era, or Zelda who’s a black woman discriminated against in a time of racial disparity. All of them are others in their own right, ostracized by the social climate around them.

Going back to “Pan’s Labyrinth”, del Toro has had a knack for blending reality into fantasy and combining the two until they’re inseparable. And that’s exactly what “The Shape of Water” does.

 

6. Argo (2012)

Ben Affleck has had a very up and down career. After the success of “Good Will Hunting” it seemed like he fell off a cliff in comparison to his childhood best friend Matt Damon. But then Affleck found his stride once again when he started directing. “Gone Baby Gone” was great, “The Town” was another good one, and then he made “Argo” which brought everything home.

Definitely not the best film he’s made, but still a very impressive film in its own right. Many have argued the legitimacy of this story being told, but that’s the whole spark that makes this work. The tale itself being one of reality and made up crap intertwining. 52 American citizens were held hostage by Iranian forces for 444 days from 1979 to 1981, thus making it the longest hostage crisis in recorded history.

The film details a select few who hid from Iranian forces and were miraculously saved by American agencies in which a plan was concocted to make a fake movie, a science fiction film called “Argo” which would have the production story of being shot in the Iranian deserts.

Affleck definitely romanticizes, making this a very – for lack of a better term – Hollywood movie. But in a weird way it almost improves with the stylistic choice given, mirroring the aesthetic the make-believe movie within the movie is trying to achieve – blended together with a great sense of character, personality, and comedy. This is an ode to filmmaking itself and the power stories have to fool some and save others. Maybe not the best of 2012, but still a good work.