The 15 Most Underrated Movies of 2017

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Logan Lucky

The year 2017 was extremely difficult in many ways, across the entire world. More than ever, the idea of impending doom and the unshakable divisiveness and darkness of our times felt present, and it was a constant struggle not to fall prey to despair. Thank the cinematic gods, then, for the movies that were exceptional this year.

Every year, of course, has masterpieces, but this one in particular saw the release of many, many great movies that sparked debate, passion, discomfort and joy; movies that challenged, made you think, or laugh, or both at the same time.

So rich was this year in films that, no matter how many were celebrated for some reason or another, there were plenty that didn’t get enough love and deserve some recognition.

To be clear, an underrated movie is not simply an obscure one; it can be that too, of course, but for the purposes of this list, it is considered a movie that deserved more attention than it received. So if a movie may have had some good reviews, but not enough to qualify it as a success, you’ll most likely find it here.

 

15. Hounds of Love

Hounds of Love

Cinema doesn’t necessarily have to be a pleasant experience to be great. That is a distinction a lot of audience members seem incapable of doing, as demonstrated this year by the polarizing reaction to movies like “mother!” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” which were accused of being bad simply because they challenged the viewer and demanded they step out of their comfort zone.

The Australian thriller “Hounds of Love” is one such movie. Following the story of a teenage girl who gets kidnapped, and of the psychotic and complex couple that kidnaps her, the film runs for an almost unbearable one hour and 30 minutes as the viewer is powerless to look away from the horrors this girl is being subjected to.

But that queasy feeling is exactly what the movie’s going for, and it absolutely succeeds at it. It’s important to note, however, that this is not just a cheap gore fest in the vein of “Saw,” for instance; there’s deep psychological complexity here in dealing with the relationship of the three main characters, especially the woman of the couple, intensely portrayed by Emma Booth as someone perpetually on the edge of a breakdown. She is fierce and terribly violent, but there’s also such a fragile quality to her that makes her easily manipulable, not only by her husband, but also by the girl, and that’s where the conflict of the film begins to reveal itself and when the tension truly kicks into gear.

“Hounds of Love” is definitely not for everyone, but anyone willing to experience a movie that dares to be unpleasant will find a film that, yes, deeply disturbs, but also offers immense emotional catharsis.

 

14. The Villainess

Villainess

Korean cinema has had a tremendous resurgence since the 2000s, quickly becoming one the world’s leading cinematic powerhouses, thanks to filmmakers like Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho, who directed international hits such as “Oldboy” and “The Host.” Their cinema has become so rich, in fact, that there’s even some great movies that manage to slip under the radar from most people, as was the case with “The Villainess.”

A bonkers action film in the vein of “La Femme Nikita” and “John Wick,” the narrative tracks the nonlinear story of a female assassin, from her training to the eventual shattering mission she’s tasked with, also flashbacking to her early childhood and adolescence, which will later play an important part.

Everything about this movie is ridiculously over the top, but that’s the point. The camera doesn’t simply pan or track; it’s an active participant in the choreography, moving as the characters do, which leads to completely insane sequences, like the tracking shot that opens the movie and the climax on a bus.

In keeping with the camera work, “The Villainess” also has a heightened dramatic quality to it, almost as if it was a melodrama of the 50s; the colors are vivid, the music is manipulative, and the dramatic situations are treated with the utmost seriousness. It’s as if Douglas Sirk directed “Kill Bill” and the results are irregular, but still fascinating to watch.

“The Villainess” is not the best action film of the year, but it’s definitely the most distinctive and deserved more attention.

 

13. Wheelman

Wheelman

The “getaway driver” subgenre of crime movies are a dime a dozen; there are countless films that riff on the same basic premise and hit the exact same story beats as other, better movies, to mediocre effect. Every now and again, though, a smart director will find a way to breathe new life into the formula, like in this year’s massive hit “Baby Driver” and the more modest and underseen “Wheelman.”

A Netflix original movie, which perhaps explains why it went out mostly with no attention at all, “Wheelman” is as lean and mean as it gets: running at a tight 82 minutes, the movie is a real-time thrill ride from beginning to end, as we follow the driver (Frank Grillo in a career-making performance) while he tries to track down who double-crossed him in a job gone wrong.

It’s a familiar set up for sure, but director Jeremy Rush manages to make it completely distinct and exciting with the simple decision to always keep the camera in the car; there aren’t even transitional shots of the outside until the very last minutes of the movie. That had already been done a few years ago in the movie “Locke,” but while that was a drama, this is an action thriller, and that decision gives the movie a sense of emergency and tension that makes everything more exciting.

Featuring some surprising twists and clever ways of getting around the limitations of the single environment of the car, “Wheelman” is a taut and ingenious genre picture that will surely please fans of crime films.

 

12. Lady Macbeth

Although it’s a not an adaptation of Shakespeare (as the title would suggest), “Lady Macbeth” holds the same gripping power of inescapable tragedy that looms over everything, like in The Bard’s greatest works.

Made with virtually no budget but still managing to look like a prestige period studio picture, “Lady Macbeth” is a film of fantastic formalism, which becomes even more impressive when considering this is William Oldroyd’s first outing as a director. Every shot is strikingly composed; the position of the characters in the frame reveals a lot about their status and relationships; and the camera never moves without reason, often just observing the characters from a distance, allowing the audience to drink in the beauty of it all.

But “Lady Macbeth” is not just technique – it’s a suspenseful, morally complex tale of liberation, betrayal and guilt that keeps escalating to more and more violence and depravity. But the true standout element of the movie is Florence Pugh as the title character, in a performance that carries the film. She infuses the character with a rebellious spirit, a passion for life, and a justified anger at being denied her basic freedom, creating such a complex figure of a woman trying to gain back her power. The audience can’t help but be on her side, until she starts making decisions of incredible cruelty, at which point the movie takes a whole new weight thematically.

“Lady Macbeth” is a fascinating study of morality, aided by phenomenal control behind the cameras and absolute commitment in front of them, and it’s a movie that, precisely because of the questions it imposes, everyone will experience in a different way.

 

11. Una

Una

A movie that’s unfortunately been stuck is release date hell for a while, “Una” was filmed in 2015 and was planned to be released later that same year, possibly for awards consideration. It didn’t happen, getting delayed until 2016, which also fell through. Finally it came about to the public mid-2017, with absolutely zero fanfare whatsoever, which is a shame considering Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn should have been Oscar contenders.

Based on the renowned play “Blackbird” (with the screenplay written by playwright himself, David Harrower), “Una” has a simple set-up: a woman finds the man who abused her as a child 15 years earlier and confronts him about it. But that’s just about where the simplicity ends, as what follows is a profoundly nuanced and complex discussion about trauma, dependency and love, but, most of all, it’s a study of those two characters and how they relate to each other.

The movie doesn’t shy away from its theater roots and it’s mostly based around dialogue instead of images, but director Benedict Andrews does find creative ways to use the camera, as in the moment when Ray, the abuser, sees Una for the first time, and is framed in a disjointed kind of way, demonstrating his discomfort and shock. The director is also efficient in the use of space, staging the action in small, claustrophobic spaces.

But what really makes the movie are the performances by Mendelsohn and especially Mara, who take interesting characters on the page and elevate them to new heights. Mendelsohn creates a complex figure of a man who regrets his actions but also doesn’t want to take full responsibility for them; while Mara, alternating between subtle expressions and incredible intensity, creates an angry, bitter woman who slowly reveals hidden attachments to her former lover/abuser.

The end is a bit abrupt, but until then, “Una” is a gripping drama with exceptional writing and acting.

 

10. A Quiet Passion

A Quiet Passion

Terence Davies has consistently been making great movies since the late 1980s and, somehow, during all this time, his incredible, sensitive work has always been on the margins of proper recognition, always getting praise from a limited group of critics and fans but failing to achieve a wider audience or the awards consideration he deserves. The latest victim of this oversight is “A Quiet Passion.”

A melancholic meditation on resentment and the emotional and psychological consequences of leading a completely unremarkable and restrained life, the movie takes the figure of american poet Emily dinson as basically an avatar for Davies himself; an artist who, like dinson, lives a completely withdrawn, modest existence. Both Davies and dinson are tortured by the thought that not only are they not living life to the fullest, but also that the world is oblivious to the beauty of their work.

It would already be an interesting biopic/self portrait with beautiful visuals, but what truly elevates it is the performance by the exceptional Cynthia Nixon as dinson, in a turn full of controlled rage but also deep with wonder. Nixon carries the movie on her shoulders, making more with simple smile than most actors can do with their entire bodies; it’s a performance of absolute control and quietness, but also completely intense.

“A Quiet Passion” is admittedly an acquired taste; it’s slow and doesn’t really have a plot, but those that stick with it will find a visually arresting, emotionally devastating movie that might make you reconsider your own life.

 

9. Tramps

Tramps

Like “Wheelman,” “Tramps” suffered the fate of being unceremoniously released one Friday on Netflix with practically zero marketing, making it just one more on the ever-growing list of obscure movies that get lost in the crowd of Netflix’s original material.

Which is a shame, because “Tramps” is a lovely little movie, the kind that has become somewhat rare. A low budget romance movie that’s not too self serious, it’s genuinely funny, but not at the expense of character development. The characters, in fact, are what makes this such a warm-hearted, sweet movie to watch; played wonderfully by newcomers Callum Turner and Grace Van Patten as two down-on-their-luck teens who must return a bag full of money, the relationship they form is the emotional backbone of what is basically a road movie, as we follow them in their mission, slowly growing to appreciate each other’s company.

It’s not a standard “falling in love” type of rom-com, but a much more real, intimate kind of movie that simply observes two vastly different people as they bond thanks to extraordinary circumstances. Part of what makes it so intimate and delicate is, of course, the actors who portray not only the individual personalities of the characters, but also sell the attraction they ultimately feel for one another. However, attention must also be given to the low-key approach of director Adam Leon, who always keeps the camera close to his actors and allows everything to flow with ease and naturality.

“Tramps” is not the most fresh or revolutionary film you’ll see from 2017, but it’s one of the most enjoyable.

10 Great Movies With Low IMDB Ratings

A film, as any other work of art, is essentially a subjective experience and therefore can never really be objectively measured or rated. In that sense, the format of assigning a certain number of stars to a movie in order to determine its “quality” is an exercise in futility.

However, it is sometimes difficult to navigate through the oceans of movies that come out nearly every day, not to mention all of those that have come out in the past. Movie-watchers sometimes want a certain degree of warranty that the two-or-so hours of their time won’t be wasted on a bad flick. Enter IMDb, the world’s foremost film rating site, that gathers its rankings from hundreds of thousands of voters.

In the last several years we have witnessed IMDb’s rise from an almost cult-like forum for cinephiles to a full-on media giant. Something was lost in the process, however: its ratings that were once fairly representative of a film’s objective quality – not that there is such a thing – became significantly watered down by casual viewers.

Here we present you, in alphabetical order, ten movies that suffered from that process. Movies that have a relatively low IMDb rating – less than seven stars – but are actually great!

 

1. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009)

Synopsis: Terence McDonagh is a drug- and gambling-addled detective in post-Katrina New Orleans investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants.

Why it’s rated so low: Remakes of old classics usually tend to be panned by audiences who loved the original, and that was certainly the case with Werner Herzog’s reworking of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 Bad Lieutenant. Fans of the original – and the director himself – were annoyed by the very idea of remaking a film so special and so relatively recent that they dismissed it immediately and never gave it a chance.

Why it deserves better: Despite the hate from fans and the IMDb voters, Herzog’s version actually fared rather well with critics who unanimously praised the picture and deemed any comparisons to Ferrara’s original completely unfounded. Herzog himself has stated that he hasn’t even seen the original and that he never wanted to name it Bad Lieutenant in the first place. He insisted that they are two entirely different films whose only similarity is a crooked cop as its central character.

When you get over the name and give it a chance, you’ll see how well the thing is written and directed, not to mention acted – Nicholas Cage gives one of his best ever performances as the volatile Lt McDonagh.

 

2. Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)

Synopsis: A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.

Why it’s rated so low: While Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has slowly been becoming a household Hollywood name in the last few years, he was still largely unknown in 2013 when Enemy came out. That could mean that he simply didn’t have enough credit with the audience to land such a complex and subtly layered feature.

Viewers found Enemy to be devoid of a clear storytelling structure and, in some cases, boring and difficult to understand. The main reason for that is a lack of traditional exposition and Villeneuve’s general refusal to explain what on earth is going on.

Why it deserves better: Those familiar with Villeneuve’s work surely approached Enemy more as an avantgarde piece of cinema than a straight-up feature flick, which is definitely the right way in this case. Its main strength lies in its symbolism: everything in this movie is there for a reason and that reason is usually not something you can decipher at first viewing. The infamous ending scene was a major turn-off for some viewers, but for those that left their expectations at the door, actually lifted the film to an even higher level.

Even if the story is – probably by design – misleading, there is still much to enjoy here: the wonderful photography and framing, the Lynch-like atmosphere, and the absolutely brilliant performance by Jake Gyllenhaal who is both the anchor of the story and the looming storm.

 

3. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)

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Synopsis: In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles private investigator Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

Why it’s rated so low: The reason why Paul Thomas Anderson’s seventh feature is so underrated by the IMDb voters is its incomprehensible haze of a plot. Anderson wanted to stay true to his source material – Thomas Pynchon’s eponymous novel – which is itself a dense read with an unreliable narrator. Converting that onto the screen is far from simple, and the result here is a movie that demands your undivided attention just to be able to follow along. That is, if you haven’t given up on it in the first half-hour.

Why it deserves better: Inherent Vice works better if you think of it as a stoner film instead of a detective mystery. The lack of a continuous thread in the narrative or its general messiness is Anderson’s attempt to convey the state of mind of its protagonist. Just read the synopsis and try to put yourself in Doc Sportello’s shoes: everything would be a haze, wouldn’t it?

Critics largely loved Inherent Vice, with a few exceptions. It might be tempting to ascribe that to the fact that Anderson is simply a critics’ darling, but if you strip Vice of its context and delve into it without preconceived notions, you just might enjoy the wild, drug-fueled ride.

 

4. Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

Synopsis: An alien must pose as a human to save his dying planet, but a woman and greed of other men create complications.

Why it’s rated so low: Of all the movies on this list, Man Who Fell to Earth best fits into the “cult film” category. As is the case with most cult films, this one has also been unable to conquer the majority of mainstream moviegoers. And, truthfully, it’s not hard to see why – from a strictly objective and analytic perspective, Man Who Fell to Earth is deeply flawed. The plot is full of holes and non-sequiturs, the writing is often cheesy and the premise itself is preposterous.

Why it deserves better: Despite its lack of mainstream appeal or critical acclaim, this film still has a relatively large and fiercely loyal fanbase. What is it, then, that these people love so much about it?

Nicolas Roeg may be the director, but it is clear right away that this is a product of David Bowie’s twisted, idiosyncratic vision. Much like the mythology of Ziggy Stardust, Man Who Fell to Earth is a piece of art that is designed to strike you on a different level; one that disregards conventional rules of storytelling in order to transcend into a psychedelic sensory realm.

It’s not supposed to be logical or implicative, it is meant to be vague and slightly distant, but immediate.

 

5. Mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017)

Synopsis: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

Why it’s rated so low: After the bust of 2014’s Noah, Darren Aronofsky was expected to bounce back with his highly ambitious seventh feature-length, but Mother! didn’t exactly land as well as he had hoped.

Aside from the controversies caused by its heavy use of biblical imagery and symbolism, the film simply failed to captivate the attention of a large part of its viewers. Mother! is an allegory driven beyond the point of absurdism, becoming a self-indulgent work of l’art pour l’art in the process. Such projects, if executed correctly, can connect with wider audiences but that was not the case with this movie. Audiences often found it pretentious, megalomaniac and cringeworthy.

Why it deserves better: Many of the complaints about this picture are well-based and have good points, but Mother! still can be worth a couple hours of your time, if only to see what all the fuss is about.

Aronofsky is a stylish filmmaker and his knack for finding beautiful color palettes and pacing the progress of the story really shine through here. He manages to create a certain artificial suspense that is unsettling in the most interesting of ways. Plus, the performances of the cast are simply flawless, as Jennifer Lawrence succeeds in nuancing her usually flamboyant style and Javier Bardem proves once again that he is a masterful actor.

The 10 Best Movies Where The Day Repeats Itself

Ever had déjà vu? What if it was just that you were stuck in a time loop repeating the same day?… Yes, probably not but that is the case in these movies. The repeating day narrative has been a staple of cinema in the modern era.

Perhaps even more so, the unique brand of storytelling has been extremely prolific in television in recent years. Its popularity may stem from its familiarity and the novelty of the structure of these types of stories, with the protagonist first coming to terms with the phenomena then embracing it in an often entertaining way. Or maybe we enjoy it because it presents a type of escapism where we can envisage ourselves in these situations and revel in the opportunity to right past wrongs and regrets.

Recently, the “repeating day” narrative mode has been embraced by genre films, with horror and sci-fi in particular making good use of its confined plotting. Its fantasy nature lends itself suitably to fantasy genres where the extraordinary is showcased. The limitations of the genre also allows for the nurturing of pure creativity – as the plot is restricted in where it can go, the challenge is to create interesting and new variables in each loop. For screenwriters, it is the kind of narrative that allows for practice and growth.

So, without further ado here are our choices for the 10 best films where the day repeats itself.

 

10. Triangle

A British-Australian co-production, Triangle tells the story of a group friends stranded at sea who become trapped in a time-loop aboard a mysterious ocean liner. In the often adopted approach amongst the types of films that contain a time-loop narrative, Triangle begins mid loop, as the events of the future begin to influence and shape the very circumstances that birthed them.

Typically, the film is a mind-bending take on the narrative trope and it uses the clever twist to create an original mystery tale that is hard to predict. Whilst there are many like it out there, what makes Triangle stand out is how it slowly reveals its plot, draws out the tension and revels in the mischief it creates.

 

9. Happy Death Day

Happy Death Day

Released just this year, Happy Death Day marries the slasher flick with Groundhog Day, with the story of a college girl trapped in a time loop in which a mask killer ultimately murders her. The film follows the same narrative beats as Groundhog Day with protagonist, Tree (Jessica Rothe), first trying to establish what is happening, then convince others, before finally embracing it to right herr wrongs and reach her goal.

Where the film excels is in how it adds the kind of twists common to the horror genre and reveals them via the time loop narrative. Whilst the twists themselves aren’t particular impactful, how they interact with the narrative is. This marriage of filmmaking techniques helps bolster an otherwise unoriginal story to something carrying a little more intrigue.

 

8. Stork Day

Stork Day

Stork Day is an Italian take on the genre that adopts the comedic approach of Groundhog Day. The film focuses on an Italian TV star, Filippo (Antonia Albanese), who is in Tenerife to shoot a nature documentary about native storks. After his ferry fails to leave the island, he finds himself repeating the day over and over. Sound familiar?

Stork Day is an Italian depiction of Groundhog Day and this is a fact the film doesn’t try to hide. Whilst certainly flawed, and in no way resembling anything original, the film does make for an interesting experiment in cinema. With an American story told through an Italian lens, Stork Day presents an opportunity to see how two unique nations interpret the same story.

 

7. ARQ

ARQ

ARQ is another science fiction twist on this brilliant narrative technique. The film plays out like a mystery with each new loop revealing a new clue to what’s really happening whilst also plunging the viewer deeper into confusion. Starring handsome-man Robbie Amell as brilliant engineer, Renton, in a post-apocalyptic future in which energy resources are all but scarce.

The film opens with Renton and his ex-girlfriend experiencing a home invasion when Renton tries to escape he is killed only to wake up alive moments before the home invasion. As the film progresses it becomes clear that Renton has invented a machine that causes a time loop, of which he and the home invaders find themselves stuck in. This is all thanks to a clever machine built by Renton, the ARQ, which may be the reason for the home invasion in the first place.

 

6. Source Code

Source-Code-Michelle-Monaghan

Source Code is Duncan Jones’ ambitious follow-up to his smash hit debut Moon. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, the film centers on a Chicago train, and the commuters aboard it, that falls victim to a terrorist attack. Gyllenhaal plays Captain Colter Stevens, an army pilot who is sent to try and figure out who committed the attack. To do this his consciousness is transplanted into the body of a schoolteacher, Sean, who died in the explosion. Embodying Sean, Colter relives the final minutes of the teacher’s life over and over again.

The film adds a new twist to the “repeating day” genre by adding in a terror attack and the narrative framing of being inside a dead man’s memory. The film is elevated another level when Colter takes on the added task of trying to stop the event ever happening. This one plays with the mind on so many levels and whilst it is certainly flawed it has fun with its concept in an invitingly fresh way.

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10 Movies From 2017 That Have The Potential To Be Future Cult Favorites

For various reasons, movies don’t always get the attention they deserve. Whether they bomb at the box office or underperform critically, not every movie is destined to be a classic. In some cases, a miracle happens. People decide that the critics were wrong all along or people finally get around to watching that movie everybody missed when it first came out. Without small but dedicated fan bases, movies like Donnie Darko, Eraserhead, and Super Troopers would fade into obscurity.

With that in mind, this list is going to look at ten movies that have the potential to become cult classics. For some reason, the movies listed all lack the mainstream appeal to push them into future classic territory. However, they have potential to become cult classics for various reasons. Whether it’s due to their quirky nature or intellectual maturity, these movies all show signs that they can (and hopefully will) earn a dedicated audience.

 

10. Colossal

Colossal

Colossal misses the mark in terms of accurate marketing. It’s not a monster movie but rather an oddly melancholy look at alcoholism and mental illness. It instead chooses to use the “colossal” monster as some type of allegory. Some folks will love it while others will immediately want their money back. Including a giant movie monster in a movie generally means that large-scale brawls are going to happen. Colossal takes a decidedly different approach. Does it work? Absolutely. Is everyone going to love it? Not a chance.

Aside from the incredibly strong cast, Colossal works precisely because it puts the monster in the background. This isn’t a monster movie as much as it is a drama that happens to have giant kaiju monsters in it. The concept is already pretty strange. Anne Hathaway controls a giant monster from a different country without even knowing how. The way it’s approached is even weirder. It’s more about her relationship with other people and herself rather than her hilarious predicament. It’s freaking brilliant, but it’s even stranger than most people could’ve imagined.

 

9. Buster’s Mal Heart

Wikipedia describes Buster’s Mal Heart as a “surreal mystery film,” and that couldn’t be more accurate. Calling this movie surreal is an understatement. It’s both stylistically and narratively weird as hell. The visuals immediately hook you, but it’s the thought-provoking ideas and Rami Malek’s phenomenal performance that keep you watching. If you can handle the film’s confident surrealism, you’ll be properly rewarded.

A good chunk of these films are present on this list because they’re too strange for mainstream audiences. Buster’s Mal Heart is no exception. In fact, it’s one of the oddest movies on the list. This is because every single aspect of the movie is downright strange. From the visuals to the structure, this is a movie that tries to outweird itself at every turn. Lucky for everyone involved, it mostly succeeds. The big ideas sometimes get buried beneath the quirkiness, but all in all this is a movie that’s different for all the right reasons.

 

8. Dave Made a Maze

Dave Made a Maze

Dave Made a Maze was practically designed to be a cult classic. The premise, which revolves around a man getting lost in an elaborate cardboard labyrinth, is the kind of quirky setup that’s just brilliant enough to work. It’s also the kind of quirky setup that’s too surreal for the average viewer. The inclusion of eccentric comedian Nick Thune as the lead only further proves that this movie is tailor-made for the hipster crowd.

For the most part, it’s just crazy enough to work. Admittedly, Dave Made a Maze would probably be more effective as a short film. It nearly wears out its thin premise several times throughout the fairly short runtime. Luckily, there are just enough solid jokes to make the journey worth it. The dialog is what makes the movie so watchable because the plot unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. The good news is that the dialog is so entertaining that it’s fairly easy to forgive the overly simplistic plot. Sure, the movie can be a little simplistic, but it’s always fun.

 

7. A Ghost Story

David Lowery’s supernatural drama filmed on a shoestring budget is deceptively simple. The minimalist approach to storytelling is bound to puzzle certain viewers. After all, the film’s title certainly doesn’t paint it as a meditation on loss. It’s no wonder certain people were left confused by the time the credits rolled. That being said, those who had the patience to embrace something a little different were rewarded with one of the most inventive movies of the year.

A Ghost Story is a cinephile’s film through-and-through. The movie throws numerous thought-provoking themes into one small package in an attempt to leave a strong lasting impression on viewers. It’s not entertaining in the traditional sense, but it’s definitely rewarding for people who don’t immediately dismiss it as boring or pretentious. Let it be perfectly clear that it’s not either of those things. The big ideas presented are legitimately intelligent. More importantly, they leave viewers with just as many questions as answers.

As always, Mara and Affleck are top-notch, but they’re not the reason to stick around. A Ghost Story works because it has so much to say. It doesn’t explicitly flash its message in big bold letters, and that’s why it works so well. The film succeeds because of its subtle approach to topics like loss and love. It’s not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not brilliant.

 

6. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

the-killing-of-a-sacred-deer-trailer-social

It’s hard to find a filmmaker as eccentric as Yorgos Lanthimos, who essentially creates films with the purpose of creating cult classics. The Lobster and Dogtooth are so gleefully out-of-the-ordinary that mainstream filmgoers wisely avoided watching them. The more blockbuster-focused movie-lovers that did get a taste of his unusual movies often found them to be too idiosyncratic to be remotely enjoyable.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is no exception. Fortunately for fans of Lanthimos, the quirky director has yet to sell out in an attempt to appeal to the masses. Though the trailer may paint it as a by-the-numbers horror movie about a surgeon, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is actually far from your average movie. It’s hard to talk about the movie without giving away too much, especially since this is far more enjoyable for people who choose to go in blind. With that in mind, audiences should only go in knowing that everything happens for a reason. If the dialogue ever seems pointless, it clears itself up shortly after.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer, like everything Lanthimos touches, is incapable of appealing to to everyone. Lanthimos has an audience in mind, and he chooses to make a film specifically for that audience. The target audience will fall in love with the unusual performances, over-the-top violence, and wild plot twists. Others will likely leave the movie scratching their heads. Still, this is a profound movie for those willing to embrace all the nonsense.

10 Movie Directors Who Make The Most Controversial Films

What defines a filmmaker as ‘controversial’? Certainly there are several directors that coast off the slogan that “no press is bad press” and do their best to stir the pot for shallow or promotional reasons (e.g. Tom Six), but to be a true ‘provocateur’ there needs to be substance behind the button pushing.

Other elements can come into to play (e.g. D.W. Griffith’s pro-KKK mentality), but the majority criteria for this article focuses on filmmakers that stand as unflappable personalities with uncompromisable visions, ones that don’t sit well with standard movie conventions. With that philosophy, it has them enter a place where that body of work that can’t be loved by all of the media or all viewers.

 

10. Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini

After a haphazard youth living through the fascist regime of World War II Italy, Pier Paolo Pasolini grew into a visible anti-establishment poet, who also was openly homosual and shared strong Communist beliefs – all elements that made him a controversial persona in a sensitive time in the country’s history.

Still, it wasn’t until the man became a film director that he truly made waves on a major scale. His debut film “Accattone” (1961) was set in Rome’s grimy slums, filled with the dark underbelly of Italy’s postwar criminals and survivors; the film caused a stir with its unfiltered portrayal of life in a time when the country was attempting to turn its economic tides and sell a positive outlook.

Later, Pasolini’s short movie “La Ricotta” had the government try him for “offences toward the state and church” – it appeared even this early into his career, a target was on the man’s back. He had garnered an aura of a man who was willing to overturn and examine Italian society via visual metaphor, hyperrealism, or by elaborating literary adaptations with a fearlessness that other filmmakers would buckle under. Sadly, this flamboyant rep followed him until his tragic and brutal murder in 1975, a crime that remains still not fully solved.

Most Controversial Movie: “Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom” (1975) is a rough-edged shocker oddly coupled with whip-crack intelligence – it’s a film that has lost none of its power (or controversy) to this day. Pasolini’s final film before his death, the movie deals with the dicey issues of a rich feudal system and its fascist-like grip on Italian society during the Franco regime.

Adapted and reimagined from Marquis de Sade’s tomb of sleaze, the story features a group of wealthy folk abducting 12 teenage boys and girls and subjecting them to torture or rape, and ultimately murder; it’s all an elaborate and loaded metaphor, but it doesn’t make it an easier movie to watch despite the intellect behind it.

Understandably, the movie caused quite a stir, exposing a scab that the country’s government wished to forget; its rough content also had it banned outright in several countries, with only the sentence being overturned in places like Australia in recent times. It’s a grim last note to leave on Pasolini’s fascinating if controversial existence, yet strangely enough this gut punch of a movie has remained his most remembered and celebrated movie for a erratic career.

 

9. Larry Clark

Larry Clark had garnered a major pedigree as photographer over the course of two decades by documenting a rough and tumble existence as a drug-addled youth. He made the natural transition to filmmaking in the mid-90s with “Kids” (1995), a film that laid down his precedent for an unfiltered and shocking brand of cinema to which he lay claim.

Focused around young New York teens living a haphazard delinquent existence amidst a whirlwind of s, drugs and violence, its grainy documentary style and unprofessional actors only helped add to the grim believability of a movie that divided audiences and shook up the cinema world.

Several more similar films followed (“Bully,” “Wassup Rockers”) with Clark placing a stamp on a specific type of cinema that unveiled an ugly underbelly of youth culture to which most viewers want to play ignorant. Yet Clark has also come under fire for being an exploiter of his young actors, with the public split regarding whether his films are all shock and not much substance.

Whatever the stance, it doesn’t help that the man himself is a tough and abrasive person, one who has admittedly struggled with drug addiction, not to mention has been know for a heated, and at times, physically abrasive temper.

Most Controversial Movie: Clark’s filmography is certainly ripe for picking when it comes this category, but due to the insane fallout “Ken Park” (2002) created, it easily take the spot here. Focused on Clark’s usual penchant for tough living youths, the film also featured unsimulated s scenes featuring underage teens.

It was unable to land distribution in the US after an unfavourable festival screening and it was outright banned in Australia, even threatening instigators of an unauthorised screening with jail time. Also, its UK distribution was pulled due to an argument that got physical between Clark and his distributor, which ended with the director punching and strangling said associate.

 

8. Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone

Having lived a life as erratic and colourful as his boisterous film career, Oliver Stone grew up in a privileged New York existence before volunteering as a soldier during the Vietnam War. Returning home and being disillusioned with the state of America, he cut his teeth as a successful screenwriter, tackling important subjects by writing the (now considered) seminal remake of “Scarface” (1983), and winning an Oscar for “Midnight Express” (1978).

Stone stepped up to directing with some forgettable genre movies before leaning on his own life experiences with “Platoon” (1986) and “Wall Street” (1987), which sent him straight to the A-list. With his new found pedigree and brain filled with distinct and blunt options on everything from who really killed President Kennedy (“JFK”) to the spiralling madness behind rock star fame (“The Doors”), Stone soon etched a name out as a man with an opinion that left critics and audiences polarised.

In recent years, his bite might’ve softened slightly (e.g. his 9/11 movie “World Trade Center” completely exercised any conspiracy theory hubbub to focus on the human drama instead), yet last year’s “Snowden” still proved he wasn’t afraid to pick up a ‘hot potato’ subject and give it a thorough examination underneath a opinionated microscope.

Most Controversial Movie: Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” (1994) was the most controversial film of the 90s, let alone his career. Based on a pre-fame screenplay by Quentin Tarantino that played as homage to Grindhouse’s obsession with killer couples on the road, when Stone stepped on board as director, the shockingly violent movie also took on an entirely different angle – it added dark satire to the mix, focusing on the media obsession with sensationalism for higher ratings.

Stone’s thesis that the horrendous killers (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) obtained a purity and honesty that was lacking in a shallow society was a tough pill to swallow for most – especially in said ultra-PC decade. The movie and Stone were crucified in the press as a go-to-scapegoat in the years to follow (e.g. the ‘Columbine Massacre’ was NBK’s fault etc.).

 

7. Ken Russell

Ken Russell

Ken Russell was solely responsible for shaking up the British film industry throughout the 70s. Amidst a flood of social message ‘kitchen sink’ movies during the time, this individual thinker made hybrid movies that felt like Antonioni and Cronenberg’s illegitimate love children.

From the Oscar winning “Women in Love” (1969) to his bridge-burning US debut “Altered States” (1980), Russell had created a strong and bulletproof run of provoking and boundary-pushing classics that sadly (due to his boisterous reputation and tough attitude) had the quality and creative freedom considerably dwindle before his death in 2011.

His visual finesse and thematic fearlessness were features that earned him a loyal following, yet his obsessive disdain for religion and the Church in general sent him into several problems over the years, and had him written off as shallow sensualist amongst several critics, where s and violence were unnecessarily thrown at audiences for his juvenile satisfaction.

That verdict could easily fall on his later lesser work, yet in his golden period Russell’s passionate filmmaking matched with a subtle intelligence really can’t be written off as adolescent fluff, regardless of the uneasy themes and formats it so heartily explores.

Most Controversial Movie: By far the most uproar Russell created is with the movie that many call his masterpiece “The Devils” (1971) – a movie where even reading the synopsis will get most churchgoers red-faced. It’s an angry and gripping experience that pulls no punches in exploring its grim and devastating tale that shocks the most with Russell’s trademark hallucinatory imagery and raw metaphors, coupled with career bests from Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave.

Naturally, of course the film caused a proverbial crap storm on release – even after substantial cuts were made by Russell and the studio itself, it was still released with an X rating in the UK, and was completely banned in Italy (with the Government even threatening jail time to Reed and Redgrave if they entered the country). Only in recent times has a partially restored cut enjoyed a release on DVD. Over the years more minutes of missing footage were found, yet the studio refused to pay for a proper restoration due to the adamant controversy that still follows the picture to this day.

 

6. Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl

In terms of gaining a controversial reputation, no matter which field of career you’re in, being a Nazi sympathiser easily sits at the top of the heap when it comes to unfavourable perceptions. Well, so is the story of one of film’s first major female directors, Leni Riefenstahl.

Having become a prominent German film actress during the 1920s, Riefenstahl stepped up to directing in the 30s when several prolific film directors in said industry had started to flee to Hollywood because of the country’s growing unrest. The woman stayed in steed and began to development a working relationship with Adolf Hitler himself, becoming his most celebrated propaganda director.

She created “Triumph of the Will” (1935) a ode to, well, the Nazi party and Hitler himself, yet filmed in such epic and groundbreaking style that regardless of its disturbing purpose and undercurrent, film scholars still hold it as a technically revolutionary movie. This reputation was only further cemented with her “Olympia” (1938) double bill, her groundbreaking documentation of the 1936 Summer Olympics which began to give her an international reputation.

Yet, once the ugly undercurrent of actual doings of the Nazi party began to emerge internationally in the late 1930s, Riefenstahl’s name was tarnished and so was her momentum. Scholars have remained split over her reputation ever since – some laying claim to the technical innovation her work did for the medium, and some unable to ignore the politics behind the films.

Most Controversial Movie: Yes, this is an easy choice – “Triumph of the Will,” no further explanation necessary really.

10 Great Movies That Are Uncomfortable To Watch

Much of mainstream cinema can seem like it’s created too carefully so as not to upset its audience: the narratives too clear, the plot easily resolved, the images inoffensive, and the subject matter stale.

We often aren’t challenged by such works and never have to leave our comfort zone. This is why it’s vital when filmmakers create works of certain difficulty, films which test their audience. Whether it be the ideas portrayed or the images presented, uncomfortable films shouldn’t be automatically recoiled from but commended and considered.

For the films on this list have been chosen because their greatness transcends their difficult surface; if one commits to what they’re witnessing then there’s cinematic quality to be found after the challenge.

 

1. Hunger

Bobby Sands in Hunger

Steve McQueen was a noted visual artist who transferred his talents to cinema with his debut feature Hunger (2008), a historical drama about the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. Michael Fassbender plays the freedom fighter Bobby Sands, who led the IRA hunger strike to regain political prisoner status after it had been revoked by the British government. The conditions for the prisoners in the Maze prison were horrific and McQueen doesn’t spare his audience from the true state of life inside: we see beatings conducted merely to cut each prisoner’s hair; the prisoners use their own feces to flood the prison corridors.

For a large part portion of the film, the narrative is secondary to our complete immersion in a disturbing actuality of the prisoners’ terrible circumstances. Many scenes are difficult to face in their brutal honesty. At one point, the n prisoners are harassed, as one line, through a barrage of club-wielding policemen in full riot gear, before one of the policeman explodes out of revulsion and disgust at what he’s just witnessed and enforced.

It’s a prison film of the rawest order. It’s also an impressive art picture, without ever detracting from the events and story. There are beautiful scenes of cold majesty, a balancing of the brutality shown elsewhere. Hunger also gains importance through another act of balance, in its representation of not just the oppressed but the oppressor too; indeed, the film surprisingly opens on one of the Maze prison guards, as he prepares for another torturous day at work.

Those unfortunately tasked with keeping order are humanised, as we see them upset by what they witness, frustrated by their chosen lives. While it’s clearly a film that takes a side – Sands and the oppressed prisoners are the obvious victims who we empathise with – it’s a tremendous and delicate touch to offer humanity to others in the picture.

Hunger, amidst the often-silent beauty of its haunting sequences, has a theatrically long conversation between Sands and a priest which is given extra credence due to its placement and distinguishability. In it, the prisoner outlines his thoughts on life, death, his cause, his friends and their fight. It’s a masterful acting performance by Fassbender and is a perfect summation of McQueen’s film: in the end, it’s not just about the political rights or wrongs of the British in Ireland, but about human beings, ready to give their bodies to a cause they believe in above anything else.

 

2. Antichrist

antichrist

Lars von Trier is perhaps the filmmaker on this list who tortures and goads his audience most consistently: each of his films feels like a ferocious emanation from his own twisted and depressed psyche. Indeed, Antichrist (2009) came to fruition in the middle of a deep depressive period for the director, which he admits openly; it also forms the first part of his unofficial ‘Depression Trilogy’, followed by Melancholia (2011) and Nymphomaniac (2013).

It follows a couple, played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who retreat to a cabin in the woods in response to the tragic death of their only child. It’s not long before the man, referred to as He, and the woman, referred to as She, succumb to strange visions and violent behaviour in trying to deal with their blackening grief. Antichrist was greeted with loud and unanimous jeers upon presentation at Cannes, and it’s not difficult to understand why, for it’s a horrific film in many ways.

There are numerous deeply graphic scenes of both torture (genital mutilation features) and s as von Trier spares nothing in his commitment to unleashing his nightmarish scenario. If the viewer doesn’t fully give themselves to the experience, much the same way that the two lead actors do, then the film can be overly repellent.

The sense when watching a von Trier film such as this is of a man making films about what he knows; clearly, he is a person who intimately knows mental illness. That’s why the visceral Antichrist can resonate: grief and depression are never easy to contend with and can leave the sufferer feeling alienated or dislocated. If we were to venture to this wooded Eden to deal with our demons, it’s unclear if we’d make it out the other side either.

There have been many readings of the film, largely depending on the viewers’ own personality or background (accusations of misogyny and ideas of psychology are frequently cited), but what can be agreed on is that von Trier has executed a singular vision in Antichrist: it’s a rare film that feels like it wholly came from the dark realms of its creator’s mind, without interference or influence. Antichrist will provoke, it will madden, but in its contending with a tormented soul, it has much to merit. Rather von Trier venture to such places than you or anyone you know.

 

3. Au Hasard Balthazar

Au Hasard Balthazar

Au hasard Balthazar (1966) is often cited as Robert Bresson’s supreme masterpiece, and with good reason. It’s a profoundly emotional and perfectly realised piece by a director in complete control of his ideas and abilities. It’s also, however, a difficult watch for any person, or should be at least. Inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot, the film follows the life and death of a donkey in France. The donkey has many owners, most of whom treat him terribly.

The film is formed in Bresson’s idiosyncratic, ascetic style; everything is pared back, leaving only the bare necessities. This code heightens the uncomfortable viewing experience, for there is nothing to distract the viewer from the intense and unapologetic suffering of the donkey. By resisting appeasing his audience, the inhumanity of humanity is all too clear.

This, conversely, is what also makes Au hasard Balthazar an immense experience: Bresson’s stripping off his narrative forces us to contend with the wicked nature of humanity in the symbolic abuse of this helpless animal. The film never allows for respite and it builds to its overwhelming final scene, a deeply affecting image that seems sadly befitting of what’s transpired before it.

Jean-Luc Godard said that this film was like the world in an hour and a half, and this description seems right. The helpless, innocent donkey, as he is beaten mercilessly and made victim to everyone’s wickedness, ends up symbolising something much more than a simple animal: the donkey is life on earth, which Bresson maintains is one of constant suffering and misery.

Au hasard Balthazar should make one recoil at what they witness on screen, even recoil from the person sitting beside them when viewing it; the donkey is never saved from his fate and Bresson indicates that we shouldn’t be either.

 

4. Funny Games

Funny Games (1997) is not a film in any sense one is familiar with; it’s more like an imagining of an ethical viewpoint, a visual essay regarding its creator’s ideals. Michael Haneke’s film is a critique of violence (outlined in his essay ‘Violence + Media’) and is, while ostensibly a suspenseful thriller film, is an act of intellectual grandstanding in what amounts to a profound yet pointless exercise.

The plot follows two young men holding an affluent Austrian family hostage in their lakeside summer home, where they slowly torture them with sadistic games. Funny Games is extremely violent and provoked much outrage from critics and audiences. It’s a relentless experience, all engineered by Haneke in pursuit of his mission statement. He believed that the prevalence of violence in media had essentially desensitised modern society, rendering people completely numb to shocking and terrible images.

We can view the killers’, then, as being examples of such people: they commit these atrocities because they ultimately mean nothing to them. They, Peter and Paul, frequently refer to each other as Beavis and Butt-Head, an allusion to the cartoon idiots obsessed with violence. Once the viewer starts to comprehend what Haneke’s portraying, it becomes hard to wrestle oneself out of the uncomfortable experience.

Haneke teases and taunts his audience, implying that the suffering they’re privy to in Funny Games is of their own doing; it’s our appetite for violence that has to be satiated, as it always has been.

The film frequently blurs the line between fiction and reality. For instance, Paul often breaks the fourth wall to comment on the unfolding action: when he sends the wife, Anna, to look for her dead dog, he turns and winks to the camera; when he asks the family to bet on their own survival, he asks the audience whether they will bet as well.

Then when it seems like the viewer will find a moment of respite, it’s immediately snatched away: when the wife, Anna, successfully shoots Peter, at a hopeful turning point in which she will now escape, Paul uses a remote control to rewind the film itself to eliminate her action. In the end, all three of their captives die.

Funny Games is a complete subversive act, Haneke’s twist on the typical American slasher films. He called it an anti-Tarantino film, for this director’s propensity for overblown violence is what he’s rallying against. It’s a cruel experience but perhaps a necessary one; Haneke’s film certainly provokes outrage but it should equally gain admiration.

 

5. Requiem For A Dream

requiem_for_a_dream

Often mentioned when discussions of the most difficult films of the 21st century arises, Requiem for a Dream (2000) is a drug film presented in a realistic way. Based on the excellent novel of the same name by Hubert Selby Jr (who co-wrote the screenplay), Darren Aronofsky’s film is an unflinching portrait of lives disrupted by drug abuse.

The director puts his filmic techniques to use in presenting life with intense addiction: he uses extremely short shots throughout, mirroring the characters’ desperate search for escape from their predicaments. Other stylistic choices like time-lapse photography and split-screen enhance the claustrophobic nature of the proceedings. The camera also serves to explore the characters’ state of mind under the influence of drugs, when time is disrupted and reality is distorted.

Much of the discomfort of watching Requiem for a Dream comes from the realism of the piece: there is no romanticizing of the characters’ lives to distance the viewer. Most viewers, as they watch the awful decline of the characters, will be able to empathise through understanding and knowledge; addiction, in whatever form it takes, is universal. The inclusion of Sara’s story is key, because it shows the ubiquity of addiction.

The experience of using heroin, mostly inaccessible to the common viewer, isn’t as representative as succumbing to diet pills, like Sara does and so many do. The greatness of Aronofsky’s achievement is in highlighting the people behind the drugs. We see their fragile mental states and understand that they are no different to us essentially. The film, in showing people with normal dreams and ambitions, unfortunately waylaid by addictions, makes for a relatable experience. It might be a film that can only be viewed once, but that one time will make for an intensely moving experience.

10 Great Thrillers That Are Both Erotic and Philosophical

Philosophy isn’t always considered the most erotic subject. While not exactly equipped with the best pick-up lines, philosophers have a long history of interest in the erotic. According to Plato, philosophy has much in common with the erotic, directing us toward an appreciation of beauty and goodness. In order to heighten an erotic philosophical relationship, Socrates in Plato’s symposium warns that s shouldn’t take place. Philosophers have therefore had a long interest in sual attraction but not always viewing the erotic in a wholly positive light.

Epicurus, despite the reputations of epicures and Epicureans, for instance, believed s could be the cause of dangerous obsession and its absence generated pain—s should be avoided. And Arthur Schopenhauer viewed our instinct toward s as blinding and getting in the way of truth. Friedrich Nietzsche had a different view, seeing philosophy as denying any thrill to life, and instead wanted a philosophy tied to health, physicality, art and triumph. (He was a great admirer of s, if not a practitioner.)

The films on this list explore the way s is linked to metaphysics and the search for truth but also how it can obscure truth. Some of the films are only notionally thrillers or erotic and it is hardly surprising that art cinema has the reputation for nudity and overly portentous and some might say pretentious philosophical dialogue. However, all of these films incorporate elements of the erotic and of thrillers, however deconstructed, and some obviously belong as erotic thrillers or thrillers exploring the erotic.

 

10. Nymphomaniac (director’s cut, both volumes)

Lars von Trier’s controversial film used the actors’ come-faces as advertisements but the film itself (released in two parts) is about Joe’s failure to find a sense of fulfilment signified by her inability to orgasm. Her quest is more than a physical addiction: there’s something almost theological about it. sual yearning is framed as an expression of incompleteness, hence Joe’s tragic and desperate pleading to her past lover Jerôme, “fill all my holes.”

The idea that the self is broken and needs another to find erotic fulfilment is explored in Plato’s Symposium and it is a theme also explored in German Romantic philosophy such as Hölderlin’s and Schelling’s analyses of the yearning, incomplete subject. The theological and aesthetic dimensions of Joe’s suffering are likened in the film to Odin hanging on the tree of life and her inability to achieve orgasm is compared to an incomplete polyphony. With references such as these, there is a strong sense that the film shares a German Romantic interest in the Empedoclean themes of love and strife.

Moreover, the film is structured around a dialogue between Joe and her new, apparently asual friend, Seligman. Together they discuss philosophical issues such as whether a human being can be innately evil, or whether abortion is right, as well as examining the nature of s and of humanity.

Although not necessarily a thriller, the film contains many tropes associated with the genre and directly appropriates thriller conventions in the opening and closing of the film.

If you enjoyed Nymphomaniac you may also enjoy Romance X by Catherine Breillat and Ma Mère by Christophe Honoré. Decidedly more French existentialist than German Romantic, Romance X follows a woman committed to exploring and creating a new sual self and in so doing challenging conventional sual morality. Ma Mère is the story of an erotic relationship between mother and son based on Georges Bataille’s story of the same name.

The film expands on Bataille’s idea that an immoralist has a distinct sense of morality, a commitment to experiences beyond what society would sanction and thereby to defy social hypocrisy. This film, like Romance X and Nymphomaniac, isn’t exactly a thriller as such, but explores the ethics of sual transgression.

 

9. It Follows

It Follows is not an erotic thriller in the usual sense: it isn’t Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct. Rather it has a touch of the erotic and the sensual in the beautiful cinematography inspired by Gregory Crewdson’s photography. At all times surprisingly tasteful for a film with a horror premise, the plot concerns a sort of philosophical thought experiment.

Thought experiments are used by ethical philosophers to delineate moral and ethical concerns through imagined hypothetical scenarios. If framed as a thought experiment, It Follows asks whether one can risk the life of another for one’s prolonged safety.

The plot concerns a supernatural entity that follows a young-adult after s and who is confronted with the unpalatable possibility that the only way to get rid of it is to sleep with another person. If she doesn’t sleep with another person and condemn him to her current fate, the supernatural entity will kill her. In this way, the film raises a fascinating ethical scenario as to whether it is right to risk another’s life to save one’s own.

The film also envisions fears around s and the idea that there is some sort of traumatic, destructive, abject quality to s that lurks in the human psyche. This dimension of the film almost invites a psychoanalytic reading. After all, the It of It Follows literally ses one to death in an abject, bone-breaking way.

 

8. Crash

Trailblazing psychoanalyst Sabine Spielrein asked a brilliant question in her paper, Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being. She pondered why if s is so pleasurable is it such a taboo subject and so often repressed. What about our own desires challenge us to invent customs and rituals that reduce, or sacralize s? She argued that our desire for s was in fact a desire to cease to exist and so we repressed s out of a sense of self-preservation.

s was necessary for generation, but generation and creation are linked, according to Spielrein, to destruction. Freud was influenced by Spielrein’s ideas in his own formulation of our drives toward death, but ultimately came to moderate her radical views. For Freud Eros and the death drive were still oppositional to some extent, but for Spielrein, erotic love always was connected to ceasing-to-exist.

Crash directed by David Cronenberg similarly examines the much-explored theme of the relationship between s and death. The film concerns people who get-off on car accidents and who realise that the best way to achieve orgasm is to come closer to death. Hence Cronenberg’s film, an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel of the same name, explores themes very similar to Spielrein’s work. Indeed, the character of Vaughan who loves to get into car accidents and bring like-minded people along for the ride/crash remarks that “there’s a benevolent psychopathology that beckons toward us.

For example, the car crash is a fertilising rather than a destructive event.” Spielrein herself suggested that self-dissolution could be framed as a yearning to return to the mother, expanding on the Oedipal complex. Interestingly, Cronenberg, who may not have been directly influenced by Spielrein for Crash, would directly feature Spielrein’s daring ideas in A Dangerous Method.

With terrific performances from James Spader and Deborah Kara Unger and a chilling portrayal of the sinister Vaughan by Elias Koteas, this film manages to be rather unsettling but also interesting on a conceptual level. Those who enjoyed the exploration of sadomasochism in Crash may also find Roman Polanksi’s Bitter Moon of interest or Venus in Fur.

 

7. Blow-Up

Blow-Up

Blow-Up is a film following a trendy photographer during London’s swinging 60s. The film was shocking in its day for featuring glimpses of female nudity though the film is rather tame by today’s standards. But there’s still an erotic charge in this supremely stylish film.

Observing a woman and a man together in a park, Thomas snaps a picture. The woman featured in the photograph attempts to get the roll of film off him. When he blows up the film he discovers that behind a bush there is the hand of a corpse. He finds the corpse but when he goes back to the park to photograph it, the corpse is gone and he will never know the truth of what happened.

On some level, this film examines epistemological questions as to whether we ever really know the world and its workings or whether we are taken in by illusion, which is to say nothing of the existential questions that are so apparent in all of Antonioni’s most notable films.

 

6. Eyes Wide Shut

According to the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, Eyes Wide Shut explores the idea that female desire threatens to overwhelm male desire. Featuring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, there is gossip that Kubrick’s obsessively-made film may even have broken the couple up. The narrative of the film features Cruise’s character, Bill Harford, desperately trying to experience life on an erotic level equal to his wife’s sual fantasy.

When after getting high, she tells him that she once imagined having an affair and describes the imagined affair with an intensity almost unimaginable to Bill, he becomes disconsolate. Such imagination challenges his understanding of fidelity and his own erotic sensibility, which is lacklustre in comparison to his wife’s. Indeed, the very fact that they had to get high to get in the mood, suggests the feebleness of his libido and a certain pretence. He searches the streets of New York looking for an experience to rival her imagination until he discovers an ornate orgy for the wealthy and powerful.

As Žižek points out, the orgy itself lacks any sense of the orgiastic. Perhaps, this lack of fun and pleasure reveals that s is very often a staged affair, lacking the vitality and even reality of our dreams and fantasies.

The film examines what is fidelity, while exploring some of the same themes as Blow-Up, where Bill never really knows what his wife felt nor is able to find out the exact meaning of the orgy he stumbled upon.

The 25 Best European Crime Movies of The Past 10 Years

best european crime movies

The history of crime movies is immensely ample, but unfortunately until today, this genre is treated as inferior, as the second category of cinema. It is so shocking that if we follow the evolution of the crime movies of the last 10 years, we can observe that this genre is changing, going beyond its rigid frame.

There are real artistic gems, where the directors create extremely interesting hybrids in which the criminal theme is the motive to give the viewer something more. Still, of course there are plenty of excellent pictures in which the most important is the answer to the age-old question: “whodunit?”

The list of the 25 best European crime movies from the last decade shows two issues, obviously not necessarily revealing: we can only use the concept of European cinema in a geographical context, as it is aesthetically an extremely diverse cinema.

Of course, the list could not miss the Scandinavian and English crime movies that are known around the world, but how does the crime cinema from Belgium, Poland or Bosnia look like? The second issue is that the list is intended to be eclectic; it can be found arthouse cinema, naturalistic movies, brutal prison movies, detective stories, or a cinema containing elements of the grotesque. They are connected by the fact that they are great crime movies.

 

25. Department Q: A Conspiracy of Faith (2016)

Department Q A Conspiracy of Faith (2016)

The list is opened by a Scandinavian detective movie directed by Hans Petter Moland. The sea throws a bottle onto the beach with a disturbing letter. The item goes to Section Q, a department of the Danish police dealing with unexplained cases from years ago. Detectives Carl Mørck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Assad (Fares Fares) suspect that the letter was written by an abducted child. His identity is soon determined. The boy came from a closed religious community and was kidnapped with his brother years ago.

The disappearance of the siblings was never reported, even though the kidnapper only returned one of the boys. It turns out that the event was not isolated, and recently there was another kidnapping, this time also covered up by intimidated parents. Detectives have little time to stop a fanatical murderer and save the children.

The third part of the detective from Section Q story is also the best part. This is a classic and well-executed crime story, according to proven genre patterns, but it does not detract from its class. The intrigue is extremely addictive, and the duo of Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Fares Fares is one of the best police duets in the last few years.

 

24. Schneider vs. Bax (2015)

Schneider vs. Bax

Schneider (Tom Dewispelaere), a contract killer, receives an important task from his boss on his birthday. The goal is Ramon Bax (Alex van Warmerdam), a writer who lives alone in an isolated place. By assuring that with luck he would come home before noon and be able to help his wife prepare for the evening dinner, Schneider accepts the order. However, the seemingly simple work turns out to be something more than he expected.

The film’s director is Alex van Warmerdam, who previously made the iconic “Borgman.” “Schneider vs. Bax” is one of the weirdest pictures on this list. It balances on the border of a crime story and a grotesque comedy. Over the years, the director has developed his own unmanageable aesthetics, and “Schneider vs. Bax” is the quintessence of his style. Playing with characteristic crime patterns, the creator draws the recipient into an absurd game.

 

23. The Man from London (2007)

The Man From London (2007)

Maloin is a man who no longer waits in his life. There are no perspectives; he is burned out, and he is surrounded by a gray, hopeless reality. He is invisible to the world around him, despite the fact that he has a wife and daughter, he always feels completely lonely. Once he becomes a witness to a murder, his life changes dramatically.

The famous Hungarian director Bela Tarr uses the form of a crime film to share his original vision regarding the nonsense of existence. He reaches for his corporate tricks, including the slow camera movement, which is a perfect reflection of the prevailing difficult atmosphere. “The Man from London” will appeal to fans of aesthetic and visual sensations.

 

22. A Prophet (2009)

prophet-un-prophete-NielsArestrup

Sentenced to six years in prison, a young Arab named Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) has no family, and can neither read nor write. After arriving in prison, he falls into the influence of the Corsican mafia led by Luciani (Niels Arestrup). Malik tempers and gains the trust of the mafia boss. Luciani then orders him to kill one of the prisoners. Malik learns and discreetly develops all his skills. His prestige is increasing.

“The Prophet” is a solid prison crime movie. The story shows the criminal school of life, and is built by the director from well-known genre schemes. Jacques Audiard does it so skillfully that “A Prophet” can surprise the viewer and keep them in suspense. The gangster world is stripped of sentimentality. Violence is always revolting, and a is crime terrifying regardless of motive. So let’s pay attention to the raw realism of the picture. “A Prophet” is a film devoid of embellishments, a cold depiction of the world of crime.

 

21. The Silence (2010)

The Silence

In July 1986, little Pia was raped and brutally murdered. The perpetrators have never been caught, though the face of the viewer appears. The story jumps 23 years forward to 2009, when 11-year-old Sinikka disappears without a trace. The circumstances of her disappearance lead the police to believe that the murderer has returned to do the same bestial deeds. A group of detectives is involved in the case, and everything from the side is observed by Pia’s mother and a man who is directly connected with the tragic event from the 1980s.

“The Silence” is an elegant crime story in which a lot of attention is paid to drawing a strong portrait of a community included in tragic events. At the same time, a complex intrigue is carefully developed. The movie characters are perfectly led, and Ulrich Thomsen and Wotan Wilke Möhring give a show of acting skills.

 

20. The Dark House (2009)

The Dark House (2009)

One rainy night, Edward Środoń (Arkadiusz Jakubik) appears accidentally in the house of a couple, the Dziabas (Kinga Preis and Marian Dziędziel). The initial distrust of the hosts gives way to traditional Polish hospitality. The newcomer does not even suppose how much this meeting will change his life. After several years, the investigation team begins the investigation in the same house. Edward Środoń is standing in the doorway again. This time his visit is not accidental – it is to help in the reconstruction of the mysterious events from four years ago.

“The Dark House” is a frightening, dark film. Some people accuse him of showing the characters too one-sidedly, showing only their bestiality. However, this is a conscious choice of the director Wojciech Smarzowski, who is primarily interested in the bestial side of human life and behavior. This approach gives rise to some dissonance in the viewer’s perception. The film also seems surrealistic and naturalistic at the same time. The climate of the film can be compared with some reservations to the works of the Coen brothers and “Bullhead,” directed by Michaël R. Roskam.

 

19. The Best Offer (2013)

Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) is an experienced, successful antique dealer. He leads a lonely existence among the luxuries of the canvases of the old masters and the beauty of the Italian palaces, sure that nothing will disturb his stabilized life and threaten deeply hidden secrets. The order from a mysterious young woman will start a series of events that will turn his ordered world upside down.

The film is an interesting combination of crime and melodrama. Tornatore creates a claustrophobic atmosphere to which the viewer must adapt with the protagonists. The film is a vivisection of one of the varieties of loneliness. Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush creates his character with unpretentious subtlety and at the same time expressiveness, drawing from his character hidden by the full passion.

 

18. The Revanche (2008)

revanche

Alex (Johannes Krisch) is a former prisoner who works as an assistant to the owner of one of the Viennese escort agencies. She secretly has an affair with Ukrainian prostitute Tamara (Irina Potapenko). A few hours from there, in the village where Alex’s father lives, police officer Robert (Andreas Lust) and saleswoman Susanne (Ursula Strauss) lead an idyllic rural life in which they lack only offspring. In a surprising way, their fates are intertwined.

The movie from Götz Spielmann combines elements of melodrama and crime. The film resembles Haneke’s cinema in its precision. The characters have to face a merciless fate, and the story refers somewhat to the dark tales of the Coen brothers and brilliant, cold aesthetics.

The 30 Best Movies of 2017

The bright lights in Tinseltown were especially revealing in 2017, not only displaying the cinematic spectacles that the motion picture industry is famous for but also, as the story of the year boldly blazons, but avowing the predators who have toiled there for too long.

With the gender balance being bravely argued it is with joy that a suiting Hollywood ending be reflected in Taste of Cinema’s year end roundup. So many of our favorite films from 2017 feature brilliant women either in front of the lens or behind it –– from Wonder Woman to Rumble to Lady Macbeth to Lady Bird to Faces Places to The Beguiled –– what phenomenal females!

Beyond that, just a cursory glance at the titles assembled here in our 30 Best Movies of 2017 (and do please note that narrowing the titles down to a workable 30 titles was no small feat –– I cringe at the many worthy films that didn’t make the cut, and a lengthy Honorable Mentions section aims to tow the line) shows a wonderful and wide-ranging miscellany.

The auteur is alive and well, arthouse and blockbusters are plentiful, documentary films are on fire, genre films are stronger than ever, and let’s just echo it all once more for posterity: female-led projects are popular, bankable, and breathtaking, as are strong women characters.

Without further ado, let the roundup commence, and in 2018 let’s catch up in the queue and compare notes, shall we? Enjoy!

 

30. The Beguiled

“I loved the sual repression under the high lacy collars in the heat of the South, and how under all the melodrama, there were themes I could relate to about the power struggle between men and women,” writes director Sofia Coppola in the LA Times of her award-winning film, The Beguiled, adding: “…I loved that the story was about hierarchies in groups of women, something I’ve looked at with my earlier work.”

Ostensibly both a remake of the Southern Gothic erotic thriller by Don Siegel from 1971 and also an adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 novel “A Painted Devil”, Coppola (who also wrote the screenplay and won the Best Director Award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival) smartly and slowly unravels her tale via the female gaze in a film that, if one is patient with it, slowly pulls you under its sunlit and fainéant spell.

Set in Virginia during the Civil War, The Beguiled finds the desperate Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), an injured Union soldier and a deserter seeking refuge at an all-female Southern boarding school. Here the teachers, led by Miss Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) and students (including Elle Fanning and Angourie Rice) seem more than willing to help and soon, sual tensions give way to dangerous rivalries in a film that so often, even surreally, moves and swirls like a subjugated fairy tale.

 

29. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Writer-director Rian Johnson delivers a Star Wars film that is everything a blockbuster should be; exciting, unpredictable, and above all, fun. The Last Jedi builds greatly upon 2015’s The Force Awakens, and as we’re brought up to speed with iconic Jedi du jour Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the young and Force-friendly Rey (Daisy Ridley) some awkward humor and winning one-liners (Rey quips to Luke, trying to get his tutelage “I’ve seen your schedule, you’re not busy!”), and some pervasive porgs, Johnson also gives us the best directed film in the franchise to date.

We’ve finally gotten a Star Wars film with an auteur’s tenor (and Johnson’s use of red really resonates), and not only that but The Last Jedi hosts a bevy of badass women being smart, solving problems, kicking ass, and taking names (the aforementioned Ridley is joined by the likes of Gwendoline Christie, Laura Dern Lupita Nyong’o, Kelly Marie Tran, and a stunning final bow from Carrie Fisher each memorably offset the testosterone). Also we get a beefcake moment from Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, as he becomes the most fascinating and complex villain from far, far away.

The Last Jedi also has perhaps the best lightsaber battles yet, some fan service that doesn’t overly distract (Chewbacca has some very funny and fist-pumping scenes, and Yoda even gets a good line and a fine cameo, too), a real emotional punch and at least two epic space battles. This is a genre fan’s delight, that, quite honestly, only the cynical can assault.

For high-stakes space opera on an epic scale, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a risky, expansive, entertaining and visionary spectacle, made with technical expertism and frequently, bona fide beauty. “Breathe…”

 

28. Tragedy Girls

McKayla Hooper (Alexandra Shipp) and Sadie Cunningham (Brianna Hildebrand) are two social media savvy bffs, each with an unhealthy death-obsession, and desire to be adored both in their high school, their community, and across the Internet in Tyler MacIntyre’s Tragedy Girls. This is a film that treats superficiality and remorseless violence with a comedic sensibility all too rarely seen, earning and deserving its exacted and often evil laughter rather fiercely.

A savage and cynical satire that’s full of colorful off-color status quo commentary, this joyfully fed up little film also doubles as a paeon to slasher movies and teen exploitation fare (fans of Michael Lehmann’s 1988 cult classic, Heathers take particular note, please).

Part of the fun of the film, which is a pastiche-heavy smorgasbord of slasher film staples –– John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), Wes Craven’s Scream (1996), and even the prestige horror of Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) are amongst those name checked and paid homage –– is the requisite identifying of the pop culture that the characters here typify, but also in seeing just how much gratuitous bloodshed the movie will get away with (spoiler alert: a whole bloody lot!).

 

27. Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

“Rumble asks us to be still for a moment and to list to the heartbeat,” writes Washington Post critic Michael O’Shea, “at once familiar and newly strange, that pumps the lifeblood that flows through the songs this country is known for.”

Assertive, emotional, and deeply engaging, the new documentary from Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World sets the record straight on the Native American influence on rock ‘n’ roll and pop music.

Winner of the Audience Award and Best Canadian Film prizes at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, this is a film I saw twice on the big screen this past year (and was moved to tears both times, I proudly attest) and one that eloquently makes its case early in the film when an early Charley Patton recording is played and lands like lightning.

And with reference to so many other indigenous artists like Link Wray (the film’s title is a reference to his hit instrumental guitar rock anthem, the first use ever of the power chord, so stirring it was the first and one of the only instrumental tracks to be banned from American air waves), Mildred Bailey, Jimi Hendrix, Wayne Kramer, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Stevie Salas, Howlin’ Wolf, and many more.

“Rumble,” enthuses Martin Scorsese, referring to the Link Wray classic, “Well, it’s the sound of that guitar, and the aggression there…” Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World pays wonderful homage to the artists therein, and while making their remarkable music all the more powerful and resonate, it offers a wise history lesson void of didacticism, and will also send you in search of records to add to your collection. An overdue revelation, if you love Americana, music, and social history do not miss this movie.

 

26. Lady Macbeth

Florence Pugh is a fearless force of nature as a rebellious 19th-century mistress sold to a cruel and disinterested husband (Paul Hilton) in director William Oldroyd’s gloomy yet magnificent Lady Macbeth. Written by Alice Birch, and based on Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novella “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District”, the film is set in Northern England of the 1860s. Here we find Katherine (Pugh), the new mistress on a mid-sized farm with a very grey mansion. Straightaway she is put in her place by her cold and indignant spouse, as well as his bullying and dogmatic father (Christopher Fairbank).

Katherine is little more than a servant to both men, who mistreat and humiliate her with a poisonous surety. After both of these men are called away on unspecified business Katherine at long last tastes freedom, and soon is consumed in a brash, passionate affair with Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), one of the farmhands. This liaison soon consumes Katherine, and not her petty, mean husband or her cold, cantankerous father-in-law will get in her way.

Oldroyd and Birch provide plenty of smart and stinging commentary on class, race (Naomi Ackie’s bullied black servant is another star attraction to this small-scale showpiece), and s, but it’s Pugh who takes the top prize. When Katherine makes her volte-face, she doesn’t just go measure for measure, she goes full on enfant terrible on everyone who’s in her way. Lady Macbeth is wild.

 

25. I, Tonya

Hollywood loves an underdog story, and ice skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie, excellent), who the world at large saw primarily as fodder for the frenzy of the 24-hour-news-cycle just ahead of the 1994 Winter Olympics when her Team USA competitor/contemporary Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) was attacked and a circuitous trail led back too close to Harding herself.

As told by director Craig Gillespie, screenwriter Steven Rogers, and via what the title scroll proclaims as “irony-free, wildly contradictory” interviews, I, Tonya unfolds like a smart salmagundi of Raging Bull and Rocky only with figure skates instead of boxing gloves.

Robbie is alternately radiant, ruinous, severe, and sympathetic as Harding, and seeing her rise through the ranks of competitive figure skating––aided and abetted by Allison Janney’s brutal, tough love mother LaVona Fay Golden, as well as Sebastian Stan’s abusive, codependent boyfriend and later husband, Jeff Gillooly––is never less than compelling.

Harding, assailed on all sides for being white trash; for being the wrong vision of feminine physicality; for being an overblown tabloid tale, Gillespie still shows us, and underscores that Harding was a dedicated, talented athlete––her execution of the triple axel amidst competition is rightly the stuff of legend and is shown here with the right kind of Silver Screen esprit.

A sharp, sobering, and occasionally kitschy tragicomic biopic told with self-aware splash, I, Tonya gets the gold when it comes to displaying the cruelty and confrontation that can pursue just being a strong woman. Bravo.

 

24. Brigsby Bear

Endearing and original, director Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear takes some great risks––it kinda sorta plays out like Being There as imagined by the sibling team of Sid and Marty Krofft––and the results are a future cult classic that celebrates creativity and madness in many messed up yet warm ‘n’ fuzzy ways.

Kyle Mooney and Kevin Costello penned the screenplay which involves one James Pope (Mooney), a young man utterly obsessed with the obscure children’s television program “Brigsby Bear Adventures”. How obscure? Well, James is the only one who’s seen it. No spoilers here but Brigsby Bear costars Mark Hamill and Jane Adams as a likeable pair of eccentrics who claim to be James’ parents and there’s also Greg Kinnear, Matt Walsh, Michaela Watkins, Alexa Demie and Kate Lyn Sheil, each in very memorable roles.

Produced by The Lonely Island (ahh yes, Andy Samberg has a brief but refreshing role), this is a deliciously uncynical oddity about contagious creativity, fanaticism, and forgiveness. Check it out.

 

23. Lucky

John Carroll Lynch’s generously incidental comic drama of valediction, Lucky is also the farewell performance of its star, the legendary Harry Dean Stanton.

Our eponymous hero Lucky (Stanton), is an aging, beloved, and nonconforming man about town who spends his time smoking, strutting, socializing, sipping milk, doing a strict daily yoga regimen, all while grooving on the full life as only he knows how to. At 90, Lucky may be outspoken, atheistic, and largely opinionated, but that in no way means he’s close-minded, curmudgeon-y, or devoid of spiritual belief and practice.

Lynch’s film is an alternately humbling and hilarious experience, predominantly driven by dialogue, and monologue, but never in a way that’s ostentatious or overdone. Sure this is the sort of film where nothing much happens plot-wise, but it presents a good-humored, keen, and consistent pearl-on-a-string procession of conjecture and insight.

 

22. Wonder Woman

While box-office receipts state otherwise, many cinemagoers have complained of superhero fatigue, but 2017 did give us a handful of invigorating and rejuvenative superheroes (if this list were a smidge longer it would also include James Mangold’s Logan, which here we relegate to our Honorable Mentions postscript section), and we fing finally got to catch up with Diana, princess of the Amazons in a fist-pumping action film that wasn’t camp, wasn’t prosaic, and wasn’t a parade of chauvinist conceits, either. No, we got our Wonder Woman and she kicked all kinds of ass!

Directed by Patty Jenkins (2003’s Monster), and starring a sensational Gal Gadot as our unconquerable warrior, Wonder Woman pulls us post-haste through Diana’s origins on the gorgeously rendered hidden island of Themyscira (additional props to cinematographer Matthew Jensen, production designer Aline Bonetto and the rest of the hard working crew) while also presenting a compelling World War I-set narrative involving American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) that first brought Diana to our modern world.

Jenkins and co present a wealth of awesome women, of course (Lucy Davis is great, as are many Amazonians played by Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, and Lisa Loven Kongsli as well as Elena Anaya’s evil Dr. Maru), but there’s also juicy roles for Danny Huston, David Thewlis, and Ewen Bremner.

And a special tip of the hat goes out to Eugene Brave Rock who’s Chief not only gets to descry the dangers of colonialism and cultural genocide, but shares a scene with Diana spoken in Blackfoot. It’s so rare that aboriginal actors and characters are respectfully acknowledged in a mainstream film, so if you needed another reason to love Wonder Woman, well, there you go!

Part war movie, part doomed romance, overfull with artful and exciting action sequences (the No Man’s Land assault led by Diana is worth the cost of admission alone), and all told some pretty subversive content for a populist DC superhero film –– and easily the best outside of Nolan’s Batman films, from that expanded universe –– this is a charismatic, crowd-pleasing, comic book conversion that works on every conceivable level. Wonder Woman dazzles.

 

21. Song to Song

A visually luxuriant art film from writer-director Terrence Malick, Song to Song is a devastating and delicious love story about anguish, grief, loss, and just being alive. Set within the music scene in Austin, Texas, Malick presents two entwined couples; music magnate Cook (Michael Fassbender), and troubled waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman); struggling but up-and-coming singer/songwriters BV (Ryan Gosling) and Faye (Rooney Mara). As their lives interlace amidst a panorama of music, temptations, and deceptions.

A moving miracle, and a deeply idiosyncratic one, of course Song to Song isn’t a movie for everyone (interjections: aren’t “movies for everyone” just comforting, non-confrontational vanilla anyways?), but it is a movie that exalts and haunts (Holly Hunter’s reaction to her daughter’s suicide sent me sobbing).

Malick, for reasons I won’t delve into here, has made films as of late that needle and annoy as many audience members as her delights and vivifies, and if you’re in the latter camp, Song to Song is his best work since 2011’s The Tree of Life. This is a film for Antonioni fans, for dreamers, for wanderers, for artists, and for lost causes, and it’s sublime and it will grandly outlive us all.

10 Actors Who Went Through Extreme Body Transformation For a Role

the-machinist-2004-1

There’s a general perception that many actors show up looking pretty, remember their lines, then collect a paycheck. Whilst that connotation is quite common, they’re are several occasions where just the opposite is true, that a performer goes way beyond the line of duty to fully inhabit and immerse themselves into a role, sometimes at the cost of their own physical or mental health.

Here are a handful of those extreme and at times shocking body transformation for a handful of actors whose dedication deserves a honorary tip of the hat…

 

10. Chris Pratt – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The ‘Marvel Physique’ has certainly become a common phase in this day and edge as superhero movies flood our cinema, and it refers to the particular studio’s impressive track record of casting solid actors first, then training them into peak alpha-male condition. The lanky Hugh Jackman set the precedent with the Wolverine movies, yet also impressive transitions were lean pretty boys Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans bulking up to Olympian shape for “Thor” and “Captain America” (respectively). Even the meek Paul Rudd slapped on the six-pack abs for his turn as Ant-Man.

Still, no transformation from rags to riches in the name of Marvel has been more shocking than that of Chris Pratt, the chunky and lovable goof from TV’s “Parks and Recreation.” He took on lead hero Star-lord in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the galactic rogue that displayed charm, wit and a ridiculous chiseled set of muscle. It was a physical transition within that sleeper hit that suddenly shot the actor from being the supporting ‘best friend’ to the square-jawed leading man in a recent string of blockbusters.

 

9. Tom Cruise – Tropic Thunder (2008)

This is an exception on this list since it solely focuses on heavy prosthetics as opposed to a genuine physical transformation. If that criteria is game, well, why not John Hurt for “The Elephant Man,” or any movie made over the last 30 years featuring Ron Perlman? Well, this performance is such a vital and drastic persona change – from Hollywood’s golden boy Tom Cruise, no less – that it really needs a mention as Cruise completely disappears into the role with such and abandon of ego (albeit for spoof value) that it remains one the most impressive roles taken over his filmography.

“Tropic Thunder” was ultimately made at a time when Cruise’s star power was considerably waning due to an aggressive viral Scientology campaign from him, not to mention acting like a lunatic on “Oprah.” It lead to a handful of flops from him, yet good friend Ben Stiller cast Cruise in his Hollywood over-the-top and hilarious piss-take on the industry.

Highlights included Robert Downey Jr’s method actor donning full blackface, and Jack Black’s cokehead actor being stranded without his drug of choice; yet the true scene stealer was Cruise himself in a surprise supporting role as Les Grossman, a bald, overweight and maniacally egotistically movie producer who even gets Asian guerilla warriors to think twice about getting on his bad side. Add to that an impromptu dance to Ludacris’ “Get Back” during the end credits and Cruise won back plenty of favour with his dedication to such a repulsive (yet hilarious) role.

 

8. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler-Movie-2014

Since the early 2010s, Jake Gyllenhaal has been impressing us with a series of strong and chameleon-like performances that elevated his leading man status to a whole new playing field. Amongst the impressive list are his two dark collaborations with Denis Villeneuve, “Prisoners” and “Enemy”; the pure bulked up muscle from “Southpaw”; and the unflattering safari shorts and villainy in “Okja.” Yet the pinnacle performance that even managed to sway haters and draw unanimous plaudits from critics was with Dan Gilroy’s sinister debut “Nightcrawler.”

Playing a freelance photojournalist in L.A.’s cutthroat news world, Gyllenhaal read the script and immediately pictured the main character as a “hungry coyote” scavenging the isolated and dark highways of the city. In order to sculpt his ideal look, he burnt off 20 pounds for the role, with a routine consisting of working out for up to eight hours everyday, including cycling or jogging to the set, successfully creating a gaunt and intimidating profile. His is an infallibly amoral character that is as determined as he is conniving – it’s a true stand-out role in a rightfully applauded movie.

 

7. Matt Damon – The Informant (2009)

Matt Damon in The Informant! (2009)

The Boston-born chiseled actor carved out an impressive list of performances over his career, yet aside from bulking up as Jason Bourne for that respected action franchise, he wasn’t well celebrated for his dedication to physical method acting. In fact, a pre-fame turn as a war veteran/heroine addict in “Courage Under Fire” saw him shed 40 pounds and put his health in extreme dire order (it took him two whole years to recover), and he has remained cautious in his dedication since.

Well, much later in his career, regular directorial collaborator Steven Soderbergh convinced him otherwise to delve into the other side of the spectrum. In the real-life and utterly bizarre tale centred around false ‘informant’ Mark Whitacre, Damon was responsible for getting into the rotund lumpy shoes of said character by a steady program of pizza, burgers and dark beer – a process which he found incredibly enjoyable. Add to that glasses, a pornstache and the baffling trend of flamboyant early 90’s clothing and Damon is close to unrecognisable in this little-seen oddball comedy.

 

6. Tom Hanks – Cast Away (2000)

Cast Away (2000)

Hanks was a likeable movie presence pretty much from the jump as he got his start in a series enjoyable 80’s comedies. That changed when he starred in “Philadelphia” as a gay man dying of AIDS, where he lost a considerable amount of weight in an impressive performance that won him an Oscar, which led to a series of respectable dramas that the critics adored. Yet as more success piled up, comfortable living and a common persona kept being his fallback in several movies.

In need of a change, he teamed up again with his “Forrest Gump” director Robert Zemeckis, and they took on the ambitious task of following a ‘average joe’ with the before, during and after of being stranded on a desert island. The film was made in chronological order in tandem with Hanks’ psychical transformation on his journey.

The ‘before’ section had Hanks encouraged to get more pudgy as he ceased his normal exercise routine, then filming took an entire year off for him to get to whittled down to lanky shape in order to appear convincingly as a desert island survivor, packing on a hell of a beard with a sparse fruit diet and sun-worn complexion. The transition was a surprising one, yet it immediately added an extra layer of authenticity that stories around the subject had been sadly lacking in this impressive piece of work from the actor and the director.