Hollywood is getting lazier and lazier. I am getting ever more disengaged and less willing to pay for tickets at the multiplex. Major facets of film-making have to change because quite simply, films are always shite. Recently, I sat down and asked myself have I even seen at least 10 good new movies this year? Thankfully I had. That was mildly encouraging. Here they are:
1) White God
Hungarian parable featuring impounded dogs rebelling against the oppressive human race, under the leadership of loyal pet turned embittered fight dog, Haigan. Beautiful, brutal and thought provoking. It took the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes last year, and deservedly so.
2) Dear White People
Released ages ago in the US, Justin Simien’s comedy has struggled to get a UK distributor, which is a shame. It’s angry, political, funny and offers are rarely heard authentic African American voice to US comedy culture that is awash with commonly employed racial stereotypes. White audiences may not get it, but it’s a fine opportunity to learn something and admire satirical comedy at its best.
3) Song of The Sea
Almost perfect Irish animation. It’s a tad formulaic in terms of narrative structure but it’s oh so beautiful. Technically so simple and effective, and packed full of fun and familiar details and flourishes for Irish eyes only.
4) An Open Secret
Amy Berg’s documentary on the systemic sexual abuse of minors by powerful Hollywood predators has been all but buried. Berg has pulled off a difficult topic and a film that has had a troubled route toward completion. She has done all this with unfortunately necessary legal verve and incisive narrative focus, presenting a topic that no-one wants to hear about but continues to destroy young men’s lives with impunity.
5) Kumiko The Treasure Hunter
Part homage to the Coen brothers’ Fargo, this film by David and Nathan Zellner is also part road movie, part black comedy. Kumiko is a strange little gem about a Tokyo office worker who finds a videotape (of the Coen brothers’ Fargo) in a remote cave and becomes convinced that it is a clue to the location of buried money. Poignant and funny and terribly unique.
Celine Sciamma has directed my favourite movie of the year so far. Girlhood is about a group of young women of African descent living in Parisian suburbia. They negotiate their lives as a unit, relying on each other for protection and distraction from the harshness of limited opportunities and gender-based intimidation. To give too much else away would be a crime. Watch and enjoy.
7) Into The Woods
Rob Marshall’s film adaptation of The Broadway musical Into The Woods is the only version I have seen. I loved Rob Marshall’s Chicago and I really liked this. I just like musicals and this was a musical. Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella performing ‘On The Steps of The Palace’ is me when when I’m performing the Shamrock Shuffle on a night out and I just want to get home to watch Netflix. It’s long but fun if you like musicals.
8) What Happened, Miss Simone?
Documentary on the life and perplexities of famous US soul singer, Nina Simone. I’ve loved Nina Simone (the singer) since my late teens but I never fully realized what a complex and politically charged woman she had been until I watched this documentary. Her connections to the African American voting rights movement are marked by a stunning rendition of her own ‘Mississippi Goddamn’ and her return from obscurity to performing at the Montreaux Jazz Festival are just about as powerful performances as you are ever likely to witness.
9) The Wonders
Alice Rohrbacher’s slight and beautiful film about a family of Italian honey farmers doesn’t seem like a powerful film once you’ve finished taking it in. Then you go home and back to life and find that you can’t stop thinking about it. It’s about traditionalism versus modernity focusing around the family’s young daughter trying to save their livelihood by entering them into a TV talent show for farmers called ‘The Countryside Wonders.’
Asif Kapadia’s long awaited documentary on the late R&B singer Amy Winehouse has been slated by Winehouse’s own father and not endorsed by the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Why? Because it calls into question whether Winehouse’s illnesses and addictions were exacerbated by elements in her life that were simply out for their own gain. What’s left is a loving retrospective on a remarkably talented and witty young woman who just, quite simply, loved music.
Honorable Mention: Mad Max: Fury Road
It wasn’t shite. Charlize Theron did stuff. It still made money.