6. Louder than Bombs (Joachim Trier)
One of the most vibrant talents to emerge in recent years, Danish filmmaker Joachim Trier made his Hollywood debut with an uncompromising drama that captures every quality that made him special in his last two films and seem to somehow transform them into something more mature, even if not exactly better.
It’s also a tale of masculinity and the inability to confront one’s own feelings and needs. By placing his bets in Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne and Devin Druid, director Trier gets a trio of understated, boiling under the surface performances, and his camera makes every repressed reaction counts. As American debuts for foreign directors go, it rarely gets better than this.
7. Swiss Army Man (Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert)
Maybe the weirdest one of our list, it’s obvious that Swiss Army Man will not carry any weight in a potential Oscar race. It is after all a comic adventure about guy stuck in a desert island whose life gets saved by a flatulent corpse he uses as a utility belt of sort. It starts the always underestimated Paul Dano and the surprisingly efficient Daniel Radcliffe, and it operates in a frequency that Academy voters would never be able to understand.
That just means it’s extra-special, though, and it has a somewhat sweet and beautiful message to convey, especially in the way it develops the relationship between the two leads. It’s an endlessly imaginative little gem, a surprising ride minute after minute, and a really fulfilling experience when it ends. It’s that kind of movie you never really thought of watching, but you’re really glad you did.
8. Midnight Special (Jeff Nichols)
Jeff Nichols has long been ignores by the Oscars, which is a shame because he’s one of the greatest talents of our generation. Just look at the wonder, agony, mystery, angst and visual wizardry he packs into his first sci-fi feature, the absolutely ingenious Midnight Special. Young Jaeden Lieberher might be the one to keep an eye on, but the shining star of this film is the director’s eye, identity and expression.
It’s a simple and mysterious story of a father and son who go on the run, pursued by both government officials and a weird cult that had formed around the kid’s special powers. In the hands of a lesser director, it would be easy to make this somewhat of a superhero movie, but Nichols chooses the hard path, and makes it instead a sci-fi epic in scope and tremendously intimate in feeling. It draws on films that have come before it and worked using the same elements, but it creates a sense of wonder that is all its own.
9. High-Rise (Ben Wheatley)
Ben Wheatly is another great recent talent we were all told to keep an eye on, and on his first major motion picture, he didn’t disappoint. Partnered with his usual screenwriting buddy Amy Jump, he assembled a top-notch cast that includes a never-more-alluring Tom Hiddleston and people like Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elizabeth Moss and James Purefoy to create a creepy and playful epic of weird tonal clashes that are handled with utter and complete joy by the director.
It’s a deceptively simplistic tale of the life of the residents of a tower block spiraling out of control, and it involves some twists and turns that are better left unrevealed, but the important thing is that inside High-Rise you’ll find food for thought and a feast for the eyes, but also a carefully controlled direction and showcases just how stunning Wheatley’s abilities are as a filmmaker.
10. The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Probably the most controversial choice on this list, The Neon Demon has divided critics and audiences alike with Nicolas Winding Refn’s shocking third act and deliberate choice for an empty-headed and indulgent feel. It’s nevertheless a scathing portrait of the fashion industry, and Elle Fanning is great at playing the innocent lost in the belly of the beast, but that has been done and said a thousand times before, right?
Well, not with Refn’s glowing eye for trash aesthetic, which reaches its logical peak here (seriously, I don’t know how far he can still go with this), and certainly not with this much gusto for shock value and overall outrageousness. It’s a roller coaster ride of a movie punctuated with monotone dialogue and bored teenage antics – which makes it a perfect portrait of the world it’s set on.
Author Bio: Caio Coletti is a Brazilian-born journalist, a proud poptimist, and has too many opinions to keep them all to himself.