5. 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.
4. Ingrid Goes West
This satire on social media smartly avoids insulting an entire generation of moviegoers. Tackling the negative aspects of social media can be risky because it often alienates the millennials who have become so reliant on technology.
Luckily, Ingrid Goes West never seeks to insult its viewers. Sure, it offers a clever commentary about the dangers of social media obsession, but it avoids claiming that an entire generation has been brainwashed by the likes of Instagram and Facebook. This isn’t to say it plays things safe. Rather, it approaches a controversial topic with sensitivity.
Beyond the clever commentary, there’s a lot to like about Ingrid Goes West. Obviously, the highlights are the performances of Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen. Plaza has been on fire lately with stellar performances in The Little Hours and FX’s Legion, but this one may be her best yet. Beyond the acting, there are several other strong aspects that stand out.
Though the movie is likely to make the average viewer uncomfortable, it has a surprisingly great sense of humor as well. It skillfully bounces between disturbing thriller and hilarious satire. It’s not always easy to sit through, but various elements come together to make this a journey well worth taking.
The cringe-factor ensures that this isn’t a movie for everyone. The premise itself isn’t as disturbing as the development of the plot. Social media stalking isn’t exactly family entertainment, but director Matt Spicer constantly amps up the darker elements. The fact that it isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea means that it’s more likely to be a cult classic than an outright classic. Ingrid Goes West is a brilliant little film, but its tiny budget and unconventional approach to the already odd subject material means its appeal is fairly limited.
3. The Little Hours
The cast is made up of notoriously quirky actors and actresses, the premise is more than a little ballsy, and the alterations to the source material will have people scratching their heads. The Little Hours is a cult classic waiting to happen. Cigarette smoking potty mouth nuns aren’t going to make everyone happy. The Catholic League, for example called the movie “pure trash.” Then again, the fact that it’s controversial isn’t enough to make it a cult classic.
The Little Hours earns its status as a potential cult classic because it’s a really funny movie with really funny people. As previously stated, the film is made up of so many performers who are known for their cult appeal. Aubrey Plaza, Fred Armisen, Kate Micucci, John C. Reilly, and Nick Offerman all appeal to a specific crowd. It’s also interesting that this is an adaptation of a 14th century novella collection. Obviously, they don’t stick too close to the subject material, but the choice to fiddle with such an ancient piece of literature is admirable and hilarious.
Admirable and hilarious is more or less how the entire film can be described. It’s a risky little movie, and the risks mostly pay off. The jokes don’t always land, and the movie has a tendency to be crude just for the sake of it, but this remains an endlessly enjoyable comedy film throughout. The brilliant ensemble alone makes this worth the price of admission, but there are plenty of other goodies to discover.
2. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore
The oddly titled I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. may have been a Sundance darling, but it hasn’t been a huge success among more casual moviegoers. In terms of popularity, Netflix original movies tend to be very hit or miss.
Though they’re usually well-received, they rarely earn the same kind of attention as larger theatrical releases. Beasts of the Southern Wild benefited from Oscar-buzz, while Death Note had the benefit of a strong fanbase. This indie crime-comedy doesn’t have a whole lot of mainstream appeal, which is a shame because it’s one of the most satisfyingly quirky movies of the year.
The story, which revolves around a robbery gone wrong, is far less formulaic than it sounds. Thanks to a whip-smart script and unbelievable chemistry between Elijah Wood and Melanie Lynskey, the movie ends up being refreshingly weird.
Cynical characters having rough days aren’t anything new in the movie world, but the unique approach to the story makes the film infinitely more enjoyable. Netflix made the right choice in choosing to distribute the movie. It may not be their biggest hit, but it’s definitely one of their most enjoyable movies to date.
Raw is a horror masterpiece. There’s simply no other way to put it. This gruesome, fearless foreign horror flick has the guts (both figuratively and literally) that you can’t find in any other horror movie. It’s smart, it’s daring, and above all, it’s pretty damn creepy. It’s also incredibly disturbing, to the point where people had to leave the TIFF screening last year due to nausea. The over-the-top gore heavily limits the film’s appeal. While it’s not quite as unsettling as A Serbian Film or Cannibal Holocaust, it’s still far too graphic for casual horror fans to enjoy.
That’s a shame because it’s one of the strongest female-led horror films of the decade, alongside The Babadook, Cabin in the Woods, and It Follows. Garance Marillier is tremendous. She’s so tremendous that she could very well be a French scream queen if she really wanted to. She certainly has the acting chops.
It’s not just the underlying feminist message that makes Raw so appealing. The skillful direction, intelligent script, and gorgeous cinematography also play a part in the success of the movie. Another key ingredient to its potential cult status is the fact that cult classics are often incredibly violent due to the fact that violence is what limited their appeal in the first place. Raw dumps buckets of gore onto the screen, and every ounce of it feels meaningful. There are so many reasons Raw works, but the only way one can truly witness the brilliance is to see it.
Author Bio: Justin is a paraprofessional teaching assistant and full-time film enthusiast with a degree in English. When he’s not writing about films, he’s probably watching them in his spare time.