5. Bodied (2017)
Battle rapping is an artistically brutal mental minefield in director Joseph Kahn’s (Detention  satirical celebration of phat beats, sick rhymes, racism, white privilege and more in Bodied.
Getting the most from a smart script by Toronto rapper Kid Twist (aka Alex Larsen), this is a movie that bravely celebrates pop culture as Bodied follows Adam (Calum Worthy), a white grad student who accesses a community of diverse and often churlish battler rappers, all to benefit his “edgy” thesis. And wouldn’t you know it, Adam soon finds his own voice for tossing around barbed rhymed epithets and insults.
Kahn’s knack for visual storytelling smarts helps makes this dangerous entertainment come alive, and the provocative, confrontational and subversive subject matter is cutting; one moment you’re laughing, the next you’re gasping, and the whole time you’re mind just reels.
An absolute conversation starter, and a startlingly woke experience, Bodied is destined for adoration, notoriety, and cult stature.
4. Damsel (2018)
The writer-director duo of David and Nathan Zellner follow up their impressive Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014) with the often knee-slapping and consistently subversive revisionist Western, Damsel.
Samuel Alabaster (Robert Pattinson, excellent) appears, an articulate dandy of a fella, in unfamiliar territory he is accompanied by a miniature horse named Butterscotch, and shares his intent on rescuing his beloved Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) from the vile kidnappers who snatched her away. Or so Samuel frames it when talking to Parson Henry (David Zellner), a wayward man of the cloth hired on to officiate their wedding vows, if would-be gunslinger Samuel can indeed rescue his damsel, and if indeed Penelope is a prisoner at all.
The Zellner brothers brilliantly blur the fine lines between hero, villain, damsel and deerstalker in this odd odyssey that occasionally echoes both Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974) and John Maclean’s Slow West (2015), with just a splash of Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954) for good measure, in a film that effortlessly trots between uproarious comedy and unsettling tragedy with a slick straphanger’s gait.
3. Imitation Girl (2017)
Written and directed by Natasha Kermani (Shattered ), this eerie exploration of dissonance and feminine identity beyond the oft-times oppressive male gaze is startling, sensual, and often surreal. The immediate comparison that audiences are likely to draw is of course Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013), and both films share a similar premise and an allied dreamlike visage and a complexity of ideas and intrigue.
Lauren Ashley Carter is our eponymous heroine, and she has materialized in the south western desert and, adorned in just a thin negligee, she soon lucks out and finds friendship and affection when she stumbles into Saghi (Neimah Djourabchi) and his sister Khahar (Sanam Erfani), themselves Iranian immigrants.
It’s not long before our Imitation Girl feels more and more at home in her strange new body and learns she has a twin, with whom she may be joined in more ways than just an uncanny visual similarity.
Beguiling in the best possible sense, and beautifully photographed (the artful soundtrack from Tyger is also pleasingly effective), this chimeric and emotionally ensnaring small-scale odyssey is an awe-inspiring and, despite comparisons to similarly themed films, a shockingly original little picture from a filmmaker full of promise.
2. Parallel (2018)
As usual with filmmaker Isaac Ezban (The Incident , The Similars ), the firmament is streaming with high concept ideas, adverse emotions, and a stiff shot of the supernatural in the highly satisfying genre mashup, Parallel.
Ostensibly the ill-fated tale of four app developer friends; Devin (Aml Ameen), Josh (Mark O’Brien) Leena (Georgia King), and Noel (Martin Wallström), who are frustrated by setbacks both financial and personal. The group share an old house with a history to it, and one night they stumble upon a secret stairway that leads to a part of the house nobody knew existed.
Amongst the neglected items in the furtive attic space is a mirror that turns out to be a portal to a seemingly endless array of alternate universes.
And so our protagonists are lured into a series of multiverse expeditions, first to overcompensate for a few missed opportunities, and then to acquire continued prosperity and public esteem.
As Parallel breathlessly speeds towards its precarious finish, the audience is easily swept up in the complexities of time, identity, morality and the ethics of technological analysis couched in the form of a chic, ultra-slick and yet shrewdly nuanced weird-science psychodrama.
Capturing the genre jeu d’esprit, Ezban gives us one of the strongest sci-fi offerings of recent times, in a film that is endlessly inventive, and sheerly enjoyable.
And for those of you trying to track this one down, apart from festivals, it has yet to get a proper theatrical release, but finger’s crossed that will change soon!
1. Cosmos (2016)
The late Polish firebrand Andrzej Żuławski, whose unmistakable brand of WTF exorbitance, as in his extreme psychodrama Possession (1981) –– is on vibrant display in Cosmos, his valedictory film.
A surrealistic discombobulation of great beauty and even greater confusion, Cosmos is a bucolic fever dream of pure poetry. Dream logic dominates this messed-up movie, adapted from Witold Gombrowicz 1965 prize-winning novel of the same name, as a storm of histrionics, and mental strain dominate this unclassifiable arthouse odyssey.
Julia Gregory’s intricate editing compliments André Szankowski’s fine cinematography making Cosmos a fitting, fucked up and funereal swansong from a cinematic legend. This is a film that Żuławski fans will be discussing and exploring for a very long time.
Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.