5. A Ghost Story (2017)
In David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story”, Casey Affleck plays the white-sheeted ghost of a man who is trapped in his house where, unable to communicate, he watches over his grieving wife (Rooney Mara), contemplates the passing of time and has to forever haunt the same place.
Highly experimental and strange even for an arthouse film, this is the kind of movie which you might love or hate. Its slow-burning, reflective nature, accentuated by the long static shots and claustrophobic 4:3 aspect ratio might turn away casual moviegoers, but those willing to be patient might find themselves enthralled with the film and its profound meditation on life, love, grief and time.
4. Ex Machina (2014)
Back in 2014, director Alex Garland impressed everyone with his intelligent, thought-provoking film debut. “Ex Machina” stars Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb Smith, a programmer who works for Blue Book, the company behind the world’s biggest search engine.
After winning a contest, Caleb is rewarded with a visit to Nathan Bateman’s (the company’s CEO) house. There, Bateman introduces him to his newest creation: Ava, a female humanoid robot with unprecedented artificial intelligence. Gleeson’s character is tasked with evaluating Ava and testing if she is really having consciousness and genuine thoughts.
“Ex Machina” mostly takes place within a single location and only focuses on three characters (four if you are to count Bateman’s non-English speaking assistant Kyoto). However, Garland shows a lot of inventiveness and the film never gets boring.
Within its less than two hours running length, the film raises lots of philosophical and existential questions and takes you through the most bizarre kinds of emotions while slowly building suspense towards a crazed finale. Many times, science fiction films equal huge budgets and tons of special effects, but “Ex Machina” took a different path and proved that an original, well-written script coupled with some great performances is enough in order to make a great sci-fi film.
3. Climax (2018)
Disturbing, entertaining, dark, crazy, violent, provocative, stylish. There are not enough words to describe Gaspar Noé’s latest film.
“Climax” starts with a television screen showing a series of interviews with a group of dancers and then it takes us to an abandoned school, where a long elaborately choreographed dancing scene commences. Not before long, you will realize that this is a film like no other you’ve seen before.
After the mesmerizing one-shot dancing scene, the group of dancers starts drinking sangria but soon they start feeling strange and they find out that their drink was spiked with LSD. From this point on, madness ensues and the film draws you in its claustrophobic, anxiety-inducing world which feels like a neverending nightmare.
Gaspar Noé’s arguably best work to date is one of the most demented films we’ve seen last year. As one critic put it, “Climax” is the closest thing to a crowd pleaser Noé has ever done, but this is still not an easy watch by any means. The film lacks a concise story and is more style over substance, but, like David Lynch’s movies, it shouldn’t be perceived as a narrative film but more as an experience.
2. The Lobster (2015)
In Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist comedy “The Lobster”, single people are confined within a seaside hotel where they are given 45 days to find themselves a partner. Fail to do so, they are transformed in an animal of their choice. Most people choose dogs – thus the large number of canines in the world.
However, Colin Farrell’s character, David, who has just left his wife after she cheated on him with another man, makes a quirky choice: he wants to be a lobster – an animal who can live over 100 hundred years and is virile for most of its life.
“The Lobster” acts as a brilliant satire of society’s obsession with relationships and marital status, while also poking fun at the superficiality of many human relations. In the film, people who become lovers have to share a common “trait”, but most of them are laughable things such as both partners having a limp or a bleeding nose.
While having the looks of a Kubrick film, plotwise “The Lobster” is still a film like you’ve never seen before and one of the most original of these last 5 years due to its inventive script and the smart social commentary it makes.
1. Birdman (2014)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” is by far one of the most original films of the last five years or, why not, of all time.
The meta-film which brought Michael Keaton back into the spotlight satirizes the entire Hollywood superhero genre and acts as a metaphor for the entertainment industry in general. Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an American actor past his prime famous for playing Birdman in a series of 80’s superhero flicks who is trying to revitalize his career by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play. Thomson’s character feels like a fictional version of Keaton, who himself rose to fame as Batman in Tim Burton’s 1980s films and didn’t really have much of a career in the following decades.
Iñárritu’s film not only tells a great, unique story but is also a technical achievement and a seamless looking piece of art. “Birdman” looks as it has been shot in one take, and while there are some cuts throughout the film, the editors made sure to make them hardly noticeable, giving the film a very distinct mood.
The film’s score, which is almost entirely made up of percussion music composed by the jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez, is yet another clever idea that contributes to the film’s mood and intensifies it in a way that wouldn’t have happened with any other choice of soundtrack.
“Birdman” is utterly original, beautiful to look at and a most entertaining film – by all means a masterpiece of the 21st century.