Can we all agree that La La Land is a good movie, move on and focus our attention on the work of other directors? Fine pieces of cinema get great word of mouth and perform well at the box office, but that does not come without some victims. These are movies that were criminally overlooked by general audiences, but are deserving of your attention. As a media student, it is your duty to give these gems a watch. Maybe provide your laptop with some juice before going to school and put one of these on during your favorite lecture. For research purposes, of course.
In Bruges (2008)
Colin Farell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes
This film about two Irish hitmen awaiting orders from their ruthless boss in the town of Bruges, Belgium, is uproariously funny, brilliantly acted and skillfully directed. The unique setting might reminisce of a dreamlike, almost Hieronymous Bosch-esque version of Breda. In between all the laughs, the film is cleverly built on the morality of its characters. Their actions and choices drive the plot towards something genuinely unpredictable, memorable and infinitely quotable. “F*ckin’ Bruges!”
What we do in the Shadows (2014)
Comedy / Fantasy
Taika Waititi, Jermaine Clement
Ever wondered if vampires have their own domestic problems? You can find out in Taika Waititi’s hilarious little indie production. It’s about a documentary crew that decides to follow the lives of a group of the undead in their shared house in Wellington. The New Zealand-born Waititi directs and stars (he even landed himself the directing job for the upcoming Thor Ragnarok), and the rest of the relatively unknown cast is uniformly great in their goofy and eccentric roles. Turns out the nightly biters are actually really clumsy and kind of sweet. For something refreshingly original and irresistibly charming, definitely check this one out.
The Invitation (2015)
Thriller / Mystery / Drama
Logan Marshall-Green, Michiel Huisman
Guilt-stricken with grief, a man reluctantly accepts an invitation from his ex-wife for a dinner party at his former home. As the night proceeds, he begins to suspect the hosts of having sinister intentions for their guests. This conversation piece by promising directress Karyn Kusuma is a master class in slow burning suspense. The location design and off the charts acting all add to an unapologetically unnerving and uneasy experience. Patient viewers willing to dig a little deeper beyond its surface will be rewarded with exquisite attention to detail and an interesting exploration of some very dark themes. Pay close attention to the soundtrack and sound design as well, for it contains some very impressive stuff.
Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Western / Horror
Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins
Mixing western with hard-boiled horror, Bone Tomahawk provides an unusual, tense and sometimes shocking watch for die-hard genre-fans. First-time director Craig S. Zahler has created a deceptively calm and simple plot, but ensures maximum impact. After an outlaw unknowingly leads a group of cannibalistic cave dwellers to the ironically named town of Bright Hope, several settlers are kidnapped. What follows next is a journey into hell on earth, as the ever-dependable Kurt Russell (once again rocking an awesome mustache) and some properly talented co-stars (Richard Jenkins stands out as the dim-witted but misunderstood deputy) have to learn how to trust each other in order to survive their venture to the boundless savagery of the troglodytes. Not for the faint of heart!
A Monster Calls (2016)
Drama / Fantasy
Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, Lewis McDougall
It was heartbreaking to find out that this British-Spanish production thoroughly underperformed at the box office, because it is crafted with so much care and style. Admittedly, A Monster Calls seems like a hard movie to market. Its plot – A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mother’s terminal illness – sounds peculiar to say the least. Add the fact that director Y.A. Bayona (a good friend of Guillermo Del Toro; influences of Pan’s Labyrinth are definitely present) chooses to tell his story through a blend of live action, animation and motion-capture, and it becomes clearer why general audiences did not dare to take the step. However, please do so, because it has been selected by IMDb as movie of the year 2016 for a good reason. Poetic, gorgeous and delightful are words that come to mind; it is unlikely that you finish this one with dry eyes.
By Pieter van Osch