Short Term 12 is exactly like being injured in a part of your body where you didn't think it was possible to get injured before. It will hurt but it will make you care. Natural and understated by budget and by purpose, it is powered by perfect performances that will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride you will never forget. It is at times sweet, at times depressing and at times hilarious. The thing is, without even taking into consideration its small budget or the importance of the issues it talks about - we would still consider Short Term 12 as one of the best movies of the past 20 years.
In the mood for an impeccably crafted real-life thriller? This movie is for you. On the way out of a nightclub, Victoria runs into four raucous German men who convince her to hang out with them. She is from Spain and has been temporarily living in Berlin. Her German isn’t great, but her English is passable. She shares some drinks with her new friends and strikes up a flirtation with one of them. But what starts out as light-hearted hijinks at 4:30 am eventually swerves into darker and more dangerous territory, as Victoria is coerced into participating in her German companions’ dangerous plans. While the plot may sound like your standard-issue crime drama, Victoria turns out to be something a little different, due to the thrilling and unusual way it was filmed – in a single shot. The “one take” filming process could be viewed as a stunt, but in this case, it works wonders to serve the story. The tension built from the tightrope walk of the actors and filming crew adds to the ratcheting tension of the storyline. Laia Costa gives an astounding lead performance. There is not a single scene in Victoria where she is not present, and the movie would simply not work without her. A crazy, awesome movie.
The true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old black man on the last day of 2008, where his will to change is challenged by his past and the police. You’ve probably read and heard a lot about young black men's’ encounters with the police, and for this reason, you might feel like skipping this film. Don’t. Produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, it is compassionate and powerfully told, that it surpasses the sadness of its subject matter to be a celebration of life. It is an extraordinary film and important watch.
Taika Waititi’s follow-up to the (also great) What We Do in the Shadows, is a pure delight and the perfect antidote after a bad day or a steady diet of too many sad movies. "Bad egg" Ricky Baker has been bounced out of more foster care situations than he cares to remember until he's given his last chance with a couple living on a rural New Zealand farm. After tragedy strikes early in the film Ricky and his foster uncle (Hec) find themselves on the run in the bush while a nationwide manhunt is initiated on their behalf. Hip-hop enthusiast Ricky and crusty, cantankerous Hec make quite the inspired pairing; this is a very funny film full of the deadpan humor that has become emblematic of Waititi's work (Flight of the Conchords, Boy) but it is also oddly touching and full of heart.
In many ways, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a modern masterpiece. It's a psychological experience - one that is sincere to its premise and the troubled nature of the human beings in it. You will be surprised by the depth of its many layers and the extents to which a similar movie can go (on paper it's a coming-of-age story). Its character-driven chemistry will catch you even more as it reaches its perfect mix between comedy, warmth, tragedy, and honest depiction of depression.
First off you have to remember it is the same writer as Training Day. Then you have to believe that he must have gone to a joint training camp between the Taliban and Mexican Cartels or something since Training Day to come up with such a tense, unpredictable script. But End of Watch is more than that. It is warm and sweet (yes), and a great showcase of Gyllenhaal and Pena's talents -- which thanks to a documentary-style cinematography, and the actors' 5-month immersion program with actual LA cops, make for a very authentic, rich, and overall exciting film.
A heart-breaking examination of a decaying shell of a once-bright marriage, this sad yet erotic-seeming story mixes happy flashbacks of attraction and desire with the grim reality of a dull life. It boosts an electrifying performance from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, who seamlessly combine tenderness, rage, lust and sadness. This is a guaranteed tear-jerker, so make sure you've brought your Kleenexes!
Revealing the gaps in the social safety net, I, Daniel Blake, is a tale centered around a blue collar worker navigating the welfare system in England. At a time where class and social mobility could not be more politically salient, this film calls into question the notion of the “citizen” and exposes the inaccessibility to the social protections in which one presumes entitlement.At the forefront of this, is a heart-warming parable of paternal companionship between Daniel (played by Dave Johns) and a single mother – Katie – (played by Hayley Squires) who is wading through similar terrain. The acting in the film is unfathomably raw which cultivates the deepest source of gut wrenching compassion. Ken Loach has created a film that exposes the true power of empathy, leaving you feeling helplessly human.
The main reason to watch Love & Mercy could be that it's about the life of Beach Boys leader Bryan Wilson, but it shouldn't. That wouldn't do the film any justice. Yes it is a great rock biopic, but its reach goes way beyond that: it's a compelling and beautiful character study performed in unparalleled perfection by Paul Dano and John Cusack. It gives an inside look into the mind of a genius in all its glory and obscurity. And so much of it rings true because, yes, it is about the life Beach Boys leader Bryan Wilson. Such a unique and beautiful film.
A couple decides to raise their six children in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, far from modern culture. They teach them how to raise and kill their own food, how to live in nature, but also give them classes on literature, politics, and music. The family drills boot camp-like workouts and climbs rock faces to create physical endurance. Then the wilderness adventure comes to an abrupt halt with a telephone call, and the family enters the world -- with hilarious and sorrowful results. Emotionally raw and honest, with terrific performances by Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay and the entire cast of "children."
A fish out of water coming-of-age story with an abundance of charm. Greg Gaines, a kid with few to zero close people finds himself obliged to befriend a girl recently diagnosed with cancer. She enters his seemingly balanced social life and he tries to adjust to her new predicament, and the story goes from there. There is excellent cinematography and really funny sequences, but to me what is most amazing is that with three perfectly played and perfectly written characters, you are sure to see parts of yourself in either Greg, Earl, or Rachel - if not some parts in each one.