The Oscars are on tonight! Last year I went to the movies a ton so I wanted to write a top 10 list, but there’re a lot of movies on that list that’d be rehash, movies every critic has talked about, movies you, in all likelihood, have already seen. In a city like Austin, we have a unique chance to see movies that don’t show in every theater across the US, so I’ve decided to shed some light on the movies I enjoyed this year that my friends may not have heard of. Descriptions are brief, spoiler free.
Swiss Army Man is an oddball film about being yourself. It stars Paul Dano as a marooned man and Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse he finds washed up on the beach. It has great original music that begs to be hummed after viewing. It might not be for everyone, but I found this hour and a half long fart joke strangely endearing.
Tickled this was a film funded on Kickstarter a few years back. It’s a documentary about “competitive endurance tickling”. It starts off light and funny in tone and progressively gets dark and mysterious. The less you know about this one going in, the better.
Kubo and the Two Strings this movie actually might get an Oscar. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature, but I don’t remember anyone talking about it when it came out. It’s Laika’s fourth feature (Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls) and it hardly made its 60 mil budget back. The story takes place in a mythical ancient Japan, so the setting feels fresh. A half-dozen of A-listers are doing the voices and the animation is great.
Green Room is a masterwork suspense film. A punk rock band gets tricked into playing at a neo-nazi club out in the middle of nowhere and witness something they shouldn’t’ve seen. It goes downhill from there. The gore is great, the suspense is good, the kills are brutal. It's punk AF; like so punk a fight broke out in our theater at the end of the movie! It’s worth noting it’s Anton Yelchin’s last leading role. Opposite to Yelchin, Patrick Stewart plays the leader of the neo-nazis.
10 Cloverfield Lane Okay. I know you probably already know about this movie. Anyways, I loved it. Way more than that other Cloverfield movie.
Hell or Highwater Though mostly shot in New Mexico, this movie bleeds Texas. I know. I’m a Texan. Hell or Highwater is a neo western. Chris Pine and Ben Foster are two brothers robbing banks; Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham are the rangers on their tail. Everyone is a cowboy. It's nominated for an Oscar, but it's the darkest horse.
Men and Chicken is a Danish dark comedy starring Mads Mikkelsen. There’s a lot of slapstick humor here, people getting bashed in the head with two-by-fours or beaten to a pulp with a taxidermied chicken. But there’s also very rich darwinian and religious allegory. This is another film that’s going to turn a lot of viewers off. The main character is a chronic masterbater and makes Will Ferrel’s usual man-child characters look docile.
The Wailing is my favorite film from last year. It’s a South Korean horror directed by Na Hong-jin. It’s about an incompetent policeman who must deal with mysterious killings in his little rural town. There’s religious symbolism, the fear of foreign Japanese, zombies, comedy, gore. I was pondering its meaning days after seeing it.
Well, that's it for now. For the housekeeping: I've got another anthology in a primordial form. Stay tuned for that.