Under the Radar: Other Films to Catch during Blockbuster Season
by Jordan Ruimy
Here are a few films that I think are worth paying attention to. Take for example Kelly Reichardt, whose “Night Moves” premiered earlier last year at the Toronto Film Fest. Reichardt is a filmmaker who doesn’t adhere to any conventions, and a film by this talented female writer-director has in a way become a convention in itself. If you’ve seen “Old Joy”, “Wendy and Lucy”, or “Meek’s Cutoff” – three spectacular movies – you would know just how promising and exciting a filmmaker she is. In this new film she tackles eco-terrorism, as three radical environmentalists, expertly played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard, concoct a plan to make a hydroelectric dam explode. Of course there repercussions, and what follows after is in a way predictable, something Reichardt has never really been know for.
“Night Moves” moves at the same slow, burningly real pace we’ve come to expect from her films, especially in the first half, which is by far the strongest part of the film. The wait and execution of the bombing is so tightly edited and constructed that you will likely be biting every single one of your fingernails in anguish. It is one of the most excitingly constructed sequences I have seen this year, and more than makes up for the lacklustre second half, which pits our protagonists in agonizing self-conflict and betrayal. The film is minor Reichardt but nevertheless a Reichardt through and through.
Another film that is finally getting its due release is Nadav Lapid’s Israeli film “Policeman”, which I saw close to 3 years ago to this day at a film fest. Here’s a film unafraid of tackling tough, deeply difficult issues that are at the core of modern-day Israeli society. It knocked me out for a loop. The film tells of two stories. The first half has to do with Yaron, a hard working Israeli police officer with a pregnant wife and a sense of unequivocal fraternity amongst his unit. The second half of the movie is more political – a group of five young Left wing radicals decide to start a revolution to protest the vast difference between Israel’s rich and poor societies – a very relevant topic today, even though the film was made more than 4 years ago. These radicals want to create a new order in a country they see decimated by poverty. Both stories come together and converge into a thoughtfully carried out finale that consequentially ups the tension a notch. Lapid’s film is one like no other. He shoots it with a bracing poet’s eye, choosing the right shots and experimenting with a uniquely sketched out style. Here’s a small budget movie made into a grandiose cinematic statement and I wouldn’t be surprised if more people hear about it in the months to come. I do know quite a few critics are starting to back this one up including Lisa Schwarzbaum, Todd Mccarthy and Manhola Dargis, so seek it out.
“Cheap Thrills” is a film that got a VOD release as well as a minimally scattered theatrical release. It’s a real shame because it really is one hell of a ride and the only reason why I even caught up to it was because the film is starting to get its fair share of a following over at IndieWire. The story follows Craig (Pat Healy, in an extremely demanding role), a man down on his luck and in need of immediate cash to pay up for rent and support his family. He hits the local bar on the way home from work and sees an old high school buddy (Ethan Embry, doing the whole asshole douchebag thing as perfectly and humanly possible), and the two meet up with a strange couple who want to have a drink with them (David Koechner and Sara Paxton, who are both the highlight of this sick twisted movie). The four then have what one can only describe a truly horrific night film filled with truth or dares and money grabs.
33-year-old writer-director E.L Katz has made a movie that a younger Michael Haneke would be super proud of. The shock factor here is quite high and to talk about, let alone even hint at, the plot would be to ruin some of the most surprising aspects of this twistedly deranged film. What Katz is trying to show us is how far two desperate human beings would go for money. It is an indictment of our society and what the definition of happiness actually means. Some will blame Katz for going for shocks way too many times in his movie but I couldn’t have liked that decision better myself. I dare you to try and get his movie out of your head. It’ll be impossible to shake it off.