Here at Audiences Everywhere, we know all about the hustle and bustle of modern life. Why, it can be a challenge for even the biggest movie buff to find the time to watch something, what with smartphones, and Twitter, and those weird things that are like Segways, but just the feet part. You know what I’m talking about? Time-consuming! The point is, we understand if some great films flew under your radar. Given that this is the end of the year, we thought we’d collect some standout releases that you may have missed. We’ll also tell you where they’re available to be viewed, since many of them are on a variety of streaming services:
Appropriate Behavior (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play)
I fell hard for this debut feature from Desiree Akhavan, which follows a bisexual Persian-American woman named Shirin, played by Akhavan, as she tries to pick up the pieces in the wake of a breakup. Appropriate Behavior reframes familiar cinematic struggles regarding identity in affecting ways, and it is thoroughly witty while doing so. Akhavan, who also wrote the film, pulls off an empathetically satiric tone, a rare balancing act. She’s a major breakout talent of the year, and her film is as lovable as they come.
Entertainment (iTunes, Amazon)
Entertainment requires a specific taste, but it’s going to make a small group of people extremely happy. Over the course of the film, director Rick Alverson moves from a washed-out desert purgatory to a neon expressionist hell, with star Gregg Turkington drunkenly tumbling downwards. Turkington’s shrill delivery of his horrible jokes evokes a kind of committed depression, as though someone dared him to be as self-loathing as possible. As I said, it’s a niche work, but if you’re in that niche, you need to check this film out.
Experimenter (iTunes, Amazon)
On paper, this is a biopic about Stanley Milgram’s famous psychological experiments, but in practice it’s a deconstruction of the entire biopic genre. Experimenter asks big questions about the nature of truth in cinema, and how much unreality we as viewers are willing to take. It’s a surprise attack on all of your preconceptions about what film is supposed to be, as well as on your assumptions about “based on a true story” films. Peter Sarsgaard’s superb lead performance is the icing on the cake.
The Overnight (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play)
I don’t want to say too much about this one, since its surprises are best experienced as, well, surprises, but suffice to say that it’s the first good sex comedy in a long time. The cast is aces, especially the always excellent Adam Scott, playing an atypically typical character. The build of the narrative is deliciously nervy. This is a film best experienced with an audience, if only because what bits do and don’t get laughs can be a great barometer for someone’s personality.
Victoria is shot entirely in one take, making it unlike that other movie that only pretended to be shot in one take from last year. The result is one of the most captivating, real, and at times, thrilling films of the year. The film follows a young foreigner on the streets of Berlin after-hours, after befriending a group of guys with ties to the criminal underworld, and is a cinematic achievement that cannot be missed. The performances, the writing, the camerawork all comes together to make a real and altogether natural piece of film-making that resembles reality more than anything else.
Phoenix (iTunes, Amazon, Netflix Instant)
The film, about a concentration camp survivor with a new face attempting to relocate her husband who may have given her up to the Nazis resonates with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, yet feels fresh and filled with even more emotional depth than the aforementioned masterpiece. Phoenix is a haunting and thematically rich take on identity filled with an almost non-stop tension. The two leads are spectacular, and the closing scene is the best of recent memory – the kind that wraps up the entire story phenomenally and recurs within the mind indelibly.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play)
The unexpected Fargo spin-off juggernaut seems almost unstoppable this year, with the TV show in contention for verbal show of the year, as well as this. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is a strikingly beautiful study on escapism, bleak and harrowing. Rinko Kikuchi in the titular role is phenomenal, exhibiting an uncanny sense of restraint as she becomes a bit of a hermit, a recluse, yet remaining a fascinating character throughout.
The Stanford Prison Experiment (iTunes, Amazon)
It is impossible not to notice all the young talent while watching The Stanford Prison Experiment, yet also how little it matters. A necessary and efficient retelling, the film reminds us of power’s effect on the human condition as temptation, and of a time, terrifyingly real, where the idea was put to the test. It is a difficult but thrilling watch – the process of which feels almost claustrophobic as if we were in the cells, yet also, immoral as if it were because of us that the experiment did not stop any sooner. Such is the power of the film itself.
List Compiled by Jason Ooi and Josh Rosenfield.