In a year spoiled by big-budget sequels with ideas long past their expiration dates, it’s inspiring to see independent and documentary features continue to bring something fresh to the table.
While many viewers are hungry for the bounty of films that will be released in the fall, bubbly coming-of-age stories like Sing Street, Eddie the Eagle, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople and rabbit hole narratives like Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, Tickled, and The Lobster have provided more than mere sustenance.
In particular, there are 5 films that I’d recommend feasting your eyes on:
5) The Witch
17th Century New England was rough. Society was judgmental, clothing was uncomfortable, and children were sacrificial – but don’t let the contemporary parallels fool you. Robert Eggers’ portrait of the condemned is anything but conventional; especially when it comes to the horror genre.
4) Maggie’s Plan
Greta Gerwig does New York, but Rebecca Miller’s version reveals a soulful quality that connects to a more universal audience than the city’s sub-genre of neurotic metropolitan humor popularized by Woody Allen and most recently adopted by Noah Baumbach typically manages.
3) Where to Invade Next
One of the funniest films of the year is also the first that brought me to tears. While Michael Moore gets up to his usual antics and expectedly regresses to his trademark rhetorical approach for better or worse, there’s no denying his iconic role as a documentarian with valuable points to make about the decline of the American empire.
2) Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross)
Matt Ross is much more than a creepy character actor. If 28 Hotel Rooms (2012) wasn’t enough proof, than the burgeoning director’s latest feature will make you a believer by deftly fusing the tone of Little Miss Sunshine (2006) with the message of Into the Wild (2007) and trusting a brave young cast to support Viggo Mortensen’s finest performance since Eastern Promises (2007).
1) OJ: Made in America (Ezra Edelman)
By my measure, a great film should be timely or timeless. Ezra Edelman’s sweeping study of OJ Simpson is both. The scope of the film is as daunting as a Ken Burns production, but it’s crafting is equally as consuming as the documentary’s fictional step-brother, The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story. Yet, while the latter offers an array of casting choices that distract from the poignant connection that both make to the Black Lives Matter movement, OJ: Made in America reveals the less palatable, but necessary, examination of the persistent racism that continues to disgrace our culture.