The afterglow of awards season is rough for most movie lovers as the awards fare tends to stick around, filling cinema screens. Sometimes, newer films slip through the cracks. So, here are some movies that came out this year that you may have missed, but are definitely worth your time.
This Beautiful Fantastic starts out kind of like a fairy tale. A reclusive orphan from a young age, Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) is forced by her rich neighbor Alfie Stephenson (Tom Wilkinson) to stop living her life in books and take care of the garden in her backyard. Through her begrudging friendship with Alfie, she not only tends to her garden, but truly begins living her life in earnest. Writer/director Simon Aboud brings lush color to this world and takes great care in grounding the film in a semblance of reality. At the same time, the performances from Tom Wilkinson and Jessica Brown Findlay are amazing. The entire film comes across almost like a dream, something half remembered from your favorite childhood novel. This Beautiful Fantastic, while slightly predictable in nature, definitely has a charm to it that marks it as something worth investing.
Art has a significant role to play in Midsummer in Newton, a documentary examining the post tragedy lives of those affected by the Sandy Hook shootings in Newton, Connecticut. The film doesn’t get overly political, instead choosing to look into those that chose to channel their pain into different methods. One father chose to create an album in memory of his daughter, while the mother created a foundation in the daughter’s honor. Meanwhile, several of the town’s children put on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as the film follows them from auditions to the final act. Overall, Midsummer in Newton is not very heavy on preaching the benefits of art, nor the overall political firestorm that fell upon the town in the aftermath of the shooting. Instead it focuses on the people and how working through art has helped the town grow, finding a light in the darkness through theatre and music.
It’s hard to frame a dark comedy around fight scenes, but Catfight does so with aplomb. Sandra Oh and Anne Heche play two old college frenemies, now a trophy wife and a server respectively, who get into a brawl that change their lives forever. What follows is revenge along a micro scale as each woman careens into their next future encounter. Director Onur Tukel brings this hyper-violent, darkly hilarious film to life, but the true stars are Oh and Heche, who get to tear their teeth into delicious roles. Catfight is an absurdly comedic, if not extremely vicious film.
A different type of cat fight happens in Kedi, the directorial debut of Ceyda Torun. You may ask yourself: who wants to see a documentary that focuses on everyday cats in Istanbul? Well, it’s not just about the cats–though the film is divided into different sections and profiles the cats’ personalities. Instead, it’s an examination of the city of Istanbul and their relationship to these street cats, examining why the city dwellers care for these strays. The cats aren’t just pets or animals, they’re therapeutic to those who are seeking something to live for and it’s that emotional element that truly makes the film shine. With gorgeous aerial cinematography and great cat action, Kedi is definitely one of the most intriguing documentaries of the year.
The fate of foreign Academy Award nominees is usually depressing, as only the winner gets any real attention stateside as the rest fall away into limited distribution. While The Salesman is a fantastic film and deserves the accolades, Land of Mine tells the true tale of young German POW’s who are sent to Denmark to pry up active bombs with their bare hands. The script balances the cruelty of the prison sentence with a careful hand, being so certain that the sentence never fully eclipses into revenge for the war while simultaneously allowing the Danish Sgt. Carl Rasmussen (Roland Moller) to have an ever growing compassion for his young charges. Land of Mine succeeds in bringing more ambiguity to the actions of the victors of World War 2 without coming across as heavy handed, all with a fantastic cast and gorgeous cinematography.
Hailed as an update to the groundbreaking documentary Paris is Burning, Kiki examines the strength and hardships of LGBTQ youth of color in modern times. While modern politics have advanced, allowing gay marriage and a certain level of general acceptance, Kiki showcases that the vocal support is not universally applied, as many are still ostracized from their communities and thrown out of their homes. It also shows the brighter side, the ballroom scenes that become an adopted family for many and are both a celebration and an art form. The interview segments are personal and raw and the ballroom scenes are true expressions of a powerful and growing movement, turning Kiki into one of the can’t miss documentaries of the year.