The year 2010 was not a good year for cinema if all you do is watch mainstream movies. That was the sad but true fact. The summer blockbusters were all disappointing minus "Toy Story 3" and "Inception" but if you knew where to look to find good cinema, independent and lesser known was definitely the way to go. Now, before you start calling me a snob, hear me out. I know not everyone is into independent cinema and I'm content with that fact. But, this year, more than ever before, had some astonishing films that I feel need to be pointing out and more importantly, need to be seen. These films beg to be experienced.
1. Animal Kingdom (Australia)
Directed by: David Michod
Starring: James Frecheville/Guy Pearce/Jackie Weaver/Joel Edgerton/Sam Mendelsohn/Luke Ford
Animal Kingdom is the most perfect piece of gritty family drama to be seen this year. Fuck “The Fighter,” this is where it’s at. David Michod’s feature film debut is the best debut I’ve seen since Brad Anderson’s “Session 9.” A perfect piece of filmmaking that tells the story of 17-year old, Joshua as he becomes involved with his criminal extended family. The main character, played by James Frecheville has a brilliant character growth as he starts the film as this passive, misguided young teenager and eventually learns how to stand on his own. The cast overall is brilliant, but Jackie Weaver’s character turn is something to behold as is Sam Mendelsohn’s menacing portrayal of Uncle Pope. A great film concerning the endless nature of revenge, the strong bonds of loyalty and the struggle in figuring out what's the right thing to do.
2. Dogtooth (Greece)
Directed by: Giorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Christos Stergioglou/Michele Valley/Aggeliki Papouila/Mary Tsoni/Hristo Passalis/Anna Kalaitzidou
If you were misguided to the true meanings of the “real” world, can it be held against you? In the film Dogtooth, we witness how three “children” are overly sheltered by their parents who keep them in the confines of the family home compound and the toll it eventually takes on their innocent and fragile minds. These “children” are not really children as they are in their late teens and early twenties and consist of two girls, who are taught that their private parts are called “keyboards”, and a boy who is allowed to release his sexual urges on a “family friend” without any concerns or obligations to her sexual needs. And yet these three siblings, who are never named, go about their days in a series of childlike play and competitions, often set up by their mother and father for rewards such as for the ownership of the toy planes that supposedly fall out of the sky or the right to choose the next activity for family night. The children are taught to fear the world beyond their high fences as they are told that it is a harsh world that is filled with dangers such as man-eating cats and wouldn’t be ready to face those dangers until their “dogtooth” falls out. The dogtooth or canine teeth are the two teeth on each side in the front that are bluntly sharp, though some people have more sharper, prominent dogteeth than others, a reminder of the savageness of our primitive ancestors.
Not recommended for casual viewing, Dogtooth is a series of serenely deranged portraits of a family who takes over-protective nurturing to the extremes. As bizarre and even flinching as the movie can be, it’s an honest reminder of the primal urges we all have and how the need for individualistic self-expression cannot be denied or contained and will find a way to break free.
3. Never Let Me Go
Directed by: Mark Romanek
Starring: Carey Mulligan/Andrew Garfield/Kiera Knightley/Sally Hawkins
Based on a Kazuo Ishiguro novel, Romanek’s latest film is his first since 2002’s “One Hour Photo.” The underlying story is something that I believe is best kept a secret but what can be said about the film is the amazing work given by Mulligan, Garfield and Knightley. The film perfectly uses the classic three-act structure as it covers three specific sections of the lives of this trio of childhood friends. The film has this timeless quality to it and everything about the movie is subdued and shows an incredible amount of restraint. Our three main characters are such clearly defined people, in the way they were written and especially in the way the actors portray those characters onscreen. Even, the "sci-fi elements" that the film has are presented in such a subtle and even-handed way. The film is a tragic and heartbreaking love story that says a lot about what makes us human and how important life is, that's it's a shame whenever it is wasted away.