Now that 2017 has wound down it's time to look back at some of the movies that you may have missed in all of the accolades given to a variety of films making the rounds on the award circuit.
The first film worth mentioning is a genuine throwback to classic filmmaking and was even shot on actual film. The Lost City of Z is a period piece directed by James Gray, and is the story of the famous British explorer Percy Fawcett, who in the early 20th century disappeared while looking for a purported lost city in the Amazon. There are many great aspects to this film, from the sumptuous cinematography shot on 35 mm film, to the more transcendental elements that elevate the film beyond the conventional crazed explorer picture. Also, look for a disappearing Robert Pattinson as he plays Fawcett's right-hand man for most of his explorations.
A Ghost Story is a film that was quietly shot in secret and primarily set in a single-family home in Texas. Starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as a husband and wife living in present day Texas when one day the husband, played by Affleck, is killed in a car accident and his wife, played by Mara, must decide whether or not to leave their home and move on. After identifying her husband at the morgue, Affleck's character comes back as a ghost covered in a traditional white bed sheet who decides to haunt his old home. Eventually his wife leaves and moves on and the house is occupied over the years and decades by others as the husband continues to haunt the home. A Ghost Story is another film that subverts viewers expectations as it goes beyond the traditional confines of a haunting film, or even a romance, and instead explorers larger thematic concerns such as time and the meaning of life in this poignant drama.
Rat Film is one of the most original and thought-provoking documentaries to be released this year. The film tells the story of the city of Baltimore and the battle it has waged over the decades on the city's significant rat population. It does so while touching upon the sociological research done by academics in the city, how the city and residents handle the overwhelming population, and the racist housing policies that have led to the city's continuing segregation. The film doesn't aspire to be a polemic and instead exists as a fragmented series of short films combining Google Earth, art exhibits, and maps while being held together by a focus on both the rats and the people of Baltimore.Raw is a French horror film packing a good dose of social commentary in a provocative manner. The film tells the story of 16 year-old Justine whose family has just dropped her off at veterinary school. All of Justine's family are vegetarians and veterinarians as well, including her older sister who is attending the same school. Soon after arriving, Justine is subjected to ritual hazing that involves her eating meat for the first time. Justine finds herself overwhelmed with a taste for flesh, and thus begins a coming-of-age tale unlike any other.
One of the most beguiling films released this year comes from the Portuguese filmmaker Joao Pedro Rodrigues, whose latest work The Ornithologist is about an ornithologist named Fernando. Fernando is looking for rare birds when his kayak capsizes in the backcountry of northern Portugal, and he finds himself rescued by a group of Chinese Christians. From there he experiences one aberrant encounter after another leading him on a journey of self-discovery. This film is by no means for those who favor conventional narratives, or who are not ready to be challenged by a heavy dose of art house cinema.