Seven-years worth of footage focusing on the rise of two 1990’s alt neo-psych groups alone does not a documentary make. However, when that footage reveals the uneasy friendship and famous rivalry between Courtney Taylor-Taylor of The Dandy Warhols and Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre something fascinating happens. You don’t have to know a damn thing about either band to appreciate Oni Timoner’s 2004 film Dig!, since the movie’s “characters” — particularly the proudly divisive Newcombe and his crew — are completely captivating. There’s also something great about seeing a story unfold in real-time. Timoner was there for all the highs and lows as they happened — and there are many.
We’ve championed Duncan Jones’ visually arresting, incredibly emotional, and beautifully atypical sci-fi film Moon several times already, and we’re happy to do it again. Moon forgoes the space porn for a character portrait told through the extremely underrated Sam Rockwell and the fractured mind of his astronaut, who is haunted by time and memories.
This strange, but surprisingly touching, import from Finland is a darkly humorous, twisted Christmas fable that’s highly enjoyable and wonderfully creepy in all the right places. You’ll feel echoes of ’80s genre films in the affectionate and earnest approach filmmaker Jalmari Helander takes. We’re surprised no one has remade the movie yet on American shores.
For a similar Scandinavian fabler you probably haven’t seen, we also highly recommend Trollhunter .
Wendy and Lucy
We’re not going to lie to you: this movie will make you sob hysterically. It’s devastating and touching, and there are no easy answers or neatly wrapped endings. Still, that’s the beauty of it — apart from Michelle Williams’ incredible performance. It’s a spare, well-crafted film with no maudlin gimmicks. All eyes are on Williams, and it reminds us why the actress was able to trump the teen TV star curse and land a rewarding and successful career for herself. The film follows Wendy (Williams) and her beloved dog Lucy as the young woman sets out to start a new life for herself. Everything that could possibly go wrong does.
If you want to cry more after the movie is over, turn on another EW pick — the harrowing Swedish sex trafficking tale Lilya 4-ever, which is another movie we’ve recommended.
Early Fassbender, the wonderful eye and direction of Andrea Arnold, and a raw and honest performance from a first time teen actress make Fish Tank a must-see. “I wanted someone who would give me trouble for real. I wanted a girl who would not have to act, could just be herself,” the director shared in an interview — and she found that in Katie Jarvis as Mia. The isolated young woman in a working class London suburb is forced to contend with her mother’s new boyfriend (Fassbender), and the lines of their relationship become blurry. The film was nominated for the 2009 Palme d’Or and took home the Jury Prize at Cannes.
We realize that anime tends to divide moviegoers, but don’t let that prevent you from watching this poignant, surreal tale about a young pop star whose shifting perspective disorients as she tries to change careers and is haunted by an unrelenting fan. The dark tale was reportedly an influence on Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, but the filmmaker has denied it. If David Lynch or Italian horror director Dario Argento made an anime movie, this would be it.
In Amish society, “rumspringa” refers to a time during adolescence when teens choose baptism within the church, or to leave their community for good — a test of their faith and commitment. During this period, some of the kids ditch their traditional frocks for modern clothes, others party, drink, and try drugs, and several drive cars or form romantic and sexual relationships. A film centering on this unusual ritual could easily be sensationalistic, but Lucy Walker’s 2002 documentary is far from exploitive. The film poses questions about Amish and “English” culture as a whole, while also being a compelling character study of a troubled boy named Faron Yoder who grapples with the pressures of his newfound freedom.
We’ve also shown appreciation for another EW documentary pick, Marwencol , but think that Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles is probably the movie you haven’t seen yet.
Brad Anderson’s unsettling psychological terror flick Session 9 also falls in the underrated category, but before the filmmaker took up residence at the Danvers State Mental Hospital, he directed a weird and wonderful love story called Happy Accidents. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Sam and Marisa Tomei’s Ruby are crazy about each other. He claims to be from the year 2470 — and we sort of believe him. She finds his story a charming quirk at first, but eventually questions his sanity. D’Onofrio’s transformation here is outstanding, ranging from disturbing to heartwarming. Tomei easily holds her own next to his intensity, and like the actor, can shift from completely normal to absolutely peculiar. Anderson made the perfect love story for the millennium.
Enter the Void
Is Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void a movie people haven’t seen, or a movie people don’t want to see? This is the same director who created the disturbing Irréversible that featured a too-long scene of a brutal rape. Ryan Gosling chose this film for EW’s list, and since we can’t refuse Baby Goose, we’ll also recommend you watch this mind-bending feature. “I never saw anything like it. I just think it’s completely unique. I couldn’t compare it to anything. It’s incredibly powerful,” Gosling said. “As much as you could recreate the experience of dying and being dead, he did it. Outside of actually doing it, I think that’s as close as you can come.”
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
The supremely talented and criminally underrated Forest Whitaker stars in Jim Jarmusch’s homage to Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 film Le Samouraï, which twists the mythoi of gangster and samurai icons in cinema and beyond. Whitaker plays a modern-day hit man who lives by the code of the ancient Samurai, and enthralls with his philosophical asides, somber reflections, and communications with carrier pigeons. Sound like a Jarmusch film yet?