By Ezra Stead
Well, here we are again, folks! Every year since 2001, I’ve made it my self-imposed obligation to see at least 100 new movies (104 in 2016) and then attempt to rank my ten (or more) favorite ones against one another. Notice I didn’t say these were the “best” movies of the year, but my favorite ones; the distinction is important, lest anyone mistakenly expect a shred of objectivity herein.
Anyway, this year, in the interest of championing underdogs and holding a light to some movies you might not have been constantly hearing about since November or so, I have decided to exclude any of the Academy’s Best Picture nominees from my top ten. If you want to know how I felt about those films, you can find my favorites, unranked, in the Honorable Mentions just below the main list, and if you want to know more than that, there’s always the annual MoviesIDidntGet.com Oscars Podcast, which you can listen to on this very site, very soon. Read More
By Ezra Stead
Since M. Night Shyamalan’s much-ballyhooed 1999 feature The Sixth Sense, twist endings have gotten something of a bad rap, and usually with good reason. After all, in many cases they are a cheap way to add excitement to the climax of an otherwise dull story; sometimes they are a cop-out, negating all emotional involvement that may have been invested in a film up until that point; others seem to be the sole reason for a story’s existence, without which the whole thing crumbles. On the other hand, when they work, twist endings can make a good film great, and they occasionally even reward repeat viewings by revealing previously unseen layers that can only be recognized once the conclusion of the story is known.
As rightly reviled as are many recent examples of the technique, especially many of Shyamalan’s subsequent efforts, there are also many laudable examples to be found among some of history’s greatest cinematic achievements, old and new. Widely respected filmmakers from Alfred Hitchcock to David Fincher and Christopher Nolan have successfully employed the well-placed twist to wonderful effect, and even Orson Welles’s immortal classic Citizen Kane, considered by many to be the greatest American film ever made, concludes with what can only be deemed an elegant, emotionally rich twist ending. Read More
By Ezra Stead
Dogtooth, 2009, Greece
Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos
This film is mind-blowingly great, the best I’ve seen in quite some time. The best way to see Dogtooth is the way in which I was lucky enough to: without knowing anything about its storyline. If you have not yet seen this film, I strongly encourage you to stop reading this review and watch it, right now, on Netflix or any other method you might be able to find.
Anyone still with me? I am now going to assume you have seen the film and that it has either blown your mind and made you extremely inspired and reinvigorated about the possibilities of the cinematic art form, as it did for me on both viewings (within two weeks), or it has outraged and disgusted you with its “mean-spiritedness,” as it did for some others with whom I have discussed it. Maybe it has done a little of both. In any event, you have seen the film and I will no longer have to warn you about upcoming spoilers.
Greek filmmaker Giorgos Lanthimos has created a film of startling power and striking originality. The closest comparison I can make, both in style and content, is the work of Austrian provocateur Michael Haneke – the brilliant filmmaker behind The Seventh Continent (1989), Cache (2005) and The White Ribbon (2009), to name just a few – but Dogtooth is more perversely humorous than even Haneke’s Funny Games (1997, remade by Haneke himself in 2007), which is admittedly the only one of his films to really utilize humor. As dark, disturbing and sometimes brutal as Dogtooth ultimately is, it is hard not to laugh at some of it, and this is clearly the desired effect. Read More