Our annual compilation of overlooked films. Each reviewer chose five films to highlight.
“The Great Buddha+”: As if it hasn't already been a vintage year for Asian films, you can add Huang Hsin-Yao’s debut feature to the impressive list. As savagely satirical as it is gorgeously surreal, the black-and-white comedy, set in a predominantly poor, rural Taiwanese village, wraps its sociopolitical barbs in a punk sensibility disguising an unexpected poignancy.
“They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead”: Much more than just a making-of companion piece to Orson Welles’ posthumously completed passion project “The Other Side of the Wind,” unveiled in November on Netflix, this Morgan Neville documentary skillfully resurrects its larger-than-life subject, captured fully inhabiting a richly upholstered space nestled somewhere between genius and madness. Netflix
“Sign Gene”: Just another sci-fi Wuxia experimental origins film conceived by, directed by and starring a deaf guy? Actually that doesn’t even begin to sum up Emilio Insolera’s dazzling first feature, which energetically and empoweringly blends elements of “X-Men,” “The Da Vinci Code” and 007 in depicting the evolution of the “first generation of deaf superheroes.”
“Mountain”: Those armchair thrill-seekers in search of another “Free Solo” might wish to check out this similarly exhilarating collaboration between filmmaker Jennifer Peedom (“Sherpa”), the Australian Chamber Orchestra and narrator Willem Dafoe that awe-inspiringly charts humankind’s enduring obsession with the world’s most formidable summits. Amazon; Apple iTunes
“Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda”: Filmed over several years when the composer-musician was diagnosed with Stage 3 throat cancer (he’s currently in remission), this quietly introspective, gorgeous looking and sounding production serves as a stirringly poetic meditation on the pursuit of creation in the face of encroaching mortality. Apple iTunes
More, please: Please be vigilant and adjust your screens. Acknowledging the popularity of streaming, filmmakers are asking home viewers to check their default settings and turn off motion smoothing, a digital effect making everything look like it was shot on decidedly less cinematic high-speed video.
Enough already: While such 2018 releases as “Beautiful Boy,” “Ben Is Back,” “Boy Erased” and “Eighth Grade” have been well received, may we take a breather from troubled teens in favor of angst-free fare depicting happy-go-lucky adolescents? They’ve got to be out there, somewhere.