While there’a a serious lack of Paul Giamatti, Kristen Wiig, and Greta Gerwig options and an extremely poor selection of Canadian productions in Canadian Netflix, there are a few gems to enjoy while you watch the winter hours pass in these early months.
Let this list be a guide to some cozy, contemporary films that I highly recommend you spend a night with. They’re either hilariously well-written, magical, ever-intruiging, or a melting pot of all three varieties. Let’s just hope your internet connection is better than mine:
OBVIOUS CHILD (2014)
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Writers: Gillian Robespierre (screenplay), Karen Maine(story)
Stars: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann
SHORT TERM 12 (2013)
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton
Stars: Brie Larson, Frantz Turner, John Gallagher Jr.
Brie Larson’s on everyone’s radar these days (ahem: Room) and it’s because of films like this one. Larson plays a supervisor at a shelter for at-risk and brilliantly acted youth and, while she builds a relationship with a new teen, she’s also trying to keep the peace between mis-placed identity, self-harm, and self-care of residents, all the while her own set of crises quietly plays out in her personal life. This films ended and I was like, “Wow. Well. Done.”
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012)
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Writers: Lucy Alibar (screenplay), Benh Zeitlin(screenplay)
Stars: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly
Quvenzhane Wallis is phenominal in this whimsical and enchanting story of hardship and perseverance, narrated by the character she portrays, Hushpuppy. Take a journey with this film.
Director: Lars von Trier
Writer: Lars von Trier
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland
You might remember this one from a few years ago, awarding Kirsten Dunst Best Actress at Cannes and making a tonne of waves internationally. This film depicts an interest of mine; the parallels between daily life and an uncontrollable spacial force. The two collide in this beautiful film, and it’s much worth your attention and contemplation.
Directors: Kristina Goolsby, Ashley York
Writer: Jennifer Arnold
Stars: Tig Notaro, Stephanie Allynne, Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman
I was told to watch this by more than 5 friends before I pulled it up on my iPad while I baked cupcakes in my kitchen. I didn’t take it seriously until I found myself smiling and sobbing into tin pans at Tig’s story. Tig’s got a beautiful story that is whole-heartedly shared; an exploration of health, gender, comedy, and true love.
BEASTS OF NO NATION (2015)
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Writers: Cary Joji Fukunaga (screenplay), Uzodinma Iweala (based on the novel by)
Stars: Abraham Attah, Emmanuel Affadzi, Ricky Adelayitor
Gracing the screen at #TIFF15 I was thrilled to see this one and totally by accident. The stories and the reality of child soldiers in West Africa and around the world need to be shared; needed to be given light. Acknowledging that this film is American made, the plight and circumstance of many children and families still remains very subdued in the media and a film like this, if anything, will enlighten many people to the truths of many. This is an extremely well done, well crafted film.
BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (2014)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writers: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone
Stars: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton
Birdman is a unique, adrenaline-filled experience. It’s akin to a roller-coaster where you are swept up in its ebb and flow of energy and the bold and brilliant performances of its cast. Much to the tempo of Whiplash, the experimental drumming soundtrack and theatre-based setting allow for an entirely empirical journey through character and story.
MOONRISE KINGDOM (2012)
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Stars: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis
A child-like fantastical journey through the eyes of the creative and calculated mind of Wes Anderson, with characters who embrace their age and grow within their adolescence. Moonrise Kingdom must be my favourite Wes Anderson yet.
CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
Director: Drew Goddard
Writers: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard
Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison
More comedy thriller than horror, Cabin in the Woods is a great film to watch on a Friday night alone or with friends. A less-culty sub-film in the vein of The Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods is smart, quirky, and has got a few great surprises.
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson
Her is a love letter to a technological age. It’s brilliant and sweet and heartbreaking and lovely. I would watch this again and again and again. A more in-depth review is here, but there are spoilers.
THE OVERNIGHT (2015)
Director: Patrick Brice
Writer: Patrick Brice
Stars: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman
This film is uncomfortably quirky in a brilliant way. It’s offbeat and takes you to strange places with new neighbours and lingers there until you want to go, to look away, but can’t. It’s a great art-house film with an awesome cast. Grab a glass of wine and invite some friends over, maybe ones you only sort of know…