23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019

25 Dec 2019 (PT)
FOREIGN FILMSCRIMINALOVERLOOK

The end of the year is a great time to catch up on movies that went unnoticed over the last 12 months. More times than not, that means cinephiles are frantically catching up on the best films of 2019 and the year's biggest awards contenders heading into the last stretches of the Oscar race January 2020. Chances are good that by now many readers have caught up on “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and “Parasite,” among other big Oscar contenders, so what's left to watch over the last week of 2019? How about one of the year's most criminally overlooked indie movies or foreign films.

From Sundance gems that disappeared upon release to bold international visions that were far too challenging to become “Parasite”-level hits domestically, below are 20 great movies from 2019 that deserve a lot more eyeballs. Films are listed below in alphabetical order.

Photo : Bleecker Street

“The Art of Self Defense”

Riley Stearns' pitch black comedy “The Art of Self Defense” is the sort of dark, jagged storythat won't settle with viewers who require every emotional beat to be telegraphed, but those who take a chance on it will find dark delights. Jesse Eisenberg turns in his most unhinged and wild performance to date as a loner who turns to martial arts to protect himself but gets caught up in the sinister plan of his dojo an excellent Alessandro Nivola. Stearns has crafted a remarkably unnerving character study that winds its way to one of the greatest punchlines in recent movie memory. “I didn't play by the rules,” Casey Jesse Eisenberg says at one point, “but there never were any rules.” That seems to be Stearns' mantra.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Cannes

“Birds of Passage”

“Birds of Passage” starts in 1968 and encompasses a dozen years of violent upheaval in the northern Colombian desert, chronicling the rise and fall of a drug dealer and his family; the desert, however, turns out just fine. “Embrace of the Serpent” director Ciro Guerra's latest surreal drama, co-directed by “Serpent” producer Cristina Gallego, once against pits the dying rituals of a remote tribe against the striking ambivalence of nature — this time, using the backdrop to explore the origins of the drug trade. While it never reaches the psychedelic s of Guerra's previous effort and relies on a more conventional pattern of events, “Birds of Passage” delivers another fascinating tone poem about Colombia's fractured identity.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : New Line

“Blinded by the Light”

Seventeen years after her exuberant cross-cultural coming-of-age movie “Bend It Like Beckham,” UK filmmaker Gurinder Chadha returned with an even better movie courtesy of “Blinded by the Light.” The story of a brainy Pakistani teenager who finds a way to express his identity through the working-class songs of Bruce Springsteen was one of the best movies at the Sundance Film Festival, and it sold to New Line in a massive $15 million deal. The movie was supposed to be one of the year's biggest crowdpleasers, but instead it bombed at the box office and became a footnote of the summer movie season.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Kino Lorber

“Diamantino”

“Diamantino” is nothing less and so much more than the movie the world needs right now. Co-directed by Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt, this winningly demented 21st century fairy tale centers on a beautiful, child-like soccer phenom named Diamantino who reacts to a devastating World Cup loss by adopting a Mozambican refugee who claims to be a teen boy but is actually an adult lesbian on an undercover mission from the Portuguese government to investigate a money-laundering operation run by the athlete's evil twin sisters. Also, there's a mad scientist who's trying to clone Diamantino in order to create an invincible super team capable of stoking national pride and “Making Portugal Great Again.” Also, there are giant puppies. A lot of them. A litter of Pekingese the size of double-decker buses. And that's just the basic set-up.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : IFC Films

“Donnybrook”

Tim Sutton's “Donnybrook” is a grim and brutal adaptation of Frank Bill's novel. Jamie Bell gives a rousing performance as a former Marine who hopes to turn his fortunes around by agreeing to compete in a bare-knuckle fight where the winner gets a $100,000 prize. Sutton's film pulls off a tricky balance of B-movie caricatures and gloomy expressionism. “Donnybrook” depicts a bruised and tattered country, marred by misguided bouts of masculinity and overwhelmed by working-class frustrations.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Film Linc

“An Elephant Sitting Still”

Twenty-nine year old filmmaker Hu Bo took his own life after finishing his debut film, “An Elephant Standing Still,” but this four-hour masterpiece that he left behind will resonate for ages. Loosely adapted from one of the two controversial novels Hu wrote before his death, “An Elephant Sitting Still” unfolds like a frozen cross between Paul Thomas Anderson's “Magnolia” and Jia Zhangke's “A Touch of Sin.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Lionsgate

“Fast Color”

Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives one of her best performances in “Fast Color,” Julia Hart's somber look at a woman coming to grips with her mysterious powers. After premiering at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, Lionsgate released “Fast Color” this past March to infamously poor box office. How did such an acclaimed indie superhero origin story fail to connect with audiences? “Fast Color” is something far stranger and subtler than the MCU, providing an allegorical story about generations of black women who are forced to suppress their strengths, and the mounting courage they find in finally taking charge.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Film Linc.

“End of the Century”

IndieWire's Jude Dry named Lucio Castro's poignant and sexy gay romance drama “End of the Century” the best queer film of 2019. “Few films have captured the dual fleeting and enduring nature of intimate connection as poignantly as this one,” Dry raved. “The film, an elegant three-hander that mostly revolves around two men who meet-cute on a Barcelona balcony, leaves a lingering impression on the heart. Like a great poem, it gives voice to a seemingly indescribable feeling, one anyone who's ever fallen in love will recognize from deep in their soul — as if bumping into an old friend you forgot how much you liked.”

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Sundance

“Give Me Liberty”

In the pantheon of movies set within the constraints of a single, hectic day — from “Dog Day Afternoon” to “Dazed and Confused” — “Give Me Liberty” earns points for cramming its plot with new twists every step of the way. The plight of young Russian-American Vic newcomer Chris Galust as he speeds around Milwaukee in a handicapped transport and juggles a series of setbacks unfolds through tangled complications that collapse into chaos every few minutes. But even as that process grows exhausting across two packed hours, it's a dizzying blast to watch Vic's day fall apart again and again, as he struggles to mine meaning from the chaos.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Apple

“Hala”

Minhal Baig's semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story “Hala” debuted to strong buzz at the Sundance Film Festival and became one of the first major festival buys for Apple. “Blockers” favoriteGeraldine Viswanathan gives a breakthroughdramatic performance as a Muslim teen finding sexual agency while struggling to reconcile the two sides of her Pakistani-American identity. “Hala” premiered on Apple TV+this fall but did not get the kind of headline-making marketing push the streaming platform's television shows received see “The Morning Show” and “See”. What a shame, as “Hala” brings a contemplative edge to the coming-of-age genre that feels more like “Columbus” than “Lady Bird” or “The Edge of Seventeen.”

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : IFC

“Knives and Skin”

“'Knives and Skin' is a dark treat, offering a campy, creepy send-up of the Young Girl Goes Missing in a Small Town genre,” IndieWire's Ryan Lattanzio wrote about writer-director Jennifer Reeder's neo-noir. The movie traces the eerie spell that the disappearance of Carolyn Harper Raven Whitley casts on the townspeople, and specifically her very attractive high-school classmates. “Cinematographer Christopher Rejano's Technicolor images impressively conjure up a dreamlike world, where events often proceed at the narcotic pace of a David Lynch film, but with bracing moments of hallucinatory terror. Think John Hughes caught in a bad dream.”

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Sundance

“Luce”

Another Sundance favorite that quickly disappeared from theaters this year was Julius Onah's “Luce,” an adaptation of the 2013 off Broadway play that became a provocative acting showcase thanks to Octavier Spencer, Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and rising star Kelvin Harrinson Jr. who was also excellent this year in the more buzzed about “Waves”. The story centers around black Virginia teen Luce Kelvin Harrison, Jr., an accomplished football player and debate-team team captain who may or may not harbor revolutionary beliefs and violent tendencies. The differing perspectives of the main characters gives “Luce” a remarkable degree of moment-to-moment suspense.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Utopia

“Mickeyand the Bear”

IndieWire editor at large Anne Thompson declared newcomerCamila Morrone the next Jennifer Lawrence based on her breakthrough performanceAnnabelle Attanasio's “Mickey and the Bear.”Morrone stars as a downtrodden Montana woman struggling to gain a sense of her individuality while keeping her family and her veteran father afloat. Attanasio's direction is grounded and deeply felt, while her script sidesteps the usual coming-of-age genre tropes in order to explore questions that we never grow out of asking ourselves.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Sundance

“Ms. Purple”

Justin Chon followed his breakout Sundance debut “Gook” with “Ms. Purple,” a vivid and aching portrait ofone woman's relationship to men as she turns to sex work to support her dying father. “The strength of the film belongs to actress Tiffany Chu, who enriches 'Ms. Purple' with a performance that is both vulnerable and fearsome, softhearted and severe all at once,” IndieWire's Judy Dry wrote in their review. “Chu is the heart of “Ms. Purple,” a deeply felt and gorgeously framed portrait of the personal cost of fulfilling one's filial duty.”

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : HBO

“Native Son”

Rashid Johnson's stirring adaptation ofRichard Wright's 1940 novel “Native Son” opened the 2019 Sundance Film Festival with a bang, then it disappeared after being picked up by HBO and dropped on the network over the summer a similar fate met “The Tale” last year. Johnson's updated take on the material wasn't perfect, but it boldly enhanced Johnson's themes with powerful filmmaking. Most impresivewas Ashton Sanders, who in his first leading role after “Moonlight” delivered a high wire act of passion, terror, and resentment for the ages. IndieWire recently named Sanders' work one of the best performances of the year.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Sundance

“Piercing”

After premiering at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Nicolas Pesce's “Piercing” finally opened in the U.S. this past February, but the fearless performances from Christopher Abbott and Mia Wasikowska failed to register with moviegoers. Pesci was a breakout with “The Eyes of My Mother” and is next helming Sony's “The Grudge” reboot, which makes “Piercing” a fascinating bridge between Pesce's indie roots and studio future. The film is fascinating showdown between Abbott and Wasikowska's characters in which their erotic and violent tendencies become so intermingled they're impossible to distinguish.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : HBO

“Share”

Similar to “Native Son,” Pippa Bianco's startling feature directorial debut “Share” gained positive notices at Sundance before being sold by A24 to HBO and launching quietly on the premium cable network over the summer. “Share” was the only Sundance title that managed to break into the Cannes Film Festival this year. The film stars newcomer Rhianne Barreto as a high school teenager whose life is upended after a sexually explicitvideo of her is uploaded online. Imagine if “Eighth Grade” had been directed by Michael Haneke and you might get a sense of the vulnerability and dread of Pippa Bianco's film.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Film Movement

“Styx”

A German woman on a solo voyage sails across a sinking boat of refugees in “Styx,” a profound survival story that takes the “All Is Lost” story template and infuses it with the topical urgency of the refugee crisis. “A blunt, breathless, and astoundingly unsentimental morality play that's told with the intensity of a ticking-clock thriller, Wolfgang Fischer's 'Styx' is every bit as ominous as its title suggests, and far less fanciful,” IndieWire's David Ehrlich raved of the film earlier this year.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : IFC Films

“Sword of Trust”

A decade after solidifying her improv-heavy approach with “Humpday,” Lynn Shelton has delivered another endearing misadventure about bored, wistful people compelled to gamble on a reckless proposition. The movie's lightweight plot yields a disposable comedy with a lot on its mind, but its modest ambition is just enough to let leading actor Marc Maron push his onscreen appeal in a new direction.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Sundance

“Tigerland”

An artful fable that examines what it really means to save the world, Benedikt Erlingsson's “Woman at War” is the rarest of things: A crowd-pleaser about climate change. Combining Paul Schrader's dire urgency with Roy Andersson's droll brand of despair — to cite two other filmmakers whose work has wrestled with the maddening, quixotic idea of a single person trying to redeem an entire planet — Erlingsson has created a winsome knickknack of a movie that manages to reframe the 21st century's signature crisis in a way that makes room for real heroism.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : SXSW

“Wild Nights With Emily”

Just over a year after world premiering at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival,Madeleine Olnek's“Wild Nights With Emily” debuted in U.S. theaters in April and was declared the best lesbian comedy in years by IndieWire's Jude Dry. Molly Shannon stars as Emily Dickinson inOlnek's story that was based the esteemed poet's own letters and poems. “'Wild Nights With Emily' paints a much sunnier portrait of the poet than that of the reclusive spinster terrified of publication,” Dry wrote in their A- review. “Instead, the film imagines a lively woman forced to hide a lifelong love affair whose work was mostly rejected by a literary establishment that would embrace it after her death.”

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : IFC Midnight

“The Wind”

Emma Tammi's directorial debut “The Wind” marries the desolation of the American frontier with all the trappings of a classic mind-bender. Caitlin Gerard stars as a19th-century prairie woman who must face off against an unseen evil bringing madness, paranoia, and otherworldlyterror to her American frontier homestead. Tammi's vision is as much of an accomplished 19th century period piece as it is one of the year's most chilling psychological horror movies.

23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
Photo : Film Movement

“Woman at War”

An artful fable that examines what it really means to save the world, Benedikt Erlingsson's “Woman at War” is the rarest of things: A crowd-pleaser about climate change. Combining Paul Schrader's dire urgency with Roy Andersson's droll brand of despair — to cite two other filmmakers whose work has wrestled with the maddening, quixotic idea of a single person trying to redeem an entire planet — Erlingsson has created a winsome knickknack of a movie that manages to reframe the 21st century's signature crisis in a way that makes room for real heroism.

Source: Indiewire

FOREIGN FILMSCRIMINALOVERLOOK
Weekend of September 25 - 27, 2020 (IMDb)
Tenet
1.
Tenet
Net: $3.4M Grs: $41.2M
Weeks: 4
The New Mutants
2.
The New Mutants
Net: $1.2M Grs: $19.5M
Weeks: 5
Unhinged
3.
Unhinged
Net: $1.0M Grs: $17.2M
Weeks: 7
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
4.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Net: $0.9M Grs: $1.9M
Weeks: 12
Infidel
5.
Infidel
Net: $0.8M Grs: $2.7M
Weeks: 2
The Broken Hearts Gallery
6.
The Broken Hearts Gallery
Net: $0.5M Grs: $3.3M
Weeks: 3
Shortcut
7.
Shortcut
Net: $0.3M Grs: $0.3M
Weeks: 1
The Last Shift
8.
The Last Shift
Net: $0.2M Grs: $0.2M
Weeks: 1
Kajillionaire
9.
Kajillionaire
Net: $0.2M Grs: $0.2M
Weeks: 1
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run
10.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run
Net: $0.1M Grs: $4.4M
Weeks: 7
23 Criminally Overlooked Indies and Foreign Films in 2019
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