The Best Films Not in Theaters or DVD in 2005
DVD continued to experience explosive growth in 2005, but despite that fact a number of phenomenal films never got picked up for either theatrical or DVD distribution. It blows my mind that studios would plunk down 9 million dollars on crap like Carlito's Way: Rise to Power and then pass over films that would cost them well under a million dollars to release and promote. What makes this situation even worse is the fact that many independent DVD companies have taken the 'safe road' with their releases, turning toward Asian films with proven theatrical records or classic programming with some sort of guaranteed consumer base. It's an absolute shame that these films aren't available on DVD, and if we have anything to do with it... they'll find a home in 2006.
Here is my list of the best films you've haven't been able to see this year:
The Puffy Chair - Here's a film which debuted at Sundance, won the audience award at SXSW and then took am armful of prizes at many fests around the country. Then it gets nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Yet there are still no takers. Why? Because the magic of The Puffy Chair is the fact that it's so damn understated. The Duplass Brothers (Jay and Mark) along with Kathryn Aselton and Rhett Wilkins have made the penultimate film about the impact of ambivalence in relationships. Perhaps this isn't a concept people over 35 get, and perhaps this is why studios are clueless about why this film is so amazing. But I have to say that everyone I've shown this film to, and everyone I've spoken to who has seen it have been captivated by the immense honesty of the film. The Puffy Chair stands as a shining example of what you can do with an extremely low budget and a ton of talent and creativity.
I Am A Sex Addict - Many try but few succeed to join the ranks of Woody Allen and Larry David when it comes to painfully real self-reflective comedy. I am now proposing that Caveh Zahedi be added to the illustrious list of those who have tried and succeeded. I Am A Sex addict isn't just one of the best films not in theaters this year, it's one of the best films of the year. The film has an amazing wit, flows extremely well and is so masterfully crafted it should be studied in film schools. I Am A Sex Addict mixes documentary, recreation, monologue and humor into a film that needs to be seen. So why aren't studios rushing to release it? The main character has a prostitute fetish and there are several explicit scenes in the film. But nothing in this film is even remotely as explicit as Mysterious Skin which DID get picked up. Come on studios, take a chance and bring this one out. I'd give my eye teeth to be the studio who first truly discovers Caveh. This guy is going places!
Four Eyed Monsters - The other week I read a blog entry from filmmakers Susan Buice and Arin Crumley that made my heart sink. They had to sublet their New York apartment and go back to living with their parents to try and deal with the mounting debt the incurred making this fantastic film. How can we live in a world where great film makers starve like this and studios make American Pie 4. Four Eyed Monsters is a film with a ton of heart, it follows the relationship of two people who meet online and decide not to speak to each other, only communicate via writing and art. The film is touching, insightful and extremely well done. It's a film which gives voice to an entire generation of people who connect and communicate online. So much has been said about the huge market for Gen Y product. I don't think I've seen a film more geared toward that crowd than this one, and honestly you don't have to be in your 20's or 30's to fall in love with it.
Kekexili: Mountain Patrol - Now this one's a little bit of a cheat. The film does have a distributor (Sony Pictures Classics) but they aren't releasing the damn thing. I saw Kikichili at the 2005 Sundance film fest and it was one of my favorite films at the fest. If it had been released this year it would be in my top 5 films of the year. Kikichili: Mountain Patrol is one of the best films to come out of China in a very very long time. It harkens back to some of the best work done by Zhang Yimou (before he went all Hero on us). It's hard to remember a film that moved me more than Kikichili.
The Education of Shelby Knox - One of this year's best documentaries aired on PBS but never made it out on to DVD or into theaters (where it would have done EXTREMELY well). This documentary follows teenager Shelby Knox as she battles her school for real sex education to be taught. But the magic of this doc isn't just her struggle with the school board it's her internal struggle with her faith, her family and her friends. The Education of Shelby Knox is in the league with Super Size Me and should be out there!
Shakespeare Behind Bars - With the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams the issue of incarceration and redemption has been a hot topic, so it's mind boggling why no one scooped up and rushed out Shakespeare Behind Bars a superb documentary that takes a look at the lives of many convicts and how performing Shakespeare helped them connect and begin to deal with the issues and problems that lead them to jail. Documentaries did phenomenally at the box office this year and on DVD, so why the hell didn't anyone get behind this one?!
Nordkraft - This Danish 'Trainspotting' journeys through the dark world of drugs and drug abuse and paints a portrait of three people connected and caught in the same web of drugs and violence. Nordkraft is a stunning film that never flinches or turns away from the horror. It features an amazing performance from first time actress Signe Egholm Olsen who makes Nordkraft worth watching for her alone. This year Head-On (Gegen die Wand) made it into US theaters and onto DVD and it did quite well. There's no reason Nordkraft wouldn't have done as well!
LolliLove - I contend that the mockumentary is by far the most difficult genre of film, that's why I think it's generally a REALLY bad idea for first time filmmakers to attempt it. But Jenna Fischer showed no fear in one of the best mocumentaries I've seen. LolliLove pokes with a very sharp stick at the vanity shown by many when dealing with charity. Jenna Fischer (who is well known for her role on the TV show The Office) together with James Gunn (writer of Dawn of The Dead '04 and Scooby Doo 2) pull off a laugh out loud biting indie satire that should not be missed. (note: Lolli Love is set for DVD in March of 2006)
Police Beat - The immigrant story has been told over and over on film but none as inventively as Police Beat. Following the life and struggles of a Seattle beat cop from Africa Police Beat weaves a brilliant tapestry that shows America through the eyes of someone who desperately wants to be a part of it, but never can quite connect. Police Beat also features an amazing performance from first time actor Pape Sidy Niang who is really a football player and not an actor... could have fooled us!
The most frustrating thing about this list is the fact that I'm sure I've missed some great films. As hard as I try to see as many films at festivals and such, there are still great ones out there which there's absolutely no way for me to be able to see. And that's a shame, because in an era of such DVD prevalence, great movies shouldn't be locked away, they should be seen, and studios should step up to the plate, take some risks and bring these films out.
You a film maker with a film that should be on this list? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to see your film.
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