Don’t Give up on August Movies!

August 20, 2010
Joel Edgerton in Animal Kingdom
Joel Edgerton in "Animal Kingdom"

We’ve hit that time of year that is among the roughest to be a moviegoer (bested only by January and most of February). The shiny, big bucks blockbusters have come and gone — some have hit big (Inception) some went quietly into the night (remember Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood? We neither! ) — the studios are sitting on all the good stuff (read: awards-bait) till after Labor Day. So what’s a moviegoer to do?

We have some answers! Because there are actually some very good movies kicking around out there — maybe they don’t star any recognizable names, and nothing blows up or turns into a robot, but rest assured they are worth the money.

First up, Animal Kingdom. We’re pretty much ready to declare this the best film we’ve seen so far this year. It’s gripping, it’s well-paced, excellently written with terrific performances and…what else could you people want? Written and directed by David Michôd, this is one of those crime family dramas that manage to be unlike every single crime family drama film you’ve ever seen. We don’t want to spoil the plot in the slightest, so instead let us say that that we’re guessing a lot of the actors seen in this — Joel Edgerton (who looks like the love child of Ewan McGregor and Sam Worthington), the scene-stealing Ben Mendelsohn, and the tremendous Jacki Weaver — will all start showing up in pictures over on this side of the world soon enough. Plus, there’s Guy Pearce, and who doesn’t love that guy? More Guy Pearce in general please! And really, to whoever is in charge of such things: please greenlight whatever it is Mr. Michôd (who, by the way, is rather movie star handsome himself. What’s in those Australian waters?) is working on next.

Also not to be missed: the less gripping but heaps more depressing Winter’s Bone. Written and directed by Debra Granik (check out this SundayArts interview with Granik), this film showcases some grim (so grim) American poverty via the Missouri Ozarks, when a young teenage girl (a terrific Jennifer Lawrence) has to look for her missing, meth-dealing father in order to keep her family from homelessness. Violence and terror ensues.

When it went to Sundance last January, it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, and after seeing this one, you’ll probably understand why. It’s a little hard to watch, at times, but let’s just say this: You will find yourself unable to complain about anything you’ve been complaining about after seeing this movie. No air-conditioner? Tired of people crowding you on the subway? No money for the European vacation? Just trust us, watch this and you’ll just thank your lucky stars that dinner tonight doesn’t involve squirrel.