We asked Tom to give us the heads up of films we definitely should have seen by now. Add these to your watch list!
A note from Tom
These are my favourite film releases that were new to me in the first eight months of the year. Though I have kept up with interesting new films as much as I can, I also think the chance to see old films in new contexts is important, and so I’ve chosen to include a restored older film that I saw thanks to Revelation Film Festival. And also, because I love it so much and because it has strong cinematic qualities, a slideshow of photographs has also made it into my top ten. I hope you can seek these out.
**Find out more about Tom below!
The Juniper Tree (1990)
Country of origin: Iceland
Plot summary: Two sisters seek to live ‘where no-one knows them’ after their mother is executed for witchcraft. They alternately seduced and are repelled by a widower who lives with his young son.
Tom rates it because: This obscure, hard-to-see feature, one of only two by the late director Nietzchka Keene, is the definition of a hidden gem. It was filmed in 1986 when its star Björk was 20 and yet to become an international star. The Juniper Tree is a German folk fairy-tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm, and the film is every bit as striking and fable-like as you might expect – an elemental, lucid awake-dream.
Country of origin USA
Plot summary On the very last day and night of high school, two academically-minded female friends attempt to belatedly reinvent themselves.
Tom rates it because: With witty writing, charistmatic performances and fantastic direction, Booksmart casually repositions the venerable teen movie as open to new possibilities; it includes everyone in its cynical positivity and is an extremely enjoyable and funny film.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Country of origin: France (released soon)
Plot summary: A female portrait artist is commissioned to make a painting of a subject who won’t pose.
Tom rates it because: This is romantic, alluring and thrilling while also deeply, subtly intelligent in its understanding of the female gaze.
Country of origin South Korea
Plot summary: A crafty yet impoverished family gradually infiltrates the stylish home of some strangers wealthy strangers.
Tom rates it because: By the 40 minute mark I assumed that this film had nowhere left to go… and yet there it went, again and again, to giddying new places. Masterfully assembled, with satirical barbs hidden within its smooth peach skin exterior.
Country of origin: Syria/UK (released soon)
Plot summary: A documentary chronicle of four years of life and death in Syria from the perspective of a young mother.
Tom rates it because: There have been many documentaries about the current, seemingly never-ending horrors in Syria. For Sama is the essential one because it encompasses so much. It is journalism, very much alive.
Country of origin: Australia
Plot summary: An Irish convict in Tasmania 1825, guided by an Aboriginal tracker, seeks revenge.
Tom rates it because: I had never seen a portrayal of colonial horror that was interested in misogyny and racism; here an Irish woman and a Palawa man have the same pathologically violent oppressor. In this sense The Nightingale is smart and illuminating. But beyond that, the filmmaking is outstandingly strong – I think Jennifer Kent might be Australia’s greatest working filmmaker.
Country of origin: USA
Plot summary: In Los Angeles 1996, 13 Year-old Stevie is desperate to be part of a group of skater friends.
Tom rates it because: Almost everything about Mid90s is as fresh and sharp as a new pair of skate pants. Like Booksmart, this is very much on the side of the kids -an exciting debut as director by none other than Jonah Hill.
Country of origin: Belgium (released soon)
Plot summary: A young boy has been rapidly radicalised by a rogue Imam, to the deep concern of others. We see him before and after a decisive act.
Tom rates it because: Films made by the Dardenne brothers are always deceptively light and nimble; they hide their ruthlessly tense constructions in plain sight. I found their latest to be one of their best, and the processes of indoctrination and its inverse are well worth depicting.
The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1985-2013)
Country of origin: USA
Plot summary: Between 1979 and 1986 the photographer Nan Goldin documented moments in her and her New York City friends’ lives. They appear and disappear, synchronised to pop songs.
Tom rates it because: Before a ‘final’ version that I saw at the Tate Modern art gallery, versions of this slideshow had been exhibited in NYC clubs and beyond for over 30 years. I loved thinking about this evolving creation and exhibition of this very personal, moving work. It felt to me like an alternative form of cinema.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Country of origin: USA
Plot summary: A TV star made popular in the previous decade finds himself out of favour with a rapidly changing entertainment industry. Meanwhile, his best friend and sometimes stunt double encounters the Manson Family cult, who would in real life murder actress Sharon Tate.
Tom rates it because: By consciously revisiting history through the prism of director Quentin Tarantino’s famous, partial pop-culture collecting, we get a spiky, divisive and very debatable event movie, the kind of which is very rare. In this film, I found pleasures, indulgences, and interesting questions about the ‘end of the 1960s’ as defined by murder. I don’t yet have everything to say on this film and am looking forward to seeing it again soon.
Tom Vincent - Program Associate, Film
A former school teacher, DJ, club promoter and university lecturer, Tom has been curating films for film and art institutions and festivals in the UK and Australia since 2006. These have included the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and Leeds International Film Festival. Tom has been a project assessor for Screenwest, contributed guest lectures for the University of Western Australia and the Australian Institute of International Affairs, and written for Peephole journal. He has lived in Perth since 2014.