Goin’ Down the Road (to Hell)

Well, he certainly doesn't look happy ...Obviously, the Oscars are the big deal this weekend, and the studios are doing their best to keep things light and inconsequential — the thinking being, if you’re going to go see something serious or prestigious, you might as well catch one of their nominated movies, and why get in the way of that? But the smaller distributors are slipping three terrific films into release, and you could do worse than catch any of them. Much, much worse.

Alamar“: I’ve been a booster for Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio’s lovely little father-son story ever since I saw it at TIFF 2009; now it’s finally getting a proper theatrical run at the Lightbox. It’s also on Netflix, and the DVD will be out Tuesday — but do try to see it theatrically if you can. It’s that kind of experience.

Drive Angry“: Patrick Lussier’s unapologetic grindhouse actioner is what it is — a vaguely ridiculous excuse for Nicolas Cage to drive some really awesome cars, shoot a whole bunch of people who deserve to be shot, and have some very terse conversations with nemesis William Fichtner. And if you like that sort of thing, you will have a great time with it. Also, Amber Heard finally gets the breakout role she’s deserved since “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” introduced her back in 2006. (It’s still unavailable in North America, but these days you can pick up the region-free British Blu-ray for a song.)

Four Lions“: Chris Morris investigates homegrown British terrorism in his own special way — through a sharp-edged character comedy that dares to take its subject matter seriously. You really ought to see this; it’s, you know, relevant to contemporary politics and stuff. And also hysterically funny, when it needs to be.

Hall Pass“: Peter and Bobby Farrelly tackle the American midlife crisis in this characteristically sloppy, half-assed attempt to claw their way back to the top of the comedy heap. (And of all the jokes to recycle from “Stuck on You”, why go with that one? It wasn’t particularly funny the first time.)

Of Gods and Men“: Xavier Beaufois’ powerful drama about French monks forced to confront their own potential martydom inexplicably failed to make the cut for this year’s Foreign-Language Oscar. I can’t understand why; not only is it a great movie, it’s exactly the sort of film that registers in that category. Maybe someone wanted to make sure “Incendies” had a clear path to the podium?

And that’s the package. I’ll be live-tweeting the Oscars on Sunday night from the @nowtoronto account, so follow that to catch all the pithy nuances. And if you’re curious as to my current thoughts about the Academy’s picks, well, I have you covered.

Enjoy the weekend! Don’t get blizzarded!

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