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Top 3 Critic’s Picks In Theaters this August: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Paradise: Faith & Short Term 12

Counting the likes of James Ponsdolt’s The Spectacular Now, Lake Bell’s In a World… and Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green’s return to form and perhaps best film since his debut) there is an usually high number of quality American independent films (the majority of them first landed at this year’s edition Sundance Film Festival) that are clogging up the month of the calender offerings for the month of August. Trimming down the fat, in our select three praise-worthy offerings this month we’ve got outlaw romance, a sinful black comedy and a foster-home drama that works as both a tear-jerker and laugher. Here are this month’s Top 3 Critic’s Picks!:

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints – David Lowery
Limited Release – August 16th
Distributor: IFC Films
Awards: Sundance (Cinematography Award in the U.S. Dramatic Category), selected for an exclusive spot at Critics’ Week in Cannes

What the critic’s are saying?: THR’s Todd McCarthy accurately sizes up ATBS as “an exceptionally beautiful, if a bit fuzzy-headed, romantic Texas outlaw saga that announces a considerable talent,” while Variety’s Peter Debruge makes the connection between a fresh new voice belonging to a lost cinema of sorts by stating that “there’s also something undeniably old-fashioned in his approach, suggesting a lost artifact freshly unearthed from the 1970s“. While the majority of the votes in Park City this year went to Fruitvale, Lowery’s ability to tonally and filmically update iconic films from the 70’s and give it a fresh coat of paint speaks volumes about the skillset he possesses. Screen Daily describes it as “real panache here that goes beyond mere copycatting to effectively eliciting strong emotions from a familiar narrative about lovers on the lam.”

Paradise: Faith – Ulrich Seidl
NYC/L.A Release – August 23rd
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Awards: Special Jury Prize at Venice

What the critic’s are saying?: What we on the site consider as the “most significant auteur helmed cinematic motif project since Kieslowski’s Three Colors“, Seidl’s second installment in his proposed trilogy might indeed be the one with more bite – Variety describes it as a film that will “challenge auds with startling imagery, ambiguous morality and ruthless black humor” and “more accessible than its predecessor, if any film that features masturbation with a crucifix could be called accessible“. THR’s David Rooney has no qualms about what kind of select audience this is geared towards “depending how you look at it, there’s a pitch-black comedy buried in here or a redeeming shred of empathy at the tail end of two grueling hours. Either way, it’s strictly for the faithful.” Our Nicholas Bell sums up the auteur’s style by stating “his work, often compared to fellow Austrian Michael Haneke for its austerity and flirtatious misanthropy, Seidl feels like Haneke’s underappreciated younger brother, one whose prerogative lies equally outside of mainstream mollycoddling, delivering dark, dire, and inescapably dour examples of humanity.”

Short Term 12 – Destin Daniel Cretton
NYC/L.A Release – August 23rd
Distributor: Cinedigm
Awards: Grand Jury & Audience award (SXSW), and a slew of U.S. indie fests Audience Award (LAFF), Best Narrative Feature (Little Rock Film Festival), Showtime Tony Cox Award for Best Screenwriting (Nantucket).

What the critic’s are saying?: While Fox Searchlight invested massive amounts of money in the tonally dead The Way, Way Back, it is Cinedigm who can claim they’ve got the feel good film of the summer. Winner of the Grand Jury prize at SXSW (of which I was one of the lucky three jurors to award the film) after the film’s showing  much thought along the same lines as Variety with the fact that “it was inexplicably passed over by Sundance (which awarded a short version its 2009 jury prize), the stunning SXSW fest winner puts the recent Park City competition lineup to shame.” The richness and array of characters are the go-to positive comments you’ll find in the majority of the reviews – THR relay what many are thinking when they mention, “Brie Larson gives a breakthrough performance that should open doors to bigger dramas, but the effortlessly balanced film never feels like a showcase, and the actress doesn’t treat it like one.”

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at IONCINEMA.com (founded in 2000). Eric splits his time between his home base in Montreal, NYC, and is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. Top 3 from 2016: Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt), Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve), Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)

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