3 Low-Budget Flicks You Should See in Philly Before They’re Gone

The alley to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, revenge tales, and escapist fantasies.

It’s blockbuster season, and the block has been busted. Avengers: Age of Ultron is out, and it’s okay, and Ant-Man, San Andreas, and Jurassic World are, as they say in Hollywood, coming soon. It’s all going to be fine stuff, but exclusively watching blockbusters is like exclusively reading comic books: good for your imagination and the 12-year-old in you, but bad for your thinkin’ parts. Here are a few lower-budget jams playing in Philly to keep your mind moving.

Ex Machina at Ritz East

We’re experiencing an indie sci-fi renaissance, and Ex Machina is its latest masterwork. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Isaac (who, in this film, looks literally exactly like Kool A.D. from Das Racist), Ex Machina follows in the vein of Snowpiercer, The One I Love, and Under the Skin: mid-budget sci-fi films that have the potential to leave viewers speechless. The film is a robot love story for the modern age, commenting heavily on coming moral battleground that will be high-level artificial intelligence, the absurd nature of human attraction, the destructive quality of man’s ingenuity, and the cost of compassion.

It’s quick to write it off as another trite, OMGwhathathmanwrought genre dalliance, but I swear to you, it’s not: it’s one of the funnier movies to come out this year, from a cinematographic standpoint it’s a masterwork, and it’s definitely the alley to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens oop of Gleeson’s career.

The kid’s coming on strong in 2015.

Wild Tales at Ritz at the Bourse

If you don’t see Wild Tales, you’re only conning yourself out of one of the most painful, exciting, Sartre-esque movies of 2015. Wild Tales is a series of revenge stories, some triumphant, some confusing, all acceptable-to-excellent, assembled by Argentine director Damian Szifron. The freneticism of Wild Tales is its triumph. The six films packaged together here never outstay their welcome, often deliver a hilarious punchline, and succeed where many other films fail: They actually had me enraptured through all 122 minutes. And then I wanted more.

Wild Tales has a couple entries that, while far from duds, don’t inspire the Loony Tunes-meets-Bukowski vibe of the rest of the film. One entry, “The Proposal,” is almost archaically satirical; another, “The Rats,” is strangely quick and bleak. The rest of the entries are gold, including “The Strongest,” the best PSA about not pissing off rednecks I’ve ever seen, and “Until Death Do Us Part,” a story of wedding-based misery and infidelity overflowing with comically disproportionate reactions that sports an unexpectedly saccharine ending.

Dior and I at Ritz at the Bourse

Yeah, I know. Sometimes you’ve got to mix it up, though. Dior & I might not bring the hot sauce like Ex Machina and Wild Tales, which had me grinning and yammering about what I’d just seen on the way home, but it is a gorgeous documentary that pulls the cover off a tense, high-stakes world that can swallow anyone, at least for a while.

Dior & I follows an eight-week blitz of fashion design as Dior’s new director Raf Simons races to complete a new collection, replete with simmering tensions and gorgeous shots. It may not be a life-altering experience—definitely not the Blackfish of couture documentaries—but it is a view into a world so far-removed, terse, and gilded that it could be considered escapist fantasy. Of course the new director of Dior beats the clock and assembles the collection.

The film, shot by Frederic Tcheng, is sumptuous—even though it sports the unavoidable glint of reality-TV mewling.