That they couldn't find 10 films to fill out a Best Picture Oscar lineup this week belies the fact that there are amazing movies well outside the Academy's radar.
Take Tyrannosaur, a movie easily worthy of inclusion with the Academy's nine, if anybody on this side of the pond had ever heard of it.
The directorial debut of actor Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur is an unflinching portrait of an outwardly very bad Yorkshireman named Joseph (Peter Mullan), a rampant id who is introduced being thrown out of a pub, and mortally wounding his own dog in a fit of indignation and rage (and it gets darker from there).
What follows is not just the story of an anger-management candidate run amok, but a movie that draws an obvious line from pain to rage -- a link clear to anyone who has gotten around much. The question of what can turn a man into such a dangerous misanthrope is answered tangentially by way of a guardian angel with her own problems.
Left a beaten-up mess on the street by some young men he'd antagonized, Peter hides in a charity thrift shop where he is discovered and is comforted by Hannah (Olivia Colman, in one of the year's best supporting performances), a Christian proselytiser and wannabe Samaritan whose own eyes betray a sorrow equal to Peter's.
Through her, we discover Peter's widower status, and bits and pieces of the guilt that fuels his drinking and brawling. Considine recreates Peter's world, including a gang of lumpen friends that suggests even a reprobate can find fellows in the wounded corners of the world (or one's local pub). They range from a dying mate, to a grizzled old racist, to a brash young boy with a dangerous homelife, who manages to connect with something inside what's left of Peter's soul.
Hannah's perfect life in the bosom of the Saviour, meanwhile, is revealed to be a façade. Her upper-middle-class homelife is one of terror, at the hands of her husband James (Eddie Marsan), an upstanding businessman who's a secret sociopath (and the most clearcut villain in the piece).
It is not a surprise that Joseph and Hannah manage to redeem each other (after a fashion, Tyrannosaur still manages to mix equal parts bleakness and redemption into its last act). Joseph's arc, interestingly, is the opposite of many a Hollywood film's approach to violence. In those, a peaceable man usually is brought to a violent boil, which fixes everything the end. In Considine's very British take, a violent man starts to connect the dots in his life and others, and makes a decision that would have been out of character in the first act of the film.
Tyrannosaur (the title comes from an anecdote of Joseph's that underscores a history of meanness that runs through to his married days) is dark, and difficult for some (don't watch it if you can't stomach violence toward dogs, for example).
At the same time, it's an example of filmmaking that tells you less in words than it does in expression. Considine makes painterly use of the canvases that are Mullan's and Colman's faces, deep pools of ache, in different stages of their descent to a breaking point.
(This film is rated 14A)