2 Best Movies to Watch by Michael Greyeyes

Staff & contributors

To Hollywood's shame, it wasn’t until 1998 that a major feature made by Native American filmmakers was released. It was this charming indie gem that belatedly broke that new ground: based on author Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Smoke Signals retains the irreverent humor hinted at in its source material’s title while also being a genuinely heartfelt drama. Set across two cleverly interweaving timelines, it follows the fraught relationship between Victor and Thomas, two young men living on Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Reservation who are forever linked by tragedy: as a baby, Thomas was saved from the house fire that killed his parents by Victor’s father Arnold (a great Gary Farmer), who soon spiraled into alcoholism and abandoned his young son. When Arnold dies suddenly, then, the duo embark on a perspective-changing road trip to collect his ashes.

Thomas’ nerdy earnestness and happy-go-lucky personality have always gotten on the nerves of the stoic Victor — who’s eaten up by resentment at his father for leaving — but the trip brings the disparate duo together. Though the movie honors their meaningful journey with a serious dramatic focus, it’s also shot through with sharp humor satirizing clichés about Native American people — a tonal complexity that makes it uncommonly accomplished, even without the added value of its all-too-rare perspective.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Beach, Cody Lightning, Cynthia Geary, Elaine Miles, Evan Adams, Gary Farmer, Irene Bedard, John Trudell, Michael Greyeyes, Molly Cheek, Perrey Reeves, Robert Miano, Simon Baker, Tantoo Cardinal, Tom Skerritt

Director: Chris Eyre

Rating: PG-13

, 2019

Togo may be set in a cold Alaskan town, but the story it tells is nothing short of heartwarming. It follows a pup who starts out as an unwanted underdog but who quickly becomes a beloved leader thanks to his tenacity, pluck, and undeniable charm. Watching Togo onscreen, whether as a puppy escaping his cage or as a senior leaping through sea ice, is a marvelous sight to behold, not least because of the sans-CGI direction.  

And like many a dog tale, Togo is a sure tearjerker, but unlike most of them, this specific story never feels exploitative. Togo is given a proper backstory and sufficient characterization, a refreshing focus that makes every emotional curveball well-earned. Watch this and you'll never take a day with your pet for granted again.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family

Actor: Adrien Dorval, Brandon Oakes, Christopher Heyerdahl, Julianne Nicholson, Michael Gaston, Michael Greyeyes, Michael McElhatton, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Nive Nielsen, Richard Dormer, Thorbjørn Harr, Willem Dafoe, Zahn McClarnon

Director: Ericson Core

Rating: PG