I’m getting a little sick of people telling me that “American Hustle is so amazing!”, “The Wolf of Wall Street is so genius!”, “Gravity is so awesome!”, “Frozen to so wonderful!”, and “12 Years a Slave is so powerful!”. Ok, we get, you saw and liked a movie that millions of other people also saw and liked. Boring! Most people who say things like “The Wolf of Wall Street should totally win Best Picture at the Oscars!” typically haven’t seen more than 3 or 4 of all the nominated films this year…so their opinion isn’t really valid as far as I’m concerned. Let’s get a few things straight…
American Hustle is a pretty good movie, The Wolf of Wall Street is an okay film, and 12 Years a Slave is a rather moving piece of historical drama. That’s about the best thing I can say about those three. I will admit that Gravity is one of the best films (if not the best film) of the year, and Frozen is nothing less than bottled magic reminiscent of classic Disney cartoons merged with a lovely progressive feminist message. Still…it’s so boring to sit and agree on all those things, don’t you think?
So I’m releasing my inner Grinch…
…and substituting popular opinion for a lesson in preachy contrarianism! Thus I unleash the 15 Best Films You Probably Didn’t See Last Year and Should Spend All of This Year Catching Up With. (Yes, I know it ends with a preposition!) We start at number 15…
Room 237 was my second favourite documentary of 2013. It’s a bizarre concept to sell to an audience, but here goes:
“An exploration of various interpretations of Stanley Kubrick’s horror film, The Shining.”
Making use of the “fair use” copyright loophole when using trademarked media in order to produce a commentary, this documentary plays and replays iconic scenes from The Shining with voiceovers from a number of different fans and critics; all of whom have their own bizarre interpretation of Kubrick’s choices – ranging from believable to just plain nuts. It’s not a particularly energetic or emotionally captivating doco, but it’s eerily mesmerising to watch. You can prepare yourself for it by watching the director’s earlier short-documentary The S From Hell here on youtube.
What happens when you take 26 iconic indie horror filmmakers, give them each a separate letter of the alphabet, and ask them to make a 2 – 5 minute short film about death – using their letter as inspiration. Well, you get The ABC’s of Death.
While it’s not a conventional feature, or even a typical anthology film, it’s an inspiring 124 minutes for any enthusiastic filmmaker out there. Wading through 26 different flavours of morbid creativity can be nothing but good for the soul, I say. Beware, however, the films start off strange…get stranger…and then you get to the Japanese ones!
There should be a question mark in that tagline. Jesus, that bugs me!
Anyway, The Kings of Summer was a movie that I initially had some issues with…but it ultimately won me over.
“Three teenage friends, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.”
Some of the humour seems a bit too “cooky” to be believable, but the central story here is something I could relate to endlessly. It’s a movie that makes you want to “grow down” and go back to climbing trees. Trading in adult responsibilities in favour of childhood simplicity is something we all wish we could do, and you can live that fantasy through these characters.
I was a bit unsure where to place this one. I knew it was too good to leave off the list, but it scrolled it’s way up and down in my mind for a long time before settling at number 12. I can see some of you loving this movie and others hating it. Don’t blame me if you don’t like it, blame your nature, or nurture…or both.
“An underachieving voice coach finds herself competing in the movie trailer voice-over profession against her arrogant father and his protégé.”
In a World… is appropriately named for many reasons, one of which is that it lets us into a previously unexplored environment; the voice over industry. Add to that some funny lines, a strong central theme about the under appreciation of women’s talent in the media, and you have yourself a fun little gem.
Probably my most critically controversial pick on this list, especially since it’s all the way up at number 11!
“Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.”
After David Twohy followed up one of the best films ever made (Pitch Black) with one of the most disappointing sequels ever made (The Chronicles of Riddick), he decided to take the advice of his fans and go back to basics. I generally liked what he did with the third film in the Riddick franchise.
Yes, there is some horrid acting, a lot of flat dialogue, and an inexcusable amount of fake CGI backdrops. Still, I quickly got over the fact that every special effect in this movie looks like it was drawn in MS-Paint, and just enjoyed the virtues of greased up muscles, gooey creatures, and blood by the bucket loads. David Twohy, even when he’s failing, is always attempting something interesting and different. Give him props for that at least and leave your high artistic expectations at the door.
Great film. Rubbish title. Drinking Buddies? Fuck off!
“Luke and Kate are coworkers at a brewery who spend their nights drinking and flirting heavily. One weekend away together with their significant others proves who really belongs together and who doesn’t.”
The filmmakers seem to have this idea that there’s an important central theme about alcohol consumption running through the plot of this movie just because the main characters work at a brewery and enjoy an unhealthy amount of beer. I don’t think so, to me it seemed like more of a MacGuffin than a central story element.
Either way, I’d watch Anna Kendrick’s toothy triangular smile and Olivia Wilde’s eagle-spread eyebrows in anything. They’re extraordinary actors who both easily rise above their beauty.
If you’ve never seen a mumblecore movie before, then this is a good one to start with. Extremely natural performances and a believable twisting of fate lulls you into thinking that you’re actually watching a slice of real life unfold before your eyes.
If you want to see a documentary that provokes the “slacktivist” part of your brain and makes you want to stop a corporate cross-species atrocity, you can skip the horrid Oscar winning hack job The Cove and go straight to the far superior Blackfish.
“Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a notoriously aggressive orca that killed three people while in captivity.”
One thing that drew me in to this movie, above everything, is the impressive amount of shock footage obtained and aired in order to prove its point. We’re provided with real incidents of Orca attacks captured on video, something I’m sure SeaWorld isn’t happy about. Well, fuck SeaWorld! After seeing this movie, you’ll know why I say that.
Did you like Cast Away, but wish there was a lot less dialogue? Well, how about a movie with none? At the very beginning of All is Lost, we hear Robert Redford’s dying words read from a written letter…and then we proceed to watch an essentially silent film detailing the events leading up to him writing it:
“After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face.”
I’m a sucker for survival films like Alive, The Grey, The Edge, Apollo 13, and of course the previously mentioned Cast Away. There’s something really fascinating about watching someone improvise in a hostile environment with limited resources.
I found myself getting genuinely frustrated on behalf of Robert Redford’s character when his efforts failed against the elements, and cheered when he was able to find his way around a problem. The ending of the film is just…perfect…if you ask me.
When I saw the trailer for You’re Next, it didn’t look like anything more than another home-invasion slasher. Then…I saw the film…
“When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of their victims harbours a secret talent.”
This movie, in a somewhat similar vain to the Scream franchise, takes much of the typical horror convention and turns it on its head. As someone who is both in love with and bored of horror convention, it was a wonderful thing to experience. Grab your significant other and enjoy this one on the couch one night when the kids are out.
One of the sweet things about this movie, as you might be able to tell from the poster, is how much effort has gone into making it look like a French New Wave film. It’s shot in black and white and structure much like an early Woody Allen or Jim Jarmusch picture.
“A story that follows a New York woman (who doesn’t really have an apartment), apprentices for a dance company (though she’s not really a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possibility dwindles.”
If you have hipster-allergy, Frances Ha might not be the best thing for you. I’d still urge you to try it though, as there’s more here than just whimsical quirkiness. Anyone who’s ever worked odd jobs, or been young and in need of a place to “crash” while they attempt to get their future lined up in front of them, will recognise themselves in Frances (Wait, that’s like…everyone!)
This film not only passes the Bechdel test, it beats it into the ground. If you’ve ever complained about poorly written female characters, here’s your prescribed medicine.
I’m glad this one popped up on my radar, as it was in severe danger of going by unnoticed. Seeing as it only made 196,000 dollars at the box office, I’m guessing most people never heard of it. That’s a shame.
“Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other and the women they left behind.”
I’m tempted to describe Prince Avalanche as a straight Brokeback Mountain. Comparisons have been made with the simplicity of Waiting for Godot, and that’s certainly fair. I was hesitant about praising it too much, as it’s a remake of an icelandic original and I’m not usually very enthusiastic about “dramadies”. As often happens, however, I then proceeded to watch it…and love it.
Who knew Joseph Gordon-Levitt had a few extra tools in his satchel?
“A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love.”
As doge would say: “Such montage!”. This movie flickers through our modern culture of sexual and sensual consumption at a very meaningful pace. Levitt knows how to make a thematic movie appealing to the very generation it critiques. For that alone, he deserves to be recognised and rewarded in his efforts. I totally went with this film, and it managed to do something extraordinary; it actually found the humanity buried deep within a Guido. I’m excited to see what Gordon-Levitt directs next.
We’re into the top three, this is where things get serious. If you haven’t seen this movie (and the next two), it’s your job as a human to track them down.
“A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend.”
Not a great summation, so perhaps it’s better to describe Short Term 12 as a modern One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. It’s sweet, sad, and regularly funny. The best part is how natural and affecting the performances are. There isn’t a single character in this movie that I didn’t believe in. In fact, I’m willing to admit something right here and now; I actually teared up a little during the more emotional peaks of the film. Those who know me, know just how rare that event is.
Everyone needs to see Before Midnight, but only after seeing Before Sunrise (1995 ) and Before Sunset (2004). Without seeing the first two films in the trilogy, the third won’t be able to unleash its full emotional weight on you.
“We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna.”
I have nothing but love for these characters and this film. My favourite of the three is still Before Sunset, but this one was a perfect end(?) to the best on-screen real-time romance ever created.
Before Midnight is nothing but lengthy conversations about love, companionship, inconsistencies, dislikes, honestly, and endurance…and it’s absolutely spellbinding! Are we watching the end of a worn relationship or the renewal of young love in middle age? Perhaps, if you stay till the end, you’ll find out.
I will give you all the money I have in my bank account right now if you’ve seen this film. In fact I’d consider giving you a decent sum if you even heard of it before.
“A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.”
I was so unbelievably lucky that I caught this golden nugget at the Melbourne International Film Festival earlier this year. I have been unable to find it anywhere else since. It’s currently not on Blu-ray, DVD, the internet, or screening in any cinemas that I can find.
The result of a Kickstarter campaign, Blue Ruin shows you what a dedicated filmmaker like Jeremy Saulnier can achieve with few funds and a landscape of vision. It’s shot as beautifully as a Terrence Malick film, reminiscent of Badlands, and is as enjoyably violent as any Tarantino flick. The dialogue flows back and forth from simple, to poetic, to non existent. After the first 30 minutes, the film throws you into completely unpredictable waters and tapes you to your seat with anticipation of “where can it possibly go from here?”.
One day Blue Ruin will debut on home media, I’m sure of it, and when that day comes I’ll be standing in line…and so should you.
– Rant Over