Over the last few weeks, every paper, blog, magazine and friend on Facebook has probably offered you their list of the top 10 movies of 2013. Probably with some combination of Her, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and Inside Llewyn Davis at the top. Probably, you’ve thought about beating the next person who offers a top 10 list to death with their own shoe. So with that in mind, we offer another kind of list. Not the top 10, but of the films that got lost in the cracks and crevices of critical and social appreciation. Films that deserve so much more.
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty – Terrence Nance
Told in flurry of live action, hand drawn animation and stop motion animation, the film is a half art piece/half documentary soap bubble of complexities, encapsulating the emotions and self-sabotage a young man of a certain lovesick, melancholy demeanor tends to put himself through, spilling the secrets of young men the same way Girls has for young women.
Boy – Taika Waititi
Though the film never takes anything about itself seriously, there is nothing frivolous about Boy. It’s a serious work that happens to be swaddled in a gauzy wrapping of oddball quirkiness like bubblegum flavored medicine, but there is a heartbreakingly relatable story of fathers and sons and disappointment underneath the bedrock of 80s jokes and the lyrical mix of tall tales and inventive cursing.
Short Term 12 – Destin Daniel Creton
It’s a tough thing these days to make a film about child abuse that doesn’t end up on the Lifetime movie of the week side of the ledger. The thematic pitfalls of the genre are many and hard to escape, but Creton embraces them here, even manipulates them to his will. He asks much of Brie Larson, but she delivers everything he asks for and then some as the counselor to broken kids who once was — and in too many ways still is — a broken kid herself.
The Broken Circle Breakdown – Felix Van Groeningen
This may be the greatest hillbilly film since Rip Torn starred in Payday, but there is a twist: it’s from Belgium. Didier is an America-obsessed bluegrass band leader, and Elise is a tattoo-obsessed artist who discovers a killer voice when she sits in with the band. They fall in love and have a child while the band flourishes. In the great tradition of country songs, you can probably guess where all of that happiness goes. Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens are electric on screen together.
The Great Beauty – Paolo Sorrentino
Jep Gambardella is a novelist who has given up his search for something new to write about 40 years after his modest hit of a novel, instead floating in his existential apathy through the labyrinthine Roman night life. But now he’s turn 65 and the returns on the night life are diminishing. Sorrentino’s sprawling and beautiful, but devilishly backhanded ode to Rome is the kind of love/hate letter that inherits the spirit and dismay Fellini imbued La Dolce Vita with.
The We and the I – Michel Gondry
If you ever took the bus home from school as a teenager, this film may be an unwanted kick in the head that brings back old horror stories and panic attacks. It’s every high school aged social nightmare stuffed into one slow moving, zit-filled bus. But it’s also brilliant and uncannily observed. The teenage actors are uneven, as you might expect, but the wit and horror make it easy to overlook. Gondry has made a true film that can sit aside The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine.
Twixt – Francis Ford Coppola
Saddled with a terrible trailer and dumped onto VOD after a year of trying to attract a distributor, Twixt was destined to fail. But it’s an injustice, even if the film is campy as hell. Val Kilmer returns from a long vacation as the charming, chill Val Kilmer we used to know (albeit fatter), while Elle Fanning continues to pad an already incredible resume as the little deal girl who haunts him.
The Grandmaster – Wong Kar Wai
So much was written about the alternate U.S. cut controversy that the film itself seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Having seen both versions of the film, I’m struck by the silliness of the controversy. They work so well together as companion pieces, telling the same story from slightly different vantage points. Scenes excised from each shed light on the other to the point that they feel like sibling films, though the U.S. cut is visually marred with an unfortunate amount of style-less screen text.