As the year comes to a close, it’s safe to say that 2013 has offered us with an impressive list of entertaining films. But while not all movies-no matter how good they are- will be receiving the same recognition as others, the good folks of ANDPOP are now giving you a chance to catch up on some lesser known gems. Yes, it should be noted that some of these have gained some Academy Awards’ notice, but here are some movies that might have flew under your radar.
Channeling our obsession with technology, Spike Jonze’s Her explores what it would be like to have a relationship with your computer. Following the life of a recently-separated writer named Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), the film has him falling in love with his newly-purchased operating system (Scarlett Johansson) who not only meets his every organizational need, but is sassy, smart and funny.
While this film is already gaining Academy Award traction for best original screenplay and a potential best supporting actress nod for ScarJo, this simple yet beautiful film is one that you NEED to put at the top of your list. While theatres are already chock full of obvious front-runners, Phoenix is absolutely superb as he moves between depressed, joyful and contemplative moods. Add in some gorgeous cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema and a soundtrack featuring Karen O. and Arcade Fire, this film just a great treat all around.
The Spectacular Now
This film wowed audiences back when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January earlier this year. And considering the chemistry displayed by leads Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, it’s no surprise why. Perhaps one of the truest coming-of-age tales to release in recent years, The Spectacular Now depicts the lives of two high school seniors who are drawn to each other despite being opposites.
We hear of these types of teen romances all the time. But something about this film feels much more raw and organic. From their awkward first meeting to their first kiss, Teller and Woodley beautifully portray teen love.
The Way Way Back
Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Oscar-winning writers of The Descendants, The Way Way Back is probably one of the year’s most charming films. Like Adventureland for pre-teens, the film follows a timid 14-year-old named Duncan (Liam James) who begrudgingly follows his mother (Toni Collette) on a summer vacation with her arrogant boyfriend (Steve Carell) and his stuck-up daughter. Stumbling upon a water park, Liam eventually learns to be comfortable in his own skin with the help of an unexpected mentor (Sam Rockwell), the manager of the park.
If you’re into feel-good movies, The Way Way Back is perfect for you. It’s relatable, smart and the ensemble cast is dynamic. Despite only being supporting actors, Rockwell and Allison Janney (she plays the alcoholic neighbour Betty) steal several scenes while Carell really sells himself as an insufferable jerk.
In A World…
If you’re into female empowerment and quirkiness, then this film is absolutely perfect. Taking on a triple-threat role of actor/director/writer, Lake Bell’s In A World… is just a delight to watch. Here, Bell plays an underachieving voice coach who finds herself competing against her cocky father (Fred Melamed) and his arrogant protégé (Ken Marino) in a movie trailer voice-over competition.
Not only does this film feature some great laugh-out-loud moments (Eva Longoria attempting to do a British accent, anyone?) but it also showcases totally underrated comedic talents like Ken Marino (Party Down), Rob Corddry (Childrens Hospital) and Demetri Martin (Late Night for Conan O’Brien). Add in a super hilarious cameo (you’ll have to see it to find out who!) near the end of the film, it’s no surprise why In A World… has already won a crop of awards including an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay .
Back when Fruitvale Station premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, critics were already predicting it to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. While the film’s chances may have slimmed down with the strong variety of films releasing this year, you still don’t want to let this one slip under your nose.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station is based on the true story of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a Hayward, California resident and the experiences he faces the day before he gets shot by a Bay Area Transit Police officer on New Year’s Day.
In light of recent events surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin, this film is an important one to watch. Having already won several awards such as Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award, Fruitvale Station also offers breakout roles for Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz.
Short Term 12
While you might remember Brie Larson as Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, her performance in Short Term 12 is so good and so underrated that it should warrant more praise.
Larson takes on the role of Grace, a long-term care worker who helps abused teenagers. But while she’s serious and professional about her job, she deals with her own set of issues having had a rough past of her own.
It’s too bad this film is too small to gain more attention. The script is so well-written and the chemistry between the actors is what makes everything about this story feel much more real. While this movie might be a quiet gem, I think it’s one of the year’s best.
Stories We Tell
What could be juicier than getting intimate details about other people’s lives? In Stories We Tell filmmaker Sarah Polley explores the relationship between her parents and how the secrets within her family has directly affected her own identity.
While the film is definitely not conventional, it’s a fascinating piece featuring Super-8 footage shot to look like home videos and witty interviews with Polley’s siblings, family friends and other relatives. If you like reading memoirs, perhaps you should check this one out to see how a autobiographical documentary can be successfully made.
This quiet film may have flew under the radar among this year’s crop of movies. But its undeniable charm and quirkiness is what makes this movie a must-watch on your list.
So it’s true that I call many things charming and quirky, but this story about Frances, a 27-year-old failed dancer (Greta Gerwig) trying to make it in New York, is much more entertaining than it seems. Yes, it sounds a bit like Girls, but Gerwig plays the part so well that you actually manage to feel sorry for her even when she gets irritating.
Shot entirely in black and white, the film also gives a sense of nostalgia. Including a very delightful scene of Frances dancing and running around the streets, this coming-of-age film about friendship is also like a love letter to New York City.
This might be a harder film to find, but this British drama by David Mackenzie is fantastic. Documenting the life of an extremely violent teenager (Skins alum Jack O’Connell), Starred Up portrays the inmate’s life as he is transferred to the same adult prison that also holds his father (Ben Mendelsohn).
Set entirely in a jailhouse, the film veers away from sugarcoating anything. The scenes are tightly edited with extreme close-ups…often making you feel uncomfortable about the film’s setting. And while the prison lingo may also be a bit hard to understand, O’Connell does some of his most intense work here. In fact, just watching one of the opening sequences of him fashioning a weapon out of a toothbrush and a razor foreshadows what kind of dangers his character gets into during the film.
The Kings of Summer
This unique film about growing up follows three teenage boys who decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods in an act of independence. But while free from their parents’ constant nagging, the new living arrangement proves to be more complicated than it seems. As best friends Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) are tested by a potential love interest (Erin Moriarty), the two ultimately learn the importance of family and friendship. Adding in some comedic relief is the eccentric Biaggio (Moises Arias), who the two boys befriend.
I was first attracted to this film because it includes the hilarious Nick Offerman (Parks and RecreationI) and his real life wife Megan Mullally (Will & Grace). But after viewing the film, I was extremely impressed with Chris Galletta’s humourous and honest script and the idea of building an innovative home in the woods.