I’ve already done my top 10 movies of 2013 and there were so many really great movies that many movies that have stuck with me this year just didn’t make the cut. There were honorable mentions in my list, but honestly, the most interesting movies that didn’t make my list are actually listed below. These are movies that were doing some very brow raising things that I think demand our attention as viewers. This could be odd techniques, interesting themes, or just an off the wall idea that makes for an interesting story. In no particular order, here are six interesting movies from the past year you probably didn’t realize you missed
The Place Beyond the Pines
“The Place Beyond the Pines” was a low key movie that came out in late March that flew under a number of radars. The movie stars Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, and Ray Liotta and is directed by “Blue Valentine” helmer Derek Cianfrance. The movie definitely has its issues, but what is most intriguing about the movie is the theme that runs thick through the lengthy three act movie. Each act takes on a different character with the first following a daredevil bike rider turned bank robber(Gosling), the second an up and coming rookie police officer(Cooper), and the third follows each of their sons and their uneasy relationship. The movie follows the idea that the sins of the father will pass down to the following generations. How do the decisions of our parents impact the decisions we make? Is it in our nature to make such decisions or do we have a choice to do things differently? Do we have to follow in our father’s footsteps? How will our actions affect those of our children? These are some very fascinating questions that the movie tackles as it explores just how much a couple of decisions can make waves in the future. This is a great movie that is unlike anything else I saw in 2013 and I believe it’s probably the most underrated of the year.
Film buffs all know the Woody Allen name, but he’s still not exactly a household name. “Blue Jasmine” is his latest movie that follows a formerly upperclass woman named Jasmine(Cate Blanchett) who has lost absolutely everything. Her husband was arrested and eventually killed himself, her son has left her, and all she has is her sister who lives a significantly more modest life. There are some unique portrayals of ideas about differences in social class values, identity, and self worth that are weaved into the story, but the real point of the movie is to see how someone like Jasmine adapts to a new life while also trying to move on from her past mistakes. The Oscars are looking tight this year in all categories, but I think that Cate Blanchett may be a lock for best lead actress with a performance that is so sickening, devastating, and sympathetic that you’d be insane to say she is anything less than brilliant. It’s a very complex and multifaceted role she is performing and she delivers on every level. Blue Jasmine is not my normal cup of tea…even as a critic, but this character drama packed enough emotional punch to the gut to be one this years best.
Pain and Gain
I can’t believe I’m actually giving Michael Bay any legitimate credit for anything, but he pulled out a number of surprises with “Pain and Gain”. This movie is a darkly humorous take on the american dream and how misguided people who have no moral anchor can reveal the absurdity of it all. Michael Bay delivers a movie that actually has some thought….and although many of the ideas feel incomplete, I was impressed and engaged by the criticism of macho masculinity in America that Bay generally perpetuates. The movie is actually quite funny and Dwayne “The Rock” drops one of his most entertaining roles to date as a “reborn” convict who is trying to do the right thing, but is horribly misguided. It’s a curious movie that I think warrants a viewing for anyone looking for the best 2013 has to offer.
You can read a full analysis I did back in March where I go really deep into this piece of art house cinema if you want my full insight, but I’ll give you the highlights. “Spring Breakers” may look like trash, it may sound like trash, and it may act like trash at times, but the movie that is playing on the screen is far from trash. It is a critique of hedonistic rituals and moral vacations expresses how the essence of such things are inherently damaging to society. It takes a small group of thrill seeking girls(played by everyone’s favorite former disney stars) and puts them in an extreme situation where they choose to live in their moral vacation which leads to thrill seeking that gets even more dangerous as the move progresses. James Franco’s Alien is a hilarious, over the top, and dangerous roll model for the girls as he lives in the moment as the ultimate Spring Breaker, free from all the rules. This movie may look like it’s aiming low(make no mistake, there is no shortage of nudity, drugs, and alcohol), but it’s actually an intelligent movie that is exposing the dark side of some of society’s shamefully accepted practices.
The World’s End
Edgar Wright is no stranger to nerds and cinephiles(Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Shaun of the Dead), but I think he’s a name that generally stays pretty quiet in the eyes of the mainstream. His latest movie “The World’s End” concludes the fan dubbed “Cornetto Trilogy” on a note that is a bit bittersweet. Gary’s struggle to move on from his glory days of high school is a commendable and tragic one that is helped with Wright’s odd type of pseudo British humor. This movie is all about a guy who has suffered through the darker parts his life without accepting adulthood and the fact that his life will never be the same as high school. The movie is filled with running gags, nerdtastic references, and enough banter to fill an extended sitcom. It’s an odd movie that features a pub crawl that is sabotaged by alien robots about an hour in and the absurdity only escalates from there. Like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” before it, “The World’s End” is destined to be a cult classic that will be watched again an again by fans. “The World’s End” is without a doubt one of the brightest gems to be found in 2013.
“Drinking Buddies” is a romantic comedy that takes us inside a relationship that is in ambiguous territory. I think it’s a great look at a relationship that isn’t designed and showcases why that may seem like a good thing at times, but can also lead to problems and unhealthy relationships to the people around them. Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen, but there are always two or three that hit every year that play things honest and hit a chord with me. “Drinking Buddies” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its an honest movie that ends on a bittersweet note and it just may ring true in a lot of relationships out there.