Five great films you might have missed this year
While many lament that the film industry has come down with a bad case of franchise diarrhoea, there is a healthy dose of funny, original, insightful and just plain weird offerings out there, we just don’t always hear about them.
Sans a major distribution deal and marketing budget, festivals are where these gems come out to shine, but unless you live in a major city that holds such a festival, and have the freedom to spend a fortnight watching ten movies a day, they may pass you by.
At Moviehole, we like to scour through these films so you don’t have to. Here are my five great films you might have missed this year.
1. Sleepwalk With Me
Written by and starring Mike Birbiglia with a stellar cast including Lauren Ambrose, the film follows the journey of a burgeoning stand-up comedian struggling with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship, and potentially deadly spurts of severe sleepwalking. You know, the usual. And it’s pretty much all true.
The film did get one bonus marketing surprise from none other the epitome of a blockbuster franchise man, writer and director of “The Avengers” Joss Whedon. So taken by it he campaigned on behalf of the film…but in that unique Whedon way, that is, by telling you not to go see it.
“We’ve got to stop Mike Birbiglia from making this whole independent heartfelt little movie that’s not only about the human condition but actually based on true events, AND it’s also hilarious and interesting and fun, we’ve got to stop it from happening…we’ve got to boycott…. We shouldn’t be watching these little tiny films that people really care about and work for years on, we should be nurturing corporate spectacle like good Americans.”
Couldn’t agree more Joss. See the full video below. Sadly the film still didn’t quite hit “The Avengers” box office numbers.
2. Safety Not Guaranteed
In my original review I said the film was filled with “charming characters, scenic backdrops, original concept and many “Star Wars” references – “Safety Not Guaranteed” is the ideal indie film.”
Based on a last minute joke filler ad in a magazine (true story) in which someone is searching for a partner to travel back in time with, and starring “Parks and Recreation’s” Aubrey Plaza and “New Girl’s” Jake Johnson, the movie strikes that almost unattainable balance of funny, weird, and relateable.
Hands up if you’re tired of Jack Black’s over the top “schtick” that seems to be the same in every movie? Well good, pop this one in your queue and you will be pleasantly surprised. Another film based on a true story and also starring Shirley MacLane and Matthew McConaughey, “Bernie” is set in small-town Texas, where the local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow, though when he kills her, he goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she’s alive. No one reacts the way you think they will, and it was such a star turn by Black he’s been nominated for an Independent Spirit and Golden Globe Award as leading man. We caught up with Jack Black at SxSW earlier this year where he discussed his experience making this film, you can find the interview here http://moviehole.net/201253967jack-black
4. Killer Joe
Definitely in the “niche” category, pretty much everyone walked out of this screening knowing they have just watched a particular scene destined for pop-culture/cult history. I won’t spoilt it for you, but if you have any aversion to violence or inappropriate sexuality, maybe skip over this suggestion. Reading over that description, I wonder what it says about me that I’m recommending it? Ah, that’s a post for another day.
With a star turn by Matthew McConaughey (who we also caught up with at SxSW) in the title role, continuing his pleasant run of films away from the rom com genre , this NC-17 Cinderella story based on a Tracey Letts play also stars Gina Gershon, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple and Thomas Haden Church. With a very talented cast and director (William Friedkin), “Killer Joe” was too risqué for a mainstream audience, and went straight to DVD in Australia. Like Letts’ other play turned film “Bug” it will no doubt acquire cult status, but it may need a bit of a push before people even watch it. A word of warning, you’ll never look at chicken the same way again.
5. The Sapphires
While audiences in Australia will be very familiar with this local breakout hit, I do think you will enjoy it no matter what country you are from. Based on another true story here (hmm, I sense a pattern here. Thankfully “Killer Joe” was fiction), the film is the story of four young, talented Aboriginal girls in the Sixties, who tour Vietnam on their road to stardom.
Also, Sixties = killer soundtrack.
In my original review I wrote that “The Sapphires” is one of the most charming films to come out of Australia in a long time. It takes the term “feel good” and wraps you around its little finger, takes you for a beer, breaks into song, pays for dinner then buys you a puppy on the way home. It is that charming.”
I stand by this, and if Chris O’Dowd (of “Bridesmaids” fame) hasn’t already shoulder danced his way into your heart, he will once you’ve seen this.
Honorable mention for the documentary category, “Searching for Sugar Man”. Not only will you fall in love with Rodriguez’s music, you’ll be inspired by the life he led once his music dreams had been buried, and then re-opened again thanks to a hard core fan base in South Africa. Sure to be nominated for an Academy Award.