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The best movies you missed this year

  • McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • Published Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, at 12 a.m.

All the various film awards and nominations are piling up at the same doorsteps this year, a monotonous drumbeat of “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” acclaim. Those films, from “Dallas Buyer’s Club” to “All is Lost,” earn a new lease on life, thanks to the fickle finger of “awards season.”

But with overrated pap (“Hunger Games,” “Frozen”) sucking every other season-ending cent out of the box office, it’s time to reflect on the good movies you missed while you were wasting hours and bucks on “Pacific Rim,” “Thor” and “R.I.P.D.”

With hundreds of releases, many which didn’t play far and wide, you can be excused for missing a few gems. But there’s no excuse now. Here are 10 titles worth tracking down in their video afterlife over the holidays.

“Blue Caprice”: Maybe the star, the still-controversial Isaiah Washington, kept this from the sort of attention it merited. But his performance as D.C. sniper Svengali John Allen Muhammad was the most chilling performance of 2013 – amoral, bitter, petty and manipulative. Very disturbing.

“The Spectacular Now”: Yes, “The Way, Way Back” got the box office bounce among the summer’s slew of slight coming-of-age comedies. But this one, about teen love, co-dependency and alcoholism, was far and away the best of the bunch. It’s a charming just-say-yes comedy that turns smart and serious and heartfelt the moment Shailene Woodley shows up.

“Prince Avalanche”: Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch paint a line on a road through a burnt-out forest in Texas. “Deadpan” defined.

“In a World …”: Gorgeous actress Lake Bell takes us into the sexist, ego maniacal world of movie trailer voice-over announcers, and this laugh-out-loud romp with a touch of feminism is what resulted.

“Stories We Tell”: Sarah Polley set out to document the story of her parents and her odd, headline-making childhood. And darned if she doesn’t shock herself and us as she does. You’d have to be Canadian to know even a hint of this story of marriage, secrets, tragedy and the way we spin our personal history to make it palatable to others.

“Drinking Buddies”: Call it a male wish fulfillment fantasy if you want, but a best friend who loves beer and looks like Olivia Wilde? Win win. The fact that she’s wonderful, as the lonesome lager lover who is the last to figure out that the guy (Jake Johnson) she loves knocking back a few craft beers with is her soul mate, is a bonus.

“Mud”: All the Oscar buzz for Matthew McConaughey is for his nuanced, swaggering, not-dead-yet-AIDs patient turn in “Dallas Buyers Club.” But his take on title character in this river-romance / coming-of-age fable is downright mythic. It did decent business, for an indie film. Which still isn’t much. Rent it.

“Parkland”: Buffs tend to want their JFK assassination movies to give us conspiracies. This is the straight story, as seen by the folks at the hospital where the president was taken that fateful day. We see the confusion, the heartbreak and the grim business of emergency room medicine, and where the seeds of doubt were planted for all the future conspiracy buffs. Missteps and CYA efforts fed the fascination with the most infamous murder in American history.

“Grabbers”: No zombies, vampires or serial killers, here. Just blood-sucking aliens invading a tiny Irish island in the funniest, most jarring of the year’s many horror offerings. The Irish get to save civilization again by figuring out a most Irish solution to this menace. Scary, funny, with a wee touch of the “diddly aye.”

“Still Mine”: James Cromwell is the stubborn, self-sufficient Canadian who wants to build his wife (Genevieve Bujold) a house that will keep her out of a group home (she has Alzheimer’s) a bit longer. Sublime, wry, with Cromwell charmingly folksy and the little-seen Bujold reminding us just how fearless an actress she was – and remains.

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