This week, I’m featuring three movies that are flying under the radar. The Chilean drama Gloria is about an especially resilient 58-year-old woman. Harder to find, Stranger by the Lake is an effective French thriller with LOTS of explicit gay sex.
And my DVD/Stream of the Week is the compelling and affecting foster care drama Short Term 12. This movie made both my Best Movies of 2013 and my Most Overlooked Movies of 2013, with its star making performance by Brie Larson. Short Term 12 is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video.
In theaters, you can still find Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her, which all made my Best Movies of 2013. I also strongly recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena. Dallas Buyers Club, with its splendid performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, is formulaic but still a pretty good watch.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also like the Mumblecore romance Drinking Buddies, now available on VOD.
I saw this year’s Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts and was disappointed. There was nothing to match recent gems like The God of Love or Curfew. I liked the British short about a particularly bored and malevolent God masquerading as a convict, but that 13 minutes didn’t justify the two hours that I had invested. A 30-minute Spanish film about child soldiers in Africa was to excruciatingly brutal to justify the trite attempt at a redemptive payoff. (I haven’t seen the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts, but I have heard good things about that program.)
Turner Classic Movies has launched its wonderful annual 31 Days of Oscar – filling the entire month with Oscar-nominated movies. This week I recommend the romantic French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) which is notable for three things: 1) the actors sing all of the dialogue; 2) the breakout performance by then 20-year-old Catherine Deneuve; and 3) an epilogue scene at a gas station – one of the great weepers in cinema history. I also recommend two great performances by Peter O’Toole screening on February 20, as a lethally driven movie director in The Stunt Man (1980) and as a gloriously dipsomaniacal screen icon in the comedy My Favorite Year (1982).