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13 Most Overlooked Movies of 2013: ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ ‘Rush,’ and More

There were lots of great movies this year—‘Gravity,’ ‘12 Years a Slave,’ etc. These are the ones you probably missed.

The Daily Beast

This was one of the best years at the movies in recent memory. There were fantastic sci-fi films like ‘Gravity’ and ‘Her.’ Sexy flicks ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘American Hustle.’ Historical dramas ’12 Years A Slave’ and ‘Inside Llewyn Davis.’ The list is endless. But since the movie release schedule is so oversaturated—663 hit theaters in ’12, for example—there are many, many fine movies that you may have missed. Here are The Daily Beast’s picks for the most overlooked movies of 2013.

Sony Pictures

NO (Feb. 15)

This Chilean drama by acclaimed filmmaker Pablo Lorrain (Tony Manero) seems like it was released last year since it was nominated for last year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar—and it was, almost everywhere else in the world. But it didn’t hit U.S. theaters until ’13. It centers on Rene (Gael Garcia Bernal), a talented ad man in 1988 Chile. For 15 years, the Chilean people have suffered under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and, facing pressure from the rest of the international community, the government asks the public to vote in the national plebiscite of 1988 on whether Pinochet should stay in power, or there should be democratic elections. Rene is approached by the “NO” campaign to create ads to oust Pinochet, and each side is given 15 minutes apiece on national TV over 27 nights to air their commercials. The film contains fantastic period detail, an excellent central performance by Bernal, and is shot in a low-def style to mimic ’80s Chilean TV, augmenting its naturalistic feel.

ERBP

UPSTREAM COLOR (April 10)

Nine years after dazzling Sundance with his $7,000 sci-fi flick Primer, which took home the Grand Jury Prize at the fest, mathematician-cum-filmmaker Shane Carruth returned this spring with Upstream Color—a film that I wrote is like “Christopher Nolan’s Inception on psilocybin.” One day, an art dealer named Kris (the wonderful Amy Seimetz) is abducted by a hipster-botanist and force-fed maggots via oxygen mask. When she comes to, she realizes she’s been fleeced for everything she owns. This kicks off a wild journey that involves pig-to-man transference, a bizarre courtship by another lobotomized man (Carruth), and scene after scene of hauntingly poetic imagery, often with no dialogue. There’s a reason why Steven Soderbergh called Carruth “the illegitimate offspring of David Lynch and James Cameron.”

Jonathan Hession/Magnolia Pictures via Everett

SHADOW DANCER (May 13)

Directed by Academy Award-winning documentarian James March (Man on Wire), this slow-burning thriller is set in 1993 Belfast at the height of the Troubles. Colette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) is captured after a failed terrorist attack in London, and forced to inform on her family of IRA members. Mac (Clive Owen), an MI5 agent, is closely monitoring her, and things get complicated when they begin falling for one another. The film contains fine performances all around by the talented cast, including a de-glammed Riseborough in the central role, who communicates with her eyes better than most young actresses, Owen as the agent in over his head, and Colette’s brothers Gerry and Connor, played by the talented Irish actors Aidan Gillen (The Wire, Game of Thrones) and Domhnall Gleeson (About Time). And Marsh does a great job of ratcheting up the tension until it hits a fever pitch.

IFC Films

FRANCES HA (May 17)

Yes, this collaboration between filmmaker Noah Baumbach and star/co-screenwriter Greta Gerwig—a real-life couple that met while working on Greenberg—received plenty of critical praise, but didn’t’ exactly light up the box office. It’s an 86-minute black-and-white comedy-drama centered on Frances (Gerwig), a 27-year-old dancer who lives in Brooklyn with her hetero life-mate, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). When Sophie moves in with her boyfriend and leaves Frances roommate-less, it sets off a chain reaction that sees Frances move to Chinatown, visit her home in Sacramento, experience a (terribly brief) Parisian sojourn, and become an RA at her old college in Poughkeepsie. The witty film, anchored by a brilliant, endearing turn from the lovable Gerwig, perfectly captures the chaos, confusion, and disillusionment of the 20-something New Yorker.

BEFORE MIDNIGHT (May 24)

You’ve surely heard plenty about this, the third film in the Before Sunrise trilogy from filmmaker Richard Linklater and stars/co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. It’s one of the best movies of the year but sadly, only raked in just a shade over $8 million at the domestic box office. It’s set nine years after the events of 2004’s Before Sunset and sees the brash American novelist Jesse (Hawke) and his passionate French wife, Celine (Delpy), struggling to keep their relationship afloat. They have two children now, but Jesse is tormented over the lack of time he spends with his son from his previous marriage. Over a few days on the Greek islands, all their anxieties and frustrations come to the fore. The film is expertly acted, and the sharp dialogue flows—and boy, does it flow—from Hawke and Delpy’s mouths with such realism that you feel as if you’re watching an actual relationship unravel. That this is the best film in the trilogy (so far) is a staggering achievement. 

Myles Aronowitz/Fox Searchlight

THE EAST (May 31)

The latest collaboration between filmmaker Zal Batmanglij and actress/co-writer Brit Marling (The Sound of My Voice) centers on Sarah (Marling), an operative for a private intelligence firm who’s tasked with infiltrating The East—an “eco-terrorist” organization that targets high-ranking members of energy companies and hits them right where they live. The organization is led by Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), a hunky, mysterious fella, and Izzy (Ellen Page), a fiery rebel. Soon, however, Sarah finds herself siding with the eco group—much to the chagrin of her boss, played by Patricia Clarkson. The film contains several elaborate set pieces—including a feeding ritual in straitjackets and a hijacked garden party—that will stay in your head for days, and it does a great job of building suspense until a somewhat lackluster denouement.

Roadside Attractions/Courtesy Everett Collection

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (June 7)

Call it the anti-Avengers. Based on the Shakespeare comedy, this breezy, black-and-white flick was shot over 12 days at filmmaker Joss Whedon’s home. Featuring a cast and crew of his actor friends, including Amy Acker as Beatrice, Alexis Denisof as Benedick, and others, it’s a saucy, inspired take on the celebrated play featuring lush lensing, snappy Shakespearean dialogue delivered with panache, and amusing performances all around—none more so than Nathan Fillion, who turns in a Dogberry for the ages.

Focus Features

THE SPECTACULAR NOW (Aug. 2)

That this splendid teen drama only made $6.8 million is absolutely beyond me. Directed by James Ponsoldt (Smashed) and written by the fellas behind (500) Days of Summer, the film tells the tale of Sutter Keely (Miles Teller, astonishing), the charming class clown at his high school and one half of an “it” couple, alongside Cassidy (Brie Larson). After he’s dumped, he crosses paths with Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a kindhearted geek, who teaches the knucklehead a thing or two about being a responsible young adult, and looking towards the future instead of living in the “spectacular now.” Teller and Woodley are fantastic and fully encapsulate their roles, the rest of the ensemble (including Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bob Odenkirk, among others) is perfectly cast, and the film as a whole provides a very honest, heartrending portrait of first love, alcohol dependency, and teenage ennui.

Steve Dietl/IFC Films

AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (Aug. 16)

Marking the feature filmmaking debut of David Lowery, this somber western stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as Bob Muldoon and Ruth Guthrie, two outlaw lovebirds wreaking havoc across the Texas plains. One day, police corner the couple at an abandoned house, and Bob is captured. Four years later, he breaks out of prison to reunite with his love and their daughter, whom he’s never seen. Meanwhile, Ruth has cozied up to a sheriff, played by Ben Foster, and several nefarious characters—as well as the law—are on the hunt for Bob. Anchored by three fine turns by Affleck, Mara, and Foster, a hypnotic soundtrack, and stunning cinematography, the film is like a slighter version of Terrence Malick’s Badlands crossed with the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men.

Cinedigm/Courtesy Everett Collection

SHORT TERM 12 (Aug. 23)

Brie Larson is impressive as the most popular girl in school in The Spectacular Now, but she’s an absolute revelation in Short Term 12. She stars as Grace, a 20-something supervisor at a foster care facility for at-risk teens. Grace is wonderful with the kids—tough, but fair—and has earned their respect. She’s in love with her gentle coworker, Mason (The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr.), who picks her up when she’s feeling depressed—which she is quite often. Grace struggles to connect with Marcus (Keith Stanfield), an 18-year-old with an abusive mother who’s about to age out and be sent back home, as well as Jaden (Kaitlyn Dever), a young girl who’s been sexually abused by her father. There are vital performances all around here, but it’s first and foremost a showcase for Larson, who’s helped create one of the most complicated, indelible screen characters this year. If there’s any justice, she’d be getting more awards consideration.

Jaap Buitendijk/Universal Pictures

RUSH (Sept. 13)

I, like many Americans, have very little interest in Formula One racing, which probably explains why this thrilling Ron Howard film grossed a paltry $27 million in North America. It tells the real-life story of F1 rivals Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) going toe-to-toe during the 1976 season. And Lauda, the cold, calculating Austrian, and Hunt, the gorgeous, hard-partying Brit, couldn’t have been bigger foils. Back then, racing was very dangerous—with one or two drivers perishing on the track per year—and Lauda fell victim to the perilous conditions in Germany. He suffered a terrible crash and was caught in the flames for minutes, leading to burns over his face and much of his body. But, after spending only 6 weeks in the hospital, the determined Austrian returns to the track to take on his nemesis. The performances by Bruhl (especially) and Hemsworth are excellent, as is the lensing by Slumdog Millionaire cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. And who’d ever thought Howard could make such a sexy, adrenaline-packed movie?  

Sony Pictures Classics

KILL YOUR DARLINGS (Oct. 16)

Directed by John Krokidas, this period drama tells the true story of the murder of the predatory David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) by his much younger lover, Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Following the murder, Carr’s best mates, who happen to be the founding voices of the Beat generation—Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston)—are all implicated in the crime. Krokidas’s debut feature exhibits fine period detail, sex appeal, and a jazzy tempo, as well as two outstanding turns by Radcliffe as the vulnerable Ginsberg, in his finest screen performance to date, and DeHaan as the seductive, manipulative Carr.

Kerry Brown/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

THE COUNSELOR (Oct. 25)

Critics unjustly shred this pulpy, lurid, black-hearted thriller to pieces. Directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by novelist Cormac McCarthy, the film stars Michael Fassbender as “The Counselor”—a lawyer who’s lured into the world of drug trafficking through his charismatic client, Reiner (Javier Bardem). It opens with Fassbender going down on his girlfriend, played by Penelope Cruz, and things only get crazier when Reiner’s fiery, Ferrari-humping boo, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), enters the picture. This shamelessly sexy and dark B-movie features one hell of a script by McCarthy—it’s one of the most quotable movies of the year—wacky performances, and several unforgettable sequences. It pays homage to Ridley’s late brother, True Romance director Tony Scott, and is one of those films that will be appreciated more by future generations.