There are usually two ways of finding out which films of the year you should watch. You can either look through the blockbusters of the summer for your action-packed and franchise fueled cinematic events, or you can look through this year’s list of Oscar winners for the quality films.
This article is dedicated to the films that fall under the cracks year-after-year, films that don’t have big budgets or star-powered casts to take hold of the limelight, but are still worth your undivided 100-minute averaging attention.
A Private War
There was a lot of chatter at the Oscars about Lady Gaga’s debut performance in A Star is Born and Olivia Coleman’s in The Favourite, but surprisingly in the awards chatter for Best Actress, Rosamund Pike was nowhere to be found.
A film largely ignored in the award circuit (bar a Golden Globe nomination for Rosamund Pike) and at the box office (only grossing $3.1 million) , A Private War chronicles the life of war correspondent Marie Colvin, specifically the psychological and physical torment of the job as well as the horror of conflict itself.
Viewers will no doubt identify the film’s relevance to modern day current affairs, particularly the Syrian conflict, but what will draw viewers ultimately is Rosamund’s resilient performance as she takes and maintains the limelight for the entire film (despite having 50 Shades’ Jamie Dorman by her side).
The Front Runner
Nothing draws me in more than a political scandal movie and The Front Runner is just that. Starring Hugh Jackman, The Front Runner chronicles US Senator Gary Hart’s run for the 1988 US Presidency and the unravelling scandal in his private life that ultimately cost him it.
The film more than being a typical story with a beginning, middle, and end, instead chooses to spend the film exploring a simple question “How relevant is a public figure’s private life to his capacity to do his job?” / “Is a public figure entitled to a private life?”. Though a slow burn at times, The Front Runner creates for an enjoyable intellectual pondering as it explores different views on the issue throughout its circa 2 hour run time, even though modern US politics may taint the film’s answers.
Timothee Chalomet was the hot stuff of the 2017s Oscars after his breakout performance in “Call Me By Your Name“. Thus imagine my surprise when his Oscar-baiting performance this year in “Beautiful Boy” went completely under the radar. Paired up with comedic-gone-serious Steve Carell, the film chronicles the resilient relationship between father and son as the adolescent struggles with a terrible drug addiction.
Rather than the film following an underdog narrative of hitting rock bottom and learning to pick yourself up again, the film focuses on the destructive personality of Chalomet’s character and the tormenting position of Steve Carell’s as he tries everything to get his son back even when no one else will.
Though the ending is frustrating, be sure to have plenty of tissues by your side for this one.
Nazi Zombies. To some that may mean nothing while to others those words may bring up nostalgia of late night sessions of Call of Duty. Overlord is the exemplification of “What if Hollywood decided to make a Nazi Zombies movie?” question. Set during the lead up to D-Day, Overlord follows an airborne regiment tasked with blowing up a jamming tower in order to secure the success of the D-Day invasion, but in the process end up finding a lot more than they bargained for.
Produced by JJ Abrams, Overlord probably fell under the radar as ‘Overlord’ was originally the name for the next entry in the Cloverfield franchise, succeeding after the marketing success but narrative mess that was “The Cloverfield Paradox”.
Though the film is a little light on zombies, appearing only toward the film’s 3rd and final Act, the film is generally an enjoyable ride mixing in an appropriate amount of horror elements with comedic humor to create was essentially a small-scale movie with a bit of personality to it.
Essentially a feel good movie, Life Itself is more like the theatrical version of ‘This is Us’ than the corny carbon copy of “Valentine’s Day“/“New Year’s Eve”/“Mother’s Day”.
Life Itself chronicles 3 separate stories of couples from multiple generations and how their lives are connected by a singular event. Powered with familiar faces such as Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, and Antonio Banderas, Life Itself felt like a film aspired to be a lot more than it actually was, leaving critics and audiences with a bitter taste. However that is the issue with feel-good movies, their purpose is nothing other than to make you feel good.
Similar to ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ and ‘Hector and the Search for Happiness’, Life Itself will leave you feeling appreciative of life by the end of its run-time.
You may know Upgrade as ‘the low-budget action film starring Tom Hardy’s stunt-double’. A summer release, Upgrade was a small-scale cyberpunk entry about a powerless man given
Interspersed between its action scenes some philosophical discussion about the dangerous and allusive effects of virtuality and the sustainability of reality, Upgrade provides a more refreshing action film than what we are used to. Not light on gore and violence, the storyline contains plenty of twists and turns which while abusive on the suspension of disbelief, will keep you entertained throughout its entire run-time.
Charlize Theron took the limelight as the one-armed badass in Mad Max: Fury Road. Since then, she hasn’t been seen much, or rather her performances have not left as much of a mark since then. However I would argue that her performance in Tully, a black comedy superficially presenting itself to be just about the struggle of motherhood but substantively a discussion on mental health, is one that should have gotten her at least a nod in the awards circuit.
A short yet pensive film, Tully follows the life of a mother of 2 who has just given birth to a 3rd. Struggling already to handle one of her child’s personality disorders, a hectic schedule, and an absent husband, the mother decides to hire a ‘night nanny’ but ends up blossoming into something else entirely. Tully is a film best seen with a significant other.