10 Overlooked Movie Gems

The Academy Award nominations were announced today and as usual I’m disappointed. I think the nominees do not reflect the best movies. What I see driving the awards race are big directors, big actors, big-money production and politically correct messages or something that appeals to the broad masses.

I’m not saying the nominated movies are bad. I don’t really know. I haven’t seen them all, though I have read reviews. But when you’ve given movies like Crash and Titanic the best picture award, I have to question the integrity of your process.

I keep a list of the movies I watch. So I went back over the past year and found ten movies I thought were excellent, none of which has been nominated for much of anything. Because I watched some of the movies after they came out on DVD, the movies mostly date back over the past couple of years. Some of them are low budget, some you may never have heard of, but they have one thing in common: They tell a good story well.

In alphabetical order, here they are.

Animal Kingdom

– This is an Australian gangster movie about a tense battle between a crime family and the police. If you liked Goodfellas or Casino, you’ll probably like this one.

Cedar Rapids

– This comedy about an idealistic insurance agent who’s in way over his head stars Ed Helms (The Office), John C. Reilly, Ann Heche, Rob Corddry and Sigourney Weaver.

Cyrus

– This movie made some top ten lists. Starring John C. Reilly as Cyrus, whose marriage with wife Catherine Keener has broken up. When he starts a new relationship with Marisa Tomei, there’s one major problem, her teen-aged son, played by Jonah Hill.

Fish Tank

– This is one of the most powerful movies I’ve seen in recent years. It’s British and chronicles the life of a teen-aged girl who lives in a huge low-rent apartment block with her boozy party-girl mother. Gritty, real and great performances.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

– When a teen boy gets committed to the psych ward, he meets some crazy and heart-warming characters. Zack Galifanakis, who seems to be everywhere, gives a good turn as a mental patient.

A Little Help

– Jenna Fisher of The Office really shines  in this story of a suburban housewife whose husband dies leaving her to cope with a new reality alone.

Powwow Highway

– Rarely do you see a movie about Native Americans. They are our most invisible minority. In this fun and raucous film, a young man must travel from the reservation on a cross-country trip to try to get his sister out of jail. Made in 1989, but I just discovered it last year.

Skateland

– Set in the 1980s, this teen-bop drama has the feel of American Graffiti 20 years later, with good writing and stellar performances from a no-big-names cast. It’s a real blast from the past.

The Winning Season

– When down on his luck coach Sam Rockwell takes the job of coaching the girls’ basketball team at his old high school, he struggles to relate to the girls he coaches. This is a warm, funny movie with some great moments.

The Yellow Handkerchief

– This independent drama starring William Hurt and Maria Bello is part road  trip, part love story and completely charming. With a supporting performance by Kristin Stewart.

 

What’s your choice for an overlooked screen gem? Post it in the comment section.

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