Audiences apparently didn’t want to see James Franco with cornrows or Selena Gomez in a bikini. But ‘Spring Breakers’ was one of the year’s weirdest and best films.
I see a lot of movies, which is probably why, when my friends find out I haven’t seen a particular film that they like, they often say “I can’t believe you haven’t seen that!” To which I usually reply: “Well, you can’t see ’em all.”
And it’s true, you can’t. In recognition of that fact, I put together a list of my favorite offbeat movies from 2013 that didn’t get the attention they deserved. All but one of these films played at the Nickelodeon or Del Mar this year, but in most cases, I only got to see them while they were there because someone whose taste I trusted tipped me off. This is my chance to pass on the favor.
Of course, in an era when Ron Burgandy is being marketed on ESPN and sitting in for real anchormen, it’s actually kind of refreshing to know there are still cult movies. It’d be great if smaller, much better films could attract even a fraction of the audience that flocks to see crap like We’re the Millers andGrown-Ups 2. But then again, a lot of times the very reason I like a film is that it delivers a filmmaking vision that’s startling and maybe even contrarian in its uniqueness. Truly interesting filmmakers simply refuse to see the world the way everyone else does, and that means their films won’t necessarily appeal to everyone, or even build the mass momentum necessary to get them to audiences that would. I hope that these five movies get a second look:
SPRING BREAKERS: Probably my favorite movie of this year, this bizarre combination of crime flick and trashy 1980s spring-break exploitation romp has to be seen to be believed. Forget Gummo or Kids, this is the movie Harmony Korine was born to make. (Note: One does not simply forget Gummo.) It shares some thematic elements with Sofia Coppola’s privileged-teens-in-robbery-land docudrama The Bling Ring—which might make for an interesting film-school paper about what people thought about white kids in 2013—except thatSpring Breakers appears to be set in an alternate universe, has James Franco as the funniest druglord you’ll ever see and features what the Cramps once called “bikini girls with machine guns.”
TRANCE: I’m not going to give anything away about the plot of this movie, except to say it’s a masterful modern update of those twisty psychological thrillers that were so popular in the ’90s. And so much more. You’d have thought that director Danny Boyle’s reputation would have carried more weight with audiences—unless you saw the atrocious and completely off-base ad campaign.
YOU’RE NEXT: Too bad more horror fans didn’t see this welcome demolishing of the stale strangers-at-your-door formula. This was basically Scream for home invasion movies, except without the parody. Should have been the breakout film for director-writer team Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. They will be back.
SIGHTSEERS: Now that I think about it, I guess what links all these films is that they twist a conventional movie genre into something entirely new, right before our eyes. This pitch black British comedy assaults and batters roadtripping-couples flicks. We’re usually asked to ponder something like, “Will this journey save their relationship, or destroy it?” This time, it’s more like. “Will anyone in this movie survive?” The ending is brilliant, subtle—and truly vicious.
STOKER: Months before audiences didn’t go to see Spike Lee’s remake of Korean director Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy, they got a chance to ignore Park’s American film debut, as well. It’s a creepy, fascinating riff on Alfred Hitchcock’sShadow of a Doubt, though some people no doubt thought it was about vampires (it has nothing at all to do with Bram Stoker or his book Dracula, as far as I could tell). Nicole Kidman and Dermot Mulroney tried to lend this some star power, but it’s really Mia Wasikowska who shines as an 18-year-old whose mysterious uncle comes to live with her family. Hilarity does not ensue, but Park’s visual filmmaking is still poetic and eerie.