Avengers: Endgame has made $2.8 billion at the box office this year. Aladdin and The Lion King have both made over $1 billion. This is starting to become pretty normal for big budget blockbusters. As much as people want to talk about the rise of streaming, people are still going to the theaters to see these enormous motion pictures, and who can blame them? Nobody wants to be the person who can’t contribute to the big, spoiler-filled Toy Story 4 discussion.
At the same time, there are plenty of movies out there that don’t make that kind of money. There are movies like the ones listed below that can’t find a mainstream audience in spite of critical acclaim. That’s where this list comes into play.
Below are ten excellent ones that unfortunately slipped under the radar. Even though these flicks didn’t rake in cash on top of cash, they deserve to be talked about just as much as the heavy-hitters. While they’re not the most obscure releasesd, they did fail to find a sizeable audience. Hopefully this list helps bring some exposure to the films that were unfairly slept on throughout the year.
1. The Biggest Little Farm
Technically, as far as documentaries go, this is probably more popular than the competition. It made a healthy $4 million at the box office, which makes it the third highest grossing documentary of the year so far. That being said, it’s still a documentary, and we all know that $4 million would be considered chump change if it were a traditional narrative film. Because of this, it seems fitting to include it in a list of movies that may have been missed.
On the surface, The Biggest Little Farm sounds pretty niche. Not everybody is going to be excited about going into a farming documentary. This isn’t about crime, celebrities, politics or any of the other topics that draws in viewers. It’s about a couple who decides to create a sustainable farm in California.
One would assume that a topic like this would only interest a certain group of people, but director John Chester actually manages to tell a story with a pretty universal message. We all go through trials and tribulations, and we often want to give up. Chester simply wants to remind us that anyone can achieve his or her dream.
More importantly, he tells a story that remains interesting despite the fact that this story appears to have limited appeal. The Biggest Little Farm never feels like a story for farmers. It feels like a story aimed at regular human beings who wish to hear about something inspirational. This kind of universal appeal makes it a must-watch documentary that shouldn’t be forgotten by the end of the year.
2. Giant Little Ones
Keith Behrman’s exploration of teen sexuality feels vital in a time where people are reevaluating the predominantly black-and-white way we view so many things. It wants us to be aware that certain concepts are not always as simple as they seem. In this particular instance, the primary focus is on the sexual orientations of others.
Giant Little Ones recognizes sexuality as a spectrum. As the cliché goes, the heart wants what it wants. Because of this, the Giant Little Ones can’t be considered a “coming out” movie. The protagonist experiments with his sexuality, but he never comes to any kind of revelation regarding whether he’s gay, straight, or something in between. He doesn’t feel like he needs to, and that allows this film to set itself apart from the competition.
Although we’re not necessarily flooded with queer cinema, we are still at risk of overexposure. This kind of topic should be discussed, but there are only so many ways to tell a story like this. Behrman’s second feature wisely tows the line. It tackles familiar topics, but it does so in a way that allows it to flourish.
3. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
A brief summary of The Last Black Man in San Francisco doesn’t do it justice. In fact, it kind of does the opposite. Based on the plot alone, it sounds like a generic drama about friendship, but honestly, it’s so much more than that. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is as compelling as it is quirky.
Seriously, that quirkiness goes a long way because the premise could have devolved into melodrama. First-time director Joe Talbot knows better though. He presents a gleefully weird movie that tells its story with a sharp sense of humor and a dash of style. While the plot is melodramatic in nature, Talbot refuses to let it play out in a way that feels overly sentimental. There are heartfelt moments, but they never feel genuine rather than forced.
The amount of talent in front of the camera is just as laudable as the talent behind the camera. Jimmy Falls gives one of the best performances of 2019. Hell, his work is just as award-worthy as many of the Oscar nominees from past years. His acting talent is made even more noticeable through his chemistry with Jonathan Majors, who plays his best friend. The two make a remarkable pair, and thank goodness, because the friendship motif needs this kind of acting duo.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco will probably be forgotten by the time awards season comes around, but it shouldn’t. This is one of those rare movies that only come along a few times a year. It’s something that surprises nearly every viewer because it does so much more than anyone would expect. Let’s just be real: it’s a masterpiece.
David Edelstein called Diane the “most exhilarating depressive movie I’ve ever seen.” Scott Craven said that Diane “sure is depressing, but it’s quietly compelling.” If you were to search through countless reviews, you’d likely notice a pattern. Diane is probably one of the least uplifting movies of the year, but it’s also an absorbing character study that rewards patient viewers who are willing to peel back layers to uncover timeless messages.
The titular character is played by Mary Kay Place, an actress who lets the gravitas do the talking. She plays a character with some deep dark secrets, but she’s not quick to reveal those secrets to an audience of viewers begging for answers. No, she’s content just letting the runtime slowly tick away. Had the protagonist been played by someone without this kind of talent, that slow ticking could be infuriating, but Place knows how to get the most out of each and every scene.
Obviously, Place isn’t in charge of the pacing, but her muted performance pairs well with the slow unraveling of the story. Yes, we all know there’s something going on with this woman, but we need to analyze her actions first. After all, this is more of a character study than a mystery. The script shows little interest in quickly rewarding viewers, but that’s okay because we’re given so much to dissect.
It’s actually surprising just how dense Diane is. It’s relatively short, clocking in at a mere 95 minutes. However, Kent Jones does everything to keep things fascinating. Slow pacing aside, there’s so much to see in this film. That’s exactly why it needs to be experienced.
Director Alex Lehmann may not be a household name yet, but he has the talent to make an extraordinary impact. Following the success of his critically acclaimed directorial debut, Lehmann and Mark Duplass once again reunite for one of the most poignant dramedies of the year. Paddleton is a tearjerker with enough heart to help it overcome any and all flaws.
Paddleton is about a terminally ill man named Michael, played by Mark Duplass, who wants to spend his final days with his best friend Andy, played by Ray Romano. He knows for a fact that these are his last days because he plans to take medication that will end his life. Before this all happens, the viewer is meant to revel in the friendship between these two people.
Paddleton consists mostly of bittersweet bromance. It’s mostly dialogue-driven, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the fact Duplass, a mumblecore mastermind, co-wrote the script. Luckily, this dialogue is consistently engaging because it’s simultaneously funny and tear-inducing. By striking a perfect balance between drama and comedy, the script never fails to engage.
The mumblecore aspects of course limit the appeal. This particular genre has been known to steer people away. Still, Paddleton remains more accessible than most similar movies. The heartbreaking story combined with the witty screenplay makes for a worthwhile experience that shouldn’t be missed.