Forget the Oscar-bait movies, these three are better

If you’re at all like me, you were watching the Golden Globes last night and thinking ‘I haven’t seen any movies this year.’

This is unusual for me. I like to see almost, if not all, of the buzz worthy movies. Last year I had seen all of the Oscar Best Picture nominees. This year, I’ve only seen one of the sure-fire nominees, American Hustle. I went and saw it with my friend Katie and we had a similar opinion. It was good, but not that good.

In the following weeks I’ll be playing catch up on my 2013 movies, but looking back the movies that I did see and liked the most (minus Catching Fire, obviously) were three tiny little independent films that were beloved by critics but ignored by the masses. It’s a shame, too, because the films, all anchored by young people in amazing performances, are being overlooked this award season, too, which is a shame considering that I’d say all of these movies were better than American Hustle.

‘The Spectacular Now’

If you have a beating heart in your chest, you will find something to like about this movie. I read the book, which was also good, but the movie is something of a marvel, considering that it’s anchored by the little known actor Miles Teller. He mostly plays a jackass in college-aged comedies, but here he breathes depth and soul in Sutter Keely, the alcoholic teen getting through his senior year. He’s co-star, Shailene Woodley, shines here as well, capturing Aimee so completely and giving a brave, vulnerable performance. The supporting cast is great, the script solid, and the it’s simplicity and effectiveness is simply, well, spectacular.

‘Fruitvale Station’

A Friday Night Lights alum in a movie? Sure, I’m there (minus that Taylor Kitsch crap). Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar Grant and again, it’s another great young actor with a superb, star-making performance. The film is directed by a first timer, Ryan Coolger, and I hope he gets lots of other projects because man, does he hit it out of the park. The film is so simple, just showing the basic events of his day that lead up to his murder by a policeman in the Fruitvale station in Oakland. His mother, played by Octavia Spencer, is also great and the film will break your heart, enrage you, and remain a reference point for the many other films that are sure to follow it, especially in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial.

‘Short Term 12’ 

Brie Larson was, to me, just the girl from the 21 Jump Street remake but now she’s is, to me, simply a great actress. Larson plays Grace who is a supervisor in a foster care center for at-risk youth. She’s the kind of character who you root for simply because you can tell how much she cares for the broken people around her, even when she herself is broken. I loved the love story between her and Marcus (John Gallagher Jr., who should leave The Newsroom and do more movies like this). This film take that ‘inspirational teacher’ genre and tilts it to let in some fresh air and new light.

What were your favorite movies of the year? Were any of them little indies like these? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, I’m @emhof.

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