Most avid movie fans I know spend January seeing the year-end releases that are being talked up for awards. I propose an alternative: why not seek out good films and great performances that the award-givers have overlooked? Almost all of these titles are now available for streaming, rental, or purchase… and they’re almost certain to be better than the junk that studios foist upon us in the early months of the new year.


Ralph Fiennes in A Bigger Splash. This is the second time Fiennes has been overlooked for a great piece of work; last year it was his wonderful performance in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. This time he costars with Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenarts as a bombastic rock ‘n’ roll producer who intrudes upon their quiet getaway on the Italian island of Pantelleria. We’ve never seen Fiennes in a part quite like this. He’s unforgettable and the film is delicious. Read my original review HERE.


Rebecca Hall in Christine. Rebecca Hall has done consistently fine work in films big and small, from Vicky Cristina Barcelona to Iron Man 3, but she’s never had a starring showcase like this. As real-life 1970s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck, she paints a credible portrait of a woman who can’t overcome her growing anxieties. Read my original review HERE.


Ethan Hawke in Born to be Blue. Hawke has been doing great work lately, but his portrayal of doomed jazz musician Chet Baker is one of the best things he’s ever done. He’s not only convincing as a gifted trumpeter but imitates Baker’s distinctive singing voice perfectly. This one got away from me in its all-too-brief theatrical release and it’s well worth seeing. Kudos to writer-director Robert Budreau and costar Carmen Ejogo.


Sam Neill in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Sam Neill is always good (did you see him in Steven Knight’s British TV series Peaky Blinders?) but is taken for granted somewhat. Taika Waititi’s entertaining yarn casts him as a bluff, bearded man of few words who leads an orphaned kid from the city into the New Zealand wilderness to escape from the clutches of Social Services. I missed this sleeper the first time around; don’t you make the same mistake.


Sally Field in Hello, My Name is Doris. Many of us have watched Sally Field grow up on screen, so it may be jarring to see her playing a dowdy older woman. But she’s hard to resist even if the film is uneven. You’ll be well rewarded for your time. Read my original review HERE.

Tomorrow, Part 2: Good movies you may have missed

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Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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June 2024