The holiday season is fast approaching, and with it loads of TV movie marathons and couch time. But if you’re not interested in what Hallmark typically serves up, now may be a good time to dive into a few criminally under-seen titles. But which ones should you choose?
Allow me to help.
Every month, I pack a short-list of under-the-radar titles waiting to be unearthed from the algorithms of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the like. Because movie nights are important and life’s too short to watch the wrong stuff.
Here are a few delectable movies that’ll take your “To-Watch” list to the next level in November.
Captain Fantastic (2016)
A damn near perfect independent film.
A tribute to the quirkiness of a broken family striving to pave its own path. Captain Fantastic is a darkly comedic tour-de-force of what it means to become and a thoroughly wounded examination of the choices we make for the sake of children. Viggo Mortensen gives arguably the finest performance of his career as the intelligent-hippie-patriarch of the clan. And Alex Somers’ ethereal score weaves the tapestry together in stunning fashion.
Captain Fantastic is as honest as it is a journey of the off-kilter and dares to ask the daunting question: What matters more, nature or nurture?
FOR FANS OF: Into the Wild, Little Miss Sunshine, & Revolutionary Road
Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)
A constant reminder that life is not fair.
For documentary-nerds out there, watch Montage of Heck. For rock-and-roll history hounds, watch Montage of Heck. For those interested in experimental filmmaking, watch Montage of Heck. It completely revolutionizes the genre’s narrative style. The glass ceiling has been shattered.
Especially for Nirvana & Cobain faithfuls, this one sets the standard. After a number of mediocre books, feeble docu-fails, and conspiracy theories — we’ve finally been given the definitive exploration of Cobain’s soul. This is the beautiful tragedy you’d expect. Genius on multiple levels; speaks with all the right players; salutes the creativity and music at its core; and shows the brutal truth of Cobain’s private life.
This is what biographical documentaries will strive to be for years to come.
FOR FANS OF: Almost Famous, The Doors, & No Direction Home
How could a film with Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, John Turturro, and Martin Landau fly under the radar AND become arguably the most underrated indie gem of its decade? Honestly, it baffles the mind.
Here’s what I know … if you pine for the mid-level niche dramas of yesteryear swim in this one for a spell.
The underbelly of high-stakes poker and New York City low-lifes are filled with incredibly flawed yet indelible characters. Sprinkle in a dash of noir and a pinch of buddy-caperism and we get an incredibly re-watchable gem. Pound for pound, it doesn’t get much more deliciously unrefined in the sense of this intimate 90’s treat.
Rounders is a gift, and it deserved better.
FOR FANS OF: The 25th Hour, The Game, & The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
It’s my personal mission to put this film in front of as many people as possible.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the standard for family-friendly, cinematically stunning, and wonderfully inspirational movies. Why? Because Walter Mitty is all of us — a human capable of great things but never given himself permission to be great. He reminds us of the ordinary profundity while reaching something slightly more exciting than the mundane.
Also, the Ghost Cat scene w/ Sean Penn is really good.
Honestly, I don’t want to dissect this film too much because it is best experienced when un-assumed. This title carries a lot of heart and will be one of the surprisingly most fun movie-watches of recent memory.
PLATFORM: Amazon Prime
FOR FANS OF: Begin Again, Pleasantville, & Stranger Than Fiction
A Single Man (2009)
Hot Take: Colin Firth’s single best performance.
An intimate portrait of a broken man delivered through staggeringly beautiful framing. Tom Ford’s directorial debut subtly swells from the mind of a man trying to make sense of devastating loss, desire for love, and solace in authentic identity. May sound rather basic but, like the best character studies, A Single Man lays thick existentialism on us like a cozy weighted blanket.
Some films we retreat to for escape; some because it promises prestige and can’t miss stories. Others are the ones that simply ask us to stay a spell and just be. Firth’s three-dimensional performance, Ford’s impeccable palette, and the earnest source material grant a familiar uniqueness that packs a soul-enriching (and perhaps damaging) experience.
FOR FANS OF: The Kids Are All Right, Leaving Las Vegas, & Shame
Who cares if the queue is over-stuffed? Add some of these hidden gems to your list and save your next movie night, or scroll through the library until something jumps out. Either way, you’ve got no excuses … Go watch something!
What’s the best hidden gem you’ve streamed recently? Share in the comments and help me expand the list!