The film that may finally win Matthew McConaughey an Oscar is released to DVD today. Dallas Buyers Club is more than a socially relevant biopic. It’s more than a character-driven glimpse at the grinding reality of the dawning AIDS crisis, even. Between McConaughey’s multidimensional performance as AIDS victim and unabashed Texan Ron Woodruff and Jared Leto’s brilliant, Oscar-frontrunning work as Woodruff’s partner in crime, literally and figuratively, the film offers the defining moments in two careers that are just hitting their strides.
For another of McConaughey’s more recent, brilliant but serious performances (as opposed to his recent, brilliant but insane performances), check out Mud. This Huck Finn style adventure is the follow up to the bewilderingly wonderful Take Shelter, both written and directed by the underseen filmmaker of extraordinary talent Jeff Nichols. McConaughey plays the titular Mud, a man-child fugitive who befriends a couple young river rats in search of adventure. The result is a lovely journey of lost innocence and a vanishing American lifestyle.
Today we pay tribute to the most fabulous movies that no one saw in 2013. If you, too, missed them, don’t be too hard on yourself. Some were hard to find, some had such short runs that if you blinked, you missed them in theaters. But here’s your chance to make amends. Seek these out as part of your new year’s resolution to watch something awesome. They are sometimes bloody, sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, always intriguing, fresh and memorable. We give you the most tragically underseen films of 2013.
5. Only God Forgives
Nicolas Winding Refn’s follow up to Drive offers a nightmarish, polarizing vision of the revenge thriller. The near-silent Ryan Gosling leads a cast of misfits and miscreants (and worse) through a bloody piece of nastiness in Bangkok. It’s a visual, aural feat of wonder creating a dreamlike hellscape. The one-dimensional characters and lurid story guarantee you will either love it or hate it, but you will not forget it easily.
4. Much Ado about Nothing
Joss Whedon proves he can do basically anything as he spins the Bard’s classic comedy. Giving Shakespeare a modern-day treatment trips up many great filmmakers, but Whedon takes it in stride, employing a game cast to create a playful, satisfying romp.
The forever underseen filmmaker of extraordinary talent Jeff Nichols follows up his bewilderingly wonderful Take Shelter with this Huck Finn style tale. Matthew McConaughey excels as the man-child fugitive befriending a couple river rats interested in adventure. The result is a lovely journey of lost innocence and a vanishing American lifestyle.
2. Fruitvale Station
Ryan Coogler’s impressive feature debut offers a powerful and superbly acted account of the tragic death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant. Michael B. Jordan’s revelatory lead performance deserves to be in the Oscar conversation.
1. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
No one saw this movie, which is a tragedy given all the film has to offer. The aching romantic drama boasts exceptional performances from Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster as well as understated writing and exquisite photography. It’s an overlooked gem of rare beauty – one worth finding.
Aside from the very rare exception, Matthew McConaughey spent the first twenty years of his career proving to us that he looked nice without a shirt. Talent shmalent. Then suddenly, the king of the romantic comedy finally gave up his throne and began acting, and here’s the nutty thing: he’s damn good. Need proof? Read on, as we list the evidence.
10. Frailty (2001)
Spooky, languid, eerily observant, McConaughey’s performance in this underseen horror gem sets a great tone for the surprises in store.
9. The Paperboy (2012)
In a film this over-the-top, McConaughey anchors the insanity with an understated turn as a conflicted, good man.
8. Bernie (2011)
Jack Black is the reason to see this incredible film, but McConaughey’s turn as the baffled lawman and the film’s voice of reason is a winner as well.
7. Lone Star (1996)
Not yet Hollywood’s go-to for rom-com, McConaughey impressed everyone as Buddy Deeds, the legendary lawman-in-flashback in John Sayles’s Texan mystery.
6. Tropic Thunder (2008)
Here was our first reminder in more than a decade that McConaughey could act, not to mention poke fun at himself. With that insane hair and a little lip gloss, his Hollywood agent was the stuff of dreams. “Tivo!”
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
No matter how much you hated Matthew McConaughey by, say, 2005, you had to admit that you loved him in his early-career turnin Dazed and Confused. That performance as Wooderson, the sleazy older dude still hitting on high school girls, was just about perfect.
4. Mud (2012)
By the time Mud came out, we’d grown used to the new and improved McConaughey, a flexible talent who still managed to put his own stamp on every new and fascinating role. Here he blends childlike wildness with wily survival instincts for a piece of beautiful storytelling.
3. Magic Mike (2012)
Yes, this movie blows, but it is so worth watching because of McConaughey’s positively unhinged and magnificent performance as the aging stripper-turned-entrepreneur.
2. Killer Joe (2011)
Holy shit. This movie – a kick-ass comeback for director William Friedkin – is so nuts, so dark, so Texan, that no one could possible shoulder the title role but McConaughey. Huge props to the entire balance of the cast, but just try to take your eyes off McConaughey.
1. Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
McConaughey may finally get the Oscar nomination he deserved at least twice in the last two years for his turn as the hard living Texan who finds himself victim of HIV and the medical industrial complex. A searingly human portrait, the performance is the best of what is becoming – at long last – a monster career.
Usually Tuesday is the day we recommend a new DVD release, and pair that with a backlist title you might also enjoy. But since there are three excellent films being released today, we decided to just stick with new releases and highly recommend each of the following.
Mud: Matthew McConaughey continues to impress in writer/director Jeff Nichols’s follow up to the brilliant Take Shelter. McConaughey plays a romantic fugitive befriended by two young boys. It’s a lyrical, bittersweet coming of age tale and an astonishing piece of storytelling.
The Place Beyond the Pines: Derek Cianfrance’s multigenerational story of fathers, sons, and unintended consequences a cast whose performances are even better than their looks. Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes are all terrific in this twisty crime thriller.
To the Wonder: Terrence Malick returns to the screen with a cinematic poem to relationships, faith, isolation and love. Abstract, challenging, lyrical and gorgeous, Malick’s latest is a rumination on spiritual fulfillment.
Fede Alvarez remakes Sam Raimi’s beloved indie splatter fest with the right amount of respect (to the original), humor, and more than enough gore. This infectious bloodletting surprises even the most ardent fan of the original with ingenious twists, solid performances, and a script doctored brilliantly by Oscar winner Diablo Cody.
Seth Rogan’s posse gathers for an end of the world party to lampoon their own images and spin a hilarious yarn about celebrity, the rapture, and Michael Cera’s cocaine habit. Jonah Hill’s demon possession is inspired comedy, but the film’s a clever, weirdly good-natured laugh riot from start to finish.
Thank God for nerds. Joss Whedon turns his considerable skill to breathing new life to Shakespeare, with the second big party on the list. Mining the Bard’s comedy for actual laughs, Whedon stacks his cast with hyper-talented buddies, and a scene-stealing Nathan Fillian alone is worth the price of admission.
Writer/director Jeff Nichols follows up his flawless (and criminally underseen Take Shelter) with another exquisite film. This coming of age tale about a boy, a disappearing way of life, and a fugitive named Mud charms and surprises.
1. Stories We Tell
A fascinating, thoroughly entertaining documentary from Sarah Polley. While laying bare the secrets in her own family history, Polley expertly speaks to all families, and the questionable truths in which we often take comfort.