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Updated on February 20, 2014
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Don't you find it richly rewarding when you discover a movie that you knew pretty much nothing about going in, and then end up totally loving it? This is truly one of the pure joys of my life.

As a HUGE fan of movies, I've enjoyed a number of these hidden film gems over the years. I'm gladly sharing ten I'm especially taken with in the following list, including accompanying thumbnail reviews.

So grab a big ol' bowl of popcorn and may you enjoy!

1) "Win Win"-2011

Man, I really loved this movie. Funny. Poignant. Affecting. Genuine. This remarkably fresh film covers the gamut of human emotion. And it does so on the strength of uniformly engaging performances by all actors involved, each of whom never seem to be acting. Amy Ryan and newcomer Alex Shaffer as the conflicted High School wrestler are particularly impressive as they absolutely inhabit their characters, making them both completely believable and compelling.

You would have loved to see at least one or two Oscar nominations pay tribute to the exceptional performances in "Win Win." Alas, it seems that The Academy rarely steps up and recognizes communally outstanding ensemble work like that on display in "Win Win". And that's just a real shame.

2) "The Guard"-2011

Nothing against Don Cheadle certainly, who delivers yet another solid turn in this film, but Brendan Gleeson absolutely steals this one going away. I was not familiar with the Irish actor's work prior to seeing "The Guard", and his performance is absolutely remarkable. At once outrageous, poignant, reflective, affecting, funny and dramatic, depending on what the particular scene calls for, he is consistently riveting throughout this movie.

Billed as an action comedy, which is fair, I suppose, I consider "The Guard" more of a compelling character study of a man whose time has come and gone, but who refuses to ever lose sight of what once was. And what it was that made him who he is now. For better or worse.

3) "Beautiful Boy"-2010

This is an awful movie. Not awful in the sense that it's a bad movie. But awful in terms of the expressly painful and heart-shattering subject matter it explores.

Two parents are left to try to carry on in the devastating wake of an inexplicable murderous college campus rampage which ended in the suicide of the male perpetrator. Their only child. This movie is very hard to watch at several points. You will cry. Both Maria Bello and Michael Sheen are simply stunning in their realistic portrayal of the completely in-shock parents struggling to understand what they could have done to prevent this unspeakable tragedy. Or, perhaps even more disturbingly, what they may have conceivably done to trigger it.

I recommend this movie for the brilliant and profoundly affecting performances of the two lead actors. And if you are a parent as I am, I don’t believe that I can recommend strongly enough that you make it clear to your kids how much you love them. And how deeply you care about them. We simply can not ever reinforce this in our children enough.

4) "The Bothersome Man"-2006

I am almost purely of Norwegian lineage. My dad is a native of the country. I am abundantly proud of my heritage. Lately I have watched several Norwegian-made films. I have found them to be both consistently interesting and unusual. This leads me to my review of "The Bothersome Man".

I guess I'll go a couple of routes here. One: If you're not happy with what you have found Heaven to be, then here, welcome to the "alternative". Or... Don't rock the "life boat", buddy. Just sail vacuously along like everybody else and at least pretend to be happy. You'll get used to it. Or else.

I don't know that I could actually recommend this flick. But I'm glad I watched it. If that makes any sense. I guarantee you this much: If you choose to give "The Bothersome Man" a shot, you will almost undoubtedly determine after you have done so that you've never seen anything quite like it. Like it or not.

5) "Cold Weather"-2010

I like deliberately paced films. Films that let you get to know characters and what their lives are about. And I tend to like movies with spare dialogue, as well, because they generally allow the viewer to determine on their own what the filmmakers are trying to communicate without having to be sledge hammered over the head about it.

This said, “Cold Weather” had even me wondering literally about halfway through it when the hell something of import was finally gonna happen. And then it did. And we watched as people not really unlike you and I decided how they were going to react and behave when faced with extraordinarily disruptive circumstances in the midst of their otherwise ordinary lives. This, to me, is genuinely fascinating and compelling.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I am a native of the Pacific Northwest and have lived in the region most of my life. The movie’s main characters are precisely the kind of folks who live where I do. Hence, I relate to these people perhaps more so than the vast bulk of Americans who don’t reside way up here in “our little corner of the world.”

Initially, I didn’t like the way this flick ended. But now I think I may understand it a little better. In the wake of exceptional challenge, Brother and Sister have forged a bond that clearly didn’t exist before. And individually, they have come to realize that just maybe they each have more going for them than they heretofore believed themselves.

Even if you don't particularly dig “Cold Weather”, there is always something to be said for the triumph of the Human Spirit.

6) "Sweetgrass"-2010

Nothing much really happens. And still this film is constantly mesmerizing. Fascinating. Breathtaking. Primal.

Watching these Montana Cowboys (and Cowgirls) engage in the grueling work of herding sheep long distance that they and their anscestors have done for generations, you'll likely come away feeling much like I do.

Like a city-fied wussy-fied wimp.

7) "Bernie"-2011 ***Newly added on 2/20/14***

I grew up in Texas. And while it was in the suburbs of Houston, I have a deep and abiding understanding and respect for all things Small Town, Texas. "Bernie" exquisitely captures both the sensibility and the simplicity of the scores of hamlets which dot the vast landscape of "The Lone Star State" more.

Jack Black is remarkable as the title character. He neither mugs nor overdoes, as he does in so many of the caricature roles upon which he has built his career. He actually acts. And, as they may say in Texas, "damn good, too, pardner!".

One would expect that Black would play this real life guy, who confessed to and was convicted of murdering a mean but filthy rich "meal ticket" old lady companion (played to the insufferable hilt by the legendary Shirley MacLaine) with some of the most broad strokes imaginable. The good news is that he successfully resists the urge. This out of the ordinary performance is at once finely nuanced, sympathetic, enigmatic and funny. It makes you wish that Black, much like Will Farrell in "Everything Must Go", would challenge himself more often to stretch beyond the oblivious yet fully self-aware boneheaded doofs he has foisted upon audiences over and over and over again. This sparkling cinematic departure proves in resounding fashion that he certainly can.

While Black is the axis around which everything else in "Bernie" revolves, hearty recognition simply must go out to the actual townspeople of Carthage, Texas. Native Texan and Director Richard Linklater intersperses these regular folk delivering commentary (at times scripted, yet at other times it would certainly appear not) on Bernie and Marjorie (MacLaine) throughout what is clearly a "labor of love" project for him. These doses of "tell it like it is Texas plain talk" are both hilarious and touching. To check out all of my reviews please search for the quick flick critic.

8) "Two-Lane Blacktop"-1971

This is such a uniquely cool movie I can't justly put it into words for you. Seriously.

Rockers James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (The late Beach Boy) are understatedly brilliant throughout. Suicide tragically took Laurie Bird's life at 25. She is a natural wonder in this film. Warren Oates is genuinely Oscar worthy. Preposterously, he wasn't even nominated.

Get this movie. Watch it. May you be absorbed by it half as much as I was.

9) "Down to The Bone"-2004

If you're a patient person, you may well appreciate this movie. If you're not, you'll likely be wasting your time. I'm not a particularly patient guy per say. However, I certainly appreciate affecting stories told in such a manner as to allow the viewer to absorb real emotion and respond to such in their own way. This movie does that as well as, or better than, any one in recent experience.

With this remarkable performance, and her brilliant work in films such as "Joshua" and "Up in The Air", Vera Farmiga has far and away become one of my favorite actresses. And while she may never be a full-out "Movie Star", I get the feeling that that will suit her just fine. And her fans, as well. Man, is she gifted.

And finally, while I will never give away an ending, I must say that this film will leave you with a moment of COMPLETE realism. It is one that genuinely, and achingly, depicts at once both the hope and despair that seemingly will always permeate a drug addict's life-long struggle to "stay clean".

10) "Inland Empire"-2006

Even after I had just finished watching the DVD presentation of INLAND EMPIRE, I still cannot even begin to pretend to tell you what I had just witnessed or what in the hell it means. I thought I knew a couple of times. But I didn't.

But I must say this. Laura Dern's performance was remarkable and consistently compelling. And bless her heart; she had to have no clear idea of what she was doing or what was happening in practically every scene she was in. And she was in most every scene in this nearly three-hour freak-out of a movie (though somehow it doesn't ever seem to drag).

Congratulations to the weird genius that remains David Lynch. Even though you yourself cannot fully explain what you have wrought, your creation is certainly daring and never pedestrian. Lynch seems to genuinely intend for the viewer to determine what his movie is ultimately about.

And even though most almost entirely incomprehensible films aren't well received, this one may be the rare exception. I'm giving it 5 out of 5 Stars. And now I invite you. No. I CHALLENGE you to watch it.

***For my review of these fine films and many other Titles, as well, please visit my Blog post, "The Quick Flick Critic", at this web address:

"Win Win" Trailer


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    • A Happy Man profile imageAUTHOR

      A Happy Man 

      7 years ago from Washington State

      Thanx "TToombs08"! And happy viewing!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      7 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      I love Brendan Gleeson ever since I saw him in Lake Placid! :) This is a great list and at least half of them piqued my interest. Thank you for bringing them to everyone's attention. And nicely written. Voted up.


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