5 movies you SLEPT ON in 2018 — and how to watch them now
It happens every year. Some movies don’t get the press they deserve and others become known only after the awards season ends. While in one of these cases it is an outrage that it received no Academy Award nominations (Leave No Trace), the other four simply did not get enough recognition to be considered. Here are five movies that I think deserved awards but got SLEPT ON, and how to view them.
Lean on Pete
Andrew Haigh directed this movie with enough empathy that a sociopath could feel moved by the end. With an unsuspecting, tired premise (boy and his horse run away from home on an adventure across the Wild West), the plot quickly moves into its own territory. Haigh explores teen homelessness, what a distant father does to masculinity, and having to grieve without support. He does this in a script that easily beats half the Adapted Screenplay nominees. Charlie Plummer gives a stellar acting performance (he won Best Young Actor @ Venice IFF) and is supported by the also-stellar Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny. Steve Buscemi deserved the Best Supporting Actor nomination for this, much more than Sam Rockwell playing George W. Bush. Lean on Pete joins the next movie on this list in somehow creating a whole world of transcendence, a world hinting at another world lurking just around the corner or behind the next mountain range. Magical. Was it the camera angles, the shot lengths? I couldn’t tell how Haigh achieved this effect, but when you watch it, you will feel it. Sadly, Lean on Pete got SLEPT ON this year.
How to Watch: Amazon Prime, free. iTunes, $3.99.
Leave No Trace
Will and his 13 year old daughter Tom live off the grid in a forest. Unfortunately for them, the State considers this not just an alternative lifestyle but rather homelessness. When they are discovered, they must adjust to life in civilized society. Along the way director Debra Granik captures the most visually beautiful film of 2018, and her leads (Ben Foster and Australian newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) gave knock. out. performances. marked by subtlety and tension. The cinematography by Michael McDonough and original screenplay by Granik were deserving of full Oscar wins, not to mention nominations, but sadly Leave No Trace got SLEPT ON this year.
How to Watch: Amazon Prime, free. iTunes, $5.99.
Packing in all the cringe he possibly — and I mean possibly — could, director Bo Burnham captured the true essence of the middle school vibe. Hilarious, but also deeply concerning, Eighth Grade will give you an eye into the pressures teens face today. Social media and easy-to-access technology have changed the landscape so much that the middle school experience of Kayla (Elsie Fisher) barely looks like mine. All the same awkwardness, all the same pettiness, but in a whole new world. Despite receiving zero Oscar nominations, Eighth Grade won the Indie Spirit Awards for Best First Screenplay, and was far better than Green Book, winner of the original screenplay Oscar. Though in fairness, Green Book didn’t deserve that award either. Elsie Fisher’s performance and the film’s painful clarity make it worth watching, if not as a research piece then at minimum as great comedy. However, with exactly zero Academy Award nominations, Eighth Grade got SLEPT ON this year.
How to Watch: Amazon Prime, free. iTunes, $4.99.
This film from Belgian director Felix van Groeningen follows a father (Steve Carell) and son (Timothée Chalamet) as the son’s methamphetamine addiction tears their relationship apart. Heavy drug use — rock bottom — sobriety — critical situation that threatens the tentative stability of newfound sobriety — right back into heavy drug use. We see this cycle unfold four or five times in the fast two hour run-time, and it gets more painful with each. Timothée Chalamet played a difficult role and did it flawlessly, and the artistic directing was also great, evoking a certain light, airy wistfulness while the characters’ lives go to hell. I strongly recommend this film, though it is not for the light at heart. Some critics did not like the editing style in Beautiful Boy which I understand though personally I loved it. But that held it back from getting the major awards recognition that it deserved. For this lame reason and no others, it got SLEPT ON this year.
How to Watch: Amazon Prime, free. Nowhere else, as Amazon produced it.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Mr. Rogers! This documentary made the shortlist for Best Documentary Feature but then… didn’t… get nominated? I’m not sure what happened there, since this was better than all the other documentaries besides Minding the Gap. Following the career of Fred Rogers, this happy little film weaves between Roger’s social commentary (having a black co-star in a children’s program in the 1960’s), the big moments of happiness, the political success of his 1969 Congressional testimony, his doubts about the show, and the religious philosophy that supported his work. You will laugh, you will smile, you will cry, and you will be a better person for having watched Will You Be My Neighbor? Don’t be a fool and ignore this movie, like the Academy, which SLEPT ON it this year.
How to Watch: Because HBO picked it up, you can either pay the full $14.99 to buy it, or you can use your one week HBO free trial (via Hulu or Amazon Prime) and make sure to cancel before the week ends. That way, it’s free.