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The Most Overlooked Films of 2012

Written by on December 13, 2012 

Sound of My Voice (Zal Batmanglij; $408,015)

Considering the comparatively minuscule budget for this cult drama, it can certainly be considered a success, but as one of my favorite films of the year, my hope was that it would garner a little more recognition. While Brit Marling‘s other break-out Sundance 2011 film Another Earth went on to gross three times as much as Zal Batmanglij’s debut, her performance here is the only that completely sold me, as she plays the mysterious leader of this group. With Batmanglij’s next drama landing at Sundance in a few months, I couldn’t be more excited to see his career take off. – Jordan R.

Smashed (James Ponsoldt; $356,987)

Although this one is still expanding in limited release, James Ponsoldt‘s Sundance alcoholism drama has seemingly been forgotten at the end of the year. Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the young actress delivers a stirring performance that easily outclasses many of the much-talked-about awards as we track her character’s downward spiral of addiction. Add in strong supporting performances from Aaron Paul, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and Octavia Spencer, and we can only hope Ponsoldt’s return to Sundance in a few months with The Spectacular Now will garner more interest. – Jordan R.

The Snowtown Murders (Justin Kurzel; $8,452)

Justin Kurzel’s Australian serial-killer drama is a terrifyingly impressive debut-film statement, emanating a formal assurance that’s so commanding and controlled it almost makes the film unbearable. That would explain, of course, why the film made such an invisible commercial splash, but it is, artistically, a top-notch achievement on all sorts of levels. For one thing, it creates a protagonist not out of Daniel Henshall’s intimidatingly brilliant interpretation of John Bunting, but rather out of Lucas Pittaway’s vulnerable teenage outsider, a fatherless kid looking for a strong man to look up to. It’d be an outright lie to say that the film’s ultimate sensation is anything other than sheer horror, but the deep psychological penetration keeps things on a human level, crafting something all the more scarily identifiable in the process. Louise Harris — another non-professional, like Pittaway — is also scarring as Pittaway’s perpetually depressed-looking mother. – Danny K.

Starlet (Sean Baker; $70,568)

Perhaps it’s because it came out right as the first flurry of awards-contenders hit or perhaps a slice-of-life drama about such an unglamorous twenty-something woman was never going to take off in the first place without prestige names attached, or perhaps it’s something else entirely, but no number of positive reviews could save Starlet, the fourth feature by Sean Baker. In fact, there’s very little to the film, but Dree Hemingway adds endless layers of complexity to her character, who strikes up an unlikely friendship with an octogenarian. Each plot development is small in scope, lending all the attention to characters and trusting the audience to find their own essence. It’s discovery purely through observation, and Starlet shows just how effective and intelligent that kind of minimalism can be. – Forrest C.

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim; $201,436)

If you’ve seen any previous work by Tim Heidecker (including the aforementioned The Comedy) and Eric Wareheim, then you at least have an inclination as to why their feature debut was not beloved across-the-board. However, sitting in a theater one late night at Sundance this year, I had never seen a frame of their previous work, yet what followed was one of the most ridiculously funny films I had ever seen. Falling in love with their absurd, no holds barred style of comedy, this was easily one of the most entertaining moviegoing experiences of the year. – Jordan R.

How many films have you seen this year from this list? What films did you feel were overlooked this year?

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