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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

The Ten Best Movies Hardly Anyone Saw in 2018

With this year's big blockbusters hogging all the hype, you might have missed Nick Offerman as a songwriting dad and the suspenseful story of scaling Yosemite's Dawn Wall. Now's the time to catch up.
By Sarah Ward
December 07, 2018
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The Ten Best Movies Hardly Anyone Saw in 2018

With this year's big blockbusters hogging all the hype, you might have missed Nick Offerman as a songwriting dad and the suspenseful story of scaling Yosemite's Dawn Wall. Now's the time to catch up.
By Sarah Ward
December 07, 2018
  shares

Plenty of great movies made plenty of money at the Australian box office this year. From Black Panther, A Star Is Born and Mission: Impossible — Fallout to A Quiet Place, A Simple Favour and Halloween, Aussies spent many of their trips to the cinema wisely. That said, a wealth of excellent films didn't rake in the cash. Some were small dramas that could never compete with big-budget blockbusters. Some only released on a handful of screens around the country, if that. Some, for a multitude of reasons, just didn't find an audience.

Thankfully, we live in an age where watching movies is as simple as pushing a button, especially when it comes to flicks that first hit the big screen a few months back. Yesterday's overlooked cinema gems are today's streaming highlights, waiting for your viewing eyeballs to give them the attention they deserve. With that in mind, here's ten 2018 standouts to add to your watch list — we know that you probably didn't see them at your local picture palace, thanks to their box office results, but they all rank among the year's must-sees.

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HEARTS BEAT LOUD

If you didn't want Nick Offerman to be your dad already, then you will after this music-heavy charmer. The Parks and Recreation star plays Brooklyn record store owner and doting father Frank, who's worried that his only daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) is about to head off to college — and that, among other things, they'll no longer get to jam together. With dreams of music stardom, he uploads one of their songs to Spotify. When it finds an audience, he tries to convince Sam to take their songwriting sideline seriously. The end result is a sweet, earnest and warmly observed story about a father learning that his daughter has to make her own choices, with Clemons also stellar, the supporting cast featuring Ted Danson and Toni Collette as well, and the film's upbeat titular track certain to get stuck in your head.

Rent it on Amazon Prime here

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A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN

Watching A Prayer Before Dawn, two things prove astonishing. The first: that this hard-hitting prison drama is based on a true story. The second: the performance of Joe Cole as British boxer Billy Moore. When Moore was arrested for drug offences in Thailand, and then sentenced to three years imprisonment, his experience was harrowing to say the very least. French filmmaker Jean-Stephane Sauvaire doesn't shy away from the violence, pain and more that comes with life inside two notorious Thai jails, in a film that doesn't let up from the moment it starts — and isn't always easy to watch as a result. As for Cole, he makes the audience feel every fierce blow, every second of claustrophobic anguish, and the enormous physical and psychological toll.

Stream it on Amazon Prime here

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JANE

Ever since Dr Jane Goodall took on a job few would — living in the Tanzanian jungle to observe chimpanzee behaviour in the wild — the wildlife activist and conservationist's story has been far from ordinary. That said, it's one thing to read about her feats and quite another to hear her look back on her life herself, with Jane offering the latter. This intimate documentary serves up more than that, however. It views her experiences as they happened, all thanks to mountains of rediscovered archival footage. As he did so commandingly with Cobain: Montage of Heck, filmmaker Brett Morgen once again tells his subject's tale in her own words, with the materials he's assembled proving endlessly fascinating.

Stream it on Netflix over here

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I AM NOT A WITCH

With her debut feature, writer/director Rungano Nyoni tells a tale that's both intricately related to its setting, and sadly universally relatable. An outsider in her own Zambian village, eight-year-old Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) is not only blamed for a series of minor incidents, but deemed a witch and shunned. Here, that means being taken to a camp, tethered to a stick (so that she doesn't fly away) along with her fellow witches, and gawked at by tourists. I Am Not a Witch's portrait of persecution runs deep, although Nyoni does more than make a statement. Hers is both an examination of superstition's influence (and convenient use as a scapegoat) and a portrait of a girl who defies the labels thrown at her, all in a film that's smart, satirical and also surreal at times.

Stream it on SBS On Demand here

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THE ENDLESS

There are two ways to watch The Endless. The first involves going into the moody and inventive movie with fresh eyes, and discovering the details of this cult-focused tale as they unravel. The second involves watching Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson's Resolution in preparation — and don't worry, if you opt for the former, you'll still want to seek their earlier flick out later. The filmmakers direct and star in this sci-fi/horror effort about brothers who've escaped from the compound that gave them a home in their youth, but are drawn back by mysterious videotapes. That might sound like an interesting but hardly unique setup; however, where the picture goes from there is an imaginative and twisty delight. From the siblings' struggles to the way that time passes, little is what it seems in the best and most thrilling way.

Stream it on SBS On Demand here

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IN THE FADE

Back at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Diane Kruger went home with the best actress award for In the Fade, and it's a prize that was thoroughly well deserved. The topic of grief is frequently splashed across cinema screens, as is the subject of terrorism in recent years, but the raw pain in Kruger's performance isn't shaken quickly. Indeed, the topical Fatih Akin-directed film is one that lingers long after watching, as a German woman loses her family in a bombing attack, then navigates the emotional fallout as well as the highly publicised legal proceedings that follow. Astonishingly, after becoming one of the most prominent German actresses in Hollywood, In the Fade is also Kruger's first starring role in her native language.

Rent it on Amazon Prime here

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THE DAWN WALL

There's never been a better time to stare at a big screen while watching fearless folks try to scale great heights. Two recent highlights have done just that — and while likely Oscar contender Free Solo doesn't hit Australian cinemas until 2019, 2018 release The Dawn Wall is just as thrilling. Taking its name from a notoriously difficult rock face in America's Yosemite National Park, this suspenseful documentary charts Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson's world-first bid to reach the top. As well as exploring the personal impact, the film captures their extremely physical, punishing efforts with jaw-dropping cinematography that makes viewers feel like they're making the journey alongside the two determined climbers.

Rent it on Amazon Prime here

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BEAST

Remember the name Jessie Buckley. Based on her exceptional performance in this British thriller, she's someone you'll be hearing more about. In Beast, the Irish actor plays the initially timid Moll, who lives a sheltered Jersey life under the close supervision of her stern mother (Geraldine James) until she meets a charming stranger (Johnny Flynn). Alas, romantic bliss isn't all that it seems, especially with a series of murders blighting her island hometown. The feature debut of writer/director Michael Pearce, this is a dark fairytale, an unconventional crime flick and a psychological portrait of a woman breaking free from expectation that draws viewers in from start to finish.

Rent it on Amazon Prime here

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FOXTROT

He might only have two features to his name, but Lebanese filmmaker Samuel Moaz still boasts quite the resume. Perceptive, probing, intimate and political tales are his wheelhouse, and with Foxtrot, he shows that the tank-set Lebanon was no mere one-off. This time around, his story is broader, encompassing a young Israeli soldier's (Yonaton Shiray) experience manning a checkpoint as part of his compulsory military service, as well as his parents' (Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler) plight back in Tel Aviv. Of course, it's not just the narrative that Moaz tells, but the immersive and sometimes experimental way that he tells it. Foxtrot is another testament to his directorial prowess — and a testament to the cast's acting abilities as well.

Stream it on Amazon Prime here

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SHADOW

With Shadow, Zhang Yimou does what the Chinese filmmaker does best: not only commit striking wuxia scenes to the screen, but pair them with a deeply felt period drama. It's a blend of his finest traits, as previously seen in everything from Raise the Red Lantern to Hero (and it's enough to make you forget that The Great Wall is also on his resume). While the narrative follows an epic tale from China's Three Kingdoms period, about nations warring over a city and a double agent in the thick of the unrest, it's the writer/director's imagery that truly stuns. Usually known for such vibrant splashes of colour, as seen in House of Flying Daggers, Zhang switches to inky, almost-monochrome shades to visually vivid effect.

Published on December 07, 2018 by Sarah Ward

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