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Hot movies: Summer’s small films bring it

Posted 8:57am on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013

Summer 2013 was a bust for many of the overhyped blockbusters of the season. Three words — The Lone Ranger — just about sum it up.

But it was actually a sizzling summer for smaller, more indie films. In fact, this may be the year when several summer films rival their usually more celebrated fall counterparts when awards time rolls around. Here are some of those that had us sitting up and taking notice.

Fruitvale Station

Based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Oakland, Calif., man killed by police during an arrest, Fruitvale Station features a touching performance by Michael B. Jordan (Friday Night Lights) as Grant. It also resonates with the broader culture because of the furor over the Trayvon Martin case and New York police’s stop-and-frisk procedures. Now playing.

Mud

Matthew McConaughey brings his A-game to his performance as a guy on the lam who falls in with two teenage boys who must keep his presence secret. It’s also a breakout moment for Texas director Jeff Nichols who previously was known for the cult film Take Shelter. Available on DVD.

The Kings of Summer; The Way, Way Back; The Spectacular Now

A wave of boyhood coming-of-age films washed over Hollywood this summer, but they had little to do with the rambunctious rowdiness of predecessors like American Pie or Porky’s. Instead, the teenage protagonists in these three films — while perhaps equally sexually frustrated — are deeply drawn three-dimensional characters and played by actors who bring a startling maturity to these roles. The Way, Way Back and The Spectacular Now are still in theaters. The Kings of Summer DVD date is Sept. 24.

Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine, revolves around a woman in the midst of a nervous breakdown for 98 minutes. Allen gets Cate Blanchett to deliver the kind of performance that screams “Oscar.” Currently playing.

Before Midnight

The third film in director Richard Linklater’s trilogy about the romantic travails of Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) focuses on a relationship in the midst of middle-age malaise. It’s funny, truthful and moving. On DVD Oct. 22.

The Attack

This haunting Israeli film — about a secular Palestinian surgeon leading a solidly upper-class Tel Aviv life who has his world torn apart when he finds out his wife is a terrorist — brings into sharp relief the complexities of the Middle East political situation. No DVD date yet.

Frances Ha

Yes, Frances Ha is just more privileged New York indie-hipster kids whining about their lives, but there’s something so likable about put-upon Frances and star Greta Gerwig’s engaging performance. It’s helped by director Noah Baumbach’s shooting in black-and-white, and one of the best uses of a David Bowie song in a film ever. On DVD Nov. 12.

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