The Best Small Movies Of The Year movie critic Dana Stevens runs through the noteworthy end-of-year studio releases and lists some "small" films that shouldn't be overlooked.
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The Best Small Movies Of The Year

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The Best Small Movies Of The Year

The Best Small Movies Of The Year

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And, Dana, I was interested in this list. Many of them aren't mainstream. But we'll start with one that came out relatively recently, and it's called "The Wrestler." And you seem to be unabashedly smitten with this film. Let's take a listen to a clip. This is Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler."


MICKEY ROURKE: (As Randy Robinson) I want you to give this to your little guy. It's a Randy the Ram action figure.


ROURKE: (As Randy Robinson) Tell him not to lose it. It's a $300 collector's item.

MARISA TOMEI: (As Cassidy) Really?

ROURKE: (As Randy Robinson) No.


ROURKE: (As Randy Robinson) Come on. Hey, one beer.

TOMEI: (As Cassidy) (Laughing) OK.

COHEN: OK. Besides Marisa Tomei's squeaky little voice there, what's to love about this film?

DANA STEVENS: I also rarely like sports movies or comeback movies, and, you know, I really can't stand watching things like wrestlers staple each other in the wrestling ring. It's got a lot of gory violent scenes, but it still managed to have this very beautiful and lyrical mood that just captured me.

COHEN: One of the films on your list is one that I've heard a lot of critics rave about, but I still don't get why they're so excited and maybe you can shed some light on this. It's a French film called "The Class." What's so great about it?

STEVENS: But it's not a documentary. He sort of scripted - he spent a year with these students and this teacher and sort of semi-scripted situations that they would improvise from. And so the whole thing feels so natural and so real that you actually can't believe these people are acting, and it's a very interesting story which I don't want to give away here on the radio, but I can't think of anyone who wouldn't like this movie.

COHEN: Dana, another lesser known film on your list is called "Wendy and Lucy," and it stars Michelle Williams, and it's about a young woman and her dog headed to Alaska. What's special about this film?

STEVENS: And the plot of the movie is that she losses her dog in a small town, and she's on the road and, you know, what she goes through to try to find her dog. And it's so not sentimental - as sentimental as that plot outline might sound. and it ends up being a real microcosm of, you know, American society and what it is to be someone who's living at the just the margins of livability in that society.

COHEN: And finally, let's talk about a film that came out in a few cities last week to qualify for the Oscars, but it doesn't really come out main stream until the middle of next month. It's "Revolutionary Road." It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Let's take a listen.


LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (As Frank Wheeler) Sweetheart, what are you talking about? Where are we going to live?

KATE WINSLET: (As April Wheeler) Paris.

DICAPRIO: (As Frank Wheeler) What?

WINSLET: (As April Wheeler) You always said it was the only place you'd ever been that you wanted to go back to, the only place that was worth living. So why don't we go there?

DICAPRIO: (As Frank Wheeler) You're serious.

WINSLET: (As April Wheeler) Yes. What's stopping us?

COHEN: The last time these two were together was in "Titanic," which was a hit of epic proportions. What about this time around?

STEVENS: Nonetheless, the movie didn't make my 10 best list because I felt, as a whole, it was doing things that'd already been done. The director, Sam Mendes, who's also Kate Winslet's husband, was the director of "American Beauty," another sort of critic of suburban emptiness, and I didn't think this movie went too many terribly interesting places that "American Beauty" hadn't already gone.

BRAND: Dana, you recently wrote in Slate that "Revolutionary Road" was a number of films that you described as grim bundles waiting under the Hollywood tree. Why so many downers in film recently do you think?

STEVENS: I don't know. I mean, maybe at every December into the near future will bring us grim green bundles because those are the kinds of movies that win Oscars. I think that the bundles I was referring to were "Valkyrie," "Revolutionary Road" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," all three of which are, you know, clearly being angled and timed, you know, to get Oscar nominations and all three of which are self consciously serious and somber and, you know, take themselves very seriously with some success at times, but, you know, not movies that are going to be light hearted or have a lot of wit about themselves.

BRAND: Slates movie critic Dana Stevens, thanks, Dana.

STEVENS: Thank you.

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