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Why “Short Term 12″ is the Most Underrated Film of 2013

Sections: Academy Award, Award Shows, Golden Globe, Movies

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Short Term 12We’re deep into Hollywood’s year-end movie season, with critics groups announcing winners daily, Oscar-bait films opening several a week, and the movie commentariat slowly orienting itself entirely towards evaluating each movie’s Oscar chances.

A variety of movies- “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity,” “American Hustle,” and “Her”- have been mostly sharing the accolades thus far, with no clear frontrunner emerging in this year’s Oscar race. But there’s one film that’s gotten an inexplicable lack of attention and respect in this year’s awards conversation, and that’s “Short Term 12,” the wrenching drama directed by  Destin Daniel Cretton that came out in August.

“Short Term 12″ told the story of a woman (Brie Larson) working in a group home and forced by a young resident in the home to examine her own past. Sad, heartbreaking and uplifting all at different times, the film never, ever hits the wrong tone. It never feels like a message movie or after-school special.

One scene, between Larson and the girl (Kaitlyn Deaver, who Justified fans may remember as Loretta) and involving a childrens’ book created by the latter, is probably the best in any movie this year, even though I’m not sure I could watch it again.

The other best thing about the film is Larson, who seemed in every way to be following the Jennifer Lawrence arc of sitcom parts, into small movie roles, into a de-glammed prestige indie film, into final stardom. I assumed “Short Term 12″ would be her “Winter’s Bone,” but it doesn’t appear to have turned out that way.

“Short Term 12″ was critically acclaimed, notching 98 percent on the Tomatometer, which is a higher score than that of  “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity,” or “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

However, critics groups have mostly ignored it. It didn’t crack the AFI or National Board of Review list, nor did it win anything from any major regional critics association with the exception of Detroit, which nominated it for Best Picture. It got zero Golden Globe nominations and just three Independent Spirit nods, for Larson, supporting actor Keith Stanfield and editing. The rap song performed by Stanfield is said to be the film’s best shot at an Oscar nod.

So what gives? It may be that “Short Term 12″ drew an even $1 million at the Box Office, and most of its run came in August, when Oscars weren’t on anyone’s mind. It’s hard for a film to gather momentum when not that many people have seen it.

Still, awards attention or not,I encourage anyone to check out this amazing film. It comes out on DVD in January but can be pre-ordered now.

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