Your honor, I'm representing myself in this case, and I plead guilty. Every year around this time, beginning in mid-December and lasting through mid-January, the hundreds of movies I caught do not seem enough. They can't make up for the well-regarded, easily streamable titles I failed to see (several dozen, at least, probably more). The usual reasons, I suppose. Quirks of the screening schedule. Vacation days. My flailing attempts to keep my work/life balance a little better balanced.
Seeing 10 or 20 percent fewer films in a year is good for my head, and eyes, and my critical receptivity, probably, but it's bad for my guilt.
Maybe you can relate. You read about these unconventional, small-scale gems, the ones without the usual plot machinery and story beats, and you think, well, I'll catch up with that one soon.
For example: "Hunt for the Wilderpeople," which charmed millions with its New Zealand tale of a boy, his guardian, a trek in the bush and a manhunt. The writer-director Taika Waititi made "What We Do in the Shadows," one of the funniest comedies of the last few years, and his adaptation of the book "Wild Pork and Watercress" became a solid international success. And I haven't seen "Hunt for the Wilderpeople," even now, despite how very easy it is to see it. Time. Time is the enemy. But writing these words, I realize I now must see it, which I want to do anyway. And then I will have taken care of that problem.
Now: Let's talk about you. Have you seen "The Fits," which was on my Top 10? Probably not. You're busy. You may love movies, but with "Moonlight" and "La La Land" and "Manchester by the Sea" and "Fences" and several more very good and excellent high-profile films currently in the marketplace, it's tough.
So here's your gentle reminder. "The Fits" is Anna Rose Holmer's feature film debut, and it's a simple character study that isn't much interested in story. It follows an 11-year-old girl, Toni, played by the fantastic Royalty Hightower, as she navigates her school, her desire to join the local community center hip-hop dance team, and a bizarre outbreak of violent fits experienced by the other girls. The movie is elliptical, and dreamy, but completely vivid and alive.
It's not for everyone. No film is. One iTunes customer comment for "The Fits" is the following: "This movie has poor acting and is a very boring movie." That commenter surely isn't alone. Neither are the people who respond to Holmer's eye, and heart. I caught up with "The Fits" more than a year after its Venice Film Festival world premiere. It was one of those small pictures many of us struggle to make the time to watch. I'm glad I did. It's available on various platforms, from YouTube to iTunes to Google Play to Amazon Video, for $3.99. "Hunt for the Wilderpeople," same, for $4.99.
Oh! This, too: In the same atmospheric and cinematic vein as "The Fits," check out "Krisha," another Top 10 for me. Widely available online, $3.99. Another free-form gem. Another feature debut, as is "The Fits," this one from Trey Edward Shults. Another not-for-everyone, guaranteed to frustrate the plot-dependent among us.
So there you are. Three among a hundred you may have missed last year. I know I missed my share. That's what new years are for: discovery.
Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.