Lately my blog has become to political (which is hard for me to refrain from allowing to happen in such uncertain times- with so much insanity out there). However, in an attempt to lighten things up and gather some comments and discussion, I have decided to discuss favorite underrated films.
So, call your friends over from your blogs to comment, fight and become enlightened.
Forrest Gump, Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, American Beauty, Titanic, Out of Africa, Silence of the Lambs, The English Patient, Braveheart, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind
All Academy Award Winners for Best Picture
Since the Academy seldom picks the film I deem Best Picture of the Year and the box office rarely rewards original artistic expression (I have only so much time to waste in front of a television screen), I actually pay attention to certain critics, giving them the authority to help me decide if a film is (1) a must-see in the theater (which means 'get a babysitter'; (2) a must-see, but it can wait until DVD (most good films); (3) a watch on DVD but don't expect much (most Hollywood films); or (4) don't bother (sadly, most of the shelves at Blockbuster).
However, even the critics are not correct or helpful 100% of the time. So, I have been giving consideration to those fine films that either (1) perform very poorly at the box office; (2) perform poorly with the critics; or (3) get less acclaim than they should.
In light of these criteria, I want to elicit your help (so send some film fan readers from your blogs, if you have one).
Comment and share your top 2 or 3 underrated gems (can be all-time or recent). Some films you cannot mention include
Shawshank Redemption (fine film but canonized by TNT and sentimental males)
Braveheart (very overrated, especially by we John Eldredge readers and won best pic)
Star Wars Episode 1 (unless you are 10)
The Matrix (recently canonized and never underrated)
Magnolia (brilliant film that has found its audience and acclaim)
Big Lebowski (which has become a cult classic).
My Top Ten (since it is my blog) to begin the conversation...
(10) Fletch Lives: panned when it was released, it is as good as Fletch
(9) Spartan: detailed thriller by David Mamet and starring Val Kilmer. No one has seen it.
(8) Confidence: Ed Burns and Dustin Hoffman in a fun Sting-like con game. Shallow but worth the time.
(7) Miller's Crossing: could be the Coen Brothers' finest work, but few remember it.
(6) Fearless: one of the best films of past 20 years, directed by Peter Wier and starring Jeff Bridges, it is all but forgotten.
(5) Dodgeball: not Oscar-worthy, but dang funny. One of the better dumb comedies of the last few years, it was panned by critics upon release.
(4) The Limey: underrated Soderburgh gem starring Terrance Stamp as an aging ex-con trying to figure out who killed his daughter. It is dark and quite disturbing. It has signature Soderburgh filmmaking and some great camera work, including the opening credits. Also, it makes use of old film footage of Stamp as a young man (very original). If you liked Sexy Beast, you will like this. I almost went with Out of Sight, which is among his best work, but many people have since discovered its wonder.
(3) Unbreakable: like watching a graphic novel or comic book, Shamalyn's camera work is not for everyone. Only comic readers can truly appreciate what is happening from the framing of each shot to the dialogue and plot.
(2) Three Kings: As many friends know, this is my favorite movie of the past decade. It had no nominations in 1999, and I am still bitter. Give an independent filmmaker $50 million and a long leash and see what happens (big budget art). The camera work, once again, is unparalleled and original. The cast (all big names) is brilliant, especially Mark Wahlberg. This film resonates deeply post-9/11 and its importance continues to rise. It humanizes Arabs and shows the complexity of Iraq's politics and the U.S. mistakes in 1991. It deftly melds comedy, drama, thriller, action caper, war flick, polemic and religion. Name any other big movie so brave and sweeping.
(1) Manhunter: Michael Mann's 1986 thriller is superior to its remake, Red Dragon, as well as the rest of the Hannibel Lector trilogy. Brain Cox's subtle rendition of Lector is more menacing, and C.S.I.'s William Peterson is the perfect foil. The soundtrack, lighting, and slow-burn tension remind me of what filmmaking can be.
I would add Dr. Strangelove. Why? Because most critics don't have it Number 1. It is the best film ever.
So what do you think? Let the games begin!