08 June 2023

10 Underrated Movies

Matthew McConaughey in director Bill Paxton's 2001 thriller Frailty.

A local friend of mine, a major movie buff and fellow CrossFitter, directed to me an idea for a discussion on underrated movies. He issued ten of his own and asked me for ten. This was two months ago. He ribbed me about not responding yesterday. I told him I had the list. Just needed to write it a bit up. It took me two months, but I finally came up with a list. 

The Criteria

The movie could not have been nominated for an academy award for best picture, or been a great movie that underperformed at the box office but exploded on tv and video (Shawshank) and is rarely if ever shown on cable and has not achieved “cult” status, (Spinal Tap, Monty Pythons Holy Grail or weekly shown favorites like Armageddon or War of the Worlds).

Think great movies that 95% of the people have never scene or even heard about! To me, all of these are masterworks that missed awards and/or nobody saw or talked about. Many of these would be my number one of their respective release years.

The Movies

To me, all of these are masterworks from the past 30ish years that missed awards and/or nobody saw or talked about. Many of these would be my number one of their respective release years.

Metropolitan (dir. Whit Stillman, 1990)

I actually think this movie did get a screenplay nomination at the Oscars, and I suppose it has a cult following, but I don’t care. The story of rich Manhattanites in their late teens hanging out at Sally Fowler’s apartment talking about socialism into the wee hours after that night’s debutant ball. It is so witty and charming and loving—a warm hug of movie that I should not connect with. Only to realize that anyone who has sat in a room of lively conversation late into the night will love this.

Frailty (dir. Bill Paxton, 2001)

Maybe the most effective psychological thriller I have seen. The great character actor Bill Paxton’s directorial debut starred Matthew McConaughey as the adult son of a man (Paxton), who may or may not have been a serial killer, being interviewed in present day by an FBI agent (Powers Boothe), while the past plays out in flashback.

Moonlight Mile (dir. Brad Silberling, 2002)

Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, early Jake Gyllenhaal, pre-Grey’s Anatomy Ellen Pompeo, and Holly Hunter in a dramedy about a young man (Gyllenhaal) stuck with his almost in-laws (Hoffman and Sarandon) after the death of his fiancĂ© in early 70s New England. It has some of the best needle drops ever committed to film.

Bellflower (dir. Evan Glodell, 2011)

This movie is dark, man. A story about the most toxic levels masculinity can reach, lost boys as grown men playing with fire and getting burned. The movie is notable for being completely financed by its director and star, who also built his own camera rig and all the cars and flamethrowers and other such craziness. And it's a romance. 

Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2012)

Before directing juggernauts like Lady Bird, Little Women, and the soon-to-be-released Barbie, Greta Gerwig was one of the most interesting actors in indie films. This is one of those. A small, hilarious, huge-hearted, and I mean hilarious, for real, comedy about a would-be Manhattan dancer, who barely gets by as part-time kids’ dance instructor. Such a gem.

The Spectacular Now (dir. James Ponsoldt, 2013)

Maybe the most honest movie about first love I have ever seen. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley play an unlikely pair, who fall hard in love while facing the end of high school and an uncertain future. It touches on important themes like alcoholism and sex, romantic and familial relationships with such perfect understanding and such a light but powerful touch. My favorite movie of 2013 by a mile.

Mississippi Grind (dir. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, 2015)

Ryan Reynolds plays a slick, winning gambler, who takes on a project in a down-and-out Ben Mendelsohn. The two travel the country and gamble and drink Woodford and meet people and run from the past. It’s a simple but beautiful movie about second chances and the people who, for some reason, help us along.

Indignation (dir. James Schamus, 2016)

Screenwriter and producer James Schamus (most well-known for being Ang Lee’s long time collaborator) made his directorial debut with an adaptation of a Philip Roth novel about a working class Jewish kid in the early 1950s, who finds a spot in a small college in the midwest and struggles to deal with his place as an outsider among the WASPs, particularly the college dean (Tracy Letts) and the blonde goddess Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon), who both challenge him in life-changing ways.

Dark Waters (dir. Todd Haynes, 2019)

Mark Ruffalo plays a corporate attorney who takes a pro bono gig to help folks from his hometown (one played brilliantly by Bill Camp) file suit against a giant corporation for causing environmental harm and death or decades. It’s just one of those classic movies for grown-ups that should’ve easily been up for any number of Oscars.

The Vast of Night (dir. Andrew Patterson, 2019)

An extremely inventive low-budget sci-fi movie that simple blew me away. It’s a two-hander between two incredible young unknowns, a switchboard operator and a radio DJ, as they work together to investigate a mysterious radio frequency in 1950s New Mexico. This director and his work with the camera department evoke the best of American cinema from Spielberg to Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen Brothers in their Barry Sonnenfeld days.

No comments:

Post a Comment