I don’t have a system to decide which movies are overlooked, but these are films that deserve a lot more attention than they have gotten. Some even won minor or major awards, but I love them so much and know so few people who have seen them. So here we go:
This movie introduced me to the excellent graphic novels of Daniel Clowes, the manic genius of director Terry Zwigoff (who would later give us the deliciously disturbed Bad Santa), and Scarlett Johansson. This is probably my favorite Steve Buscemi role, and at the time I thought Thora Birch would be a star. Where’d she go?
The movie opens to Thora Birch dancing to the Bollywood number “Jaan Pehchaan ho” from Gumnaam. She is a misfit, knows it and loves it. On the verge of graduating from high school, and being forced to figure out what she wants to with life, not wanting to fit in to any of the compartments that the world has designed for her. She has a crush on an older loser, played by Steve Buscemi, a 35-year old male version of her, but everyone around her needs her to fit in. One of my favorite movies (and graphic novel) of all time.
The Royal Tenenbaums
This is the only Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited , The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou) movie that actually broke out of its quirkiness and really told a magnificent story (I haven’t seen Fantastic Mr. Fox yet). A story of a dysfunctional family of over-achievers who seemed destined for greatness, but just got side-tracked. With a cast to die for– Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson (who co-wrote the movie), Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Danny Glover, Bill Murray.
That last scene where Ben Stiller puts his hand on Hackman’s shoulder and says, “I’ve had a rough year, dad” makes me misty-eyed every time. Oh, and it has an excellent, excellent soundtrack.
What would happen if you took an Adam Sandler movie and took away the jokes? Would his character still be funny, or would it become a tragedy about a man-child who’s antics were his cries out to the world that he needed help?
And all at once I knew, I knew at once he needed me.
Barry Egan, played by Adam Sandler, starts out as a tragic figure until he finds small mysteries and true love and grabs hold of his life. This movie also stars Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Also, I’m a sucker for Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood), who directed this movie– I’d watch a blank screen if his name was in the credits.
The brilliant little movie about Keisha Castle-Hughes as Paikea, the 12-year old Maori girl who is the descendant of the original whale rider. She was nominated for an Oscar for this movie.
I wrote a full-length review of this one five years ago. Quoting from there:
Every lover of film knows that film has the power to mold, change one’s life. It does- or at least we have to believe it does. So it is with any kind of love. But in the spring of 1968, film lovers, for a brief period of time, believed that they could change the world with their love and their art. The removal of Henry Langois, the founder of Cinematheque Francais, lead to a protest for cinema which only proved to be a snowball rolling downhill which grew in to a popular revolt, firebombs, riots, politics and more. It became a worldwide phenomenon and ‘gave birth’ to modern cinema.
I am 24 and love films. I discuss the merits of Chaplin over Keaton, Beatles over Elvis and Hendrix over Clapton in the same breath- in the same breath as the issues like the Vietnam war (assisted by Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July), of Christ (The Passion, Last Temptation), of the holocaust, of everything. The characters in Bernardo Bertolucci’s magnificent ‘The Dreamers’ have a belief structure based on what they absorb from film.
Before there was Slumdog, there was little Damien who found himself with a very large amount of money. This is a wonderful movie by Danny Boyle, better known for Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, about a very young boy who finds himself with a very large pile of cash.
The most visually stunning movie of the decade before Avatar, was Tarsem’s The Fall. And I believe it would still give Avatar a run for its money, because these are not special effects. In many ways it is similar to Pan’s Labyrinth, the story of a young girl’s fantasy that takes her away from her the pain around her. Where in Pan’s Labyrinth we want to believe the fantasy for the sake of the girl, here we want to believe it for the sake of her story-teller, the ‘fallen’ actor who has the girl steal pain-killers for him.
Which brings us to Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a brutal but haunting fantasy. It is the story of a young girl who lives in a fantasy world of her mind (or is it?) to escape the gruesome reality of the world around her. This is one of my favorite movies of all time.
Once is a partly improvised, partly scripted film about a young man and a young woman who meet by chance and almost fall in love over the course of a day. But in the process, they compose a beautiful song, which might be all that’s left of their relationship when all is said and done.
But at least they had the song. And the Oscar acceptance speech by the two of them (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) for the song was probably my favorite Oscar moment ever.
Me and You and Everyone We Know
What I wrote about it 4 years ago:
Hands down my favorite film of the year. Miranda July is my hero, a star– fresh and vibrant, a performance artist, writer, director and an actress after my heart. This is a film about simple love and simple sex and candid people with transparent intentions, with a straightforward manner. A younger Hollywood. But was Hollywood ever this fresh and uncynical? The lack of cynicism is what makes the characters of Me and You… alike and sets them vastly apart from everyone else they encounter. The scene where Mirana July and John Hawkes walk to his car as a metaphor for the relationship they could have had was one of the best scenes in a movie in a long time.