Top Five: Overlooked Movies

Have you ever felt like you are the only person who loves a particular movie, or indeed has even seen it? Yeah, me too. There are some films which you watch, adore and then wonder why no-one else is talking about them. Somehow, they slipped through the net and swam away unnoticed, barely causing a ripple in the water. Some receive critical applause and yet make no money at the box office, some receive neither critical applause or commercial return at all, and some simply don’t enter the annals of their genres with the amount of respect and recognition that you feel they deserved.

Here are the five movies which I feel deserved a far bigger fanfare than they were accorded. My overlooked gems. Feel free to add your own.

.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

Having written some of the sharpest and wittiest action movies of the last twenty-five years (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight), Shane Black finally got the director’s chair with Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer share a great comic chemistry as a petty thief mistaken for an actor and a gay Private Investigator, caught up together in the intrigues of a seedy Hollywood. The plot is a tightly woven web of insane circumstances, paying an almost sarcastic homage to classic Noir, right down to Downey Jr.’s self-aware narration and love of crime novels featuring a detective with the inspired name of Johnny Gossamer. Val Kilmer has never been funnier, Downey Jr. is at his world-weary best and Black’s dialogue is of the sparkling standard that Tarantino has wet dreams about. And as far as I can tell, no-one saw it.

.

May

Little known writer/director Lucky McKee should have made his name with this psychological horror, his second movie. However, even more deserving of wider recognition was lead actress Angela Bettis. May, a lonely young woman traumatised by an isolated childhood and minor disfigurement, is desperate to connect with someone, anyone, but lacks the social skills necessary to do so. May is a misfit in the deepest sense of the word, unable to exercise the normal modes of interaction which bring the world closer. As she tries, and fails, to develop relationships with those around her she gradually unravels to heartbreaking and horrifying effect. This is the kind of movie that hinges on a single performance and Bettis is phenomenal. Whether May’s actions are clumsy, vindictive or ultimately deadly, Bettis never allows our sympathies to drift away. That she did not break out into greater success on the back of this performance is a tragedy.

.

Shadow of the Vampire

There are probably as many vampire films as there are Westerns, so popular is the genre, but ask anyone to name their favourite vampire flick and it’s unlikely that Shadow of the Vampire will be among many lists. That’s too bad because it gave a tired genre just what it needed; something a little different. Shadow of the Vampire is based on the actual production of Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau’s 1922 adaptation of Dracula, with one fictional element; Max Shreck, the actor who portrayed Count Orlock, is a vampire in real life and director Murnau is the only member of the crew who knows it. Willem Dafoe has a ball as the bald, rat-like Shreck and John Malkovich is at his lunatic best as the tyrannical filmmaker, allowing the vampire to consume expendable crew members, and promising him the leading lady at the end of filming in return for his co-operation. You are left in no doubt as to who the real monster is.

.

Veronica Guerin

Taking a break from producing big, dumb summer blockbusters, Jerry Bruckheimer got behind this true story of the Irish journalist murdered by drug dealers in 1996. Slated in some quarters on its release, and ultimately recouping just over half its budget, Veronica Guerin is still a deeply affecting piece of cinema. Cate Blanchett, in the titular role, and director Joel Schumacher, wisely avoid going the route of presenting Guerin as a two-dimensional ‘plucky’ heroine. Instead we see a whole person; an obstinate, driven, but morally laudable woman who pursues the truth even when it threatens her and her family’s safety. And yet, thanks to Blanchett’s usual great work, she remains noble, admirable and completely sympathetic. The performances from all concerned are first class, and it’s a credit to Schumacher that the final, tragic resolution loses none of its impact, despite the foreknowledge.

.

Wonder Boys

Coming off the success and acclaim of L.A. Confidential, journeyman director Curtis Hanson’s next project was a fantastic adaptation of Michael Chabon’s novel Wonder Boys. Charting one weekend in the complicated life of English Professor and novelist Grady Tripp, Hanson’s movie boasts a mouth-watering cast. Michael Douglas gives a career best performance as the pot smoking, crumpled writer, circumnavigating a multitude of woes in the midst of his faculty’s annual Wordfest convention. Tripp is juggling the exodus of his wife, the arrival of his editor (Robert Downey Jr.) who is keen to view the manuscript which Tripp cannot finish, the news that his girlfriend (Frances McDormand) is pregnant, the amorous attentions of one of his students (Katie Holmes) and the clingy depression of another (Tobey Maguire). Douglas is charming, witty and a lot of fun to be with, and so is Wonder Boys. A mystery, then, that the movie only managed a worldwide gross of two thirds its production budget.

.

.


24 people thought reading “Top Five: Overlooked Movies” would be a good idea. Stranger still, they left messages...

  1. Pingback: Top Five: Overlooked Movies (via Blah! Movie Edition) « Blah!

  2. Joel Burman

    Have only seen Shadow of the Vampire and Wonderboys. I don’t like them that much to put them on a list like this.

    In moviemaking communities (in Sweden at least) its a very higly acclaimed film especially among directors and cinematographers.

    Reply
  3. Joel Burman

    Ah sorry! I referred to Shadow. At my first post I tried to figure out some but they were all really campy personal choices and hardly something you state as being overlooked in general.

    Here are some that come to mind for me:
    Remo: Unarmed but Dangerous, Body Double (DePalma), Arlington Road, Operation Crossbow

    Reply
    1. richardsblah

      Hey, these are all my campy personal choices. That’s the fun of running your own blog. ;-)

      The five I picked were all films I consider to be excellent and were overlooked in some way, either critically or commercially.

      I’d certainly agree with Arlington Road. That was great.

      Reply
  4. Joel Burman

    All your films on the list (cant speak for May) feel like serious mainstream movies to the general public compared to Remo that would be considered a Rambo spoof crossed with MacGyver.
    Body Double feels like it never reached outside the movie community its a quite internal metafilm in that sense but still is a underrated master piece.

    Reply
    1. richardsblah

      Remo never recouped its budget costs, but it does have an impressive cult following. Body Double also performed poorly at the box office, but as a Brian De Palma movie, and his next after Scarface, could certainly be considered ‘mainstream’. Both these movies were overlooked too. I don’t think the term ‘mainstream’ negates that fact at all, and maybe even enhances it.

      Reply
  5. Dan

    Great choice on Wonder Boys. Grossly underrated film. It’s been a favourite of mine since I first saw it and rated in the top ten of the last decade in my recent top 50 list.

    Reply
    1. richardsblah

      Totally deserves to be there, too. It’s one of those movies I can watch over and over and never get bored.

      Thanks for commenting, Dan. Heading over to Top 10 Films for a browse.

      Reply
  6. CMrok93

    Shadow of the Vampire is great with its fantasy based tale on a classic film. Also, Dafoe is just perfect, and brings a lot of surprising comedy to the role.

    Reply
  7. Peter Eramo Jr.

    Terrific choices here Richard. I put Wonder Boys on my Best Filsm of the Decade list. Kiss Kiss is totally sweet. I saw Shaw, and though the performances were top-notch, I didn’t think the movie was as engaging as it should have been….

    Reply
  8. Brooke

    I love kiss kiss bang bang, veronica guerin, and may is my new favourite movie ( and Angela bettis is my new fave actress), but i havent seen the other two.

    I would have to add disco pigs to that list, and Me You and Everyone We Know, would round it out.

    Reply
  9. sundryandco

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is very much overlooked. Another film I often quote as one that is really underrated – The Saddest Music in the World. It’s so different from anything else I have seen on the big screen. It’s classic Guy Maddin and, of course, stars the wonderful Isabella Rossellini :) It’s one of those films that shouldn’t work, but does http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugAgP0lbCgA

    Broken Flowers seemed to slip relatively silently through the cinemas too without much hype – I even remember it getting some bad reviews in the newspapers :

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Margaret Reyes Dempsey Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>