Sunday, December 20, 2009

Underrated films of the decade

The Baudelaire orphans, Klaus, Sunny and Violet from "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events"

These are just some films I've seen and enjoyed that I don't think got enough credit or were seen by enough people. Some of these films are hidden greats, some get the job done really well, and some just have that niche that makes them stick out to me. Comment if you've got suggestions because there are films out there that I haven't gotten around to yet.

The Baxter - Michael Showalter
Overlooked as another lifeless romanic comedy, The Baxter is a lighter 40-Year-Old Virgin with a fresh premise and a delightful supporting performance from Michelle Williams.

Conversations With Other Women - Hans Canosa
A little-seen minor masterpiece that uses its split-screen technique as metaphor for the difficulty of relationships.

Crank - Neveldine/Taylor
Looked at as just another loud, dumb action vehicle for Jason Statham, Crank is brimming with outrageous humor and cinematic invention.

Down in the Valley - David Jacobson
This small Edward Norton film draws inspiration from Taxi Driver, yet is entirely self-assured as its own film. One of Evan Rachel Wood's breakthrough roles.

Dr. T & The Women - Robert Altman
Widley considered one of Altman's weaker comedies and criticized for being masochistic, Dr. T & the Women is a fascinating look at how one man surrounded by women is driven to the edge. Stands alongside the Coen's A Serious Man as one of the best film versions of the story of Job.

Film Geek - James Westby
You can feel the love for film oozing out of Melik Malkasian's performance as Scotty Pelk, the awkward main character of this micro-budget festival film.

The Final Cut - Omar Naim
Echoes of similar futuristic dystopias don't falter this well-made arty genre picture because it proudly stands alongside some of the best as a worthy companion piece.

The Good German - Steven Soderbergh
Soderbergh's experiment with old equipment and moviemaking style may be a bit messy and very flawed, but it is fascinating and stunning to look at.

The Good Girl - Miguel Arteta
Who knows why this minor masterpiece hasn't been seen by more people? Not only does is star Jennifer Aniston, but it's got Jake Gyllenhaal, John C. Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson and Zooey Deschanel as well as one of the most poignant and beautiful moments on film this decade.

Heavy Metal in Baghdad - Suroosh Alvi & Eddy Moretti
This basically homemade doc is a fascinating and compelling look at the effects of war in the Middle East on regular people.

In Good Company - Paul Weitz
Brushed aside as another generic mainstream drama, In Good Company doesn't blow you away, but it hits the right notes consistently and ends in a satisfyingly off-kilter way.

Lady Vengeance - Chan-wook Park
Everyone seems too busy loving Oldboy to pay much attention Chan-wook Park's less flashy final chapter in his Vengeance Trilogy.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - Brad Silberling
Unfavorable comparisons to Tim Burton were numerous upon its release, but Lemony Snicket's... has some amazing visuals, creative quirk, fun performances and the perfect Thomas Newman score to accompany it. Also perhaps the best end credits sequence this decade.

Lucky Number Slevin - Paul McGuigan
McGuigan's stylish thriller was criticized as style over substance, but when the style is this good and the story is this fun, does it matter?

MirrorMask - Dave McKean
How many people saw this masterpiece? In the vein of Labyrinth except more surreal, dark and polished.

Mostly Martha - Sandra Nettelbeck
This German romance was remade as No Reservations with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart. Do yourself a favor and watch the near-perfect original instead.

Ocean's Twelve - Steven Soderbergh
After the highly successful Ocean's Eleven in 2001, Soderbergh went and made this sequel in a radically different style and piled on the Hollywood in-jokes so heavy that the only people who probably get all the jokes are the people who made the thing. Still, repeat viewings reveal lots of hidden gems such as the phenomenal soundtrack, groovy neo-retro-new-wave style or the totally unnecessarily elaborate intricacies of the plot.

Pontypool - Bruce McDonald
One of the best zombie movies. Stands alongside Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later...

Primer - Shane Carruth
Primer won the Grad Prize at Sundance when it came out, but was overshadowed by Zach Braff's Garden State.

Quid Pro Quo - Carlos Brooks
Vera Farmiga proved she can do better than her performance in The Departed in this odd mystery/drama that stars the very talented Nick Stahl.

Scoop - Woody Allen
After Match Point, almost anything Woody came out with would have paled in comparison, but Scoop is genuinely funny and cute.

Sex and Death 101 - Daniel Waters
Bizarre and messy, Sex and Death 101 has some very interesting stuff underneath what may look like a lame sex comedy.

Shopgirl - Anand Tucker
Aside from one embarrassing scene, this Steve Martin-penned drama hits the perfect note.

S1m0ne - Andrew Niccol
It settles for some issues we've seen before, and it isn't without some messy flaws, but S1m0ne is a thoroughly funny and telling critique of our culture's fascination with celebrity.

The Skeleton Key - Iain Softley
An absolutely first-rate thriller that employs classic Hollywood style to keep you riveted even when you know it's just a movie.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow - Kerry Conran
Sky Captain pre-dates Sin City in my mind at least. Here green-screen immersion is used to bring director Conran's imagination to the screen unfettered.

Smiley Face - Gregg Araki
Stoner comedies have never been this arty (in that indie way). Or maybe indie films have never been this purposefully stupid? Either way Anna Faris shines and Araki brings an odd sense of meaning to a film about getting high and being stupid all day.

The Station Agent - Thomas McCarthy
A breakout mini-hit on release and one of the films that brought Peter Dinklage into our (ever so grateful) lives.

Teeth - Mitchell Lichtenstein
People hear "vagina dentate" or "it's about a girl with teeth in her vagina" and automatically turn around. But they're missing one of the most entertaining and offbeat cult films about female revenge this decade.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
T3 doesn't have the series' best villain, and people complain that it negates T2's message that the future is unwritten. However, the threequel boats some fine action set pieces as well as still-impressive effects. The inspired casting of Nick Stahl and Claire Danes pays off and who doesn't love Schwarzenegger in his signature role? (I also personally kind of prefer the whole "you can't change fate, only postpone it" aspect)

Trick 'r Treat - Michael Dougherty
Delayed for no logical reason for three years, X2 screenwriter Michael Dougherty's directorial debut got a dvd release in late 2009. Those who have seen it have experienced one of the most entertaining horror anthologies since Romero's Creepshow.

Wet Hot American Summer - David Wain
The State got together and made a movie. One of the funniest movies ever.

Willard - Glen Morgan
This remake of the 1971 original (which featured Michael Jackson's "Ben") is an intentionally campy, sometimes quite frightening horror film which features some of Crispen Glover's best work since Back to the Future.

World's Greatest Dad - Bobcat Goldthwait
A limited release and some awkward subject matter may have frightened or disgusted would-be audiences away from this hilarious and refreshing dark comedy.

Young People Fucking - Martin Gero
Don't let the title scare you away! This is a surprisingly hilarious and even endearing little comedy that is a bit dirty, but not half as explicit as you would think.

Mario, Lea, Lina and Martha from "Mostly Martha"