Image by: cdrummbks
Movies, like some people, often don’t get the recognition they deserve. And it’s not always because the script is atrocious, the direction’s lousy, or the acting’s terrible.
No, it’s more than that. More often it’s a combination of bad timing and limited advertising (and therefore minimal bums on seats).
But the vast majority of time, I’d argue, is that some films are blasted out the vast oceans of cinematic water simply because they’re not the kind of big, brash, in-yer-face, special effects heavy blockbusters that manifest the multiplexes demanded by an undemanding public that rake in those hard-earned pounds.
Here are a few film gems that generally slipped under the radar.
Without doubt one of my favorite films of the past ten years, Sideways is simply about two friends who go on a wine tasting road trip through California before one of them gets married – but what a trip. Paul Giamatti, also something of an underrated actor, is amazing, and it’s an intelligent, funny, moving, ridiculous, and extremely heartfelt and poignant film, with heart, soul and a great jazz score. Nominated for lots of awards, but criminally under appreciated.
American Splendor (2003)
Another entry starring Paul Giamatti, this tells the true story of the belligerent, angry, grouchy Harvey Pekar, who created the autobiographical comic book of the title. Told through a clever parallel of actors and their real-life counterparts, it’s a funny, sometimes tragic, always human story of an everyday man with everyday problems.
After The Evil Dead and before the Spiderman trilogy, Sam Raimi made this mini masterpiece about a scientist who seeks revenge on the criminals who left him for dead. Paying homage to the early Universal movies, this is full of ingenious and inventive Rami-isms – quick cuts, pans and zooms, imaginative deaths, twisted humor, cheap but efficient special effects, and dark pathos. Great score by Danny Elfman, too.
Whatever Works (2009)
Like Marmite, people either love or hate Woody Allen. For the most part, I like him, and though a lot of his recent films have been somewhat hit and miss, he was back on brilliant, belligerent, hysterical and bellicose form with this, dusted off from a script originally written in the 70s for Zero Mostel but with Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David admirably filling his shoes. All of Allen’s themes are present and correct – relationships, infidelity, neuroses, art, existentialism, and of course his beloved New York. David is a brilliant cipher for Allen’s more-than-usual misanthropy and, along with Deconstructing Harry, this is one of his best and most under acknowledged efforts.
Fans like myself of American writer and poet Charles Bukowksi will know exactly what they’re in for from any film adaption of his raw, powerful works – alcohol, women, poetry, horse racing, alcohol, poetry, women, horse racing, women, alcohol -and this film delivers on all counts. Taking elements from several Bukowski novels and poems, it’s more than about just a man wandering drunkenly from city to city, job to job, woman to woman, apartment to apartment; it’s about a man trying to find himself, his art, and his way in the world.
The Mist (2007)
The most grim, brutal and depressing Stephen King adaption ever, this tale of a small town seeking refuge in a supermarket after a violent storm unleashes a horde of bloodthirsty creatures is chilling and grim with a very un-Hollywood and bleak ending. Which is partly why it works so well – it’s stark, unremitting and never lets up.
It’s Alive (1974)
Larry Cohen has made his name making low budget, schlocky, B movies, and this is a great, underrated example of one his earliest efforts about a mutant, bloodthirsty baby that goes on a murderous rampage in Los Angeles. The script is ropey, the dialogue ridiculous and the acting hammy, but the fanged mutant baby by Rick Baker (American Werewolf In London) is, during the brief moments you see it, chilling, and Bernard Herrmann’s dark, brooding score is great.
So sometimes having a plethora of television commercials, production values par excellence or talented actors doesn’t always guarantee great movies will be seen.
These are just a few underrated gems that you should check out if you get an opportunity, but I’m sure that are plenty of other celluloid hidden treasures that slipped under the cinematic radar. Can you think of any?
- License: Creative Commons image source
Author Byline: Gavin Harvey is a dedicated personal trainer who has travelled all over the world but whose itchy feet have now settled quite comfortably in Bristol. An avid film fan, he is always disheartened when some movies don’t get the recognition they deserve. He blogs regularly for Space City.