Thursday, August 6, 2009

Top 10 Most Underrated Films

10. Reign of Fire (2002)

Instead of writing why I love this movie so much, I just want to ask you all for a moment of silence for the fact that this was released in 2002. 2002! @))@!?! (That was 2002 in all-caps.) Gosh, seven years is a while. 

9. The Party (1968)

This movie got a little forty-years later buzz recently, when it was mentioned in like, every review of The Love Guru. (Either in the form of "This is not as good as The Party" or "Didn't we decide this sort of thing was a bad idea after The Party".) Well, forget it, because this movie is in another league. Peter Sellers (as Hrundi V. Bakshi) deserves every single Oscar ever for this performance, including the ones he didn't win for Dr. Strangelove. Far from the obviously awful, obviously awful route that British-guy-in-Indian-face could easily go, this film is sweet, subtle, and absolutely friggin' hysterical. Also, the original tagline was "If you've ever been to a wilder party than this... you're under arrest." Um, this movie has some sort of legal jurisdiction over similarly-wild parties? Double points!

8. Beautiful Girls (1996)

Aaaaah, I have dropped so much "OMG BEST MOVIE EVER" praise on this film, ever since two minutes into my first viewing of it. What can I say... get a cast of that-guys and that-girls, get the dude who wrote Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead to write the script, set it at a high school reunion in upstate NY, throw in Matt Dillon and a baby Natalie Portman... yeah, there's no way I'd go crazy for that movie. What, there's a "Sweet Caroline" singalong? Oh god, tell me where to go, I am already going crazy for this movie.

Starship Troopers (1997)

Really just for that moment when Neil Patrick Harris touches the gigantic bug's brain and yells, "IT'S AFRAID! IT'S AFRAID!" and everyone cheers. Oh, also, how did America not get that this was a satire on jingoistic recruitment films from the 40s and that the basic message is war makes fascists out of even the best people. I read a nice bit on that basically said, "This is the best 9/11 film ever made, even though it came out in '97." Yup.

6. Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980)

Okay, so it's basically The Big Chill before there was a The Big Chill. (Yes, I know, five thousand other people have made this connection already, but it's just true.) But here's my whole deal on that. They both have their merits. Secaucus 7 has long, rambly, banter-packed scenes that feel like actual conversations--ie; there's a 50/50 chance between brilliance and boredom. Chill has the laser-refined script and and the perfect score and the gift-wrapped ending, where even the heartache is the good kind. This last bit, incidentally, is my favorite thing about Secaucus 7--it deeply appreciates the "So... what next?" aspect of life. You can't just reconcile your loves, losses, and old ideals in one weekend at the lake. 

5. Dog Soldiers (2002)

So, by now, it's pretty cool to like Shaun of the Dead. And I see why... I mean, it's a perfect movie, after all. But if you want to make a deeper foray into very bloody, very funny films from the British isles, Dog Soldiers is a great place to start. The laughs to screams ratio is off the charts--which director Neil Marshall kind of abandoned on his next film, The Descent, but whatevs. I like werewolves more than cave-monsters, anyway. (As a grad school-bound 23-year old, that is exactly the kind of sentence I should stop writing.)

4. Kicking and Screaming (1995)

Again, this is a film I give pretty regular laudations to... for good reason. Yeah, you've got your "End of high school/college is crazy!" movies. Yeah, you can find a Baker's dozen of "We are adults for the first time!" films. Oh, and don't get me started on the billion and one movies that follow the "We have drifted for so long..." plot. This is the in-between of the three. A perfect triangulation. Oh, sure... all of these characters will be totally fine in a year. But there's that brief but crushing time period immediately following graduation and lasting until you decide that you are actually a real person--that's a killer. (A killer for wealthy-ish white kids who can always teach at their high schools, sure... but, I mean, we're people, too. Right?) Endlessly quotable, eternally watchable. Also, Parker Posey.

3. The Monster Squad (1987)

I don't think you get how much I watched this as a kid. If you are my parents, I don't think you get how much I snuck away to watch this in secret as a kid. THERE ARE KIDS. THERE ARE MONSTERS. THERE IS A BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL. End of story. This was a winner from the pitch. 

My Name is Nobody (1973)

A baby-faced blond gunslinger goes out in search of his hero, so that he can make sure his hero goes out in style, "style" being a hail of bullets. Henry Fonda plays the hero, the baby-face is maybe the first gay cowboy of cinema, Sergio Leone is producing, does the rest even matter? Blurring the lines between slapstick and Western, homage and parody, pathos and bathos, this is a film I will always love. And thanks AMC for showing it at 3 AM like, five years ago...

1. The Long Goodbye (1973)

This film is a drug in and of itself. It takes a while to kick in... suddenly, it grabs hold of you and knocks you clear of your feet before you even see it coming... finally, it spits you out on a dirt road in Mexico, as a whistling man dances away from you. (That is what all drugs are like, right?) You want pedigree, you got it: Directed by Robert Altman, shot by Vilmos Zsigmond, scored by John Williams, based (ugh, loosely) on Raymond Chandler novel, and led by a mumbly, brilliant, tongue-so-far-in-his-cheek-it-hurts Elliott Gould. You want supporting cast, you got it: out-of-the-park performances from Nina Van Pallandt, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson, and Sterling "Big fucking bear of a man" Hayden, as well as hey-look-at-that-guy cameos from David Carradine and baby Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, and Jim Bouton, the pitcher who wrote Ball Four. The 70s, LA, noir, drugs, thugs, booze, money... just watch it.


Amy Guth said...

Monster Squad!! Holy cow, I forgot all about that movie. Excellent call on that one, and on Beautiful Girls, which is one of my favorites for sure.

Well done.

Laura said...

The Long Goodbye is, indeed, a fantastic movie. It is also Chandler's best book.

Kurskij said...

"Harry, your father was immoral..."

Great list.