TOP SEVEN UNDERRATED FILMS OF THE YEAR
Now that we have the top seven overrated films going into awards season, let’s look at the top 7 underrated performers. These are films I think deserve more consideration than they will probably get, especially once they hit Netflix, and the last remaining Blockbusters.
1) GOING THE DISTANCE – I don’t expect a lot from RomComs, especially when they star Justin Long. He’ll always be the “Apple Guy” to me, but here he finds himself in good company with co-star Drew Barrymore. Together they have a funny chemistry, and any relationship that begins in front of an old arcade machine gets a few extra points for originality. It also chronicles in more funny ways than I could imagine the painful parts of being in a long distance relationship.
2) FAIR GAME – Another political movie about the Bush administration? Yawn. Starring Sean Penn? Ohhh boy. I didn’t know who Valerie Plame was before I saw this, but you don’t need that information to enjoy what surprisingly flew under almost everybody’s radar, and which I will argue is one of the best political films in years. Penn plays who he usually plays – a leftist with an axe to grind. But he’s damn great at it. Naomi Watts has to elevate her game too, and together they show a marriage that’s tense but simultaneously respectful. The second half of the film really heats up and it becomes impossible to tear your eyes away.
3) EDGE OF DARKNESS – Mel Gibson’s return to the big screen after his long hiatus was not noticeable here. Gibson plays who he usually plays – a father with an axe to grind. One of my favorite scenes is a quiet one, where he shaves his face and pretends he’s talking to his daughter (who in the story is missing). Whenever I shave, that scene still comes to mind. Gibson is great when he’s going nuts, and he’s great when he’s just standing there in front of the mirror.
4) THE LAST EXORCISM – When it comes to endings, you either go big or go home. This movie goes big, and it’s not ashamed to do it. What starts as an interesting “faux” documentary about an exorcist helping a family turns into something so insanely retarded you can’t help but enjoy the ride. I like quiet, brooding scares in my movies. But after two hours of it, I’m ready to see some crazy shit. And this one delivers.
5) THE OTHER GUYS – This is one of those comedies you only need to see once to appreciate. I don’t like to gorge on Will Farrell, so once in awhile is good enough for me. Here he’s teamed up with Mark Wahlberg, who plays what he usually plays – a serious guy with an axe to grind. In this case, the axe is Will’s wife, played by the gorgeous Eva Mendes. This is a cop duo that works well, and I think it subverts enough of the conventions of the buddy cop comedy to feel like an original lampoon. Some criticized the film for following the conventions too closely, which made it less funny. Watch the opening scene with Sam Jackson and Dwayne Johnson and tell me there’s anything conventional about that.
6) EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP – I was convinced this would get nominated for “best documentary” at the Oscars, and it still may. But the likelihood is not good, for reasons I don’t really know. I have heard this entire documentary was a completely made up account for the benefit of making a story that never existed in the first place. That could be the truth, and if it is, I fell for it hook, line and sinker the way Ebert fell for “I’m Not Here” or whatever that movie was about the actor turned rap star (I never saw it). But “Exit” does something amazing. It flips the script on us. About halfway through, it’s not a movie about a French graffiti artist anymore. It’s about what an asshole the guy is. Really entertaining, and even if it is completely fictional, who can fault Banksy for making something so enjoyable?
7) SHUTTER ISLAND – Some audiences didn’t like the twist. It was too telegraphed, they thought. And the first time I saw it, I called it even before Leo got off his boat. That being said, it’s not the twist that makes this so compelling and rich. It’s the atmosphere. It’s the originality. It’s the film history it wears on its sleeves. This was the film that motivated me to start this blog, which ultimately gave me the chance to become a professional film critic. I owe a lot to this movie. I really think it’s one of the best films of the decade, and I don’t believe anybody would really give it that much credit. So here I am, giving it its due.
There are always films I never get to see. “Enter the Void” is one of those that I do believe may have gotten onto this list. Something tells me “MacGruber” may have also landed here. It’s tough to really predict. And there are still plenty of “2010” films that have not been domestically released yet, so I can’t in good faith put them here and I can’t wait until February 2011 before I make these lists, either.