Wednesday, December 23, 2009

interesting take on underrated pics of the decade

The dozen most underrated films of the decade according to Laremy Legel of Film.Com

Here is his story:

***

The decade is just about over, and we've seen a few thousand films from 2000 to 2009. A few great ones slipped through the cracks, films you might have missed ... but shouldn't have. However, first off, we've got to lay out some ground rules:

The film can't have surpassed $30 million, either domestically or worldwide.

That eliminates the following:

*Team America (2004): The film made $32 million in America, which means there's at least four million Americans who can laugh at themselves.

*Lucky Number Slevin (2006): Bruce Willis, Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, murder, laughs, and delightful dialogue. Still, international audiences rewarded it with $34 million in receipts.

The film can't have been nominated for/won an Oscar.

That eliminates the following great films (that didn't make much theatrically):

*Memento (2000): The film is now properly rated, though no one saw it in the theater.

*Wonder Boys (2000): A classic early performance from a Tobey Maguire.

*Ghost World (2001): Thora Birch was supposed to be the shooting star of this film ... but it also starred Scarlett Johansson.

*The Man Who Wasn't There (2001): Another Scar-Jo classic, but this one was directed by the Coen bros. -- one of their top five efforts.

*Mulholland Drive (2001): Outstanding work from director David Lynch, though I still don't fully "get" it.

*Spirited Away (2001): It was always rated properly internationally, as a masterpiece, but it was slow going in the United States.

*Adaptation (2002): Four Oscar noms ensured people watched this on DVD.

*Whale Rider (2002): Has all the subtlety Avatar is missing regarding indigenous populations.

*A Mighty Wind (2003): A lesser Guest effort, but still awkward and endearing.

*A Very Long Engagement (2004): The film is definitely long, but also quite beautiful.

*Once (2006): This had a slow build, but the Academy Awards cemented its place in pop culture history.

*In Bruges (2008): Proof positive that Colin Farrell can act.

*Rachel Getting Married (2008): It dallied a little much for my taste, but it deserved better than $16 million at the box office.

What remains?

Behold! The Dozen Most Underrated Films of the Decade!

1) Best in Show (2000)
Domestic: $19 million
International: $2 million
The Skinny: The decade's funniest film if you're into the wry and dry. It's a Christopher Guest classic -- a brutal (though empathetic) look at the loony world of dog shows. Of course, the film isn't really about dog shows at all; it's about the people who raise and show the dogs, a cross-section of zany society. Guest, long before Ricky Gervais cashed in with The Office, mastered the art of uncomfortable and hilarious silence. Best in Show features Eugene Levy, Parkey Posey, and the normal cast of Guest players. It's very, very funny. Give it a watch.

2) High Fidelity (2000)
Domestic: $27 million
International: $20 million
The Skinny: A tremendous soundtrack, vintage Cusack, and the rare effective pivot from comedy to drama. High Fidelity also has one of the first big Jack Black performances; he's sublime as a founding member of the faux band "Sonic Death Monkey."

3) 25th Hour (2002)
Domestic: $13 million
International: $11 million
The Skinny: Spike Lee's most mature work has perhaps the best ending of the decade. It also features Phil Hoffman, Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, and Brian Cox. It's like actor heaven! Eminently watchable and dynamic, a can't-miss purchase or rental.

4) Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Domestic: $18 million
International: $7 million
The Skinny: Just a strange, strange film. But the colors used, the anger, the brilliant use of Adam Sandler ... it all works here. This is Paul Thomas Anderson's underappreciated classic -- everyone digs Boogie Nights and has heard of There Will Be Blood, but this title mostly draws blank stares. I know it's not for everyone, but this topsy-turvy classic is picking up steam as the decade closes.

5) Secretary (2002)
Domestic: $4 million
International: $5 million
The Skinny: To say the love story presented here is "nontraditional" is to say Seattle has rainy days. It's the story of Edward (James Spader), a man who loves order and discipline, a man who can't feel, a fella who is into S&M. It's about abuse, cutting, and features very early Maggie Gyllenhaal. It's a jarring and occasionally unpleasant film, but brave in its portrayal of real archetypes; there are people who hurt and heal in this manner, and Secretary is unflinchingly honest.

6) I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Domestic: $13 million
International: $7 million
The Skinny: Need to have a condensed conversation about the meaning of life? Throw in Huckabees, a film seemingly about nothing ... which frees it up to be about everything. David O. Russell is evidently tough to work with, but the film has inspired performances from Mark Wahlberg, Lily Tomlin, Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law, and Naomi Watts.

7) Life Aquatic (2004)
Domestic: $24 million
International: $11 million
The Skinny: Massively underrated and ravaged by the critics, I'm pretty sure people missed the leadership lessons presented here. Bill Murray, by every acceptable definition, plays an absolute lunatic. He endangers his crew, children, innocents -- all for no real reason. Yet -- and this is crucial -- he's also an incredibly effective guy whom people willingly follow into battle. He's charismatic, affable, and charming. Wes Anderson presented a film that could start gaining a Lebowski-like following, if only people would watch with fresh eyes.

8) Serenity (2005)
Domestic: $26 million
International: $13 million
The Skinny: The gap between something like Transformers 2 and Serenity is a profound one. Serenity (based on the show Firefly) is innovative, fun, thrilling, and dramatic. It's a space western, it features great acting, the pacing is superb. Transformers 2? Uh, that one made a lot of money. Do you see the difference? Serenity not making hundreds of millions of dollars was one of my ultimate disappointments of the decade. This is a quality film, folks, start giving it some love.

9) Dave Chappelle's Block Party (2006)
Domestic: $12 million
International: less than $1 million
The Skinny: I get that people don't see documentaries. Truly, I do. But Dave Chappelle's Block Party has something most true stories don't. It has Dave Chappelle! It has Kanye West (pre-Taylor Swift fiasco), it reunites The Fugees, it features heavy doses of The Roots. If you like hip-hop, you need to see this. If you like comedy, you need to see this. You pretty much just need to see this; it's a joyous co-mingling of comedy and music.

10) Hot Rod (2007)
Domestic: $14 million
International: less than $1 million
The Skinny: Technically, this isn't a good movie, especially given the illustrious company it's keeping on this list. But it's as strong and silly a film as Anchorman and it features Danny McBride and Andy Samberg -- two guys who continue to grow in comedic stature as the years roll by. This film is perfect for a laugh with friends, possibly drunk friends, the sort of friends who can laugh at themselves.

11) Reign Over Me (2007)
Domestic: $20 million
International: $3 million
The Skinny: After Serenity not making huge dollars, my second biggest disappointment of the decade is Adam Sandler having to do awful movies to get the attention of the general public ... because his serious work is damn good. As far as I'm concerned this is the best 9/11 film out there, though it's not even about 9/11, it's about grief. Don Cheadle co-stars, and the guys are tremendous together. At once sad, happy, manic, and poignant, this film deserved way better treatment than it received.

12) Ghost Town (2008)
Domestic: $13 million
International: $14 million
The Skinny: We needed a film to show off the cleverness of Ricky Gervais. Ghost Town is that film. Only you all missed it.

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