Tuesday, December 29, 2009

25 Underrated/Overlooked Movies of the 2000's pt 2: 16-25

The second and final part of my short list. It was tough, and i went back and forth on some worthy films. But in the end i decided that these were the ones most deserving of the underrated/overlooked title.
16. Ginger Snaps (2000): Two suicide-obsessed sisters learn that being a teenager can be more difficult than ever imagined when one is bitten by a werewolf and begins to drift away and change in more ways than one. Ginger Snaps does an amazing job addressing female adolescence and the rifts that growing older and apart can create while also being a truly effective horror comedy. Before the untapped lust of Twilight, Ginger Snaps was taking your angst and alienation and devouring it. Whole. The tragedy is that so few have seen the film.

17. The Dreamers (2003): The ick factor with Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers is a little on the high end. An American student (Michael Pitt) goes to Paris to study in the late 60's, falls in love with film, and enters into a friendship with a pair of French siblings (Eva Green and Louis Garrel) who pull him into a semi-reclusive world of hijinks and incestuous behavior. It earned its NC-17 rating with a couple cringe worthy sex sequences, but on the whole it drifts closer to art than porn. The relationships are founded on an intense cinephilia and desire to escape from the political tumult of 1968 Paris, and they verge uncomfortably on innocent at times as their peers march in the streets. Strange and beautiful, The Dreamers boasts a cast without fear and a director capable of tying up the right elements and making sure he doesn't completely cross the barriers of bad taste.

18. Peter Pan (2003): I'll own up to not having seen this in a couple years, but when last i did i was amazed at how thoroughly beautiful and emotionally complex this live action adaptation managed to be. As much as i love the Disney version, this is the film that comes closest to the original text. It's dark, unflinchingly conquering all the small hurdles the story involves, the deaths of characters, the growing up really involved in leaving the nursery, the palpable emotion involved in a serious crush. The result is a dense, multi-layered film that is as much for adults as it is suitable for kids. As Wendy, Rachel Hurd-Wood embodies her character and gives us someone experiencing a very real push-pull between the adult world and the security of the nursery. Gorgeous and tragic, this film is better than you could imagine and a stunning technical achievement.

19. Angel-A (2005): For some inexplicable reason, in this decade Luc Besson (The Professional) got all obsessed with making those Minimoys movies and only made this one live action work. Angel-A, a French comedy-fantasy, is sort of patently absurd. Andre (Jamel Debbouze) is a failed small time criminal with a lot of debt, when he attempts to end it all by throwing himself into the Seine he is saved by a mysterious lady who takes him on a whirlwind journey to getting his life back together. Yes, yes, the film deals in weird notions of guardian angels and protectors who look like giant supermodels (Rie Rasmussen), but it's shot in glorious black and white and the saccharine is sacrificed to style. While some would argue the plot is also sacrificed, and the story clunky and heavy-handed, i say Angel-A was really a surprisingly enjoyable entertainment that moved swiftly. If you can suspend your disbelief and get over the fantastical elements, it's a fun little film.

20. Brideshead Revisited (2008): Alright, it's not as good as the book. It's also not as thorough as the 1981 miniseries. If you can forgive it its clouded focus (the way it shifts from Sebastian and Charles to Charles and Julia, the bare bones of the religious debate), the film functions autonomously as a lush, truly romantic variation on its source material. It's hard not to fall in love with Matthew Goode in this film, and harder still not to be swept away by the rich, eccentric glory of these bright young things in their beautiful world. During this entire film i sat with a Liz Lemon voiceover in my head going: "i want to go to there".

21. Shoot 'em Up (2007): High energy, brutal, and short. Shoot 'em Up feels like director Michael Davis put the entire action film genre into a juicer and bled it dry for one 80-minute adrenaline rush. This film has everything you could possibly want from an actioner: graphic violence, a massive body count, a joke-cracking hero (Clive Owen), a smarmy villain (Paul Giamatti), ridiculous moral complications, and a surplus of the impossible. Upon its release it got slammed by audiences as being a festival of expletives and gun porn. I don't know what they were expecting, but the title tells you exactly what you're walking into, and exactly the devil-may-care tone the film adopts. It's great fun that never stops to even consider taking itself too seriously.

22. Synecdoche, NY (2008): Repeatedly shunned as pretentious drivel, i'm beginning to think that what a person takes away from this film says something about the person. I saw this as a beautiful movie worthy of repeat viewings. Like all of Charlie Kaufman's work, it teeters on the brink of science fiction and madness, using abstraction ultimately to present something that is simply human. This is a film about life in the broadest sense of the term, and because of that, many may find the scope a little overwhelming. In depicting so much, the viewer is forced to filter it into so little, but the pieces are all there. Relationships, decisions, dreams, worries, neurosis, bodily limitations, birth, death, loneliness, this is a movie where everything happens and what the viewer sees determines their own personal experience (in this way, it actually mirrors the assumed intention of Caden's dramatic project). Apart from that, however, I'd argue this is definitely a worthwhile meta-narrative. The acting is great on the whole, there's an undercurrent of quirky humor, and the art direction is fantastic. As Kaufman's first film in the director's chair this is a very impressive (and highly ambitious) effort. One day, when all talk of its lofty intentions has died down, film geeks will covet this movie and wonder how it was ever so ignored.
23. Son of Rambow (2007): When i saw this i thought it would be a sleeper hit for sure, the kind of movie that spreads via word of mouth and winds up playing in the theaters for a couple months. To my surprise, it failed to catch on in the states. It's a shame. Son of Rambow is a pitch perfect, exuberantly innocent comedy that blends 80's nostalgia, coming of age, and the most awesome French Exchange Student ever with the greatest of ease. Sweet and inspired, though it may be filled with child actors, it's a legitimately sophisticated comedy definitely bent towards adults.

24. Down With Love (2003): I am so sick of defending this film. For every person who sees its merits, there seem to be at least three or four who just didn't get the vein in which this movie was made and loaded it up with a bunch of 'Renee Zellweger overacts too much' and 'this is the cheesiest movie i've ever seen' bullshit. Give me a break people. Really. My instructions: 1. Go watch some real Doris Day/Rock Hudson sex comedies (Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back), 2. Then watch this. If you can't handle the former, you're not meant to endure the latter. If you appreciate the cloying, prim-and-proper innuendos and pastel shades of the real deal, however, you'll find much to enjoy and laugh about in Down With Love. The 2003 film is a pitch-perfect return to and spoof on of those 60's romantic comedies. It gets it all right and does so with a camp flourish that makes this like an injection of pure sugar. Yes, ok, i love this movie. There's no reason not to. Its very existence is all done in good fun.

25. Cashback (2006): Did you see this movie? No? Why? You hadn't heard of it? Ok, now you have. Go watch it. You need to be convinced? Alright. How about if i tell you it's an extended version of a 2004 Oscar nominated short film (same director, same short at the core)? What about if i tell you it's a slanted comedy/romance (not the same as romantic comedy) that deals with art, insomnia, wage slaving, and college? Also, it's quite pretty to look at and smart as well. Basically, what i'm trying to tell you is that if you're in your teens or twenties this is one of those movies that might be your new favorite but you haven't seen it yet because no one has handed it to you and said some pretentious Donnie Darko nonsense about how much it will change your life. I mean, it won't change your life. But it really is a fantastic diversion.

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