This post will never get old. Bring on the controversy!
No right or wrong, just for the love of film.
1) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With me
David Lynch’s most misunderstood, under appreciated film. Seen as scorn by critics upon it’s release, it still has a bad place in critical eyes. Forget the critics, forget Twin Peaks, this film explores sexual abuse, and trauma with a lyrical power few films have ever or since have done. The movie is uneven, but it’s good moments are so powerful that it’s weaker moments are buried underneath. A sad, sad movie.
This is the one movie (The other Jorodowsky’s unmade version of Dune) that I wished would have been made as intended. Aged 27, and at the top of his craft, Fincher came into a mess no one could have made anything out of…but he did. The film is dark, and spectacularly shot. It’s a compromise, for reasons out of his control. What it does right, it does it well: It deconstructs the Ripley character and takes the series to it’s most surprising conclusion. It’s too bad Fox screwed him, he repaid the favor later with Fight Club. Alien3 is a film that if made the way it was meant to be, could’ve been a classic. What is there..is still pretty good.
3) Summer of Sam
Spike Lee is a polarizing figure for sure, another one whose mouth often overshadows his work. Summer of Sam contains some of his finest directing, as well as the best looking movie he’s made since Do The Right Thing. The heart of the story is the married couple, and those characters may be stereotypes, but their truthfulness and emotions are three dimensional. The scene where Mira Sorvino realizes she no longer loves her husband is a touching, powerful scene. It says more about temptation, and the hardships of married life than any art film would, and does it through good acting not artifice. Underrated gem.
4) Strange Days
The best movie directed by a woman, in my opinion. Predating the internet and our reliance on sensory overload to substitute four feelings, the film was way ahead of it’s time and still is. James Cameron wrote a great script, but Bigelow directed the shit our of it.
Great, great movie. I watch it more than any other Scorsese film. It’s purely excess, and that’s teh story. It was more dimensional (and ballsy) and than Goodfellas, and featured the last true performance by Deniro. The production design and Cinematography was ace. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing deserves mention: It’s the fastest moving three hour movie I can think of.
-Into The Wild
Hate civilization sometimes? (if you live in NY or LA), then you owe it to yourself to see this under appreciated gem. If stubbornness had a movie, it would be called into the wild. Brilliant movie, Sean Penn’s direction is spot on. Also: The Pledge.
It’s got it’s DNA in the french new wave, but Vincent Gallo has chops as a director (can’t say the same for The Brown Bunny: indefensible). The movie was a beautiful portrait of lonely souls (needyness?) yet I went along for the ride because it was rendered so lyrically sound.
I know some of you would disagree(and hate me) on this, but I’ve got strong strong feelings why this film sucks completely.
I love David Fincher’s films, except for Zodiac. The man is a genius, no pun intended.
Some films are just too long. I’ve seen movies that are three hours (Casino comes to mind) that fly faster than anything under 94 minutes, either because they’re so engaging that you’re glued or fascinating in the way the story is told. Hitchcock said it best to consider your film’s running time by genre expectations, audience expectation, and their bowel movements. The problem with this movie is that it is too long. Fincher’s unwillingness to cut it down to a manageable size did the movie a disservice. The story is a challenge, because it’s anti climactic. Gyllenhaal isn’t a terribly engaging actor, and Robert Downey Jr danced circles around him. The film needed a stronger central character, and a less leisurely pace to get the point across.
Summer of Sam explored similar territory more satisfyingly.
Yet it is a triumph for Fincher, the film that matched his love of atmosphere with characterization.
Not for me. Benjamin Button should do.
2) The Departed.
Oscars for best picture, best editing, and a much overdue one for Scorsese.
The academy was rewarding him for decades of injustice, for when he was making those really great films the world wasn’t yet ready for them. It’s regarded as a great movie because Scorsese made it, and features his signatures. But it doesn’t feel like a Scorsese movie to me. It’s not Goodfellas, but nothing is, and it’s not Casino either, which I think is way better. It’s a hard movie to review because it’s got great stuff in it, but the sum of it’s parts feel forced and while entertaining, also feels phony.
3) Crash (Paul Haggis)
Not worth a sentence. Next.
Ridley should have won best director, but the movie is just a tad bit underwhelming to be considered “great”. Lost of spectacle, but what else? Russell Crowe was great, but so was he in The Insider.
You know this was coming.
It’s a perfectly fine little movie, well acted and directed by Jason Reitman. But the problem I have (and it’s the same issue I have with Tarantino) is it’s self referential reliance on hipster dialogue. It’s too clever for it’s own good, and annoying as hell. A total fantasy if there ever was one, and that’s precisely why the academy (and audiences) rewarded it. Non threatening, and colorful.
-Lost In Translation
If it wasn’t for the hipster fantasy that it is and Bill Murray, the film would not be as well regarded as it is. It’s a pretty good movie, but what’s with the wild praise? does anyone remember it now?
-The Life Aquatic
Almost too precious for it’s own good. Wes Anderson’s film is amazing to look at (all of them are) but flimsy and well. The characters seem to be on their own world, and have no connection to us unless you’re a marine biologist. That’s his biggest handicap, the characters are so eccentric and aristocratic that the audience feels excluded. I heart Huckabeed is another example of pretentiousness. The Royal Tenenbaums is Anderson’s best film because the characters where more accessible, and the cast brought out some texture to (his) flimsiness. It had a heart at it’s core. Should I add it to the underrated section? It’s semi underrated.
It’s not an outright dismissal (I don’t have that right, it’s an acknowledged classic).
Lemme make the case. The film is slow, brainy, and boring. Yes.
It’s got questions about life, death, and the metaphysical in between. Great. It flows at a meditative pace. Great. Novels do this very well, that’s why they’re page turners. This movie felt like a novel whose pages don’t turn until every literary meaning is held in place. It was made in 1972, when brainier movies expanded on cinematic potential. So why do I think it’s overrated? I don’t like watching paint dry, and I don’t like movies that present ideas at the expense of engaging the viewer. The best Sci Fi movies engage your intellect, but intellectual ideas is not storytelling, the guiding force is the film narrative that gives them validity. It’s as much about what you bring to it than what you take out of it. 2001 engaged us because Kubrick’s trust in the story he was telling never superceded audience intellect. Maybe I’m missing something: Pretention. This film is as pretentious as they come.
Akash, this is for you. Cinderella Man (Raging Bull without…the Raging Bull), Far and Away (Turkey time), Davinci Code (no suspense). I really, really think Ron Howard is overrated. Sorry to break the category (it was films only) but he deserves his own place. Frost / Nixon? outdated politics.
Case closed. Now what do you think? Got a list of underrated / overrated films? let’s see it.
Crash and Juno for sure. Anything Howard/Grazer. Happy-Go-Lucky, currently.
Alanedit – regarding Gyllenhall’s performance in Zodiac, the guy is supposed to be a little boy. A boy scout. Fearlessly delving into insanity yet maintaining a confidence unseen other than in his investigative work.
This year, I feel Blindness is very underrated and the panning it received was due to how convoluted the film was, yet there is a sense of agnosticism that brings chaos out of the characters and leaves you questioning God’s existence.
Couldn’t agree more about Crash and Juno, films that seem to have been made for the sole purpose of appearing important or precious. Juno is the worse offender, acting like an indie slice-o’-life but sounding so forced and fake that it grates on this viewer’s last nerve.
I have noticed year over year a desire to not see films that were labelled as excellent at year’s end due to a perception they were made for award and importance reasons over art and storytelling. Milk, Rachel Getting Married, Doubt all smack of something just kind of wrongheaded.
On the other side, I will say I believe Zodiac is an excellent film and will only gain over the years. And The Departed is definitely not Goodfellas or Casino, but that’s kind of the point. I see it as the most fun Scorsese film yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s one of his best.
I’d like to say i enjoyed “Zodiac” very much, but not because I believed it was cinematic brilliance. It was because it’s absolutely historically correct. Others could lean towards that side of it, but maybe not. I can only speak for myself. I believe “Seance On A Wet Afternoon” to be a very well done thriller that has stood the test of time . Not the best one ever made but it deserves to be watched and noticed, I have never really heard anyone else acknowledge it though. So, if there is something wrong with it I’m missing I’d like to know. Also another one I listed in the previously similar thread and got a thumbs down for with no explination “The Heiress”. I think this film has exceptionally good acting and direction, beautiful photography, and a well laid out story. It made me feel much emotion for the character’s. more than a good percentage of films do. I’d kinda like to know what the person who disagreed with it had against it. I think it is one of Wyler’s best films. I think it is one of the best Hollywood style films i have seen. No “Sunset Blvd”, but it surely belongs in a category with such classics.
P.S, I agree “Twin Peaks” is underrated and I am going to go back watch “Alien 3” to see if I can form a better opinion of it.
I can agree 100% with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me being grossly underrated. I think most people expected some sort of closure after the massive cliff hanger that ends the television series, and the fact that it was a prequel that simply showed you everything you already knew had happened angered the fans and critics at the time.
As a massive fan of the show, and Lynch in general, I loved the film. I even loved the fact that it was a play-by-play of events you’re already familiar with. When you see Laura calling James at night, and her jumping off the motorcycle, you know exactly what’s coming… but even then you can cut the tension with a knife.
It’s also the best use of Bob as a truly horrifying creature, and the final sequence in the Black Lodge works perfectly as the ending to the entire Twin Peaks story as a whole, not simply Fire Walk With Me.
The two of them, together in the Black Lodge, his hand on her shoulder… that’s where it all should end, and it’s perfect.
Is CASINO underrated? It’s excellent.
ZODIAC got lost somewhere. The story falls through the cracks somewhere, losing any and all conduit for its scenes/characters without providing any reason for a lost of conduit. Halfway though the film, there simply isn’t anything to hold on to.
I watch CRASH. Felt like I was just force-fed a racial awareness pill. Wasn’t too impressed with the subtlety.
And then it won Oscars.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is overrated… fun, yes. But it’s got this “I’m independent, so I’m hip” overtone.
I probably should give it a second chance, but I can’t help but think MAGNOLIA wants to be SHORT CUTS but doesn’t succeed.
DEPARTED is pretty supreme.
All the wonderful parts come together to make a good film. Sharp, blue, and darkly comical in a most original sense.
The film boasts fresh structure, scene progression, edit, character, use of music, and dialogue from beginning to end.
Agreed: it’s not Casino or Goodfella’s. Thus Scorsese proved he can shake it up, while staying an ‘auteur’.
“DEPARTED is pretty supreme.
All the wonderful parts come together to make a good film. Sharp, blue, and darkly comical in a most original sense.
The film boasts fresh structure, scene progression, edit, character, use of music, and dialogue from beginning to end.”
No, just no.
Very surprised to find that someone else has a similar opinion of Alien 3. I always felt, after seeing it in my mid-teens, that Fincher was on to something with the theatrical version but that it was a compromised work (and this was several years before I’d learnt of the troubles the production was mired in as the stories were not easily accessible in Australia at the time).
I’ll agree with Gladiator being overrated inasmuch as Sir Ridley Scott was able to greatly improve upon the historical epic with his director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven, in my opinion.
I’m one of the only 7 people in America who likes Speed Racer so I would say it’s underrated. I liked Juno, but DAMN was that overhyped, we watched that in film class, that’s WAY too over the line! I think a lot of Violent films get underrated by the public at large, like Clockwork Orange.
Juno, The Departed, Zodiac and Crash. Finally a place where I can say they were all overrated and not be considered a pretentious film snob.
Miller’s Crossing, I think, is underrated. Agree?
Some really interesting things here. For instance, Alien 3 is fascinating in terms of Fincher making what he can out of the strictures—Juenet did the same thing with Alien 4. Also, Fire Walk with me—very strong. I only saw that recently (last year). I avoided it when it came out because rarely had I seen critics so viciously go after a movie. I couldn’t believe it could have any value and Lynch went adrift for awhile after that so I continued to think it worth staying away from. Now mind you, otherwise I love Lynch. Anyway, a year ago I went through and watched all Lynch again and felt that I should see Firewalk for the sake of completion. It’s amazing and really, really sad and bleak. Some of it is really haunting—moments as strong as anything else DL has done. Now, completely free of any Twin Peaks expectations, I saw it on its own terms. So, unbelievably underrated.
Overrated? Last year at Marienbad, Million Dollar Baby, Rushmore. Zodiac? Only in comparison to Fincher’s other films (except for Panic Room)—he is a genius, Alan, I agree.
By the way, Campbell I agree with you about Seance on a Wet Afternoon, so might I recommend Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s remake/homage: Seance? A truly sad, heartbreaking, beautiful film.
I’d also add (Kiyoshi) kurosawa as an underrated director.
I’d agree on Kiyoshi Kurosawa – everything I’ve seen has been at least inventive, and Cure (which got plenty of hype) and Bright Future (which got nearly none) are two very different, great films.
Ughhh completely agree with Crash and Juno.
However, I think that Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette is really underrated. I thought it was amazing. There aren’t very many films that everyone hates and I love, but that is an example I can think of.
I agree with Alanedit that Alien 3 was underrated. It beats James Cameron’s sequel for me on all counts. (Which is also probably why I enjoy the original version of The Exorcist better than the redux version released as “The Version you’ve never seen”)
“the departed” was terrible to me. a completely unimaginative policier. the ending was so bad, it was disappointing. its third tier scorsese for sure. on its best day, doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with “good fellas” or “taxi driver”
Blindness was completely underrated! I agree with Akash on this. This was a film that challenged the audience (reminded me of Salo for some reason) and went to ugly places to make a statement on human nature when in need. A lot of people dismissed it as nihilistic, but adventurous viewers had their thinking cells massaged. A truly interesting movie from an interesting director (Fernando Meirelles.).
Absolutely gotta agree with Miller’s Crossing being underrated.
And Sunshine (but barely, it was a little boring).
Thought of another underrated film—Danny Boyle’s Sunshine.
Yes, Just Yes.
Viva La Departed.
And while I’m making enemies, Into The Wild is underrated.
@Richard- Sunshine was such a disappointment. Danny Boyle directing, gorgeous to look at, great intro/set up/conflict, silly premise (but that’s ok). Then, the second half just falls apart. Instead of the tension between whether the crew will reach their goal or not, Sun-Zombie comes out of nowhere, and turns the film into a 28 days later in space. WTF? I would have been less disappointed had it just sucked. Instead, Sunshine starts out strong and then collapses.
Crash (Paul Haggis), Breathless, Amarcord, Summer of Sam, Half Nelson (the latter could have been half as long and twice as powerful)
Rolling Thunder, Akumulator 1, Bliss (1985), Ariel, Drifting Clouds, Mishima: A life in 4 parts, Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me
Sheryl Lee deserved both the Oscar AND a lifetime achievement award for what she and David Lynch managed to squeeze out of just that one performance. And on top of that, the rest of the film was of high caliber and deserves good standing in Lynch’s body of work.
In response to several posts on this forum:
I expected sofia coppola’s MARIE-ANTOINETTE to be better. I was expecting it to fall under the underrated category. Then i saw it, and had to agree with just about every criticism out there. I understand what Sofia was trying to say, but the film was boring, which worked against the message.
I think ZODIAC was incredibly underrated. Just about all the critics raved about it, had it on there top ten lists that year, but still, no one went to see it. The average film goer didn’t give a damn. I found the film incredibly engrossing and captivating, and felt Fincher’s direction was brilliant. Plus Robert Downy Jr. can do no wrong.
Other films i think are underrated:
Kurosawa’s The Lower Depths
Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers
Russel’s I Heart Huckabees.
Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchousen
Gondry’s The Science Of Sleep
Coppola’s The Godfather part III
Madden’s Shakespeare In Love
Lost, the television series (no, not a film, but i had to say it)
Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge
and, just for controversy,
Anderson’s Boogie Nights. It’s good, damn good, sure, but his best? I don’t think so.
The 80s as a decade for film
Animation as cinema
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu
Many Oscar Best Pictures
I am totally with the OP as to Zodiac. If you want a period piece about (a) murderer(s), Lonely Hearts is by far a superior film.
I’ve seen ‘Crash’ knocked several times in this forum but it’s definitely one of my favorite films. Was it manipulative? Clearly. Facile? Well… yeah. Visceral and moving, with great performances and memorable dialogue? Absolutely! I guess I’ll have to respectfully disagree on ‘Zodiac’, ‘Juno’, ‘The Departed’ and ‘Lost in Transalation’ as well, all of which I think are great films. Interesting argument though and I would also agree that ‘Into the Wild’ is a great film although I have some qualms with it, I think the overall effect was quite powerful. If a movie moves me, wether it’s obvious manipulation or not, I think that’s a great experience. For me, all of the above were… well, I’m gonna say it, “Classics”
I love Crash as well.
I’d totally give you a thumbs up right now Jay, but for some reason anything related to thumbs up or down just disappeared.
Does anyone know anything about this?
I have another underrated—Radio On. Bleak and breathtaking and challenging. Also, it offers a good example for the case that America doesn’t own the market on road movies.
And my quick defense of Sunshine: I realize that for a lot of people that appearance of the stalker in the 4th act throws the movie off. I think, though, that it is adds a great deal. First, he becomes the embodiment of negative transcendence (he wants to be the last man left with God, remember) and that serves to make the film a meditation on chance, fate, agnecy, and transcendence—without really resolving any of these.
Manohla Dargis (critic)
Fight Club (actually, the entire body of work by David Fincher, with the exceptions of Se7en and Zodiac )
Paul Thomas Anderson
Lord of the Rings
The Shawshank Redemption
Breathless… Actually, the entire oeuvre of Jean-Luc Godard
[Note: I’m not saying anything in the “Overrated” section is complete fodder, and doesn’t deserve mention, just that I think it is… well, overrated. The converse it true for the “Underrated” section.]
I’ve occasionally wondered why Alan Parker and Robert Benton aren’t more appreciated. While they’ve directed some arguable misfires, even those are as watchable as the more attention-grabbing work by their peers.
I know someone up above caled it indefensible but I think The Brown Bunny is a very underrated film. It may be a familiar story but it was told powerfully and the final revelation moved me to tears.