Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Underappreciated Films of 2008 / Rental Suggestions

Year in Review Part 4 of 5

"Overrated" and "Underrated" are loaded statements when it comes to the critical and popular reception of movies. They suggest a false notion that there exists an easily cited consensus but depending on who you read and where you get your information consensus may vary. Which means it isn't consensus. Confusing. "Underappreciated", my preferred appellation, has its limits too. It suggests that one can't include films with decent to huge box office so for this year's "Underappreciated" roundup I'm spotlighting films that almost no one saw (along with their gross to prove it). They're not perfect but still worth a look.


Surely you'll agree that Ludivine Sagnier is luscious no matter how many lovers she's juggling, The Fall's hospital bedside storytelling device is more successful than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button's, and that Ben Kingsley (Elegy) is far more convincing as a sexual magnet than Philip Seymour Hoffman (Synecdoche New York). Also discussed: Ciao, Turn the River and Trouble the Water
Which films do you think deserved more attention this year?

also in the year in review
Top Twelve Films (Best of the Year)
Hyperboles Gone Wild (Over Appreciated Films)
Hell's Multiplex (Worst Films & Performances)
FiLM BiTCH Awards Promo (because we love motion pictures)


Anonymous said...

Underappreciated 2008:

THE FALL- I truly fail to understand how this was met with such limited distribution and buzz. Tarsem’s epic about an injured silent-movie stuntman, a handicapped child and an elaborate tale of five mythical heroes was so much more than just cinematic eye-candy.
Granted, I understand detractor’s quibbles with the script’s inconsistencies (and barrowings from WIZARD OF OZ)- as the last act doesn’t quite match the visuals as well as the beginning in terms of story— but there’s plenty to redeem: the characterizations are compelling and on a technical level, the film is flawless; the cinematography and art direction groundbreaking and visually arresting. The costumes innovative and truly dazzling. The direction both inspired and imaginative. I’ve come to regard Tarsem’s THE CELL as one of the best films of 2000 and while his latest effort here isn’t quite as magnificent, it’s still a magical triumph. Plus, David Fincher, Spike Jonze and Roger Ebert endorsed it so… there. ☺

SAVAGE GRACE- Flawed? Sure. Fascinating? You better belive it. This taboo-flaunting film isn’t perfect but the bold direction, clever screenplay and strong performances are worth far more than the tepid reception it received. The ending may leave a bad taste behind but it goes to show that truth really can be stranger than fiction. Bonus points for the shrewd costume design and Stephen Dillane’s quite yet diabolic performance- both nomination-worthy.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Wait, holy shit! You beat me to it- Nathaniel... you DID see "The Fall"?!!??

I didn't see a grade. But it sound like your a fan. Is it in contention for your Top 10?

P.S. Awsome write up as usual- yesterday’s was also fun and comprehensive I might add . I'm on pins-and-needles for your Top 10/Film Bitch awards. :)

Anonymous said...


Both movies are in my personal Top 10 movies of 2008 and yes they have been severely underappreciated. Thank you for taking time to single them out.

I would only venture to add Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (screenplay by Simon Beaufoy of Slumdog Millionaire fame). I'm a Lee Pace fan. ;-)

alex said...

Yay for the Elegy love. I was very, very impressed.

What a year for Cruz. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Shawn on "Miss Pettigrew". A wonderful actor's piece, it looked effortless because of the high level of skill in acting, directing, script adapatation, costumes, etc. And I'm pretty sure ths is a better showcase for Amy Adams than "Doubt". And yes, I loved it when Lee Pace began to sing (he's so talented!)

I also really liked "In Bruges". If this had come out with a push in November, it'd be on the Top 10 lists. The leads are all so good, that I was in a state of delight. I agree with the reviewer who said that it's amazing there are so many genuine laughs in such a tragic piece.

And gone before you even knew it was there, "Pride and Glory" with Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, and Noah Emmerich. This had some of the best cinematography I've seen all year (one of the Quinn brothers) and some of the most generous ensemble cast work.

There were others I wanted to see, Roman A Gare, La Duchesse de Langlois, some of the other French films, but they weren't available. It makes me just want to go and live in the Cinemateque in Paris for a month.

gabrieloak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gabrieloak said...

Certainly The Edge of Heaven which was little shown and little seen. A fantastic screenplay with great performances and a worthy follow up to Head On. Certainly better than most of the films being considered for the Oscars this year. It was slighted by the Academy's foreign film committee last year.

RJ said...

Delta Charlie Delta.

I didn't love Love Songs, but those songs are heavenly.

BTW someone told me I read you too much after I used the phrase 'animation ghetto' yesterday. Hehe

Carl Joseph Papa said...

what is your grade for the fall?

Glenn said...

I don't remember a grade for The Fall, either. I so wish they would release that movie here. Just for a week! Anything! As a matter of fact, none of the movies you mentioned have been released here. Not Trouble the Water or Elegy and definitely not Turn the River, which I would totally see on your recommendation alone.

You're right about queer cinema, which is very sad. Yet another victim of there being too many filmmakers without enough vision. And, of course, most of them are dreadful writer/director combos from people who can neither write nor direct.

Underappreciated titles would definitely be Black Water, a fright-filled Aussie horror flick that is legitimately scary. There is one scene set almost entirely in pitch black that defines "use your imagination".

And I'd throw Anna Faris' performance in The House Bunny as entirely underapppreciated. That thing is a work of genius and because of the movie around it even got the shaft from the HFPA who should've been jumping on that performance like a dog in heat.

Hallam Foe because it's actually quite good and yet nobody went. Perhaps they were haunted by memories of David Mackenzie's dreadful Young Adam? I know if it weren't for Jamie Bell I would have avoided Foe like the plague.

All My Friends are Leaving Brisbane was a well-written aussie romcom that should've been much bigger down here. It's snappier and better looking than most depressing Hollywood versions of the same story.

And I'd throw Speed Racer in the pile too. Just because I don't think it's as bad as everyone else seems to say.

Anonymous said...

while I usually agree with you, I thoght Ciao was... An incomplete sentence. Would have made a great short.

Anonymous said...

IN BRUGES and ELEGY are two very underappreciated films of the year.. Both had fine screenplays and wonderful performances.

I really hope you show them both some love in your awards.

Tim said...

Not that The Fall needs any more love in this comment thread, but it's going to get it anyway. My second-favorite movie of the year, and then only because my love for WALL-E approaches the pathological.

Also underappreciated: Flight of the Red Balloon, Edge of Heaven and My Winnipeg. Sort of a "Pretentious Film Snob" buffet, but I do not deny that I am such a creature.

Anonymous said...

I Think Miss Pettigrew lives for a day could have got more attention, i think if it was released in august-december it could have been nominated for GG.

Well "The Edge of Love" was really good but hasn't got much attention, it could have been an Oscar contender if it was released in USA this year, but instead they're planning a March 2009 release i think.

Sally Belle said...

I'll agree with Hallam Foe or Mister Foe for us hicks.

Jamie Bell is, as always, fantastic. And Sophia Myles continues to redeem herself from the Thunderbirds fiasco.

Also Elegy. ( Oh...Ben Kingsley was in Thunderbirds too! )

I can't go along with the Miss Pettigrew love however. Frances McDormand looked like she was searching for an escape hatch, and I'm just about ready to slap Amy Adams in the face.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see your comment on HALLAM FOE, Glenn, because YOUNG ADAM actually has a solid critical constituency and McKenzie was one of the things that made me curious about the Bell flick.

Underappreciated? A NECESSARY DEATH, a heartwrenching fictional documentary that manages to be an intriguing essay on art and personal relationships with a kicker of an ending.

LOVE SONGS definitely. BOY A, if only for the ASTONISHING leading performance from Andrew Garfield - one of the decade's finest. CHICAGO 10 for it's thrilling pace and ardor.

I can't echo the love for THE FALL though. I'm struggling through it. I loathe the leading performance from the young girl and the aesthetics aren't that impressive.

Anonymous said...

I'm agree with Love Songs mention. Chiara Mastroianni and Louis Garrel are marvelous, and Garrel sexy and gorgeous as always!! ;).

Savage Grace but only for Julianne Moore's performance. She's awfully snubbed for that award season :(

I need to see Hallam Foe and Boy A

And I forgot Burn the Bridges. Fantastic mexican film (Much better instead "Arrancame la Vida") and Irene Azuelas is fantastic

Glenn said...

Arkaan, I know. I like to pretend that Young Adam is reviled the world over.

Leah P. said...

Steve Coogan in Hamlet 2. The movie was just okay, but he was fantastic! He should have gotten the globe nom over Tom Cruise.

gabrieloak said...

I agree about Coogan in Hamlet 2. I guess comedy is subjective. I found him hysterically funny but my friend who saw the film with me couldn't stand the film.

MadHatter said...

Nate, you're wrong about Chronicles of Narnia.. just wrong. The performances were fine, and the story still resonates. The action sequences were as good as any fantasy film in a while, and the creature work was even stronger than the original. Additionally, the story works as a nice metaphor for what the younger generations want out of the world and how far we must be willing to fight for it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes to The Fall! So glad it's your #1. It needs to be released again so that folks can see it on the big screen. Ebert is featuring it at his Overlooked Film Festival in the spring.