Here’s a great list for those cinephiles who’ve run out of movies to watch: over at the Telegraph, Mike McCahill has compiled and numbered fifty of the most underrated films of all time. This isn’t just another round of familiar titles that fanboys love and think aren’t appreciated enough (yes, we all know Edgar Wright’s work is underrated). “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Better Off Dead” are properly represented, but most of the choices are films I’ve never even heard of — including number one pick, “The Gigolos” — let alone seen. Part of this could be that it’s a fairly Anglo-centric list. I’m not sure.
A lot of others are titles I just kept putting off or forgot about, like “Meet the Applegates” and “P.S.” A few are personal favorites, like “The City of Lost Children” and “Grave of the Fireflies.” In all I’ve seen only 11 of the 50, and the first of these just barely made the top ten (“Osmosis Jones,” which I thought was ok). The second, at 13, is one I’ll definitely agree with: “Good Bye, Dragon Inn,” though I don’t think it’s necessarily as accessible to the same people who should see “Ace in the Hole” or “Simple Men” or even “Lagaan” (which McCahill should remind is a terrific underdog sports film and hardly like most Bollywood films).
After the jump I’ve selected five more films I think are very underrated. Have any others to add?
1. “The Rules of Attraction” (2002) – If you think the college kids in “The Social Network” are too unlikeable you’re better off skipping this Bret Easton Ellis adaptation from Roger Avary. But you’re also missing some of the freshest and most abnormal camera tricks and film structure employed in a movie of this sort. Is Ian Somerhalder a big enough star yet to bring an audience to this drama of depraved student life?
2. “Jabberwocky” (1977) – A kind of missing link between the Monty Python movies and Terry Gilliam’s solo efforts, it’s rarely discussed even among fans of both or either. It is, to be fair, not quite as hilarious as its predecessor, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” nor is it as inventive as Gilliam’s later works, but I just love it’s crudeness and much of its more subtle black humor. Plus, young Michael Palin is a treat in anything.
3. “The Magdalene Sisters” (2002) – There are few people more excited than me that Peter Mullan finally has a follow-up (“Neds”) to this tragically under-seen period piece about an Irish Catholic reformatory asylum. Between this and “The Rules of Attraction,” by the way, 2002 was a great year for brilliant opening sequences. See this one’s here.
4. “One, Two, Three” (1961) – Since McCahil included a Billy Wilder film, I will too. Like “Ace in the Hole,” this one didn’t do so well in its original release, but at least TCM has been showing it now and again. Despite it being twenty years since the Cold War faded away this zippy satire of the clash between East and West is not dated at all. I also think it’s both James Cagney’s and Coca-Cola’s best film.
5. “Birth” (2004) – I am very sorry I missed the NYFF screening of Jonathan Glazer’s sophomore effort the other night. Did anyone laugh? Because I think it’s one of the greatest black comedies of the past decade, though I do recognize it’s not the laugh-out-loud sort of humor. It also reminds us just how little we know about love and our loves. I’m sure the reason the film didn’t catch on well with moviegoers is that everyone left the theater severely doubting their relationships and that resulted in some very awkward movie date nights. I also love “Birth” for first turning me on to the beautiful scores of Alexandre Desplat.
Some more movies I think deserve more love than they’re given: “Dick Tracy”; “The Boss of it All”; “Road to Perdition”; “You Can’t Take It With You”; “Back to the Future Part III”; and of course many, many documentaries.