CAN YOU SAY UNDERRATED?
Article by Abbey Archer
Confession: I spend way too much time watching movies, and an even more ungodly amount studying and dissecting them. I try to go into a movie with a clear mind, in order to get a more well-rounded opinion with the experience. Every year I attempt to watch at least 40 movies that come out that year, and I follow the critics pretty closely. Sometimes I agree with their reviews wholeheartedly; sometimes I think, “Oh, come on, it wasn’t that bad.” And sometimes, a movie comes along that is praised by the general public, but then the acclaim fizzles out, pushed aside in favor of more flashy projects that rake in a ton of cash. In a world full of blockbuster conglomerates and barely-seen Oscar Indies, here are some movies that definitely deserve a lot more love than they ever receive.
EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987)
As hard as it is to imagine a Spielberg movie going largely unnoticed, there is one that hardly gets any attention. Coming in after THE COLOR PURPLE and before INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, EMPIRE OF THE SUN is about a spoiled British kid living in Shanghai during World War II, who is plucked out of his cushy life and thrown into a Japanese internment camp. It was nominated for 6 Oscars — and then preceded to fall off the grid. It often is unfairly ignored in the Spielberg filmography when compared to the likes of E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL and JAWS, when it should be held in the same esteem. Pre-BATMAN Christian Bale plays the boy who is forced to grow up and learn to survive without his parents, and he is outstanding. Spielberg directs the crap out of this movie, telling the coming-of-age story with the fantastical realism that paved the way for his other WWII-based films. Go find a copy of this, and tell me that the ending doesn’t make you tear up even a little bit.
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (2005)
This Rob Marshall movie is a visual treat to the eye. We follow little Chiyo in 1920s Japan as she grows from an awkward, poor fisherman’s daughter to Kyoto’s most acclaimed geisha. Contrary to popular belief, geisha are NOT prostitutes, but artists who are masters of dance, conversation, and appearance — as evident in the breathtaking costumes worn throughout. The production behind this movie is perfect, which is why it took home Oscars for costume design, art direction, and cinematography. It features strong performances, a wonderful score (John Williams was robbed of the Oscar!), and a familiar story that offers a new take on the classic Cinderella narrative. However, I understand the mixed reviews towards this. Yes, it’s long and can drag a little bit. Yes, it is strange that the majority of the actors are Chinese. Yes, the story has very mature themes involving sexuality and romance. But it’s still worth a watch, even just to be blown away by the sheer artistry of the whole story.
STRANGER THAN FICTION (2006)
This is one of the more bizarrely original movies of the 21st century: Will Ferrell hears a mystery woman in his head, narrating his mundane life. When he discovers that the woman is an author with the intention of killing him off, he starts a journey to keep her from doing so, all the while taking chances and finding joy in pent-up spontaneity. I won’t spoil anything, only to say that it’s the perfect blend of comedy, tragedy, romance, and drama, all led by the stellar cast and ingenuity of the direction. I’m honestly surprised not a lot more people talk about it, or have seen it because it’s so delightful to watch. It’s the Charlie Kaufman film that Charlie Kaufman never wrote or directed — which is a compliment if you ask me.
WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967)
For the Hitchcock fans out there, this movie is for you. Audrey Hepburn stars in this thriller as a blind woman who has to ward off an intruder in her home by herself. When it was first released, the studio sent a note to all the theaters: ‘’During the last eight minutes of this picture the theatre will be darkened to the legal limit, to heighten the terror of the breathtaking climax which takes place in nearly total darkness on the screen. … And of course, no one will be seated at this time.’’ It was a huge success, and Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar … and yet, just like above-mentioned EMPIRE OF THE SUN, it’s not nearly remembered enough to this day. It more than holds its own with the likes of PSYCHO and REAR WINDOW, so the next time you get the itch to watch a classic scary movie, pop this in. You won’t be disappointed.
I remember going to see this in the theater and being the only girl in there (I’m a sucker for boxing movies and the like), and I can say, with confidence, that I wasn’t the only one crying after watching this. Warrior is a mixed martial arts movie, but it is so much more than that: it’s a story of estranged brothers that train for the million-dollar prize and title of MMA glory. Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and especially Nick Nolte give such knockout (sorry) performances, you truly believe they’re a family torn apart from past trauma. The fight sequences are well-crafted and choreographed, and the emotion in between the action is so palpable, you’ll feel the anxiety of the stakes right in your throat and the pit of your stomach. And that final scene … well, it makes grown men weepy. Everyone I’ve told to watch this agrees that it is an incredible movie, so I’m not just tooting my own horn.
I could have featured a whole lot more movies on here, and perhaps in the future, I’ll write up a continuation to this. For now, do yourselves a favor and check these 5 out. You can rent all of these for cheap on Amazon, so what are you waiting for?