Thursday, April 11, 2013
John Daniel's Top 5 Most Underrated Movies
5. The Lost Weekend (1945)
Can this really be considered underrated? It won 4 academy awards: Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Ray Milland), Best Director (Billy Wilder), and Best Picture--all of which were quite deserved. But since 1945, it seems it has been forgotten. Why don't we hear more about this movie? We hear about Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, Double Indemnity, Some Like it Hot, and other Wilder films, but why not this one? It is definitely one of his best.
A graphic portrayal of intense alcoholism, The Lost Weekend was the Shame (2011) of its day. Incredibly vivid, its representation of alcoholism is as powerful and haunting today as it was in the 40s. There were several times in the movie where I was genuinely frightened. It is just as overwhelming as Requiem for a Dream.
Ray Milland's performance is absolutely stunning and convincing. With it, the movie brilliantly conveys its meaning and purpose without being preachy or sacrificing reality (like The Public Enemy). It is not naive, and does not pull any punches: the film is accurate, explosive, and full of force. Like Shame and Requiem for a Dream, at the finish, one decides firmly, "That horror will not be my life!"
4. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
When this movie ended, I wanted to start it over and watch it again. How can Adam Sandler be so dumb so much of the time, and then give an award-deserving performance in one of Paul Thomas Anderson's best films?
Sandler's Barry Egan is one of the greatest movie characters I have ever seen. Barry is a completely vulnerable person, and Sandler's performance brings the audience into solidarity with every emotion he is feeling. When he feels disappointed, the audience hurts. When he is angry, the audience is angry. When he cries, the audience feels like crying. When he is happy, the audience experiences the same wonderful joy.
With Punch-Drunk Love, Anderson has created a beautiful love story, with so much color. It is often like a fairy tale: a nervous, neurotic, lonely, depressed guy meets a calm, stable, beautiful, absolutely lovely lady and finds in her pure comfort, pure home. This inspires him to rise above himself and accomplish things he never would have accomplished otherwise.
Absolutely enjoyable, Punch-Drunk Love takes one through the beautiful journey of Barry's soul: from tears to leaps of joy; from defeatism to awesome victory; from running away like a child, to becoming Clint Eastwood; from not being able to confront his sisters, to overpowering Philip Seymour Hoffman (another feature of the movie).
Punch-Drunk Love is funny, lovely, full of joy, and perfect. It is an emotional ride, but a fulfilling one. I simply love this movie!
3. Ed Wood (1994)
By far Tim Burton's best movie, and maybe Johnny Depp's best performance, it does not make sense to me why Ed Wood is not a very well-known movie. The movie includes so many good perfmances, including the award-winning Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, Depp's quirky Edward D. Wood, Jr., the hilarious Bill Murray, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
The performances are not the only wonderful things this movie has to offer. It is exceptionally original, yet very Tim Burton. The film is in black and white, includes graveyards, fake plastic flying saucers, creepy Lugosi hand gestures, angora sweaters, transvestites, a rubber octopus, and on and on. How is this movie not popular? It is hilarious! Yet not without a serious tone. A movie about the director of Plan 9 from Outer Space simply could not have been any better.
2. Lolita (1962)
Lolita is about a man who falls insanely in love--or, better, in lust--with a 15-year-old girl named Lolita. His mad obsession with her leads him down a road that will completely change his life, down to the very core of his being.
Maybe Stanley Kubrick's best film, the movie stars James Mason, with Peter Sellers in a supporting role. With this, it may not be the most underrated film, but it definitely does not receive the recognition that it should.
Throughout the movie, one is surprised again and again that it came out in the early 60s. The whole film is coated with layers of eerie darkness, and each character is twisted in his/her own special way. One cannot help but think, "This is just not okay." All of it adds up to an absolutely brilliant, absolutely entertaining Kubrick masterpiece.
1. The Trial (1962)
Orson Welles is a very highly acclaimed director, and is yet completely underrated at the same time. No one doubts the magnificence of Citizen Kane, but what of The Magnificent Ambersons, Journey into Fear, Othello, The Lady from Shanghai, or The Stranger? But by far the most underrated film of all time is his The Trial. It is a 60s film, but it looks worse than The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari did before it was restored!
The picture to the right is an example of your typical DVD case for The Trial. It looks terrible! Who gets paid to make that crap? It is so unfortunate, because the movie is brilliant.
The Trial is frustrating at first because it is so confusing. What is going on?! There is an overarching story (a man is "arrested" for a reason completely unknown to him), but one gets side-tracked because every scene presents more questions, and none of them are ever answered. It isn't until you realize that you're watching a nightmare that you actually begin to stop trying to understand and start realizing how amazing the movie is. It is a prime example of the film wizardry of which Welles was so capable.