3 Films That Are Sadly Underrated

Off the back of our own Joseph berating universally liked films, I thought I’d have a punt at raising awareness of some films I think are either unfairly maligned or simply forgotten amongst the annals of movie history.

Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2006)

Using the movie rating system Flickchart (it’ll steal hours of you time, beware!) I can see that Southland Tales rates as my 34th favourite movie. Comparatively in the world rankings, it comes in at 4875th. Quite the discrepancy. I’m with Joe when he says Donnie Darko gets more than it’s fair share of the limelight and it becomes almost egregious when you consider just how hated Kelly’s second (imo superior) picture really is.

It’s a huge Sci-Fi ensemble piece set in a alternative timeline in which Texas has been nuked and WWIII has broken out in America. It works as a satirise of the Iraq War. Beyond that, it takes aim at celebrity, neo-Marxism, drugs, PTSD and time travel. Criticisms land mostly around these areas, Southland Tales has a lot of strands and tackles a lot of big issues and came sometimes be rather muddled, but if you stand back and admire the bigger picture, it really is quite astonishing.

When you factor in a relatively subdued performance from Stifler himself Sean William-Scott, an early performance form pre-Social Network it’s-OK-to-like-him-as-an-actor Justin Timberlake and a truly deranged performance from a mad-eyed, manic Dwanye Johnson and it’s hard to resist.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004)

Wes Anderson is one of those directors who are almost universally praised. For those who know, he is meticulous in his art direction, rigid in his beautifully choreographed cinematography, for all the “quirkiness” (for lack of a better word) of his characters, his scenarios, his dialogue and his mise en scéne, his filmmaking is remarkably conceived.

His previous film The Royal Tennenbaums is a film oft considered his pinnacle but I contest that The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is Anderson’s most Andersonian zenith.

Perennial Anderson side player and all round excellent guy Bill Murray take the headline spot here as intrepid explorer and documentary hero Steve Zissou. His long time friend and docu-partner Esteban is eaten by the legendary (and fictional) Jaguar Shark. What follows is an endearing movie in which Zissou comes to terms with his loss whilst hunting aforementioned shark for revenge. He is joined by Ned (Owen Wilson) who is his long lost son and a pregnant reporter (Cate Blanchett) writing a story on perhaps the wilting glory of Zissou as his career comes to a close.

It features all the hallmarks of Anderson’s movies tied to a more unconventional story (as if any of his stories are truly conventional), it is emotional, exciting and hilarious along with being completely immersive in its look. It’s large budget made it a box office failure and has been referred to as perhaps slightly more smug or self serving than Anderson’s other works but I believe that it succeeds as one of his less overly lovey-dovey movies (looking at you Moonrise Kingdom) and one with equal amounts of whimsy, charm and eccentricity. (And it’s also got one the funkiest scores going.)

The Proposition (John Hillcoat, 2005) 

Written by future great and personal favourite John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless) and written by the inimitable Nick Cave, The Proposition is a violent, hazy heat stroke of a Western. It’s not a film that is unfairly bagged on but one that I’m sure has slipped through the fissures.

Australian set and circling rising tensions surrounding both the British occupation of Oz and the subjugation of the Aboriginal peoples, it tells the story of a trio of outlaw brothers. When the middle and younger brothers are apprehended by vicious Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone, hellbent on pacifying the Outback for his family to thrive), they are issued a chilling ultimatum. Middle brother Charlie (Guy Pearce) must hunt down and bring to justice older brother Arthur (Danny Huston) within nine days, else younger brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) will be executed.

What follows is a Western both ethereal and visceral. It’s at times sickening violent and at others brilliantly tense, especially an extended dialogue scene with a terribly drunk John Hurt.

I could go on and on defending films I love but have written way more for these three than I originally envisioned. I did want to defend Jim Carrey since Joseph hasn’t given him the time of day he deserves and might start a series defending actors or directors that I feel aren’t given the kudos they deserve eg. Nicolas Cage, Keanu Reeves & Sylvester Stallone. Let me know what you guys think RE: that as an ongoing series and what films are favourites of yours that are hated by the common consensus.

– Oliver Drew



3 thoughts

  1. Haven’t seen the first or last. But I think Life Aquatic always entertaining but not great. Which means I wouldn’t call it underrated, personally.

    Still, I like your commentary!

    • I fully advise you seek them both out! And that you suspend judgment on Southland Tales entirely, it’s definitely a bizarre film but one worth watching. Zissou is a film built from great moments, with a great score and some great performances. Maybe into doesn’t quite coalesce into a great piece, but it is by no means lacking in merits.

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