Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s

by Professor Wagstaff
A sort of sequel to this thread, a few years back the Online Film Critics Society published a list of what they thought was the 100 most overlooked films of the 1990s. The list in what appears to be order of rating is below with my comments on those films I've seen:

Miller's Crossing
Safe
The Sweet Hereafter
Lone Star
Heavenly Creatures
Waiting for Guffman
The Hudsucker Proxy
Babe: Pig in the City
Dead Man
Fearless – Haven’t seen it for a few years, but this film starring Jeff Bridges struggling dealing with the fact that he miraculously survived a plane crash without harm is first-class. It’s easy to see why it failed at the box-office as it was that 1990s Hollywood mainstream rarity – a central character that wasn’t that likable, slowly paced, doesn’t spell everything out. Definitely deserving of being here.
Bound
Chungking Express
The Straight Story
Searching for Bobby Fishcer
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai
That Thing You Do!
Dead Again
Sneakers – For the most part this caper comedy starring Robert Redford is smart, slick and entertaining. But it really lets itself down in the final few minutes with a really dumb ending that sees it go from the mentality of an intelligent feature film to a dumbass sitcom. Despite that, deserving of being in this list.
Zero Effect
The Butcher Boy
Truly, Madly, Deeply
In the Company of Men
Devil in a Blue Dress
The Red Violin
Cemetery Man
Hamlet
Breakdown
Welcome to the Dollhouse
The Apostle
Eve's Bayou
Hard Eight
Defending Your Life – Albert Brooks comedies invariably tend to be underrated as despite them having a lot of good qualities, he’s seen as a poor man’s Woody Allen. I really liked this when I first saw it but seeing it again recently, it just wasn’t as funny as I imagined. I think the issue is that while Brooks can draw up clever situations, he doesn’t maximize the potential humour out of situations. Still, probably deserving of entry in here.
A Little Princess
Bringing Out the Dead
Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
Jacob's Ladder
The Spanish Prisoner
Pump Up the Volume
Beautiful Girls
The Double Life of Veronique
Very Bad Things
Richard III
October Sky
Strange Days – This James Cameron written film is the classic template of an underrated film who’s reputation grows over the years. Has too many unpleasant and other elements to make it popular but its overall qualities ensure that it gets appreciated for the generally fine film it is. No classic and not really overlooked, but deserving of being in here.
My Neighbor Totoro
L.A. Story – Slick and enjoyable Steve Martin film that looks like a masterpiece compared to the dreck he’s dished out in the last few years
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
A Bronx Tale
The Limey
A Perfect World
Before Sunrise
Bob Roberts
Dick – Comedy imagining that the Watergate scandal was actually started by two teenage girls. Lame one-joke effort that deserved to be ignored.
Raise the Red Lantern
One False Move
The Ref – This Christmas comedy has a lot of things going for it. Constantly sharp, funny and cynical with an excellent cast including Denis Leary, Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis. It isn’t as satisfying as it should be as its not particularly well directed and gets a bit sappy at the end, but I liked it a lot more then this decade’s version of a cynical Xmas comedy, ‘Bad Santa’. A deserved entry on this list.
Exotica
Sontaine
Joe Versus the Volcano – Doesn’t deserve to be here, not just because its an ordinary movie but because its somewhat galling that the star, Tom Hanks, who was treated as the greatest actor going around in the 1990s, now gets a category in the underrated section. Let someone more deserving get the adulation.
Matinee
The Ice Storm – Film examining an early 1970s middle-class American group of families who are completely unable to handle the new permissive lifestyle. While this film has a lot of good qualities that make it a critic’s favourite, it’s emotionally cold which distances one from the film and while a worthy film in many aspects, it could’ve been better and not one that demands repeat viewings
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – It may have been ‘underrated’ in America but it was the opposite in Australia. It was a massive hit here and was all the rage for a while. Never really cared for it from what I've seen of it.
Croupier
The Winslow Boy
Girl on the Bridge
Bullet in the Head
Darkman
Cannibal! The Musical
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
Smoke
The Last Days of Disco
Fresh
Eye of God
Flirting with Disaster
Bottle Rocket
Ashes of Time
Fallen Angels
Great Expectations
Kundun
A Midnight Clear
Deep Cover
Ravenous
Twin Falls, Idaho
The People vs. Larry Flynt – Fine film documenting how Hustler publisher Larry Flynt became an unlikely champion of free speech in America. It’s raised being a well done but predictable film by being well directed by the underrated Milos Forman.
Quick Change – While its not up there with Bill Murray’s best films (its not bad), this was a significant turning point in his career as he began to shed his 1980s persona (which I often found obnoxious and smug) into much more richly rewarding and diverse work. ‘What about Bob?’ would’ve been a better choice, a very funny film.
The Secret of Roan Inish
Beloved
Big Night
Topsy-Turvy
Living in Oblivion
Jesus' Son
Glengarry Glen Ross – An excellent film but does this belong in this list? I thought it was the classic case of a film whose reputation has deservedly grown over the years.
Chaplin – Biopic of Charlie Chaplin. Robert Downey Jr. is excellent in the title role but apart from that this has little going for that, mainly because as per usual director Richard Attenborough is obvious and heavy-handed, makes it pretty tedious. The best bit of the film is the montage of clips from Chaplin’s own work, showing up how inferior the rest of the film is.
Dead Alive
Jude
Cradle Will Rock
Proof
The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl
Titus
Mystery Men – Saw about 30 mins of it recently, seemed like a film with some good ideas but yet another badly executed, laboured Hollywood comedy. I guess by this stage they were struggling to fill out the list and had to take what they could get.

It's a good idea for list although I think they could've narrowed it down to 50 or less. They've either got films that plainly don't deserve to be there (Mystery Men) or films that were fairly popular or got critical acclaim at the time of release (The Apostle, That Thing you Do!)

What other candidates are there for the list? I can't think of too many right now, although as I wrote above, 'What About Bob?' would've been a better Bill Murray choice then 'Quick Change'. It's hilarious and never really goes out of control until the very end.

One of the two Brady Bunch movies they made in the mid-1990s I would also have there. They may not seem like much, but in a decade of poorly thought out movies based on TV shows, this was an exception that managed to be an entertaining spoof on the series but something that fans of the show could still take to.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Joe Sherry said...

Good list.

Ghost Dog was fantastic and I've seen enough of the list to be impressed by it, though there are a few flicks there that I really don't think deserve inclusion (Mystery Men...for a couple of reasons), but I can buy The Apostle or That Thing You Do being included because even though they got notice when released, they've been ignored since...but 95% of movies released in a given year would fall into that category.

October Sky falls in to that category of flicks which received notice in the year it was released and ignored after.

I thought Smoke Signals probably deserved a place on the list in place of the second Babe movie which had a decent marketing campaign, I remember.

3/25/2007 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous lora said...

Jacob's Ladder, Deep Cover, Heavenly Creatures, and In the Company of Men share a spot on another list- films that I found so disturbing that I carried them with me for days. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it may account for the fact that they are not Top Ten rentals at Blockbuster. I do have a favorite laugh from Heavenly Creatures, oddly enough, when the girls rhapsodize about James Mason, deciding that he would be "the perfect Jesus."

I have been a proponent of The Limey for some time. I actually purchased a copy in a Borders bookstore, but that is the only time I've seen it available for purchase anywhere other than online. The acting is superb, the story is gripping, and the action is top notch. And that marvelously slick/slimy smile of Peter Fonda!

I don't know...Welcome to the Dollhouse, Big Night, Smoke, The Straight Story, and Waiting for Guffman seemed to get quite a bit of buzz for films of their size at the time. I don't know how much of an audience you would expect for The Straight Story-an excellent film, but not designed to be a blockbuster.

I agree with you about The Ice Storm. I have not had a desire to view it twice, and I wouldn't recommend it as a "must see."

3/25/2007 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous lora said...

And one addition to the list...Bad Company, with Laurence Fishburne, Frank Langella, and Ellen Barkin. I thought it was smart, sexy, and entertaining, and it went absolutely nowhere at the box office.

3/25/2007 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Nifty post - I love lists, even if the merits of the list are questionable.

This one's pretty good, though. I'm pleased that I've seen so many of them, but I guess I started really paying attention in 1996 or so.

The inclusion of the two Mamet films, The Spanish Prisoner and The Winslow Boy, is inspired. Winslow especially is a favorite of mine, completely unlike anything else Mamet has done (a G-rated period drama!), but at the same time, not really.

Also glad to see Bringing Out the Dead. I own the DVD and watch it now and again, and it gains in stature for me every time I do. I will say, though, that it inspired more walkouts than any other movie during my years as a theater employee (except for possibly The Blair Witch Project, which almost doesn't count), which is saying a lot, since not a lot of people came to see it in the first place.

Very Bad Things - don't believe the hype. I hated it; it aims for morbid humor but director Peter Berg just wasn't up to pulling something like that off at all. It's way too high-strung and in love with it's own cleverness to work. And it's like Berg was actually encouraging Christian Slater's worst possible fake-Nicholson performance. It's just an obnoxious movie all around. It's the only movie on the list that I'd say is flat-out bad, though.

For myself, I'd add Danny DeVito's Matilda. I was dreading having to watch it, but had to as I was the projectionist that put it together. Watched it with an equally skeptical buddy, though, and we both thought it was funny as hell.

3/25/2007 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Sherry said...

And how much more buzz did The Straight Story need than an Oscar nomination? Really?

Oh...I suppose enough buzz for actual moviegoers to go and pay money to see it.

3/26/2007 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

As with most lists of this size, I agree with some, disagree with others. I loved The Ice Storm (and I've seen it more than once and wouldn't mind seeing it again). I also loved Quick Change. But I hated Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Mystery Men was dreadful. Overlooked is certainly a debatable term, though. People vs. Larry Flynt overlooked? It did get Oscar nominations for Actor and Director. Maby this is strictly a box office thing.

3/26/2007 09:22:00 AM  

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