Underappreciated Films

Ok, it's my list... I make it up. There are a few movies I've seen over the years that I don't think enough people saw. A few I was fortunate enough to see in the cinema and found that not enough people understood or enjoyed them enough. So now you have a mission: you must go forth and see all of these films and ENJOY THEM!

State of Grace

Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, Robin Wright, John Turturro

Directed by Phil Joanou (1990)

A good script, great actors, and an incredible director come together to form one of the most impressive films I can think of that did not have a huge budget. Joanou is a very fluid and visual director who is extremely capable of telling a story. Penn again proves that he is a better actor than he is often given credit. Oldman is dynamic and over the top in this pre-Hollywood A-List performance. Harris is... Harris. Intense and strong. This was the first time I'd seen Robin Wright in a film (most may know her as Jenny from Forrest Gump,) and I totally fell for her. Great performance in a decent supporting role. And some seriously heavy plot twists, too! From the mostly Irish soundtrack and Morricone score to the recognizable supporting cast, this is really a great movie. Definitely worth renting and one of the few I deemed worth of buying new.

Hudson Hawk

Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn

Directed by Michael Lehmann (1991)

Ok, sure, you've heard every critic and his dog say this is one of the worst movies ever made. Why? None of them really say. I think one critic had a really bad day. Maybe his gerbil died. Maybe he found out he had alzheimers. Maybe he just had a bad tuna sandwich. Whatever. So they just wrote the 'El Crapo' review of the century. Then all the other critics caught wind of this...maybe it was the sandwich...whatever again. So they all gave it the crappy review so they wouldn't look too stupid. Wrong. They ARE stupid. This is a GREAT movie. And I do know the real reason it was panned by the critics. It was imaginative. It was risky. It had a lot of goofy humor. It had Leonardo da Vinci. That was the kicker... most critics only go back about as far as Warhol...who is CRAP by the way. They don't understand goofy humor unless there's a laugh track. Risks? No...how about Jim Carrey? And imagination is ONE thing a critic can NOT have. People just took this film too seriously. This is a kick back and enjoy the ride film. Lehmann directs it so well that you don't have much idea where the film will go next...as such, the ride doesn't give you much time to take it easy. When I saw this in the theatre, I laughed almost all of the way through it. Sure, I've liked Willis since Moonlighting. Sure, Lehmann directed the immortal Heathers. Sure, I think Aiello is a lot of fun to watch. Yes, I like corny jokes. Yes, I think Sandra Bernhard is one of the ugliest wenches at work today... but the movie all worked. It was one of my favorites of the summer. So do yourself a favor, find that pristine copy that everyone passed over at the video store because of some STUPID CRITICS and watch it.

the Adventures of Baron Munchausen

John Neville, Jonathan Pryce, Eric Idle, Uma Thurman with appearances by Sting and Robin Williams

Directed by Terry Gilliam (1989)

The third in a loose trilogy by Gilliam: the first being Time Bandits (dreamer as a child,) followed by Brazil (dreamer as an adult,) and concluded with the dreamer as an old man. A picture which follows the tales of the legendary Baron Munchausen from within the walls of a city under siege to the far reaches of the moon. A true fantasy in every sense of the word. Munchausen, pulled from German legends, is a character who has been everywhere and done everything, who has friends (and enemies) from all reaches of the world, and whose charm and love of women has landed him in more than one predicament. Like Hudson Hawk, this film was panned for its lack of reality and again goes to prove that most critics have not one jot of an imagination. I saw this with my friend Jon and we both spent a good two hours laughing our asses off in a moderately full movie theatre. Maybe we got more of the humor than they did. But this is a film that you have to think about at times. It's also a very dark comedy at moments (as are most of Gilliam's films.) There is serious drama and conflict. There is also personal introspection if you allow it. A very important film that is beautifully filmed, directed, and acted. I also have to mention that the art direction is incredible as Gilliam had a better budget to work with than in previous outings. So worth seeing that you should skip work to do so.


Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond with appearances by Bob Hoskins and Robert DeNiro.

Directed by Terry Gilliam (1986)

A strong statement against the evils of bureaucracy: most of the film is the result of a mechanical error from (literally) a fly in the works. Gilliam directs this modern nightmare with a staggeringly low budget for the final, beautiful results that came out. Jonathan Pryce, primarily a British stage actor who is now best known for the Infiniti adverts on TV, plays a cog in the machine who happens to be going places...if he can ever figure out where he really wants to go. Explaining this film would be difficult without lousing it up severely, but just think of Orwell's 1984 and you'll have a fairly decent idea of the setting of the film. A very bleak, industrial view of the future with emphasis that we have really become slaves to machines and the efforts of our progress. This is a very serious film. You will laugh at times, but this is some of the darkest humor you will ever encounter in a film. So bleak was this film that I don't think it ever got released in theaters the way that Terry Gilliam really wanted it to be seen. Not one version was the same from one country to the next... all of them edited it differently for their audiences for either content or time. Television stations refused to show the original or intended ending, rather supplying the happily ever after ending. Now, about a decade after the film was released, the Criterion Edition of the laser disc has been released with the full, 2 hour and 20 minute director's cut. It has the full, intended version of the film plus a separate audio track with commentary by Gilliam. It also contains the original US version of the film (clocking in at a bit over 90 minutes) and a bonus disc with extra footage and stills and not one but TWO documentaries about the film. For $100, it's not a bad deal. Then again, you may want to pick up an LD player. I may want to pick up an LD player. But if you can find the regular home video version, you will definitely witness an incredible film.

There will indeed be more films added to this list... just give me some time to think about it and a little more time to add them to the list and write all the gunk I can think up...