So what makes a movie underrated? Sometimes an up and coming director that no one knows about, makes a brilliant film that no one sees. Why is that? Maybe he's not a household name yet? Are people going to pick a movie on saturday night by a guy named Abel Ferrara? or are they gonna go see the new Michael Bay film? Unfortunately, the odds are with Bay, because that guy has dropped more cinematic turds on american audiences that rake in millions of dollars. Abel Ferrara has a new film coming out the same weekend as Bay right? You see posters, trailers, stand up displays, newspaper write ups, etc...and for Ferrara, You'll probably find a corner review in the newspaper, maybe a listing in the new films of the weekend section on your website, or probably just word of mouth by the select amount of rabid fans he has. Would it shock you to know that even though Ferrara has made amazing films like The Funeral, Bad Lieutenant, and King of New York? and yet still, no one knows who he is? Some of these films have eventually grown to a cult status by word of mouth though. The films end up growing in popularity through the great medium of home video. But who decides that? What if a movie that is special that no one saw in theaters...could even get a re-release on DVD at all? Look at Donnie Darko for example, the film upon original release in the US theaters tanked! It made a little over 500k in it's theater run. Lonely and forgotten, the film grew to a massive monster it is today by word of mouth, DVD, and the love of the film in theaters by European Audiences. Same happened with The Big Lebowski by the Coen Brothers. Film didn't do well in theaters...now it's a cult monster! With an Annual Lebowski Festival to boot! It's so odd how the film industry works and quite frankly, I dont care to understand it. In honor of this little jumping off point...I've compiled a list of films that are forgotten, underrated, and unknown to anyone and everyone who loves film. These are just a few movies I'd love to bring to your attention to give another chance and maybe feel the impact it really has.
Copland - Dir. James Mangold (1997)
You wouldn't believe how many scoff at the idea that Sylvester Stallone can act. Need I remind you that the man received critical praise and did win awards for his big screen debut Rocky. He created one of the most incredible and beloved characters in film history; who unfortunately was bastardized in too many needless sequels, but that's besides the point. Stallone has proven with a few films, that he has the ability to bring a wonderful character to life. Alongside an amazing cast with the likes of Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Peter Berg, Director James Mangold created an outstanding small film about a sheriff uncovering an enormous veil of corruption in his little town that goes as high up as the NYPD. Stallone's "less is more" approach to the character was exactly what was needed to make this character so special and the film so memorable. Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Stallone) is one of 2 cops in a small New Jersey suburb that lies right over the bridge to New York City. Always dreaming of being a cop, an accident where he helped prevent the loss of an actual life, cost him his hearing; and unfortunately his ticket to the NYPD. His only chance closest to his dream, is watching over the little town in Jersey that basically houses many if not almost all of the NYPD force. The residents walk all over him and he spends his time pining over the woman he helped save the day he lost his hearing; who is now married to an NYPD officer. Ultimately, a crime is involved with an NYPD officer that involves the residents of Freddy's town as well as Freddy himself. Stallone brings such a relaxed and subtle approach (including gaining over 50 pounds for the role) and transforms himself into what you can say is the village idiot that eventually has his day, and prove he did (and does) have what it takes to be a great cop. Along with a great cast, wonderful dialog, and a script that unfolds little by little at the right moments, Director James Mangold created one of the best crime dramas of the 1990's. Mangold clearly showed no signs of stopping as he continued to create wonderful films such as Walk The Line, Identity, and a stylish remake of the western classic 3:10 To Yuma. Copland is wonderful for a few reasons, but the most important ones to me being that 1. It holds a commendable performance by Stallone alongside an incredible cast. 2. It's a great early showing of the monster Mangold is becoming in the director's chair. 3. It's a great perspective that proves to create a great crime drama, you don't need a huge budget with lots of destruction and chaos. That's why I chose to make this my first entry in my underrated classic section.
Bringing Out The Dead - Dir. Martin Scorcese (1999)
Martin Scorcese is synonymous with some of the most intense and visceral films of any generation. We've watched him bring us the lives of up and coming gangsters in Little Italy destroy themselves in "Mean Streets". We've followed the eventual psychological breakdown of an ex soldier brought to his breaking point by his surround society in "Taxi Driver". We've watched him create the date from hell in "After Hours". The many gangster epics he's also created from the true life of Henry Hill in "Goodfellas", the rise and fall of Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal in "Casino", and of course the widely praised police drama "The Departed" So is it hard to believe that Scorcese who has created dozens of movies that are beloved by millions, actually has one that has slipped through the cracks and when mentioned you get a response like "he did that?" Yes, believe it or not...it's quite possible. Bringing Out The Dead starring Nicolas Cage, John Goodman, Tom Sizemore, and Ving Rhames is about a paramedic named Frank Pierce (Cage) who is experiencing insomnia, guilt, and an overall sense of defeat from his job as a graveyard shift paramedic in Hell's Kitchen. Dealing with the guilt of losing a patient while on the job, the film centers around 3 days of shifts with different partners and Frank's nihilistic view that continues to grow about life. He sees visions of the patient he lost and it breaks him down almost completely. That is until he meets Mary. Mary is the daughter of a patient Frank saves and eventually starts to bring him the light he's needed to realize that what he's doing is a very special thing, not just for himself but for everyone he comes across. Scorcese teams up with writer Paul Schrader (who collaborated with Scorcese in Taxi Driver) to create a fascinating character study set against the backdrop again, of New York City. Nicolas Cage has unfortunately become a parody of himself with his "quantity over quality" approach to choosing roles, so it's not a surprise that I get skepticism from people when I say Cage is a wonderful actor. Cage's presence on the screen is commanding in this film and clearly disproves your theory about him. Scorcese's direction in this film is almost hypnotic. The dreamlike state he brings to this film is almost surreal and really sucks you in with Cage's character. The frantic fast/slow pacing of the film, along with the soundtrack; that includes everything from the Clash to REM, only adds more to this already engaging and special film. Ultimately, the film's overall nocturnal descent into spiritual redemption is what makes the film not just unique and a breath of fresh air...but yet another classic film that made it's cut into my underrated film section. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Bringing Out The Dead