10 Overlooked Films of 2010

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If there is anything that I love doing as a film buff, it is recommending overlooked films.  Films that, for whatever reason, did not get a fair shot in theatres but are worth seeking out.  They may not have played at a lot of places or their runs might have been cut short due to financial reasons.  Whatever the reason is, these are those little buried gems that you want to promote to all your friends.  These ten films, in no particular order, are films that you will not be seeing on most year end lists, with the exception of one film.  However they are all deserve a chance, if not in the theatres, than on DVD.

Agora

Directed by Alejandro Amenabar

Movies about ideas rarely get any play in this marketplace so it would have been silly to think that Alejandro Amenabar’s ambitious film would get a wide release.  However for it to have been dumped in the middle of the summer is completely baffling considering the budget was an estimated $73,000,000.  Not was it a big budget film but internationally was being distributed by Universal Pictures (Germany), Lionsgate (who funded the film), Miramax (India), Paramount (UK), and 20th Century Fox (Spain).  Why one of these other distributors couldn’t step in and give it a proper stateside release is a shame considering that it isn’t an inaccessible film at all.  It is by the director of The Others, it stars Rachel Weisz, and it is an adventure film.  Whatever the reasons are, this is a beautiful film with great performances and painstaking detail put in by Amenabar.  The film is absolutely relevant today with a very powerful allegory to our current war in Iraq.

Buried

Directed by Rodrigo Cortes

Despite stellar reviews and a bravura performance from star Ryan Reynolds, Buried was completely buried on arrival.  This was a shock considering the buzz out of Sundance and Toronto being that this would be a commercial breakthrough hit.  Perhaps it was the bleakness of the film or the inability to really market the concept properly but whatever it was the film barely made a dent at the box office.  This is probably because it’s widest release barely eclipsed 100 theatres, something that is odd considering the plan by Lionsgate to open it wide.  Whatever the reason is, it is a shame because the film is smart and tense thriller that makes full use of it’s one location.  It also has a brilliant performance by Reynolds who is alone on screen for the entire time.

Centurion

Directed by Neill Marshall

Neill Marshall’s Centurion is a brilliant film, one that successfully combines bloody good action with characters that we actually care about.  I am not sure why critics had such “meh” reaction to it.  To be fair, the film did get good reviews but very few rave reviews.  The film went without notice at the box office although it is now out on DVD and I expect to find a cult following here.  Not only is the action great but the film is actually smart with a very powerful allegory to the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.  The last twenty minutes are devastating and in it’s own way, it is a very powerful anti-war film.  The film also gets great performances from Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, and Olga Kurylenko, who doesn’t utter a word of dialogue yet provides unusual depth and power to her silent assassin.

Cyrus

Directed by The Duplass Brothers

Cyrus was supposed to be The Duplass Brothers big coming out hit in the mainstream but it came and went quietly.  To be fair, the advertising on this one was pretty deceptive, marketing it like a straightforward comedy instead of what it was, a darkly humorous coming of age film that revolves around a very dysfunctional family.  John C. Reilly and Marissa Tomei are excellent in the film but the standout is Jonah Hill as the the title character.  He shows a lot of range and has most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the emotional scenes of the film.

Everyone Else

Directed by Maren Ade

An incredible film from German director Maren Ade, Everyone Else take a realistic look at a relationship that is on the rocks.  Her script doesn’t take sides, some might be repulsed by the boyfriend’s actions but Ade doesn’t let the girlfriend off the hook either.  The film is gorgeously photographed and the whole ensemble does fine work, in particular, Birgit Minichmayr as the lonely and frustrated girlfriend.  It is going straight on my year end top ten list.

Fair Game

Directed by Doug Liman

Unfortunately, intelligent thrillers aimed squarely at an adult audience are now box office poison.  Fair Game is a prime example of this, a film that is definitely a gripping suspense tale and a timely film, but one where the Studio releasing the film, Summit Entertainment, had absolutely no idea what to do with the film.  From a box office sense, it suffered from the same problem that The Hurt Locker suffered from.  Liman’s film is a film that deserves to be seen for it’s solid performances and uncommon intelligence.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Directed by Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden

Let me make this clear, this is a film about depression, more specifically teenage depression.  It is not the wacky Zack Galifianakis comedy that the trailers have made it out to be.  While the film is very funny in places, the film is one of the most moving films of the year and it might even be my favorite film of the year.  I think the deceptive marketing might explain the good-not great reception to this film.  Galifianakis is devastating as the depressed Bobby, using his deadpan comedic skills to imbue the character with a real sadness and anger.  This might be the most accurate portrayal of teenage depression that I have ever seen on screen and for that alone, Boden and Fleck have to be applauded.

Never Let Me Go

Directed by Mark Romanek

Mark Romanek’s highly anticipated follow-up to his thriller One Hour Photo was completely lost in the shuffle.  Fox Searchlight had it as one of their prestige pictures and given the fact that it was an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel of the same name, it seemed like a slam dunk for a number of Oscar nominations.  Unfortunately, the film was extremely divisive and it was not helped by it’s very misleading marketing.  It is an excellent film and I have a feeling that it will become something of a cult classic when it hits DVD.

Ondine

Directed by Neil Jordan

Neil Jordan’s Ondine is a wonderful and charming little film that got lost in the shuffle over the summer.  The film tells the story of Syracuse, a recovering alcoholic fisher who lives with his daughter.  Syracuse, played by Colin Farrell in one of his best and most personal performances to date, finds a mysterious woman in his net named Ondine who claims to be a mermaid.  This is a wonderful fairy tale mixed with an authentic sense of realism in a small Irish town.  It is now available on DVD and I highly recommend that you check it out.

Splice

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

I have to hand it to Joel Silver and Warner Bros. for giving Vincenzo Natali’s Splice a wide release.  It is a ballsy move and while the film did not earn back it’s budget, I am sure that it will pay dividends for them down the line.  Unfortunately they probably should have given it a more limited release because, while it is technically a monster movie, it is definitely an art-house film.  It is not cookie cutter at all and I hesitate to even call it a horror film.  It is more a coming of age film but even that doesn’t really do the film justice.

7 Comments
  1. Simon Howell says

    Oh, how I hated “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” on so many levels. And I liked Boden and Fleck’s other movies just fine.

    I thought “Stone” got a raw deal.

    1. Josh Youngerman says

      My number 4 film of the year.

  2. Josh Youngerman says

    I remember hearing about Red, White, and Blue. Unfortunately I just couldn’t check it out. I will be sure to check it out.

    As far as Splice goes, I really loved it. Although I remember seeing it in the theatre and being pretty sure that I was the only one who really liked it in that screening. Most people walked out trashing the film.

  3. Laurie Mann says

    I saw and loved Fair Game, which is playing in one theater in Pittsburgh. A quiet movie where even though you know everything that happens, it’s very suspensful.

    I don’t think Agora ever played in Pittsburgh, so I recently Netflixed it. An excellent movie, one that I’d love to see on a big screen (though didn’t it really come out in 2009?).

    Would love to have seen Never Let Me Go, which only played at one theater in our area for two weeks. But were away most of the time it was here. Guess I’ll wait for it to show up on Netflix.

    Looks like The Tempest won’t get here any time soon. Not on your list, but something I’d really like to see.

  4. Justine says

    I am not sure about Josh, but quite a few of us saw Red, White and Blue at Fantasia. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I didn’t like it at all. Had a lot of potential, but really fell short.

    1. Simon Howell says

      I have to agree. Based on what I’d previously read about it, I was cautiously optimistic, but ultimately I found it flat and unaffecting, despite its meticulous construction.

  5. THE BLACK MAN IS GOD says

    Splice is definitely one of the more overRATED films of the year, but the notable overlooked film you left out is Simon Rumley’s RED, WHITE, and BLUE. I guess it hasn’t came to Canada but it was on IFC on Demand. Check it Out!

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