Ten Underrated Films to Watch During Quarantine
With the current global crisis Now that we have all the time in the world on our hands, filling it with movies has become a perfect form of escapism from the dark things going on in the outside world. Online blogs have been saturated with helpful film lists have. Some of these seek to cheer us up with an array of classic comedies, vintage musicals, all from happier times, And on the flip side some lists attempt to put our despair into perspective with dystopian movies such as Contagion, 28 Days Later, It Comes at Night, and many other depictions of the apocalypse doing the rounds on trending pages.
I want to do something a little different: a list of movies I love that were under-loved at the time of their release and have remained under-seen ever since. Some of these films have developed a cult following, of one size or another, but are still waiting for the full-scale love they deserve from wider audiences. And considering most of us now have all the time in the world on ours hands, there's no excuses to not try giving some of these great movies a watch.
Directed by - Carlos López Estrada
Rotten Tomatoes - 94%
Metacritic - 77%
IMDb - 7.4
Written, produced by, and starring lifelong friends Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, Blindspotting was helmed as a love letter to Oakland where the pair grew up, and centres on friendship, race and class. Specifically, the plot follows a convicted felon with three days left of his probation when he witnesses a police shooting that threatens to turn his life and friendship upside down.
Eye-opening, heart-wrenching, and occasionally jaw-dropping. Some people might find it to be a little heavy-handed in its communication of its themes, but these themes are timely, nuanced, and well-developed throughout the movie. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal are both stellar as fragile men constantly tiptoeing around their breaking points.
Directed by - Ali Abbasi
Rotten Tomatoes - 97%
Metacritic - 75%
IMDb - 7.0
Not neatly fitting into any specific genre, Border is one of the most original stories of the last few years. It revolves around Tina, a Swedish customs officer who possesses an incredible sense of smell that helps her in detecting contraband. With a Neanderthal-like appearance, she doesn’t fit in amongst the rest of her peers. She soon meets a mysterious man named Vore, who shares Tina’s facial structure, but is uncertain of his intentions.
The synopsis might make it sound like a quirky and obscure romance film but Border is much more than that. Border is exciting, daring cinema. A dreamy, warm and at the same time cruel film. A work that one absorbs or repels together with its characters. Equally disturbing as it is beautiful, Border is definitely a film that's going to leave a lasting impression on you long after the credits roll.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Directed by - Derek Cianfrance
Rotten Tomatoes - 87%
Metacritic - 81%
IMDb - 7.4
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams have both gone on to bigger things since this little-seen indie, but neither of them have delivered better performances than they do here in truly heartbreaking, gut-wrenching fashion.
Telling the story of a couple at the beginning of the relationship and the end of their marriage, the movie shifts back and forth in time to peel back the layers of the narrative and its characters, with director Derek Cianfrance maintaining a firm handle on things to ensure it never gets overly confusing or relies too heavily on non-linear trickery.
Blue Valentine isn't particularly easy to watch, or rather it'll completely destroy you and tear out your insides unless you are utterly bereft of feelings and emotions, but it's also a gripping, sad, sometimes beautiful story of love and struggles to make it work.
Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Directed by - S. Craig Zahler
Rotten Tomatoes - 91%
Metacritic - 72%
IMDb - 7.1
Writer-director S. Craig Zahler’s unflinching horror western, Bone Tomahawk, was perhaps the most unexpected surprise of 2015. Bone Tomahawk isn’t so much an adventure movie as it is an anti-hero movie. With a framework that recalls The Searchers, “Bone Tomahawk”’s structure is that of a classic Hollywood Western, with four men riding out in search of a woman kidnapped by vicious Indians.
A mesh of sadist and humanist, the film’s a fearful projection of sexual and familial anxieties, A Bright Hope being a town where women keep men in line, while what we see done to people in the troglodyte den perhaps constitutes the most hellacious representation of ritualised sexual cruelty in recent movies. A happy ending can’t cleanse our eyes of what we’ve seen. “Bone Tomahawk” is romantic, but it just as much feels evil, exuding the feeling of campfire tales that unsettle the imagination in childhood, such as most horror stories no longer provide us in adulthood.
Directed by - Céline Sciamma
Rotten Tomatoes - 96%
Metacritic - 85%
IMDb - 6.9
Girlhood was inevitably and lazily labelled as the female version of Richard Linklater’s watershed Boyhood, but Girlhood is much much more than that and dare I say it better than Boyhood. Céline Sciamma’s film views the endless horizon of potential less with wonder, more with creeping dread and disillusionment.
Rounding out Céline Sciamma’s triple feature on juvenile anxiety with her most accessible outing yet, Girlhood deals with that scary leap from childhood to adulthood and all the teething problems that comes with it. She diverts her attention towards Marieme, an impressionable black teen, who provides Sciamma with the means to explore the ever present horrors of peer pressure and the extreme lengths one will go to fit in. Set against the backdrop of broken homes, and propelled with an unavoidable undercurrent of racism, this one stings extra painfully. It’s a worthy and affecting finale to an incredible trilogy and in my eyes, cements Sciamma as one of the most important, incisive cinematic voices working today.
Perfect Blue (1997)
Directed by - Satoshi Kon
Rotten Tomatoes - 78%
IMDb - 8.0
Perfect Blue was the inspiration for the movie Black Swan, so much so that Darren Aronofsky actually had to purchase the rights to it. So if you've seen Black Swan you will understand Perfect Blue even if they are different movies in the end. The movie focuses on a young woman who leaves a Japanese pop band to start acting, takes some dark roles, and lands an obsessive fan who seems hell-bent on ending her life to "protect her." Thing is, it is the myriad of twists and turns to get you to the final act that will leave your jaw hanging open. And that final reveal is up there with some of the best twist endings in movies, period, animated or otherwise.
An Elephant Sitting Still (2018)
Directed by - Hu Bo
Rotten Tomatoes - 96%
Metacritic - 86%
IMDb - 7.8
Twenty-nine year old filmmaker Hu Bo took his own life after finishing his debut film, “An Elephant Sitting Still,” but this four-hour masterpiece that he left behind will resonate for years to come. Loosely adapted from one of the two controversial novels Hu Bo wrote before his untimely death, “An Elephant Sitting Still” unfolds like a frozen cross between Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” and Jia Zhangke’s “A Touch of Sin.
For a film with such an intimidating run time, An Elephant Sitting Still moves seamlessly, purposefully, and seems to be over in the blink of an eye. You are instantly captivated by the beauty of even it's darkest moments. Four stories are juxtaposed, with the leads of each spiralling down faster than the previous into hopelessness and despair. At the end, which could be interpreted in many different ways, is somewhat hopeful, and tells us that Hu Bo had some hope for the rest of us, even if he couldn't find it for himself. After watching this it's clear that Hu Bo had heaps of talent as a filmmaker, his death was truly a great loss to the art form.
Death of a Cyclist (1955)
Directed by - Juan Antonio Bardem
Rotten Tomatoes - 100%
IMDb Rating - 7.7
A sharp and mysterious Hitchcockean thriller, the film follows the story of a couple having an affair whose relationship comes close to exposure when they accidentally strike a cyclist with their car, leading them to do everything to keep their secrets under wraps.
With two riveting characters and flawless performances to boot, the movie is a deeply engrossing watch throughout, and while it’s highly reminiscent of later thrillers Diabolique and Psycho, it stands up as a nail-biting and heart-pounding affair, and one of the best and most underrated thrillers of the classic era.
This Is England (2006)
Directed by - Shane Meadows
Rotten Tomatoes - 93%
Metacritic - 86%
IMDb - 7.7
This Is England is an examination of skinhead culture in 1980s Northern England. Much like Meadows' previous film "Dead Man's Shoes", this is serious, unrelenting film making, with a grim, unflinching core, albeit with the added allure of being set in a very distinct time and place. The real major find here, though, is young actor Thomas Turgoose who plays protagonist Shaun. A non-actor with a very real past rooted in trouble, he effortlessly transitioned into the role of this unfortunate character, and gave one of the best performances of 2006.
Though smartly peppered with humour, the film isn't always pleasant, but never feels melodramatic or inauthentic to that end. It's as though Meadows has taken a snapshot of the era, and ultimately led to Meadows creating a spin-off TV series set in the subsequent years, which is equally as great as the movie.
Directed by - Wong Kar-Wai
Rotten Tomatoes - 86%
Metacritic - 78%
IMDb - 7.4
I watched "2046" after a friend recommended it to me, describing it as the love child of Blade Runner, Snowpiercer and In the Mood for Love" and it's pretty easy to see where he's coming from. "2046" is actually an indirect continuation of Wong Kar-Wai's earlier magnum Opus "In the Mood for Love". The film stars Tony Leung as Chow Mo Wan, also the name of his character in "In the Mood for Love".
Chow Mo Wan is a womanising science fiction authoring writing a book about A train in a futuristic landscape takes passengers to a place where they can recapture their memories, a place from which no one has ever returned. Chow Mo Wan engages in passionate affairs with a series of intriguing women he meets at the Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong. As Chow's lovers offer him inspiration for his writing, reality blends with fiction, and the past commingles with the future.
2046 is undoubtedly a mesmerising piece of cinema that flows like memory. The structure is extremely intelligent, threading lines of progression through circles of instinct. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai gives a great performance, a dashing sleaze but sad and doomed-feeling. One of my personal favourite movie watching experiences that I'd highly recommend to anybody else.
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