The Hidden Gems List (2010)
My Hidden Gems list is an in-depth look at all the films I feel are in some way, underseen, underappreciated, or just plain unknown, and they really shouldn’t be that way.
I have a lot of lists of films I really like on this blog. But there are a lot of films out there that I like, so it can be overwhelming for someone who just wants to find a few movies to watch. Plus, I assume that people reading this know enough about movies and have seen enough to where they know what big shit (Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, etc) they need to see. I don’t need to tell you that. Plus, everyone loves when you can find a movie that not a lot of people know about that’s really good that you can now show other people who don’t know about it.
So the idea was to write, in depth, about some movies that I love that I think people need to see. From each year. And what I’m gonna do is go very slowly go through all of them, and give them their time in the spotlight. And then you can read them and maybe find some to go, “All right, I should check that out,” and maybe add them to your Netflix queue.
The idea is to give you things to see (specifically ones I feel most people would ignore, have ignored, or would assume it wasn’t something they need to see, that I think are really good and worthwhile that not enough people know about), and to show some love to more stuff than the big things from each year. We get enough of that. The big stuff is always there, but it’s these ones that fill out a collection.
You can always buy a diamond, but isn’t it more fun to pan a gem from the rest of the dirt? Here are 2010’s gems.
(Note: I’m just alphabetizing them now. Don’t know why I didn’t do that before.)
I’ll start by saying thank god Scott Pilgrim got noticed, otherwise that would be here too. (But even so, see that movie if you haven’t.)
1. The A-Team
- This got trashed, and it didn’t make money either, because it was out the same weekend as that not so great Karate Kid remake. But you know what? I had a really fucking good time with this movie. It was a lot of fun, and I am not ashamed in saying it. Give this movie a chance. How is this not anything more than a fun time at the movies? What, are you gonna say thy bastardized the TV show? If you’re my age, you don’t even fucking remember that show. And if you’re not — come on. Of all the possible iterations of that show, this is not the worst. This is a fucking entertaining as movie. And yes, it gets ridiculous, but I don’t care. This movie is fun as shit, and the reputation it has (and the fact that everyone just ignores this movie, after the fact. It was like we decided we’re not gonna go see it, and we’re never gonna talk about it ever again) is completely unwarranted. This was more fun to me than most films that came out in 2010 (including Iron Man 2. That’s right, I said it).
2. Animal Kingdom
- This movie had me from the very first image. I don’t want to ruin it, so just highlight over the next sentences if you want it spoiled. But if you haven’t seen it, don’t, because it’s terrific. The main protagonist is sitting on the couch with his mother, watching television. And it looks completely normal. The mother looks like she’s just sleeping, there’s nothing out of the ordinary. And the camera just stays there. And then all of a sudden, paramedics come in to remove the mother’s body. She’s fucking dead. When a movie begins like that, I’m in. And then the rest of the movie was just so good. I love how things shift. You have one set of allegiances in the first third, then things start to shift, and you start to feel differently, and then something happens, and then — shit just goes completely different. Put it this way — Jacki Weaver got nominated for Best Supporting Actress for this movie. For two-thirds of this movie, you’re gonna go, “Why did she get nominated?” And by the end of that final third, you’re going to understand why. This movie is so, so good, and it’s Australian, so I just assume that it’s not getting the respect and attention that it deserves. And I think everyone who’s seen this movie will completely agree with me that more people need to see this movie. This is one of those 2010 movies where, if you saw it, you understand. And if you haven’t seen it, you really have no idea what you’re missing out on. one of the absolute best of this year, bar none. Trust me when I say this.
3. Blue Valentine
- God… what a movie. I watched this again pretty recently, I still like it as much as I did the first time. This is a top ten movie for me from 2010, and I know not enough people have seen this. This is a movie that’s so perfect in every way, to the point where they chose two very specific songs for this movie that are so good, and so well-used, that I can’t imagine them being used in any other movie ever again without bringing up images of this movie. One of the songs is so perfect that you’d think they wrote it for this movie (and then you find out it was from a group of demo tapes from a random band that never went anywhere made in the 70s that were found after the guy who recorded them died and they found a bunch of old tapes he had). This was a movie that, when I saw it, I praised it for being so emotionally draining. It made me feel like I went through these people’s relationship. Now, I think this is just a perfect movie, one where every moment of every frame is perfectly utilized and never wasted. I think that if you didn’t see this movie, you’re depriving yourself of one of the absolute best films of the year, and it’s insane to me that you wouldn’t want to see one of the best films of the year. And honestly, if I were gonna make a list of top films of the decade (which I might, in about eight years), unless there are a lot of amazing films in the next eight years, I’d probably put this film on there. I really would.
- This is a perfectly contained movie. (Zing.) I read this script — it is taught. It’s 90 minutes, and the entire movie takes place in a coffin. All of it. I don’t see how someone couldn’t like this movie and not be engaged by it. That premise alone — contractor, in Iraq, wakes up in a coffin, with just a cell phone, and has to figure out where he is, who put him there, and how to get out before the phone runs out before he dies — just see it. It’s terrific, and I guarantee that if you watch this under the right conditions (complete attention. None of that, watching with six people, having your phone in your hand. Fuck that. As close to theater conditions as possible), it will get you. It’s that well put-together a movie.
5. Burke and Hare
- Of all the movies on this list, this is the one that the least amount of people are gonna know about. It’s one of those that I love suggesting, because when I tell you about it, you’re gonna go, “Well shit, how come I didn’t know about?” It’s because it got made, never got released, and was just left to obscurity. And the people involved are big enough to where it seems unfathomable that things worked out that way. Ready? Directed by John Landis, starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Isla Fisher. And to boot, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry, Christopher Lee, Hugh Bonneville, Jenny Agutter, and featuring tiny cameos by Costa-Gavras and Ray Harryhausen (!). And you don’t know about this. It’s about Burke and Hare, two grave robbers who dig up bodies and sell them to medical schools so they can use them as cadavers. Only, after a while, they resort to just killing the people to provide the bodies. It’s a very dark comedy. It’s one of those where — it’s not as good as some of the ones on these lists, but the people involved, and the actual quality of the film as it is — there’s no reason for it to be as unknown as it is. It’s a very entertaining film, and if you saw a film with that cast, wouldn’t you see it on principle anyway, just because “it has to be good”? That’s what this is.
6. The Company Men
- This was an Oscar hopeful that slipped through the cracks. It got decent notices, got the qualifying run, then got dumped in January and was never heard from again. I understand. It’s about a bunch of people involved with being fired due to “downsizing,” and how they respond to it. Ben Affleck is a mid-to-high-level executive who has a wife and two kids and is suddenly fired after living that nice executive life, and now has to downgrade his life and find another job, even though there are people way above his pay grade that are fighting for the same job he is (which is still a bunch of levels below where he was at). And he ends up working construction with his father-in-law (Kevin Costner). Then there’s Chris Cooper, whose kids are college age, who’s been there so long (The guy who worked from the factory floor into the boardroom), and just gets dumped unceremoniously. And Tommy Lee Jones is the partner in the company, who co-founded it, and even he gets fired. And we see the fallout of this on all the people. It’s — it’s not the happiest movie in the world. So on that front, I understand why people wouldn’t want to be like, “You should see this.” It doesn’t exactly make you feel good for 80% of it. That said — it’s a really solid movie with great actors and great performances. I can’t see why you wouldn’t see it for that alone. To say, “I don’t want to be depressed” is a stupid argument. Man up and see this.
- Yeah, Kick-Ass is one thing, but this movie… I really love this. It has an innocence to it. It’s the weakest of the three real-life superhero films (Super being the third), but it’s so unknown that it’s worth seeing regardless. Woody Harrelson is a fairly simple man who dresses up as a superhero named Defendor. He believes he has an arch nemesis named Captain Industry. One night, he comes across an undercover cop smoking crack down by the docks and getting blown by a prostitute, and the cop fucks with him and says he’s working for Captain Industry. And then he ends up taking in the prostitute and trying to help her fix her life up, and — it’s very low key, but it’s basically a dude trying to do the right thing. It’s — very likable. Woody Harrelson is terrific here, and there are two moments that actually made me and a friend who was watching it with me laugh out loud. It has to do with Harrelson taking something he reads literal and another involving him — forget it. Just see it. This movie is so goddamn likable and no one knows anything about it. And that’s a goddamn shame. I bet it’ll win you over.
8. Easy A
- I loved this movie. It’s so likable, and so well-written. Of course, it’s not perfect (there are some parts that are pretty clunky, in terms of the dialogue, specifically with Thomas Haden Church’s character), but you can get around that. It’s hands down better-written than 90% of comedies nowadays (dialogue-wise). And Emma Stone is so charming in it, and the movie is just entertaining as shit. This is the same dude that also did Friends with Benefits last year. So he knows how to take a script with a good basis and up the dialogue and turn in a really solid movie. Both of them turned out to be some of the better comedies / romantic comedies of their respective years. I don’t really know just how much of a hidden gem it is, but you know what, it’s still a gem, and that’s what counts.
- There was no way I wasn’t going to love this movie. First, we all know how much I love movies with children as the protagonists. Especially romantic comedies with children as the protagonists. And this one caught my eye immediately — we see two sides to the relationship. First, we see the girl being in love with the boy, and him not noticing her at all, and then, over a summer, we see the girl start to develop into a pretty young woman and now the boy is starting to have feelings for her, only now she’s not interested in him, because he’s pretty shallow and doesn’t have much substance to him. It’s a terrific movie. A lot of people hated this, for some reason (especially since no one actually saw this, and I think people were just going along with the reviews), but I don’t care. I loved it, and I think this is a hidden gem for the year. Don’t listen to reviews. Go by what you see. I saw a good movie here.
10. Get Low
- Robert Duvall is a hermit, who’s been living deep in the woods for about forty years. No one knows anything about him, and there are all these crazy rumors about what he might have done. One day he rides into town and goes to Bill Murray (who is a dude from Chicago. You get the sense that he’s one of those guys who failed there because of the real gangsters, but here, is a huge big shot)’s funeral parlor and says it’s about time for him to “get low.” Basically he wants to plan a huge funeral for himself with all the money he’s saved over the years and wants the entire town to come. And that’s the setup for the movie. And eventually we find out about the secret he’s been keeping for so long and all that. It’s a solid movie. I loved Duvall’s performance, but I especially loved Bill Murray’s performance. This is one of those movies you heard about in 2010, because of the potential Oscar nominations and stuff, but then it got nothing and is now headed for a lifetime of obscurity and no one knowing anything about it. But this is really solid, and I think people ought to check it out.
11. The Ghost Writer
- One of the best movies of the year. This was so good. Ewan McGregor is hired as a ghost writer for Pierce Brosnan (a former prime minister)’s autobiography, because the previous ghost writer died. And he starts talking to Brosnan about stuff and organizing things, and then starts to uncover some stuff that makes him wonder what the hell is going on. And things get tense, he starts getting followed, and we can’t tell who’s good and who’s not anymore — and the ending is one of the best endings in the past decade. No joke. See this movie if you haven’t, because it’ll stay with you. This movie almost cracked my top ten that year and is still hovering at like, #11 for me.
12. Going the Distance / She’s Out of My League
- A pair of really underrated romantic comedies. First, She’s Out of My League. I thought that was gonna be some throwaway, shitty rom com like the type we usually get, and then I watched it, and it really won me over. The movie has a lot of charm and mostly avoids all the stupid romantic comedy pitfalls that there are nowadays. It’s not perfect, but considering how bad most rom coms are nowadays, that automatically makes this one of the better ones. Give it a shot. I bet it’s better than you’re expecting.
- And Going the Distance. When I saw a movie with Justin Long and Drew Barrymore, my first instinct is to think, “Unforgivable.” I didn’t, since I didn’t have the Unforgivables list at the time, but I wasn’t expecting all that much out of it. And then — it was really fucking good. I mean, there were moments there that felt so forced (like the scene where he goes to get a spray tan, which felt studio-imposed, since it didn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the film at all), but otherwise, it was a really solid movie, and since I’m so starved for a good romantic comedy, that one immediately jumped up to being a really solid, 4-star movie for me, even though, if it were another genre, it might have only been 3.5. Seriously, though, give these two a shot. I bet you don’t know what they are or have never really given them the time of day, and I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good they are.
13. The Illusionist
- It’s an animated movie made just like a Jacques Tati film, based on a Jacques Tati script that was never made. I’ve never seen The Triplets of Belleville, so I don’t know how similar or different this is to that, but all I know is that this film was a pure joy to watch, and the animation was so gorgeous that I took off a couple of other films in favor of this. I will always point out gorgeous hand-drawn animation, because we get so little of it nowadays.
- This movie is a modern marvel. They made it for like, $15,000, and it’s about a NASA ship that crashes in Mexico and releases a bunch of alien life forms onto Earth. So the U.S. builds a giant wall to keep the creatures out. So now there’s the U.S., there’s Mexico, and now there’s this zone where the monsters just exist. And any time they get close to the border, the U.S. shoots at them to keep them away. And the film is about a photojournalist who is down in Mexico to bring back his boss’s daughter, who has run away. So he goes to bring her back, and basically they have to get back by going through the monsters’ zone, after a series of things go wrong. So they travel through this zone, and they (and we) have no idea what to expect. And the whole thing is tense as shit, because you never know when we’re going to encounter these monsters. The film’s real masterstroke is by never showing you the monsters until the very end, and having it never really seem like a big deal. The film makes its lack of budget a strength and not a weakness. It also does something very terrific with the narrative that I loved. It was a nice little message that didn’t need to be there, that I thought was really nice. This is definitely one of the better (if not best) films of 2010, and the fact that it never really got too much notice tells me that there are still loads of people who have no idea what this is. Watch it. I guarantee you it’ll be better than most other sci fi monster movies you’ll see. (And I hate the genre. So the fact that I’m really recommending this one at all should tell you something.)
15. Never Let Me Go
- This movie was pretty contentious, I feel, when it came out. I have friends who read the novel and thought the movie didn’t capture all the complexities of it (which… it’s a fucking movie. Of course it didn’t. They’re separate entities), and then I heard from people who read the novel and still loved the movie. I went into it not knowing anything about the novel, really, and just watched it totally cold. And I loved it. I think they still could have done more to make it better, but as it is, the film was really good, and I think it ended up falling through the cracks. It’s one of those movies that’s not quite an Oscar nominee and not quite mainstream, so I feel like it’s gonna be forgotten in years to come, which is a shame. Then again, the more time this has, the more I feel it’s gonna end up getting rediscovered in a few years as being a really great movie.
16. OSS 117: Lost in Rio
- These OSS films are so fucking hysterical. If you only know Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin from The Artist, do yourself a favor and check out these movies. Watch Cairo, Nest of Spies (which is on my 2006 Hidden Gems list) first, then watch this one. They are hysterical. Basically, OSS was a variation of James Bond from the 40s and 50s (written before Bond), and Hazanavicius took them and created a loving spoof of the character. Imagine James Bond, but if he were stupid and completely racist. The natural spoof of Bond. It’s so funny. Just watch Cairo, Nest of Spies and you’ll see what I’m talking about. This one, too. This one works better when you’ve seen the first one, but — seriously — my god, these are some of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time. And almost no one knows about them over here. Watch them. You’ll see. This is one where you need to trust me and you’ll be so happy that you did.
- All right, maybe I’m fudging this one, but leave me alone. I love it, and there are 20 other movies on this list. I had this in my top ten when I wrote it. I don’t know if it’ll still be there upon further reflection (which is happening soon), but I loved this movie, and it seems like America mostly treated this as just another action movie. This was so much fun for me, and I think it’s so underrated on principle. I had so much fun with this, and I’m calling it a hidden gem on principle, because I feel like there are a fair amount of people that don’t even know how good this is. So while not everyone might consider this a hidden gem, I am. Deal with it.
- I love me some horse movies. Seabiscuit was incredible. This movie, while not as good as that one, is still pretty good. There was a bit too much Jesus in it for me, but even so, any film involving horse racing is almost certain to be interesting. And this is one of those movies that I know, while it got some notice when it came out, is ultimately going to be forgotten. And that’s a shame, because it’s really entertaining. Horse movies are like poker movies, which are almost like trial movies and cold war spy drama/thrillers, in that they’re always interesting. There’s just something inherent in the event that makes it intriguing no matter what the specifics are.
19. Solitary Man
- This is a true hidden gem. A movie that was destined to be one of these when it came out. Michael Douglas has had a few of these now (the other big one being Wonder Boys, which is on my 2000 Hidden Gems list). It’s a really nice movie about a dude reexamining his life during his middle age, and discovering his failings as a person. It’s really great, and no one’s seen it. And you should, because it’s terrific. Another one of those movies that was always right there in the Oscar hunt (for his performance), and then never got it, so it fell through the cracks and is now gonna be left among the earth to be discovered by people from now on. So I’m trying to make sure that pile on top of it isn’t that big and that people know exactly where to go to find this, because it’s well worth seeking out.
- I have no idea what the fuck this movie is about, what the fuck happens in it, and what it’s all supposed to mean, but it’s about a tire that becomes sentient and starts killing people, and is absolutely hysterical. It’s so out there that you just have to see it. You won’t understand it, but that doesn’t matter. It’s so absurd that it’s absurdly entertaining. It’s terrific. This is a gem that only certain people will realize is a gem.