The Hidden Gems List (2007)
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 2007′s gems.
1. Across the Universe
- I love this movie. It’s so much fun. They took all the Beatles songs and wrote a musical around it. And then they got Julie Taymor to direct it, which turned it into a real visual treat as well as an aural one. If you haven’t seen this movie — how is that possible? It’s so much fun — and if you didn’t like this movie — how the hell could you not like it?
2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
- This is one of my absolute favorite films of all time. I don’t really put a number past the first five, but it’s definitely in that top twenty. I fucking love this movie so, so much. There’s nothing I can say about this a hidden gem that doesn’t go on for three pages. Just see it. It’s fucking brilliant, and is perfect. (I just did you a favor by keeping this short. I’ll let the film do the talking.)
3. Away from Her
- This is a film and a lead performance that came this close to winning an Oscar this year. And since then, I feel like no one remembers this film at all. And even so, not enough people saw it when it was in the spotlight anyway. The film is about an aging married couple, and the wife, played by Julie Christie, develops Alzheimer’s. The husband, played lovingly by Gordon Pinset (who was good enough to be nominated himself), has to put her in a home. And part of the rules is that they have to leave the family member there for thirty days without contact so they can acclimate to their surroundings. Only, after thirty days, the wife doesn’t remember him anymore and has now fallen in love with another patient at the hospital. It’s such a heartbreakingly tender story. If you haven’t seen this, you’re missing out on one of the absolute best films of the year. (P.S. It’s technically a 2006 film, but I’m putting it here because of the Oscar nomination.)
- What happened to this film? I was all over this film when it was coming out. It’s based on a true story of a C.I.A. man who was also a spy and how he got found out. This film was fucking riveting, and Chris Cooper is terrific in it. And yet it got dumped in February and everyone forgot about it by July. I don’t understand. This was one of the best films of 2007, and everyone had forgotten about it by the summer. Damn shame.
5. Charlie Wilson’s War
- This is one of my favorite films. I watch this movie all the time, and can practically quote Philip Seymour Hoffman’s first scene verbatim. Aaron Sorkin is a dialogue genius. If you liked how he wrote The Social Network, then you’ll love this film. It’s so fucking good. The one critique on the film is the ending, which is not Sorkin’s fault — his ending is much darker than the end of the film, and it was clearly altered to be more mainstream. But the film itself is fucking terrific. None of the problems are in the writing, and the problems are almost certainly due to star and director and studio. So I don’t fault the film for that. But even so — the film is fucking spectacular. The first two thirds of this film are so good — that first scene with Hanks and Hoffman in Hanks’ office… oh… just see this film. It’s so great.
6. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
- If you’ve seen this film, you know how good it is. If you haven’t, go out and see it right now. It’s a biopic of the editor of French Vogue who has a stroke and is unable to communicate or move any part of his body except for his left eye. So more than half the film is shot from that one eye. It’s astoundingly good.
7. The Hunting Party
- This is one of the movies I know you probably don’t know about. Richard Gere has made some really great choices this past decade, at least three of which are on these hidden gems lists. The film is about Richard Gere, as a journalist covering the Bosnian War in the 90s. He’s with a woman there who is pregnant with his child, and she gets killed, so he vows revenge against one of the political leaders of the war, called The Fox. He has a huge public meltdown on the air, and his career goes downhill. Then years later, he’s still there, mostly a drunk doing small scale stuff. And he reunites with his old cameraman and the son of a network president and tells the two he’s located The Fox, and the three of them set out to go find the guy. It’s kind of like Three Kings, only with journalists. You have to respect a film that starts with the disclaimer, “Only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true.” It’s a really great film, and needs to be seen by more people.
8. I’m Not There
- It’s a film about Bob Dylan in which six different actors play different aspects of Dylan’s personality through the songs he’s written over the years and the time periods of his life. Got it? Don’t worry. The people that play Bob Dylan are: Marcus Carl Franklin, a thirteen-year-old kid (who is black), who represents Dylan’s youthful obsession with Woody Guthrie, Christian Bale, who represents Bale during his “Times They Are a-Changin'” period where he was born again, Cate Blanchett, who represents him when he went electric and hung out with the Beatles, Richard Gere, who represents him during the time when he was a part of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Heath Ledger, who plays an actor playing a version of Dylan in a biopic, and Ben Whishaw, who basically plays Dylan and quotes a bunch of stuff from Dylan and such. It’s a pretty great film. It’s a hidden gem in the sense that it’s very good and a lot of people dismiss it because they don’t know what the fuck it is.
9.Into the Wild
- I’m sure people know about this, but it’s a biopic of Chris McCandless, who decided he was fed up with the bullshit of college and finding a job, so he gives away all his savings and sets out with no money to go travel to Alaska. And that’s what he does. Sean Penn directed this and the film is beautiful. It’s so good. In 2006, this would have been nominated for Best Picture. I feel like this still doesn’t have enough exposure to where I would feel okay not putting it on this list. This needs to be seen by everyone, because it’s too good to be unknown to people.
10. La Vie en Rose
- Dear god, Marion Cotillard’s performance in this movie is incredible. Seriously — watch this. This is one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen. It’s even doubly impressive now that America knows who she is from all the Christopher Nolan stuff. Holy shit. This film needs to be seen by more people. This is one of the performances of the decade.
11. Lars and the Real Girl
- Gosling was okay in Half Nelson, but this is the film he should have been nominated for. Holy shit, is he good here. This film is so touching, and so woefully underseen — go out and see this movie. Here’s the pitch — Ryan Gosling is a lonely guy who has a relationship with a sex doll he treats as a real person. And his sister and her husband try to get him to stop pretending the doll is real and start interacting with regular people. I’m not kidding when I say that Gosling is so fucking good here. This movie is a hidden gem and it hurts, since it should be known by everyone.
12. The Mist
- There’s one reason to see this movie, and I’m not even gonna tell you what it is so I don’t ruin it. But if you haven’t seen this movie and don’t know anything about it, see it right now. Find a copy, sit in a room, turn everything off, and watch it. I guarantee you, when it’s over — you’ll feel something. It’ll get to you. This is one of those movies I’m amazed (and so, so grateful) that the studio decided to let happen, because it so easily could have turned out a different way. But this way is so fucking powerful and leads to a much better film. Also, if you didn’t have enough reason to see this — Frank Darabont directed this. You may also know him as the dude who directed The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and was the showrunner of The Walking Dead for the first season. Do I even need to sell you this movie after I tell you that? This man should have earned your respect and you should already be going to see this right now based on his track record alone.
13. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
- This is actually one of my absolute favorite movies of all time. It’s crazy how much I love this and how much everyone else doesn’t. There’s just something so perfect about it. I can’t explain it, and if I tried to, I couldn’t do it justice in the limited space of this article. (Well, it’s not technically a limited space, but I don’t think we need me going off on all these films. The articles would never get done.) Just know that I consider this one of the most criminally overlooked and underloved films of all time, and think it’s a film that more people absolutely need to see. Anyone who is friends with me is required to see this, if only to get the numbers up. It’s insane to me that this movie doesn’t get more love.
14. Rescue Dawn
- Another movie I can’t understand how it’s so overlooked. I saw this as a double feature with the film two spots below this, and it may have been one of the best double features I’ve had the privilege of seeing at the movies. This movie is so good. I’m not entirely sure what got me so excited to see this in the first place — I didn’t really know who Herzog was at the time. I guess it was because Christian Bale was in it. By that point, I’d seen him in The Machinist and Batman Begins and The New World (and maybe The Prestige too) and knew he put in quality work (and this is before he started getting really famous for it, too. Plus it was a POW movie, and those are always interesting. Honestly, I don’t know why I saw it, but I’m glad I did. This movie is so incredibly good. I need to actually watch this again, because even I’m starting to forget how good it is. (P.S. This is also kind of a 2006 film that they pushed to 2007, but I’m fudging the years a little bit to get as many films in as possible.)
15. Shoot ‘em Up
- There’s nothing more fun than an action film that doesn’t aspire to be anything but fun as hell. That’s this movie. It doesn’t even try to set things up. It begins with Clive Owen sitting at a bus stop, eating a carrot. A pregnant woman in labor runs by, being chased by some gunmen. Owen watches, then goes, “Oh, fuck,” and then gets up to help her. And thus begins a crazy ass movie where Owen protects the baby from Paul Giamatti and his men. This movie is so bizarre and off-the-wall, and yet — completely entertaining all the way through. It’s great because it doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t give a fuck. It’s just badass and fun. What more do you need from a movie?
- This movie is almost perfect. The first two acts of this movie are so, so good. And then it takes a weird action turn in the third act that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s not like it’s bad or anything. It’s just a weird turn. But — this movie is so fucking good that it’s ridiculous to me that no one really knows about it. Here’s the premise: the sun is dying. A spaceship, called Icarus (get it) is being sent with a giant fucking bomb attached to it to be shot into the sun to (hopefully) reignite it so life can continue on earth. The ship we see is Icarus II. Icarus I mysteriously crashed and got lost around Mercury somewhere. And we follow the crew as they go about this mission. I’m not kidding when I say this movie is almost perfect. Give it a shot. I bet you’ll like it. (Also, there’s a piece of the score in this film that is now being used for movie trailers and shit. They love using it. In fact — they used it in Kick-Ass! That scene where Cage is being held hostage and they come to try to save him — that score is direct from this movie. It’s part of this score. The score of this movie is the best part. It’s so fucking good. It’s one of my favorite scores of the past decade.)
17. 3:10 to Yuma
- You know how I love westerns. This is one of the best (and only, but still, best) westerns made in the past decade. It’s a terrific update of the 1957 version. It seems like the thing that makes westerns work nowadays is having big stars in them. Here, you have Russell Crowe and Christian Bale going up against each other. I like that they change the focus of the film and make it more about the relationship between the two men. That’s the benefit of making a western in a post-western landscape, you get to add depth to the narrative and the genre conventions are add-ons and not necessities. But this is a terrific film. It works as a regular action movie as well as a western. That climactic sequence can happen in almost any film and still work (it’s obviously part of a western, but you can tell — it’s action western. It’s not your typical gunfight).
- I feel no hesitation in saying — if you can’t get behind this movie, you’re dead to me. Ignoring the fact that its writer-director and co-star, Adrienne Shelley, was horrendously and tragically murdered before the film could come out, this movie is so unassuming and so charming that it’s impossible not to like it. I’m serious. Watch it. If this movie doesn’t make you happy, you have no soul. This movie was so underseen it’s ridiculous. Go out and see this movie right now. This is one of my top hidden gems of the decade.
19. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
- Forget Knocked Up, forget Superbad — this is the one comedy from this year related to Judd Apatow that I keep going back to. This movie is insanely funny to me. It hits all the right notes of a musical biopic spoof. It’s insane to me that of the three movies, this is the least well-known. It’s so fucking funny. It’s one of those movies that seems to have such a negative aura around it that the more time that elapses after I watch this movie, even I start to forget how good this is. And then I watch it again and go, “Everyone is fucking crazy. This movie is hilarious.” This and Role Models are the two — I’m very picky when it comes to comedies, and it takes a lot to get me to really love a comedy nowadays (especially since most of them suck), and this is one of those comedies that I can’t find anything wrong with. This movie is always funny to me. I do want a part of this shit.
- This should come as no surprise. This is already in the textbook of “official” hidden gems of 2007. Somehow this is the forgotten David Fincher masterpiece. Everyone knows Fight Club and Seven. The Game is well-known and is really only forgotten among the other Fincher works. Panic Room is just sort of there (even though it’s a really solid movie). Then everyone knows Benjamin Button, Social Network and Dragon Tattoo. But this one — somehow this got dumped in March and promptly forgotten, yet this movie is good enough to have been in the running for Best Picture that year. (Imagine if they had a ten nominee list for that year…) Look, if you haven’t seen this, chances are you know it by its reputation. If you’re a movie buff, you’ll come across this film soon enough based on all the other films you’ve seen and liked. I grew up in the day of seeing the “similar” films on IMDB. Today we have Netflix. You’ll come across it. And if not — it’s a David Fincher movie. You have every reason in the world to see this and figure you’ll really like it.
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Here are five extras. They don’t really need to be called hidden gems, but I just felt like including some of them anyway.
- Atonement — every time I go back and watch this movie, it reminds me of how fucking great it is. Mostly I just want people to think about watching this again to remind themselves of how perfectly crafted this movie is. See it with your own eyes.
- The Darjeeling Limited — This is actually a hidden gem. I saw this when it came out and hated it. I thought it was awful, and that nobody was likable and that it was a complete step in the wrong direction for Wes Anderson. Then I saw it about a year and a half later as part of a Color class, and I fucking loved it. I was able to see it fresh, and it was fucking funny. It’s not Wes Anderson’s best film (though I do actually like it better than Rushmore and Bottle Rocket), but it a very good film that might not appear as such upon first viewing. So even if you’ve seen this one, I think it deserves another shot (or a first shot if you haven’t. Since, after all, it’s still Wes Anderson).
- Eastern Promises — Another one a lot of people know. I figured I’d just use the spot to remind people that this is, in fact, a great movie. A gem that you forget about for a second still leaves it kind of hidden, right?
- Enchanted — I keep this here to tell those who haven’t seen this movie to see it. It’s so fucking joyous. It makes me so happy. There isn’t a false note in this entire movie, and it’s the best thing Disney has done in decades. I love that the first reel is animated and the rest is live action. The central conceit is so good, and the casting of Amy Adams was a stroke of genius. This movie works completely, and the songs are the best things Disney’s written into a movie since Pocahontas. If you haven’t seen this movie, you don’t know what you’re missing out on.
- The Lookout — This is a real hidden gem. A great little thriller. Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the start of all his great decision-making and path to true stardom. Terrific film.