The Hidden Gems List (2006)
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 2006′s gems.
- Mel Gibson makes good movies. Braveheart, Passion of the Christ, this. No one saw this movie because of all the personal shit Mel went through and because this is entirely in ancient Mayan. Fuck that, this movie is terrific. This was a great movie and it’s ridiculous to me the stupid reasons why people didn’t/won’t see this.
2. Black Snake Moan
- This movie was incredible to me. Even when it was coming out I saw that people were going to overlook it because of its subject matter. And even after five years, I still don’t think anyone’s gone back to give this movie a second chance. It’s quite good. Ricci and Jackson give really strong performances, and the film is constantly engaging. I don’t get the dislike for this one.
3. Children of Men
- This has come around to be considered one of the best films of the decade. But, I still feel the need to beat the drum to make sure everyone goes back and sees how good this is. Six years still isn’t enough time. I need to make sure that ten years from now, people go back and go, “Damn, this movie is a classic and go so overlooked.” (Because, seriously, The Queen? Really?) This movie is perfect and was immediately a classic when it came out.
- The more you look at these hidden gems lists, the more you’ll see that I love me a good, dumb action movie. They’re great. This one has a terrific set up — dude has been poisoned, and needs to keep his heart rate up or else he’ll die. So he has an excuse to go around and cause mayhem for 90 minutes. Perfect. The sequel gets completely ridiculous, but this one is so goddamn fun. A movie like this, to me, is worth a dozen Marvel movies.
5. Déjà Vu
- I didn’t see this when it came out and didn’t see it until… shit, last year, I think. I think I just sort of assumed it was the standard Tony Scott/Denzel action movie. What I seemed to forget over that time was that Denzel and Tony Scott action movies are quite good. And this movie wasn’t really an action movie at all. It’s a thriller. And a fucking riveting one at that. Somehow they made me go along with the idea of time travel. This is a terrific movie, and if it was able to elude me for five years, I can’t even imagine how many other people don’t know how solid this movie is.
6. The Fall
- It’s hard for me to know what this movie’s reputation is. But the one thing I do know is that not enough people have seen this. It was directed by Tarsem, who did The Cell and has since directed Immortals and Mirror Mirror. But forget all that. This movie is one of the most visually sumptuous movies of all time. And none of it is CG. The story is pretty irrelevant, but for a pitch’s sake, it’s about a young girl who breaks her arm and has to stay in a hospital. And there, she meets a Hollywood stuntman who was badly hurt performing a stunt. He may end up paralyzed because of it, and is pretty despondent and suicidal. So she meets him, and he starts making up a story to tell her, and we see the story come to life as the two of them tell it. And in case you know nothing about this movie, here’s why you need to see it:
- Convinced yet?
7. Find Me Guilty
- I was all over this one when it came out. I remain a big Vin Diesel supporter, and this was also directed by Sidney Lumet, in case you needed an empirical reason to see this. The film is about Jackie DiNorscio, a mobster who defended himself in court during a RICO trial in the 80s, that would be the longest mafia trial ever. The masterstroke of this movie was using all the courtroom dialogue verbatim. They used the actual dialogue from transcripts, so everything said in the courtroom is almost entirely legitimate. Plus Vin Diesel is so fucking charming in this. I know nobody’s seen this movie, and it’s so fucking good. See this. You won’t regret it.
8. The Fountain
- One of my absolute favorite movies. This is actually my favorite Darren Aronofsky movie, over The Wrestler and over Black Swan. I love this. I love how lofty its ambitions are. I didn’t know much about this when it came out. I wasn’t so up on the Oscars as I am now. At the time, I imagine this was one of those eagerly anticipated movies that came out, no one understood (Cloud Atlas), and everyone just put it in that “disappointment” category, even though there were a few ardent supporters out there. I randomly went to go see this at my school’s film series (no idea why, either. I think because of the two leads), and I was blown away. Absolutely blown away. The score is still one of my favorite scores ever. That climactic track is so overpowering along with those images — I think this movie is perfect. (At least, as perfect as it can be, given what it’s going for.) I think more people need to see this, on as big a screen as possible. See this in a theater. I can’t imagine you won’t be blown away by it.
9. The Good Shepherd
- I don’t know what happened here. When this came out, it got good notices and was well-respected, and then everyone just sort of went, “Ehh,” and ignored it. It’s no Best Picture nominee or anything, but this is a really solid film, and it was weird to me how easily it was discarded. It’s about the founding of the CIA, was directed by Robert DeNiro and stars Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, De Niro, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, William Hurt, Timothy Hutton, Joe Pesci, John Turturro… do you have enough reasons to see this yet?
10. A Good Year
- A criminally overlooked movie. I think it’s because Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe had made certain kinds of movies up to that point (Ridley had done Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men and Kingdom of Heaven and Russell had done Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Master and Commander and Cinderella Man), and if there’s one thing American and Hollywood doesn’t like, it’s when people try to do something different. God forbid people try to not do the same thing over again. This is basically a romantic comedy and is a completely harmless film. And when it came out, people couldn’t wait to trash it. 25% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s one of the reasons you can’t listen to critics — they all pile on the same opinion. You can tell it’s not that bad because the audiences have it at 62% and it has an IMDB score of 6.8. It’s a simple little film about a lawyer who inherits his uncle’s vineyard and learns to live a more laid-back lifestyle as he tries to restore the vineyard to profitability. It’s a simple little film that’s totally likable and actually very good, and yet people assume this movie sucks because it’s not Gladiator. Horrible what happened to this. (P.S. This was Marion Cotillard’s first exposure to English audiences, unless we’re counting A Very Long Engagement. She’s terrific in this. She came on screen and actually made me go, “Who is that?” She has a very strong screen presence here. And she followed this up with La Vie en Rose and Public Enemies and the rest is history.)
11. The Hoax
- I was sold the minute I heard the logline for this one — it’s based on the true story of Clifford Irving, who wrote a completely fictional biography of Howard Hughes and managed to con everybody into believing it was legitimate and that he had the complete cooperation of Hughes himself. And the film follows him as he performs these outrageous things in order to convince everyone he’s telling the truth. It’s so fucking good. This is a true hidden gem.
12. Inside Man
- I just want more people to see this movie. I love when Spike Lee does studio stuff, because invariably he makes it much more engaging by his style and his choices, and because it’s studio, it keeps him from going off the rails as he tends to do. (Because, to me, outside of Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, Lee’s best films are this and 25th Hour.) This movie is so good. And it’s not even like it’s a thriller or a movie with a twist or anything — it’s just a fun movie. It’s one of those movies that almost knows it’s a movie. It’s just fun. It’s so well made and so entertaining — this is one of those movies that reminds you why you like watching movies. See this right now if you haven’t.
13. Lucky Number Slevin
- Yes, the dialogue pats itself on the back too much, but who cares, this movie is awesome. It’s so much fun. This was one of those movies you just watch with a bunch of people and enjoy the shit out of. What was entertaining to me is that I saw this when it came out, loved it, and then when I got to college, a bunch of my friends had already seen it and loved it completely independently of one another. That’s always comforting. But this movie is so much fun and is one of those cult movies that I’m noticing people my age seem to really like. I feel like anyone who likes all the same kinds of movies (which — most of the shit on the IMDB top 250) will like this movie. And since not everyone has seen it… here it is.
14. Marie Antoinette
- I still maintain that this movie is fucking incredible. This is another one of those movies that came out that everyone was just waiting to shit all over, it seems. I guess it’s because the film is very pop-infused, with indie music and shit. Is that really what we use to measure a movie, now? Really? (I hope all those same people are gonna be ready to shit all over Django when it comes out, since it seems like it’s gonna be using modern music over it.) This movie was fucking great. It was so entertaining, was way funnier than I expected it to be, and looked gorgeous. This is one of those movies I can watch any time. I don’t get the lack of love for this at all.
- This movie is beautiful. Everyone needs to see it. It’s an Irish fairy tale (or sorts). The music is some of the best you’ve ever seen, and the movie is so simple and innocent it’s impossible to hate it. Go see this movie right now if you haven’t. I guarantee you’ll be listening to the soundtrack long after the movie is over.
16. OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies
- Oh, dear god, this movie is so fucking funny. Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin (you may remember them from some recent silent movie that got a bit of recognition) made this together first. It’s a spoof of James Bond movies starring OSS 117, a character that predates Bond by about five years. This is a movie that’s so funny it’ll remind you of what a spoof movie should be like. This is the kind of movie I will recommend to absolutely everyone, knowing full well that everyone will enjoy it, and those who don’t are people I don’t need to associate with, since they probably don’t have very good taste in movies. This movie is so goddamn funny, I can’t even explain it. This has become one of my go-tos to tell people to watch. It’s unfathomable to me that someone won’t find this movie hilarious. And I know that no one knows about it, since everyone I’ve told about this (even some big movie people) had no idea about them, and they’re only just now starting to get some recognition because of The Artist.
17. A Prairie Home Companion
- Weird to think that what might be my favorite Robert Altman movie is his last one, one that it seems not too many people seem to like. Whatever. I think this is terrific. It’s so much fun. I love the ensemble aspect of it, I love that Garrison Keillor wrote it, I love everything about this movie. This is one of those movies that just makes me happy.
18. The Prestige
- I think a lot of people know about this one by now, but you can’t be too careful. This is really the only small movie Nolan’s made in the past decade (since Insomnia‘s about to be 11 years old soon), and I feel like it’s better safe than sorry to tell people to see this, since I don’t know how many people haven’t, and it’s better for them to find out about it now, rather than to potentially have it be ruined by some random person who assumes they’ve seen it.
19. Snakes on a Plane
- Look, we know about it, but how many people actually have seen this? And even so — fuck it. It’s Snakes on a Plane. Who’s gonna argue with this being here? Don’t we all want to enjoy the b-movie brilliance that is this movie?
20. The Wicker Man
- I feel like I’m doing a Bernie Mac routine every time I talk about this movie. You just don’t understand — it really is that amazing. Watch this movie as a comedy, if you haven’t. It’s fucking incredible.
– – – – –
- Idiocracy — this movie got so unfairly fucked over when it came out. It’s not a perfect movie, but there are moments in it that are absolutely brilliant. I still find myself thinking about some of them. Specifically the gag about how society devolves so much that the highest-grossing movie of all time is a movie called “Oww, My Balls,” and involves a person being kicked in the balls so hard that he flies away. This movie got unceremoniously dumped in a few theaters and didn’t get the release it deserved, and on top of that, it didn’t even get to build the cult following that Office Space did. Give this one a shot. It’s worth it.
- Rocky Balboa — I feel like this one is assumed to be a certain thing, and yet… it’s a great movie. I liked this better than most of the sequels in the franchise. I think people still haven’t given this one a shot because it was made thirty years after the last passable entry in the franchise.
- A Scanner Darkly — It’s so good. I love how they rotoscoped this. That adds an extra dimension of engagement to this movie, which it didn’t really need, since it’s engaging as shit on its own. Give this one a chance. I bet you’ll like it.
- Seraphim Falls — love me a good western. This is a simple revenge western. Pierce Brosnan is being chased by Liam Neeson. We find out why over the course of the film. Very solid. Worth your time.
- Silent Hill — I thought this movie would be terrible. My roommate bought this freshman year and said, “Watch this, it’s good.” And I was like, “Yeah, all right, whatever,” and yet — god damn it if I wasn’t engaged. This movie does some great things with sound and was actually very watchable throughout. I haven’t seen this in a few years, but I want to revisit it to see how I respond to it now. But — I remember this being much more engaging than I thought it would be and think they made a very solid movie here. And the reason I wanted to mention it is because I’d assume most people, like myself (at the time), haven’t seen this and assumed it would be really bad. And I think it might surprise you.