The Hidden Gems List (2005)

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 2005′s gems.

1. Brick

    • It’s a modern film noir set at a high school. You should be sold at that moment. Rian Johnson wrote and directed and Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars. All the dialogue is written in that noir style, and it’s fucking great. If you don’t know anything about this movie, go see it right now. This is a trendy hidden gem for 2005, and rightfully so. It’s fucking terrific. This is one most people’s top ten lists for this year.

2. Caché

    • This movie is so fucking unsettling. I love it. It’s a movie about a married couple who are sent surveillance tapes of their house. They don’t know who they’re from, why they were being filmed, or where exactly the filming is coming from. And it starts to obsess them. They start trying to figure out where the filming was coming from and who could have done it. It’s terrific. There’s a scene in the middle of this movie that’s so disturbing I don’t even want to mention it. It comes out of nowhere. And the camerawork in this film is superb. There are a couple of moments where the camera moves in such a way that makes you question what the diegesis is at that moment. It’s so good. If you don’t know what this is — see this. See it when you can give it your full attention. It’ll hold it. Trust me.

3. Four Brothers

    • This movie was so much fun to me. I think it’s because most of the film is just these four brothers hanging out. It almost (and don’t take this out of proportion) has that John Ford aspect to it, where Ford would set up his narrative and let these community/hang out scenes comprise most of the screen time. Of course, there is a plot here, and this is kind of an action movie, but it’s just fun. Wahlberg, Tyrese, Andre Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund are just having fun. And I don’t think enough people have actually seen this to know that, so I’m calling it a hidden gem.

4. Game 6

    • This is a real hidden gem. I’m trying to remember how I found out about this. I believe I saw it on the Ebert and Roeper show. They reviewed it and I thought, “Well that sounds interesting.” And I kept my eye on it. And then I got really into Michael Keaton at the time, and that was the time when I was looking at stuff based on actors I liked (like, I’d look up everything Christopher Walken was in, Samuel L. Jackson, and I’d seek them out to watch them, even if they’re these awful, straight to DVD movies). Plus, around the time I did get to see it, I’m pretty sure I was in college and had read something else from Don DeLillo, and it was also around the time Downey started his career renaissance — there were a lot of factors that came together for this one. Anyway, let me pitch it to you — Michael Keaton is a playwright. He had one great play starting out, and since has only had flops. He’s worried that his career will be finished if this next play isn’t a hit. To make matters worse, Robert Downey Jr., the most vicious critic on broadway (whose reviews are so scathing he has to go to the theater in disguise or else people would attack him), is attending the performance, and if he trashes the play, then it’s really over for Keaton. And on top of it, Keaton is a die hard Red Sox fan, and the play is premiering on the night of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series (i.e. the Bill Buckner game), so he’s got that on his mind too. And we follow him over the course of the one day, dealing with all this stuff and all his personal problems (his ex-wife, his daughter, etc). It’s — amazing. It’s really, really good. And this is one of those movies that no one knows about. Don DeLillo wrote the script and it was directed by Michael Hoffman, who did One Fine Day, one of my favorites (as well as Soapdish and The Last Station). I love everything about this movie, most of all that this is one of those Downey performances right when he was starting to come back into the fold where you can see that this was a guy that wasn’t gonna be kept down too long. He also did Kiss Kiss Bang Bang this year, which is the film that got the most notice. But, between that, this, and his work in Good Night and Good Luck — this is the year that got him to the point where he got Iron Man (not to mention his work in A Scanner Darkly and Zodiac, which are also hidden gems of2006 and 2007, respectively, and are also great work by him that goes unnoticed by most people). So this film has a lot of stuff going for it, and I know that next to no one knows about this movie. This is a hidden gem in the purest sense of the term.

5. Hard Candy

    • Holy shit, this movie. If you’ve seen it, I bet you just had the same reaction I did. It’s hard not to feel strong, sudden emotion when this movie comes up. Here’s the pitch — Ellen Page shows up at Patrick Wilson’s house. She suspects he’s a pedophile, and is there to extract revenge for all of his victims. It’s a completely psychological, fucked up scenario. We don’t actually know whether or not he’s a pedophile for most of the film, but by the time we find out, it doesn’t matter, since what’s happened by that point is so fucked up and disturbing the film already has you. It’s a great little film that not enough people have seen. And it’s one that will cause a reaction in everyone who sees it.

6. Hustle & Flow

    • It is hard out here for a pimp, when he’s tryin’ to get his money for the rent. I feel like most people know this movie for that song (and the fact that Three 6 Mafia are now Oscar winners because of it), but you forget — Terrence Howard was nominated for Best Actor for this movie, and the movie itself is actually really good. So, I’m doing this for the people who never actually gave any thought to watching the movie that spawned that song. And even if you don’t consider this a hidden gem, I think it’s worth reminding you that this movie is actually really good. I’ll spend a spot for that.

7. The Ice Harvest

    • I love dark comedies. Especially dark comedies that take place during Christmas time. John Cusack is a mob accountant who decides, on Christmas Eve, to steal $2 million and get the fuck out of his small town. (Kansas, I believe.) And the film takes place over the course of that night, as pretty much everything that could go wrong in his plan does go wrong. And the bodies start to pile up and things get very fucked up (in the darkly funny sense). It’s a really solid movie, one that I knew would go underappreciated when it came out. But this is really funny and definitely worth seeing. Harold Ramis doesn’t have a very good track record in the past decade, but this is the one film he’s done that’s really good.

8. Jarhead

    • Anything that Sam Mendes has done is worth seeing. (Look at his filmography so far: American Beauty, Road to Perdition, this, Revolutionary Road,  Away We Go, Skyfall.) This and Away We Go are the weak links there in terms of people knowing about them. More so Away We Go (which I don’t think made my 2009 Hidden Gems list because it was so strong, but the film is really good and is worth seeing. It’s a hidden gem on his filmography for certain). This film — I think it was really solid, and I remember when it came out, it was eagerly anticipated. As someone who follows the Oscars, I know exactly what that means. It’s one of those movies — like Nine — where people go, “Oh, look a who’s involved, the subject matter — we’ll shortlist this for the Oscars in January and wait for it to come out.” And when that happens, a movie is fucked. It’s almost certainly not gonna live up to that, and people will consider it a disappointment and move onto the next thing without a second thought. And that’s what happened here. It came out, people went, “Yeah, it was good, but… ehh,” and move on and forgot about this. I think people forget that this is actually a good movie. Granted, it’s not as good as the other films in Mendes’s filmography (and while I’m at it, Revolutionary Road is another one of those movies that got bad reviews when it came out because people had such advanced buzz and expectations for it and was really good nonetheless), but it’s still very solid and I think it’s worth reminding people of that.

9. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

    • Clearly. I think everyone knows how good this movie is by now, but it’s still gonna remain a hidden gem because not enough time has elapsed for this to get the reputation it deserves. (I don’t know how much time that’s gonna be, but we’re not there yet.) If you like and respect movies, and you like pretty much the same movies everybody likes who considers themselves a movie buff — you’re gonna like this one. So go find this movie right now and put it on. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. And if you don’t enjoy it, you’re probably gonna be in the minority, because this is one of the best written and most entertaining films of the past decade. And it’s shocking to me that people still don’t know about the genius of this movie. (It’s kind of like In Bruges.)

10. Little Manhattan

    • I’m very clear about the fact that I’m a sucker for these kinds of movies. Make kids the protagonists, give them some stylized dialogue (relative to their age), and I’m sold. This film was a revelation to me. It was so adorable. I’m very open about the fact that I think 95% of all romantic comedies that have been made in the past fifteen years are so are absolutely terrible. So seeing someone do it with children, and successfully, was so encouraging to me. Basically the film is about a kid, played by Josh Hutcherson (yes, the kid in all those movies now, like Hunger Games), who has had a crush on a girl in his class for a while. And his parents are getting divorced, so he pretty much has free reign over his neighborhood. So he goes about, pining over this girl and trying to get her to notice him. And it’s the most adorable movie in the world. This was one of my go-tos to show people for a while. (Mostly because the people I know need to have seen this or else we can’t be friends.)

11. Lord of War

    • I love this movie. This was that one point in the 2000s where Cage snuck in some really solid, classy movies, on top of the B movie stuff he’s been doing. This and The Weather Man both came out within three months of each other in 2005, and they were both fantastic. I loved that this was almost an exposé into the world of arms dealers. It was fascinating. This is one of those movies that when it come up, people always go, “I loved that movie,” even though no one ever really talks about how good it is. I think it’s because, with Cage’s resume, people don’t want to admit that he made a really good movie. But Andrew Niccol wrote and directed this, so your quality is inherent in that. This is terrific. One of the best movies of the year.

12. Munich

    • Yeah, I’m fudging a bit. But I feel like not enough people actually saw this. It feels like one of those that slipped through the cracks. But whatever, there are 25 movies on this list, if only one or two are truly questionable, that’s ultimately a good thing. Still — this is a great Spielberg film with a solid cast (do people actually remember that Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Lonsdale and Matthieu Amalric (Bond and Hugo Drax and Dominic Greene!) are in this?) that’s pretty riveting throughout. And it just feels like this isn’t too much out there to where we can’t call this something that definitely doesn’t belong on here. So I’ll include it.

13. The New World

    • This is the movie that really got me into Terrence Malick’s stuff. I had only seen Badlands and The Thin Red Line at this point, and neither I really loved when I saw them. (Though I rewatched them after I understood Malick’s style and loved them.) But this was a revelation to me. I loved this the moment I saw it. I still love it. This got me to go see a print of Days of Heaven my freshman year (which… holy shit. That movie on 35…ooh, that’s good stuff). But anyway, the brilliance of Malick aside — this movie is incredible. You shouldn’t need a prompt to see any Terrence Malick film, but because this is probably the one of his movies that have come out that the least people have seen, I’m giving you one. This is probably my second favorite of his stuff (after Days of Heaven).

14. The Proposition

    • This movie blew me away when I saw it. It’s an Australian western written by Nick Cave. What I loved about it is how it starts — it’s fucking loud, if you’re seeing it on the big screen. It’s intense as shit. Basically the setup is — Guy Pearce is one of three brothers who are outlaws. The oldest is… well, let’s skip the reveal, in case you want to go in cold. But he’s the Colonel Kurtz of the film. He’s gone into the bush, and is kind of a psychopath. So Ray Winstone kidnaps Pearce’s younger brother and says that he will let the kid go free if Pearce goes to kill his brother. And the movie is basically like Apocalypse Now in the sense that you have Pearce going to do this and wrestling with the idea of killing his brother. On the one hand, he knows he should, but on the other, it’s his brother. It’s a great movie. It’s so good. I’ll always recommend a western, but this one more so. This is one of my absolute favorite westerns from the past fifteen years. It’s so good. And I know not enough people have seen this. Give it a shot, even if you don’t love westerns. I think you’ll enjoy it. (P.S. The director, John Hillcoat, went on to direct The Road, and he and Nick Cave collaborated again on Lawless this year. So there’s class here.)

15. Romance and Cigarettes

    • This is one of those movies that’s why these lists exist. I heard about this when it was being shot and went, “Wait, WHAT?!” And I was on top of this the entire time. Here’s the pitch: It’s a musical, directed by John Turturro, starring… wait for it… James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Christopher Walken, Susan Sarandon, Steve Buscemi, Mary Louise Parker, Mandy Moore, Bobby Cannavale, Eddie Izzard, Elaine Stritch and Amy Sedaris. Got that? And it’s about Gandolfini, a construction worker, who is married to Susan Sarandon and has a mistress (Winslet) on the side. And he has to deal with the two of them. And all the songs are established songs (the highlight being Christopher Walken singing Tom Jones’s “Delilah”) performed by the characters. And it’s so weird. The whole thing is so surreal and amazing. This is a cult movie that’s not even a cult movie. Trust me on this. Mary Louise Parker, Aida Turturro and Mandy Moore play Gandolfini’s daughters, and I’m pretty sure at least one of them is supposed to be under ten years old. It’s very weird. But it’s so much fun. And no one knows about this movie. I think everyone needs to see this one. This is one of those movies that’s actually one of those gems I keep up my sleeve. Though I so rarely get the chance to show it to people. Usually I end up showing people the Walken number and they go, “Shit, that was really great,” and then they forget it. But now I have a blog. And I’m telling people to see this wonderful little outlier of a movie.

16. Syriana

    • I think movie people know about this. And Oscar people. But since it came out, I don’t think this has maintained the reputation it had when it came out. This is a movie — in a ten picture Best Picture field — this gets in. This was a consensus top ten movie for 2005, and somehow it missed out at the Oscars (Clooney excluded… though how much of that win was actually for the performance and not for all the other shit he did that year?). But damn — this movie is incredible. And because I don’t think it’s been remembered as much as some other movies of this year, I’m gonna mention it. Just to remind you all how good it is.

17. Thank You For Smoking

    • I’m putting this here because I think this has been overshadowed by Reitman’s other work — specifically Juno and Up in the Air. After those, you might tend to forget that he burst onto the scene with this movie. And since this is one of his only movies that doesn’t have loads of Oscar nominations, I think it belongs here, because how do I know how well this has held up over the past seven years? It’s kind of early to tell. But fuck it. If I can get some people to see this wonderful movie who haven’t seen it, I’ve done my job.

18. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

    • Another western. I’m telling you, I’ll always recommend a good western, because there are so few of them. Tommy Lee Jones directed this, and it came on my radar when he won Best Actor for it at Cannes. I also remember January Jones being really good in this (something I’ve never said any other time). But the movie’s about Jones’s friend (guess what his name is), who dies, and Jones goes to bury him in his hometown. And shit happens along the way. It’s really good. People probably won’t love it as much as The Proposition, but this is more of a hidden gem than The Proposition, so it works out.

19. The Weather Man

    • love this movie. I was sold the minute I watched the first trailer, where Cage is like, “I’m a weatherman, and people like to throw things at me,” and then there’s a montage of him getting hit with shakes and stuff. And then he just goes, “People don’t really do that anymore. Maybe it’s because I carry a bow and arrow around with me now.” It was just like, “What?” I saw this movie purely because of that. But, it’s about him, as this weatherman, who is just put upon by life. And over the course of the film, he learns to stick up for himself. And he has to deal with a lot of shit, like his wife’s remarriage and his father dying. It’s pretty terrific. It was also directed by Gore Verbinski. I believe this is the only movie he made between the three Pirates films. It’s really good. This is one of Cage’s best performances of the decade. I know the tendency is to assume Cage movies aren’t good, but this is one of those ones that is, really good. (And he had two of them this year!)

20. The World’s Fastest Indian

    • This movie makes me smile so, so much. Anthony Hopkins is fucking terrific in this movie. He’s so joyous and full of life, that if you don’t like him, you have no soul. He plays Burt Munro, a New Zealander who has spent years working on an Indian motorcycle, and is saving up to get to the Salt Flats in Utah so he can race it and see how fast it goes. That’s his only goal, to see how fast this bike goes. And he’s just so lovable that everyone wants to help him. So he travels, and he meets people along the way and everybody loves him, and by the time he goes to race this bike, you’re rooting for him so much that you want nothing more than for this man to succeed. Watch it. You’ll see. It’s so good. This is one of my absolute favorite hidden gems to show people. It’s one of those movies that, if I find out someone’s seen it, it actually makes me like that person more.

– – – – –

Quick Hits:

  • Good Night, and Good Luck — I just wanted to remind people that this movie is still incredible. I can’t rightly call it a full-fledged hidden gem because of all the nominations and stuff (and I already put one of those on this list), but I can use this spot to remind you that this is still a great movie you may have forgotten about from 2005.
  • Junebug — I love Amy Adams’ performance more than I love the movie, so I couldn’t put it on the actual list. But the performance makes this movie worth seeing. I’m serious. It’s so good. The movie is definitely worth seeing, though. Solid film.
  • Kingdom of Heaven — The director’s cut. That’s why this is here. The actual movie is okay, but the cut they released isn’t as good as Scott’s director’s cut. Watch the director’s cut and see a movie that’s much better than you think it is/the one you saw and didn’t really care for back in 2005.
  • The Matador — Pierce Brosnan is awesome here. Really good overlooked film.
  • Waiting… — I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a good, dumb comedy. When it came out, I really liked it, then when I saw it again like three years ago, I liked it, and over time, I continue to have a soft spot in my heart for this one. I think it’s a bit underrated. Not a perfect movie, but I enjoy it.

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