The Hidden Gems List (2001)
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 2001′s gems.
1. Behind Enemy Lines
- I enjoy the shit out of this movie. I miss these war films. These are the three genres I miss most: war films, westerns and musicals. And they’ve replaced them with superhero movies, mindless action movies and horrible comedies. But anyway — this movie is really solid. It’s one of those movies that, when it’s on, I’ll always watch it. It’s totally solid all around, and I’m calling it a hidden gem because these types of movies are a lost breed. And I don’t think the people who weren’t around at that time and watching movies would have necessarily seen this. Which is a shame. Because this is better than more than half the shit that comes out nowadays.
2. Enemy at the Gates
- Behind Enemy Lines is a fun war film. This is a great war film. This movie got overlooked when it came out, and yet — so many people now praise this movie. So I’m calling it a hidden gem just because I still think there aren’t people who have seen this movie. Which is a shame, since it’s one of the best movies of 2001.
3. I Am Sam
- I didn’t see this movie until I started the Oscar Quest. I knew my mother liked this and watched it a bunch (which, as I learned, is actually usually a sign that I’m going to like it), but I never thought much of it. Then I saw it — and goddamn if it wasn’t amazing. Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning are absolutely astounding here. And the downside to this movie isn’t the fact that Penn went full retard, it’s the fact that they edited it in such a way that it actually hurts the performance. (Oscar-wise. The performance is still spectacular on its own.) That aside, this movie is absolutely terrific, and I feel like, in a post-“full retard” world, there’s a good chance people won’t see this movie and will just skate by on the “full retard” excuse. And that’s not okay. Because this is actually one of the best movies of 2001.
4. Kate & Leopold
- I’m not sure why I randomly put this one on, but when I did, I was expecting some shitty romantic comedy, and I found myself going, “Wow, I’m actually enjoying this,” … “Wow, this is actually good.” I was actually amazed. The dialogue here was solid, and it was just screwball enough for me to really enjoy myself. And then when it went full on romantic at the end, I was totally with it. No joke, this movie is actually better than you think it would be. I actually expected this to be bad, and was practically shocked by how much I liked it.
5. Knockaround Guys
- I saw this in the theater. And I loved it. I’m not sure why this never caught on. But either way, everything about this movie screams “hidden gem.” It was written and directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, who wrote Rounders and Ocean’s Thirteen, and has Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Dennis Hopper, John Malkovich, Seth Green and Tom Noonan in it. It’s really solid. And it’s one of those movies where, even when it came out, I went, “How come no one gives a shit about this?” It’s weird that it just immediately forgotten. But this is really solid.
6. The Man Who Wasn’t There
- Definitely one of the Coen brothers’ most overlooked films, probably because it was shot entirely in black and white, probably because it’s a straight film noir, with nothing happy about it whatsoever, probably because it came immediately after O Brother Where Art Thou? If you notice, the films the Coens make immediately after their biggest hits are always not well-received and are always completely misunderstood when they come out and tossed aside to be rediscovered later. Examples: after Fargo, The Big Lebowski was almost despised when it first came out. After O Brother was this, which was received very well critically, but I know not everyone has seen this one yet. And then after No Country was Burn After Reading, which still hasn’t came back to be regarded as a great movie yet. And now, after True Grit, I’m certain Inside Llewelyn Davis is gonna be another one of those movies. But this one — this movie is fucking terrific. It’s so good. And those who’ve seen it know how good it is. I’m just under the impression that not everyone as seen this, and as such, this has to go here.
7. The Mexican
- I loved this movie. I must have seen this at least a dozen times. I had no idea this movie’s reaction was so mixed for like, six years after it came out. I don’t know what it is about this one, but I love it. I can always watch this. I think it’s crazy underrated. It’s just so laid back. I love a movie where the end goal is pretty inconsequential and we’re just hanging out with the characters and that’s what comprises the film. Like Rio Bravo. This is kind of like that. The main plot doesn’t matter. We’re just hanging out with these characters. And it’s fun as hell.
8. The Pledge
- This and About Schmidt are Jack Nicholson’s best dramatic performances since the 80s (and maybe even 70s). This movie is so fucking good. This is one of my top hidden gems of all time. It’s so good. I saw this in theaters, too. Long before I really knew who Nicholson was and before I knew Sean Penn directed it. Or that the Indian in this movie is Benicio del Toro. This movie is so goddamn engaging. Nicholson is a cop who is retiring and sees a young girl get murdered on his last night on duty. And he pledges to her mother that he’s gonna get the guy who did it. And — well… it’s fucking great. It’s a movie about obsession, ultimately, and the obsession Nicholson has for this killer is fucking astounding. It’s so good. If you haven’t seen this, go out and see it right now. Absolutely one of the top ten or fifteen films of 2001.
9. The Score
- Another one I saw in theaters. I loved this. Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Edward Norton. Need more? It’s a heist movie. They’re trying to break into a Canadian embassy to steal a priceless scepter. And we follow them as they go to do it. It’s engaging as hell, and worthy enough to have all three of those actors in it. It’s a very solid movie, made more engaging by the casting of those three. And I know people haven’t seen this. So go out and see it. Because not only is it solid — look at the cast!
10. Spy Game
- My mother had been telling me about this one for years. She watched it whenever it was on and even bought the DVD. And my parents never buy DVDs. And for some reason I never got around to it because I assumed it would be bad. And once again, when I did see it, I went, “Jesus, this is really fucking good.” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s Tony Scott and it’s a spy thriller. Plus, Pitt and Redford — it’s terrific. If I didn’t see this movie for a decade after it came out, then I’m sure there are a lot of people who haven’t seen this. And it doesn’t deserve that. It’s incredible.
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- Bandits — This movie is enjoyable as shit. Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett… terrific movie. Based on an Elmore Leonard book, but not really, since they really only took the title and very loose aspects of the story. This movie is fun as hell, and is definitely one of the more overlooked films of 2001.
- Buffalo Soldiers — This was a fun movie. Kind of weird, but fun. I don’t remember it much, so I kept it down here. Basically it’s one of those situations where it’s about a bunch of soldiers on a base where nothing happens (it’s right before the end of the Cold War), so they get into shenanigans. It primarily involves Joaquin Phoenix as a guy who steals a bunch of shit and sells it, and he’s also fucking the base commander (Ed Harris)’s daughter, and the base commander has it in for him — all that stuff. It’s like a dark version of MASH. It’s pretty funny. Nice little gem.
- Exit Wounds — I don’t know what it is about this movie, but I have a bunch of friends who all randomly enjoy the shit out of this. I can’t even explain why this is good, but all I know is that I enjoy the shit out of this movie. And DMX is in it. I’m calling it a hidden gem because this is more entertaining than you’d expect a Steven Seagal movie to be.
- Formula 51 — Okay, here’s the setup… Samuel L. Jackson is a kilt-wearing chemist named Elmo McElroy. He works for Meat Loaf, who is named The Lizard. He invents a formula for the perfect drug. He fucks over The Lizard and plans to sell his formula for enough money to retire. Now, if I didn’t have you at “Samuel L. Jackson is a kilt-wearing chemist named Elmo McElroy,” I don’t really know what else I can do for you.
- Heist — It’s a David Mamet-scripted heist movie. Heist movies are always interesting, and the David Mamet dialogue only adds to the intrigue. This is a really solid film that got totally overlooked when it came out. It’s a damn shame, because it’s a really solid flick.