The Hidden Gems List (1991)

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 1991′s gems.

(Note: I hadn’t decided what to do with 1991. I couldn’t get to ten films I’d both seen and liked enough to list as hidden gems. So what I’m doing is leaving 5 films for now, and when I see a couple of films that I’m sure fit the mold of hidden gems and like them, that’s when I’ll update this list. For now — five’ll do. Mostly I was gonna spend a bunch of spots telling you to see Barton Fink and Boyz N the Hood and stuff like that. But if you need me to tell you that, I don’t think you understand what you’re supposed to be getting out of these lists and really need to reevaluate your movie watching habits. )

1. Bugsy

    • This was nominated for Best Picture, but I still feel like it’s an underrated movie. It’s one of those movies I feel people take for granted. Plus, 1991 has some real home run hitters in it. So I think people see this next to those and go, “Yeah, all right… but I want to watch Silence of the Lambs.” This is one of those, I think, people hear, and go, “Well this’ll always be there.” And they go watch something else first, because it seems flashier than this. I think Quiz Show is the same way. You sort of think solid, but it’s only when you watch it that you go, “Wow, this is actually so much better than solid.” And I think that’s where this film gets shortchanged. So, in its own way, I’d consider this a hidden gem. Hidden in plain sight is still hidden.

2. The Doors

    • I have such a weird and profound respect for this movie. Honestly, had he not won two between 1986 and 1991, between this and JFK, Oliver Stone wins Best Director hands down. But anyway, this movie — it’s strangely perfect. Val Kilmer is fucking spellbinding as Morrison. And it’s one of those movies that either people totally get or people don’t get at all. It’s also one of those that tends to get lost among Stone’s other movies (since he’s responsible for some real all-timers). It’s one of those gems that’s more well-known than most, especially when the list is only five movies long, but what can I say? 1991 is tough, and this movie actually is a gem that not enough people have seen. People don’t often get around to this one immediately. I’m just making sure they get around to it.

3. The Fisher King

    • This is one of those gems people love to make sure other people have seen. I had people telling me for years I needed to see this movie. Even Netflix and IMDB. They were like, “Well you seem to like this shit, so we’re pretty sure you’ll like this too.” And I was spiteful about it. I was like, “No. Fuck that.” Mostly because I don’t seem to love Terry Gilliam’s stuff (as a whole) as other people do. Yet, each of his movies, I do like. It’s just that distinction of — I’m a strong four on his stuff. I like it but don’t love love it. (Though I do love Fear and Loathing.) Other people are an exuberant five. But anyway — I loved this movie. I think it’s oddly perfect.

4. Necessary Roughness

    • I grew up with this movie, I love this movie, I know people haven’t seen this movie, and it is my mission to show people this movie. I’m not actually trying that hard, since I like that this movie is there and is underseen. Because it feels like one of mine. One that I don’t need to share. I almost prefer that this doesn’t have an audience. But this movie is hysterical to me. It’s so good. Basically it’s about a college program who is penalized for players and coaches taking bribes. So all the players are banned from coming back, as are the coaches. So they have to create a team from the student body, and get a new coach. So Hector Elizondo is a new coach, and he’s a big, respectable coach. And he shows up, and they go about building a team from the student body. So they get a bunch of misfits, like Scott Bakula, who is like 35 but still has a year of college eligibility left, to be the quarterback, a big Samoan center, a wide receiver who can’t catch but is fast as a motherfucker, a female placekicker, a teacher at the school (who is actually played by Sinbad) — people like that. (Note: If you recognize all these characters from other sports movies, realize — this movie came out before almost all of them, if not all of them.) And on top of that — they don’t have enough people, so all the players have to play both offense and defense. It’s fucking hilarious. It’s so good. Robert Loggia is fucking tremendous in this movie. He’s so great. His halftime speech at the end is Oscar-worthy (comedically-speaking). I love this movie. To the point where I’m gonna end up watching it very shortly now because I’ve talked about it. I remember watching this movie all the time from like, age 5, because my father always watched this movie. So I don’t even care if people end up seeing this one or not. Because I’ll always have it.

5. Shadows and Fog

    • I feel responsible for praising the few Woody Allen movies I actually like. I love that he made this German Expressionist. That alone made me enjoy this. I think this is one of his more underrated movies. I think it’s pretty funny, too. If you’re a film person and have seen a bunch of older movies (or taken some film classes), you’ll catch a lot of references and homages to silent movies, which I really enjoyed. So that’s definitely a reason to see this, outside of the fact that I’m recommending it even though I’m very open about not really liking his movies.

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