Mike’s Top Hidden Gems of the Decade (200-191)
Of all the lists I’m making for this Top Tens of the Decade feature, I need to explain this one the most. Since the phrase ‘hidden gem’ can apply various different ways to a film and can mean different things: a) a movie you don’t know about that’s great and should be seen; b) a movie you may have heard of but probably haven’t seen that you should see; c) a movie you know and may have even seen, but is being underrated by the film community; d) a movie that straight up just needs to be seen by more people.
Obviously there are way more than just 200 gems from this decade. In my first run-through, simply compiling a list of things I might have on this list, before I considered whether they fit the criteria I wanted to use for it while also trying to be as exclusive as possible, I had over 250 films. I get that this isn’t a be-all, end-all list. These are just the 200 I chose to talk about because they’re the ones I felt deserved the most notice in this particular article and are the ones I wanted to shout out the most.
Now, how I went about the rankings was more vague. Part of it had to be how much I liked each of the films. I don’t see how it couldn’t be. But it’s not just that. Because that’s just a top films list, which I’m gonna do after this one’s done. This one’s also about just how much of a hidden gem I felt the movie is, or how much I wanted to give you that nudge in the direction of, “Hey, maybe you’re wrong about this and should give it a (or another) shot.” Or how much I wanted to emphasize, “You need to see this movie.”
I think it goes without saying – just because something is on this list doesn’t mean I assume you don’t know it. It’s because I figure (or know) there’s a larger percentage of people than I want to guess that either haven’t seen the movie or don’t fully appreciate the movie, and the goal is to introduce it to them. If you’re already in the camp of having seen it, good for you. I’m pretty sure most people reading this will have at least a quarter of this list that they haven’t seen. I suspect it’s more, but I truly don’t know how crazy most people are in relation to me in terms of seeing everything. I think most people will get some cool movies out of this.
Quentin Dupieux is one of the few truly surrealist and absurdist filmmakers working. His films are just complete mind fucks or just so crazy that they’re amazing. Another one of his films that didn’t make this list is Wrong, which is also quite nuts. This one is the one more people will maybe recognize at face value, and I just wanted to get him in there, because all it takes is one film you go see and like to get you to want to see someone’s other films. This one’s easy — it’s about a killer tire. That is, a tire that becomes sentient and begins roaming around the desert, killing people. That’s it. That’s the film. It’s crazy and hilarious and just a different type of movie that you’re used to. Some people might really respond to that.
199. Little Sister
Another film that’s best sold on its premise — the ‘goth nun’ movie. It’s about a nun, about to take her final vows, who is told by her mother superior (after sensing some nervousness in her and knowing her past that we slowly find out about) that she should go out and see her family because she does that. So she goes home, and we find out that in high school, she was deep into death metal and all that stuff, has a questionable relationship with her parents, and her brother, who was stationed overseas in the military, came back after an IED blew up his face. It’s basically an indie movie (which makes it that weird mix of drama and comedy without either really taking precedent because ‘indie’ is a tone), but there’s a lot of unique elements that make it unique. It’s quite solid, especially since when you go in, you can’t imagine they’re gonna get that much out of ‘goth nun’. But they do.
198. Don Jon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut. It feels like nobody saw this. It’s about a stereotypical New Jersey Italian dude (think Jersey shore Italian). Hair has to be perfect, always at the gym, goes to church, eats dinner with his family on Sundays, and also has a porn addiction. So the film is about his normal life and how he meets what he thinks is the girl of his dreams, Scarlett Johansson. But then he also meets older divorcée Julianne Moore, who is more of an unconventional choice but with whom he seems to maybe have a deeper connection. It’s a really nice film with some great characterization of all its characters (not just the main few) and has nice roles for people like Tony Danza, who you haven’t seen in much of anything for a while.
197. The Voices
This was one of the most entertaining scripts I’d read for a lot of years. And I was convinced they’d never make it. Because basically it’s about a guy who seems normal (a little too normal) who has a crush on the woman at the office and is kinda shy but kind of endearing… who you find out also is mentally ill, off his meds and hears voices from his pet cat and pet dog. And the dog is super nice and positive and the cat is an evil piece of shit. So it’s angel and demon on the shoulder kind of thing. And it’s a weird comedy where he just kind of accidentally murders people. And as you can see, there is a musical number with Jesus in it at one point. It’s impossible to try to sell this movie, and I’ll admit it probably worked a little better on the page than it does on screen, but it’s just such a weird and fucked up premise and offbeat movie that it’s worth talking about. Some people will really be amused by this.
196. Why Stop Now
Very amusing indie comedy that I’m convinced absolutely no one but me saw. And yet Jesse Eisenberg and Melissa Leo star in it. It feels like it was one of the first straight-to-VOD movies of this caliber. Meaning — with a cast. It’s about an aspiring musical student and his drug-addicted mother. He’s on the eve of a very promising music conservatory audition and she’s relapsed yet again. Though, to make him happy, she agrees to finally go to rehab. Only problem — they won’t let her into rehab unless she has drugs in her system. So the two of them have to go out, buy drugs, and she has to take them just so she can get admitted to rehab. And that sends them on this madcap journey that all takes place over the course of an afternoon. It’s a lot of fun. Small movie, no budget. So don’t expect it to change your life. But it’s one of those, considering you knew nothing about it going in, a lot of people are gonna be really amused by it. It’s always more exciting to watch something you like when it feels like you’re discovering it rather than just seeing it because you knew you’d like it.
195. The Big Year
I remember when this came out and it got meh reviews. I wasn’t sure why I was bothering to see it. And then I loved it. I have no idea why I loved it, but I did. It’s a movie about bird watchers. Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black are amateur bird watchers who set out to have a ‘big year’ which is a sort of competition among bird watchers to see who can spot the most types of species over the course of a calendar year. And you think it’s gonna be one of those crazy madcap comedy deals, but it’s not. It’s much more in that sort-of-comedy, sort-of-drama movie for adults. That’s the best way to explain it. It’s a movie for adults. It doesn’t cut too deep, but its superficial pleasures were, for me, quite amusing. It’s one of the earliest films in the history of this site where I came out enjoying it way more than I ever thought I would. I think it’s worth giving a shot. I’ll admit it may not translate for you as it did me, but it feels like it has a chance for some people, and that feels good enough.
And now a very dark comedy from 2019. Maika Monroe has become the offbeat indie queen (it was horror, but lately it’s branched out to other things) and Bill Skarsgard has done an interesting job of trying to branch out as best he can when not playing the murderous clown. It’s about a couple of thieves who, after robbing a local gas station and on a crime spree in the hopes of getting to a new life and starting a family, take shelter in what they think is an abandoned house, looking to steal a car. But then they discover something they weren’t expecting, and soon they run into the owners of the house — Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick. And then things take a bit of a weird turn and things proceed from there. It’s fun. It’s only about 90 minutes long and it’s got a nice amount of twists and things to it. If this were 50 years ago, this would be the second half of a double bill. It’s that kind of movie. Drive-in, grindhouse kinda fare. Lot of fun, very much underrated and underseen.
193. Get the Gringo
This is the Mel Gibson entry. He disappeared from acting for a long time in the wake of those personal things that popped up in the news (the thing with the cop and then later the voicemails). So people forgot how awesome he is in things and how entertaining it is watching him in his element. He also directed during that time. His last real film appearance was Signs. He’s in The Singing Detective with Robert Downey Jr, but who even saw that? His next film after Signs was Edge of Darkness, six whole years later. and he did some other stuff — The Beaver is kind of out there because it’s so weird, and Machete Kills got some press, but it’s the two gritty action movies he made during this decade that really are quite entertaining and got zero notice whatsoever.
If you grew up, as I did, with Mel Gibson action movies, Payback and the like, you’ll really enjoy this movie, Get the Gringo, and the other one, Blood Father. It’s kind of a double entry for both films. Blood Father is a simple — he’s a dude living in Joshua Tree, giving bikers tattoos, and then he finds out his underaged daughter, who left to date a drug dealer, is now being hunted by said drug dealers after witnessing a murder. So it’s him going around, protecting his daughter and murdering bad dudes. It’s fun. This one, I think, is more fun, which is why I chose to make it the basis for the entry.
The film begins with Mel as a getaway driver dressed as a clown, fleeing from police across the U.S./Mexico border after a bank robbery. Once crossing, he’s promptly arrested by corrupt Mexican police, who confiscate the $2 million got from the robbery, keep it it for themselves and then dump him in a Mexican prison. And so the film is Mel, inside the prison, with people not knowing him and underestimating him for being a gringo, finding a way to get by and finding a way to get back at the guys who did this to him. It’s fun as hell. If you like fun action movies — any of the stuff Mel did in the 80s and 90s — this is right up that alley. It’s so much fun and almost no one knows it exists.
192. See You Yesterday
Netflix time travel movie that is both really great but also timely. It’s also a first feature, so that makes it worth seeing too. It’s about two science geeks who build a time machine that actually works. Only, right as they’re about to test it, by going back in time for a day, the girl’s brother is shot by police. So now, rather than just going back in time for a day to prove that time travel exists, she’s trying to do it to prevent her brother from being killed. And of course every time they go back and change something, it alters the future. So it becomes this really interesting movie where no matter what they do, bad things keep happening and it starts to seem like no matter what happens, the only outcome is a black man being shot by police. There’s so much here, and you don’t even have to view it from the social angle (though it’s impossible not to see it) to be entertained by it. Because the two leads are fantastic and the the script is very well-written and has the right balance of humor and drama. There’s a lot of crap Netflix originals out there, and this is not one of them.
One of the most insane movies of the decade. It got some notice when it came out for having the craziest plot twist of the year. But it came out in January and was pulled from theaters and dumped onto VOD less than a month later. And even after that happened and I brought it up to people, they still had no idea what this even was. Maybe they’d go, “Oh, is that the McConaughey movie where he’s the captain of the boat? Isn’t Anne Hathaway in that?” That’s all they knew. And no one was interested in seeing it until I told them what the insane twist was. Because that’s the paradox of this movie — it’s so bad that the only way to see it is because you know how nuts it is. So I’m just gonna come out and say it, because it’s not like you rushed out to see this or were considering doing so before I’m doing it — McConaughey is a fishing boat captain on this island, and Hathaway is his ex-wife, who shows up, revealing that he’s living under a false identity and says, “My new husband is a piece of shit who beats me. I want you to murder him for me.” So it starts as this sort of noir movie kind of deal. Which could be interesting. Only, at one point, we find out — IT’S ALL A VIDEO GAME. I know that doesn’t mean much on its own, but trust me, when you see it and it happens, you can’t understand why they’re doing it. It definitely makes some of the bad dialogue and performances make sense, but the premise is that McConaughey is dead, and his son is living with Hathaway and the abusive new husband and, rather than give into his urges to murder his stepfather, created this video game where the goal is to catch a big fish that McConaughey’s character’s been after forever and could never catch and not commit the murder, which somehow stops him from committing the murder in real life. I’m telling you, it’s nuts. If enough people bothered to see this, it might become one of those cult movies that people laugh at. It’s just so crazy and you can’t understand why someone deliberately went and made a movie like this. Because it’s not one of those movies that’s just bad because it didn’t come together or some element is comical — that was the plan. That story was built into the narrative. It’s really just so insane that I think it deserves a chance to become one of those unintentional comedies we love so much.
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