The films below may have gotten love from critics, but when it came to audiences and the Academy Awards, they were cruelly, infuriatingly, insanely overlooked.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)
For years, the origin of Wonder Woman’s creation was the stuff of whispers and sordid rumors. But with this romantic and sexy biopic, writer/director Angela Robinson sheds the shame and shines a light on the love that sparked creativity, invention, and the birth of the world’s most iconic superheroine. Kristy’s been livid that Professor Marston and the Wonder Women received virtually no award season attention, as she’s been reveling in its pleasures since its Fantastic Fest bow. She wrote, writing, “(Robinson) unfurls fleshed out and flawed characters with compassion and passion. She makes no excuses for their sex lives, because none are needed. She gives us a love story that’s smoking hot with sex appeal, and bursting with emotion. Best of all, she gives us a proudly queer romance that’s an absolute crowd pleaser, and easily one of the best films of the year.”
Rocket Science (2007)
Before she was Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick stole our hearts in this quirky coming-of-age comedy about an awkward boy trying to find his identity in debate club. Dustin raved, “Rocket Science has Wes Anderson’s style wrapped around the heart of early Cameron Crowe, but even that description does a disservice to Jeffrey Blitz’s work — a whip-smart, undeniably sweet movie about self-realization, finding your voice, and taking control of your destiny, even if you don’t know what the hell to do with it once you’ve taken it over.”
The Babadook (2014)
With her feature film debut, writer/director Jennifer Kent concocted a monster mythos so richly realized and riveting that it became instantly iconic. Yet The Babadookdidn’t even make a million in the U.S., and Kent was overlooked for Best Director by scads of award shows. That means millions have slept on Essie Davis’s harrowing portrayal of a women haunted by mysterious and malevolent creature. Upon the film’s release, Kristy heralded, “Delivering a gut-punch of dread, while unfurling a taboo topic with unflinching portrayals, (The Babadook will) leave you breathless.”
Don’t Think Twice (2016)
As a follow-up to Sleepwalk with me, stand-up comedian turned filmmaker Mike Birbiglia unfurled a brilliant, bittersweet comedy about an NYC improv troop. In his review out of SXSW, Seth confessed, “Don’t Think Twice is a hard movie to watch at times, with these moments that feel so real and true that you squirm, feeling like you should not be watching something so intimately uncomfortable. But Birbiglia’s script smartly does not wallow in these moments of discomfort, balancing them out with uproariously funny scenes…The film was easily the best one to play at this year’s South by Southwest, and it may also turn out to be the year’s best movie.”
The King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters (2007)
Maybe one of the greatest hobby documentaries ever made, Seth Gordon unlocks the curious realm of competitive arcade gamers, world records, and kill screens. Dustin declared of this feel-good doc, “Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it’s also much, much funnier. The King of Kong, corny and improbable as this sounds, is about the values of character and integrity trumping the value of coming out on top. And there hasn’t been an underdog story with this clear a crowd favorite since The Karate Kid.”
Attack The Block (2011)
Before John Boyega became the flustered face that launched a thousand ships with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was a tough kid just trying to survive the night and keep his friends safe when ravenous aliens attacked his neighborhood. Written and directed by Joe Cornish, this British sci-fi adventure had Cindy cheering, “Attack The Block is rip-roaring mash-up of comedy, fun, action and horror.”
The Handmaiden (2016) Old Boy director Park Chan-wook unleashed a tale of forbidden passion and twisted revenge in a titillating and chilling adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith. And we’re still reeling that this dizzying and deranged wonder of a film got zero Oscar attention. Rebecca marveled in her review, “One gets the impression someone bet Park Chan-Wook he couldn’t make a crowd-pleaser, and he said ‘fuck you’ and turned around and made this—decidedly NC-17, rife with sex and violence (a lot of the former, not so much of the latter, at least compared to some of his other stuff), without the rough edges we’ve come to expect from his films sanded off. But, at the same time, fun. Funny, even.” And really, that’s all you should know about it going in. Let everything else be an insane surprise.
Sing Street (2016)
Writer/director John Carney recaptured the magic of his breakout Once with another Irish musical about love and turning points. Plus, this one boasts an ’80s setting and teen moments so relatable you can’t help but blush in second-hand embarrassment. In her SXSW review, Kristy wrote, “Carney uses the motley crew’s exploration of different styles of ’80s rock not only as a way to create an incredibly catchy soundtrack, but also as a path for identity and self-discovery. The audience roared with laughter as inspirations collide, with one member wearing a cowboy costume, another rocking a leisure suit, and yet another wearing his mother’s clothes in a vain attempt at pulling off a New Romantic vibe. They steal style from Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Back To the Future’s big prom finale number before they find their own. It’s a teen movie that’s so memorable, you might suffer flashbacks.”
Imagine an R-rated The Little Mermaid, but instead of a castle with a prince, she ends up in a burlesque bar with a ratty family band who plays ’80s rock. Also, she has a smirking sister who is a literal man-eater. That’s essentially the premise for Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska’s narrative feature debut, which has us hooked. In her review, Kristy cheered, “The Lure mixes sultry rock, sprightly pop, pitch-black humor, moody melodrama, frank nudity, and body horror to make a fairy tale that is fresh, fearsome, and fascinating. It delights and repulses in turn, pushing its audience to consider what its fantasy reflects about our reality…If you were gaga for the surreal horror of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, you’ll be head over tail for the The Lure.”
What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
Before he rocked our worlds with Thor: Ragnarok, writer/director/actor/Pajiba 10 honoree Taika Waititi made a blazingly original and totally bonkers mockumentary about vampire roommates that function as an exploration about the desire to be cool. In her rave review, Kristy wrote, “It’s so dense with jokes you’re guaranteed to miss some through the cacophony of your own laughter. And with an ensemble cast working this flawlessly together, only re-watching allows you take in side-splitting reactions you may have missed your first go ‘round. Basically, you shouldn’t just see this movie. You should see this movie repeatedly.”
Now’s your turn. Tell us a criminally underrated film from the 21st century, and you could win a free copy of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women on DVD. But there are a few rules.
Like the titles above, your answer must be a film that:
*Received zero Oscar nominations in major categories. (We’ll allow a technical award or production design nod.)