gwen learns

Underrated.

Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on December 30, 2011

For a while now I’ve been wanting to highlight a few movies that I believe are underrated (ie. should have won more Academy Awards) but fell victim to the “released-too-early-in-the-year” curse.  I noticed in the last couple days that my newsfeed was full of stories about why box office revenues have dipped this year, and my (unsubstantiated) theory is that it’s b/c all the good movies are now released in the last two weeks of the year.  People’s memories are weak… so in order to secure an Oscar nomination and win, they have to wait till the end of the year to show their movie.  But who has enough extra money or time around the holidays to see 10 great movies?

Anyway, here are two movies that I believe should have won more Academy Awards earlier this year:

Shutter Island

(released February 19, 2010)

This movie has everything!  (spoiler alert… don’t read on if you don’t want to know what happens)

1.  You get TWO movies for the price of one.  Once you find out what in the world is going on near the end of the movie, you have to watch it again.  Some characters that seriously disturbed you on the first run-through will become another person entirely on the second viewing.  Much of the dialogue will take on a different meaning.

2. How this movie deals with violence, and how it affects the main character… a fascinating theme throughout.  First, you have the Nazi concentration camp where Andrew chooses to let this Nazi officer suffer instead of letting him end his own life quickly.  Then you have his wife, someone he loves, who also committed an act of violence.  She also asks for a quick way out, but this time he gives the offender what she asks for.  It’s possible this is his way of forgiving her, but I think it’s more about setting her free from punishment and her own insanity.  Then, at the end you have this great line at the end of the movie spoken by Andrew himself: “Which would be worse – to live as a monster? Or to die as a good man? “… and we are led to believe (at least in my opinion) that Andrew has chosen to go under the knife so he won’t cause anymore violence himself.

3. This movie deals a lot with truth vs. fiction and fantasy.   In fact, it’s really all about how fiction can lead you to the truth.  I think many critics of this movie sort of rejected this crazy idea that a mental institution would allow this sort of fantasy to be played out.  To that I would say, of course it’s ridiculous!  I think the characters are aware of how unusual it is.  But I just think it’s fascinating how letting the main character live out this fantasy is in itself a fantasy for the psychologists in the movie.  And I do believe that fiction and fantasy can more often lead you to the truth than non-fiction.  It’s the difference between law and the principle behind the law… something Jesus lived out.  It’s why I believe he so often chose fictional stories to communicate his message.

4.  The music.  From the first deep horn sounds that are like a boat signaling to the dock (and also a signal to the audience that we’re entering eery territory).   Then all the way to the end credits, where you find this brilliant mix of Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth” and a modern classical piece “On the Nature of Daylight” that’s played in key scenes throughout the movie.  And then everything in between….  I just couldn’t believe this wasn’t a score!  It’s just well-chosen pre-published music.   Pretty amazing.

5. Not a horror movie!  The trailers were pretty deceptive.  They made it look like a horror movie, but I think it’s really in the drama/mystery/psychological thriller arena.

6. Water and fire.  Just pay attention to how they use these two elements during the course of this movie.  They did a good job of weaving these throughout.

How to Train Your Dragon

(released: March 26, 2010)

Don’t get me wrong… I am a big fan of Pixar, and I really liked Toy Story 3, but in 2010, How to Train Your Dragon was the winner in my book.  Just watch it and see for yourself!

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