When any given cinematic year ends there are always a handful of movies that get more kudos than they deserve and also movies that fall through the cracks or simply don’t find themselves taken seriously come the end of the year. These are films that were either unfairly maligned, didn’t get the quantity of regard that they deserved, or they never caught on with the general public when they deserved to.
- 50/50: There seem to be two routes to success for comedies: they can either be mainstream raunch-fests that cater to a certain 20-something core audience, or they can be quirky indie-films that build up “little engine that could” stories over the course of their release. It seems like there wasn’t much room for a film that straddles these two release strategy as evidenced by the fact that 50/50 only managed to achieve modest box office success and was mostly forgotten by critics after a week.
- Contagion: Contagion made decent box office and had generally positive reviews, but it was never really able to break into the realms of true respectability when the end of the year came around. The film wasn’t on many year end top ten lists, at least not amongst professional critics and not only was it completely ignored by the Oscars but it hardly even made a dent when it came to second tier award shows. It couldn’t even get into the WGA awards with half of its competition disqualified.
- Red State: This is a case where the story behind a film sort of over-shadowed the film itself. Of course this isn’t some kind of lost horror masterpiece; in fact it’s a complete mess in many ways. Its tone is all over the place and it isn’t overly well crafted in a number of ways, however, there are some interesting things going on in the film and I feel like it deserved a chance to be seen on its own merits rather than as an afterthought in a discussion of the future of film distribution.
- Super 8: It’s interesting that the likely Oscar winner this year, The Artist, is a film that meticulously tries to recreate the look and feel of a film genre from the past and yet the film that did something similar in the year was dismissed as derivative. Easily J.J. Abram’s best film, Super 8 managed to act as a loving tribute to the Amblin films of the late 70s and early 80s. It wasn’t perfect, but its telling that it was pretty clearly better than not one but two actual Steven Spielberg films this year.
- Weekend: Weekend got very positive reviews, and it has also been embraced but it hasn’t seemed to get so much as an ounce of crossover success. The film never had the long term buzz that other indies like Take Shelter and Martha Marcy May Marlene had and it ended up making less than $500,000 at the domestic box office. I feel like it could have gained the cult following of something like Once if it had just been marketed with a little more savvy.