Quarantine Viewing

Both New Wife and I have a problem when it comes to movies:  we are not enthralled (to put it mildly) by anything that smacks of science fiction or fantasy — although I loved the brilliant About Time, that was more because of Bill Nighy’s performance, which dragged the movie out of the generic time-travel dreck  — and that dislike of fantasy extends to horror movies of the Chainsaw Massacre  type.

Thus, a compendium along the lines of These 10 Underappreciated Movies Make for the Perfect Quarantine Viewing Experience is of little use to me, mostly because of the list’s reliance on sci-fi / fantasy / horror formats.  (Of that list, I’d seen only a couple, and liked only Surveillance.  The rest… forget about it.  Didn’t see;  won’t either.)

So I thought of creating my own list of underappreciated movies, only with a principle theme of adult (in its original sense) entertainment.  Some are available on Netflix, Prime and the like, while others may have to be rented or purchased.  Here they are:

  1. Montana (Kyra Sedgwick, Stanley Tucci) — bleakly redefined the gangster-movie genre;  both Tucci and Sedgwick are great.
  2. Sideways (Thomas Haden Church, Paul Giamatti) — a “buddy” movie about a trip to the California wine country:  seriously?
  3. Elizabethtown (Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst) — black comedy/romance, and the story’s occasional missteps can be safely ignored.  I even enjoyed Free Bird, which says something.
  4. The Matador (Pierce Brosnan) — absolutely one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and Brosnan is beyond words.
  5. A Good Year (Russell Crowe) — I’ve talked about this one often, and it’s nearly time for me to watch it again.
  6. Sliding Doors (Gwyneth Paltrow, ) — when a movie can make Goats ‘N Monkeys Paltrow look good, you have to know — and Scottish actor John Hannah is brilliant, as always.  And yes, it’s a time-shift piece, but like About Time, that’s just the background noise.
  7. O Lucky Man (Malcolm McDowell) — rent it at Amazon Prime, and it’ll be the best $2 you spent all week.  The best of Malcolm McDowell’s early-70s movies (alongside A Clockwork Orange and If… the latter being almost as good).  And while we’re on Malcolm McDowell…
  8. Aces High — best WWI movie ever made, better than All Quiet On The Western Front, even.
  9. Coldblooded (Jason Priestley) — Priestley sheds his pretty-boy image forever.
  10. Paper Man (Jeff Daniels) — Jeff Daniels has given us several fine performances, and this one is up there with the best.
  11. Red Road (Kate Dickie) — saddest movie of the lot, set in the bleak (and since-demolished) eponymous public housing complex in Glasgow.
  12. The Last Seduction (Linda Fiorentino) — another black comedy (anyone sense a theme, here?) but with wicked twists and turns in the plot.
  13. Criminal (John C. Reilly) — how do you con a conman?  And Reilly, as always, is amazing.

Of course there are others, but these are the ones which came to mind immediately.  Feel free, as always, to add your suggestions in Comments — just please, please  avoid the aforesaid sci-fi, horror and fantasy genres.

29 comments

  1. Not sure if it underappreciated, but The Man Who Would Be King is a movie I am quite sure you would enjoy.
    Thank you for the list, I had not heard of most of them. I did enjoy Sideways!

  2. BOUND with Jennifer Tilly, Joey Pants, and Gina Gershon.
    This masterpiece is studied in film schools.

    RABBIT-PROOF FENCE.
    Australia, 1950s, family destruction by bureaucrats.

    THIEF with James Caan and Jim Belushi… Robert Prosky is notably evil with a smile.
    James Cameron directs.
    Closing scenes — ‘confrontation’ — soundtrack by Craig Safan is magnificent.
    If you enjoy SOMEBODY LOAN ME A DIME by Boz Skaggs with Duane Allman…

  3. Not one of your movies have I seen nor heard of. I dropped out of the movie crowd around the late 1980s….BUT here are a couple of mine that I have recently watched…

    THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES…I usually end up in a puddle of tears.

    THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN…needless to say one of the best with an incredible cast.

    A BOY AND HIS DOG…this is one in your banned category, but Harlan Ellison…

    BREAD AND CHOCOLATE….gotta see it. Hilarious Italian cinema….

    And nearly any Charlton Heston movie but mostest especially…

    KHARTOUM…screenplay by none other than Robert Ardrey

    WILL PENNY… wow…just low key life in the winter out West…and love

  4. OK, a few of my favorites:

    Secondhand Lions – Kim actually turned me on to this movie. Robert Duvall (my all-time favorite actor) and Michael Caine (a close second), how can it not be good. Oh, Haley Joel Osment too.

    The Sand Pebbles – Steve McQueen as a China Sailor meets a very young Candice Bergman (English teacher/missionary) during the Boxer Rebellion.

    Open Range – Robert Duvall in a Western? Sign me up! Not sure this really counts as underappreciated though.

    And for a series:

    Hell on Wheels – Set during the building of the Trans-Continental Railroad, so gritty you need a bandanna over your face.

    1. I’m an old naval engineer and really enjoyed the engine room scenes in the Sand Pebbles. One of the few times you get to see an old reciprocating steam plant.

  5. Another +1 for Sideways, although you failed to mention the real stars of that movie, the “can’t take your eyes off her” Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh, who gets a special award for best use of motorcycle helmet.
    O Lucky Man is worth seeing just for the music by Alan Price.
    Also +1 for Thief, mentioned above, that has a maturely beautiful Tuesday Weld.
    Finally, my own contribution would be the entire filmography of Catherine Deneuve. Sure, there are some clinkers in there, but you can watch those with the sound off.

  6. THE HORSE’S MOUTH with Alec Guinness. It boils down to one line. “It’s not what I wanted to say”.

  7. Room With a View – set in Edwardian England and Tuscany, music by Puccini, wonderful cast – Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Denholm Elliott, Simon Callow, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Daniel Day-Lewis, gorgeous scenery and cinematography to appreciate it. A tale of coming of age, a bit of a send-up of Edwardian manners, comedy and romance that takes us to a different time and place. An Ivory-Merchant production. Still love it after all these years.

  8. Peter O’Toole’s “My Favourite Year” is an absolute treasure. Loved “Kodachrome” (Netflix). Rush to see that one, in my opinion. And although The Lake House has a bit of time-travel in it, it’s a compelling story that I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend if you or the missus likes romantic movies.

    There are precious few adult movies that are worth watching, so of late I’ve been indulging in bingeable series on Netflix and Amazon. I’m a sucker for detective series from outside of North America, and the UK has a cornucopia of mysteries worth watching. Top amongst them I would suggest Shetland, followed by Happy Valley, and series 1 of Broadchurch. There’s also a great series of movies out of Ireland called Jack Taylor. Nine 90-minute movies, but only the first 6 are worth watching.

    For comedy/drama, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is top of the charts for me. A solid 10/10.

    I’m personally not bothered by *good* SF/fantasy (no horror, ever), and for others reading here, you can’t go wrong with The Expanse (Amazon). Easily the best hard-SF series ever produced, where the laws of physics, space, and time are rigidly adhered to. Great political thriller set about 300 years in the future.

    1. My Favorite Year: “I’m not an actor… I’m a MOVIE STAR!” Best line ever, especially as said by one of the world’s greatest actors.

      1. Agreed! When I was a projectionist in another life I was special-called to run this for a local college’s cinema class every year (double-time-and-a-half and it’s a LONG film). King Kong was only three foot six!

  9. I’ve been watching a lot of Bollywood’s offerings on Netflix lately. As with Tinseltown’s stuff, most are drek (and yet even the drek is almost always entertaining — sometimes even “so bad it’s good.”), but there have been some surprisingly good ones in there too. It doesn’t hurt that the actresses tend toward the “mind-meltingly gorgeous” end of the spectrum.

    I’m one of those folks who doesn’t mind subtitles, but I know most people can’t stand them, so I understand reluctance to view films that need them.

    Still and all, language tends to be very clean (and even if the sound coming from the actor’s mouth is an English swear, the subtitles are often something like “darn it” anyway, which is hilarious), action scenes tend to be highly stylized and rarely is there even so much as blood, much less gore. While clothing might be a bit skimpy (and have you seen Bollywood dancers move? Google up Nora Fatehi sometime…) there’s pretty much no such thing as a sex scene either, instead simply fading to black during a look of longing. Frankly, so little as a hug is rare, much less a kiss on the cheek, or that fleeting unicorn of the “lip-to-lip kiss.”

    And best of all — they don’t have US politics, so no leftist sucker punches.

  10. I’ll add, for underappreciated movies:
    “The Ruling Class” with Peter O’Toole – the tale of an English lord who thinks he’s Jesus Christ. And when they cure him of that, things get really dark and crazy.

    “Drive-In” – set in a small Texas town, it’s the adventures of the local teenagers during a weekend. There’s one overly-long scene at the local skating rink, but otherwise the film is funny and enjoyable. As a bonus, you get to see parts of another film (“Disaster ’77”) that’s showing at the drive-in, and that’s even funnier!

    “The Big Lift” – story set and filmed in post-war Berlin, during the Berlin airlift. On the whole a tragedy, but with some lighter moments (the Berliner who’s in the pay of the Russians counting air traffic , but in the pay of the Americans to fake the count, explaining all this to the USAF sergeant). It’s almost a documentary of the devastation and clean-up of the city after WWII.

    Not so underappreciated, but well worth seeing again:
    “Zulu”, “Quigley Down Under”, “Dr. Strangelove”, “Casablanca”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “Patton”

  11. I like violence in my movies. A few that you probably haven’t heard of but are, IMO, absolutely riveting

    Bullethead with Adrien Brody Antonio Banderas John Malkovich-it’s rough and one of the best criminal mind type flicks I’ve seen. Definitely not for the squeamish.

    The Accountant with Ben Affleck-great tale, a lot told in flashbacks. Solid cast. I watched this one with my gal and she loved it.

    These 2 are relatively new, an older one in my Top 10 is the Last Samurai with Tom Cruise-fabulous period piece, great story, solid cast. Really well done.

  12. Thank you all, Kim and comments above, I have been needing suggestions for viewing. I have a decent collection of older favorites on cd’s and one I will get out first is the:

    ‘Rough Riders’ a 1997 mini-series with Tom Berenger, Sam Elliot and Gary Busey and it is a good ride.

    ‘Lonesome Dove’ 1989 a great mini-series with Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones and Danny Glover, hard to believe that movie is over 30 years old.

    One reason why I have trouble with newer movie shows is my need for real hero’s, men or women who get in a difficult situation and then have the guts to work themselves out instead of whiney assed, tormented characters who stumble and bumble around feeling sorry for themselves, especially the man-boys who have to be rescued by, fill in the blank – any diversity -, and these semi-neutered men just keep stumbling along the road to social justice or some such shit.

  13. Some of my favorites are the old “stiff upper lip” British WW2 movies like “In Which We Serve” and “The Cruel Sea”. The stand alone Gregory Peck Hornblower is very good as is the BBC Hornblower series. The Sharpe series is also excellent.

    I’ll also throw in votes for Gettysburg – seeing Ted Turner get blown away was worth the price of the CD – and Band of Brothers and The Pacific series. I heard Robert Leckie speak when I was in high school. Good stuff.

    1. I’ll second your vote for ‘Gettysburg’ and add in it’s prequel ‘Gods & Generals’. Both movies were widely panned by all Right Thinking ™ people because the Confederates were (gasp, horror) people and not cardboard cut-out central casting villains.

      Let me also add ‘Master and Commander – The Far Side of the World’. It has one of Russell Crowe’s better performances, lots of action, and great music.

  14. Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott.

    TOMBSTONE with Kurt and Sam… and that fighter-plane movie actor before he went to seed.
    I know entire families with all the lines memorized.

    COLLATERAL.
    A great movie, marred by the insufferable ex-husband of Nicole Kidman.
    Also directed by James Cameron, using infinite-focus lenses.

    HARD EIGHT with Philip Baker Hall and the always-interesting John C. Reilly.

    A MIGHTY WIND with the adorable Parker Posey.
    Watch for Ed Bagley spouting ethnic schnookerisms.

    TOTAL RECALL with Jessica Biel.

  15. Hell Yes, I will dig out some old CD’s, I have A MIGHTY WIND, also BEST OF SHOW – Parker Posey, WAITING FOR GUFFMAN – ParkerPosey, Christopher Guest goodies and every few years I have to watch FARGO – incredible cast and there is a lot of other good old Coen bros indie stuff.

  16. Only one war movie in your list, so I’ll throw in a few I liked
    Das Boot
    Master and Commander
    Cross of Iron
    The Great Escape

    Plus one TV series, the Sharpe series from books by Bernard Cornwell. The wife and I liked it so much we bought and read the books and visited some of the actual Napoleonic battle fields, besieged fortresses and so on mentioned in the books when we visited Portugal and Spain.

  17. I actually have seen ‘A Good Year’, and while the acting and plot are well done, the story just did nothing for me.

    Hmmm.

    Casablanca.
    True Grit.
    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
    Blazing Saddles (hell, anything by Mel Brooks; a bad movie by Brooks is still more fun to watch than most).
    Airplane!

    As far as action flicks go, John Wick is my go-to. Who’d have thought that Keanu Reeves of all people would make a plausible assassin? 🙂

  18. Mountains of the Moon – Another under rated little gem –
    Set in London and Africa in the middle 1800’s, it’s the true story of two men’s bitter rivalry and their search for the source of the Nile. Protagonist Burton makes Chuck Norris look soft. Besides his physical toughness, Burton, according to one count, spoke 29 European, Asian and African languages.

  19. Definition of ‘Mind Candy’: Just turn off your brain and enjoy the movie.
    —-
    Blazing Saddles (So un-PC and funny that it could never be made today)
    Die Hard (Yes, it’s a Christmas movie)
    Goldfinger (Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, and an Aston Martin DB5)
    Jesse Stone movies (great drama series with Tom Selleck as a burned out cop on his last chance)
    The Longest Day (John Wayne, ’nuff said)
    Monte Python and the Holy Grail (the most quotable movie ever made)
    Rio Bravo (JW and “Sorry don’t get it done, Dude”)
    Support Your Local Sheriff (James Garner’s classic western-comedy)
    True Lies (Jamie Lee Curtis, Arnold somebody…and somebody Arnold)
    Young Frankenstein (Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, and Marty Feldman in the 2nd most quotable movie ever)

  20. In addition to ‘Gods & Generals’ and ‘Master & Commander’ which I listed in my reply to ltdavel, Let me add a few I haven’t seen listed so far:

    The Enemy Below – Robert Mitchum, Curt Jurgens and a host of other great actors. It has a great plot that was ripped off (sorry, Homaged) for an episode of Star Trek – TOS (Balance of Terror).

    Battle of Britain – Need I say more?

    Tobruk – Aussies holding a desert town against the Germans.

    The 300 Spartans – Not that cartoonish ‘300’. The real movie with Sir Ralph Richardson .

  21. Battle of Britain was fun for the aircraft guys. I remember saying “Those Heinkel 111 bombers don’t look right.” This was back in the days before Google and I finally got hold of a magazine that explained the Heinkels were post war Spanish aircraft that had been re-engined with Rolls Royce Merlins. The Me-109s were done up the same way. How’s that for irony? This was in the days before CGI so the planes – and everything else – were the real things. Nice scenes with Susannah York too.

  22. If you haven’t seen “The Death of Stalin” immediately put it at the top of the list. I can sell you in three words:

    It’s a comedy.

  23. My most-quotable movies are The Blues Brothers, The Princess Bride, and Airplane!. Each one a classic in its own right. If you’ve not seen these, why are you still sitting here and reading teh Interwebz? Hie thee to the sofa forthwith!

    I was a big fan of the major SF/F genre movies in the 70s and 80s; Raiders, Star Wars, Close Enounters and the like, but there’s nothing even remotely close by today’s standards. It’s all rubbish super-hero crap, intended for 40YO man-children living in mommy’s basement. I can’t recall a recent theatrical release that was worth paying for, to be honest. I did like the original Lord of the Rings trilogy (especially the director’s cut versions), but I think that was the last genre movie that didn’t make me gag.

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