Just yesterday I broke down the year's most Overrated Films and now I want to to turn my attention to the more surprising and lesser known titles that proved to be worthwhile watches. As always, when you conjure up a list of this kind, it's important to outline the specific criteria that's used to determine the rankings. Below is a description of the factors I use to measure and classify a movie as underrated:
Criteria: The two most heavily weighted components I use are awards season recognition and box office totals. If a movie sneaks a Globe or SAG Nomination, sorry but it won't be on this list (i.e. Captain Fantastic and The Edge of Seventeen). Also, I try to identify movies that struggle to push $10 million at the box office. And although it's rare, my final assessing tool is recognizing a film that's been undeservedly panned by critics.
#5. Green Room
Jeremy Saulnier delivered a gem of a debut effort with the revenge thriller Blue Ruin. His mildly anticipated follow up, Green Room, happens to be one of the bigger names on this list. The film follows a hardcore punk band who accepts an impromptu paying gig in the middle of their tour. They venture deep into the pacific northwest and, after entertaining an audience at a neo-Nazi bar, they witness a murder and are forced to fight for their survival. Raking in a mere $3.2 million at the box office and starring the late Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots and Patrick Stewart, Green Room is a grisly and visceral thrill ride that's guaranteed to entertain a select audience.
#4. Blue Jay
Alex Lehmann's emotional festival darling, Blue Jay, opened in only 3 theaters nationwide and tallied just shy of $22,000 in ticket sales. Nonetheless, this heartbreaking story of high school sweethearts (Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass) who unexpectedly reunite for an evening of memories, both joyous and painful, possesses a rare tenderness. Filmed in a fitting black and white style, Blue Jay is a remarkably-acted feature that proves the filmmaking mantra, "less is more". Lehmann's work stands as a clear achievement despite lacking the proper audience it deserves.
Rebecca Hall has long been an overlooked actress within the industry, yet she continues to churn out valiant performance after valiant performance. But none could have been as emotionally taxing as her most recent dive into madness with Antonio Campos' biopic Christine. Hall stars as the title character, Christine Chubbuck, a bipolar 1970s news reporter struggling to handle the pressures of her personal and professional situations and does the unthinkable by performing a television first. Christine failed to earn even $300,000 at the box office, but Hall's haunting turn is a true testament to her phenomenal acting skills in this gripping character study.
It's to be expected that you'll find overlap within my Most Underrated and Top 10 Films of the Year lists. 2016 has been no different as Atom Egoyan's revenge drama, Remember, undoubtedly finds its way on both lists. Academy Award Winner Christopher Plummer offers a brilliant performance as Zev, a retirement home resident beginning to experience stages of dementia. Yet, as Zev is reminded by a friend at the home of their pact, he escapes and sets out on a vengeful mission to execute the Nazi prison guard who killed both of their families at Auschwitz when they were children. Remember works phenomenally as a dramatic thriller and serves up one of the finest closing scenes in recent memory. Despite the film's minuscule $1.2 million box office total, Egoyan's latest is worthy of a much wider audience.
#1. Don't Think Twice
Remember isn't the only film primed to line up with my Top 10 of 2016, Mike Birbiglia's unforgettable indie comedy, Don't Think Twice will definitely find its way there as well. Even boasting the largest box office tally on the list ($4.4 million), this exceptional effort stands above all the others in terms of quality and effectiveness (as demonstrated by its near-flawless 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Don't Think Twice follows a close-knit improv comedy group living in NYC whose members are forced to experience the cutthroat and competitive world of professional comedy as they look to advance their careers. The film wonderfully utilizes a biting sense of realism and genuine humor to stir up one of the year's most notable achievements. Character development is extremely vital to writer, director and co-star, Mike Birbiglia's, humanistic endeavor, so much so that it reminds the audience how rewarding it can be when constructed within a comedic tone. Don't Think Twice is one film you won't want to miss.