When she took the stage last Sunday evening to pick up her first ever Oscar trophy, Julianne Moore was beaming. It was a face that felt the entirety of the event, matched with a meaning for those who’ve followed her career since she was a Frannie and Sabrina Hughes on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns. After five nominations and several more defining roles, Moore had finally earned the highest honor in her craft. Everyone was happy. Most wondered why it took so damn long.
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By all accounts, this will be one of the most competitive Oscars ever. Few categories are outright locks, Best Supporting Actress and Actor aside, and the Guilds have been split, with the majority leaning toward Birdman even as Boyhood continues to earn an equal amount of love. Of course, there are those who believe American Sniper can and will pull an upset, while those who favor Selma or any other member of the rest of the Best Picture candidates (The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Whiplash), sans a major last minute push, will be left wanting.
If it’s February, then love must be in the air—along with snow, sleet, rain, wind, and on rare occasions, groundhog guano. Yes, the two big things that happen in the second month of each new year is the annual ritual of believing in wildlife as a bellwether for meteorological predictions, and the celebration of affection by drowning your significant other in candy, flowers, and false pretenses.
While the stars are brushing off their formal wear and brushing up on their acceptance speeches, we bid a fond farewell to 2014… and almost immediately focus on the films that will have us giddy with anticipation between now, the dog days of cinema, and December, when we’ll play “What’s the Best?” all over again. There are literally hundreds of offerings up for grabs, from unknown works of independent art to big, brawny, wannabe blockbusters. Each one hopes to tap into that tricky well of public appreciation. Some will succeed in billion dollar designs; others will open and never be heard from again.
As with any category which includes the descriptive term “underrated”, setting a clear set of standards is often impossible. Indeed, someone out there right now has already perused the list below, taken umbrage with at least a couple of the choices, and is wondering how “anyone” could consider any one of the titles as “underrated”. Perhaps an illustrative explanation is in order.
For someone who watches movies for a living (or what some call “a living”), underrated usually means “underappreciated” or “fell through the cracks”. Such a film stands in contrast to the mainstream mindset that gives the latest Michael Bay bombast a billion dollars at the box office, but can’t see beyond the spectacle to something smaller, more inventive, and artistic. The tag “underrated” can also mean a commercial endeavor poorly handled by the PR and marketing people hired by the studios, their inability to craft a persuasive ad campaign sorely limiting a good movie’s returns.