Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 5. Friday, Feb. 5, 2016.
Category: Leadership and Team Building
Reason for publication: My friends Amanda and Connor are fellow writers and movie buffs. We all decided to write a top 10 list for underrated movies of 2015, and while we each wrote our own list, we planned the story through a shared Google Document and group text message.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: So often, young adult coming-of-age films blend together in a hodgepodge of unremarkableness – teemed with the same recurring sappy romance and eye-rollable drama-filled plotlines. I am happy to report, however, that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is uniquely its own. Its storyline and characters are unlike many other films of a similar nature – Thomas Mann, a high school senior, grows closer to a classmate diagnosed with cancer. Also including a large amount of nerdiness, references to notable filmography, drug mishaps, teacher friendships and, of course, self-realization.
- When Marnie Was There: Two words: Studio Ghibli. But for those unfamiliar with the Japanese animation studio’s incredibly beautiful and moving cinematography, When Marnie Was There is as good a movie as any they’ve produced. Both mysterious and heartwarming, the movie is a haunting tale of a young introvert’s familial discovery.
- The Last Five Years: My mother and I were listening to NPR one day when we heard a review of a new movie musical starring Anna Kendrick. Movie Musical? Anna Kendrick? How could we not have heard of it? By the end of that night, we had watched it. The Last Five Years is an unraveled telling of a relationship turned sour, enhanced by the melodic voice of Anna Kendrick.
- The Hunting Ground: The Hunting Ground isn’t a feel-good movie, but it is extremely important. Detailing sexual assaults on college campuses and the cover-ups that ensue, this documentary unsettles viewers, and encourages them to act upon injustice.
- It Follows: Due to the lack of memorable and exciting horror films of the 21st century, I had low expectations for It Follows. As seen in The Cabin In the Woods, all modern-day scary movies seemingly have the same plot, relying on jump scares and evil children to frighten viewers. “It” is a sexually-transmitted creature which is passed from person to person in the hopes of killing the person it follows. If “It” succeeds in the killing, it defaults back to the previous person. It Follows relies on vulnerability and uncertainty for its horror. It plays on sex, a taboo topic for teenagers, and creates a constant unsettling atmosphere. It’s a refreshing addition to the horror genre.
- Goodnight Mommy: Not unlike It Follows, Goodnight Mommy gives hope that not all present day horror movies have the same plot, with the same typical scare tactics. Goodnight Mommy is an Austrian horror film directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. The film’s two main characters, twin brothers Lukas and Elias, believe that after returning home from a facial reconstruction surgery, their mother is not actually their mother, and as an audience, it’s hard to tell whether or not Lukas and Elias are crazy, deranged kids, or if their mother truly has been replaced by something evil. This movie gets pretty graphic and intense, so if you don’t have a strong stomach or beetles and magnifying glasses give you the creeps, I suggest closing your eyes in certain parts. And, for those who aren’t extreme movie watchers or just don’t analyze frames and scenes hard enough, there is a surprise plot twist at the end which will leave your mind spinning.
- American Ultra: As an avid fan of both Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, when I found out they were doing another movie together, I was ecstatic. Ever since I saw Adventureland, I fell in love with the on-screen chemistry between the two. American Ultra follows Eisenberg as he unknowingly becomes the target of a CIA mission. While at work, he is attacked by two people and he defends himself and kills them maliciously, but on accident. As an anxiety-ridden stoner, he is completely terrified and confused, and he and Stewart, his girlfriend, have to continue to fight off agents, although they are unaware of who the people are and why they have been targeted.. Eisenberg and Stewart aren’t the typical badass crime-fighters, but they do defend themselves in interesting ways, such as with a pan and a spoon. With a touch of romance, it’s not a typical action nor romantic movie, but has both elements and was extremely fun to watch.
- Ex Machina: If a machine exhibits qualities which make it indistinguishable from a human, it is considered to be true artificial intelligence. This idea is at the core of Ex Machina: a smart, seductive sci-fi thriller which will leave you questioning your own origin. It stars only three actors – Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander – and takes place nearly entirely in one house, leading to a claustrophobic tone held for it’s entire 110 minute runtime. Ex Machina delivers on both a cinematic and intellectual level, posing mentally stimulating questions through the filmmaking itself. It is plodding without being boring, clever without being condescending and the best robot romance film you’ve never seen.
- Advantageous: If heady, provocative, near-future science fiction is your thing (don’t kid yourself, it’s everyone’s thing), then chances are Advantageous is a film you will enjoy. Directed by Jennifer Phang, Advantageous tells a surprisingly modern story of ever-widening wage gaps and how they affect family life. Simultaneously, it brings up issues of family values and self- identity which are undeniably relatable. This film is also one of the few cases in which a child actor has given a believable and emotional performance.
- Sicario: I had no doubt that Sicario would be excellent. It’s directed by Denis Villeneuve, one of the most talented directors working today, and stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, all of whom I would consider to be among my favorite actors. On the outside, Sicario appears to be an a-typical thriller, following an FBI agent and her struggle in the drug war against Mexico. However, it cleverly subverts the genre leading to some of the most thrilling (and often revolting) sequences in recent memory. Sicario is not underrated because no one saw it or because it got poor reviews, Sicario is underrated because it is leagues more important than many reviews have given it credit for.