It's kind of a useless theme in general, to be honest, but it works for our format here, and by now you've all heard about how positively smashingly great The Artist, Shame, Moneyball, The Tree of Life and Hugo are. So instead of all that waffle, here are the Top Ten Underrated 2011 Offerings in the roughly the order in which I liked them.
Here's part 1:
Boys on the Run - Daisuke Miura (Japan)
Boys on the Run made a little bit of a splash when it played at the NY Asian Film Festival in 2010, but made kind of a huge one at Fantastic Fest in Austin in the summer. A satisfying tale of a Japanese manchild falling in love with a girl who doesn't respect his place in life as a bottom of the rung salary man, it hasn't received a wide theatrical release (and probably won't), but because of it's success at Fantastic Fest, it should at least get a DVD release in the coming year.
The Housemaid - Im Sang-soo (South Korea)
Im Sang-soo is one of my favorite directors, and I was glad to see he was back to his old self with The Housemaid after making the entirely underwhelming The Old Garden. The shocking ending of this sex thriller might have turned off some would-be admirers, but I feel it stands as a perfect end to a great statement film.
(Available on Netflix Instant.)
Applaus - Martin Pieter Zandvliet (Denmark)
Paprika Steen (The Celebration) delivers a stunning performance here (two of them, actually) as an aging actress who is coming apart at the seams after rehab and a divorce that keeps her from seeing her two children. The film it intercut with actual footage of Steen's lauded stage performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Incendies - Denis Villeneuve (Canada)
The reveal in the 2010 Canadian entry for the Academy Awards, Incendies, is not quite as fucked up as the reveal in The Skin I Live In, but it's not all that far off.
The Trip - Michael Winterbottom (UK)
Culled from a six-part mini-series for UK television down to a feature film for American theaters, Michael Winterbottom's The Trip is an absurdly delicious take on the modern road film. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon tool around Northern England ostensibly so Coogan can write a travel piece for a magazine, but the gift of the piece is watching these two men poke and prod and annoy each other to within an inch of the life of their friendship while eating fine food and trading Sean Connery and Woody Allen impressions.
(Available on Netflix Instant.)
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