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The Scarlet & Black

Overrated/ Underrated





As movie aficionados with strong opinions, we spend a lot of time arguing over films, their merits and the awards that some go on to receive. Over time, we have found that there are common arguments we return to again, movies that baffle us with the praise they receive and movies that we can’t believe didn’t gain widespread acclaim. Thus, we present: our picks for the most overrated and underrated films of all time.



Overrated: “Braveheart” (1995)

Mel Gibson’s epic historical drama, which he directed and starred in, won five Oscars, including one for Best Picture and one for Best Director. I cannot tell you why. The whole endeavor is incredibly bloated, clocking in at a staggering 182 minutes. This is “Lord of the Rings” territory in terms of length. Too bad the filmmaking doesn’t even come close. The cinematography is gorgeous, but the story of William Wallace, the historic Scottish warrior, is fragmented, told in choppy, confusing chronology. Gibson’s performance as the great liberator of Scotland is one note, and that note is bombastic. It’s a film that should perhaps be applauded for its epic-ness and scope, but comes nowhere near close to succeeding on those ambitious fronts. By the end I felt like I had been slogging along through the mountains, too. Most insultingly, not only did it open to mostly favorable reviews, but it beat Ron Howard’s razor-tight “Apollo 13” for Best Picture. Vastly overrated.


Underrated: “In the Company of Men” (1997)

“In the Company of Men” is one of the most brutal, searing looks into masochism that I’ve ever seen, and most people wouldn’t even recognize the title of the film. The movie, written and directed by playwright Neil LaBute, focuses on two men toying with the emotions of a deaf female employee, agreeing to both romance then break-up with her simultaneously. It is a study in male angst, sexism, manipulation and everyday cruelty, and how good people can allow this cruelty to infiltrate their behaviors and practices. In the central role of the ruthless executive hell-bent on making someone hurt “just because” he could, Aaron Eckhart gives a chilling performance, showing just the edge of his knife with every charming smile. Filled with tight dialogue and brutal humor that gives way to the feeling of being sucker-punched, it’s a movie of immense complexity and thoughtfulness.



Overrated: “The King’s Speech” (2010)

Overwhelmingly praised and underwhelmingly quaint, “The King’s Speech” took the royal road to the Oscars. Excepting the film’s incredible performances, nothing about it stood out as unique or innovative; from the writing to the cinematography, its cinematic elements did little more than make sure the blatantly inspirational story of privileged people overcoming obstacles was told tidily. In short, “The King’s Speech” is a charmingly sentimental award-fodder that would have worked just as well as a high-budget History Channel special. Did it tell its story well? Sure. But when the film is put up against the ingenuity of its contemporaries (such as Fincher’s “The Social Network,” or Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” or the Coens’ “True Grit,” or Boyle’s “127 Hours”), its lack of vision and dependence on formulaic, feel-good strategies of storytelling are apparent. History may remember King George VI, but “The King’s Speech,” lacking his courage, will not stand the test of time.


Underrated: “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (2007)

“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” ran into many production problems that prevented it from receiving the wide release (and, consequently, the recognition) it deserved. Boasting chilling performances from Casey Affleck and Brad Pitt (arguably the latter’s greatest performance to date), a mesmerizing score and cinematography that makes every frame worth framing, the film is one part picturesque celebration of American mythology and one part bleak deconstruction of hero-worship. The 160-minute run time may deter non-cinephiles, but I urge any movie-lover to take the time; missing this masterpiece would be a crime.

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