6. Eyes Wide Shut
The final film from one of the most lauded directors, starring Hollywood’s power couple, one half of whom was the biggest movie star in the world at the time. What could go wrong? Plenty.
For starters, the production of the film still holds the Guinness Record for the longest continuous shoot ever at 400 days. Kubrick was known to be a perfectionist, and the Film obviously took a toll on him. He died just days after showing studio executives his latest edit soon after completion.
Alas, the Director’s unexpected demise didn’t have the same flare up of interest awakening akin to another Film nearly a decade later when Heath Ledger succumbed just before the release of The Dark Knight. The comparison though is misleading.
Eyes Wide Shut could never have been a smash out of the park blockbuster inspite of the enviable role call behind and in front of the camera. It was essentially an obscure art house picture made on a Big Budget.
While it eventually did manage to pull in some receipts overseas, Eyes Wide Shut’s reputation has slowly grown outside of critic circles, to encompass audiences who really want to “get” movies now, with explainer videos scattered across Youtube and blog posts analyzing the thematic elements of the film, trying to make sense of it all.
The fetishistic sexual elements, narcissistic adult themes, and it’s general impenetrability may have turned off viewers initially, but it has finally built a potent following of hardcore enthusiasts paying homage to the last great film from one of the greats of Cinema. To paraphrase one of the characters in the film, “This Rainbow hasn’t ended.”
A gritty crime drama, filled with overcast skies and a great script, Narc provided a blueprint of redemption for once promising stars, who had started by then to show visible signs of wear accumulated by poor career choices.
Narc was going to change all that; it didn’t. Instead, it got washed up like it’s Detroit based characters. Employing the ever dependable good cop / bad cop formula and navigating in a gritty setting that was the flavor of the time, and backed by the formidable production arm owned partly by Tom Cruise, even on it’s minuscule budget, Narc faded as soon as it appeared.
The critics however, lauded praise. Despite the familiar territory, Narc injected freshness into the done to death undercover cop story with believable and broken characters. And an ending that is as poetic as it is surprising. Till date, it doesn’t appear to have found an audience, ready to embrace it’s vulnerable heart cast in a start exterior. It remains in the shadows, a forgotten relic, like the drug fueled Detroit streets it so eloquently captured.
8. Grosse Pointe Blank
The second film on this list to be set in Detroit, though a very different part of it, Grosse Point Blank is billed as a black comedy crime film that actually is a romantic drama.
John Cusack and Minnie Driver deliver fine turns, adding believability to the screwball plot of a hitman inadvertently back in his hometown during his 10 year high school reunion, but it is Dan Aykroyd as the antagonist who steals the show.
One can tell that everyone on the film had fun making it; it shows and comes out as a rare gem of a movie that is immensely re-watchable, owing to it’s smorgasbord offering of high octane violence, high octane comedy, high octane meandering …even Aykroyd’s voice is high octane.
Though not a box office dud by any means, Grosse Pointe Blank didn’t shoot up the cash registers either, nor has it remained in conversation as a prime example of successful black comedy, a notoriously hard genre to pull off.
9. Children of Men
Alfonso Cuarón has grown to be one of the most accomplished filmmakers in Hollywood, performing a hat trick of sorts in helming a Harry Potter chapter, directing the incredibly realistic space drama Gravity, before returning to his roots with Roma, the first Netflix film to have been nominated for a best Picture Oscar.
But amidst all this success, Children of Men remans his most under appreciated (and only underperforming) gem.
There are two haunting scenes in the movie that are alone well worth the price of admission, both employing long takes ( which has become a signature of sorts for Cuarón.) The first is set inside a vehicle and delivers such kinetic energy vehemently despite being contained in location; while the other is markedly different.
It comes towards the end of the film and is quiet, claustrophobic even though it involves a long winded walk outdoors. These scenes and more are testament to Cuarón’s ability to transcend physical space, and make us feel what he wants us to feel. They also served as the building blocks for the hold your breath survival story Gravity years later.
The dystopian future starring Clive Owen, Michael Cane and Juliane Moore turned out to be a nail biter; both loud and somber when required, producing an experience that is more exhilarating than any Hollywood tentpole or Michael Bay piece could ever even hope to emulate.
Sadly, the audience didn’t come along for the ride. Thankfully, they’ve embraced Cuarón unabashedly over the years, but this was one instance where the moviegoer let the artist down.
10. Glengarry Glen Ross
Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce …. no, this isn’t a typo. All of these actors were in a movie together. And a really good one at that. One wouldn’t expect anything less from David Mamet, the pulitzer prize winning writer who adapted the screenplay for the film from his own acclaimed play.
The (mostly) single setting film, revolves around a group of real estate salesmen in an office shouting on the phone and at each other, doing anything they can to sell a piece of questionable “premiere” properties.
That’s over simplifying the plot. Glengarry Glen Ross is actually akin to one of those landmark cultural commentaries on the state of a generation and a country, it’s trials and tribulations and what is considered success in America, ala Death of A Salesman.
The witty dialogue, pitch perfect timing and simmering tension elevate what could have been a made for TV movie into something grand. The critics lapped it up understandably, but moviegoers didn’t make a down payment on this ensemble of the best acting talent brought together on the silver screen in probably, forever.