PGCMAs: Best Foreign Film, Biggest Surprise, and Most Underrated (2014)

Posted: February 12, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PGCMAs

Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” SimpsonPGCMA 2014*The above image represents 2013’s PGCMA Best Director and Best Picture winning film; Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

Best Foreign Language Film

I should probably note that there are a handful of films I wanted to see but was not able to for this award, like Winter Sleep and Force Majeure. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, but it did allow for some smaller films to get in.

Gloria: This is a character study of a middle-aged woman trying to find some level of love and happiness in the later years of her life. Occasionally dramatic and occasionally funny, this is an entertaining little movie and while I’m unsure of how much attention this may have got had it been in English, but it’s a decent watch.

Ida: A black and white film about a Polish nun’s identity crisis in the wake of World War Two is about as art house as foreign cinema gets. Despite what could be an intimidating pedigree, this is actually a pretty accessible film with beautiful cinematography and a very engaging exploration of guilt and identity.

The Raid 2: Foreign cinema is often home for highly cerebral and artistic films that some like to call “pretentious”. The Raid 2 couldn’t be further from this description, but it’s certainly artistic. This is a brutal action movie which features amazing choreography, unforgettable moments, and solid filmmaking. Say what you will about the lackluster story, this is still a pretty exhilarating film.

Stranger by the Lake: This is a film that features murder and even ends on a chase sequence, but it doesn’t play into the typical thriller tropes. Instead, the film has a very relaxed pace and tone, with director Alain Guiraudie being more interested in the behaviour of his characters. This can have a very hypnotic effect and while I didn’t exactly love the film, it is memorable.

Witching and Bitching: Just like in the horror category, this is filler to a certain extent, and I’m sure Winter Sleep or Force Majeure probably would have easily replaced this. Still, this is a fun movie. It’s got some good action, creepy moments, and the cast have good chemistry with the other.

And the winner is…

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Idaida_ver2

I may not be lavishing Ida with the same level of praise that many critics are, but this is undeniably a really strong work. It has some of the best cinematography of the year, some interesting performances, and it manages to analyze some fascinating issues in a really simple and subdued way.

Biggest Surprise

Being the best film isn’t the most important factor, but how surprised I was by the work is key.

Blue Ruin: This wasn’t just a surprise to me, but to everybody. Blue Ruin is a crowd sourced film which came out of nowhere and thoroughly impressed critics and audiences. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is highly professional and looks better than some major releases from this year.

Oculus: This movie did not have a good pedigree. It seemed to be fairly uninspired, the notion of a haunted mirror seemed dumb, and it was produced by WWE studios. It would have been easy to dismiss this as a cash grab, but when I finally saw it I thought this was a really clever and well-executed horror film. It was also more creative and original than I would have thought too.

The Lego Movie: Studios have been desperately making movies out of any known property, and making a movie out of a toyline seemed the most desperate move yet. Thankfully, The Lego Movie is hilarious, very clever, and given the outrage caused by its Oscar snub, clearly reached an audience. I guess we should have trusted Chris Miller and Phil Lord.

The Sacrament: With a cast composed almost entirely of unknowns and actors usually associated with middling hipster BS and the direct-to-video release, it was easy to dismiss this movie. Seeing the film however proved me wrong. This is a really solid horror film with a great villain and a very strong finale.

Whiplash: To some extent, nominating Whiplash is a bit silly since it did have a cool trailer and a lot of positive buzz from critics. Still, this came from a completely unproven director and Miles Teller has been attached to a lot of subpar teen films lately. Whiplash is anything but subpar. It’s awesome, establishes Damien Chazelle as a director to watch, and also proves that Miles Teller has got a lot of potential too.

And the winner is…

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OculusOculus-poster-2

I’ve become very sick of horror movies relying on ghosts lately. Even mostly well-executed films like The Conjuring do very little for me. And yet I found myself pretty engrossed by Oculus. The movie may have its flaws, but it was fun, and used some creativity into building some neat scares. Proof that I should keep an open mind even with genres I’m seemingly tired of.

Most Underrated/Underappreciated

Exodus: Gods and Kings: After countless articles about the white washed casting, Exodus opened to middling box-office returns and extremely harsh reviews, which would go to inspire discussion of how Ridley Scott is washed up. I won’t lie; Exodus is very flawed, but it also has some amazing set-pieces and top-notch production value. How that translates to terrible is beyond me, and the notion that Ridley Scott is now making terrible movies is totally off base.

The Immigrant: In the midst of blockbuster season, every year critics complain about a lack of substance at the movies. You’d think that a period drama with first rate actors released in May would have got more respect from critics, but this wasn’t the case. It’s unfortunate because this is a very engaging movie which speaks to relevant issues and features some great performances too.

The Interview: It seems most of the heat against The Interview stems from the fact that such a dumb movie caused so much controversy. Thing is, this film was never designed to spark an international incident and it also never really had the intention of being truly biting political satire. Say what you will about the film’s quality, but if you went in expecting something along the lines of The Great Dictator, that’s on you.

Noah: I wouldn’t have expected to be championing two bible films as being underrated, but this year it’s appropriate. Noah wasn’t slammed the way Exodus ways, but it did seem to be unfairly dismissed and even deemed offensive by some. It’s a shame because this is a pretty creative film which manages to excite while still doing something unique.

The Sacrament: Ti West is one of the most respected names in contemporary horror filmmaking, but critics seemed to really turn on him with this effort. Maybe it was the direct-to-video release, or the unfortunate use of the found footage format. I’m not sure, but whatever the case it isn’t quite fair. This is an engaging horror movie which makes great use of slow build before things explode at the turn of the third act.

And the winner is…

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The Immigrantthe-immigrant-2013.14703

This is the kind of movie people often say they want in that it’s an original work that is made by and for adults. And yet, no one seemed to care about this film whatsoever. Critics weren’t hateful, but they were dismissive and general audiences didn’t seem to care at all. It’s damn shame because this is a very interesting movie which is lovingly crafted with very gripping performances.

Comments
  1. moviebuff801 says:

    Great choice on Underappreciated. The Immigrant is indeed a very strong film.

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