We recently published our list of the year’s best films, comprising everything from unconventional indies like Tangerine to Oscar shoe-in Room. But the story of any given year in film goes beyond the movies about which everyone — or almost everyone — can agree. Sometimes it’s the outliers — the little-seen, the critically-ignored — that we remember most, that help to define a year. (Someday others will see War Horse as one of Spielberg’s best films, right?) We asked our writers to pick one film from this year they consider underrated or misunderstood. The question yielded some fascinating and unexpected responses.
Subtly subversive comedies never get their due come awards season (or really any comedies, for that matter). Comedy, by its very nature, doesn’t tell you how important it is, and awards voters generally aren’t smart enough to notice anything that isn’t shouting. (The only comedies that ever win Oscars are the ones that are full of inside jokes about the movie industry, like Shakespeare in Love or The Artist). Luckily I’m a hero, and I’m here to tell you that one overlooked gem you probably missed this year was The D-Train. It seems like every studio comedy of the last few years has had to include at least one gay panic or cutesy, gay-but-not-really-gay bromance joke like it was a legal requirement. The D-Train takes one of those bromance subplots and treats it like a real thing, rather than just some throwaway joke. Which, paradoxically, ends up being way funnier. If you like a comedy that isn’t afraid to “go there,” check out The D-Train, which is much more like an Alexander Payne movie than a “Jack Black movie.” — Vincent Mancini
This film was more than overlooked: It never got the lift it deserved at all. Ahhnold does a fine job conveying somber emotion, and the story offers a fresh take on a bloated genre. Many zombie films today are recycled bloodbaths. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Maggie slows things down, homing in on one father/daughter relationship (between Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin) as a zombie outbreak unfolds. We get to see a lot of the pain and profound implications other zombie films brush over. On top of that, it’s suspenseful and pulls off a successful slow burn without ever being boredom. If nothing else, it’s a reason to look forward to more screenplays from John Scott 3. — Jameson Brown