2009 Calvin Awards: Best Overlooked Film

February 11, 2009

The Happy Hitmen Go to Bruges!

An overwhelming majority of the movies released during a given calendar year do not make a lot of money. For a site with box office in its url, this can be problematic, but for a group of people who celebrate the wonders of moviemaking, it is an opportunity. Throughout the years, BOP has strived to introduce our readers to cinematic triumphs you almost certainly missed during their theatrical runs. Columns such as Hidden Gems, It Came from the Basement and Stealth Entertainment are all predicated upon this idea, as is one of our favorite Calvins awards, Best Overlooked Film. Since the inception of the Calvins in 2002, several wonderful titles have earned selection in this category. They include Mulholland Drive (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), Spirited Away, Whale Rider, Shaun of the Dead, Murderball, The Last King of Scotland, and Hot Fuzz. If you are ever looking to fill out your Netflix queue, this group is a strong start, as is the title we are about to name the Best Overlooked Film of the 2009 Calvins. As a reminder, the criteria is that the movie had not earned over $25 million in domestic receipts by the time our voting ending (January 25, 2009).

The staff at BOP's clear-cut choice for Best Overlooked Film is In Bruges, which won this category by the widest margin since its inception. Barely. Mulholland Drive won in the inaugural voting by a tally of 100-64 over Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In Bruges wins this year by an impressive margin of 101-64 over the second place film. Why is our staff so captivated by In Bruges? Well, speaking for myself, a trip to Bruges, Belgium was among the nicest vacations of my life, and the movie's incidental scenery reminded me of those days of constant chocolate abuse. Speaking for everyone else, In Bruges is a masterpiece of intrigue, regret, redemption and suicidal dwarves. Focusing upon a pair of professional hitmen, one of whom has just accidentally killed a small boy, In Bruges somehow manages to make the viewer root for the character to overcome what he himself describes as a life-defining action that can never be undone. In Bruges is funny on the surface level, but hidden in plain sight in the storytelling is an existential examination of the nature of man and sin within as well as outside the confines of religion. This is a philosophically challenging character study wrapped up in several over-the-top comedic elements. Universally praised by our staff as excellent, In Bruges is a cinematic triumph and the easy choice for Best Overlooked Film.


The Visitor, our choice for second best overlooked film of the year, is Thomas McCarthy's follow-up to The Station Agent, which finished sixth in this same category back in the 2004 Calvins. It tells the story of a lonely economics professor still suffering from the loss of his wife. Forced to attend a symposium based upon themes from a book he co-authored, the widower visits his Manhattan apartment, only to realize that a couple (incorrectly) believe themselves to be the proper tenants there. He befriends the Syrian man and Senegalese woman who live there and is taught how to play various three-beat percussions instruments by the man. The story grows more complicated when the Syrian man is detained by police after a toll booth misunderstanding and threatened with deportation. What follows is a moving examination of loneliness and immigration.

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