2011 Calvin Awards: Best Overlooked Film

February 16, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come hangs out in his pad.

Each year, we celebrate the irony of a site focused upon box office being comprised of staff members who love movies that fail to earn as paltry an amount as $25 million domestically. The most recent 12 months differ from the normal pattern in that most of the Academy Awards contenders have box office receipts matching their reputations. 70% of the Best Picture nominees are ineligible for consideration for Best Overlooked Movie due to their impressive domestic revenue totals. This leaves the field wide open for unheralded contenders to earn a selection on our list, which is exactly what has happened. 80% of our nominees this year have box office revenue of less than $10 million, indicating that there is a very real chance that you are reading about some of these for the first time.

If eclectic is the theme for our selections in the category this year, there is no worthier choice as the Best Overlooked Film than Exit Through the Gift Shop. All the way back in April of 2010, BOP’s Tom Houseman was championing its candidacy in his companion column to this award, Don’t Overlook It. As he concisely stated then, the documentary is perennially underrated as a genre, frequently featuring some of the most engaging releases of a year. Exit Through the Gift Shop blurs the boundaries of the genre by creating a work of art that is in and of itself a riddle.


How many of the events documented are real? For that matter, are any of them? Is performance artist Banksy having the last laugh as he turns the tables on Thierry Guetta? After all, the latter gentleman is presumed to be the videographer, at least he should be judging by the omnipresence of a camera in his hand as well as the endless sea of tapes covering the floor of his home. Guetta strives to encapsulate the street art movement by focusing upon its mysterious superstar, Banksy. Bemused by the eccentricities of his French counterpart, Banksy chronicles the odd coincidences that lead to Guetta’s career change. In redirecting Guetta’s path, Banksy creates a monster and the results are hilarious. Exit Through the Gift Shop is the most insidious criticism of the art world ever made in a film. Whether you get the joke or not, this is a movie you simply must watch. It is the clear choice as the Best Overlooked Film of the year.

We like claustrophobia and we like human misery. Put the two together in a movie and the staff at BOP is euphoric. Both of those themes are on full display in our second, third and fourth selections. In fact, two of them function as companion pieces. 127 Hours places James Franco on the side of a mountain; then, he is forced to choose just how attached he is to his extremities, at least relative to his life in totality. The choice he makes is…bloody.

Buried sticks Ryan Reynolds in a box and his oppressors refuse to release him unless he makes a similar sacrifice. The choice he makes is…bloody. Placing protagonists in isolation then examining the psychological horrors of such nightmare scenarios has been a popular theme over the past 12 months. 127 Hours and Buried are blueprint examples of just how effective the methodology is when done well.

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