2012 Calvin Awards: Best Overlooked Film

By Tom Houseman

February 15, 2012

50% off wings at Buffalo Wild Wings!

The Tree of Life was never going to be a box office smash, but the most critically lauded art house film of the year had plenty of supporters among the BOP staff. Malick's personal and visionary film is completely different from anything anyone else is making these days, and not only is it unique in its storytelling, but it works so effectively. We're not saying that all of us understood what was going on, but if you're looking to be challenged by a thought-provoking film, rather than just watching robots beat each other up, then The Tree of Life was your film this year. The Tree of Life did as well as you can expect from a film that abstract, pulling in $13 million in the box office, which makes it the highest grossing Palm D'Or winner since Fahrenheit 9/11.

Two female-driven films show up in this category at spots four and five, both films featuring young, extremely talented actresses doing extraordinary work in challenging roles. Martha Marcy May Marlene built up a lot of buzz coming out of Sundance, but its story of a young woman being brainwashed by a cult and then attempting to rejoin society was never going to attract a large audience. While the film barely broke $3 million at the box office, it got great reviews and grabbed the attention of quite a few of us here at BOP. Proving the Culkin rule that younger siblings are always more talented, Elisabeth Olsen's star making performance was utterly captivating, matched by the seductive creepiness of John Hawkes.

Margaret's release made for one of the strangest indie box-office stories of the year, not that too many people were paying attention. Although filming ended on Kenneth Lonergan's opus in 2006, the film was the subject of multiple lawsuits over quite a few years, and nearly half a dozen editors were brought in at various times to try to finish the film. Eventually Fox Searchlight dumped Margaret into theaters, hoping nobody would notice. But they didn't count on the BOP going out of their way to catch this wildly ambitious and breathtaking film. While Lonergan has trouble keeping all of the aspects of his story working in concert (you could say the same thing about The Tree of Life), his film is a remarkable piece of storytelling, featuring a great performance by Anna Paquin who, impressively, continues to stretch herself as an actress.

We here at BOP do not only use this category to lord our love of high culture over the unwashed masses, reveling in how much better our taste is than theirs. Sometimes we like to give a shout out to pieces of mindless entertainnebt that we found wildly enjoyable but that, for whatever reason, never got any attention from the public. That's why Fright Night, the campy horror remake starring Colin Farrell and Anton Yelchin, is number six in this category. We drank in this movie's dark cleverness like, well, a vampire, Colin Farrell's disturbing suaveness won us over, mostly because we like our vampires manly.


As box-office analysts, it is baffling to us why some comedies make big bucks despite being horrible coughcoughJackAndJillcoughcough** (excuse me, my keyboard had something in its throat) while hilarious gems like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, our number seventh best overlooked film, never catch on with audiences. Great horror comedies are a rare breed, and Eli Craig's directorial debut is a paradigm of the genre. Expertly mixing thrills and laughs, Tucker and Dale is a wild ride that most audiences would love if they just gave it a chance.

Our writing staff is a political bunch, which is why we always appreciate a movie that tells it like it is about how our country is falling apart. No movie did a better job of explaining the atrocities of our current economic system than Margin Call. The film could be viewed as a fictionalization of Inside Job, which makes it effective as a method of educating those of us too lazy to watch documentaries. But there are also compelling, sympathetic characters in the film, especially protagonist Peter Sullivan, wonderfully played by Zachary Quinto.

Two films that never had a chance at mainstream success, but tell complex, difficult stories in powerful, moving ways, fill out our top ten. A Dangerous Method tells the story of the affair between psychologist Carl Jung and one of his patients, Sabina Spielrein. It featured some of the most frank, intellectual conversations about sexuality ever shown on screen, in addition to a trio of great performances by Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortenson, and Keira Knightley. The Devil's Double is a disturbing and gruesome look at the life of one of Saddam Hussein's son's body doubles. While the film garnered mix reviews and almost no box-office, we fell for Dominic Cooper's enthralling, layered performance.

An eclectic group of films just missed the cut, each deserving more attention they received. Films receiving votes include Shame, about a depressed, lonely sex addict, Weekend, a romantic drama about a short-lived affair, and Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, about a depressed, lonely sex addict (I think). Romantic comedy Beginners, coming-of-age comedy Submarine, and Miranda July's latest, The Future, also got plugged by a few members of our staff.

The Calvins: An Introduction
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Best Cast
Best Character
Best Director
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Videogame
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture

Top 10
Position Film Total Points
1 Warrior 77
2 Attack the Block 41
3 The Tree of Life 31
4 Martha Marcy May Marlene 29
5 Margaret 27
6 Fright Night 23
7 Margin Call 21
8 (tie) Tucker and Dale vs. Evil 20
8 (tie) A Dangerous Method 20
10 The Devil's Double 19

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