2013 Calvin Awards: Best Overlooked Film

By David Mumpower

February 20, 2013

Wow, your stocking cap is significantly more hot than my bandana.

Since the inception of The Calvins in 2002, we have celebrated smaller films, the ones that somehow fail under the radar despite their exceptional quality. Past winners of Best Overlooked Film include classics and cult favorites such as Mulholland Drive, Shaun of the Dead, The Last King of Scotland and Spirited Away. Our staff takes great pride in our track record of identifying great movies long before they become established favorites.

Our 2013 selections represent one of the deepest groups of quality cinema in our 12-year history of voting. To wit, a dozen movies finished in first place on at least one ballot, meaning that a few voters’ number one choices for Best Overlooked Film failed to make the list. This turn of events is unprecedented. Ordinarily, three or four titles stand above the rest. For 2013, we did settle upon one title as our favorite. The difference between our second place and tenth place selections, however, is the narrowest ever in our staff vote.

Safety Not Guaranteed is such a mysterious movie about time travel that we do not even know if it is about time travel until the end. Even then, there is still no total resolution on the subject. And that is what we love about it. Safety Not Guaranteed sells the premise that a classified ad about time travel could provide an entertaining story for a Seattle magazine. While that story premise simmers in the background, an altogether different tale is told.

The writer who pitched the story, Jeff, has no interest in discovering the specific details of the listing. This is odd because a wording of the write-up should pique anyone’s curiosity. It begins, “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke.” Any decent investigative journalist would want to know more. Jeff only cares about re-introducing himself to a former girlfriend.


With no one else to step up, co-worker Darius Britt is assigned the task. She quickly determines that a stockboy named Kenneth wrote the ad. What follows next is an awkward combination of her attempting to bust him on his delusions of grandeur and her flirting with him because she is attracted to his brand of crazy.

Safety Not Guaranteed is at its core a romantic tale of outcasts falling in love, but it also diverges into an exploration of bitterness and regret over unfortunate choices. All of this is set against the backdrop of a search for the science non-fiction discovery of a lifetime. The movie balances several juxtaposed ideas in a loose but engaging manner, and it provides a shocking but satisfying denouement. Safety Not Guaranteed is an elegant example of small scale cinema, and it is our choice for Best Overlooked Film of the year.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower features unusually dark subject matter for a film based in a high school. Perhaps this is why it failed to achieve any real box office success despite the presence of global celebrity Emma Watson. Our staff has complete confidence that it will become a beloved film as more people discover it. The adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s novel displays the sort of tender reminiscence about high school that makes all of us melancholy about growing older.

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