2018 Calvin Awards: Best Overlooked Picture
By David Mumpower
February 28, 2018
As I mentioned in the Introduction to this year’s Calvins, Best Overlooked Film has become one of the most complicated categories. Our staff always struggled with the parameters of the vote. Some favored any film under $50 million qualifying while some preferred $10 million or less and one person even passionately argued for $1 million or less.
Since the inception of the category, the rule has been that any feature with less than $25 million in domestic box office is eligible. We also have a cutoff date for box office calculations, which is to say that a film might tick over $25 million by the time we publish the category. Rest assured that nothing had done so by our voting deadline, though.
This year, the challenge was in deciding how to address digital direct releases. Call it the Netflix Factor. These titles weren’t easy to quantify, but we eventually settled on making all digital titles eligible for this year. Frankly, that may change in next year’s voting, but it’s what we chose for now. Only one such film received ardent support, and even it technically received a theatrical release. Keeping all of these parameters in mind, here are our choices for Best Overlooked Film of the year.
The winner this year is Detroit, a challenging movie from famed director Kathryn Bigelow. It recounts the story of the Algiers Motel Incident, one of the great civil rights tragedies of the 1960s. During this conflict, government law enforcement officials looked the other way as racist cops misread a situation and held a group of African-Americans hostage.
Even though two Caucasian women confirmed their accounts, these individuals were effectively imprisoned at the motel and some of them were executed in cold blood. The film entails the madness of the situation and the failure to bring many of the offending officers to justice. It makes our blood boil, meaning that Bigelow has done her job ably. Detroit isn’t for everyone, but it’s an important topic in today’s divisive political landscape. It’s our choice for Best Overlooked Film of the year.
Battle of the Sexes is a close second in the category, losing by a paltry two points. One of the running stories in this year’s voting is the close nature of several races. Three ended in a tie, with two others settled by two points or less. Despite failing to show victory in the category, this film is still a masterpiece. It too touches on an important historical moment from 45 years ago.
At the time, Billie Jean King was one of the two greatest women’s tennis players in the world. She bristled at the fact that her dominance in her sport wasn’t rewarded financially. The men on the world tennis tour earned a factor of eight more despite the fact that they didn’t draw any more fans to events. King built her own women’s tennis tour, one which she largely dominated.
A noted sexist named Bobby Riggs took note of her performance and challenged her to the titular Battle of the Sexes. The events leading up to this event are a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come as a society as well as how many things have failed to evolve. It’s a terrific movie that plays perfectly in our era of toxic masculinity.
Who hasn’t poisoned a loved one? That’s the central conceit of Phantom Thread, the latest impenetrable but engaging offering from auteur Paul Thomas Anderson. The movie tells the story of Reynolds Woodcock, the most famous dressmaker in London during the 1950s. Reynolds isn’t easy to love, but he’s certainly in demand. He meets his match in Alma, a waitress who isn’t willing to change everything that she is to please a man. Eventually, she finds his weakness. What follows is one of the strangest love stories ever, and it may even evolve into a murder. We were spellbound by the oddity of the entire affair and regret that Phantom Thread isn’t a larger factor in the Best Picture race. It’s wonderful.
The other two films in our top five are…quite different. Fourth place goes to a Netflix title, Mudbound. This film recounts the story of two men who become unlikely allies in racially charged Mississippi in the aftermath of World War II. Both deal with a racist who seems hellbent on making life miserable for an African-American war hero.
The other movie is about love, not hate. In fact, it’s about an unusual romance between three people: a husband named William Marston, a wife named Elizabeth, and a student named Olive. The co-ed becomes the lover of the couple, eventually bearing Marston a child. Along the way, the trio invents a couple of things you may know: the lie detector test and the character of Wonder Woman. So, yeah, the (extended) Marston family makes for fascinating film fodder.
A couple of indie films are our choices for sixth and seventh place. The Florida Project garnered a lot of awards season attention for its brutally honest depiction of a struggling mother and her curious daughter. Our staff admired its bluntness and adored some of the performances. Call Me by Your Name caused a schism among the staff as some deemed it Best Picture material while others were less impressed. Its seventh-place finish in the category reflects that it does have passionate support in some circles for its unwavering honesty about issues of intimacy.
A possibly fictional city, a not-fictional enough monster, and a true-life director are the basis for our final selections. The Lost City of Z recounts Percy Fawcett’s attempts to find an Amazon city lost in time. Colossal is a clever science fiction tale about a woman who has a surprising, Fay Wray-esque influence over a giant reptilian monster. And our other nominee is The Disaster Artist, a movie about the making of the worst movie ever made.
We had a tight race at the bottom of the list this year. The following films were only a few votes away from selection: Free Fire, Last Flag Flying, The Beguiled, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Okja, Marshall, and A Fantastic Woman. All of them are well worth your time.
2018 Calvin Awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
||Battle of the Sexes
||Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
||Florida Project, The
||Call Me By Your Name
||Lost City of Z, The
||Disaster Artist, The