Matt: We ended our last conversation with the ‘sleeper’ category and it got me thinking – what is my favorite absolutely sleeper pick out there?
Now, let me clarify what I would say a sleeper pick is. I don’t mean an Oscar winner that didn’t make much at the box office. I’m not talking about a cult movie. So when I write sleeper, I’m talking about a movie that wasn’t a critical fave, a commercial fave or really anyone’s fave at all. And yet it’s on your list.
So with that said, I’d love to talk about cinematic sleepers with that as our definition. This should be an interesting back and forth in the comments. And if someone says something like English Patient or Spider-Man, I’m done.
Curt, do you have your top ‘sleeper?’
Curt: I have many, but the first that comes to mind is Timothy Burton’s Edward Scissorhands, from 1990. It made money, but not much. While there were a few critics that embraced it, it was decisively pummeled by critics overall.
Edward Scissorhands is a movie that touches me, but in ways that I can’t easily define. It’s not that I understand why and can’t communicate it effectively; it’s that I simply can’t put my finger on why it touches me so deeply. I’ve considered dissecting and sorting my thoughts about it, but always choose to let the aura it gives me remain somewhat vague. I can tell you that Danny Elfman’s soundtrack provides the most amazing mood music I’ve ever heard in a film. Do you remember the Proprietor’s post, Sigur Ros Makes Me Cry? Many were deeply stirred by this video, but couldn’t explain why. That’s how it is with me and the film Edward Scissorhands.
What about you, Matt?
Matt: Okay, this is a bit off-the-wall, but…
Event Horizon. Probably most have never heard of it or even seen it. It’s a horror movie in outer space from 1997 which should relegate it to b-movie status. But Laurence Fishburne and other recognizables pull this off wonderfully (in a horrifying, creepy, sci-fi way).
It’s Paul W.S. Anderson who directed Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator (neither movie I even care to see), so it’s not like I have a ton going for me by recommending this movie. But horror movies are so stupid and predictable and this movie could have went the wrong direction. Instead, I couldn’t sleep well for five days.
So this movie does what it should and fits the ‘sleeper’ category perfectly for me.
Do you have any others, Curt?
Curt: Yes, here’s another one, Matt: Love Song for Bobby Long. Most critics were indifferent or unapologetically hostile towards this movie. It was a big fat box office belly flop. It’s a character driven movie in which plot is secondary to the lives of its characters. Unexpectedly, it drew me in and though in retrospect it sometimes wandered aimlessly, I was riveted by the characters. For a variety of reasons, including salty language and alcoholism personified, I don’t recommend it to those that are sensitive to such. Still, in my mind it’s an excellent piece of moviemaking.
Here’s a quote from one of the characters, Lawson Pines, which provides a tidy little summary of why this movie appealed to me:
“Some people reach a place in time where they’ve gone as far as they can. A place where wives and jobs collide with desire. That which is unknowable and those who remain out of sight. See what is invisible and you will see what to write. That’s how Bobby used to put it. It was the invisible people he wanted to live with. The ones that we walk past every day, the ones we sometimes become. The ones in books who live only in someones mind’s eye. He was a man who was destined to go through life and not around it. A man who was sure the shortest path to heaven was straight through hell. But the truth of his handicap lay only in a mind both exalted and crippled by too many stories and the path he chose to become one. Bobby Long’s tragic flaw was his romance with all that he saw. And I guess if people want to believe in some form of justice, then Bobby Long got his for a song.”
Not to get all weird with theolo-vision ™, but read that paragraph again, with the thought–other than the part about jobs and wives–that it’s about Jesus, not Bobby Long. And I don’t mean that Bobby Long is contructed as a Jesus figure. Only that Jesus looked at the world and life through divine eyes. And though Bobby Long ended up on the wrong path, it wasn’t because he didn’t see right. It’s because he didn’t choose right.
Here’s a movie that simply assumes its viewers are well read. I was intrigued by John Travolta’s Professor Bobby Long. He loved literature and art and used them as a vehicle to seek truth. Despite that, though he flirted and danced with truth, it was often too painful to embrace, so he was usually paralyzed by the romance of it all. Indeed, in his life, the romance prevailed over raw truth. More to the point, he embraced form rather than substance.
I thought about choosing Flatliners as another sleeper–as a very bad joke–but decided the better of it. What else do you have up your sleeve, Matt?
Matt: One movie that I still believe to be absolutely endearing, charming, graceful and quite stunning is In America. It chronicles the tale of an Irish family immigrating to New York and the struggles for the father of two young daughters to make a new life for themselves. It will make you laugh and cry and absolutely nobody has seen it.
Curt: That includes me, but not for long. I’ll check it out based on your recommendation (believe it or not, I have seen Event Horizon). The number of books and movies I’ve experienced as the result of Rabbit Room recommendations continues to grow. As we continue to learn, our readers and fellow Rabbit Roomers never come up empty when it comes to recommendations, so let’s open up this thread for discussion. Remember Matt’s criteria for a Sleeper–not an Oscar winner that didn’t make much at the box office or a cult movie. Matt wants us to take it a step further. To qualify the movie should not be a critical or commercial favorite. Nor anyone’s favorite. Except yours. Bring it on!