Loving a mostly unloved thing is one of the quieter joys of movie fandom. While there can certainly be a good deal of pleasure found in joining a choir of near-unanimous approval around a particular film—feeling a part of something relevant and important as its happening—there is a wholly different satisfaction in finding yourself one of the lone champions of a piece of art. It becomes almost more special to you somehow, a thing you feel increasingly protective of as you defend its good name against an onslaught of criticism. Popular films don’t need your support, but the unloved (or worse, entirely overlooked) ones do, and you find yourself going to bat for them, over and over. In time, you come to wear it like a badge of honor.
The internet, as it has done with most aspects of our lives by now, makes this both better and worse. In the blink of an eye you can find an exact aggregated percentage of just how poorly a film you love has fared with critics, how dismally this special little thing you hold dear to your heart has been received by the entire world around you. But at the same time, it’s never been easier to find fellow fans of lost cinematic treasures. For many years, I thought I was one of only a handful of people with a deep affection for Joe Versus the Volcano—me, my fellow video store clerk Ed, and Roger Ebert—but the internet eventually showed me otherwise. There are entire sites now dedicated to the wonders of John Patrick Shanley’s magical film, a movie considered so awful at the time of its release that it actually got its writer/director banished to “movie jail” for nearly 20 years.
Most avid movie watchers, if they’ve been at it for any length of time, have gathered up a small collection of these unloved films to call their own. These are the movies we push, gently at first but more forcefully if necessary, on those within our circles—hoping at the very least to make some small dent in the popular perception held against them. But really, on some level, we’re looking for kindred spirits.
So, when we set about creating an entire issue called “The Unloved”, we knew what we were getting into. Passionate defenses of everything from Road House to Bratz! flooded into our submission box. In the end, what’s emerged is an issue as eclectic as it is encompassing, filled with essays on all kinds of overlooked, forgotten, underappreciated, and unloved things.
The issue begins with our cover story, Angelica Jade Bastién’s defense of Keanu Reeves, which looks at the way in which Reeves’ transfixing stillness often belies the deeper work he’s doing as an actor. Next, Brad Nelson looks at time, entropy, pop culture, and the apocalypse in Joseph Kahn’s strange and little seen high school horror film, Detention (2011), followed by Taylor Hine’s exploration of Cameron Crowe’s infamous 2002 flop, Elizabethtown. Andrew Root rounds out the first half of the issue with his insightful look at the many ways The Hobbit trilogy goes wrong, and why that’s ultimately ok with him.
The second half of the issue kicks off with Sophia Cross on the much maligned Cameron Diaz film, The Sweetest Thing, and why its depiction of genuine female friendships within the context of a mainstream Hollywood rom-com still feels groundbreaking to her. Then, David Nilsen explores his relationship with his father through the prism of Bellflower, a film full of muscle cars, misguided men, and problematic machismo. Alissa Wilkinson lightens things up a bit with her “Drink and a Movie” column, looking at her favorite overlooked comedy, the 1997 Bill Murray spoof The Man Who Knew Too Little. Wrapping the issue up is our resident poet, Arielle Greenberg, reflecting on Jill Soloway’s vastly underseen 2013 film, Afternoon Delight, a movie that hints at many of the thematic notes Soloway would return to a year later in her breakthrough television series, Transparent.
Finally, we’re excited to announce the addition of a brand new monthly column, “Now Playing”, from long-time contributor Fran Hoepfner. Each month, Fran will be writing about a film currently in theaters that has piqued her interest. Fran’s column will dovetail with the overall theme of the issue at times, but most months (like this one), she’ll be doing her own thing. Either way, we couldn’t be happier. This month she’s taking a look at the relationship drama, 45 Years.
And so here it is, our loving look at unloved things. By the time you’ve finished up the issue, it’s our sincere hope that you’ve added at least a few new films to your queue—and possibly even found a kindred spirit or two.