The decade’s overlooked

Rebecca Romijn in <i>Femme Fatale</i>: fatally underrated by all-wet critics—and John Stamos.

Rebecca Romijn in Femme Fatale: fatally underrated by all-wet critics—and John Stamos.

While I stand by my prediction that Shia LeBeouf will destroy movies, raise sea levels worldwide and bring forth a zombie apocalypse, there are still cinematic causes for celebration.

As the decade nears its end, I want to spotlight the many movie gems carelessly overlooked by critics too busy struggling for superlatives to describe benumbed swill like Crash (racism is complicated, man!). Thus, using the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer (which measures the percentage of positive reviews a film receives) as the standard for critical mass, I’ve compiled some of the most underrated movies of the oughts.

What Lies Beneath (45 percent critical approval) and Femme Fatale (48 percent approval) were two of the slinkiest, sliest faux-Hitchcocks in decades, but few critics noticed or cared. The former was Robert Zemeckis’ last gasp of non-Rotoscoped, genre-hopping fun; the latter a hallucinatory, back-to-form erotic thriller from Brian De Palma.

Cherry Falls (43 percent) is a self-aware exploration of horror film archetypes with 75 percent more smarts than Scream, and 100 percent less Matthew Lillard. Death Proof (64 percent) was similarly ghettoized by genre, but it’s a modern classic of sexually charged action and schizophrenic gender politics.

Bully (51 percent) and The Rules of Attraction (44 percent) offer bleak visions of youthful libertinism, with the candy-colored permissiveness of Hollywood teen movies perverted into horror-comedy. Underrated French director François Ozon’s similarly disturbing 5x2 (61 percent) tracks the relationship of a disastrous couple, starting at the bitter end and moving inexorably toward their first encounter.

On a lighter note, The Hangover may have won inexplicable critical acclaim, but the uproarious Brüno (68 percent) is 2009’s best comedy and most underrated film so far—it has as many laughs as Borat, plus sodomy. Lots and lots of sodomy!

You see, not everything in the world of movies is doom, gloom and Bradley Cooper.