Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Congratulations to the Overall Winner of the 2015 Undies!

Well, chickadees, we made it. After months of campaigning and all those advertisements and so many television specials, the 2015 Undies are finally coming to an end. By which I mean that after a couple of months of us talking about them every so often and some of you watching like five movies a piece, the Undies are coming to an end. But either way, great job gang! We did it! We have finally crowned the Best Overall Underappreciated Film of 2015.

But before we actually say what that movie is, let's talk again about why we do this. Why bother having a film competition like this at all? What purpose do the Undies even serve, being a teensy inconsequential contest run by a blog that none of these filmmakers are apt to ever read?

Look. There are a lot of movies that come out every year. A whole bunch of them. Some are good, some aren't, because that's how life works. Some of these movies challenge us and demand that we as an audience be better than we are, and some just seek to reaffirm us where we're at. That's cool - both of those things are valid in measured doses.

And then there are the movies that are so different or confusing or transformational that we kind of don't know how to handle them? The films that fly under the radar not because they're not good but because we don't yet have the vocabulary to describe them. Or the movies that so thoroughly challenge the status quo that they seem poorly made to anyone with a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. The movies that have the potential to genuinely change cinema, if only people would watch them.

At the heart of things, the Undies are about just that. About people watching movies that we've been told, explicitly or otherwise, not to see. Movies like Jupiter Ascending, which critics (kind of including me) reamed for not conforming to the usual traits of a masculinity-driven science fiction film but which forges its own beautiful path through the galaxy. Movies like Advantageous, which pushed back against the very youth ad beauty centric ideals that Hollywood itself is based around. Movies like The Tribe, which took the idea of "foreign language" to an entirely new height by choosing to make the entire film in unsubtitled Ukrainian sign language. 

Sometimes the most subversive thing you can do is watch a movie you've been told is bad. Why? Because it's a little way of saying, "I'm not sure I trust your opinion and I'd rather know for myself, thanks." The Undies is about pinpointing those movies that have been underappreciated and then doing the absolute simplest thing we can to help them: watching them.

So. That's what we do here. That's what the Undies is about, and I'm happy to say that under those metrics, the 2015 Undies were another success. And without any further ado, here's your overall winner, the movie that you guys voted and said was the Best Underappreciated Film of 2015...


Chi-Raq won its place in the final round by being the top pick of the Mid-Range category, beating out such vicious contenders as Straight Outta Compton and Sicario and Crimson Peak and Woman in Gold. It won not because it's objectively the best movie of the bunch - there's really no such thing as an "objectively best movie" - but because it's definitely far and away the most interesting, thought-provoking, and underappreciated of the bunch.

See, just from its premise we can tell that Chi-Raq is a movie trying to do things that other movies rarely even consider. A modern-day interpretation of the Greek play Lysistrata, Chi-Raq is written in verse, performed more as a play than as a normal film, and directly confronts aspects of our society that we tend to ignore. 

Like, say, the epidemic of violence plaguing inner-city communities, particularly Chicago. Or the question of female sexual autonomy. Add in a freaking stellar cast including Teyonah Parris, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, and John Cusack of all people, as well as directing from Spike Lee, and you get a film that might not be your cup of tea but is absolutely worth watching.

There's so much in Chi-Raq that is culturally relevant right now, which isn't surprising when you think about all the people making it. I mean, this is a movie meant to hit the nail right on the head and it does. It's about a weird story where the women of this community decide to stop having sex with their husbands and boyfriends until said men agree to stop the violence, but it's also a story about identity. About how we think of violence as being an intrinsic part of masculine identity and how we think of sexuality as being an intrinsic part of femininity.

Sure, there are definitely places where the movie gets a little clunky, gets weighted down by its own premise and pretensions. But that's not the point. The point is that it tries. It dares. It tells a story that no one else is really telling about a place and people who everyone seems comfortable forgetting. Chi-Raq is the kind of movie we need and the kind of story we should absolutely celebrate. A movie that is genuinely asking what we can do with movies.

So. This year's Best Overall Underappreciated Film is Chi-Raq. I'm not going to tell you how to live your life, but you should probably watch it.

It's been a hell of a ride, chickadees. It remains to be seen whether we're going to try this again next year (really depends on how much time and energy I personally have), but I think that it's a worthwhile endeavor. Thank you for supporting me in said worthwhile endeavor. Thank you for voting, thank you for nominating, thank you for spreading the word. And thank you for watching above all. 

Happy Undies, everyone!