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Burning Questions: What Are the Future Cult Films of 2011?

Hey folks. Michael C here to ponder how future movie buffs will view 2011.

When a film is riding high through awards season, racking up the honors and soaking up the prestige, it must feel to its makers like its title is being etched into the face of cinematic history with a hammer and chisel. Yet we know that even the biggest box office champs and awards winners can make that cruel slide into obscurity the same as the cheapest B movie. Likewise, films that managed to slip in and out of theaters without kicking up too much fuss can find popularity and redemption on their way to the dustbin. Looking through the records of cinema years past is a lot like glancing through a high school yearbook. Why, oh why, was I so love with her, who I now see clearly to be pretty but painfully shallow, and what possessed me ignore that knockout, even if she was a little quirky.

So the question I want to find an answer to this week is which under-the-radar 2011 films are most likely headed for large and loyal cult fanbases? I am going to skip the obvious choices of Attack the Block and Warrior, both of which had their cult status secured the instant they failed to catch fire at the box office, and name three still underseen titles which are likely to hold up better than their initial releases would suggest: 

SUBMARINE – Box Office: $467, 602

The initial reaction of much of the film critic community at Richard Ayoad smart, often brutal tale of teenage love and heartbreak was to make brief mention of its impressive visuals, then to simply take roll call of all the other coming-of-age tales it superficially resembled (especially Rushmore). My hunch is that time is going to be very kind to Submarine. It may share themes with other stories of precocious teens in love (how could it not?) yet few such stories ring as true in every harsh, painful and often hilarious detail. And few films of any stripe have such a visually striking creation of time and place. 

THE GUARD – Box Office: $5,338,115

The atmosphere of the modern multiplex is not friendly to the low-key character study. The films where you spend more time smiling quietly than guffawing out loud tend to do better with the low-pressure home video environment when the whole night and half a week’s paycheck isn’t on the line. This will certainly be the case for John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard. The movie's shaggy crime story never comes to much, but as a showcase for Brendan Gleesons rumpled charm and flawless comic timing in the title role it will satisfy many a viewer. 

BELLFLOWER  - Box Office: $168,226

I was not the biggest fan of Evan Glodell’s tale of heartarche, male rage, and Road Warrior obsession. But I can’t deny that it touched a nerve somewhere in the whole mess of flamethrowers, cricket eating, and apocalyptic revenge fantasy. I further can’t deny that there were several stand alone images as memorable as any from 2011 and a mood of pervasive unease that marks Glodell as one to watch. I suspect the home video crowd will be more willing to look past the film’s questionable message, and amateurish lapses to appreciate the raw filmmaking talent contained within. And if Glodell should deliver on his promise in his future projects, forget it. Expect the common refrain among film buffs to be that they were on board with Bellflower before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon.

Have another candidate for future cult glory? Let me know in the comments. You can follow Michael C. on Twitter at @SeriousFilm or read his blog Serious Film

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Reader Comments (17)

Your Highness and Hanna

I haven't seen Your Highness yet but, despite the bad reviews, I keep hearing random people saying they loved it so I think it's already catching on and Hanna (which maybe isn't under the radar enough to qualify) has that memorable style and soundtrack that often mark a cult film.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSVG

Bellflower did very little for me; it's themes were a major turnoff. That said, I suspect many men in their 20s/early 30s will grab onto it over the few years on Netflix and the like as well.

I hope Submarine gets the fanbase you mentioned, if only for the wonderfully depicted relationship of the protagonist's parents.

As for some I think will get love in the future, Weekend and Young Adult spring to mind. The former's quality can't help but gain ground and it's had the kind of buzz needed for months. Once those people who've wanted to catch up with it see it's on Netflix Instant, the booming will begin. In regard to Young Adult, once people see it without the idea/hindrance of it's Diablo Cody roots, I see a loyal group for it.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

Bellflower didn't sit well with me, there's an undercurrent of misogyny that I could never quite look past.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeeking Amy

I feel like "Hanna" is a safe bet, since it's been surprisingly under-discussed during most of the year-end wrap-ups I've seen, but the people who are enthusiastic about it are *really* enthusiastic.

I also want to say "Insidious", but maybe it was too successful for that? Although horror may be one of the genres where mainstream success doesn't preclude cult status.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDS

Oh shit, actually, now that SVG mentions it I've actually heard people mention how much they like Your Highness. My brother even told me he loved it more than the Hangover.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy

You can't count out a good teen movie. But since 2011 didn't have any of those, how about Disney's "Prom"? People can get really attached to movies they grew up with, and something like this will likely rerun on TV quite a bit. Could also gain some momentum if any of the teen actors go on to become more famous in a few years.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDS

DS - You're a genius. That point I totally forgot.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

SVG -- i've noticed this too and i haven't seen it either

DS -- good point. things that hit in the formative years, stick.

Brian Z -- agreed on young adult for sure.

seeking amy -- that's actually why i avoided bellflower. I kept hearing that. is it true? who has seen it that can speak up on this matter.

January 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel - I think it has a misogynistic streak to it. It goes beyond, "these characters act this way, not the storyteller." It had a meanstreak that irked me.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

I think "Drive" will be another canidate for a future cult film. I don't think it's gonna get much Oscar-luv (despite Albert Brooks's great performance) but it's a flick that will hold up in the long run.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

It's already happening with Drive. Case in point: the Loft Cinema in Tucson has a cult classics series on Saturday nights. The next three "cult classics" are "Serendipity," "Drive," and "Start Trek 2, The Wrath of Khan."

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertimothy

Timothy: Hold up, people consider Serendipity a cult classic?!? The one with Kate something? People are weird.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDrewB

Ugh, Bellflower. I can't think of a movie with things I'm interested in less all in one package.

The obvious answer to this question is Drive. It's not under the radar (except in Hollywood mainstream terms) but I'm sure it'll live on real strong for years.

I love the mention of Submarine and the poster who mentioned Hanna. Both of those are memorable enough and have their own sense of being to live a strong repeat viewing life. Incidentally, they'd both also make my Cinematography top five for the year as well. Gorgeous and memorable images in the pair of 'em.

Other titles to consider for various reasons. Camp, subversive, curios or otherwise.
The Roomate
Cedar Rapids
Sucker Punch
The Beaver
Green Lantern
Another Earth
Red State
A Serbian Film

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

As long as "Hobo with a Shotgun" doesn't become one, I'm fine.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterK

I'd like to suggest The Trip as a cult film. In fact, I'd like to extend cult-film status to any movie with Steve Coogan in a leading role (save Around the World in 80 Days).

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ.P.

Insidious is going to see its audience grow for a long time. It was a horror novelty in modern times, a film focusing on family, character development, and suspense rather than camera tricks, gore, and naturalism.

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Nice list and GREAT idea. A few others I'd suggest as possibilities:

Another Earth (mentioned in previous comment) -- the anti-Melancholia. not as beautifully shot, but also not morally and intellectually bankrupt.

Take Shelter -- two of the best performances of the year, a riveting script, breathtaking cinematography, special effects that will age well.

A Bag of Hammers -- more hilarious than Bridesmaids, with a truer heart. Good potential for adoption (no pun intended) by stoners and/or college students.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Dunaway
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