Monday, November 14, 2011
F These Movies You Should Know But Don't
JB: Forgotten Silver (1995) - This staggering documentary, and my favorite Peter Jackson film, tells the story of Colin McKenzie, the New Zealander who is the true father of film. Laying waste to a hundred years of accepted film history, Jackson and co-director Costa Botes explore the life of this nearly forgotten pioneer. It caused a nationwide sensation and a terrific controversy when it first aired on New Zealand television in 1995.
Cold Turkey (1971) - This largely forgotten comedy is still one of my favorites. A great premise: a tobacco company offers 25 million dollars to the American town that can give up smoking for one full month. A great cast, featuring Dick Van Dyke, Vincent Gardenia, Barnard Hughes, Jean Stapleton, and the celebrated comedy team Bob and Ray in multiple roles as a series of anchormen. A great score, featuring songs by Randy Newman. The film appears sit-com like, but do not let its banal exterior hide the dark, satiric heart beating within. This is one of the great, lost black comedies of the 1970’s with an ending unrivaled in its sheer bleakness.
Mike: The Son (Le fils) (2002) - At the end of 2010, Roger Ebert listed his favorite films of the first ten years of the 2000's. Number two on the list was a 2002 movie called The Son, a movie out of Belgium from the Dardenne brothers. I had never heard of it, and didn't see it on any other Top 10 lists. I threw it into my Netflix queue and watched it a few days later.
If you have not seen The Son, and decide to give it a try, DO NOT FIND OUT WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT AHEAD OF TIME! I can't stress that enough. I went into the movie blind, having read nothing about the story, and was rewarded for it. This movie represents master storytelling. The central mystery unfolds beautifully. Thanks to a great lead performance by Olivier Gourmet -- he won Best Actor at Cannes for the role -- and an aesthetic style that can only be described as voyeuristic, we're witnessing a man going through something, although we don't know what that it for some time. When we find the answer we're looking for, a new disturbing question arises. The Son provides that rare movie watching experience, establishing tension from the first frame, and holding it throughout.
I apologize for being so vague, but again you'll thank me in the long run. The Son left me breathless, and I hope it would do the same for you.
Mark Ahn: Cache (2005) – The very best suspense/thriller films keep audiences in an uncomfortable stance, never giving up very much in terms of the stakes, feeding the audience a little bit at a time, but still respecting our intelligence to put things together (because that's what we want to do). Like most movies, it's a well-worn path, but it always delivers when done well. Cache does it all with a tense minimalism and a tacit refusal to give in to the pressure that so many thrillers wallow under to give away every detail of every character's motive at the end of the movie, because ... I don't why it keeps happening. Thankfully, Cache doesn't do it, because it's French and it doesn't cater to assumptions about the intelligence of American audiences (hurray!), and the main reveal pushing us toward a solution is shown while the end credits are rolling, and even then you need to watch for it. How novel: a mystery movie that ends still shrouded in mystery. More, please.
Patrick: The Nines (2007) - It's easy to write off Ryan Reynolds as an actor, because Hollywood keeps insisting he's a movie star even though the movies he stars in are Green Lantern and The Change Up and The Proposal. But if you want proof that Reynolds is capable of being an interesting actor, look no further than The Nines, the directorial debut of screenwriter John August (Big Fish, Go). The low-budget, barely-released effort finds Reynolds in three different stories that connect to one another in a number of superficial ways, but also in some major thematic ways the longer the movie goes on (and this is a movie that deals with some major themes). It's best not to know much about the movie going in, because the directions it takes and its sheer ambition are some of what's best about it -- a common theme among the movies on this list. Hope Davis, movie star du jour Melissa McCarthy and Elle Fanning (the Best Supporting Actress of 2011) all co-star. Reynolds' abs make only a cameo appearance, hence the reason no one's heard of The Nines.