Thursday, August 16, 2012
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 5
Lost in La Mancha (2002; dir. Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe) We here at F This Movie! love and appreciate filmmakers. As easy as it is to sit back and snipe at a wonky bit of dialogue or a wobbly third act, we know it takes a lot to get a movie made. It takes time, talent, money, and a whole lot of luck. Given how much can go wrong, it’s a miracle great movies make it to theaters. Some movies never make it at all. Lost in LaMancha isn’t just about Terry Gilliam’s failed attempt to bring his vision of Cervantes’ classic novel Don Quixote to the screen. It’s about how many ways the production went wrong, including money troubles, unsigned contracts, a lousy soundstage, catastrophic weather, jet fighters, a stubborn stunt horse, a lead actor with health problems, and Johnny Depp’s weird long hair (okay, maybe that one’s just me). The story would be funny it wasn’t so dang tragic. Watch it if you’re feeling cynical about movies. Afterwards, you can cure the depression of seeing Gilliam fail by watching one of his successes: 12 Monkeys (1995; dir. Terry Gilliam)
Margin Call (2011; dir. J.C. Chandor). This is not an 'easy' movie. But pay attention. You'll be impressed with the writing and performances, and you'll learn about the 2008 financial collapse. You're welcome!
Vernon, Florida (1981; dir. Errol Morris) Early Morris documentary contains all of the hallmarks of his now trademark style. This unforgettable film features the strange and eccentric residents of the titular town. Favorite scene? An old man goes from forgiving an irresponsible DOT worker to suggesting he get the electric chair! Authentic American crackpottery.
Comic Book Confidential (1988, dir. Ron Mann) Although a little dated, this is still a wonderful introduction to the alternative comic book universe. I know it was my introduction to The Spirit, American Splendor, and Maus. In the longer profiles, Mann allows the creators of the various comics to narrate their own work; the results are very entertaining but also very telling.
Senna (2010; dir. Asif Kapadia) I normally don't gravitate to documentaries, nor do I know anything about Formula 1 racing (which, like soccer, seems to have avoided the United States), but I'd heard good word-of-mouth about this one. It follows the career of Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna on his way to being one of the greats of his sport in the late 80s and early 90s. There are some delicious villains, some controversy, and some compelling primary footage. I'd advise going into it blind, not looking up anything about Senna's life, to get the fullest effect.
Sneakers (1992; dir. Phil Alden Robinson) Sticks in my memory because it was one of the first I watched during the birth of my cinematic awareness in high school that was in one of my favorite sub-genres (the caper/heist). Plenty of big names (Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier) doing cool things together, not too far from the whimsical feel of the Oceans movies, but also not as elaborately complicated, either.
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976; dir: John Carpenter) Because I’m still riding high from having met John Carpenter over the weekend, I recommend Mr. Carpenter’s second feature: Assault on Precinct 13. Carpenter has said that he’s spent his entire career remaking Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo, and there may be no better example than this movie.
The Signal (2008; dir. David Bruckner/Dan Bush/Jacob Gentry) Imperfect but worthwhile horror movie has the unoriginal premise that a signal beamed through the television turns everyone into homicidal maniacs. What makes the movie unique is that it's broken up into three different segments, each directed by a different guy and takes a different approach to the material. The shifts in tone can be jarring -- particularly in the second segment -- but each one works in its own way.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005; dir. Park Chan-wook) You're crazy if you haven't seen this yet.