The Grapes of Wrath (1940, dir. John Ford) I wrote about this movie in my weekly column, but I didn't mention that it's available to stream on Netflix Instant. This is the heartbreaking story of a family evicted from their farm and seeking a new, better way of life at the end of Route 66. John Ford paints a bleak view of life during the Great Depression. Gregg Toland's camera work captures the iconic landscape, but also stark shadows and wonderful silhouettes. This movie is as famous as it is for a reason. I'm pleased that Netflix is offering such a landmark film on their streaming service. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a watch. Be warned, though. It's quite a journey.
The Kid with a Bike (2011, dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, French language) A boy trying to come to grips with the absence of his father finds himself stuck between a caring foster mother and some unsavory elements. Thomas Doret gives a terrific performance as the young protagonist who is maniacally intent on finding stability in his life.
The Conversation (1974, dir. Francis Ford Coppola) “He’d kill us if he had the chance.” This is the “little movie” that Coppola made between the two Godfather films, and it is a small masterpiece. Given all the brou-ha-hoopla lately about the NSA surveillance scandal, this film is weirdly topical once again. Gene Hackman, John Cazale, and Allen Garfield all turn in career-best performances. Watch for Harrison Ford, Teri Garr, and Cindy Williams in smaller roles!
Hollywood Homicide (2003; dir. Ron Shelton) Since I've already established myself as the guy who recommends the movies that are widely disliked, I'm just going to go all in: I really like Hollywood Homicide. I like the way Josh Hartnett plays a kind of airhead actor, I like the way the movie uses Harrison Ford's late-period grouchiness to good effect. Mostly, though, I like the way it satirizes Hollywood life, where even the cops have side projects they'd rather be doing. It's a movie that just meanders and hangs out, about a lot of smaller cases instead of a single big one. It's breezy and fun and good for the summer. Great cast, too. I think I'm right about this.