Friday, March 7, 2014
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 67
The Wood (1999, dir. Rick Famuyiwa) When The Wood came out in 1999, I saw it in an empty theater with one other friend and we both loved it. I didn't realize until this recent re-watch how much this movie stuck with me. There are lines of dialogue I've repeated for years that I forgot came from The Wood. I used to recommend this movie to people when I worked at Blockbuster and they asked what new releases were good. They would rarely take me up on my suggestion (what the hell you ask for then?) and I was always bummed that no one was watching this sweet and very funny movie. The cast is great especially drunk Taye Diggs and Sean Nelson who plays the teenage version of Omar Epps before he became identical twins with Mike Tomlin. And I want to give a shout out to Richard T. Jones, who is one of my favorite character actors. He's been great in so many movies including this one, Renaissance Man and Event Horizon. He was also in Super 8 but had very little to do and I was like "Don't they know they have Richard T. Jones????" F-Heads, watch this movie so we can talk about how we all love The Wood.
Vanilla Sky (2001, dir. Cameron Crowe) There's a lot that works in Vanilla Sky and there's a lot that doesn't, but that's the kind of movie which often engenders the most conversation. This is Cameron Crowe's fifth trip out as a director, just one year after Almost Famous, which several of us seem to consider as one of our favorite movies (my top five is always rotating, but Almost Famous never leaves it). Before Vanilla Sky was released, I didn't think Cameron Crowe was capable of a misstep; I'd loved everything he'd ever been involved with. That's a lot of pressure to put on a director and this was the movie that changed how I viewed his work. I consider that a good thing. When we take people off of pedestals we can really start to examine the merit of their craft. This movie has several things going for it: 1) an interesting story, remade from the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos (Penelope Cruz stars as the same character in both versions). 2) Jason Lee. The man is always watchable and elevates every project he's in, including those dreadful little movies about singing chipmunks. 3) Kurt Russell. Same reasons as number 2, but without the chipmunks. Enough works that the film is worth your time if you've never seen it. It bites off a lot and can't quite chew all of it, but it tries to do something big and pushed Cameron Crowe outside of his comfort zone. That's why I have so much respect for it.
Broken Flowers (2005, dir. Jim Jarmusch) This film tends to be overshadowed by the similar-in-tone Lost in Translation, but Broken Flowers is a fine film in its own right. Sad sack Bill Murray receives a letter from an old flame that indicates he might be a father. Trouble is the letter is unsigned and this sends Murray on an odyssey through "Old Girlfriendland." Broken Flowers features a fine supporting cast that includes Jeffrey Wright, Julie Delpy, Jessica Lange, Christopher McDonald, Tilda Swinton, Sharon Stone, and Chloe Sevigny. I once read that Murray considered retiring after this film was released because he felt he would never give a better performance. I concur.
Dirty Pretty Things (2002, dir. Stephen Frears) Now that Chiwetel Ejifor lost his Best Actor Oscar to Matthew McConaughey's performance on True Detective, you should go back and check out his first starring role in Stephen Frears' excellent thriller. The less you know about the movie going in, the better -- at least, it was for me when I went to see it back in 2002 based solely on the fact that Amelie's Audrey Tatou was in it. You can see that the entire ad campaign was built around her, but it's Ejifor's movie. He is SO GOOD -- it's one of those performances where I came out of the movie asking "Who WAS that??" He's the kind of actor who is good in every movie in which he appears (except maybe Four Brothers), but his performance in Dirty Pretty Things is still my favorite. I haven't seen this movie in years. I promise to watch it if you will.