by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
Rob: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Rob DiCristino.
Adam: And I’m Adam Riske.
My first pick is Nicolas Roeg’s surreal Don’t Look Now, a longtime movie shame of mine that I’ve finally caught up with thanks to Shudder. It’s not always my speed, but I can’t deny that it’s an incredible piece of filmmaking. It’s interesting to see a movie that was so clearly influential on other movies I love — everything from Memento to Mulholland Drive to Casino Royale — and retroactively appreciate how those later creators were inspired by its mood, imagery, and non-linear construction. Like my boy David Lynch, Roeg creates mystery and immersion through brutal characterization and trippy juxtapositions. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland are ‘70s Sexy as a cosmopolitan couple grieving the sudden loss of their child by relocating to Venice, where they’re slowly driven into secret plots and mysterious happenings. It’s an inscrutable story at times, and I can’t say it’s scary in the traditional sense, but it’s nothing if not hypnotic. It’s the kind of movie I respect and appreciate even if I can’t think of a time when I’d necessarily be in the mood to rewatch it.
My first pick is James Foley’s At Close Range. It’s a harrowing, based on a true story 1986 crime drama starring Sean Penn and Christopher Walken. The movie is much darker than I was expecting, which just goes to show that real life events are way more fucked up and disturbing than a screenwriter can typically imagine. Walken is especially riveting as the leader of a Pennsylvania-based crime syndicate and his team is very unsettling as well because they’re so banal, cold-blooded, and impulsive. I was really shook up by this sad and powerful film after I watched it and it didn’t leave my mind for a couple of days after. The mood of the movie is greatly enhanced by Patrick Leonard’s score, which consists primarily of the instrumental section from Madonna’s single “Live to Tell” that also plays over the film’s end credits. It’s a beautiful song with a tragic quality to it that fits the movie perfectly. In addition to Sean Penn and Christopher Walken, the cast is loaded with recognizable faces like Mary Stuart Masterson, Chris Penn, Tracey Walter, David Strathairn (in a dual role), Candy Clark, Kiefer Sutherland, Stephen Geoffreys, and Crispin Glover. I highly recommend this one.
Ronin. I was a little young for this one when it came out, and it’s only in the last few years that I started reading appreciation pieces that clued me into the fact that it was something other than a disposable ‘90s studio thriller. Robert De Niro leads Sean Bean, Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgård, and other notable heavies through a French battlezone of intrigue, honor, and betrayal. It’s a ‘70s throwback through-and-through, one of those movies that — even in 1998 — they just Don’t Make Anymore. Its sensibilities are old-fashioned and uncompromising. Its characters are gritty and pulpy without posturing. The car chases are actually better than I’d heard, which is difficult considering how frequently they appear on best-of lists. I don’t really want to spoil too much of Ronin, just in case there are others discovering it for the first time. Suffice it to say that this is up there with Heat. It’s a masterpiece that I’ll definitely be revisiting soon.
Rapid Fire, Sudden Death, and Tombstone, so going back and looking at an earlier lead from him was a real treat. I’m trying to watch more of Walter Hill’s back catalog this year. I’ve only seen about a half dozen of his movies to date. I’ll try The Driver, Johnny Handsome, or Extreme Prejudice next.
Get Out, Happy Death Day) has given him solid instincts in the director’s chair, and I’m excited to see what he does next. Hell Fest drags a bit in the last forty minutes, for sure, and there are about as many misses as there are hits, but that assertive sense of joy goes a long way. It’s smart, but not too clever for its own good. It plays with conventions without getting too cute about it. It’s solid!
Did you have any other recommendations you’d like to mention?
Rob: Wildlife was one of my 2018 honorable mentions. That one hits hard. Other recommendations include Sergio Leone’s four-hour epic Once Upon a Time in America (speaking of De Niro), Jason Reitman’s Tully (which would have made my honorable mentions had I seen it in time), and the documentary My Beautiful Broken Brain, which I’ll probably talk more about in an upcoming installment of Weird on Top. What are we doing next week?
Adam: We’re celebrating Spike Lee’s recent Oscar nominations by covering six films of his that either you or I or both of us have never seen. I can’t wait. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.