Sunday, 14 September 2008

Sunday Night at the Movies - with Dallas and Friends: 14 September 2008

Not Another Pretentious List...

This week I have no review. I spent most of the week in the bowels of the University of Sydney Library endlessly writing film analyses for my thesis. As such, I was not able to watch any films worthy enough for this blog. Instead of a review, I have decided to do an expanded list.

But, instead of just giving a list of movies, I'm going to write a little something about the movies in the list. This will be my way of copping out of writing a review. I've been thinking about this list for some time, and hope you do not think I am too pretentious in making it.

Five Great Movies You Probably Have Never Heard Of... But Should Watch

When it comes to the pantheon of films that have been released around the world, over the last 100 years or so, there are at least several thousand great films out there that many of us, including myself, have never heard of. I do not pretend to know everything about film or have seen every movie ever made. My goal in doing this list is to put up five films that I feel truly are great films, but are not talked about all that often. I also wanted to choose films that are accessible to most people, if not everyone. These are films that you could watch almost anytime, and just sit and enjoy them. Well, I know I could just sit and enjoy them at any time.

1. Ordinary People
Released in 1980 this is Robert Redford's directorial debut and won him an academy award for best director, as well as the academy award for best film. As such, it is surprising this film is not talked about all that much. It certainly did not do anything new for the art of filmmaking, but it is a solid film with some shattering performances about a family falling apart as they come to grips with the death of a son. This is definitely not a feel-good movie, but still top notch entertainment.

2. The Court Jester
Starring Danny Kaye in his best performance, this film, released in 1955, is truly magic. I defy anyone to watch this and not come away with a smile on their face. The story, set in medieval England, is all very silly and involves Danny Kaye impersonating a great court jester in order to foil some plot or another to usurp the kingdom. In point of fact the plot matters very little, as in most musicals (except those dastardly Rogers and Hammerstein musicals), and is just a set up for great set pieces and moments of comic genius.

3. Twilight Samurai
This is a Japanese film from 2002 directed by Yoji Yamada and starring Hiroykui Sanada. After watching this film, Sanada shot to the top of my "list of actors to watch" as he gives a truly remarkable performance. Sanada plays Seibei, a low ranking 19th century samurai relegated to a menial bureaucratic post in a small village. Seibei is a widower and must raise his two daughters alone. Although Seibei is known for having legendary skill with his sword, there is not much money in swordplay, therefore he must pick up work where he can in order to make ends meet. This film is exquisite, and if you do not mind watching a Japanese film with English subtitles then I highly recommend it. It even comes equipped with a climactic sword duel. What else do you need?

4. Brief Encounter
You have certainly got to love the British. This early David Lean gem released in 1945 is set in London and is blissfully stark in its telling of a love affair that "almost" happens. Housewife Laura Jesson and Dr. Alec Harvey meet one day in a cafe, and a strong connection is sparked. Although married to other partners, Laura and Alec continue to meet in cinemas and cafes though they know their love is impossible. This is a fascinating examination of love, marriage, passion, and restraint written by Noel Coward. A truly great film.

5. Ride the High Country
Yes, yes, well I had to put at least ONE western on this list. It is surprising this film does not get more credit. It is the final film of Hollywood Western legend Randolph Scott, and one of the final films of Hollywood star Joel McCrea. Released in 1962, this is an early effort by Sam Peckinpah, who would strike gold seven years later with The Wild Bunch. Although this film contains some great action, it is rather far removed from the "blood-letting" that Peckinpah would later become famous for. This is an elegant film that deals with the myth of the Old West as well as the reality of aging cowboys and gunfighters becoming antiquated in a "modern" world. Any fan of the Hollywood Western should give this a look. It really is fine filmmaking.

- dallas


booktapes said...

Of this list, I've only seen Ordinary People, which I love. I've seen a couple other Peckinpah movies, my favorite of which is The Getaway with Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw. Sally Struthers is in it too and gives one of the most annoying performances I've ever seen. Or her character was annpoying or something. Anyway, basically the best part of the movies is when she gets punched out at the end. Good times.

Dal, Hel & Bel said...

actually, the reason i saw ordinary people in the first place, many years ago, was at your suggestion. so, there you go.

any movie where sally struthers dies is a good movie. it's a shame it doesn't happen more often. what i can't understand is her character in "five easy pieces". she's just as annoying as always, but yet jack nicholson is having sex with her. incomprehensible! at least he spurns her shortly thereafter.

booktapes said...

Goo! Wow, I almost watched Five Easy Pieces once. Thanks for the heads up. Yeah, I think SS was perfect for her role in The Getaway of "incredibly annoying woman who gets punched out at the end." I can't really imagine her in the role of "woman who sleeps with Jack Nicholson." Then again what woman could really fill that role, except maybe Ann Margaret? Or maybe Jack Nicholoson himself. (In a wig.)

Matthew Stavros said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I hadn't heard of any of these. Now some of my favs:

The Pillow Book (Peter Greenaway)
Lives of Others
The Razor's Edge
Ichigensan (Japanese with no subtitles)
Fog of War (Documentary but also amazing imagery)
V for Vendetta (A feel-good film for leftys like me)