Wednesday, September 10, 2008

30 More Movies You Might Have Missed: 6-10

Continuing yesterday's list. In no particular order, just as they occurred to me.

6. What's Eating Gilbert Grape

The movie that convinced me Leonardo DiCaprio could act.

Johnny Depp is a teenage boy who loves his 400 pound mother, his mentally retarded brother (DiCaprio), and his restless sister but the weight of their combined needs results in crushing responsibility. Stuck in the backwater of tiny Endora, he sees no way out of his situation. The answer to his problems is not what one would anticipate and is as understated as Depp's performance in many ways. Along the way, we are shown each person in greater depth and as we do the quirkiness becomes less important than the different aspects of humanity. Life affirming and it will stick with you.

7. A New Leaf

One of Tom's favorite movies and one that I am glad he insisted I watch. Matthau is a wealthy playboy and confirmed bachelor who has run through all his money. To keep afloat, he decides to marry a wealthy woman and murder her later. Elaine May, who also wrote and directed, plays Matthau's clumsy and adoring bride. He discovers she is being cheated blind by her household staff and, while setting things straight, begins to find a different facet of himself. Not that he gives up on the murder scheme though. Hilarious and perhaps Matthau's best performance.

8. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

A film that mocks film noir cliches while at the same time being a very satisfying mystery/action/buddy noir-ish film in its own right. Robert Downey Jr. is a small-time thief who stumbles into an acting audition when on the lam from the cops. He aces the audition and is sent to Hollywood where he soon finds himself neck-deep in a murder mystery involving his childhood sweetheart. While shadowing detective Val Kilmer to learn more about his acting role, Downey Jr. becomes heavily involved in a second mystery as well. Great fun, with fast-talking dialogue that will keep you on your toes. A nice companion piece to Brick; though completely different in feel, both movies mimic noir style while still standing on their own two legs.

9. King Kong (1933)

Reject all imitations. The original King Kong is one of my all-time favorite movies and a true classic in its own right. It is a simple story: intrepid filmmaker, Carl Denham, leads an expedition to Skull Island where they discover a 50-foot gorilla who becomes enamored of Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). He is captured and brought back to New York City as the "8th wonder of the world" where he inevitably runs wild with Ann clutched in one hand and meets his death atop the Empire State Building. The skill of the movie makers is such that it is still thoroughly enjoyable some 70 years later. Fay Wray has a scream that could stop a freight train; you could hear it over practically anything that the movie threw at it. The animation was star quality at the time and you soon discover that it is not the animation but the story that carries a movie. (My review is here.)

10. Double Indemnity

A famous film that I, nevertheless, have to beat people over the head to watch. The screenplay is by director Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler and the dialogue crackles with iconic film noir style.

Fred MacMurray is the insurance salesman who comes up with the perfect murder scheme to rid femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck of her husband's annoying presence. Edward G. Robinson is MacMurray's boss, a wily insurance investigator who feels that things don't quite add up. Told in flash-back, the film still maintains dramatic tension the entire time. Ironically, all three stars did not want to do the film. MacMurray and Stanwyck because they were cast against type as evil. Robinson because he was not the main star ... yet he carries the film at the end as his line sums up the movie perfectly.

Coming Friday (hopefully):

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