Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Movies You May Not Have Seen

I just posted to my Facebook profile a list of 5 movies that I love, which, in my experience, not a lot of people have seen.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  I watch a lot of movies that no one has ever heard of.  So I tried to limit this to fairly recent films that a lot of you may have heard of, but for whatever reason dismissed, or probably should have heard of, but didn't.  And I may be wrong about what people have and haven't seen.  At least one of the movies was a pretty reasonable hit, but for whatever reason, it seems like few people in my peer group have ever watched it.  Regardless, it is a list of 5 really good films that I think deserve watching.  So fire up your Netflix queue, go down to Blockbuster, or whatever.  And if, for whatever reason, you don't like one of the movies . . . well, I won't give you your money back, but I'll personally explain to you why you are wrong.

City of God
A 2002 Brazilian film about gang warfare in the slums of Rio de Janeiro.  The movie is brimming with energy.  It is exciting, funny, heartbreaking, violent, and beautiful.  It has been compared favorably to Goodfellas.  I go further than that and say that it is better (I have always though that a very weak final act brought down Scorcese's classic, but that is another matter entirely).  I am currently watching the spin-off television series, City of Men, and it does a excellent job of capturing the style and substance of the original film.

1999 was arguably the best year of cinema that I have lived through.  Fight Club, American Beauty, The Matrix, Toy Story 2, The Sixth Sense . . . I could go on all day.  I was going to the theater nearly every weekend that year.  But lost in the shuffle, I feel, was a darkly subversive little Reese Witherspoon film about high school politics.  The movie works on many different levels, hitting on truths both about high schoolers and high school teachers, and also about how real politics can be just as juvenile as high school.

Out of Sight
This film made quite a bit of money and was nominated for several awards, but it often seems to me that when I try and talk to people about it, they'll say something to the effect that they caught a little bit of it on TV, didn't like it, and changed the channel.  This always frustrates me.  Because it really is a great movie.  The director, Stephen Soderbergh, normally goes back and forth between making pretentious indie movies (Sex, Lies, and Video Tape), and light and fluffy big budget "hit" movies (Ocean's 11).  But in this film, he walked the line beautifully with big-name stars (George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in the only movie I've ever even remotely liked her in) and based on a popular Elmore Leonard novel, but being extremely experimental with the editing, time-line, and coloring of the movie.  Plus it has Don Cheadle in it, which to me is always a mark of excellence.  Seriously, I don't think that guy has ever been in a bad movie.

I've written about this movie already, here, but I will continue to sing its praises.  Brick takes high school cliches and regurgitated film noir dialog and combines them into one of the most original movies made in the last few years.  I love it.

A Simple Plan
As much as I love this movie, whenever I start talking about it I tend to scare people off of it.  That's because it is inky, pitch black dark.  But it is also one of the most affecting movies that I have ever seen.  It is a horror movie in the truest sense.  Not about some monster, but about the dark things that ordinary people are capable of, given the right circumstances.  About how a simple plan can spiral hopelessly out of control.  This movie was directed by Sam Raimi, of Evil Dead and Spiderman fame.  And as much as I love those two series of movies, it is kind of a shame that they are what he will be forever known for, because this is his masterpiece.  Just don't plan to be happy for a good long while after watching it . . .

So there you go.  Watch them, and let me know what you think.


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