Monday, July 20, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #33

The Commitments (1991)

Based on the first third of a trilogy by the novelist Roddy DoyleThe Commitments tells the story of a group of misfits from Dublin who form a soul band. Boasting a soundtrack packed with wall-to-wall pop/soul classics sung by the cast, including Mustang Sally, Take Me to the River, Chain of Fools, and Destination Anywhere, the film won the BAFTA award for Best Film of the year, and enjoys the delicious distinction of being voted the Best Irish Film of all time, in a 2005 poll run by Jameson Whiskey.

Monday, June 29, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies #34

The Endless Summer (1966)

This groundbreaking documentary, directed by Bruce Brown, takes a look at the international surfing community, and those who chase the sun looking for the perfect wave. Following particularly closely two California surfers and their endless travels (as well as travails), the film spawned many imitators, including a sequel, Endless Summer 2Riding Giants, and Step Into Liquid. The soundtrack is outstanding, and the film itself is visually breathtaking.

Monday, June 01, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #35

The Odd Couple (1968)

Mismatched housemates make for nonstop hilarity in this classic comedy based on Neil Simon's hit Broadway play. Legendary screen actors Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon never fail to mine the pathos beneath the comedy in this story of two divorced best friends who decide to live together in spite of their obvious incompatibility. One of the greatest passages of dialogue in the movies is the following,  from the character Oscar Madison: "I can't take it anymore, Felix, I'm cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you're not here, the things I know you're gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can't stand little notes on my pillow. "We're all out of cornflakes. F.U." Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!" This film is a joy, from start to finish.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #36

Duck Soup (1933)

For my money one of the absolute funniest screen teams of the twentieth-century, the Marx brothers had some of their most memorable bits in this comedy classic from the 1930's that was way ahead of its time. A relative flop both with the audiences and critics at the time of its release, it is now recognized as arguably their best film. Skewering both politics and war, Groucho stars as Rufus T. Firefly, President of the bankrupt country of Freedonia, who declares war with neighboring Sylvania, over the love of the wealthy Mrs. Teasdale, played by the inestimable Margaret Dumont. Among the film's classic quotes: "Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honor, which is probably more than she ever did." Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, Duck Soup has also appeared on AFI'S "100 Years...100 Movies" list, film critic Barry Norman's list of the 100 Best Films of the 20th century, and Roger Ebert's list of The Great Movies. Time Out voted it the 17th greatest comedy of all time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #37

Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Each Saturday night, Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies has a discussion with a guest programmer on which they show and discuss a movie considered "essential." Well, by any definition, Sullivan's Travels is an "essential" movie. Hugely influential (see O Brother, Where Art Thou and Stardust Memories for two prime examples), it never fails to be both entertaining and moving. The plot concerns Sullivan, a filmmaker who is no longer interested in making comedies as he feels it is more important to show the suffering of humanity. To that end, he hits the road embarking on life as a hobo, and gets more than he bargained for in terms of suffering. By the end of the movie, all is resolved, and our hero sees that in life sometimes the most important thing we have is laughter. Directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Joel McCrea, and Veronica Lake (who was six months pregnant at the start of filming), this film is one for the ages.

Monday, April 13, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #38

The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Coen brothers already had a cult following before the release of The Big Lebowski, but their careers arguably went to a whole new level of cool afterwards. Jeff Bridges, who forever after has been referred to as "The Dude," gave a comic performance for the ages, as a restless slacker who gets caught up in an identity scam leveled at him by some very dicey, if wealthy, people, resulting from the bad fortune of sharing someone's name. John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Julianne Moore, and Philip Seymour Hoffman are among the colorful characters populating this slightly skewed world.

Monday, March 30, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #39

Ghost World (2001)

Based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, the screenplay was cowritten by Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff, who also directed Crumb.  The plot concerns two misfits, best friends who are recently graduated from high school, and the middle-aged loner that one of them befriends. A quirky movie that is at times difficult to love, but nevertheless reaps emotional rewards if you stick with it. Ably acted by Thora Birch, Scarlett Johannson and Steve Buscemi, it fared much better with critics than at the box office. I entirely agree with Roger Ebert's assessment: "I wanted to hug this movie. It takes such a risky journey and never steps wrong. It creates specific, original, believable, lovable characters, and meanders with them through their inconsolable days, never losing its sense of humor."