Week in Review
While watching The Killer's Kiss, a film by Stanley Kubrick, I thought of other lesser-known films of his such as The Killing and Paths of Glory. In the career of many famous directors, there are a few films that get by the general public. Until the '80s, film nerds relied upon art house revivals and festivals to see these gems. The VCR changed the situation somewhat, but the most obscure films were not released on video. My absolute favorite aspect of the DVD era is the selection. Watching that rare film now only takes a few days from the time that it is ordered. This week I thought I would put together a list of the lesser-known films of some well-known directors. These films are available on DVD, but somehow out of the eye of the general public.
What hasn't been said about Scorsese? He has five Oscar nominations so far, and perhaps a sixth one coming for The Departed. But if you haven't seen After Hours, Scorsese's film about a night in New York City's underground art scene gone horribly wrong, you've missed the wacky comedy side of the director. Also, few people know that the diner sitcom Alice was based on Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore; there's some confusion with this title and a completely different film called Alice's Restaurant, don't mix the two up. And for one of DeNiro's best performances, you must see King of Comedy; why this film isn't as well known as Taxi Driver or Mean Streets I'll never understand.
There's a dark nugget of greatness at the bottom of the fluff mine that is Spielberg's career. If you get the TV show Night Gallery on DVD, there is an episode that he directed called "Eyes," which in my opinion is a masterpiece. Joan Crawford pays Tom Bosley nine thousand dollars for the use of his eyes for a few hours. Yes, you read that right, and to tell you anymore would spoil the episode.
Before Miami Vice became a hit show, and Heat made him a hot director, Michael Mann made a great film with the character Hannibal Lecter called Manhunter, which is available in a variety of cuts and versions on DVD. It predated Silence of the Lambs, and some say it's a better film. While we're tired of seeing "One Last Job And I'll Retire" plots for crime films, Mann's Thief, starring James Caan is a must watch film.
The director best known for his documentaries Michael and Me and Farenheit 911 made a satirical comedy called Canadian Bacon with John Candy in the lead role. The film opened and closed quickly, but for those who like political comedies, it's hilarious. Alan Alda, as the president of the United States, starts a cold war with Canada to bolster defense spending. But no matter what provocation and propaganda commercials are run, Canada remains nothing but polite and helpful.
About ten years ago, Stone put together a cast that included Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Lopez, Billy Bob Thornton, John Voight, Claire Danes, and Joaquin Phoenix. Doesn't ring a bell, does it? It's a strange small town film called U-turn, in which Sean Penn's car breaks down and the town seems inescapable. It's one of those films that is hard to categorize. Is it a comedy? A drama? A film noir? While I liked it very much, I remember people complaining while coming out of the theater, so maybe it's just my personal taste.
Francis Ford Coppola
For some reason, a lot of people have seen one of the films he made based on a SE Hinton novel and not the other. While The Outsiders still shows up on cable, I don't ever remember seeing Rumblefish on the TV lineup. Back when Mickey Roarke could still act, he starred as the mysterious Motorcycle Boy, the brother of Rusty James played by Matt Dillon. Their drunken father was played to perfection by Dennis Hopper, who was making a comeback of sorts in film. Rumblefish looks much like an art film, as it is filmed all in black and white save for a few moments, but also equal parts Juvenile Delinquent film from the '50s.
One film at a time, Spike Lee has built one of the most impressive catalogues in American Cinema. From big opening Hollywood fare to quiet documentaries that squeak out of film festivals and onto DVD, Spike Lee has made many more films than people realize. Mo' Better Blues will remind you that Wesley Snipes had acting skills, showing off opposite Denzel Washington in a story set in the world of Jazz. Get On the Bus follows the interaction between a bus full of black men who are on their way to the Million Man March; Spike asks a lot of tough questions about the mind and lifestyle of men in America, constantly showing both sides of arguments and not taking either. I think it's his most thoughtful film outside of his documentaries.
Pick of the Week
Nothing really stood out as a must see this week. I already spent time last week talking up Saturday Night Live. There were some fun films, but nothing that really set me on fire. I'm going to recommend The Killer's Kiss, Kubrick's film about a washed up boxer. He's yet to delve into the metaphysical depths for which he became famous, but the overall look of the film is definitely Kubrick.
I self-throttled this week. I got a John Waters DVD, This Filthy World, and accidentally returned it without watching it, thinking that I was returning a different DVD at that time. 10 DVDs this week. 487 DVDs in 351 days. 13 DVDs left in the next 14 days for a pace of 6.49 per week. This is the first time all year that I don't have to watch more than one DVD per day. It feels kinda weird.