Thursday, February 3, 2011

Film Fan #326-350

#326. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Combine a timeless novel with an actor’s most iconic performance (that would be Gregory Peck, in case you were wondering), and you can’t help but have some kind of classic on your hands.

#327. Rashomon (1951)
I don’t have a ton of experience with Akira Kurosawa, but I acted in a stage version of this one, so I had ample enough reason to catch it.

#328. The Trial (1962)
Hey, so combine a timeless novel and one of the greatest directors ever (that would be Orson Welles), and you can’t help but have some kind of classic on your hands.

#329. Waterworld (1995)
Here’s one that’s a little trickier to defend, because there’s not a lot of reputation to fall back on. Kevin Costner was at the tail-end of the peak of his career, and this one pretty much, well, sunk that phase but good, one epic too many, it seemed. I’ve always found it to be a rollicking adventure that just happens to be set in a post-apocalypse of a world that’s, er, covered by water. Costner makes a good fit as a reluctant (one might even say extremely reluctant) hero who is otherwise up for the task, even if he doesn’t realize it. If John Wayne had done it, chances are good that its reputation would be a lot better.

#330. Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987)
Not a lot of foreign language films here, mostly because, aside from college, I haven’t had a ton of opportunities to fall into world cinema. This is one I watched in my dreaded French classes, and not during a general campus screening, but it stands out all the same, a sad, sad story about the effects of war on students and the teacher dragged away from them because of it.

#331. Hook (1991)
Another movie that suffers from a bad reputation is one of Spielberg’s rare popular misfires. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for Peter Pan, but I’ve always loved it. Robin Williams is an inspired and absolutely brilliant choice for the grown-up Pan, while Dustin Hoffman makes Captain Hook his own.

#332. Dances with Wolves (1990)
Oh, and so the highpoint of Kevin Costner’s career? That would be this one, which he directed himself. Mary McDonnell, who would later be one of the standouts in Independence Day and make her biggest career mark in the Battlestar Galactica reboot, makes her first big performance here, as Costner’s strange counterpart.

#333. Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Kenneth Branagh became the most recent actor to completely seize the Shakespeare canon for his own, and this is probably the highlight of his efforts, a light and breezy, star-studded romantic comedy that feels absolutely contemporary, even though it’s in full period, and verse.

#334. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The first Indiana Jones isn’t quite like the first Star Wars, but it might as well be, launching a franchise that’s four films strong and with plenty of spin-offs to its credit, the darling of the modern adventure genre, and all based on an homage to how it was all done originally. Not too shabby. And with all due respect to Han Solo, but this is really how Harrison Ford’s career took flight.

#335. Higher Learning (1995)
Thanks to Spike Lee and other filmmakers, there was a flood of racial tension genres around this time, and this college campus-set version is my favorite, with a number of unexpected stars (Ice Cube? and that’s exactly how his acting career began) that add to its impact.

#336. Conspiracy Theory (1997)
Mel Gibson is super paranoid, and that’s fun to watch, because it’s like a completely pure version of every performance he’s ever done, and Julia Roberts dials down her charm to fit in, which she tends to do in all the films audiences don’t love. But what really stands out for this particular film fan is Patrick Stewart’s only truly noteworthy non-genre Hollywood role, as the villain no less.

#337. All the Pretty Horses (2000)
I kind of figured that after all the Cormac McCarthy love generated by The Road (at least in book form) and No Country for Old Men, this one might have been rediscovered. Alas, was not to be. Billy Bob Thornton has a director’s version that I figure is probably worth being seen publicly, but the time isn’t here yet.

#338. Trainspotting (1996)
Known as much for its shocking imagery as for making Ewan McGregor’s career, this one’s probably still waiting to be viewed as its generation’s A Clockwork Orange.

#339. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
In which Kevin Cos…Oh, right, this is the Mel Brooks spoof, featuring Cary Elwes, who hardly ever gets the respect he’s earned, probably because he’s another Errol Flynn in a definitely post-Errol Flynn world (both because Flynn is, well, dead, and audiences don’t go for that kind of performance anymore, no matter if it’s Elwes, Antonio Banderas, or Jude Law). And hey! Patrick Stewart has an amusing cameo, mocking the one Sean Connery has in that other one.

#340. Happy Gilmore (1996)
Adam Sandler actually became a movie star several films later, but this one’s still my favorite, in which he completely loses himself into the working reality of the film, rather than attempting to make a character, and a film around it, which he’s basically done in every other film for which audiences will remember him.

#341. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Now, obviously, the Shrek films have done a good job parodying this one, but there was obviously something really worth parodying in the first place. Probably, pound for pound, the most pure Disney classic of that period.

#342. Ghostbusters (1984)
Bill Murray completely steals this one, when you think about it. I probably watched the cartoon series first, but in acquainting myself and then years later reacquainting myself with the source material, it’s so obvious. Bill Murray steals this one.

#343. Rattle & Hum (1988)
The only reason U2 never became as huge as the Beatles is because of this documentary concert film, which put the emphasis on the music, rather than a bunch of silly personalities and scenarios that sold a brand more than a band. And this I’m saying as a huge fan of the Beatles. I just also happen to love U2. When you’ve got a band willing and capable of exploring expansive social material, then I figure you might as well enjoy the resulting music.

#344. History of the World, Part 1 (1981)
Mel Brooks had a knack for being underappreciated before he brought his popular career full circle with the Producers revival as a Broadway musical. This was probably the first real victim of that trend, a collage of material that’s like an American Monty Python film, with Gregory Hines helping to lead the way through the nonsense. The fake trailer for the fake sequel only makes everything better.

#345. The Formula (1980)
George C. Scott. Now that’s a movie star. He stole Dr. Strangelove from Peter Sellers, and while I haven’t actually seen it to date probably made WWII seem awesome in Patton. He’s magnetic here, too, and eventually plays an extended scene with Marlon Brando, who takes the moment for another customary commentary on the state of humanity.

#346. The Sound of Music (1965)
Christopher Plummer, how is this the only movie I’m aware of from your younger years? I just don’t understand it. Well, a career in your advanced years is pretty awesome, too.

#347. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
This is one of those classic Hollywood epics that everyone is supposed to love, and while it stars Peter O’Toole, this is about as high as I can muster at the moment, as far as personal appreciation and this list goes.

#348. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
The other sci-fi blockbuster from 1977 comes from Spielberg, and probably more than Jaws, probably today marks the start of his legendary career. At any rate, I finally saw it for the first time last year. Another movie that makes me wonder why it’s so hard for some people to love Richard Dreyfuss.

#349. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
John Cusack, Minnie Driver, classic soundtrack. But as Bill Murray stole Ghostbusters, Dan Ackroyd seems to have at this point finally decided to assert his cinematic presence. With guns.

#350. Donnie Brasco (1997)
The movie that helped critics love Johnny Depp again is also probably Al Pacino’s last genuinely acclaimed performance, and a mobsters classic.

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