We’re back, with more of Barb’s favorite films (from a list she made years ago, anyway. She’s working on an updated list), with CRAFT sections about each!
–Wild in The Streets
Bizarre American exploitation with the astounding song “Shape of Things to Come” in it. As my thesaurus puts it about another subject, this film is blatantly guilty of “showing a quantum characteristic of strangeness…”
CRAFT: Look at what this film is saying about youth, about society, about authority, about human rights.
One of the best rock films ever. Also one of the most disturbing (along with Wild in the Streets)
CRAFT: Look at what this film is saying about religion, and fame, and being a cult figure. But mostly religion…
–Something Wicked This Way Comes
Not the greatest film ever made, but a serviceable version of Bradbury’s best foray into horror. Imagination and the theme of the transience of childhood, regret, and growing older. I’m a sucker for scary carnival films. Which leads to…
CRAFT: Look at Jonathan Pryce’s big speech to Jason Robards. God, just look at it. Look at what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. Look. Listen. Wow.
–Nightmare Alley (the original)
Con games, film noir, fake psychics, circus geeks. One bizarre film.
CRAFT: What does this film say about corruption, about power, about self-fulfilling destinies? (Bonus: DOES the main character have any psychic gifts, really, maybe?)
–X-Men II: X-Men United
The best superhero movie ever. Great acting, very good plot, very good dialog, neat thematic concerns. And Nightcrawler at his most Nightcrawler-est.
CRAFT: Look at what this film says about found families, as opposed to the family one just happens to born into. What does this film say about the concept of “being who you truly are”?
—Star Trek IV
I was a Star Trek fan as a kid. This entry into the franchise is funny in the ways that my favorite episodes of the show were. Plus, they saved the whales!
CRAFT: What does this film say about friendship, about the environment, about the future? Why is this funny? Why do people traditionally see Star Treks I, III, and V as failures, and II, this one, and VI as successes? What’s going right here, and why, and how?
–Leon: The Professional
Jean Reno breaks your heart in this one. He’s good, he’s noble, and he’s the best hitman I’ve seen onscreen. It has plenty of sick, violent moments, done incredibly well, too.
CRAFT: What does this film say about found families, as opposed to the family one just happens to born into? What does it say about violence, about revenge, about mourning?
Called “the first Freudian Western.” That just about sums it up.
CRAFT: What does this film say about fathers and sons, and the meaning of masculinity? When is it time for a father to let go and let a son start making his own decisions?
—My Darling Clementine
John Ford sure directs him some durned pretty Westerns, don’t he?
CRAFT: What does this film say about society, about civilization, about laws?
–The Crying Game
I like the characters. Sure, Mona Lisa or The Long Good Friday might be better examples of British neo-noir, but this one’s definitely the most personable.
CRAFT: What does this film say about love, about gender, about what’s important? What does it say about human nature?
–To Have and Have Not
Plot: Bogie and Baby would like to get it on, but the French resistance keeps interrupting them. Plus, we get to hear “How Little We Know.” Sexy.
CRAFT: Look at how this film maintains suspense. Look at how it’s always clear which side the characters should be on. What does this film say about taking sides– and not taking sides?
—Shadow of a Doubt
Hitchcock’s best psychopath. Perhaps his best film.
CRAFT: What does this film say about society? About good and evil? What does it say about small communities, and about the larger world? What are we supposed to think of Hume Cronyn’s character’s and the father’s delight in murder mysteries?
Weird, way-way-way-over-the-top horror with plenty of nutty twists and turns.
CRAFT: Wow, look at how reality shifts in this film. Look at how many times Jack glances at the camera. What does this film say about the past?
–The Adventures of Robin Hood
—The Sea Hawk
Errol Flynn is a joy to watch.
CRAFT: Look at what these films say about right and wrong. Look at how Errol Flynn wins over everyone good in these films. I don’t just mean “wow look how pretty and charming he is” –I mean, someone wrote every word he’s saying! Look how they made us think these two characters are super, super cool…
—A Fish Called Wanda
The 1980s answer to the Ealing Brothers. John Cleese is strangely sexy and sympatric. Jamie Lee Curtis is, well, just plain sexy.
CRAFT: What is this film saying about attraction, about romance, about love? Why is Wanda attracted (cough cough “attracted” ahem) by foreign languages?
—The Nutty Professor (original)
You watch this enough times you’ll start seeing what the French see in Jerry Lewis. Crazy comedy with an unexpected hipness factor.
CRAFT: Holy cow, look at Jerry impersonating the Rat Pack. Sure, Dean, but even more than Dean, Sinatra. Jerry understands exactly why this is sophisticated and cool and sexy and he nonetheless hates it. What does this film say about the concept of “being who you truly are”? And yeah, I just implied a double-feature of X-Men 2 and The Nutty Professor, so sue me.
—All The President’s Men
The two reigning champions of the ’70s paranoia film.
CRAFT: What are these films saying about the United States government? About power? About secrets? About uncovering secrets? About corruption? About truth?
Well, I did mention that I like Star Trek…
CRAFT: What does it mean to be regarded as a hero– to one person, or to a lot of people? How does this movie talk about what it means to feel you should try to live up to someone else’s ideal? (That’s right: My Favorite Year/Galaxy Quest double feature. I’m as surprised as you people.)
—Addams Family Values
More quotable lines per square inch than any film since The Producers. The one about the Aristotelian unities is one I haul out when I particularly hate a comic or a movie.
CRAFT: What does this film say about conforming to societal expectations? Whatever the answer is, it is saying it a LOT.
—Don’t Look Now
Scared me as a kid, scares me as an adult.
CRAFT: What is this film saying about grief… and moving on?
—The Parent Trap (the original)
Hayley Mills fascinates me. Few child actors are as natural, yet professional as she was. She acts like a real kid.
CRAFT: What is each movie saying about childhood? About adults? About hope?
—Curse of the Cat People
Strange little fantasy horror film. Oddest looking little blonde girl heroine I’ve ever seen. She’s as scary as her imaginary friend.
CRAFT: Wow oh wow, what is this movie saying about belief and trust?
—Grosse Pointe Blank
John Cusack, when he does films he really believes in, is a wonder to behold. I like both films equally. Grosse Point Blank has a slight edge because it’s a black comedy with some really great ultraviolence.
CRAFT: What is each movie saying about adulthood?
Judy Holliday was sweet, funny, incredibly smart (something like a 165 IQ)…and, supposedly, a lesbian. She’s just the most glorious actress, so loveable. She died young, sadly.
CRAFT: What is this movie saying about the United States? About corruption? About education? About being smart?
—The Major and The Minor
Ginger Rogers was an excellent comedian. This comedy has lots of nice dirty moments, too.
CRAFT: What is this movie saying about being gullible? About how humans see what they expect to see? Okay, maybe it’s pretty clear what it’s saying in regard to those things, but dang, look at the craft of how they’re saying it?
—Portrait of Jennie
Supernatural romance that always leaves me in tears.
CRAFT: What is this movie saying about love? About destiny? Okay, never mind those– look how actress Jennifer Jones works hard to portray a character growing from a young girl to an adult. She makes it look at least a little easier than it really is…
—A Little Romance
Americanized Truffaut-esque comedy. Absolutely charming.
CRAFT: Look how the story is written to make us okay with two kids running off to explore Europe together! And look how the two young people are written, too. So many mistakes regarding how to write young people are avoided…
Soap opera as horror, maybe? Intense.
CRAFT: What is this film saying about emotional abuse? What does it say about trust? About dysfunctional families? Look at how subtle this script is… Look at how it always shows instead of tells.
Okay, that’s it for this time– come back soon for the rest of the list (and, sooner or later, an updated, better-than-ever list)!