You'll Never Guess What's In This Movie List!

Sep 15, 2006

The Bottom Line Should be something for everybody in this list. Eclectic choices as usual!

Lately I’ve watched a lot of wonderful movies that have unusual characters in stories that don’t often make sense in a practical way and are a celebration of the human spirit. They may encourage you to think about the way we treat each other when we don’t understand each other and to ponder the nature of reality. I loved all of the following movies and hopefully will have more chances to rewatch them. I hope you enjoy the list.

(1950) Rashomon: Akira Kurosawa, director. Starring Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Takushi Shimura. A surreal, black-n-white film where a woodcutter and priest share four versions of a murder story to a witty commoner. The storytellers don’t understand how everybody involved in the murder saw it happen so differently, as told in court, but the commoner just laughs. This strange, Japanese story with brilliant cinematography is haunting in its implications about the nature of people and reality.

(1972) Jeremiah Johnson: Sydney Pollack, director. Starring Robert Redford, Will Geer, Delle Bolton, Josh Albee. Redford decides to become a mountain man in probably the 1800s when the native tribes were king and only one white settler appeared at the end of the movie. He has a tough time in the winter, as you can imagine, and when a tribe captures him and a white friend, he must marry the chief’s daughter. He also has a boy to take care of who was abandoned by his crazy mother and it’s wonderful to see him develop strong feelings for them, but the story doesn’t end there. He violates the trust of natives and his life is in danger. It reminded me of Dances With Wolves, but better.

(1979) Breaking Away: Peter Yates, director. Starring Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley. Delightful movie where young men out of high school, but not in college, are scornful of the college kids and vice versa. One of the men is a great cyclist in love with Italy, but his dream to move there vanishes when he meets some Italian cyclists and he decides eventually to help his “cutter” buddies prove their manhood. Strong, engaging characters in a moving, coming-of-age story.

(1982) Koyaanisqati: Godfrey Reggio, director; Ron Fricke, cinematographer. This Hopi-named documentary loosely means “life out of balance.” There are no characters or story, but only a string of images that begin in the magnificence of nature (the desert) and continues to quicken as man invades nature and builds and destroys. Its environmental message is disturbing and can be annoying, but Philip Glass’ eerie score sets off perfectly the astounding imagery and the movie left me rather breathless.

(1993) Short Cuts: Robert Altman, director. Starring Andie McDowell, Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Lemmon, Lily Tomlin, more. This is a three-hour feast of stars in a story about four couples in Los Angeles who are having relationship struggles. One couple has a son injured mysteriously and is dying; two of them are jealous of their spouse’s attractiveness; another has sexual problems when the wife makes money as a sex phone operator. It’s quirky, touching and fun, connected by its theme, the city and two of the couples know each other.

(1997) Henry Fool: Hal Hartley, director. Starring Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, Parker Posey. Fun story of a garbage collector being inspired by a new friend to write his pornographic poetry and is rejected by publishers until the poem is a hit online. He wins a Nobel too and loses touch with his friend who he disappointed, but has a chance to make up with his angry friend. The ending leaves room for us to wonder if they’ll make up, but it looks possible. I like that.

(1998) Sex and the City: Darren Star, creator. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristen Davis, Christopher Noth, John Corbett, more. I’ve been watching this series on DVD and have finished three seasons out of six. I loved it until the third season and it started getting on my nerves, so I’m taking a break. These thirty-something women friends in Manhattan go in and out of relationships with good-looking men and wonder why they’re having so many problems finding the right guy. It is usually very amusing and sometimes insightful, but you’ll never catch me living in Manhattan, heh. That’s their main problem. I hope to enjoy the rest of the series.

(2004) Schizo or Shiza: Gulhat Omarova, director. Starring Oldzhas Nusapbayev, Olga Landina, Eduard Tabishev. Everyone thinks Mustafa is retarded and his nickname at school is Shiza. The mother has him see a doctor who prescribes pills and he takes them, but is he really dumb? His mother’s boyfriend makes him an assistant with putting on illegal boxing and when one dying fighter gives him money to give the man’s girlfriend, Shiza does and finds a home he prefers. When his mother’s boyfriend needs the money Shiza made on his fighting uncle, Shiza outwits him. I thought it was a very satisfying ending and showed well life in Kazakhstan in the early nineties.

(2004) Dear Frankie: Shona Auerbach, director. Starring Emily Mortimer, Jack McElhone, Gerard Butler. A charmer about a young woman on the run who has tried to protect her young son from discovering that his father is an abusive jerk. She’s told him that his father is a sailor and she picks up his letters to him, then replies. One day a taunting schoolboy points out that his father’s ship docks in their city soon and when she finds out, she has to find a man to play the part. The man her girlfriend finds for her is a winner and the boy plays along. Smart kid. Loved it!

(2004) Full Metal Alchemist: Seiji Mizushima, director. Starring Romi Paku or Vic Mignogna as Ed, Rie Kugimiya or Aaron Dismuke as Al. Japanese anime that began on Cartoon Network in 2004, but the DVD volumes just recently were all released. I’ve watched the twelfth one, “Truths of Truths,” and one more, plus Full Metal Alchemist: The Movie will be seen tomorrow (yes! Finally!). The Elric brothers have played in alchemy with bad results so they seek the Philosopher’s Stone to return their bodies to normal. In this volume, Ed as a State Alchemist confronts the pseudo-human created from their failed alchemy and must kill her somehow or be killed. This pseudo-human wanted to become human and be their mother who died, but Ed wouldn’t hear of it. The other pseudo-humans or homunculi need to be stopped too before many lives are lost. It’s an exciting series and has the funny Japanese touch as well.

Bonus Movies:

You might also be interested in these movies I’ve fully reviewed and loved. They too are unusual, surreal and leave an impact.

(1976) Mr. Klein: Joseph Losey, director. Starring Alain Delon. An art dealer in 1939 Paris is set up by a disgusted Jew and the police suspect he is a Jew. Nightmarish!

(1983) And The Ship Sails On: Federico Fellini, director. Starring Freddie Jones. A great opera diva’s ashes are accompanied on a cruise to her homeland as World War I. begins. A satire that has irked many people.

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