Friday, September 19, 2008

Weekend Rental Picks

A couple of weeks ago, I received this really lovely e-mail from a reader who took the time to compliment my blog and my writing. Needless to say, as I'm sure other bloggers can attest to, this little bit of ego stroking was extremely welcome. In this readers extremely thorough e-mail, he mentioned that there might be young readers just getting interested in film who may not know where exactly to start when at their local Blockbuster or loading their Netflix queue and that I should point them in the right direction. I thought about this for a little while and I decided that this would be a good idea to try. So, every Friday I'm going to offer three movie suggestions for the weekend using my rental methodology (which is, admitedly, a little OCD on my part): I always get one "modern" film from the last 20 years that, for one reason or another, I missed out on, one classic film and one foreign film. I hope this helps out at least one reader who just feels overwhelmed at all of the movies they can explore.

A Room With a View (James Ivory, 1986)
I respected Howards End and The Remains of the Day, Ivory's big Oscar films from the early 90's, but I didn't exactly like or ever have a desire to see them again. When I rented A Room With a View for my Dame Judi Dench celebration last year, I was excited for the Dench, but I wasn't looking forward to the film at all. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and, lo and behold, it was a magnificent film. Where Howards End and The Remains of the Day are too restrained in their emotions for my taste and tad stodgy, A Room With a View is full of life, humor and color. Helena Bonham Carter is fun as the spunky heroine, but the film belongs to Dame Maggie Smith as Carter's befuddled chaperone and Daniel Day-Lewis as Carter's stuffed shirt fiancee.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols, 1966)
Be prepared for this one. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of the most intense filmmaking excursions I've ever seen. From the opening moments with Elizabeth Taylor berating her husband, Richard Burton, for not remembering the name of the Bette Davis picture that the line "What a dump!" comes from, you get sucked into George and Martha's intense game of wits and viciousness. Plus, the cast is all in top notch form, giving the best performances of their respective careers.

Cleo de 5 a 7 (Agnes Varda, 1962)
While the Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave) was receiving worldwide attention, a smaller movement called the Rive Gauche was taking place inside France. Cleo de 5 a 7 was one of the masterpieces from this movenment. The film follows two hours in the life of a young woman awaiting test results that will tell her if she has cancer. During those two hours, the woman contemplates her mortality, escapes her situation for a few fleeting moments with a friend, meets with her accompanist to go over songs she may never record and may possibly find a new relationship with a young man she meets on the way to find out her results. It's true that not much happens, plot wise, but this possibly the most fascinating character study I've ever seen. So many different emotions pour through Cleo during the course of the film but it never feels trashy or over the top; instead, Varda focuses on ordinary life and makes it fascinating.


J.D. said...

This is really good idea, James.

I've been intrigued by Cléo for the longest time, but I haven't bumped it up my queue, for some reason. I should! Woolf, too. I think I've been avoiding that one because of it's reputation. Maybe Room as well, but I already have a lot to watch.

Every Friday, I'm bringing a notepad here. :)

BEH said...

Ditto, darling.

I love the idea that you'll be playing big brother to a whole new generation of cinefreaks...

FDot said...

I've had Cleo 5-7 sitting in my DVD closet for a few years now, thank you for reminding me about the film. Time to watch it.

Have you ever seen Varda's Jacquot? Fantastic film about her husband Jacques Demy.

Marcy said...

Great ideas.

I love Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Burton and Taylor are fantastic. I enjoyed reading Albee's play as well.

I agree,Bonham Carter is amazing in A Room with a View. But I think Howards End is a bit better. Howards may have been more restrained than Room, but that's a quality I love about it. Those terrific performances by Thompson, Hopkins, and Bonham Carter are the icing on the cake.

I really should see Chloe.

Anonymous said...

Excellent beginning. Will check for the new list each week.

Michael Parsons said...

Still waiting for 'Virginia Woolf' one of those movies I just have to see.