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March 27, 2011

Twistie Recommends Some Films

Filed under: Media,Movies — Twistie @ 8:30 am

I believe I may have once or twice mentioned that I have a great fondness for movies, both good and bad. And since I’m feeling in a movie kind of mood,  I thought I would suggest a few for your various viewing pleasure and a brief, terrifying glimpse into my psyche. If you have any other good views to suggest, go to it in comments. I always enjoy hearing about things I may have missed while I was saving up to visit the popcorn stand.

The films in question are on no special theme and are listed in no particular order. They’re just five films I’ve been watching and thinking about of late.

Grosse Point Blank. Seriously. It’s got John and Joan Cusack, Minnie Driver, Hank Azaria, Dan Ackroyd, Alan Arkin, a broad selection of killer eighties music, and the world’s most difficult high school reunion. After all, what does a hit man say when you ask him how he’s been for the past ten years? Apparently “I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How about you?” Watching this film reminds me that there are people who want to revisit their high school past even less than I do.

Lars and the Real Girl. Real Girls are real. They’re anatomically correct… companion figures. If you want to look it up, well, find the link yourself. And turn off the sound on your computer if anyone might hear. Really.

But the film starring Ryan Gosling in a tour de force performance is something well worth both seeing and hearing. It’s an odd, wistful, gentle film overflowing with compassion for those who just can’t seem to find a place in the world. It’s not at all what one would expect of a film about a man’s relationship with his plastic fantastic lover… but it’s very, very right. Plus it features the always fabulous Patricia Clarkson, one of my favorite performers ever. Do yourself a favor and check it out. Just be sure to have a hanky at the ready for the tears of just plain rightness.

One, Two, Three. If Lars and the Real Girl is one of the gentlest films of all time, One, Two, Three is one of the most frenetic since the Marx Brothers made Duck Soup! It also happens to be the great James Cagney’s last film. It’s a very dated piece, set as it was at the beginning of the Cold War in West Berlin… back when Berlin was two cities  on the front lines of the philosophical battle younger readers may have learned about in their history books. Me? I was born into it, grew up in it, and understand the context. The rest of you, ask your parents or grandparents.

But even if you don’t entirely get the politics, this is a hilarious film including a wayward heiress, the scruffy young communist she loves, and Cagney as a Coca-Cola executive juggling a wife and kids, a mistress, and the infiltrations of both communism and Pepsi. The whole thing happens at a breakneck pace, and ends with a smile. Search it out and have a few giggles. You’ll be glad you did.

Heavenly Creatures. Well before he gave us a gorgeous interpretation of Middle Earth, Peter Jackson made this dark, twisted, haunting interpretation of one of the most infamous true crimes in New Zealand history. On June 22, 1954, Pauline Parker and her friend Juliet Hulme murdered Pauline’s mother, Honora Rieper, with a half a brick tied into a stocking. The film is surprisingly true to events as chronicled in Pauline’s diary, and is also important as the screen debut of a seventeen-year-old Kate Winslet as Juliet. The fantasy sequences foreshadow some of the brilliant visuals of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, too.

Oh, and an interesting side note: Juliet Hulme now goes by the name Anne Perry… one that should be familiar to many readers of mystery novels. She has, however, never killed another person. I think that’s a good thing, don’t you?

Inherit the Wind. Spencer Tracy had many great roles in his long screen career, but this remains my personal favorite. The film based on the play based on the Scopes Monkey Trial is a powerful piece of drama and a passionate plea for the free exercise of human intellect. It also happens to feature brilliant performances not only by Tracy, but also: Frederic March, Gene Kelly, Dick York, and a host of other familiar faces.

This is a film full of wit, humor, pathos, generosity, fierce advocacy, and all the best the human spirit has to offer. It also showcases fear, pettiness, casual cruelty, and determined ignorance, but with pity. It’s a film to make you weep for the human condition, and then get up and fight to improve it.

What more can you ask of a single film?


  1. She has, however, never killed another person. I think that’s a good thing, don’t you?

    It’s been a while since I read “Heavenly Creatures” (never saw the movie), but didn’t she aid and abet in the murder of the woman? I don’t think she is exactly off the hook. If you stand next to someone who is beating someone to death with a brick and do nothing to stop it, you have some culpability.

    Comment by class factotum — March 27, 2011 @ 10:04 am

  2. Not to be picky, buuuuuuuuuut “Ragtime” was actually Cagney’s last film. “One, Two, Three” was his last starring role.

    Comment by Whitney — March 27, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  3. Gross Point Blank is the movie that puts the skids to the idea that the most dangerous thing in the hands of someone on an airplane is a box cutter – it has the best ‘murder with a ball point pen’ scene I’ve ever seen.

    Comment by Toby Wollin — March 27, 2011 @ 11:01 am

  4. “Resurrection” with Ellen Burstyn and a vintage 1983 Sam Shepard is finally available on DVD! This is a beautiful, complex film about a woman who almost dies and “comes back” with healing powers. So, so beautiful, and one of my all time favorites. Can’t wait for it to get to my doorstep!

    I’ll have to check out “One Two Three.” I’ve never heard of it, and it sounds like it would be an especially good accompaniment to the episodes of “Mad Men” I’m catching up on.

    Comment by Mrs. Hendricks — March 27, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  5. Class Factotem, I don’t think Twistie was implying that Hulme/Perry was “off the hook”. She was prosecuted for murder as a juvenile, and spent five years in prison.

    Comment by Margo A — March 27, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

  6. Twistie, you have named two of my own all-time favorites, ‘Grosse Point Blank’ and ‘Lars and the Real Girl.’ Both are gems. If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend ‘Waking Ned Devine’ (Irish, probably about 10-12 years old). I’ll look forward to watching your other three recommendations.

    Comment by skyepeppersmom — March 27, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

  7. @Class Factotem: No, indeed, Juliet/Anne is hardly ‘off the hook’ for what she did. She spent five years in prison for her part in the murder (which included actual participation in the whacking poor Honora in the head with a brick) and one of the terms of release for both women was that they never have contact with one another again. That’s what the legal system of New Zealand decided was fit and proper. I was merely noting that she has not repeated the offense (and neither has Pauline). I can’t imagine it being a good thing if she had become a repeat offender.

    @Whitney: D’oh! I keep forgetting about Ragtime. Thanks for catching my goof.

    @Toby Wollin: Yeah, the fact that it’s an advertising pen is what makes it Art.

    @Mrs. Hendricks: Hmmm… I don’t know that one. I’ll have to see if I can find a copy. Thanks for the tip!

    @skyepeppersmom: I’ve borrowed a copy of Waking Ned Devine which I intend to check out this week. It does sound as though we have some tastes in common, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Twistie — March 27, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

  8. Lars and the Real girl is one of my all-time favorites, and you nailed what I love about it… it’s just so gentle. It’s so very tender. Sigh.

    Comment by Sarah — March 27, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

  9. An excellent selection! It’s so refreshing to see a recommendation that doesn’t include the latest movie with Vanessa Hudgens or some other teen ‘star’.

    Comment by coffeeaddict — March 28, 2011 @ 6:21 am

  10. I was looking for something fun this weekend, and lo and behold, “The Runaways” was on Netflix Instant. That girl from Twilight is surprisingly excellent as Joan Jett, and Dakota Fanning inhabits the 70s quite well for a kid who wasn’t born yet. It’s a good rock-n-roll novie, it passes the Bechdel test (two women, with names, talk to each other about something other than dudes), and, best, it made me want to jump on my bed while playing electric guitar.

    Comment by Jezebella — March 28, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

  11. I loved “The Runaways” too–it’s both brutally true about things, and hilariously funny. And yes, it is one of the few films that passes the rigorous muster of the Bechdel test (in fact, they don’t just avoid talking to each other about something other than men, the whole film’s about how they’re talking about something other than men! Rarer than hen’s teeth).

    Grosse Point features both Joan and John Cusack–but so do so many other films. There are enough of them that it’s become one of my little film obsessions to look out for them together, especially in older films where they were cast as teenagers, before either became famous. Last week, I re-watched Sixteen Candles (really popular in its day, but on re-view now, actually racist and rife with date rape scenarios) and both John and Joan have sizable, speaking character roles in that one.

    Comment by ChaChaheels — March 29, 2011 @ 7:00 am

  12. I am troubled by “Inherit the Wind”‘s dehumanization, even demonization of Brady (the William Jennings Bryan character). The audience can feel good about itself cheering for Spencer Tracy as Drummond. I recently saw a stage production which by showing Brady’s sincerity was much more effective. The only truly despicable character was the cynical Hornbeck.

    Comment by Nancy — March 31, 2011 @ 10:48 am

  13. Watched ‘One Two Three’ on TCM recently; I enjoyed it. Another film that would pass the Bechdel: ‘Whip It’, with Ellen Page about roller derby (well, about coming of age really) in Austin, TX. Directed by Drew Barrymore.

    Comment by Phyllis — April 3, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

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