I love movies. You may already know that. In fact, I may have mentioned this fact before. And every once in a while, it’s fun to share with you all the gems I’ve found and enjoyed. So let’s do that today, shall we? Yes, yes we shall.
Gunless stars Paul Gross as a wild west gunslinger who, on the run from a not very talented lynch mob and bounty hunter Callum Keith Rennie, finds himself in a tiny Canadian hamlet where nobody owns a pistol. The humor is very tongue-in-cheek, and a talented cast gives the wry script everything they’ve got. This is a film with few if any axes to grind, a slightly elastic take on history, and lots of heart. Turn off your mind and just enjoy it. Oh, and make sure you stick around for the credits. They’re liberally laced with outtakes that will leave you giggling.
In November of 1924, William Randolph Hearst’s yacht, the Oneida, set sail with a glittering cast of celebrities to celebrate the birthday of Thomas H. Ince, film producer. Before the weekend was over, Ince was dead. The official cause of death was a heart attack, but no autopsy was performed, nobody on the ship was interviewed by police, and Hollywood being Hollywood even then, rumors began flying. The most popular rumor of what had happened was that Hearst accidentally shot Ince mistaking him for Charlie Chaplin and believing Chaplin was having an affair with his (Hearst’s) mistress Marion Davies.
The important part of all this is not whether the rumors or the official reports contain more truth, but the fact that Peter Bogdanovich put together one of the most amazing casts in recent film history to tell the tale of the rumor and called it The Cat’s Meow. Who’s in that cast? Well, let’s start with Eddie Izzard as Charlie Chaplin, Joanna Lumley as Elinor Glyn, and Cary Elwes as Thomas Ince… and then continue with a smattering of Kirstin Dunst as Marion Davies, Edward Herrmann as Hearst, and Jennifer Tilley as Luella Parsons. What more do you need? Check it out. It’s a brilliant film.
For those who like their humor on the dark and bitter side, Children of the Revolution is a great choice. A devoted Australian Communist, Judy Davis, meets with her hero: Josef Stalin (played with great humor by F. Murray Abraham). Later she turns out to be pregnant, but will not tell anyone who the father of her son really is. She’s pretty sure she knows, though.
Is Joe really Stalin’s son? Maybe, maybe not. But through this darkly humorous mockumentary, Joe grows in political power. Is he the scariest thing in the film? Again… not necessarily. Standout performances by Judy Davis, Geoffrey Rush as the man she marries but never really appreciates, Sam Niell as a double… possibly triple… maybe even quadruple agent working for… somebody or possibly everybody, and Richard Roxburgh as Joe make the trip well worthwhile. If you enjoyed The Ruling Class, you’ll probably like this one, too.
What do you do when you live in a tiny town with zero opportunities, your ex has married somebody so rich he can put a basketball court in your kid’s room, and you’re down to your last dime? Well, if you’re Jeff Bridges in The Amateurs, you convince all your friends to help you make a porn movie and make a fortune.
With a cast lead by Bridges, William Fitchner, Tim Blake Nelson, Glenne Headley, and Lauren Graham, it’s hard to go too far wrong. Add in a clever and surprisingly sweet script for such a raunchy concept, and you’re golden. In big surprise to me, Ted Danson turned in one of my favorite performances in the film.
I remember years ago seeing a novel in a bookstore that I didn’t buy despite the intriguing title largely because I was low on funds at the time. It was entitled The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Little did I know it was eventually made into a buddy road trip movie called Smoke Signals and billed as the first feature film produced, written, directed, and acted by Native Americans.
Smoke Signals tells the story of Victor Joseph’s (Adam Beach) trip to gather the remains of his father with his friend Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams). As is usually the case with road trip films, the point isn’t the destination but the journey. The journey includes meditations on identity, honor, guilt, heroism, unresolved anger, and forgiveness. There’s a lot of humor, a bit of rage, and tremendous tenderness along the way.
The biggest downside? Now I absolutely have to try my hand at making fry bread.
So what good films have you seen lately? What would you recommend to us all?