"Jules et Jim" (1962)- My favorite French film by Truffaut tells the story of a love triangle between Jules and Jim over Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). It is the definition of New Wave complete with ludicrous situations and camera angles. A must, especially now that it is available on Criterion.
"The Limey" (1999)- Terrance Stamp stars as a former thief tracking down his daughters’ killer. There is something magic about Terrance Stamp and Steven Soderbergh brings out the best of his actors. The flashbacks to a younger Mr. Stamp are from one of his first films, “Poor Cow”, and are further evidence of the director’s genius. Not a feel good movie, so open a bottle of wine and hunker down.
"London" (2005)- It took me a while to get around to watching this movie (it stars Jessica Biel after all) but boy was I glad I did. It’s a twisted love story about the one that got away and takes place all in one night in one apartment. Great acting and writing from all involved.
"Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" (1994)- I love Dorothy Parker. Look her up. Her sardonic wit was as legendary as was the company she kept. This bio of her mid life stars Jennifer Jason Leigh (of course- mega LOVE) and is wonderful. Very Altman-esque with a who’s who of actors. Look for Jon Favreau in a small role.
"Night watch" (2005)/"Day watch"- greatest Russian movie of all time (and the 2 highest grossing). The Night watch patrols Moscow and regulates all the “dark ones”- vampires, werewolves, witches; while the Day watch patrols the “light others”- shape shifters, magicians, etc. Some of the best effects and action sequences I’ve ever seen. The dubbed version is pretty good (the director did it himself), but the subtitles are sublime, weaving in and out of the frame keeping your eye on the action. [new note: Another addition to my best of horror. You can check out the full Fright Fest list here.]
"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969)- stars a very young Maggie Smith in her Oscar nominated role. She is a teacher at an all girls school and the mayhem continues from there. Jealousy, young love, and anger all play roles in this delicious film.
"Reds" (1981)- Warren Beatty directed and stars in this film about real-life writer John Reed and his involvement with the Bolshevik Rebellion. Epic film about what it means to be American, the struggle for rights, and the rise of the Socialist party in Russia. Also starring Diane Keaton. Won Beatty a Best Director Oscar. [new note: I'm a sucker for movies that came out the year I was born. I'll probably compile a complete list of my favorites soon. It was such a rich year!]
"The Salton Sea" (2002)- Val Kilmer is a meth head in LA with a scheme only other meth heads would love: Steal some famous shit, literally. Hilarious movie with great performances by Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Adam Goldberg especially. [side note: Where has Val Kilmer been? When did he get all puffy? Is he okay?]
"Session 9" (2001)- One of my all time favorite movies!!! "Session 9" follows a demolition crew clearing out an abandoned asylum before it is torn down. Needless to say, creepy stuff happens! What's brilliant about this movie, is the very low-fi approach the director takes as well as the fine writing and acting. It will scary the bejesus out of you! [new note: Another Fright Fest honoree!]
"Sliding Doors" (1998)- Say what you will about Gwyneth Paltrow, but she has made some lovely small films. This one stars her as a London woman who's life splits apart after an accident- literally. We follow both threads to see what would have happened and are left wondering and hoping to discover what has happened. I really like this movie, and her accent doesn't bother me as much as I would have expected. A great light-hearted romp when your in the mood for a romantic comedy but don't want to feel stupider after having watched it.
"The Sweet Hereafter" (1997)- I love Atom Egoyan! You cannot go wrong with any of his films but this, arguably one of his better known, is a great introduction to this brilliant Armenian-Canadian director. The story seems simple: a bus full of students skid off the road one icy day. Who's at fault? The answer isn't so simple. Ian Holm is a genius and this movie introduced the world to Sarah Polley. A downer for sure, but well worth the trip.
"The Thing Called Love" (1993)- Samantha Mathis (where has she been?) and River Phoenix star in this dramady about life, dreams, and country music- but not in the way you might be thinking. In the hands of director Peter Bogdanovich, it is smart, funny, and easy to watch. I love a young Sandra Bullock as Linda Lou- the lost soul and daft friend of Mathis. Phoenix is of course riveting and the performance is saddened by his death shortly after. It's almost as if you can sense it in his eyes. Love!