THE POPCORN REEL MUST-SEE FILMS
Tom Cruise (bottom center) in Stanley Kubrick's final film "Eyes Wide Shut". (Photo: Warner Brothers)
Cashback (2006) -- Sean Ellis' romantic drama about a male insomniac whose ability to slow down moments in his life allows him to savor the beauty in the opposite sex. The most sensitive, heartfelt and sincere male tribute to a woman's beauty on the big screen in at least ten years. Funny, ribald and exquisitely shot, this British film stars Sean Biggerstaff and Emilia Fox.
Zodiac (2007) -- David Fincher's most impressive film based on the true story of America's most notorious unsolved crimes, presumably committed by a serial killer in Northern California's San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960's and early 1970's. The best film of 2007 is also the most fascinating and chilling. Mr. Fincher mixes humor and violence, marked by Robert Downey, Jr.'s standout performance. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Dermot Mulroney, Brian Cox, Chloe Sevigny, Donal Logue, Elias Koteas and John Carroll Lynch.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) -- Stanley Kubrick's final film (see above photo) starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in a film about fidelity, dreams, death and family. A classic jigsaw puzzle, the film gets better and better with each viewing, with multiple new discoveries each time around. With Sydney Pollack, Vinessa Shaw and Thomas Gibson.
Rules Of The Game (1939) -- Jean Renoir's classic satire about murder and the upper class crust of French society is constantly engaging, sobering and incisive. Well worth your time. A precursor to Luis Bunuel's mid-1970's film "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie".
Bamboozled (2000) -- The little-seen drama directed by Spike Lee, a spectacularly scathing satire about a racially offensive television show created by a black producer which skyrockets in the ratings as an overnight success, to the consternation of its creator. A valuable history lesson, the film is a devastating look at the history of Hollywood's blackface era of racist stereotyping of blacks in film and television, which Mr. Lee forcefully and persuasively argues still persists. With Damon Wayans, Mos Def, Jada Pinkett Smith and Michael Rapaport.
The Remains of The Day (1993) -- Indelible performances by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in a drama of subtlety and longing. From Merchant-Ivory, a powerful look at sublimated desires between a butler and a housekeeper in upper crust British society. With Christopher Reeve.
Scandal (1989) -- Sex and politics chronicled in the true story of the prostitute (Christine Keeler) who almost single-handedly brought down the Harold Macmillan Tory government in London in 1963, directed by Michael Caton-Jones. A great soundtrack and good performances by Ian McKellen as the ill-fated Minister of War John Profumo, John Hurt as Stephen Ward, Bridget Fonda as Mandy Rice-Davies, and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as Christine Keeler.
Night of the Hunter (1955) -- Charles Laughton's thriller starring a razor-sharp Robert Mitchum as a sadistic preacher who preys on the innocent. A spellbinding Mr. Mitchum at his very best. The film gives new meaning to the words "love" and "hate".
Heat (1995) -- Michael Mann's epic cops and robbers classic, featuring a detailed script that gives layering to background and subsidiary characters to main men Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. With a sterling cast that would cost too much for a budgeted film today: Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd, Diane Venora, Natalie Portman, Jon Voight, Amy Brenneman, Dennis Haysbert, Mykelti Williamson, Ted Levine, Wes Studi, William Fichtner, Danny Trejo, Tone Loc and Tom Sizemore, among others.
In The Heat of the Night (1967) -- Norman Jewison's significant police drama-murder mystery highlighting the racial tension between a black police detective from Philadelphia and a white southern sheriff from Sparta, Mississippi. Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger's performances were both nominated for Oscar the following year, with Mr. Steiger winning.
WELL, THERE'S AN ELEVENTH -- A DOCUMENTARY:
Bowling For Columbine (2002) -- Michael Moore's acid attack on the current Bush administration, but specifically a documentary which attempts to answer the question of what makes the United States of America such a violent nation. Mr. Moore's inimitable interviewing style may not be for every single viewer, but he is effective and elicits moving, angry and insightful commentary as he confronts numerous gun and weapons industry insiders, as well as celebrities like Dick Clark and Charlton Heston. The film won the best documentary feature Oscar on March 24, 2003 -- when Mr. Moore was pilloried for giving an acceptance speech castigating the current U.S. president for launching a "fictional" war against Iraq just five days before. A pertinent and highly-recommended film.
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