#1. The Innocents
I picked up this little horror movie on a whim back in October when Criterion was running a “Flash Sale.” To start it is as haunting as it is beautiful. It has some of the prettiest cinematography ever for a horror film. Released in 1961, it is more of a haunted house/psychological flick. A woman arrives to be the governess to two children in a huge mansion only to find herself going crazy by the end of it. There are some very (purposefully) uncomfortable moments in the film, which nowadays might really bug people. Those moments I will leave for you as a surprise.
#2, 3, and 4. The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind/My Darling Clementine
After taking a Westerns class this quarter, and hearing about these films so much from my professor, I figured I should take a glance at them even though I kind of need a break from them. 20 westerns in 10 weeks is a lot, but they all learn their lessons from what came before. My Darling Clementine, a film by John Ford starring Henry Fonda is an early film representation of the O.K. Corral gunfight that would be solidified nearly 50 years later in Tombstone. It is a wonderfully crafted western, but you can expect that from Ford because he essentially is the godfather of all things cowboys and ponies on film. His films are all about community, and this one is prime in that aspect.
The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind both came in a little nifty boxset on one disc (they’re both about 80 minutes long), and they are more existential and “thinking” westerns. They are both by Monte Hellman and they both star Jack Nicholson in his pre-Cuckoos Nest era. They are very dense and terse. They aren’t action packed like some westerns, and they require your attention more-so than most any others in the genre.
If there was ever a film that was purely dream-like, this one would probably be it. The cult classic by David Lynch, which has amassed an extensive following, is one of those movies that you have to watch about 20 times before you begin to really understand it. It is bizarre, funny, scary, and plain disturbing. It has some of the most memorable and eerie images ever offered up in film and it will surely leave you wanting to go back for more.
#6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
In between these dense, old films, my friends and I watched this hilarious film that came out back in 2008. It is one of those movies I pop in whenever I am doing homework or something and end up laughing my butt off and not getting anything done. I quote it endlessly, though not many people get it, and I even stayed in the hotel where it was filmed. Jason Segel and Russell Brand are a hilarious competitive match-up. Segel with his pitiful situation and Brand as the oblivious cheater both offer up huge laughs. If you want a warm and fun movie for these cold months, check it out. Just be aware that there is nudity, male nudity.
#7. Once Upon a Time in America
One of these days I am going to do an extensive write up of this film because it is the only movie I feel comfortable in calling my all-time favorite. I saw it first back in 7th grade out of sheer boredom and randomness and was blown away. I watched it in one sitting (it was close to 4 hours but is now over thanks to a new cut) and didn’t watch it again for a couple years when I randomly found it at Costco of all places. I popped it in that night, watched it in two parts, and fell in love. Since then I have shown it to family, friends, and rewatched it by myself close to 8 times. From the score, to the acting, to the story and themes, it is such a powerful and epic film that feels so grand but in a way could have just been a dream. It is about love, betrayal, friendship, power, greed, and time. Robert DeNiro is at his best, James Wood has his best performance, and there are even glimpses of Burt Young and Joe Pesci. The new cut has some interesting scenes that might not seem like much, but they do add some good character development. It is the new standard for the film that was butchered in its initial release, and it should be seen by all.
#8. La Dolce Vita
Roger Ebert considered this one of the greatest films of all time. That is a pretty big statement, but it does fit. Fellini is one of the most famous and impactful Italian director. Some of his stuff was surreal, some of it was scathing criticisms of society. La Dolce Vita is the latter. It follows a journalist around for a week in several stories. Marcello Mastroianni, who is a go-to for Fellini, is fantastic as the journalist Marcello (probably not a coincidence). It shows that perhaps underneath the glitz and glamor there is pain and disgust. It is nearly 3 hours long, but it all feels fresh, fun, and at times weird. That’s Fellini for you.