After quite a few dense foreign films in a row, some easy to follow American films were especially welcoming. With a wide range of directors and genre’s. we will begin back in the late 30s:
#55. Make Way for Tomorrow
Serving as an inspiration for Tokyo Story, Make Way for Tomorrow follows an elderly couple who lose their house and must go live with their children, separately. Apparently Orson Welles said that the film could “make a stone cry,” as it subtly sneaks up on you and ends in an ever-so-depressing manner. It is as poignant as can be, and ranks as one of the best films of the studio-era. Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi are exquisite as the separated couple, trying to maintain their marriage while also slowly reminiscing on the past and trudging along to tomorrow, even if it might be their last day. If you want to shed a few tears–which you surely will if you watch this–then this is your movie.
By the 1950s, Charlie Chaplin was considered a communist and had fallen a bit from his status as most recognizable man on earth. Upon going to the premiere in London for Limelight, he was barred from reentering the US by J. Edgar Hoover. Limelight, if it had been his final movie, would have been the most bitterly poignant film ever made. An aging comedian meets a suicidal dancer and rely on each other for hope and support. Featuring all of his usual humor, it is a swan-song for his old comedic ways. The final scene is so hauntingly beautiful for his career, as well as the movie, that it can only be seen as a farewell to the olden days.
#58. Five Easy Pieces
In what was a defining early film for Jack Nicholson, Five Easy Pieces also represents one of the major players in the new Hollywood transition of the 70s. No longer relying on studios, filmmakers like Bob Rafelson, Scorsese, and many others made names for themselves with small, independent works that had lasting impacts. Five Easy Pieces is a simple story, a man finds out his father is dying and returns home to visit, but it is all about growing up, regret, and lost passions. Nicholson’s character, Bobby Dupea, was a piano prodigy but gave up on it and the upper-class lifestyle of his family. The film represents a view of stories that show modern America, where things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows, and sometimes people just leave without saying anything.
#59. The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Another film from the 70s, The Friends of Eddie Coyle stars Robert Mitchum as a small-time hood who has to inform on his boss in order to avoid prison, but little does he know his boss is also an informant. This is one of the bleakest of crime films I have ever seen, and even though Coyle is a criminal and anti-hero, we want to like him. Mitchum is fantastic as always, delivering an unforgettable performance as the forgettable criminal in his twilight years. If you’re a fan of crime movies, or films in the same vein as The French Connection, check this one out.
Featuring an enormous cast of 24 actors, Nashville, from the great Robert Altman, is a film purely about America–the good and the bad. Revolving around the bicentennial of the country, Altman crafts a brilliant tapestry of characters from all walks of life. It would simply be too hard to summarize all of the various plots, but everyone delivers excellent performances and most even do live, on-location songs. With great actors like Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeff Goldblum, Ned Beatty, Karen Black, and Shelley Duvall, there is no shortage of familiar faces as Altman somehow gives everyone their fair share of screen time before its awfully ironic closing. It is as grand a film as can be, but also one that will make you worry about how close their America still relates to ours.
#62. The Fisher King
In a story that only Terry Gilliam could tell–a modern-day fairy tale of sorts with a truly depressing twist–Jeff Bridges plays a radio host who berates a caller and sets him on a murderous path as he opens fire on a bar, killing 7 people including Robin Williams’ wife. Some time later, Bridges meets Williams–homeless and mentally ill–and he sets off to help him find the Holy Grail, love, and happiness. With fantasy elements, some horrendous moments, and a brilliantly satisfying ending, The Fisher King is a wonderful and inventive film that showcases the best of Bridges and Williams.
Well that about does it for the Criterion films I bought during the sale (yeah, I know, it was a lot.) I still have one more new one to watch, but it is a Bergman film and if you remember, I will be doing a series of all the films of his that I have after a little break. I think I may work on the Matrix trilogy next, or perhaps the Dark Knight, though most likely catching up on the films I didn’t get a chance to see in theaters with full reviews coming soon. Thanks for reading!