I have spent a lifetime being a critic of everything. Indeed, more than a few people have opined that I tend to be entirely too critical of too many things. So be it. I am eternally in search of excellence. At least that’s my excuse. And though psychology and literature are my two bailiwicks, I have viewed–and critiqued–hundreds and hundreds of films, and feel the urge today to suggest a few of the more obscure ones that I think are first rate and worthy of viewing.
In no particular order, “The Player” is an excellent movie to begin with. This murder mystery came out in 1992, directed by Robert Altman and starring Tim Robbins. It concerns a Hollywood studio executive who spends much of the day listening to movie pitches from a variety of people while simultaneously receiving death threats from an unknown person. The plot moves along swiftly while dozens of famous movie stars make cameo appearances. “The Player” actually received much acclaim from the critics and even won several awards, but largely came and went and was quickly forgotten. This is a must see. Make sure you have plenty of popcorn and some good company when you view it. 🙂
Peter O’Toole died recently at 81. He was most famous for starring in “Laurence of Arabia,” a film which caused one wag to comment, “If he were any prettier they would have had to change the title to “Florence of Arabia.'” I have always thought this was an overrated film, overly loud, overly sensational, overly imbued with everything that is bad about “Hollywood” movies. A more beautiful film, on the other hand, with wonderful atmosphere and plot, is “Days of Heaven,” directed by Terrence Malick and starring a young Richard Gere. It concerns a couple of migrant workers who trick a dying but wealthy farmer into marrying a female worker played by Brooke Adams, with complications that soon set in. Not only is this film spectacular to look at, and the plot more than engaging, but the haunting strains of Saint-Saen’s “Aquarium” from “Carnival of the Animals” follow you throughout the story. I confess I have seen the film numerous times and plan to see it a few more before I shuffle off the old mortal coil. It came out in 1978 to luke-warm reviews, but is gaining ground in public and critical opinion every year. By the way, this was the reclusive Terrence Malick’s second film, the first being “Badlands,” with a young Sissy Spacek and a young Martin Sheen, a film that I shall surely discuss at some future date.
A film that hardly anyone I know has heard of, much less is prone to discuss when great films are mentioned, is “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” starring Dennis Price (who?) and Sir Alec Guiness. This delightful film is about a lowly clerk who decides to murder a series of his relatives in order to obtain the title of Duke of Chalfont. He does so systematically and creatively. The movie, however, is humorous rather than tragic, and Alec Guiness plays eight parts, including that of high bred, snotty “woman of quality.” The star of the film, Dennis Price, who is superb, fell into relative obscurity afterward, and became (I learned from researching this subject) an alcoholic, dying at the relatively young age of 58. What a pity. This is another of those films that I have watched more than a few times, and relish doing so, and would recommend that the reader to the same. 🙂
Lastly, but by no means leastly, is the powerful film, “Sid and Nancy,” about Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. The movie, based on a book by Nancy Spungen’s mother, stars Gary Oldman as Sid and the little-known Chloe Webb as Spungen. The period is recreated marvelously and Oldman absolutely nails the part of Vicious. I knew little about this group when I first watched the film in 1986 but have become quite a Pistols fan since. Oldman should have gotten an Academy Award for his performance (if you see it you’ll probably agree with me), although the low-budget film was little known and little advertised at the time. It is working its way up the ladders of film critics with each passing year, however, and has become something of a cult attraction. If you wish to be transported back to the era of the Pistols, this is the movie to see.
So that’s it. Four excellent films for you to view during the Christmas holidays, or at some future point. Next time I think I’ll write about . . . well, who knows? I’m not paid to do this. I’ll just go wherever my inclination takes me.
Questions, comments, acclamations, assertions, or insinuations (as an old psychology professor of mine used to say)? Email me at this website. Bye for now. 🙂