Saturday, January 20, 2018

Notable Discoveries of 2017

Over 2017 I kept track of my movie watching on letterboxd.com. Here are some of the best films I discovered for the first time over the past year. Many of these aired on TCM, or were accessible on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Here they are!

Shadows in Paradise and Ariel (1986 and 1988) Dir. Aki Kaurismaki

I caught these two films from Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki on TCM. Most European films I've watched are about the upper classes, everyday people are typically in the background. These two films look at working class life in Finland with surreal humor and wry observation. Shadows in Paradise is about a garbage man who loses his best friend and gets involved with a woman who works at the local grocery store. Ariel is a bit more adventurous, about a man falsely accused of a crime. A Chaplinesque story in a Post-Modern setting. 





Thief  (1981) Dir. Michael Mann

Michael Mann's debut film starring James Caan as a former thief trying to go straight is an old trope told with verve and nuance.




Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) Dir. George Miller

I had never watched the third entry in the Mad Max series, had no idea how much it inspired Fury Road. Great action sequences with some Spielbergian flourishes. 




The Hitcher (1986) Dir. Robert Harmon

Rutger Hauer is a menacing presence as a stranger wreaking chaos on the highway.




Audrey Rose (1977) Dir. Robert Wise

A ghost story starring Anthony Hopkins who believes the spirit of his daughter lives on in the little girl of a New York couple. One of the gloomiest movies I've ever seen, a tough movie to get out of your head. More scenes with rain than any film that comes to my mind.




Wise Blood (1979) Dir. John Huston

John Huston's moving adaptation of the Flanney O'Connor novel about faith and redemption in the American South. Brad Dourif is excellent as the troubled protagonist Hazel Motes who creates a "Church Without Christ".




Allied (2016) Dir. Robert Zemeckis

A recent one from Robert Zemeckis, a classic espionage thriller set in North Africa and England during the Second World War starring Brad Pitt and Maria Cotilliard. Gripping period piece with a literary sensibility. 




The Believer (2001) Dir. Henry Bean

An eerily relevant film starring Ryan Gosling as a charismatic Neo-Nazi who hides a secret. A perceptive examination of identity, religion, and politics.




Married to the Mob (1988) Dir. Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme's 1988 crime comedy starring Michelle Pheiffer as mob wife who must fend for herself. One of the few mob films told from a female perspective.




Ladybug, Ladybug (1963) Dir. Frank Perry

Meditative Cold War film on the existential threat of nuclear war.




Robin and Marian (1976) Dir. Richard Lester

A melancholy take on the Robin Hood legend with poignant performances from Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. 




Alice in the Cities (1974) Dir. Wim Wenders

A young German artist must help a little girl find her Mom.  Interesting meditation on boredom and time management. 





52 Pick Up (1987) Dir. John Frankenheimer 

An Elmore Leonard adaptation is as good as anything made during the mid 1980s. Mature performances from Roy Scheider and Ann Margaret turns a trashy story into gold. 




White Hunter, Black Heart (1990) Dir. Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood plays a fictional version of John Huston as he was about film The African Queen. Worthwhile study of art and ego. 




Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) Dir. Irvin Kershner

Starring Faye Dunaway as an avant-garde photographer, this film was written by John Carpenter and directed by Irvin Kershner. Eyes of Laura Mars dramatizes the transition between the moral ambiguity of the 1970s and the moral queasiness of the 1980s.




The Grifters (1990) Stephen Frears

A neo-noir with a unique tone and a viscous sense of humor. Revenge is a dish served cold.





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