Arty Chick’s Seven Flicks: Week 9


Week Nine of films that I remember fondly. It’s amazing how many great films come to mind when I go down my cinematic memory lane. A lot of this week’s picks are from the 80s. The oldest is from 1979. And the newest from 2003. So it’s a fairly modern bunch. No black and white. No foreign films this time. We’ve got comedy, war, feminism, even a Western in the mix. Big films and indies. But all of them are highly recommended.

 

The films are: Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Thin Red Line, Silverado, Broadcast News, Ordinary People, The Station Agent, My Brilliant Career

 

 

57. Crimes and Misdemeanors 1989

This is one of Woody Allen’s best films and definitely my favorite. As with many of his films, it boasts a cast of fabulous actors.  In it there are two main story lines that converge. Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) is a highly respected ophthalmologist who’s having an affair with Dolores (Angelica Huston). She’s waited too long for him to leave his wife and threatens to go public. So Judah goes to his mafia friendly brother Jack (Jerry Orbach) and has her “taken care of.” 

The other major storyline is about Cliff (Allen), a documentary filmmaker whose films are intellectual and important if not very exciting. He’s convinced to take a well paying gig, to make a film about his wife’s brother Lester (Alan Alda), a successful and obnoxious TV producer who Cliff cannot stand. But while doing it, he meets Haley (Mia Farrow) a production assistant, that both he and Lester woo. 

The storylines come together as all the characters are all related. Judah even pitches Cliff a movie idea at a wedding all about the perfect murder, based on his own recent experience. Cliff thinks it utterly implausible. Underpinning the whole film is a sense of rationalized ethics. One of my favorite characters is the moral center of the film, Ben (Sam Waterston), Cliff’s other brother-in-law, Judah’s patient, and a rabbi. 

The film garnered 3  Oscar nominations. 

 

58. The Thin Red Line 1998

Terrence Malick has made many films that are not easy to watch. This is one. It tells the story of a group of GIs fighting to take a hill from the Japanese on Guadalcanal during the Second World War. Unlike most of the WWII films I’ve seen, this one is anything but a film about the glories of war. These men are only fighting because they have to, because they want to live. Nick Nolte plays a commander more interested in his own reputation than the lives of the men in his ranks. 

The film is packed with star power, many in small roles: Adrian Brody, John Cusack, George Clooney, Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, John Travlota. The cinematography is stunning, too, as is the Oscar-winning score from Hans Zimmer. It’s an intense film that makes you understand war in a whole different way. From the tedium of waiting for the coming fight to the personal battles each man is waging with himself. It’s thought provoking and you will probably cry at times. It is long at 172 minutes, but worth it. 

It received 7 Oscar nominations. 

 

 

 

59. Silverado 1985

Lawrence Kasdan’s take on a Western was a surprise at the time it came out, when Hollywood had pretty much decided that the genre was dead. But it boasted a fabulous ensemble and a fun script. Four men meet in a small Western town. Kevin Kline’s former outlaw Laden arrives on the scene in long johns having been robbed. Scott Glenn’s Emmett comes to meet up with his younger brother Jake (Kevin Costner) who he finds in jail. And Mal (Danny Glover) is on his way through town to meet up with his father. After a bit of bonding, they breaking Jake (and Paden) out of jail, and the four of them hit the road together. 

They end up in the town of Silverado after helping out some people who’ve been robbed. The town is under the thumb of Sheriff Cobb (Brian Dennehy). And there are a lot of bad guys doing bad things around the area, so they become the Magnificent Four and clean up the place so decent people can survive. 

There’s plenty of gun slinging and a bit of romance, and it’s a thoroughly entertaining and at times humorous take on the classic Western. And Kevin Costner is adorable in it. 

It receive 2 Oscar nominations.

 

60. Broadcast News 1987

Jane (Holly Hunter) is a driven news producer. Aaron (Albert Brooks), an intelligent and capable journalist at the station, is her best friend who also happens to be in love with her. Enter handsome new anchorman Tom (William Hurt) who may be telegenic, but is as vapid as the day is long. Of course, Jane falls for him, despite her utter disdain for everything he embodies. 

But this is no rom-com. It’s a biting satire about the move from serious news to entertainment and feels even more timely now in the era of Fox News.  This was Holly Hunter’s breakout role and she’s perfect as the conflicted woman whose libido gets the better of her for a bit. William Hurt is also great as the sportscaster turned anchorman who is aware of his limitations, but can’t turn down the gig.

It’s a very funny movie, too. The scene with Joan Cusack trying to get a tape to the control room in time for the broadcast is a classic! 

It received 7 Oscar Nominations.  

 

 

61. Ordinary People 1980

This has got to be the most heartbreaking family drama ever made. Timothy Hutton stars as Conrad, the son who lived. His older brother died in a sailing accident and his mother Beth played brilliantly by Mary Tyler Moore can’t forgive him. Donald Sutherland plays his father Calvin who can’t stand up to his wife but cares deeply for his son. 

The film begins after Conrad’s failed suicide attempt. He’s just back from a stint in a psychiatric hospital and beginning therapy with Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch). He tries to get back to “normal” but his home life, particularly with his mother keeps him from moving forward. 

It’s a brilliant script with outstanding performances. You ache for this family. It was Robert Redford’s directorial debut and won 5 Oscars. 

 

 

 

62. The Station Agent 2003

Peter Dinklage (in the role that brought him to everyone’s attention) plays a dwarf named Fin. When his friend and boss at a model train shop dies, he is surprised to find that he’s inherit an unused train depot in rural New Jersey. He moves in hoping to be away from people with all their pointing and staring. He’s ready for an isolated, quiet life. 

But then he meets two people who insinuate themselves into his life and become his friends. Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) is a lonely woman running from her own pain, who runs Fin off the road a couple of times. And  Bobby Cannavale is a lovable goof-ball who loves to talk and talk and talk. 

Not a lot “happens” in this film;  it’s simply a wonderful story of friendship with great performances. It’s an indie gem and was a big winner at Sundance.

 

 

63. My Brilliant Career 1979

This is the story of a turn of the 20th century feminist in Australia. Sybylla’s (Judy Davis) family has fallen on hard times, so she’s been sent to live with her Grandmother and Aunt, and once there she immediately announces that she will never marry, something a young woman simply did not do that time. She’s convinced that she’s going to have a career as a writer! Nevertheless, two local suitors begin to vie for her attention. Beecham (Sam Neill) is from a well-to-do family and has known her since childhood. The other man hoping to wed her is a rancher. Her grandmother sends her to spend time on Beecham’s estate and she and Beecham grow close. The other suitor tries to break them up by starting rumors. It works for a time, but eventually Beecham does propose. Sybylla asks him to wait two years and ask again, giving her time to discover herself. 

Then it turns out Sybylla’s father is in debt and she is forced to become a governess for a semi-illiterate farming family nearby to pay off what’s owed. She spends her off time writing. When she’s let go because the father mistakenly believes she’s after his son, Beecham again proposes, but Sybylla turns him down again, having decided that she is destined to be a great writer. She heads home to write, soon sending off her first novel to a Scottish publishing house. 

This was Judy Davis’s breakout role and only her second film. Sam Neill was also relatively unknown at the time. . 

 

 

ENJOY AND CHECK BACK NEXT WEEK FOR PART 10!
All of these are streaming and some of the older ones you can find at your library.

And in case you missed them, here are the links to the previous weeks: Week 1,Week 2, Week 3.Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8

This list started as a pandemic exercise wherein I posted a film a day on my Facebook feed. The only criteria was that it was something I remember liking back when I saw it last. I am not sure they all hold up to repeat viewing given hindsight and more recent social mores. But hey, they were all considered good films at one and so many of them were multiple award winners. I’m just hoping to give my stuck-at-home-without-a-clue friends some alternatives to the new films coming out these days.

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