At the close of 2012, and the dawn of 2013, Netflix did another of their great purges/adds. Some titles that were wiped include revolving-door titles like George Stevens’ Giant and Merchant/Ivory’s Howards End – staples of the streaming service that are occasionally withdrawn but inevitably restored.
The first arrivals of 2013 included a bevy of UK television programs from the 1980s through the present. It isn’t in TheFilmsaurus‘s mandate to go into the weeds on this sort of content, but, needless to say, many of these dramas and comedies are richly entertaining and well-made.
Here are a few movies that we think are essential viewing, or of potential interest:
I Was a Male War Bride (Howard Hawks, 1949) – As I’ve said before, I have a tougher time with Hawks’s comedies than his great work in other genres (western, adventure, romance, noir, sci-fi, musical, etc). The fact is, I don’t find them all that funny. I’m coming around, however, and my third viewing of War Bride, arguably his most neglected major work, was my most successful. I didn’t laugh – not out loud, anyway – but I am getting closer to its core, a brilliant conceit that places Cary Grant in a series of situations where he’s always the loser, accepts it, but keeps his head up and keeps moving forward. Like many Farrelly brothers comedies, part of I Was a Male War Bride‘s comedy lies in the fact that it’s also a drama about dignity in the face of all-consuming adversity. But you can’t sleep here.
Elizabethtown (Cameron Crowe, 2005) – I know, I know, but listen – Crowe’s jaw-droppingly self-indulgent piffle may very well represent the nadir of both the “overqualified manchild gets his comeuppance followed by his not-exactly-hard-won redemption” and the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” genres, but it’s really not as bad as all that, and several degrees less horrifying than you may have been led to believe. Watch it with someone who’s maybe not as much of a cinephile as you – if they like it, you’ll like it better.
Slap Shot (George Roy Hill, 1977) – Good dirty fun – especially for fans of Goon.
Another 48 Hrs. (Walter Hill, 1990) – An inferior sequel to a classic film (that I, personally, think is a lesser work when compared to, oh, almost everything else from Walter Hill’s 1970s/1980s period. Still, Another 48 Hrs. has a lot going for it: solid, Hill-y construction, saturated by his preferred atmosphere of Tough Shit and Bad Breaks. The alignment of hoodlum Hammond (Eddie Murphy) and curmudgeonly cop Cates (Nick Nolte) is usually held up as the Joel Silver-era model of “odd couple that learns to get along,” but what the pair of movies really bears out is, these two don’t get along, as each is driven by his own, short-term goals. While Another 48 Hrs. is softened a little from its optimal peak of vulgarity (when Murphy calls a girl a “bitch” in a roadhouse bar, the sound drops out), there are still a few terrific sequences. My favorite involves Hammond spotting a beautiful pickpocket in said bar, in a sequence of events that’s crosscut with bartender (Cathy Haase) shouting at Cates about you lousy cops, and the bar band, which is filmed in high-powered, wide-angle closeups.
Miller’s Crossing (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1990)
The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 1987) – Seen as a classic by almost everyone except De Palma fans, I’d argue that it’s overpraised by general acclaim but underrated by the latter group. In any case, entertaining, flamboyant, and very “De Palma.”
Fresh (Boaz Yakin, 1994) – Standing out from a subgenre (the inner city crime & redemption picture) that was more than a little crowded during the 1990s, Yakin’s feature debut benefited from its occasional storytelling ellipses and a refreshingly hands-off approach to the title character’s psychology and inner life, leading some viewers (such as myself) to believe they’re seeing a brilliant picture, as opposed to one of above-average intelligence and cunning, which is what it is. Yakin has enjoyed an oddball career in the years between then and now, most recently earning plaudits for his meat & potatoes Jason Statham actioner, Safe. On the evidence of what I’ve seen (very little), Yakin has a no-nonsense style that plainly illustrates cause and effect, and doesn’t often go for cheap emotion. Long story short, see this film.
Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, 1999)
War and Peace (King Vidor, 1956)
Escape from Alcatraz (Don Siegel, 1979)
Sahara (Breck Eisner, 2005) – Don’t laugh, but Eisner’s 2005 action-comedy-epic, one of the most notorious box office flops of all time, is actually quite good, and surprisingly novelistic in detail – novelistic, I should say, in the “airport novel” sense, but you take what you can get. Well worth your time.
Also worthwhile or “of interest”: Hard Core Logo (McDonald, 1996), Dark Horse (Solondz, 2011), Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke (Lou Adler, 1978), Blue Chips (Friedkin, 1994), Red Corner (Avnet, 1997), Heartburn (Nichols, 1986), The Dogs of War (Irvin, 1980), King Kong (Guillerman, 1976), Jeff, Who Lives at Home (Duplass bros., 2011), Earthquake (Robson, 1974)