It’s time again to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Box Office and return to the movies that really matter in a little segment I call Movies I Should Have Seen By Now. Every couple weeks or so I take five films as selected by you, my readers, to see for the first time. These films consist of the following; Two AFI Top 100 entries, Two IMDb Top 250 entries, and one culturally relevant film. This round held another surprising round of choices from a variety of different genres and time periods, and I am happy to say that your choices led to some great discoveries on my end. Without further ado, here are the latest five films you voted in.
Network: 9.0/10 – Incredible
Before my last entry in this series, I had never seen a single Sidney Lumet movie. Having now watched 12 Angry Men and Network, I’m beginning to think the man may be becoming one of my favorite directors of all time. In 12 Angry Men, I was amazed by how much he was able to do with such a limited setting and such a focused premise. In Network, the setting and the premise are greatly expanded but the amount of depth in each character and the level of social analysis is just as sharp and effective as ever. Having now seen the movie, I finally understand why the most common comment on the film is that it has grown even more and more relevant over the years. I can only imagine how much frustration a well-intentioned reporter must go through in attempt to inform a public that would rather be entertained than informed. Whether you watch Fox News, MSNBC or have lost the remote with the channel turned to CNN, it’s hard not to see the similarities between the emotionally driven, fact-averse showmanship of modern news and the fire and brimstone preaching of Howard Beale. It makes me want to jump up along with him and say “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
12 Monkeys: 8.0/10 – Pretty Damn Great
Because I know the way my readers work, I know that nobody will look at that score and hear me saying “12 Monkeys is a great movie!”. Instead, what you’ll hear is “12 Monkeys is the worst movie of all five!”. As such, I’d like to skip over the fantastic performances and intriguing premise get to my main issue with the film; the difficulty of first time viewing. I am fully aware of the probability that I would enjoy 12 Monkeys a lot more if I were to watch it a second time. The same has been true with many similarly complicated story lines in my experience. I had to watch Memento three times before it really grew into one of my favorite movies of all time. I completely understand why so many people love this movie as much as they do; after all, if you love it you’ve probably seen it at least two or three times and are able to fully appreciate every element without being bogged down by figuring out the plot. Unfortunately, there are a lot of movies out there and most first time viewers will not be able or willing to make time for repeat viewings of anything, and for that reason I would be hesitate to recommend it to a lot of people who might ask. Bottom line, some movies are made to have a big impact on a small amount of people, and 12 Monkeys is one of those movies.
Chinatown – 9.0/10 – Incredible
For someone in my generation, it’s easy to think of Jack Nicholson as the crazed, sweaty, formless blob of a man he has become over the past decade or so. Once you skip past The Bucket List and Anger Management and get back to Nicholson’s earlier career, however, you finally start to see what an amazing, talented actor the man really is. Among Nicholson’s body of work, I would rate Chinatown next to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as the finest performances of his career. At its core, Chinatown is a fairly straightforward “Private detective stumbles upon big conspiracy” that has been replicated by countless inferior movies since. What makes it truly great is the winning combination of Nicholson’s trademark sarcastic, angry charisma and an unflinching brutality that took me completely off guard on more than one occasion. With movies like this featuring a wise-cracking, smug lead character like J. J. Gittes, it’s really to get into the mindset of “Good guy cracks joke, thwarts bad guys” and assume that he and many of those close to him are invincible. Chinatown does a great job of breaking that concept apart, making it abundantly clear time and time again that Gittes is truly in danger of losing everything he loves (though primarily his own life). I highly recommend giving this one a watch if you haven’t seen it already, especially if you have Netflix (it’s on instant streaming at the moment).
Amelie: 9.0/10 – Impressive
There are a lot of things about me that make me an American. For example, I frequently waste electricity, I own several guns, and I believe that the fourth of July is the second best holiday of the year (for purely pyrotechnical reasons, admittedly). Unfortunately, my ‘Merican side also makes it difficult to enjoy foreign language films on the same level as English language films. There have definitely been exceptions to that rule, and I’m very happy to say that Amelie now stands alongside Pan’s Labyrinth as one of my favorite foreign films I’ve ever seen. There just aren’t enough adjectives to describe the movie adequately, but if I had to settle on the three words to sum it all up, those words would be “Full Of Life”. Between imaginative art direction, delightfully quirky narration and Audrey Tautou’s absolutely charming performance, it’s amazing how Amelie manages to allow you to see the world through the title character’s eyes. Seeing the absolute joy and wonder she is able to see in every facet of the world around her is intoxicating, and coming from someone as cynical as I often can be that’s no small feat for the film to achieve. As long as you’re okay with dealing with subtitles, I highly recommend you give Amelie a chance.
Boogie Nights: 8.5/10 – Impressive
I was completely surprised when this one ended up taking the top spot for the “Culturally Significant” category. Then again, most of my readers are fellow movie buffs so it makes sense why Pretty Woman hasn’t made the cut yet. Previous to Boogie Nights, my only experience with Paul Thomas Anderson had been with last year’s The Master. Based on the two films of his I have now seen though, I’m starting to see a common theme emerging; I completely respect and appreciate the superb acting, the non-traditional story arcs and the head-on approach the writing takes to difficult subject matter, but to be completely honest I have no desire to repeat the experience. I was lucky enough to have decided to see Boogie Nights alone, because I don’t think I would have been able to get through the first half-hour if I had been watching with any other person. All sexual explicitness aside, the fact remains that the movie centers around people in the Adult Entertainment Industry, a business which has a natural tendency to attract emotionally damaged people who are fundamentally difficult to connect with for most audiences. Movies tend to resonate with me on an emotional level when I can sympathize with at least some of the characters on screen, but because of the disconnect above I found it very hard to connect with anything on a personal level. Once again, this is an issue of personal preference and the movie is still well worth your time if you’re in the mood to challenge yourself (and nobody else is in the room)
Now it’s time again for all of you to decide what films will make up the next set of Movies I Should Have Seen By Now. Please take ten seconds or so to pick your favorite films from the polls below (you can pick as many as three choices for each)