Must-Sees: August 2011

My five recommendations for this month all come from the earliest years of cinema.  Typical moviegoers make it a point to avoid silent films because they assume that they will be hopelessly boring without dialogue.  Film buffs will have seen these titles, but if you are among the group of skeptics, here are five movies to consider.  They can all be watched on Netflix instant:

Metropolis (1927)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most expensive silent film ever made involves huge sets, captivating storytelling, and fantastic futuristic vision.  The plot of Metropolis incorporates an underground factory, rebellious workers, and a robot that looks a lot like an early prototype of Star Wars‘ C3-PO.  This is the grandfather of The Matrix, Dark City, Blade Runner, and Alien, so any science fiction fan interested in the roots of the genre should not miss Lang’s masterpiece.

The General (1927)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone knows of Charlie Chaplin, but few know of his equal, Buster Keaton.  Chaplin and Keaton were the two best film comedians of their day.  However, for years, Keaton’s movies were lost.  After being rediscovered in the 1960s, only a few years before the actor’s death, Keaton was hailed a master of his art.  The General is his best film.  It is very funny, exciting, and fast-paced, making for the perfect hour-long adventure movie.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only is this flawless tragedy one of the greatest silent films, it is also one of the greatest films, period.  It gets its power from the strong leading performances as well as director Dreyer’s straightforward storytelling and innovative close-ups.  Emotionally, it is nearly overwhelming, ensuring that viewers will never forget it.  The Passion of Joan of Arc is perfect in every aspect.

Nosferatu (1922)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This very well may be the best movie made about vampires.  Even ninety years after Nosferatu‘s release, it still is a genuinely chilling experience.  F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece of horror was the first among many films to explore the blood-sucking creatures, so any fan of Twilight owes a lot to this movie.  Unlike the better known Dracula (1933), Nosferatu will not be received as corny by any audience.

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the 1940s and 1950s, Sergei Einstein’s Battleship Potemkin was considered the world’s greatest film by the most respected critics and filmmakers.  Today, few would agree, but this is nonetheless, a great movie.  It moves at a great pace, painting a portrait of merciless tyranny and a search for freedom.  The result is inspiring, and ends up speaking to viewers in a way that only silent films can.

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Must-Sees: July 2011

Sometimes we see movies that we wish that we could tell the whole world about.  Well, these are five such films that I think are all gems.  I suggest that you make it a point to see these by the end of the month since they are all completely worth your time.  Picnic at Hanging Rock and Black Narcissus are available for instant streaming on Netflix and Buried is probably offered in your local Redbox.

La Jetee (1962)

La Jetee or The Pier is said to be the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s time-traveling sci-fi, 12 Monkeys.  It is a heart-pounding short film of about thirty minutes that will only show the core of its brilliance in the final seconds.  The rest of the movie incorporates sound effects in a frightening, fantastic way.  Those who love classic sci-fi and/or great surprise endings will enjoy Chris Marker’s masterpiece to the full.  La Jetee is a must-see for every film enthusiast.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

What appears on the surface as another chick flick about a girls boarding school soon becomes a rather ominous thriller.  So ominous that it establishes a rare, supernatural feeling that is hard to come by even in many sci-fi and horror films.  Weir and company have created something beautiful with scenic photography and seductive elegance.  Its innocence is marvelously disturbed by haunting danger.  The music is also a large part in the experience, building suspense and expressing the desires of its characters.  Hanging Rock is just too delightfully eerie to miss out on.

Buried (2010)

If Alfred Hitchcock was alive today, this is the type of films he’d be making.  It’s thrilling and intense, full of eye-opening suspense, and while boasting an incredible amount of varying camera angles.  The whole picture takes place underground in the coffin in which an innocent truck driver (Ryan Reynolds) is buried with nothing more than a phone and a lighter.  Reynolds is excellent in this darkly claustrophobic thriller.  Though it is contained in a very limited space, this film is intriguing and never boring for one second.

Black Narcissus (1947)

Black Narcissus is a picture of enchanting beauty and innocence disrupted by evil temptations.  It’s the story of five nuns struggling to keep their vows in the midst of servitude in the Himalayan mountains.  Excellent filmmaking is combined with director Michael Powell’s masterful cast.  Scenic beauty is captured in one of the most intoxicating ways in the history of film.  Deborah Kerr is superb in this colorful classic.

Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)

I would argue that this film contains Richard Dreyfuss’ finest performance to date.  His character is an inspired musician who fills his free time with composing… until he becomes the new music teacher at the local high school.  This one might be most special to me because my mother is also a high school music teacher.  Nonetheless, Mr. Holland’s Opus blends humor, great acting, and an unforgettably touching finale to create wonderful entertainment.