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.

Film Review: The Trial (1962)

Without any flashy effects, The Trial remains the most realistic depiction of a dream that I have ever seen.  If, that is, that Orson Welles meant it to be so.  Although it is not pertaining to the central conflict of the narrative, I constantly juggled the ideas that I had relating to how the film should be received. If it is supposed to have any  applications to everyday life, I must have missed them.

But it is very easy to see how I was fascinated.  The film begins with a short fable narrated by Welles.  The tale is one told by the inhabitants of the world that we are about to visit.  Once we get there, the intrigue from the very beginning carries over to our introduction to Joseph K., played by Anthony Perkins.  The scene begins with Joseph lying alone in his bed.  In any other movie, this would be insignificant, but does Welles mean it as a hint?  Could he have warned us from the start that it is all just a dream?  Dream or not, Joseph never considers the question.  This is real life to him.

We are then gripped by the revealing of a visitor in the bedroom: an inspector whose purpose is to arrest Joseph for an unnamed crime.  It all seems perfectly normal up to that point, but as we see Joseph’s workplace, his friends, and his accusers, his world begins to seem reflective of our dreams…or nightmares.

There is a scene with a wooden shack sitting at the top of a spiral staircase within a brightly lit building.  The police inspector steals Joseph’s clothes.  A man enters a doorway and later exits to discover that the door is now twice as big.  It is really very incredible that The Trial can appear so nonsensical, resembling the films of Bunuel and Lynch, yet still keep a firm grasp on our attention and emotions.

Rating: 5/5