Friday, January 7, 2011

Worth Mentioning - Sure Did See Ya

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.


This week, Cody features Two-Lane Blacktop and recommends a handful of others, while Jay focuses on two emotionally engaging documentaries...



TWO-LANE BLACKTOP (1971)

Monte Hellman's road tripping film follows two young men - played by musicians James Taylor and Beach Boy Dennis Wilson - as they drive cross country in their '55 Chevy, living off drag race winnings. After stopping at a diner, they find a female hitchhiker has gotten into their car and immediately accept her presence, driving off without a word. They never say too much, the dialogue is sparse and we never learn any personal details about the characters. We know them only as The Driver, The Mechanic, and The Girl.

Along the way, they encounter the great Warren Oates, identified only by the kind of car he drives - G.T.O. He's proud of his car and his cassette tape collection, but appears paranoid and insecure beyond that. Though he's the character who talks the most, he may be the most mysterious. He picks up every hitchhiker he comes across just so he can tell them tales, passing off other people's stories as his own. G.T.O. challenges the Chevy trio to a race to Washington, D.C. for pink slips and they continue on down the road. The further they go, the more inconsequential the race gets.

It features fast cars, but it's a laid back, leisurely film. I loved the look and tone of it. The combination of cheap 70s film stock and wide open country locations, it warms my heart. That's what life should look like. The characters make their way through an America that was simpler and dirtier, pre-interstate roads and mom & pop businesses. I used to have daydreams like this.

Coincidentally, I watched another Monte Hellman/Warren Oates movie this week,

CHINA 9, LIBERTY 37 (1978)

A Western (the title comes from a Texas road sign) in which Italian beefcake Fabio Testi plays a criminal who's saved from hanging when he agrees to kill a miner (Oates) so a railroad company can take over his property. He doesn't go through with the killing, but things get complicated when the miner's wife, played by Jenny Agutter, falls for him. Chases ensue and bullets fly, but I especially recommend this movie to fans of the lovely Miss Agutter. You will understand why within the first 10 minutes.


THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS (2003)

A documentary that presents an experiment in filmmaking as Lars von Trier challenges Jorgen Leth to remake his 1967 short The Perfect Human five times, each time with a different set of rules. It's interesting to watch how Leth deals with the various obstructions (which vary from filming locations and frame length to making an animated version) and to see the different ways the short turns out each time.

AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE (2010)

Robert Forster narrates this look at exploitation cinema and how it evolved through the years. From scantily clad women in Edison films at the turn of the 20th century to the grindhouse/drive-in films of the 60s/70s and the various sub-genres, this documentary has it covered. Worth a look, especially if you're into the independent and the oddball.

NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1980)

Speaking of oddball. This hard to find Bigfoot pseudo-slasher earns a mention through its large dose of insanity. A flashbacks-within-flashback structure, cultists, castration, and a woods-dwelling woman whose story takes an unexpected turn. Dread Central has a good retrospective article about the film. Unfortunately, the existing DVD is low quality and rare, and goes for prices that I don't recommend anyone pay. For any movie. Code Red is supposed to be putting out a proper DVD release later in 2011.


Jay's Picks:

First off, I hope you like documentaries, because I love them, and thanks to Netflix Instant Viewing I have been able to get my hands on tons of documentaries that I'd normally never feel like checking out if it meant waiting around for the disc to arrive or making the effort to seek them out at the local video store.

Here is the rundown on two of my new favorites:



MY FLESH AND BLOOD (2003)

A Sundance Award Winner, this inspiring documentary was directed by Jonathan Karsh and focuses on a year in the life of Susan Tom. Mrs. Tom is a single mother, with eleven children, and if having eleven children isn't hard enough, they are all adopted and each has a special need.

This documentary can be extremely difficult to watch at times as some of the children's stories will undoubtedly tug at your heart strings. This film really covers the full spectrum of emotions from start to finish, but is definitely an eye opening look at an amazing woman who is doing a very special thing. The strength and positive outlook that these kids carry with them is nothing less than mind blowing when I take a look at how I deal with some of the obstacles in my own life. One of the kids, Joe, has a much harder time dealing with his situation than some of the others and his segments are the hardest to watch. It's definitely worth a view if you think you can handle the emotional aspects.

Trailer
Availability: Netflix Instant View or Amazon.com


THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT (2006)

The story of a black man from North Carolina who was convicted for the rape and murder of a young journalist in 1984. Twenty years later he was freed and released thanks to the use of DNA testing.

I was running out of instant view documentaries to watch so I got this one on disc. I'm glad I did because it was more than worth my time. I give major credit to the directors, Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, for putting this story together so well, and for investing so much time to make sure it was told properly.

If you want a good look into the flaws of our judicial system then look no further than this. At the same time, it's also a spectacular look into the strength of Darryl Hunt and those around him. Not only does Darryl himself continue fighting for his freedom, but his original defense attorneys stick with him as well. This one can also be hard to watch at times, with the overflow of injustice going on, but knowing going in that all will eventually be set right definitely helps ease the feel of those emotions. I strongly recommend a viewing of this film.

Available: Netflix On Disc, Amazon.com

No comments:

Post a Comment