Even More of My Favorite Movies (That You’ve Never Seen)Posted: March 18, 2013
Continuing on a recent theme, I’ve come up with yet another batch of movies that just don’t seem to have the recognition I feel they deserve. Rather than focus on just one genre this time, I thought I’d spread it out a bit with some fantasy, some comedy, and some… well, there’s one that I’m not sure what genre to call it. I’ll let you decide.
Excalibur (1981) – Let’s be clear about one thing: I had a professor in college who was an Arthurian scholar. If she had any idea I was recommending this movie to ANYONE, she would slap me with a copy of the Morte d’Arthur. This film has so many historical and literary inaccuracies it wouldn’t know what accuracy was if you hit it in the face with a tuna carved out of the stuff. But I love it anyway. The acting is sharp, the settings are lush, and the music is perfect. They paid so much attention to detail I have to believe they basically decided going in that there was a certain story they wanted to tell, and they weren’t going to let trivial things like “facts” get in the way. You have to admire that kind of chutzpah. Arthur is kind of a putz, but it works because he’s Arthur, and we’ve been led to believe by modern culture that’s what Arthur is supposed to be (see my point about literary accuracy above). Merlin is far and away the best part of this film and well worth watching for all by himself, and the entire affair (quite literally) between Lancelot and Guinevere is handled marvelously, enhancing without overshadowing the plot, as is the quest for the Grail, and Morgan le Fey and Mordred are incorporated in fascinating if (again) historically inaccurate ways. If nothing else they deserve an award for best use of “O Fortuna” from Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in a film.
Highlander (1986) – Anyone who knows me should see this as no surprise, and frankly the idea that there’s more than three people on Earth who haven’t seen this movie both shocks and offends me. Granted, the movie is older than some full grown adults, but that’s no excuse. I’ve seen Citizen Kane (and it wasn’t as good, in MNSHO). Ah, well. This is a fantastic fantasy/sci-fi adventure of immortals born throughout different times on Earth, destined to fight each other until only one remains.
I actually sat here for five minutes trying to come up with a better plot summary to explain why this cult classic has remained popular for so long and launched a hit TV series as well (please, if you love your own eyes, DO NOT WATCH THE SEQUELS), but I can’t. It’s just one of those things that’s better than it sounds. The location work outside of the city is actually quite beautiful, and the sound work on the film is great. The cinematography is top notch, and they do a great job playing with the idea of what immortality really means, both the good and the bad. The special effects are kind of dated, but the acting is still pretty good, and hey, Sean Connery. The entire soundtrack was done by Queen, so it has that as a bonus as well. Just watch it. Trust me on this one. It has a lot going for it.
The Crow (1994) – There was a time in my life where if you hadn’t seen this movie, I didn’t want to know you. Of course, there was also a time in my life where I dressed all in black, smoked clove cigarettes, and listened to The Cure a lot. These times may or may not have overlapped. This should not in any way reflect on the quality of this movie. It’s not exactly an easy one to place; it’s starts with a brutal murder of a man and his fiancée by a vicious gang of criminals. He then comes back as a revenant to seek revenge against the people responsible. I know this sounds like a horror flick, and I’m not trying to soft-sell the violence, because there’s plenty to be had (Brandon Lee actually died in an accident filming this movie). But there’s a lot more going on here, both in terms of the emotional depth of the relationships between the characters and the acting (Michael Wincott in particular gives a stellar performance as Top Dollar). There’s a lot of ugliness and beauty, violence and pain, and in the end, a small amount of peace in this film. It’s a tall order for such a short running time, and not one I would recommend for a “rom com” kind of night, but if you want something different, check it out.
Better Off Dead (1985) – Who says I don’t love a good romantic comedy? Okay, so this isn’t exactly a typical rom com, but it is possibly the best John Cusack movie ever made (with the possible exception of Grosse Pointe Blank). Stocked with a series of over-the-top characters that are more caricatures than fully realized (or even two-dimensional and trying) representations, the this slightly black (more grey, really) comedy manages to combine the essence of teen romance film and screwball comedy into a breezy, fast-paced romp that doesn’t slow down long enough to take itself seriously. There are a few points where the jokes drag (I’ve watched it at least a hundred times and I still don’t get the bit with the animated burger), but overall the gags manage to carry it through. While there are plenty of snappy one-liners, what keeps me coming back every time are the running jokes, like the psychotic newspaper boy, Lane’s mother’s cooking, and of course his botched (and never serious) suicide attempts. If it sounds weird, well, it is. If it sounds sick, yeah, that too. But man, is it funny.