Friday, April 22, 2016

100 Must-See Films! – Queens?

Let me be perfectly clear: I am dreadfully tentative and apologetic for using the term Queens as a substanceless introduction to today’s theme. It is really a challenge to divide a compulsory body of material into twenty-six chapters with a heading for each, in perfect adherence to the alphabet. Of the two transcendent  films below and four honourable mentions, only the two primary casts might embrace the term queen. To the others: Please please forgive! The only consistent theme here is transgenderism of which there are many distinct types. But “T” was critically required for another chapter!

New Day Rising

64. The Birdcage (1996, USA)
Robin Wiliams, Nathan Lane, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Dianne Wiest, Gene Hackman

This is my favorite straight-up comedy film not made by Monty Python. And it’s almost enough of a slapstick farce to qualify for Python except just grounded enough to stay plausible while also kind of sweet! Personally I find this American remake of the 1978 film La Cage aux Folles (itself adapted from the stage) much improved; about one hundred times funnier. It’s clear that director Nichols was wise to know when to turn Williams loose and when to reign him in!

Nathan Lane in the supporting role created one of the most memorable characters ever. His every moment on screen was a delight. Hank Azaria and Dianne Wiest also knocked their roles out of the park. And of course the late Robin Williams was never less than brilliant.

The film was uniformly praised by mainstream critics and gay organizations. I’ve probably seen it close to ten times and still howl out loud with great frequency. Wonderful stuff.

Writers: Jean Poiret (La Cage aux Folles), Francis Veber (Dinner for Schmucks), Elaine May (Primary Colors)
Director: Mike Nichols (The Graduate)
Budget: $31,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.0

65. The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994 Australia)
Hugo Weaving, Terrence Stamp, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter, Sarah Chadwick

How does Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Lord of the Rings) manage to find his way into three of the most special film enterprises ever; three of the closest to my heart; all of them high on this April list, plus a few more flicks that almost made it onto the list? He’s a magnet for genius!

This is a huge movie: authentic adventure, layers of tensions, reams of falling-down laughter, wrenching emotions, courageous insight, a surprisingly touching story-line and some of the most invigorating music ever! It was a landmark accomplishment for the Australian film industry and gets name-checked among the favorite movies ever among more of my friends than I can count. And it took the Oscar for costume design.

Writer/Director: Stephen Elliott (Easy Virtue)
Budget: $2,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.5

Short List:
All Men are Liars (1995, Australia) Toni Pearen, David Price, John Jarratt
Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985, Brazil/USA) William Hurt, Raul Julia, Sonia Braga
Tootsie (1982, USA) Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray
Transamerica (2005, USA) Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Fionnula Flanagan

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