Friday, April 22, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Road Trip!

Okay, I’m two days behind but determined to catch up by Sunday! I’ll be trying to keep it short.

I love road trip stories. Such an excellent tool for throwing characters into whatever environment they require along their journey, that they might learn something about the world, and more significantly, about themselves. Here we catch heroes at pivotal moments of their own lives; their greater journeys, with the opportunity to grow.

66. Sideways (2004, USA/Hungary)
Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh

Everyone raves about this best-pal California wine tour movie and it can be hard to know why. It seems like such a simple affair. But there is something really magical in a subtle, witty, down-to-earth  comedy that is really genuinely funny while remaining genuine in every other way. It reflects our most common dealings with friendships and intimate relationships in a way that is penetrating but ultimately a celebration. Sandra Oh is gorgeous with a spot-on performance and Paul Giamatti is dynamite as the struggling everyman with fears and insecurities we have all known too well.

Very special and re-watchable. Deliciously funny and the perfect movie to watch with five friends and twelve bottles of wine. Yes, if you’d like to know how to host an Official Interactive Sideways Night at your own home, I am the original architect! just shoot me a message, and plan on a lot of sleeping bags!

Dozens of accolades include nominations for five Oscars including best picture. It won for best adapted screenplay. Ebert called it “the best human comedy of the year.”

Writers: Rex Pickett (the novel), Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (Jurassic Park III) 
Director: Alexander Payne (About Schmidt)
Budget: $12,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.6

67. As Good as it Gets (1997, USA)
Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr.

Master actor Jack Nicholson was born to portray every possible variety of off-balanced character. This role required a softer touch than usual and Nicholson responds with subtlety, taking the Oscar for lead male. Hunt took the counterpart Oscar and Kinnear’s supporting role was one of five additional nominations for the film. Hunt and Nicholson also won the matching Screen Actors Guild awards which I personally consider of more integrity and substance than the Acadamy Awards.

Of course these performances could not have reached this apex without the sensitive writing and brilliant arsenal of laugh-out-loud one-liners provided by writer Mark Andrus.

Struggle, redemption and an excellent lesson in the joy that can be had while living within our limitations. Sweet, endearing and damn funny!

Writer: Mark Andrus (Life as a House)
Director: James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment)
Budget: $50,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.7

68. Goonies (1985, USA)
Sean Astin, Jeff Cohen, Josh Brolin, Martha Plimpton, Kerri Green, Corey Feldman, Jonathan Ke Quan

I’m not sure any actual roads appeared in this movie but it strikes me as having that sort of adventurous plot structure.

The magic here is in the style which is one that mesmerises me: from the film’s beginning to end it is a frenetic  jumble of conversation which miraculously pours out smoothly. It’s like every character is lit up and  naturally bursting out without queues and yet somehow not tripping over one other. It appears as meticulously aligned, inexplicably genius acting across a wide group of actors, yet how could such a jackpot occur? And among children no less! This is so rare to see and I can only assume the genius lies in the script (adapted by Chris Columbus from a Spielberg story) and in some brilliant director’s process which I cannot imagine! and still requiring a set of actors all running at top form. Even though it is supposedly just a kids movie, I am in awe of that accomplishment.

Pure magic for the kid in all of us!  

A sometimes-possible-sometimes-probable sequel exploration has been bantered about for what seems like forever. Astin has been quoted saying, “It’s definitely going to happen!” but I really have my doubts. Too much time has passed which only snowballs the difficulties, and I doubt it would garner a budget suitable to such aspirations as would naturally arise out of the surprise success of the original.

Perhaps some magic is just not meant to be worn thin.  

Writers: Steven Spielberg (Poltergeist), Chris Columbus (Gremlins)
Director: Richard Donner (The Omen)
Budget: $19,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.8

69. Rain Man (1988, USA)
Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino

I can think of no better performances in the careers of either of these actors: Here Cruise and Hoffman portray such warmth and pain and persistence in this conflict of priorities. It is a testament to the power of love and the gravitational pull of family; a finally crafted emotional ride on the path of self-discovery, intentional or accidental. Hoffman and the film ran rampant over the Oscars and two dozen other award enterprises.

Always a special experience to watch this every five years or so. Kleenex alert!

Writers: Barry Morrow (Bill), Ronald Bass (Snow Falling on Cedars)
Director: Barry Levinson (Good Morning Vietnam)
Budget: $25,000,000
IMDB rating: 8.0

Short List
The Hangover (2009, USA/Germany ) Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha

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