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5 Reasons Why “Wild At Heart” Is The Most Subversive David Lynch Movie Ever

In May 2020 we celebrated the 30th anniversary of David Lynch’s film “Wild at Heart.” It was initially released in 1990 to mixed reviews. There were group walkouts in the first few screenings and there are stories of people heckling the movie at Cannes, even though it ended up winning the Palme d’Or. At the time of its release, Lynch was slowly beginning to build his reputation as an auteur. “Blue Velvet,” however divisive, showcased that Lynch had a fresh voice paving a new path for independent American cinema. It’s easy to consider David Lynch as an iconic director right now, but even though some critics hailed “Blue Velvet” to be one of the best films of the decade, others (Roger Ebert among them) were having trouble adjusting to Lynch’s cinema.

Ebert called the film “repulsive” and “manipulative,” a film hiding behind a “copout of parody,” but that’s the very reason why “Wild at Heart” is an interesting case. “Blue Velvet,” however satirical and ironic, had a certain sincerity at its core (a certain ‘magical realism’ if you will) while “Wild at Heart” did away with the sincerity and built its fundamentals entirely on artifice. It’s important to consider that this is a re-visiting of the film, 30 years after its release. The film has a much different meaning now than it had at its release date.

All intended meanings set aside, apparent superficial meanings are equally valid subjects for criticism, so consider this list a mixture of “intent” and “extent,” a merging of the profound, the artificial, and the superficial to criticize a piece of film that has a deeper relationship to American cinema and the American psyche than it does to life. “Wild at Heart” is not a representation of American life – it’s a representation of a representation of the American psyche.

David Lynch has produced many films worthy of a deep-dive, almost all of which are more critically acclaimed and more successful than “Wild at Heart,” but seldom has a David Lynch film made such bold, subversive statements. Before “Wild at Heart,” Lynch’s films were obscene and explicit, but they still had a certain nuance to their expression. With “Wild at Heart,” Lynch throws away all nuance and bares his cinema for the audience. Through the exploration of several aspects of this film, this list will explore five reasons why “Wild at Heart” makes Lynch’s most subversive work to date.

This list contains numerous spoilers.

 

1. Nicolas Cage: An American Emblem of Individualism

By 1990, Nicolas Cage had a mixed bag of performances on his resume. He had charmed audiences in both “Moonstruck” and “Raising Arizona,” but he was still a new face on a long road to stardom. With his machismo and eccentric acting sensibility, he was beginning to attract odd characters and strange roles disguised as cookie-cutter Hollywood roles.

Watching Cage on the big screen in 1990 must have had a completely different meaning to the audience than it does now. Cage’s performance as Sailor delivers a whole new message to audiences in 2020. In 1990 he may have been overlooked or underestimated, but in 2020 his performance as Sailor is one of the first pivotal “Nicolas Cage” moments. There are devout Nicolas Cage fans who organize large screenings of his movies just to watch him deliver his lines in his signature bombastic and highly stylized manner, and when they do so, they do not watch his Oscar-winning performance in “Leaving Las Vegas” or his Oscar-nominated performance in “Adaptation.” They instead watch “Vampire’s Kiss” or “Wild at Heart” to witness the genius of a truly unique American actor.

It seems acting under David Lynch provided the much-needed free reign for him to experiment with his acting style. Sailor’s character may be one of the absolute most ridiculous and over-the-top characters in the history of American cinema; however, there is an unwavering sincerity behind his artificial acting. The film begins with a knife fight where Sailor kills his assailant, after which Cage turns toward the screen, panting. There is a cigarette in his mouth, and with a single finger raised he stares at Marietta (Diane Ladd) with the most uncomfortably unnatural expression. This scene perfectly showcases what Ethan Hawke once said about Cage in 2013, that Cage has “taken us away from an obsession with naturalism.”

Cage may have done away with naturalism, but his exaggerated performances have opened the door for a new sincerity that has laid bare all absurdity of acting. Sailor may not be “natural,” but he is infinitely more flexible and believable as a person than most naturally-acted characters. Sailor is a caricature of the freedom-seeking American hero, but as with all caricatures, the exaggeration is the message.

 

2. Music as Cultural Compartmentalization

David Lynch has always had a love affair with music and musicians. His use of music is deliberate and calculated, and he frequently uses musicians as actors. With “Wild at Heart,” Lynch takes his cultural knowledge of music a step further.

The music is highly codified in “Wild at Heart.” When Lynch wants to make a cultural statement, he first lures the audience in with codified music. His encyclopedic musical knowledge of American subcultures and countercultures is at its peak in this film, something that American filmmakers like Tarantino started using satirically soon after.

Throughout the first half of the movie, violence and sex is often punctuated by Powermad’s “Slaughterhouse” that pretty much acts as the film’s theme for the first half. Peppered throughout the film are scenes of Nicolas Cage lashing out at simple events surrounding him, and every time, his violent outbursts are cued with a few power chords from Powermad. Lynch wants us to connect the violence to the music and attribute it to the supposed violence inherent in heavy metal music. However, through the blatant portrayal of such violent outbursts and sexual content with metal music, he is in no way trying to perpetuate the stereotype, but instead highlighting its opposition to the musical status quo, which in the film is chosen to be Elvis Presley’s seductive crooning.

Throughout the film, Elvis (though entirely unnamed) and his dreamlike serenades of young women seems to be portrayed as the ideal faithful young man who will go to any length to stand by his woman. The irony is that in this rock and roll/metal dichotomy, Lynch pits the counterculture of two generations against one another. Elvis Presley, a man who represented rock and roll and was criticized for the dangerous counterculture that he brought to the American youth during his prime, has now been peacefully assimilated to the American status quo, and is now an American ideal against the new counterculture posing a danger to the American ideal. And the musical tension throughout the film seems to be between the dangerous, rebellious heavy metal counterculture, and the now revered and idealized rock and roll.

 

3. Sailor and Lula: The Art of Adaptation

The screenplay for “Wild at Heart” was written by David Lynch, an adaptation of Barry Gifford’s pulp novel of the same name. The film adaptation is mostly faithful to the source novel; however, the small tweaks are what gives the film its Lynchian atmosphere.

What the film introduces is the metal music, the Elvis Presley songs, the Wizard of Oz references, and the entirety of the ending. The film starts with startling fidelity to the novel; the first 40 pages of the novel are acted out pretty much line by line, but as the film approaches the one-hour mark, the big changes begin.

The first hour revolves around the mystery of a house fire caused by Lula’s (Laura Dern) father years ago. The audience is led to believe that the story is driven toward a natural unveiling of that mystery, but as the characters unfold the mystery of the fire (not once, but three times with varying degrees of subtlety), there is an immediate shift in the tone of the film. Lynch narratively leads us with plot lines from the book, but simultaneously raises a big middle finger toward the story and slowly convinces us the film is about something entirely different.

That something else seems to be the eerie violent idealism of the American dream. Another minor tweak from Lynch’s part is when Sailor is narrating a past sexual experience. Everything is the exact same as the book, except the simple addition of assault rifles scattered on the bed where the woman is offering herself. Sailor’s sex story is a huge turn-on for Lula, who even repeats some of the sentences the seduced woman was speaking to Sailor in the flashback. This scene of pure wish fulfilment is further affirmed by Lula’s response and shows that Lynch has added the assault rifles to the mise-en-scene as a caricature of the violence in Pulp Americana.

The most significant addition, however, is the Wizard of Oz storyline, which deserves its own header.

 

4. The Wizard of Oz: The Puritanical Morality of American Suburbia

Glinda, the Good Witch from Wild at Heart

Of David Lynch’s additions to the original source story of “Wild at Heart,” none is as consequential to the movie’s ideology than the Wizard of Oz storyline. In the very beginning minutes of the film when Sailor gets incarcerated, the prison cell is depicted in a crystal ball, an image that may leave the audience to ponder before the Wizard of Oz storyline further develops.

Throughout the film, many discussions about the nature of good and evil receive a response that alludes to the Wizard of Oz as an ultimate reference for morality. When Lula speaks of her cousin Dell, whose severe mental illness caused much distress for the family, Sailor responds by saying, “Too bad he couldn’t visit that Wizard of Oz and get some good advice.”

The moral navigation through Wizard of Oz anecdotes (including the film’s depiction of Diane Ladd’s character as Wicked Witch of the East), seem to be trivial and superficial for the majority of the movie. However, it’s the ending that raises the importance of the Wizard of Oz in the film’s narrative.

Toward the end of the film, Sailor gets released from jail a second time and meets with Lula and his son; the whole scene plays out with maximum fidelity to the book, down to every line of dialogue. However, the book ends with Sailor bidding farewell to Lula and his son, walking away. In the film we continue to follow Sailor to a back alley where he is cornered by a comically multi-racial street gang who beat him up after Sailor calls them a slur. After Sailor is beaten to the ground, he has a vision of the Good Witch who convinces him to go back to Lula and take a chance on love. He gets up, apologizes to the street gang, and goes back to reunite with his love.

The Wizard of Oz acts as a spiritual divining rod leading to the picturesque happy ending where Sailor sings Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” and serenades her love with a backdrop of shining sun, like a Spaghetti Western’s emblem of “happily ever after.”

 

5. Be-Bop-a-Lula: The Death of Nuance

Bobby Peru

Most major critics of David Lynch have attacked his tongue-in-cheek, crude filmmaking, and “Wild at Heart” is pretty much the peak of Lynch’s crude filmmaking. It’s as if Lynch has done away with all subtext and employed all text instead.

When Sailor is released from prison, Lula brings him his snakeskin jacket (hilariously belonging to Nicolas Cage himself) and Sailor responds, “Did I ever tell ya that this here jacket represents a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom?” We don’t have to wait for the narrative to tell us what Sailor represents; we are spoon fed what Sailor represents in the first 10 minutes of the film, so the audience can stop guessing and pay deeper attention. It’s a deadly seduction from both Cage and Lynch’s side. Where most filmmakers bluff, Lynch reveals his cards from the beginning, or so it seems.

Lynch seems to have a profound distaste for subtext, so he often complicates things by explicitly cutting out the middleman to give voice to certain mental connections that are often made subconsciously. There are far too many examples of literal exposition, as if the film is being pitched in an executive’s meeting. While Farragut drives to New Orleans, a voice on his radio station sings “baby please don’t go down to New Orleans,” which overshadows the dark fate that awaits him there. When Marietta confronts Sailor in the bathroom, she calls him a piece of shit, and the camera quickly cuts to a toilet.

One time, during one of the film’s sex scenes, the music changes from Powermad to “Be-Bop-A-Lula she’s my baby”; and last but not least, at the time of Sailor’s confession about being involved in the mysterious house fire, Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” plays, and at the moment when the song is bound to start saying “world was on fire, no one could save me but you,” Sailor confesses to being involved in the house fire and receives support from Lula nonetheless.

The film is peppered with crude scenes; but in its crudeness is where “Wild at Heart” dissects the underlying logic of the American psyche. Lynch shows you the connections that the audience would have made if given the chance, and leaves them to question why such seemingly disconnected ideologies, subcultures, and imagery are connected. “Wild at Heart” existentially unravels the mental schemata set in place by the prevalent culture of America, and makes the audience question how they arrived at such conclusions.

In the end, there seems to be a reason behind the harshness and unpalatability of “Wild at Heart.” If it seems “manipulative” and “repulsive,” that’s because it is. If it is hard to watch, it’s because it wants to be. “Wild at Heart” is a great cultural product that informs through the discomfort that it imposes on its viewer. It is David Lynch at his most satirical and subversive.

10 Great Thriller Movies You May Have Never Seen

A thriller is a film made to excite. A thriller wants to elicit responses like surprise, suspense and anxiety. The genre therefore relies on the experiential part of films. A good thriller creates an intense experience for the watcher, it must leave them on the edge of their seat. To do this filmmakers have come up with countless ways to trick the viewer into excitement, even though they are merely sitting in a safe chair in the cinema or at home.

To create tension and excitement a filmmaker has a number of tools at their disposal. It helps that film has since its inception been used to entice excitement into the viewer. A filmmaker can create a story like a puzzle, each piece reveals more and chances the film and its characters. Or a filmmaker can put their characters in tense situations; create use the audio-visual experience of film to put the viewer in the action happening on screen. Examples of all of these will be found in this list.

The goal here was to put together classic thrillers that for some reason are ‘underwatched’ nowadays. Furthermore, care was taken to put together a diverse group of thrillers, with different themes, approaches to filmmaking and from different countries and times. Avid film fans will definitely recognise a number of directors whose features are named on this list. Here are the greatest thriller classics you’ve probably never seen.

 

10. Blow-up (1966)

Blow-up (1966)

‘Blow-up’ is a thriller by the hands of Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni. It follows Thomas (David Hemmings) a photographer who seems to find something nefarious in the back of one of the pictures he took. The film takes a while to get going, and Antonioni meanders through its plot to establish Thomas’ view of the world. How things look from his perspective as a person (and a photographer), which is important for figuring out the puzzle that is ‘Blow-up’.

‘Blow-up’ is carried partly by David Hemmings’ strong central performance as the stand-offish Thomas, who gets obsessed by the images he took. Likely the best sequence of the film is in the middle is where he endlessly edits and waits to develop new photographs, looking for the tiniest details based on just a hunch. ‘Blow-up’ is not a film for those that get easily frustrated, it seems less concerned with what really happened than it is with what the personal interpretation of the watcher is. That makes it at times a hard film, but definitely also an interesting challenge of a thriller.

 

9. Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Elevator to the Gallows

‘Elevator to the Gallows’ by Louis Malle (Au Revoir les Enfants) is one of the first ‘French New-Wave’ films; a roughly defined film movement characterised by a freer view of film and audio-visual inventiveness. It produced such films as ‘Breathless’, ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’, or ‘The 400 Blows’. ‘Elevator to the Gallows’ opens explosively with a few heavy jump-cuts making a potential boring telephone scene spring to life. The whole film is filled with cool audio-visual tricks to deliver a movie experience.

‘Elevator to the Gallows’ follows a Julien (Maurice Ronet) who murders his boss, whose wife Florence (Jeanne Moreau) he has an affair with. It is a stylish thriller sliding through a strange plot. Many of the scenes are visual gems, like the interrogation scene with its characters appearing and disappearing from darkness, and even scenes of Florence walking through the dark city are beautiful. Add to that a jazz soundtrack by Miles Davis and you have a cool stylish thriller.

 

8. The Fourth Man (1983)

The Fourth Man

Last Dutch film director Paul Verhoeven made before his departure abroad. It would be the closest Verhoeven would ever come to art-house until he made ‘Elle’ in 2016. This gloomy, stylish thriller follows Gerard Reve (Jeroen Krabbé), a writer, who gives a reading of his work in a town and becomes obsessed with a local woman. He begins to get visions of his own demise related to this mysterious temptress Christine (played wonderfully by Renée Soutendijk).

‘The Fourth Man’ is based on a book by Gerard Reve an established writer in his own country and a person who does not shy away dark sides of sexuality. The main character, his namesake, is something of a pervert, and the whole movie has an uncomfortable sexual tension going on. Gradually the mystery of Christine’s past becomes more clear, and the fate of Gerard darker. One of those film experiences that just leaves you feeling exhausted and somewhat violated. But for a dark, sexual thriller that is not a bad thing.

 

7. Benny’s Video (1992)

When hearing the name Michael Haneke you know it is going to be a rough ride. The director has such films as ‘The White Ribbon’, ‘Amour’ or ‘Funny Games’ to his name, and is notorious for his bleak view of humanity. ‘Benny’s Video’ is no different in that regard. It follows the teenager Benny, obsessed with films who one day films a crime of his own.

‘Benny’s Video’ is a dark, dark thriller. It is also quite unconventional. There is not really an antagonist in the film. Much of the tension comes from the unnatural situation the characters find themselves in. In the second part of the film there is a vacation that becomes hard to watch because the characters have such a different view of what went on before. That discrepancy delivers considerable tension, and is frustrating and heart-breaking. In short: ‘Benny’s Video’ is another misanthropic masterpiece by director Michael Haneke. Not the type of fun thriller you watch after a long day of work to unwind, but one you watch to delve into the depths of human misery.

 

6. House of Games (1987)

David Mamet is probably best known for his screenwriting (the Untouchables) but his directorial efforts are nothing to sniff at. ‘House of Games’ is the best one. Psychiatrist Margaret Ford (Lindsay Crouse) wants to help a compulsive gambler but is dragged into a bizarre world of con men and dark games, which proves attractive to her.

‘House of Games’ is a relentless thriller, following who is really playing the game on whom becomes harder and harder while the film becomes more complicated. The film in that sense is almost like a puzzle that finally fits in the end. It is also compelling as a viewer to get sucked into the strange world director Mamet paints, with its endless small cons and games. Fun thriller.

The 10 Best A24 Horror Movies

A24 is the studio that revived the American independent cinema and, apart from producing many of the best-received dramas of the last few years, it has also been behind some of the staples of modern horror cinema. Every time A24’s name is attached to a new horror movie we are filled with eagerness, and this is nothing but a testament to the high-standards the production company has made up for itself.

If you are a fan of horror movies, you’ve probably already seen most of the titles on this list, but if you’re new to the genre, this selection of films, especially the top five titles, is a great place to start. Let us know in the comments how you would rank A24’s horror films.

 

10. The Hole In The Ground (2019)

Lee Cronin’s debut feature-length film follows Sarah (Seána Kerslake), a mother who, after leaving her husband, moves to an isolated near-the-woods house in the Irish countryside and tries to start a new life along with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey). One night, Chris disappears into the forest and, when he returns, he starts acting increasingly stranger. Soon, Sarah links her son’s unusual behavior with a mysterious sinkhole in the forest.

This A24 horror film has its share of creepy moments, some beautiful cinematography, a great soundtrack and pretty solid performances from its cast. Unfortunately, its pacing problems and undeveloped story turn it into a middling experience. However, this is better than the average horror movie and you should still check it out if you’re a fan of the genre.

 

9. In Fabric (2018)

Directed by Peter Strickland (“Berberian Sound Studio”, “The Duke Of Burgundy”), “In Fabric” is a Giallo-inspired horror-comedy about a cursed dress and the devastating consequences it has on two of its unlucky owners.

This is another highly stylized, surrealistic and very original entry in Strickland’s catalogue and, while his films are certainly an acquired taste, if you are into Giallo or you’ve enjoyed the director’s previous work, you will surely find many things to like about “In Fabric”.

 

8. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

Directed by Oz Perkins (son of Anthony Perkins), “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” mostly takes place at a prep school, where two girls are left alone after their parents inexplicably don’t appear to take them home for the winter break. At the same time, the film follows a young woman who is desperate to arrive at the school for unknown reasons.

Oz Perkins’ directorial debut is not a flawless film, but it certainly has a lot to offer. Despite a simple plot, a somewhat abrupt ending, and some moments of mediocre acting, the film manages to create a really creepy atmosphere and doesn’t spoil it with cheap jump scares like so many bad horror movies.

Even more, the film makes great use of its soundtrack, which is perfectly balanced with moments of silence, which can sometimes be much more frightening than any loud and creepy music. The film’s narrative also caught our attention. The story unfolds in a very captivating way, using many timeline jumps, and this creates a state of confusion and mystery that only makes sense in the final act.

If you’re into atmospheric horror films, chances are you’ll love “The Blackcoat’s Daughter”.

 

7. Climax (2018)

Gapar Noe’s “Climax” starts with a television screen that shows a series of interviews with a group of dancers, then it takes us to an abandoned school, where an elaborately choreographed and nearly hypnotizing dancing scene commences. Not before long comes the realization that this is a film like no other you’ve seen before.

After the mesmerizing one-shot dancing scene, the group of dancers starts drinking sangria but soon they start feeling strange. Then comes the realization that their drink was spiked with LSD. From this point on, madness ensues and the film draws you in its claustrophobic, anxiety-inducing world which feels like a never-ending nightmare.

Disturbing, entertaining, dark, crazy, violent, provocative and stylish – these are some words that can describe Noé’s film, which is arguably his best work to date and one of the most demented films of the past decade.

 

6. It Comes At Night (2017)

“It Comes at Night” is the typical case of a wrongfully marketed film that didn’t really find its audience. Based on the trailers, “It Comes at Night” looked like a better-than-average horror film filled with jumpscares and grotesque imagery. In fact, the film turned out to be a slow burn that, while being atmospheric and having its share of spine-tingling moments, is really more of a psychological horror.

That being said, the film is great and paranoia-inducing. It features a family that lives secluded in a house near the forest after a contagious outbreak took over the world. Things get strange – and very tense – after a stranger asks for their help and seeks refuge for him and his family at their home.

“It Comes at Night” is a film about family and trust. In many ways, it’s like John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place,” but without the monsters and, despite the poor audience reaction, we consider it to be one of A24’s most underrated films.

10 Great Recent Crime Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

Joe Cooper in Killer Joe

The crime genre has existed since the earliest days of cinema, and it remains one of the most consistent genres to this day. Crime stories are ever-changing; there are stories that span countless time periods and perspectives, and can be anything from very small independent films to massive blockbusters. It’s hard to imagine just how many great films fall into that subgenre, including some of the most influential films in history.

In the past decade, many of the greatest directors have delivered modern crime masterpieces; films such as Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Denis Villenueve’s Sicario, or Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive all come to mind. However, there have also been many great films that didn’t receive major awards or accolades, but still deserve attention from cinephiles. Here are ten great recent crime movies you may have missed.

 

10. Blood Father (2016)

blood-father

Mel Gibson has been making a steady comeback over the past decade, having directed the highly acclaimed war epic Hacksaw Ridge, but he’s also been making a return to acting with films like The Beaver, Get the Gringo, and Dragged Across Concrete. With Blood Father, Gibson returns to his action roots with a self-reflexive and emotional role; he stars as John Link, an ex-con and recovering alcoholic who returns to the world of violence when his daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) is targeted by a gang of drug dealers.

While there are many familiar beats, Gibson delivers an astonishing performance; Link is the first to admit that he’s to blame for the way his life turned out, and while he doesn’t absolve Lydia for the choices she’s made, he’s willing to do anything to protect her. The action sequences are tense and gritty, lacking the polished edge of many Hollywood productions, and the set pieces are anchored by the emotional performances from Gibson and Moriarty.

 

9. Frontera (2014)

This highly underrated crime drama explored the complex border crisis by examining how many lives are transformed by a shocking moment of violence; when a woman, Olivia (Amy Madigan), is accidentally killed by two teenage boys near a small border town, an immigrant man, Miguel (Michael Pena) is unjustly accused of the crime. Olivia’s husband Roy (Ed Harris) desperately searches for the truth, all while a vigilante stokes further fear in their community.

What Frontera does excellently is show the madness that ensues when answers are unclear; after this shocking moment sends waves through a community, many are quick to make judgments and are eager to deal out their own form of justice. Ed Harris is one of the most reliable actors out there, and he gives a suitably gruff, non-nonsense performance that slowly unravels as Roy processes his grief.

 

8. Lawless (2012)

A rousing tribute to old school gangster and western films, Lawless is among the best recent films about the Prohibition era. The film follows three brothers who own a moonshine operation in the early 1930s; the non-nonsense Forrest (Tom Hardy), the wild Howard (Jason Clarke), and the naive Jack (Shia Labeouf) begin to fear for their future when the ruthless lawman Special Deputy Charley Rakes (Guy Pearce) begins to work towards closing their sting.

Although the film features incredible historical recreations and many exciting action sequences, the real reason to watch it is the performances; even smaller roles are inhabited by great actors, including Jessica Chastain as Forrest’s love interest, Gary Oldman as the ruthless mobster Floyd Banner, Dane DeHaan as the simple engineer Cricket, and Mia Wasikowska as a local girl whom Jack falls for. Hardy, Clarke, and Labeouf are believable as on-screen brothers and have great chemistry, but the real standout is Pearce, whose performance as a determined and potentially psychotic administrator of justice is impossible to look away from.

 

7. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Matthew McConaughey is unique among today’s leading men because he is both a great actor and a great movie star; not only can McConaughey deliver emotional, honest performances of complicated characters, but he also possesses an inherent charisma that makes him eminently watchable on screen. The Lincoln Lawyer is a film that requires McConaughey to demonstrate both of these skills. He plays Mickey Haller, a whip smart criminal defense attorney who goes through a moral crisis when he begins to question his client’s innocence.

Many of the courtroom scenes require McConaughey to utilize his slick personality, but the film explores the consequences that this persona takes on Mickey, as he begins to regret the reputation he has earned. In particular, there is a powerful scene in which Mickey is forced to confront his former client Jesus (Michael Pena), who was wrongfully jailed. The film does well in dealing with legal minutia, and delivers some effective twists in the third act as Mickey attempts to both clear his consciousness and win his case.

 

6. Just Mercy (2019)

Just Mercy is a rare film in that it is a crowd pleaser that doesn’t shy away from the severity of the situation it’s depicting. It’s a movie with a very clear message about the issues with the legal system regarding the death sentence, but the film doesn’t feel like it’s beating the audience over the head with its intent due to the empathetic performances at its center. Michael B. Jordan delivers one of his best performances ever as Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard law graduate who sets up an office in Alabama to defend men on death row.

Stevenson’s client is Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx), a family man who was convicted of murdering a woman in a highly televised news event. McMillan professes his innocence, but he’s skeptical that Stevenson will make any real change, as in front of any opportunity he has is a roadblock. The film does well at showing the infuriating process that Stevenson must go to in order to convince people to look for the truth, resulting in a timely and quite moving history lesson.

The 20 Best Comedy Movies of The 1980s

bill murray ghostbusters

Cinephiles look back fondly on the 1980s, and today it seems as if there is more nostalgia for the 80s than ever. A lot of this can be attributed to the generation of filmmakers who grew up in the 80s that are active now, but the truth is that it was just a remarkable decade for studio films. Right before the boom of independent films in the 1990s, studio comedies seemed a lot more thoughtful, creative, and original.

Many of the best comedies of the 80s were ones that took risks; a great comedy is more than just a collection of sight gags and sketches, but a well-crafted narrative filled with characters that leap off of the screen. In addition to the many breakout stars of 80s comedies, including Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Dan Akroyd, there were also many breakout filmmakers who worked within the genre. Here are the top twenty best comedies of the 1980s.

 

20. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Often dismissed today as nothing more than an amateur stoner comedy, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is quite novel in its approach; it’s a film that simplifies the course of human history in a way that is easily interpreted by its main characters. The satire isn’t particularly rich, but there’s joy in seeing some of the most memorable figures in human history interacting with these goofy protagonists, and Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter have a terrific tenderness to their adolescent antics.

Unabashedly silly and featuring a fantastic soundtrack, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure holds up better than a lot of its contemporaries; a sequel, 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, was surprisingly subversive, and the franchise will continue with the highly anticipated Bill & Ted Face the Music.

 

19. Risky Business

Risky Business (1983)

Although Tom Cruise had starred in films like Taps and The Outsiders previously, Risky Business was the film that announced him as the most exciting movie star of his time, a title he retains today. What a film Risky Business is; instead of collapsing under the tired tropes of most high school coming-of-age comedies, the film deconstructs privilege and suburban America with a razor sharp wit as Cruise’s character (the aptly named Joel Goodson) gets increasingly over his head after an encounter with a call girl.

Often remembered for its most iconic moments, specifically the iconic dance number to “Old Time Rock and Roll,” it’s often not remembered for its seering criticism of materialistic impulse and capitalistic fantasy. While many coming of age comedies haven’t aged well, Risky Business was ahead of its time.

 

18. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

planes-trains-and-automobiles

Perhaps the quintessential Thanksgiving movie of all-time, Plains, Trains and Automobiles was Steve Martin and John Candy at the height of their powers. Martin has never been nastier or more temperamental in a role, and Candy was never as buoyant, optimistic, and joyful as he was here. It’s an obvious pairing, and not only did it set the precedent for many road comedies, but it’s considered to be the gold standard. As with any of John Hughes’s work, there’s a touch of realism to the relationships, making the sentimental ending even more profound.

 

17. Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice_Michael_Keaton

Tim Burton is without a doubt one of the most idiosyncratic filmmakers of all-time, and while there’s generally a touch of comedy in all of his films, Beetlejuice is by far his zaniest, wackiest, and funniest film to date. In a period where studio films could get genuinely weird, Beetlejuice stands out for the absolute brilliance of its world building and design, particularly the brilliant makeup used to design the titular character.

Michael Keaton, of course, gives one of the best performances of his career in a role that is certainly among his most demanding and exhausting; few “dramatic” actors could take the creative licenses that he did with this instantly iconic character.

 

16. Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona (1987)

The Coen Brothers established themselves as ones to watch with their 1984 debut film Blood Simple, but with Raising Arizona, they proved themselves to be among the most exciting and original directors of the time; today, they are often ranked among the greatest of all-time.

Raising Arizona is a breathless fairy tale of constant zaniness, a crime film about a sting gone awry, and a rather poignant tale of a marriage in crisis. Although none of these concepts seemed initially compatible, they’re all held together by the Coens’ quick pace and inventive characters, as well as the brilliant performances by Holly Hunter and Nicolas Cage in some of their career-best roles.

 

15. Beverly Hills Cop

Eddie Murphy absolutely dominated the comedy scene in the 80s, and while he had been one part of a pair in both 48 Hrs and Trading Places, his role as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop was a singular starmaking vehicle that established his dominance as a leading man. The crime elements are surprisingly nuanced, as the film doesn’t hold back from being an exciting investigative adventure, as Murphy’s razor sharp timing is perfectly synced with the developing narrative. The satire of the difference between environments also makes it a cut above some of its action-comedy contemporaries.

 

14. This Is Spinal Tap

this-is-spinal-tap-1984

The quintessential mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap is both a love letter and a condemnation of rock documentaries. While there’s a genuine love for the pursuit of the craft that comes across, the film examines just how silly it is to put these artists on a pedestal and treat all of their words as gospel. A favorite among film fans and music enthusiasts alike, This is Spinal Tap is realistically handled to the point that the band feels real. Although it was an initial box office disappointment, the film has risen among the ranks as one of the best and most influential cult comedies of all-time.

 

13. Fletch

One of Chevy Chase’s best roles ever is as the investigative reporter Irwin M. Fletcher, a character that embodies Chase’s best qualities as a leading man; he’s cheeky and sarcastic, but he’s also usually the smartest character in the room, and seeing Fletch navigate through a series of seemingly indifferent and sinister authority figures makes for a rewatchable series of escapades.

Chase has often cited Fletch as his favorite film that he’s made, and it’s easy to see why, as he never treats the role with anything less than sincerity, and the story never puts Chase in a place where he needs to get out of character. This is a role so specifically calibrated to an actor, in that it could easily become either grating or tiresome, that it’s a miracle that Chase never becomes either. Rumors have persisted for decades about a reboot, but it would be hard to see any other actor in the role.

 

12. The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers

One of the very best films ever inspired by a Saturday Night Live sketch, The Blues Brothers is a celebration of both music and mayhem. The car chase sequences are incredibly well-directed and choreographed, rare for a comedy, and depict a willfully destructive comic energy that is fitting for the two lead characters.

The music, of course, is iconic, finding a deep love for its jazz and blues artists, with musical numbers that are both inspiringly silly and somewhat poetic. Both John Belushi and Dan Akroyd have wonderful comic aloofness to them, and the memorable supporting turns from Carrie Fischer and John Candy also help pad out the film’s epic runtime. The constant pressure that the characters are under to evade authorities makes The Blues Brothers a truly unique comedy.

 

11. Airplane!

Airplane II

There is a reason that Airplane! is often cited as one of the funniest films of all-time; the way it parodies disaster films was irreverent and groundbreaking, launching a very specific brand of parody films that would be often duplicated, yet never replicated.

Between iconic lines (“Don’t Call Me Shirley”) and sequences that are often replicated (such as Ted and Elaine’s encounter at the disco), Airplane! combined irreverent slapstick and shocking non sequiturs into a send up of disaster films that transcends “parody” status and becomes its own thing. Ted Kramer and Julie Hagerty are terrific as the romantic duo at the center, but it’s Leslie Nielsen who steals the film’s best moments.

10 Great Recent Movies On Hulu You May Have Missed

Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic

With the theatrical experience put on hold and only a limited number of new releases available, film fans have had to dive deep into the libraries of streaming services in order to find things to watch. Streaming services are a great way to discover films that may have slipped through the cracks during their initial run, and many recent films have gotten a second life thanks to their availability on a popular service.

Now is a better time than ever to dive back into the catalogues of various services and watch some underrated favorites. While Hulu has become a reliable source of original content thanks to television programs like The Handmaid’s Tale, Castle Rock, 11.22.63, and Devs, the service also has a great number of films. Here are ten great recent movies on Hulu you may have missed.

 

10. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

hunt-for-the-wilderpeople

Taika Waititi has grown to be one of the most popular filmmakers of the moment, having gained a larger platform with his Marvel film Thor: Ragnarok and critical acclaim for his Academy-Award winning satire Jojo Rabbit, so now is a better time than ever to check out some of his earlier work. The breezy, hilarious adventure film Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows Ricky (Julian Dennison), a troublesome teenage boy who is adopted by the loving Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her husband, the grizzled southern man Hector (Sam Neill).

Hector wants nothing to do with Ricky, but circumstances arise that force the two of them to go on the run together in the New Zealand wilderness as they are pursued by authorities and a revolving cast of quirky supporting characters. This untraditional adventure story is part buddy comedy, part paternal bonding, and Waititi is able to make the friendship between the two seem authentic. Both characters irritate each other, but their bickering never fails to translate into comedy gold on screen.

 

9. Detroit (2017)

Despite having directed two of the most acclaimed films of the 21st Century with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film Detroit was a surprising box office bomb that failed to get any major awards consideration. Detroit is an abrasive, uncomfortable film to watch, as it depicts the true story of the aftermath of the 1967 12th Street Riot in which a group of police officers tormented a group of African-Americans over the course of a brutal night.

It’s an ensemble filled with remarkable young actors; in particular, Will Poulter gives a terrifying performance as the sadistic cop who leads the ordeal, and John Boyega gives a very emotional performance as a local security guard who is forced to bear witness to the crisis. Bigelow sets the stage by exploring the events that led up to the night, but once the main story revolving around the motel begins, it’s impossible to look away from the uncomfortable injustice happening on screen.

 

8. Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Ingrid Goes West

One of the best satires of the social media era, Ingrid Goes West is a savvy character piece about the relationship between truth, self-worth, and projection in a time where online identities can vary drastically from someone’s real persona. Both raucously funny and uncomfortably realistic in its depiction of the fixation on beauty and lifestyle, the film is anchored by a brilliant performance from Aubrey Plaza. Plaza stars as the titular Ingrid, a mentally ill woman who travels to Los Angeles to search for her idol, Instagram model Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen).

Ingrid is a character who is both funny and tragic, and while her obsession with Taylor’s world and seemingly perfect life can be both humorous and disturbing, the viewer is able to empathize with Ingrid when her hero lets her down. Plaza’s idiosyncratic performance is undeniably the standout, but Olson also does a great job at playing the materialistic, self-absorbed manipulator who is forced to face the consequences of her deception.

 

7. Captain Fantastic (2016)

captain-fantastic

This untraditional story of familial bonding is one of the most pleasant surprises of the past decade, and features one of the most endearing ensemble casts in recent memory. The story follows the Cash family and their patriarch Ben (Viggo Mortensen); the family lives in isolation in the woods and has little interaction with the outside world, but when Ben’s wife grows seriously ill, he must take his children and expose them to the greater world.

There’s a lot of humor to be found as this family reacts to the seemingly advanced world around them, and seeing the children bring their father’s philosophies to their everyday lives is quite interesting. The film definitely shows the advantages of living a life disconnected, but it also shows how Ben may be negligent, particularly when his eldest son Bo (George McKay) begins to plan a life apart from his family. Mortensen gives a masterful performance conveying a willful rebellious spirit that also embodies affection.

 

6. Pawn Sacrifice (2014)

Tobey Maguire - Pawn Sacrifice

One of the all-time great chess movies, Pawn Sacrifice follows the rivalry between American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) and Soviet grandmaster Borris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) as the two face off against one another in the 1972 World Chess Championship. There are political factors that play into this relationship, but more than anything, these two tortured geniuses are unable to connect with people and prefer to do their communicating through intellectual domination.

Maguire is an actor who has always been known for his ability to play friendly, likeable characters, but his performance here is quite different than anything else he’s done; Fischer holds a deep resolve that keeps him quiet, with only bursts of seething anger, and as the stress of the match gets to him, he begins to show greater signs of paranoia and disenfranchisement. It’s a masterful performance from Maguire, who is able to breathe life into this gripping real life thriller.

10 Underrated Movie Masterpieces of The 1980s

The 1980s. An odd time in film history. For many today, a nostalgic period. When it comes to film, it was a decade that saw the continual rise of the blockbuster, along with the swift death of the auteur director in Hollywood. Some interesting filmmakers worked within the genre realm to react to a changing political climate. Unique voices smuggled films under-the-radar, expressing their anxieties of the time.

It was also a time of technological innovation. International films would often serve as a counter balance to the new trends that were emerging. Also, pioneering new faces helped propel underground and independent cinema movements. Let’s take a look at ten overlooked masterpieces from world cinema from the decade.

 

1. Prince of Darkness (1987, John Carpenter)

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John Carpenter is synonymous with 80s aesthetic of Hollywood genre filmmaking. Although he never really reached much commercial success during the period, many of his films have garnered cult status over the years. “Prince of Darkness” is definitely a horror film. Carpenter’s genre mastery is clear but he’s also striving for something much more ambitious here. Some might argue that the budget wasn’t close to matching the ambition.

The most unique story element is the curious partnership of science and religion. This union comes about in order to understand and explain a mysterious liquid cylinder of ancient origin. Yeah…it’s an odd concept.

Donald Pleasance and Victor Wong are the highlights of the film, playing the priest and physicist, respectively. They’re at their most captivating when they have ideological debates in the midst of the creeping dread. The tone evokes one of the main concepts of the film: Mankind trying to establish order over the universe and how futile that could be.

Most of the film is set in a Los Angeles church, giving a claustrophobic feel that adds to the tension. The slow paced direction of the plot gives an unease that the dread is slow yet inevitable. Furthermore, Carpenter is a master of the anamorphic aspect ratio, creating interesting compositions with his cinematographer. Wide angle shots used in the format help build the horror. For example, there is a moment where a character is approaching the cylinder. The anticipation of the scare is stretched. Due to the wide angle frame, your eyes naturally scan the frame to see where the scare could come from. When the viewer might think nothing will come…boom, it catches you off guard.

There are gruesome moments of body horror in which a character gets infected by the liquid, causing her to swell up and her skin decay. Carpenter doesn’t forget to thrill and excite. He continues to play in the Lovecraftian Horror Sandbox. Finally, the ambiguous final shot gives the audience something to think about. Carpenter rarely shies away from his dark and cynical sensibilities. Mirrors play a big part as a visual motif. Is the mirror a reflection or is it a window to some ancient evil?

 

2. Thief (1981, Michael Mann)

thief

Michael Mann’s feature film debut left a mark on 80s cinema by confidently establishing a new style of filmmaking. One that would be imitated for many years to come. In some aspects, the film laid the style blueprint for Hollywood Films of the decade. What Mann does with Thief however, is blend the style of the cinematic techniques with a strong character piece played by James Caan.

The opening of the film shows Frank, played by Caan, and his crew of thieves performing a jewel heist. What’s of note from the opening is establishing Frank’s professionalism and expertise on the process of thievery. This is shown with practically no dialogue and over the Tangerine Dream Score in the foreground. The pure cinema of the rainy streets, the synth score, the vibrant use of neon colors and deep shadows all work to inform who Frank is and what he wants. It’s a bold statement for the opening.

Caan delivers one of his best performances as a man constantly on the move. As we find out in a great scene in a diner. He explains to Jessie, played by Tuesday Weld, he spent his formative years in prison and he has no time to waste. He wants to start a family with Jessie and wants to leave his life of crime behind after one final job. An exposition scene like this shouldn’t work, yet it is probably the most emotional scene in the film mainly due to Caan’s slight vulnerability and earnestness.

Another noteworthy aspect of the film is the subtextual storyline between Frank and Leo, a charming crime boss, played by Robert Prosky. Frank falls for his charm and takes an offer to lead a big job, which Frank sees as his last. Leo initially becomes a surrogate father figure to Frank but Mann touches on a morality tale, showing Frank’s consequences of selling his soul to the devil-like figure of Leo. Therefore, Frank must pay the consequences if he’s to confront the devil. Resulting in a final act that oozes with style but doesn’t betray the character drama.

 

3. Blow Out (1981, Brian de Palma)

Blow Out

Brian de Palma’s follow up to his hit film “Dressed to Kill” did not perform well upon its initial release. It’s a relatively under-the-radar film when it comes to de Palma’s filmography. Especially considering that he made “Scarface” and “The Untouchables” during the same decade. It’s quite possible that the dour tone and bleak third act didn’t help its chances to garner an audience in 1981.

The film does a nice juggling act at being about filmmaking and telling a story in the thriller genre. John Travolta plays Jack, a sound man for a schlocky production company in Philadelphia, in one of his finest performances. He accidentally records the mysterious death of a politician while on assignment. His obsession is the driving force of the plot. Jack is convinced that the politician’s death was an assassination rather than an accident.

There are signature de Palma set pieces and if you’ve seen other de Palma films, you know that his style homages Alfred Hitchcock. There’s a scene that shifts between Point-of-view shots and objective shots of the murderous villain. As the villain preys on a woman through subway stations, the suspense is razor thin. There is a complete cinematic expression that de Palma indulges in with the set pieces.

De Palma was raised in Philadelphia. He was very specific with the locations shot. The city itself is photographed evoking a political backdrop as well as the historical context that the city represents. So, there is a juxtaposition of the celebration of American Iconography and a grim tone that de Palma was referencing out of the John Kennedy Assassination. Ultimately, de Palma is concerned with obsession and conspiracies. Will Jack’s desire lead to truth?

 

4. El Sur (1983, Victor Erice)

El Sur

Victor Erice’s unfinished masterpiece from 1983 is an underrated piece of cinema. A film that shouldn’t be as specific in vision or poetic in it’s filmmaking. Erice planned to make a longer film but the funding fell through. In spite of the behind-the-scenes circumstances, “El Sur” reaches peaks never before reached in Spanish Cinema.

The film explores memories. Erice’s fascinated by childhood and how memories influence and shape us as adults. The story is told through the perspective of Estrella, a child in the North of Spain during the 1950s. Furthermore, it’s from the perspective of Estrella as an eight year-old and later, as a fifteen-year old that we see her recalling specific moments that shaped her.

Estrella Arenas lives with her parents in a beautiful house on the outskirts of a walled city but not quite on the countryside. Her father nicknamed the street where they live as “The Border”. One of the many allusions to geography throughout the film. Agustín, Estrella’s father, has a complicated relationship with his daughter. Agustín instilled a passion for imagination and wonder on Estrella. Thus, leading her to be curious about his mysterious past, specifically his early life growing up in the South of Spain. Estrella and Agustín are linked by totems of their pasts. Agustín has a small box of letters and pictures from his younger days. Estrella’s totem is a pendulum given by Agustín as a gift.

Erice and his cinematographer, José Luis Alcaine, sought inspiration for the lighting in paintings by Caravaggio and Rembrandt; while the composition was heavily influenced by Erice’s cinematic heroes of the classic period such as F.W. Murnau and Carl Dryer. The beauty in the lighting and staging is done with the pursuit of a lyrical quality. This, along with the beautifully realized father-daughter relationship, make the film transcend past the historical specificity of the story and into the sublime.

 

5. Next of Kin (1982, Tony Williams)

Australia’s hidden gem from the early eighties has one foot in the ghost story sub-genre while the other firmly in slasher trends of the time. Therefore, “Next of Kin” indulges in the tropes and subverts them to provide a thoroughly entertaining horror story. The editing is incredibly precise in building tension when relying on longer, creeping shots of the manor and contrasted with abrupt cuts to deliver a scare. It’s heavily inspired by haunted house films that came before it, such as “The Innocents” and “The Haunting.” More importantly, Tony Williams’ direction gives a grandeur that is mainly seen in larger-scale films.

The fluid tracking movements of the camera brilliantly place the viewer in a clear geography of the manor. Linda has inherited an old-folks home from her recently deceased mother. Strange occurrences take place shortly after her arrival. Linda’s forced to look into the occurrences and confront her mother’s past.

“Next of Kin” has a simplicity to it that is hard to not be wrapped up in the set pieces. A genuinely atmospheric and unnerving thriller. There is a mystery that doesn’t overcomplicate itself. Tony Williams is to the point with his direction and makes sure to imprint certain Images in your head that will remain with you.

The 10 Most Underrated British Movies of The 2010s

British films are often popular throughout the world, and this decade was no exception; there were many great British films over the past decade, with Skyfall taking the title as the highest grossing British film of all-time, and other films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Lobster, The Favourite, The King’s Speech, Philomena, Under the Skin, and the Paddington films among others earning critical praise, hailing them as instant classics.

As with any genre or subsection of the medium, there are many films that simply didn’t get the audience they deserved. “Underrated” can mean a multitude of different things; some of these films were box office disappointments, others failed to permeate the public consciousness in a meaningful way, some were snubbed of awards recognition, and others proved to be too controversial or daring for general audiences. Either way, these are films that deserve to be mentioned more frequently.

These ten films are quite diverse in their tone, atmosphere, and messages, but they all speak to a unique British cultural identity that has been developed cinematically. It was an exciting decade for cinema in the United Kingdom, and these films showed a great variety to what a great British film could be. Here are the top ten most underrated British movies of the 2010s.

 

10. Nowhere Boy (2010)

Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy debuted at some festivals and in a limited theatrical run in late 2009, but it wasn’t widely available to most viewers until 2010, so for the purposes of this list, it’s counted as one of the films of the decade. Many films have attempted to tell at least part of the story of The Beatles, but Nowhere Boy has a unique approach, showing the development of a young John Lennon (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as he comes of age and is split apart by warring parental figures. This is more than just an origin story for Lennon, but an entertaining coming of age romp that depicts the development of an artist.

Outside of an opening music cue that is reminiscent of A Hard Day’s Night, there are very few obvious nods to The Beatles; the film focuses on Lennon’s first band the Quarrymen, and how the rock music of Elvis Presley inspired his rise to superstardom. Taylor-Johnson isn’t doing just another imitation, and is able to bring sensitivity and humility to Lennon as he comes into his own. Sam Taylor-Wood’s debut film is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest British artists of all-time.

 

9. The Ghost Writer (2010)

Often the scariest films are the ones with one foot leveled in reality, and while it’s impossible to deny the heightened suspense elements of The Ghost Writer, its story of government cover ups and allusions to international conspiracies feel scarily pertinent. It’s a compulsively watchable thriller, complete with slick camerawork, sharp dialogue, and entertaining plot twists, but the film is able to draw a dark mirror to today’s climate through the excellent screenplay by Robert Harris, which leaves the viewer hooked until its jaw dropping final shot.

Ewan McGregor is the titular unnamed ghost writer, who learns there’s more to British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) than he first expected when he begins researching his biography. The web of conspiracies are taught and intriguing, and McGregor is perfectly cast as a struggling everyman who becomes an obsessive. Brosnan also does some of the best work of his career; he’s equally charismatic and secretive, and the nuances he adds to the character’s wrestling with his own influence make the themes even more complex.

 

8. Mr. Holmes (2015)

Ian McKellen - Mr. Holmes

Since Sherlock Holmes is a public domain character, there are literally hundreds of different adaptations of the character, with this decade alone seeing the success of both Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC’s Sherlock and Robert Downey Jr. in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films. Mr. Holmes, however, has a different take on the character, as it depicts an aging version of the famous sleuth (played by the incomparable Ian McKellen) as he recounts past adventures. Not directly inspired on any of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, Mr. Holmes is actually based on the 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin.

In this film, Holmes has lost all of his signature elements; he’s no longer the most capable and clever person in the room, and instead of leaping at the opportunity to solve a case, he’s riddled with doubt and regret. McKellen draws out the pensive quality of the character, but he also has enough mischievous curiosity to him that gives the film a good nature. While there’s a fun mystery at the center that bounces between timelines, the heart of the film is seeing Holmes come to grips with his career as he loses his memory.

 

7. A Monster Calls (2016)

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Fairy tales are often used as a means to help children cope with adult themes and gain inspiration, and A Monster Calls is a perfect embodiment of that spirit. It’s a charmingly earnest, emotional story of a young boy (Lewis MacDougall) who copes with the terminal illness of his mother (Felicity Jones) by communicating with an imaginary monster, voiced by Liam Neeson. It’s a tribute to the power of stories to overcome hardship, and blends creative fantastical visuals with raw emotional conflict.

MacDougall gives a tremendous child performance, and one that is restrained considering the tragic circumstances that his character endures. Neeson also gives a wonderful vocal performance; he carries the weight of the emotion, the mystery of the character, and the tenderness of the relationship on his shoulders. Even if the film hits many of the familiar beats of fantastical tearjerkers, director J.A. Bayona does so effectively and with a unique visual flare.

 

6. T2: Trainspotting (2017)

The original Trainspotting was a culturally defining moment, a film that provoked strong reactions due to its shocking content, surrealist visuals, and deeply unsettling story; not only did it inspire countless imitators and create many iconic lines (particularly the iconic “Choose Life” speech), but it may very well be the greatest Scottish film of all-time. There were rumors for years about a potential sequel based on the follow up to the original novel, and in 2017 Danny Boyle reunited Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremmer), Begbie (Robert Carlyle), and Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) as they crossed paths with each other again after the ending of the first film.

What makes T2: Trainspotting brilliant is that it isn’t what you’d expect; the film looks back at the events of the first film as foolhardy escapades made by foolish young men, and instead of using nostalgic imagery and lines as a crutch, it recontextualizes them. Renton’s “Choose Life” speech now feels like the musings of a bitter middle aged man, and his latest dance to “Lust for Life” is now a solemn moment of self-contemplation. Boyle once again adds a brittle sense of humor (including one hilarious moment when Renton and Sick Boy pull off a surprising musical number), and the rewriting of history that establishes Spud as the narrator and protagonist is surprisingly potent and emotional.

10 Great Giallo Films You’ve Probably Never Seen

Without them, there would be no slasher movie. Seriously. They gave us the first-person perspective during a murder, the successive beautiful women getting stabbed to death, the gratuitous sex, even the idea of revealing the killer’s identity during a final confrontation with the last survivor. Really, what’s Friday The 13th if not an American giallo?

And sure, you might be able to name off the big ones: Deep Red, Blood And Black Lace, even Seven Blood-Stained Orchids. But this list isn’t about that. It’s about the weird gialli, the ones from big names and nobodies, the ones which slipped through the cracks. There are ones in here which amount to incomprehensible gibberish, and ones which are so beautifully plotted it’ll make your head spin. Ones with tons of death and ones with very little, if any. I like to think there’s something here for everybody.

This is all about the bizarre, the unknown and the forgotten ways that Italian models can get murdered. Let’s get started.

 

1. Spasmo (1974)

Umberto Lenzi is a name that looms large in Italian horror cinema. I’ve spent plenty of time singing the praises of Nightmare Beach, Nightmare City and Cannibal Ferox, among others. But perhaps his best work, including Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, is in the giallo genre, and other than that aforementioned classic, none exemplifies his mastery of the genre better than Spasmo.

Now, if there’s one lingering, pervasive problem with giallo movies, it’s this: their plots are absolute nonsense. Byzantine on their best days, many, if not most, if these movies are incomprehensible, including this one. There’s a lot of stuff about mannequins, some mysterious disappearances, and, for much of the movie, not a lot in the way of murder. This is because Lenzi opts to not show any murders until the very end, to keep the audience guessing. It’s a neat trick, and it pays off, but there’s no doubt that the audience has to work for it. Consequently, any attempt to try and explicate its plot would be in vain, because the structure of the movie dictates that you only really know what it’s about in the last few minutes.

Of course, there are plenty of great movies the audience has to work for: 2001, Solaris, and a good chunk of David Lynch, for starters. Is Spasmo of the same calibre? It certainly makes for a great guessing game, and uses the whole of Italian cinema’s cinematographical language, including those great close-ups that Sergio Leone popularized. And the payoff is so, so worth it. You’ll never see this coming.

Basically, Spasmo is the work of an unsung genius deciding to go off-road, and it works. There’s no better praise I can give than that.

 

2. Death Walks On High Heels (1971)

I’m obsessed with B-movie titles. (Here are a few from the classic era: The Creature With The Atom Brain, Fire Maidens From Outer Space and Terror From The Year 5000.) What’s brilliant about them is that they manage to be equal parts on the nose and mysterious, after all, isn’t every creature technically one with an atom brain? In giallo, this tradition is similarly upheld, in that they have their own “brand” of title, often stemming from the genre’s fixation, since Bava created it, with hyper-sexualized women getting ravaged by a mysterious, black-gloved killer. And what title better exemplifies this than Death Walks On High Heels?

Consider the plot: a stripper’s father is murdered on a train. The police wanna know about some missing diamonds, which appear to have attracted the interest of a bizarre, sadistic man. This man assaults the stripper and stalks her, even when she runs off to a small, coastal village in England.

Maybe more so than any other movie on this list, Death is a great introduction to the genre. You’ll get all the sex and violence, the beautiful Italians, the camerawork, the dubbed dialogue, everything. It’s all contained within that title, and never lets you down from minute one onward.

 

3. The Crimes Of Petiot (1973)

Martin Scorsese talks about how, when they’d see old movies in the theatres when he was coming of age, the prints would often be really bad. From what I understand, grindhouse movies in particular were notorious for having missing and damaged reels, technical problems and other sorted mishaps. Most of us will never experience that, but here’s what we can experience: poor digital transfers. It’s more fun than it sounds.

One of the great buys of my youth was a boxset of ten movies at Canadian Tire called Gore And More, which featured Driller Killer and Bad Taste, both in ridiculous transfers that cut off most of the frame and were often too dark to see. I always thought it added to the sordidness and authenticity of these movies. The YouTube transfer of The Crimes Of Petiot is of a similar vein, and really helps make the experience — weird though that may sound.

Almost from the first frame, Petiot feels like a home movie. The killer, far from iconic, though very cool, dispatches two victims in the first ten minutes on a cheap set with cheaper actors. From there, we’re treated to a story that, of course, revolves around Nazis and stabbing, and does so in a very giallo way. It’s a low budget fever dream. It’s also very, very fun.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement? Whatever. If you’re reading this, you probably also watched August Underground or Killer Klowns From Outer Space. What do you care? You’re used to seeing low budget movies.

Watch it for the experience. Petiot will be nobody’s favourite giallo, but it’s an unforgettable good time anyway.

 

4. What Have You Done To Solange (1972)

Now, in the interest of fairness, Solange isn’t exactly an obscure giallo. In some circles, in fact, it’s regarded as one of the greatest of all time. (Those circles would be correct, by the way.) But I’ve been watching these movies for years and I only just heard of it, so if it’s new to me, it must be new to somebody else.

Here’s the set-up: a teacher is having an affair with one of his students. While they’re canoeing down a river, one of the student’s classmates gets killed by having a knife inserted into her genitals (you read that correctly), and thus begins a series of slayings, and a mystery, that’s right out of a Cannibal Corpse song.

For bonus points, this is one of the few gialli which has an actual, workable mystery. There are revelations that are legitimately shocking, including the final one, which is usually when these movies fumble. And the writers, Bruno Di Geronimo and the director, Massimo Dallamano, have an incredible way with a red herring: truly, there are several great contenders for the villain.

I really can’t recommend this movie enough. Rumour has it, too, that Nicolas Winding Refn is looking to produce a remake. Given the success that Guadagnino had with Suspiria, maybe these old, weird Italian movies are set to find their way into popular consciousness.

Oh, also: Dallamano was the DoP on A Fistful Of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More. Cool, right?

 

5. Lisa And The Devil (1973)

Lisa and the Devil (1974)

Here’s a list of movies that are all of a type: Braindead (the Roger Corman one from the Charles Beaumont script); In The Mouth Of Madness; Carnival Of Souls. What they all have in common is they’re all what I like to call “mind fuck” movies; or, movies in which characters are dragged through a surrealistic nightmare, which usually involves hallucinations, hauntings and time jumps. (Spasmo is close to this as well, but different. You’ll see.)

Most of these movies end with the main character realizing they’re insane, or, in mimesis of “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”, reveal that the main character has been dead this entire time. Lisa And The Devil is that sort of movie, but done with such a high degree of professionalism that it becomes art, and, it should be noted, without either of those two hacky endings.

It begins with a mural of the devil on the side of a building. Lisa, an American tourist in Spain, runs into a man buying a dummy who looks suspiciously like that devil. Fate brings her to the devil’s house, and what happens from there on in is best left for the viewer to experience. It’s wild, strange and scary, and never loses its mystery for one second. This is Mario Bava, ladies and gentlemen. He’s the great genius of Italian movies.

Oh, and who’s that playing the devil? (If that’s indeed what he is. There are some revelations coming your way that you wouldn’t see coming if you had a million years and nothing but free time.) Why, that’s Telly Savalas, Blofeld from the greatest of all Bond movies, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Watch the tics he gives the character, the way he plays with the sucker he has perpetually shoved in his mouth. You won’t be able to forget it.