Maybe not Deserted Island quality but sure worth looking for

(Latest update:  27 January 2018)

 

my favorite minor movies

my favorite documentaries

my favorite foreign films

 

major movies to avoid

 

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Kohn's Corner

 

my Amazon reviews, mostly about books, movies and music 

 

Again in alphabetical order...but without limiting myself to ten:

 

AMELIE.  If ever the word "enchanting" applied, it's here, for this rare movie that's able to be watched and enjoyed repeatedly.

Turn off the sound, and from the first moments you'll still know this isn't an American film. But actually, don't turn off the sound, as the music is wonderful, too.

This movie reminded me how intense it was to be, and wishing I were again, 19 years old.

 

 

 

BODY HEAT. In my mind, the most desirable woman ever put on film.

An inconsequential story, I forget the plot. But thirty years later I still remember how much I liked this movie.

 

 

 

 

BRAZIL.  This movie has nothing whatever to do with Brazil. This movie is a scene out of the future. This movie is unforgettable.

That's all I'll say about it, so I don't ruin the surprise for you.

 

 

 

 

BREAKER MORANT.   An Australian film from 1980 that I first saw in 2004, yet relevant as ever during civilization's current struggle with anarchy.

Brilliant acting, wonderful screenplay, gorgeous camera work.

 

 

 

 

CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH.  About the Japanese occupation of Nanjing, China, in 1937-1938. China's Pearl Harbor.

Put the children to bed before you put this one on.

 
And then, like me, you may have a hard time falling asleep.

 

 

 

 

DIVIDED WE FALL.  A 2001 Czech film that brings the Nazi invasion to the personal level.

Not relentlessly depressing (though one moment, recounted by David, horribly painful), at times even funny, this movie has a great story and fine actors able to bring it to life. 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, OR PARDON ME, BUT YOUR TEETH ARE IN MY NECK.  I'm not a ghoul fan; there are too many real monsters in our world (pedophiles, Islamists bombing civilians, Stalins, Hitlers, Pol Pots, African dictators) to make seeking out invented ones more than a little strange.

But this Roman Polanski mixture of horror and comedy is special to me. I first saw it in 1969 on a small Army signal site in the middle of a Thai swamp, where it helped me imagine for a short time that I was shivering in a Transylvania winter.

A few years ago I found a copy of the movie on DVD. It still brings shivers, and it's still hilarious.

 

 

 

 

JEAN DE FLORRETE / MANON OF THE SPRING. Two movies, each which can stand on its own, but best seen together. Storytelling as only film can do. Heartwarming, for those of us who still aren't jaded and cynical.

 

 

 

 

THIS IS SPINAL TAP        WAITING FOR GUFFMAN       BEST IN SHOW       A MIGHTY WIND

Written, acted or directed by Christopher Guest, these mockumentaries share an ensemble cast of comedic improvisation greats: Harry Shearer, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Dillard, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, John Michael Higgins, and more.

SPINAL TAP is the classic, the one to see if you must watch only one, and especially the one if, like me, you dismiss heavy metal.

GUFFMAN is for anyone who's ever been in a school play. Guest gives a remarkable performance.

BEST IN SHOW is for obsessive compulsives everywhere, and especially if they like dogs.

WIND is for those of us who loved folk music in the sixties and later drifted away.

 

 

 

KOYAANISQATSI.  Released in the early 80s, but watched just recently. Those who have seen K probably agree it is even more relevant today (and will be another 25 years from now, assuming we haven't blown ourselves back to the Stone Age).

I got the movie from Netflix only because Philip Glass, one of my Deserted Island musicians, wrote its music. I wondered at the odd title, and wondered what the movie would be about.

Trying not to spoil your own experience, let me say only that the movie can be enjoyed no matter what language you speak, that it should not be watched while tired (the beginning is relaxing to the point of curing insomnia), and that it demands a widescreen HDTV with the audio coming out of your sound system.

 

 

 

THE LIVES OF OTHERS. Mostly takes place in 1984 East Germany, before the Wall came down, when the Stasi secret police blighted, sometimes destroyed, lives.

It's a love story and a story of human weakness. A story of personal redemption. It's a remarkable film about a remarkable time and place, one that all would hope never to be seen again. (God pity the North Korean people.)

 

 

 

 

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING.  Though produced in 1975, it wasn't until 2009 that Netflix recommended it, mostly for my wife. She liked the movie so much she was unable to stay in the room when the heroes were taken captive and ... but that would spoil it for you.

Isn't that the mark of a great film, though, that you forget it's only a movie. The plot, dialogue and acting (Michael Caine and Sean Connery, no less) made me forget, too.  

 

 

 

MIRA NAIR Movies.  Nair was born in India, then educated and now lives in America.

I've seen only four of her films -- Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding, and The Namesake (and Kama Sutra, a clunker) -- enough to believe she consistently gets more out of her actors than almost any other director.

Her themes are universal; as in the old ad about rye bread, you don't have to be Indian to like Mira Nair movies.  

 

 

 

 

NO MAN'S LAND.  To say it just describes an encounter in Bosnia between two antagonists would sell this perfect movie short.

Brilliant, unforgettable. Not sure why it's not up in my Deserted Island list.

 

 

 

 

 

THE OMEGA MAN.  An old science fiction film (1971) worth looking for. Like all good science fiction, it asks the hard questions society needs to answer.

In 2007 the movie was redone and called I AM LEGEND. In only one way, special effects, is the remake better. LEGEND can stand for all that is wrong with Hollywood. A lot of money and computer generated graphics are thrown into the pot, hoping for a good stew. It rarely happens. Watch (and enjoy) the original to see what I mean.

 

 

 

 

PAN'S LABYRINTH.  Just what I want a movie to do: take me out of this world and put me into another. The movie takes us into two worlds, in fact, one of exciting fantasy, one of brutal reality.  

 

 

 

 

 

THE PRINCESS BRIDE.  Of how many films can it be said that three generations of a family might watch it, and all find it delightful.

 

 

 

 

 

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.  Guess I'm a romantic at heart, and this film is for all of us who were ever young and in love. (Or, like me, not so young and still in love.)

Didn't expect to like it, with all those Oscars, but couldn't help myself.

 

 

 

A SIMPLE PLAN.  Here's an example of the quiet movie that draws you in and holds on tight until the closing credits.

Will remind you of the fine film, FARGO, but in my opinion, is better in almost every way. Except humor. There is nothing funny about this movie.

A good film to watch with your teenagers for a discussion afterwards on values and integrity.

 

 

61*  With actors who look so much like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris that you think it's a documentary, we go back to the Yankees' 1961 season and the challenge to Ruth's famous home run record.

But this is more than a simple sports movie. Roger Maris was, if not hated, certainly disliked, by most of America. In truth, and as we learn in 61*, he was a decent family man. He's who we should have been rooting for. But who could root against Mickey Mantle.

61* was made for HBO by Billy Crystal, a baseball fan, and the love of the game, and knowledge of it, and respect for it, is always present. The disc also has a long, wonderful special feature about the making of the film.

As I write this, I can't think of another sports movie I like more. That's because it's not just another sports movie. It's about people who happen to play sports.

 

 

 

WATERWORLD. So laugh, yeah, Waterworld.

I put it on every five years or so. Always takes me away to another time and place.

If you avoided it back in the '90s because of the terrible reviews, all the better. Now sit back, and have something ready to catch your jaw as it falls open.

 

 

 

 

 

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBITT.  If not for an over-long, exhausting battle at the film's end, this would be a perfect addition to any Deserted Island list.

Almost 25 years later, there's not another film like it, combining animation and live actors, because it was done so well the first time. 

 

 

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Well, that's it for now. Check back later for additions. Even better, please send me your own favorites: usarmycwo AT yahoo DOT com.