Welcome to my new series on movies that you might have missed, but should surely see. Or maybe just movies that I like. I'll let you be the judge.
This will be a multi-part series, as only a handful of movies can't possibly cover a subject of this nature.
So, to kick it off, here is a list of twenty-five movies that you may not have seen, but you really should, in no particular order.
1. Good Morning (1959)
Two boys are attracted to a neighbor's house because they have a television set, where they can watch their favorite sumo wrestling matches. (At the time of the film's release in Japan, the medium was rapidly gaining popularity.) However, their conservative parents forbid them to visit their bohemian neighbors because the wife is thought to be a cabaret singer.
As a result of this, the young boys of the Hayashi family, Minoru and Isamu, pressure their mother into buying them a television set, but their mother refuses. When their father comes to know about it, he asks the boys to keep quiet when they kick a tantrum. Minoru throws an anger fit, and states that adults always engage in pointless niceties like "good morning" and refuse to say exactly what they mean. Back in their room, Minoru and Isamu decide on a silence strike against all adults.
2. The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
After the Soviet Union and US detonate simultaneous nuclear bomb tests, strange meteorological events begin to affect the globe.
It becomes clear that the Earth has been knocked out of orbit and is moving closer to the sun. The increasing heat has caused water to evaporate and mists to cover Britain.
The government imposes a state of emergency, and starts rationing supplies. People start evacuating the cities. Scientists conclude that the only way to bring the Earth back into a safer orbit is to detonate a series of nuclear bombs in western Siberia.
A very intense sci-fi apocalyptic thriller.
3. The Silent Partner (1978)
Some have stated that this is reminiscent of Breaking Bad. Not for content, but for the intense cat-and-mouse game.
Miles Cullen (Elliott Gould), a bored teller at a small bank in a large Toronto shopping mall (The Eaton Centre), accidentally learns that his place of business is about to be robbed when he finds a discarded note on one of the bank's counters one day. He also figures out who the would-be robber will be when he sees a mall Santa Claus hanging around outside the bank whose 'give to charity' sign is similar to the handwriting on the discarded stick-up note.
Instead of informing his bosses or contacting the police, Miles devises a way of keeping the cash from most of his window's transactions in an old lunch box of his own inside his briefcase rather than in the bank's till. As a result, the Santa Claus robber eventually arrives and holds up Miles at the teller's desk, and nets far less than the police and the bank think he has.
The thief, a psychopath named Harry Reikle (Christopher Plummer), figures out what happened, and makes a series of desperate and violent attempts to get the money (totaling CA$48,300) that Miles has kept for himself. Reikle starts following Miles around to and from his home, and making harassing phone calls to his place of residence.
4. The Warriors (1979)
When it comes down to it, this movie really makes no logical sense, but it's one helluva ride, and shot exceptionally well. It's a cult classic, and directed by none other than Walter Hill.
In 1979 a charismatic leader summons the street gangs of New York City in a bid to take it over. When he is killed, The Warriors are falsely blamed and now must fight their way home while every other gang is hunting them down to kill them.
5. The Defiant Ones (1958)
The Defiant Ones is a 1958 black and white film which tells the story of two escaped prisoners, one white and one black, who are shackled together and who must co-operate in order to survive.
The setting is in the American South, the men are the black Noah Cullen (Poitier) and the white John "Joker" Jackson (Curtis). Despite their mutual loathing, they are forced to cooperate, as they are chained together. At first their cooperation is motivated by self-preservation but gradually, they begin to respect and like each other.
6. The Pawnbroker (1964)
A Jewish pawnbroker, victim of Nazi persecution, loses all faith in his fellow man until he realizes too late the tragedy of his actions.
It's directed by Sydney Lumet. I think that's all I have to say.
7. The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)
Harold Pelham encounters a duplicate of himself in the aftermath of a car crash. After that moment his life is upset and becomes a total mind fuck.
8. Cold Turkey (1971)
From the genius of Normal Lear, this movie is downright funny, and the ending is brilliant.
Hoping for positive publicity, a tobacco company offers $25 million to any American town that quits smoking for 30 days. Amidst a media frenzy, Eagle Rock, Iowa accepts the challenge while the company's PR man tries to sabotage the effort.
9. Punishment Park (1971)
"Punishment Park" is a pseudo-documentary purporting to be a film crews's news coverage of the team of soldiers escorting a group of hippies, draft dodgers, and anti-establishment types across the desert in a type of capture the flag game. The soldiers vow not to interfere with the rebels' progress and merely shepherd them along to their destination. At that point, having obtained their goal, they will be released.
The film crew's coverage is meant to insure that the military's intentions are honorable. As the representatives of the 60's counter-culture get nearer to passing this arbitrary test, the soldiers become increasingly hostile, attempting to force the hippies out of their pacifist behavior. A lot of this film appears improvised and in several scenes real tempers seem to flare as some of the "acting" got overaggressive.
The cinéma vérité style, hand-held camera, and ambiguous demands of the director - would the actors be able to maintain their roles given the hazing they were taking - pushed some to the brink. The cast's emotions are clearly on the surface.
Unfortunately this film has gone completely underground and is next to impossible to find.
10. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)
I won't say it's aged well, but this movie scared the hell out of me like no other when I was a child. My brother and I had nightmares for years to come. We actually had begun to think that the creatures from the movie (the 'Its' as we called them) we real. And this was a made-for-TV film!
It's a classic.
11. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Yes, I know the original is a classic, but this movie stands on its own against anything out there.
It's dark, has a tone unlike any other, and the acting is phenomenal. Make sure to catch Jeff Goldblum before he was a household name. I am admittedly not a Donald Sutherland fan, but he is exceptional in this film.
12. Radio On (1979)
Set in 1970's Britain, a man drives from London to Bristol to investigate his brother's death. The purpose of his trip is offset by his encounters with a series of odd people.
13. The Quiet Earth (1985)
A man named Zac Hobson awakens to find himself alone in the world, and In a desperate attempt to search for other's he finds only two who have their own agenda .
This movie is exceptional, and will really get you thinking.
14. Primer (2004)
I remember when my wife tried to get me to watch this film, I blew it off. I finally did, and it blew me away. This is an exceptional film, especially since it was a very indie production.
Four friends/fledgling entrepreneurs, knowing that there's something bigger and more innovative than the different error-checking devices they've built, wrestle over their new invention.
It takes time travel to a new level, and I'm still trying to figure some of it out.
15. When the Wind Blows (1986)
It's animated like a cutesy little film about an old couple, but really it's completely depressing and stark. Made during the height of the re-emerged cold war threat, When the Wind Blows tells the tale of an elderly couple who are too naive to really understand the horrors that are going on around them.
16. Talk Radio (1988)
A very underrate man named Eric Bogosian originally wrote this as a successful play about a Jewish, loud-mouthed talk radio host feels the pressures of the upcoming national broadcast of his show and the Neo-Nazi threats and packages he receives in the mail. He then wrote the screenplay for Oliver Stone.
The digital photography is wonderful - it has some really unique stuff going on and for a film that takes place mostly inside a radio studio. Bogosian's performance is top notch, and the screenplay constantly bites with great lines and interesting social commentaries.
17. Last Night (1998)
Yes, I think it's clear by now that I dig dystopian/apocalyptic films. This lesser known Canadian drama about the last day on Earth is really beautiful and unique. It's got a strong emotional resonance to it.
18. Escape From New York
The dystopian anti-hero classic. It doesn't get much better than this.
In 1997, when the US President crashes into Manhattan, now a giant max. security prison, an ex-war hero and convicted bank robber is sent in for a rescue.
Supposedly a reboot has been underway for many years. If it ever comes to fruition I will be hunting down some studio heads.
19. In the Company of Men (1997)
Forget Patrick Bateman or Two Face. Forget what you know about evil characters. Aaron Eckhart's Chad is probably the most evil character ever put to film.
Chad is a true and utter sociopath and he's completely terrifying in how normal he is. He doesn't kill anyone, he doesn't break any laws, but he destroys everyone around him. For that alone, you should watch this film.
It's also, in a dark and saddening way, funny. Two men vow to get back at women by seducing a deaf girl and then pulling the rug from underneath her.
20. Swimming With Sharks (1994)
I would be remiss if I didn't include something with Kevin Spacey (and there's a lot out there you should see, including Glengarry Glen Ross).
Kevin Spacey rules this picture about life in the dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood.
Written and directed by George Huang, this film has a great cast and an unforgettable ending. “Swimming With Sharks” was released just one year before Kevin Spacey had his breakout year.
21. Vampire's Kiss (1988)
Just watch it. It's fucking hilarious.
22. Clean, Shaven (1993)
A very realistic portrayal of schizophrenia and how it can effect you. It is dark, gritty, and tragic. You have been warned, this film can be hard to watch. The cinematography uses many abnormal techniques to portray his illness and it doesn't hold back.
Peter Greene's performance is mesmerizing.
23. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
Sam Peckinpah's wonderfully seedy south-of-the-border death trip stars Warren Oates as a down-and-out barroom pianist desperate to collect a bounty. He's a doomed loser whose fate is sealed even if he succeeds.
24. Rolling Thunder (1977)
In this vise-tight revenge film, William Devane plays a POW who returns from Vietnam only to find all he loves taken from him. A shattering portrait of a man pushed to his primal limit looking for payback.
25. Near Dark (1987)
Kathryn Bigelow at her finest. This flick is a seductively sick and sexy Western-inspired road movie about a band of bad-to-the-bone bloodsuckers prowling America's lost highways.
That's it for now, but this series will most certainly continue. Stay tuned...