I have been busy writing a new project over the last couple of months and in this time I have sat down to revisit some classic films for inspiration. I thought I'd share some of the ones that left an impression just in case you are looking for something fresh to watch, particularly in this dry season of the Summer Blockbusters.
1. "Gumshoe" starring Albert Finney.
My friend Larry put me on to this fun film. Great dialogue and a terrific mixture of humour and suspense. Like 'The Long Goodbye' this film doesn't fall into a parody of the Noir genre. It has fun with the conventions but still has a line of seriousness going through the story.
2. "The Long Goodbye" starring Eliott Gould.
Every time I see this Robert Altman film it goes up on my list of favourite movies. Again, the film has a sense of humour about the detective genre but doesn't fall into parody. Gould is perfect as Marlowe. Best ending ever.
3. "Out of the Past" starring Robert Mitchum.
Mitchum is awesome in this 1947 film noir where a man's shaded past comes back to haunt him. Instead of trying to hide, Mitchum's character faces it head on and with tragic results. While I'm on a Robert Mitchum love-in I would also recommend "The Friends of Eddie Coyle". Mitchum plays a small time crook who gets in over his head (not to mention the great Boston Bruins cameo including Bobby Orr). Criterion released an excellent DVD last year. You also can't go wrong with Charles Laughton's nightmare film "Night of the Hunter". Mitchum plays a corrupt preacher on the hunt for some stolen money.
4. "The Insider" starring Al Pacino.
This is my hands-down favourite film of Michael Mann. Although nominated for many Academy Awards it lost out on all. Al Pacino was overlooked by the academy for The Godfather (I & II), Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and he wasn't even nominated for this picture. Russell Crowe was nominated for his portrayal of Jeffrey Wigand but I think this is Al Pacino's film. "American Beauty" was the big winner that year. Minghella's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" was given few nominations as well.
I always say that you need a good ten year moratorium before you start to put a film into the lists of 'great movies'. 'The Insider' is a great picture and would make a great double bill with 'All the Presidents Men'.
5. "Angel Heart" starring Mickey Rourke.
I quite like the work of Alan Parker and this odd film stands out. I picked up the Blu-Ray for ten bucks and was thoroughly entertained. It is a bit hokey but overall the film holds up very well. Rourke is great and the cinematography reminded me of how over-colour-corrected the modern films are. Very naturalistic. I was also reminded of how similar a plot it has to "Shutter Island" (I much prefer "Angel Heart"). I also thought about Polanski's "The Ninth Gate" as a film that has a similar vibe to it - a supernatural noir if you will.
6. "Heist" starring Gene Hackman.
When I first saw 'Heist' I was a little disappointed in the ending as I had already been conned by David Mamet in 'House of Games' and 'The Spanish Prisoner'. On this second viewing I didn't even think about the con game and enjoyed it even more. It's great seeing Gene Hackman doing anything and this film is no different. Criterion did a great job last year by releasing both 'House of Games' and 'Homicide' in special editions. I like Mamet's stripped down and realistic settings especially in films like 'Homicide' and his secret service film 'Spartan'. One might say it is the function of a low budget and if that's true I hope it stays that way.
Did I mention how much I love "The Long Goodbye"?
More to come.