These Are My Top 5 Today
Ask me tomorrow, and the list would surely have Blue Velvet, Buñuel and something with Marcello Mastroianni in it.
The Long Goodbye (1973)
Of my favorite quintessential LA movies (Chinatown and The Big Lebowski being the other two), this is the most underrated. It is also hands down my favorite Robert Altman picture. Elliot Gould is just terrific as Phillip Marlowe, navigating the usual noir obstacles while trying to clear his friend’s name of a murder he (hopefully) didn’t commit.
Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (1990)
I mean, what’s not to like: a plot that reads like a comedy version(!) of William Wyler’s The Collector (in truth, partial inspiration came from Wyler’s The Desperate Hours, but that’s another story), Almodovar’s uber-sexy fable has Antonio Banderas (with finely honed comic timing and a killer smile) freshly released from an insane asylum and on a beeline to kidnap recovering junkie pornstar Victoria Abril (in her sexiest role) until she can fall in love with him. Accused in the US of all sorts of political incorrectness and hit with a ridiculous NC-17 rating (thanks to a hilarious little plastic scuba diver swimming up against Victoria Abril in a bathtub), this movie amps up Almodovar’s Hollywood fetish (if Women On the Verge riffed on Preston Sturges, this one has great Hitchcock references and a score by Ennio Morricone) and manages to poke fun at tv commercials and musicals, all the while seducing us with two of the most winning star-crossed in recent memory.
Not the Elizabeth Hurley remake, but the genius Stanley Donen original. I still don’t understand how the guy who directed Singin’ In the Rain (and one of my all-time-faves, Funny Face), ended up doing a Peter Cook-Dudley Moore Swinging 60s London comedy, but there you go. Featuring one of my favorite ever songs in a movie — the title track — sung hilariously by ultra suave Cook in his debonair rockstar persona, easily one-upping needy Dudley Moore with his “Love Me!” pop hit, this also includes a classic bit of comedy in a car where Dudley Moore and the girl of his dreams can’t quite bring themselves to have sex because of the horrible guilt they feel. Oh yes — and a scalding hot Raquel Welch as Lust in an over-marketed cameo that so threatened to derail the marketing campaign it prompted Cook to try and change the title of the movie to “Raquel Welch”.
Le Cercle Rouge (1970)
I could pick Le Samourai or Army Of Shadows just as easily, but every couple of years, the rumor pops up that this is being remade, and right now there’s a Liam Neeson project in preproduction, so I say — see the original before they destroy it. Melville made movies that were so freakin’ cool that even the French New Wavers couldn’t snub their noses at him (and French guys really know how to do that). This one is the culmination of all his themes — honor among men, fate, the minutia of crimework and policework (in short, all the things that Michael Mann often gets wrong and John Woo simply adorns with white doves and slo-mo) with impossibly cool Alain Delon in his best overcoat yet, masterminding a heist with a freshly-escaped convict and a recovering alcoholic ex-cop, played by the amazing Yves Montand. This character has maybe my favorite intro in any movie, so I won’t spoil it here, but it’s bizarre. Add to that a smart police inspector with three pet cats, sexy Paris clubs with choreographed numbers and a super tense (and unbearably silent) heist and you have a perfect movie.
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
I feel about this the way I feel about Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. It’s not cool to say it’s your favorite movie by that director, but this is the one I keep coming back to. Yes, I was obsessed with Brazil and saw it a million times, but Twelve Monkeys has a particular pull for me in that it works perfectly as sci fi, as poetry and as a woman-going-crazy movie. This last reading, watching the movie from Madeline Stowe’s POV, is my favorite version. She is so convincing as this buttoned-down scholar obsessing over Cassandra complex, that I just keep wanting more scenes with her. It’s redundant to say it’s the best overall work Bruce Willis has done — he is actually sweet(!) in this — and Brad Pitt is hilarious channeling Dennis Hopper from Apocalypse Now (among others). I also love what Christopher Plummer does with two simple words: Women. Psychiatrists. Man, I love this movie. Great tango-influenced score and awesome source music too. This goes in my can watch any time, any day pile (along with North By Northwest and Raiders).