Good evening. Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce my novelist. This has been a relatively mundane week except of course for the Maltese getting a home haircut as he is more inclined to sit still than I. I must say he looks a bit better…as much as a Maltese can I suppose. My novelist believes he will need another going over and a nail trim but for the most part he is groomed. As you may know, I have been working steadily on my own writing project. It is a tedious undertaking, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts through the written word. I will keep you abreast of my anecdotes as the weeks go on. Until then, here is my novelist.
Greetings! I thought would be a good week to start choosing some Valentine’s Day movies for my Stream of the Week section. And speaking of movies, I have found there is a list of exceptionally good films out there that are difficult to get on streaming. Films I have wanted to feature in my Stream of the Week section and haven’t because they do not appear to be on a streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, HBO Max, Showtime, Peacock etc.
And so, for that reason this week I am going to list ten of these treasures and encourage you to try and see them if you can. Now, I realize this list is subject to change because what is available on streaming is always in flux. But for now, here they are:
Bound (1996)-The Wachowski siblings are best known for The Matrix films. But in my opinion, this is their finest work by far both in its direction and its extraordinary script. Recently paroled professional thief Corky (Gina Gershon) takes a job as a plumber in a mob-owned apartment building. She quickly meets mafia money launderer Caesar (brilliantly portrayed by Joe Pantoliano) and his sexy girlfriend Violet (Jennifer Tilly). When Violet loses a precious earring down the sink, she enlists Corky to come to the rescue. Things between the two women heat up fast and as they fall for each other they began to plan an elaborate scheme to steal $2,000,000 blood-stained dollars Caesar brings home one night. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly have fantastic chemistry here and the tension is so strong you could cut it with a knife…or gardening sheers.
Bridesmaids (2011)-This laugh-out loud comedy is as smart as it is raunchy and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy. Loser in love Annie (Kristen Wiig) wants to be the Maid of Honor for her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Unfortunately, the two women have drifted apart more than Annie realizes when she finds herself competing for the position with Lillian’s new friend Helen (Rose Byrne) who is a Master of Social soirées. Thus, begins Annie’s sometimes funny sometimes poignant journey from her dependency on her booty calling friend with benefits Ted (Jon Hamm) and her journey to growing up with some help from her fellow bridesmaids: self-made dog loving Megan (Melissa McCarthy), naive Becca (Ellie Kemper), sharp-witted Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covy) and a likeable traffic cop named Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) Annie meets getting a speeding ticket.
Sex, Lies & Videotape (1989)-If any film was responsible for kicking off the independent film era at the end of the twentieth century, it was Steven Soderbergh’s first full length dramady. This was one of those rare movies that blew me away on first viewing and would make an excellent Valentine’s Day movie pick. Ann (Andie MacDowell) is a beautiful smart young married woman who is obsessed with garbage. Why? Because her arrogant lawyer husband John (Peter Gallagher) is cheating on her with Ann’s acid-witted bartending younger sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). Unexpectedly, John’s old college chum Graham (James Spader who rightly won best actor at Cannes for his performance) comes into town. Graham was just as wild as John back in the day. But now Graham is on a pilgrimage to reinvent himself with a little “personal project” which inadvertently proceeds to spin everyone’s life out of control.
Yanks (1979)-This underrated little romantic gem directed by John Schlesinger finds a slew of World War II American soldiers including Technical Sergeant Matt Dyson (Richard Geer) and Captain John (William Devane) shipped to England to help build up the Normandy landings where they each find themselves falling in love with local women. John falls for the married Helen (Vanessa Redgrave) and Matt falls hard for young innocent Jean Morton (Lisa Eichhorn) who is engaged to a British soldier named Ken (Derek Thompson). Because of her engagement Jean and Matt keep their relationship platonic. But when they find themselves thrust into an unexpectedly dire situation; they begin to question the paths they are on. One of the great things about this film is the intelligence of one of the love scenes. I doubt many films today would handle a scene like that with as much poignancy as this film does.
The Wrestler (2008)-To this day I cannot give any logical reason as to why Mickey Roark who won every acting award out there did not win the Oscar for best actor for his landmark performance. It was one of those situations like Memento which after winning every writing award out there lost the Oscar for best original screenplay to the unbearably boring and forgettable Gosford Park. Darren Aronofsky masterfully directs this wonderful character study about aging wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Roark) who’s years of abuse force him to retire from the ring after he has a heart attack. Into his life comes aging stripper Cassidy/Pam (Marissa Tomei in an Oscar nominated performance) a single mother who provides Randy a chance at a normal life and even encourages him to reconnect with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). But retirement is challenging for the former star who begins working at the deli counter in a grocery full time for a surly jealous boss.
Gattaca (1997)-When he is at the top of his game, Andrew Niccol is one of the best science fiction screenwriters around. And this film certainly proves it. Set in the future where parents can program the baby they are going to have with all the perfect genes through the eugenics program, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) comes from a natural conception and is thus an “invalid” susceptible to genetic disorders. Doomed to live his life on the lower rungs of society due to genetic discrimination, he cuts a deal with Jerome Eugene Morrow (Jude Law) a “valid” who was recently paralyzed in a car accident. Eugene is willing to provide Vincent with all the samples he needs to take his identity and secure a job at the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation to allow Vincent to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut. But Vincent’s plans are put into jeopardy when he meets and falls for his coworker Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman).
Foul Play (1978)-A smart funny film that was quite popular when it first came out but is difficult to get your hands on for streaming. Shy librarian Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn) finds herself divorced and alone. One night after leaving a party she by chance finds a man in a broken-down car by the side of the road. He introduces himself as Bob “Scotty” Scott (Bruce Solomon). The two hit it off and he invites her on a date to the movies. He tells her he is trying to quit smoking and insists she take his last pack of cigarettes from him. Gloria takes the cigarettes. But when she goes to the theatre to meet Scotty for their date, he tells her to “beware of the dwarf” and then dies. The next day after work Gloria is chased by an albino man and attacked in her home by a man with a scar whom she ends up stabbing with a pair of knitting needles. The events lead her to contact police officers Lt. Tony Carlson (Chevy Chase) and his partner Inspector “Fergie” Ferguson (Brian Dennehy) neither of whom believe her bizarre story. Dudley Moore is fantastic as a would-be British philanderer named Stanley Tibbets.
Head-On (also known as Gegen die Wand) (2004)-This Golden Bear winner is an absolutely riveting brilliantly realized love story about an unlikely Turkish couple with suicidal tendencies. Cahit (Birol Ünel) is a forty-year-old man whose girlfriend has abandoned him. One night after his job picking up empty bottles at a club, he decides to drive his car into a wall (“Gegen die Wand” translates to “against the wall”). Failing to kill himself he finds himself in a psychiatric hospital where his psychiatrist gives him a piece of advice: “If you want to end your life, end it. You don’t have to kill yourself to do that”. Before he leaves the hospital, he meets a young woman named Sibel who has also tried to kill herself. Sibel is insistent she get to know Cahit and the two go to a bar where Sibel attempts to strike a deal with him that they marry so she can have the freedom from her family to go out and sleep with anyone she wants.
The Good Girl (2002)- One of Jennifer Aniston’s finest performances and an excellent dark comedic script written by Mike White. Thirty-year-old Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston) is stuck. She lives in Texas and works a steady but boring job at a discount store called Retail Rodeo along with her equally bored and sardonic co-worker Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel) and devoutly religious security guard Corny (Mike White). Justine is married to pot smoking house painting husband Phil Last (John C. Reilly) and begrudgingly puts up with Phil’s creepy pot head friend Bubba (Tim Blakely). Growing increasingly bored with her mundane life Justine strikes up a friendship with a new introverted young cashier named Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is obsessed with The Catcher in the Rye. Their friendship starts out well and each one seems to nurture the other’s best attributes. But though their mutual company causes their lives to improve, their friendship causes the other people in their lives to become vicious.
How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)- This truly original and wacky dark comedy is a must see especially for Richard E. Grant’s (as always) stellar performance. Advertising executive Denis Dimbleby Bagley has lost his mind. He cracks after trying to come up with a brilliant add for pimple cream. As his mental breakdown begins, he spies a rather large boil on his shoulder while looking in the mirror. After awhile the boil begins to take on a different and more sinister form.
You can check out my books Chicane and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!, Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!, and Musicology Volume Three, Twist! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!
STREAM OF THE WEEK- THE CENTER OF THE WORLD (2001)– Tubi
It has always perplexed me why some critics do not like this movie apart from some like Roger Ebert and Richard Roper who’s reviews I agreed with. Especially what Ebert points out about this being a story about the mind games more than the sex in his critique. But then Ebert wasn’t your average critic. It is an explicit film but a provocative one which examines the power of sex, money, and emotions with the help of two fantastic and brave actors. Richard Longman (Peter Sarsgaard) is on the brink of his IPO going public. But like many computer nerds (and incels) though he is highly intelligent he lacks the social skills he needs to meet and keep a personal relationship. Richard frequents a local café where he meets Florence (no last name) who reveals to him she is a drummer but makes her money working as a stripper. Surprised but titillated by this information Richard starts frequenting her club, buying lap dance after lap dance. Finally, on the eve of his company going public Richard, burnt out from constantly working, invites Florence to go to Las Vegas with him for a weekend. When she turns him down, Richard offers to compensate her with ten thousand dollars. But Florence quickly sees this as a business transaction. Not wanting to be viewed as a prostitute but in need of the cash, Florence writes a list of demands for the trip which Richard initially agrees with. But once in Las Vegas, a place neither of them has visited before, the lines in the sand begin to blur.
SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS- BACK TO SCHOOL (1986)-Amazon Prime
This one is for the older kids. This smart funny gem stars Rodney Dangerfield as a successful millionaire businessman named Thornton Mellon, a jolly high-spirited guy who graduated from the school of hard knocks but not from college. When his disheartened son Jason (Keith Gordon) heads off to university and his wife cheats on him, Thornton gets a divorce and enrolls as a student to keep his son’s spirits up and ends up falling for his English teacher Doctor Diane Turner (Sally Kellerman) and drives his business school professor Doctor Philip Barbay (Paxton Whitehead) up the wall.
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