May was a fairly slim movie-watching month, but it contained a healthy amount of 5/5 (5-star) movies. You can check out Part I here before taking a look at the 11 films below:
The Sure Thing (1985) Rob Reiner (3x)
Shout! Factory Blu-ray (1:35)
Previously discussed here
99 Homes (2014) Ramin Bahrani
Amazon streaming (1:52)
Anyone who doesn’t think Michael Shannon is a force to be reckoned with should see his performance in 99 Homes. He deserved all the Best Supporting Actor nominations and the wins (Los Angeles Film Critics Association, San Francisco Film Critics Circle) he earned, but the Oscars, in their infinite lack of wisdom, blew it. This real estate thriller was a real word-of-mouth sleeper that you really shouldn’t miss and not just for Shannon (although he kills it).
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Gene Kelley
Warner Blu-ray borrowed from Orangerful (1:43)
What can you say about a film that’s arguably the greatest musical of all time? I must admit two things here: (1) I typically do not like musicals and (2) I woefully regret not seeing this film in its entirety before now. There is absolute wonder in this film, especially in the dance numbers, which are so beautiful, so gorgeous… We have nothing like this in movies anymore; don’t even try to tell me we do. Leonard Maltin once said that if you had only one film to show people who had no idea what classic cinema is, this is the film to show them. I think he’s probably right. If you’ve never seen Singin’ in the Rain before, don’t be a dope (like me). See it.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
20th Century Fox DVD – library (1:45)
Paris, Texas (1984) Wim Wenders (3x)
Criterion Blu-ray (2:27)
Both films discussed as part of The Beckie Project Part IV
The October Man (1947) Roy Ward Baker
Kino British Noir DVD (1:35)
Director Roy Ward Baker (credited in most of his films as Roy Baker) had a long career, directing such films as A Night to Remember (1958) and Don’t Bother to Knock (1952). The October Man was his first film and it’s rare that someone’s initial directorial outing is this good.
Of course, having spy novelist Eric Ambler writing your screenplay (based on his own novel) doesn’t hurt. John Mills (above left) plays Jim Ackland, a man whose accident led to a brain injury that makes him forget many of his actions. Is it possible he killed a young girl and can’t remember it? Or is there something else going on, someone taking advantage of Ackland’s condition for some nefarious purpose? Hmmm….. Also stars Joan Greenwood. Quite good.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) Amy Heckerling
Amazon streaming (no longer streaming as part of Amazon Prime) (1:30)
Somehow I missed this one back in the day, but having seen it now, I sort of wish I’d left this one undiscovered.
The Thin Man (1934) W. S. Van Dyke
TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection DVD (1:33)
So much can be said about The Thin Man, all of it wonderful, entertaining and interesting. Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, the film version is one of those rare instances that makes you think the stars must’ve been perfectly aligned when it was being produced. William Powell and Myrna Loy are so perfect, the dialogue and writing so snappy and clever, the humor timed so remarkably, it’s as close to perfection as you can get, a solid balance of mystery and comedy that probably hasn’t been equaled in over 80 years. The film spawned five sequels from 1936 to 1947. I hope to see them all. You should, too.
Phoenix (2014) Christian Petzold
Netflix streaming, also a Criterion release (1:38) in German with English subtitles
The best film I’ve seen so far in 2016. Maybe the best film I’ve seen in several years. Seriously. I promised I would not write further on this outstanding film until I’ve seen it again and watched all its supplements. Here is my teaser.
Shield for Murder (1954) Howard W. Koch, Edmond O’Brien
Amazon streaming (1:22)
Shield for Murder isn’t bad, but it’s also not great. Edmond O’Brien (one of my favorite actors) plays Lieutenant Barney Nolan, a crooked cop who kills a bookie and steals $25,000 from him. Nolan convinces his friend and partner (John Agar), the police captain (Emile Meyer [below right], who you’ve just gotta love in all his crime pictures), and his girlfriend (Marla English) that he’s on the level. He could probably get away with it, but the dead bookie’s boss sends a couple of PIs (Claude Akins and Larry Ryle) to get to the truth of the matter.
The film’s not bad. The pacing is pretty good and the performances adequate, but Edmond O’Brien isn’t exactly the type of guy you enjoy seeing going bad or going postal with rage, which he does a lot in the film. There’s also a shoot-out at a public swimming pool that’s completely ridiculous, but there’s also a nice appearance by Carolyn Jones. Shield for Murder gets a Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber on June 21, 2016.
The Big Lebowski (1998) Joel Coen
Universal Blu-ray (1:59)
If you’ve never seen it, I’m not sure I can say anything that will prepare you for The Big Lebowski. Ask anyone their favorite Coen brothers film and this one will probably be named at least half the time. As wild and wacked-out as it is, a familiarity with the Howard Hawks classic The Big Sleep (1946) goes a long way to a greater appreciation of The Big Lebowski.