(Films To Watch In...) B.F.Eby Phil Rossi | created - 04 May 2011 | updated - 04 May 2011 | Public
My own private IMDB of a list!Essentials only and, as usual, mostly underground sleepers and not predictable folly.In no particular order...
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1. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
PG-13 | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Music
In the 1930s, jazz guitarist Emmet Ray idolizes Django Reinhardt, faces gangsters and falls in love with a mute woman.
Votes: 29,287 | Gross: $4.20M
Sweet and Lowdown is 1999 film written and directed by Woody Allen which tells the story of a fictional arrogant, obnoxious, alcoholic jazz guitarist named Emmet Ray (played by Sean Penn) who regards himself as perhaps the best guitarist in the world, or second best, after his idol, Django Reinhardt. The film also stars Uma Thurman, Anthony LaPaglia, and Samantha Morton as Hattie, a lovable young mute woman. Allen appears briefly as himself, being interviewed about Ray's music. The film, loosely based on Federico Fellini's film La strada, was one of Allen's most well-received dramatic films.
Hot off his 1969 directing debut Take the Money and Run, Allen signed a contract to direct a series of films with United Artists. Told to "write what you want to write," Allen wrote The Jazz Baby, a dramatic screenplay about a jazz musician set in the thirties. Allen said later that the United Artists executives were "stunned... because they had expected a comedy. [They] were very worried and told me, 'We realize that we signed a contract with you and you can do anything you want. But we want to tell you that we really don't like this.'"Allen went along with United Artists, writing and directing Bananas instead. In 1995, he dismissed The Jazz Baby as having been "probably too ambitious."
In 1998, Allen returned to the project, rewriting the script and dubbing it Sweet and Lowdown. In the role of Emmet Ray, a jazz guitarist whom Allen had originally planned to play himself, the director cast Sean Penn. (Allen also considered Johnny Depp, but the actor was busy at the time.)Though Allen was initially wary of working with Penn, having heard that he was difficult, he later said that "I had no problem with him whatsoever... He gave it his all and took direction and made contributions himself... a tremendous actor."
Allen's use of Penn (and Morton) paid off when Sweet and Lowdown was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Sean Penn) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Samantha Morton). Morton's nomination was especially notable, considering the fact that she does not utter a single word of dialogue in the film. Allen has said that he told Morton to "play the part like Harpo Marx. And she said, 'Who is Harpo Marx?' and I realized how young she was. Then I told her about him [and] she went back and saw the films."In addition to her Oscar nomination, Morton's performance was met with critical acclaim, with Salon.com critic Stephanie Zacharek saying that she "quietly explodes [the film]... Her performance is like nothing I've seen in recent years."
Sweet and Lowdown was filmed entirely New York and New Jersey but set in the Chicago area and California.
The film was the first of Allen's that was edited by Alisa Lepselter, who has edited all of Allen's films since. Lepselter was succeeding Susan E. Morse, who had edited Allen's films for the previous twenty years.
The music for the film was arranged and conducted by Dick Hyman. All of the guitar solos are played by guitarist Howard Alden. Alden also coached Sean Penn on playing the guitar for his role in the film.
Additional rhythm guitarists: Bucky Pizzarelli and James Chirillo — Chirillo played rhythm guitar on the Sweet Georgia Brown track — where the crescent moon cable breaks while Sean Penn is riding it. Bucky Pizzarelli did all the other rhythm tracks.
Directed by Woody Allen Produced by Jean Doumanian Written by Woody Allen Starring Sean Penn Samantha Morton Anthony LaPaglia Uma Thurman Cinematography Zhao Fei Editing by Alisa Lepselter Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics Release date September 4, 1999 Running time 95 minutes Country United States Language English
2. Dinner Rush (2000)
R | 99 min | Crime, Drama, Romance
Is it just another evening at the hugely popular Italian restaurant of proprietor and bookmaker Louis Cropa in New York? Anything but as tonight's guests include; a local police detective ... See full summary »
Votes: 4,505 | Gross: $0.11M
Dinner Rush is an independent feature film, written by Brian S. Kalata and Rick Shaughnessy. Directed by Bob Giraldi. It stars Danny Aiello as a restaurateur-bookmaker in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood and Edoardo Ballerini as his son, the restaurant's star chef. It concerns converging pressures from the son and his gambling Sous-chef who work in the kitchen, as well as organized crime. Aside from one sequence before the opening credits, it adheres to two of the three Classical unities, time and space. All of the events after the opening credits occur during one evening at the restaurant or just outside.
* Louis Cropa, the restaurant owner played by Danny Aiello. Mr. Cropa denies rumors that he is, or once was, tied to the Mafia. His son is the master chef, whose experimental recipes steer the menu away from more traditional Italian cuisine, despite Mr. Cropa's protests. Mr. Cropa also treats sous-chef Duncan like a son, despite disapproval of Duncan's gambling problem. * Udo "King" Cropa, the head chef played by Edoardo Ballerini. Udo is a brilliant chef, but disapproves of the traditional Italian dishes favored by his father. In the movie, the viewer sees him prepare a shelled and chopped-up lobster dish in a cream sauce flavored with vanilla, with fried spaghetti used as garnish. He commands the kitchen with an iron fist, and feels that he should be made partner in the restaurant, since much of the business's success is due to Udo's original recipes. * Sean, the bartender played by Jamie Harris. In addition to being a skilled bartender, Sean has an encyclopedic knowledge of trivia, and earns extra money by challenging his patrons to bet on stumping him. * Duncan, the sous-chef played by Kirk Acevedo. A skilled chef in his own right, Duncan often ends up making the off-menu traditional Italian dishes that are forbidden by Udo, but often ordered by Louis Cropa and other customers. Duncan is a gambling addict heavily in debt to both the mob and his employer, Louis Cropa, who treats Duncan like a son. In the movie, he attempted to save his $13,000 debt by putting it all on the New York Knicks to win in a home game at Madison Square Garden, the opponent is not known. * Carmen, a loan shark played by Mike McGlone. Carmen wants to muscle his way into a partnership in the restaurant. * Fitzgerald, a powerful art critic played by Mark Margolis. Fitzgerald likes to complain, pontificate on the nature of art, and insult the people around him. * Marti, the head waitress played by Summer Phoenix. She is responsible for training new servers, to the point of putting emphasis on the nuances of pronunciation of every Italian dish on the menu in an authentic Italian manner. However, it was later known that she was an undiscovered artist. * Jennifer Freely, a celebrity food critic and restaurant reviewer played by Sandra Bernhard. Like Fitzgerald, Jennifer likes to complain and use her celebrity to get special treatment. She is an ex-girlfriend of Udo's, and they are still on a friendly basis. * Nicole Chan, a restaurant employee played by Vivian Wu. In charge of taking reservations for the restaurant, Nicole is dating both Duncan and Udo, clearly preferring her relationship to Duncan. * Ken Roloff, a secret incognito hitman hired by Louis (played by John Corbett)as he plotted to avenge Enrico's death before the opening credits. He is a Wall Street stock trader by trade.
Directed by Bob Giraldi Written by Brian S. Kalata Rick Shaughnessy Release date 2000 Country USA Language English
3. Paris, je t'aime (2006)
R | 120 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Through the neighborhoods of Paris, love is veiled, revealed, imitated, sucked dry, reinvented and awakened.
Directors: Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Gérard Depardieu, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Daniela Thomas, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant | Stars: Juliette Binoche, Leonor Watling, Ludivine Sagnier, Fanny Ardant
Votes: 65,649 | Gross: $4.86M
Paris, Je t'aime (Paris, I love you) is a 2006 film starring an ensemble cast of actors of various nationalities. The two-hour film consists of eighteen short films set in different arrondissements. The 22 directors include Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel and Ethan Coen, Gérard Depardieu, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Nobuhiro Suwa, Alexander Payne, Tom Tykwer, Walter Salles and Gus Van Sant.
The film premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival on 18 May, opening the Un Certain Regard selection. It had its Canadian premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on 10 September and its U.S. premiere in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 9 April 2007 First Look Pictures acquired the North American rights, and the film opened in the United States on 4 May 2007.
Initially, twenty short films representing the twenty arrondissements of Paris were planned, but two of them (the XVe arrondissement, directed by Christoffer Boe, and the XIe arrondissement, by Raphaël Nadjari) were not included in the final film because they could not be properly integrated into it. Each arrondissement is followed by a few images of Paris; these transition sequences were written by Emmanuel Benbihy and directed by Benbihy with Frédéric Auburtin. Including Benbihy, there were 22 directors involved in the finished film.
The 18 arrondissements are:
* Montmartre (XVIIIe arrondissement) — by French writer-director Bruno Podalydès. A man (played by Podalydès himself) parks his car on a Montmartre street and muses about how the women passing by his car all seem to be "taken". Then a woman passerby (Florence Muller) faints near his car, and he comes to her aid.
* Quais de Seine (Ve arrondissement) — made by the husband-and-wife team of Japanese-American screenwriter Paul Mayeda Berges and Indian-British director Gurinder Chadha. A young man (Cyril Descours), hanging out with two friends who taunt all women who walk by, strikes up a friendship with a young Muslim woman (Leïla Bekhti).
* Le Marais (IVe arrondissement) — by American writer-director Gus Van Sant. A young male customer (Gaspard Ulliel) finds himself attracted to a young printshop worker (Elias McConnell) and tries to explain that he believes the man to be his soulmate, not realizing that he speaks little French. Marianne Faithfull also appears briefly in the film.
* Tuileries (Ier arrondissement) — by American writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen. A comic film in which an American tourist (Steve Buscemi) waiting at the Tuileries station becomes involved in the conflict between a young couple (Axel Kiener and Julie Bataille) after he breaks the cardinal rule of avoiding eye contact with people on the Paris Metro.
* Loin du 16e (XVIe arrondissement; literally: "far from the 16th") — by Brazilian writer-directors Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas. A young immigrant woman (Catalina Sandino Moreno) sings a Spanish lullaby ("Qué Linda Manita") to her baby before leaving it in a daycare. She then takes an extremely long commute to the home of her wealthy employer (whose face is not seen), where she sings the same lullaby to her employer's baby.
* Porte de Choisy (XIIIe arrondissement) — directed by Australian director Christopher Doyle and written by Doyle with Gabrielle Keng and Kathy Li. A comic film in which a beauty products salesman (Barbet Schroeder) makes a call on a Chinatown salon run by a woman (Li Xin) who proves to be a tough customer.
* Bastille (XIIe arrondissement) — by Spanish writer-director Isabel Coixet. Prepared to leave his marriage for a much younger lover, Marie Christine (Leonor Watling), a man, Sergio (Sergio Castellitto) instead decides to stay with his wife (Miranda Richardson) after she reveals a terminal illness - and he rediscovers the love he once felt for her.
* Place des Victoires (IIe arrondissement) — by Japanese writer-director Nobuhiro Suwa. A mother (Juliette Binoche), grieving over the death of her little boy (Martin Combes), is comforted by a magical cowboy (Willem Dafoe).
* Tour Eiffel (VIIe arrondissement) — written and directed by French animator Sylvain Chomet. A boy tells how his parents, both mime artists (Paul Putner and Yolande Moreau), meet in prison and fall in love.
* Parc Monceau (XVIIe arrondissement) — by Mexican writer-director Alfonso Cuarón. An older man (Nick Nolte) and younger woman (Ludivine Sagnier) meet for an arrangement that a third person ('Gaspard'), who is close to the woman, may not approve of. It is eventually revealed that the young woman is his daughter, and Gaspard is her baby. The film was shot in a single continuous shot. When the characters walk by a video store, several posters of movies by the other directors of Paris, je t'aime are visible in the window.
* Quartier des Enfants Rouges (IIIe arrondissement) — by French writer-director Olivier Assayas. An American actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal) procures some exceptionally strong hashish from a dealer (Lionel Dray) whom she gets a crush on.
* Place des fêtes (XIXe arrondissement) — by South African writer-director Oliver Schmitz. A Nigerian man (Seydou Boro), dying from a stab wound in the Place des fêtes asks a woman paramedic (Aïssa Maïga) for a cup of coffee. It is then revealed that he had fallen in love at first sight with her some time previously. By the time she remembers him, and has received the coffee, he has died.
* Pigalle (IXe arrondissement) — by American writer-director Richard LaGravenese. An aging couple (Bob Hoskins and Fanny Ardant) act out a fantasy argument for a prostitute in order to keep the spark in their relationship.
* Quartier de la Madeleine (VIIIe arrondissement) — by Canadian writer-director Vincenzo Natali. A young backpacker tourist (Elijah Wood) falls in love with a vampiress (Olga Kurylenko).
* Père-Lachaise (XXe arrondissement) — by American writer-director Wes Craven. While visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery, a young woman (Emily Mortimer) breaks up with her fiancé (Rufus Sewell), who then redeems himself with the aid of advice from the ghost of Oscar Wilde (Alexander Payne).
* Faubourg Saint-Denis (Xe arrondissement) — by German writer-director Tom Tykwer. After mistakenly believing that his girlfriend, a struggling actress (Natalie Portman), has broken up with him, a young blind man (Melchior Beslon) reflects on the growth and seeming decline of their relationship.
* Quartier Latin (VIe arrondissement) — written by American actress Gena Rowlands, directed by French actor Gérard Depardieu and French director Frédéric Auburtin. A separated couple (Ben Gazzara and Rowlands) meet at a bar (run by Depardieu) for one last drink before the two officially divorce.
* 14e arrondissement (XIVe arrondissement) — written and directed by Alexander Payne. Carol (Margo Martindale), a letter carrier from Denver, Colorado on her first European holiday, recites in rough French what she loves about Paris.
Following the success of Paris, je t'aime, a similarly structured film, New York, I Love You, focusing on life in the Five Boroughs, premiered at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival and was released in a limited number of theatres in 2009.
The Cities of Love website states that there are 3 more movies in the series to be released. They include Rio, Eu Te Amo, Shanghai, I Love You and Jerusalem, I Love You. All 3 films will follow the same style with no fewer than 10 short films using their respective city as the main unifying character. The films are slated for release around 2010-2013.
Tokyo!, a triptych-film following this same style, saw limited exposure in 2008 and 2009. A film called Moscow, I Love You was released in 2010 in Russia with a similar structure.
Directed by Various Produced by Emmanuel Benbihy Claudie Ossard Written by Various Starring Various Music by Various Distributed by La Fabrique de Films (France) First Look Pictures (USA) Maple Pictures (Canada) Release date 21 June 2006 (France) Running time 120 minutes Country France Language French Budget $13,000,000 (estimated) Gross revenue $17,471,727
4. Career Opportunities (1991)
PG-13 | 83 min | Comedy, Romance
Josie, the daughter of the town's wealthiest businessman, faces problems at home and wishes to leave home, but is disorientated. Her decision is finalized after she falls asleep in a Target... See full summary »
Votes: 7,691 | Gross: $11.34M
Career Opportunities is a 1991 American romantic comedy film starring Frank Whaley in his first lead role and co-starred Jennifer Connelly in one of her first. It was written and produced by John Hughes and directed by Bryan Gordon.
Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley) is a self-proclaimed "people person" and dreamer who is perceived as lazy. After being fired from numerous low-paying jobs, Jim is given the choice by his father, Bud Dodge (John M. Jackson), to either land a job at the local Target or be put on a bus to St. Louis.
Jim is hired as Night Cleanup Boy. On his first shift at his new job, Jim is locked, alone, in the store by his boss. The good news is that he encounters Josie McClellan (Jennifer Connelly), the stereotypical "spoiled rich girl," who is someone he knew in school.
Josie had spent the past several hours asleep in a dressing room after backing out of shoplifting some merchandise in a half-hearted attempt to run away from her abusive father, Roger Roy McClellan (Noble Willingham). Josie and Jim identify each other as kindred spirits and proceed to enjoy the freedom of having a store this size to themselves.
However, things become complicated when two incompetent crooks, Nestor Pyle (Dermot Mulroney) and Gil Kinney (Kieran Mulroney), break into the store and hold the teenagers hostage.
Directed by Bryan Gordon Produced by John Hughes Hunt Lowry Written by John Hughes Starring Frank Whaley Jennifer Connelly Dermot Mulroney Kieran Mulroney John M. Jackson Jenny O'Hara Noble Willingham William Forsythe John Candy Barry Corbin Music by Thomas Newman Cinematography Donald McAlpine Editing by Glenn Farr Peck Prior Studio Hughes Entertainment Distributed by Universal Pictures Release date March 29, 1991 Running time 83 min. Language English
5. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
R | 104 min | Drama
Two best friends living on the streets of Portland as hustlers embark on a journey of self discovery and find their relationship stumbling along the way.
Votes: 40,607 | Gross: $6.40M
My Own Private Idaho is a 1991 independent film written and directed by Gus Van Sant, loosely based on Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V. The story follows two friends, Mike (River Phoenix) and Scott (Keanu Reeves), as they embark on a journey of personal discovery that takes them to Mike's hometown in Idaho and then to Italy in search of Mike's mother.
Van Sant originally wrote the screenplay in the 1970s, but discarded it after reading John Rechy's 1963 novel, City of Night, and concluding that Rechy's treatment of the subject of street hustlers was better than his own. Over the years, Van Sant rewrote the script, which comprised two stories: that of Mike and the search for his mother, and Scott's story as a modern update of the Henry IV plays. Van Sant had difficulty getting Hollywood financing, and at one point considered making the film on a minuscule budget with a cast of actual street kids. He sent copies of his script to Keanu Reeves and to River Phoenix, assuming that they would turn it down, but both agreed to star in the film.
My Own Private Idaho had its premiere at the 1991 Venice Film Festival, and received largely positive reviews, from critics including Roger Ebert and those of The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. The film was a financial success, grossing over $6.4 million in North America, which was above its estimated budget of $2.5 million. Phoenix received several awards for his performance in the film, including the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 1991 Venice Film Festival, Best Male Lead from the Independent Spirit Awards, and Best Actor from the National Society of Film Critics.
Mike (River Phoenix), a gay street hustler, is standing alone on a deserted stretch of highway somewhere in Idaho. He starts talking to himself and notices that the road looks “like someone’s face, like a *beep* face.” He experiences a narcoleptic episode and dreams of his mother comforting him as he replays home movies of his childhood in his mind. Mike wakes up to being fellated by a client in Seattle, Washington.
After his hotel encounter in Seattle, Mike returns to his favorite spots to pick up potential clients. He is picked up by a wealthy older woman (Grace Zabriskie) who takes him to her mansion where he meets two fellow hustlers also hired by the woman. One of them is Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), Mike’s best friend and the other is Gary (Rodney Harvey). While preparing to have sex with the woman, Mike experiences another narcoleptic fit and awakens the next day with Scott in Portland, Oregon.
Mike and Scott are soon reunited with Bob Pigeon (William Richert), a middle-aged man and mentor to a gang of street kids and hustlers who live in an abandoned apartment building. Scott, the son of the mayor of Portland, admits to Bob in private that when he turns 21, he will inherit his father’s fortune and retire from street hustling. Mike yearns to find his mother, and he and Scott leave Portland for Idaho to visit Mike’s older brother Richard (James Russo), who lives in a run-down trailer. Richard tries to tell Mike who his real father is, but Mike says that he knows it is Richard. Richard tells Mike that their mother works as a hotel maid; when Mike and Scott visit the hotel, they find she has gone to Italy in search of her own family.
Mike and Scott travel to Italy where they find the country farmhouse where Mike’s mother worked, as a maid and as an English tutor. The young woman Carmella (Chiara Caselli) who lives there tells Mike that his mother returned to the United States months ago. Carmella and Scott fall in love and return to the U.S., leaving Mike to return home on his own. Scott inherits his fortune.
Back in Portland, Bob and his gang confront a newly reformed Scott at a fashionable restaurant, but he rejects them. That night Bob has a fatal heart attack. The next day the hustlers hold a rowdy funeral for Bob, while in the same cemetery, a few yards away, Scott attends a solemn funeral for his recently deceased father. Mike is back on a deserted stretch of Idaho highway. He falls into another narcoleptic stupor and two strangers pull up in a truck, steal Mike’s belongings and drive away. Moments later, an unidentified figure pulls up in a car, picks Mike up, places him in the vehicle and drives off.
Initially, no studio would finance the film because of its potentially controversial and off-beat subject matter. After Drugstore Cowboy received such favorable critical raves and awards, studios started to show some interest.However, they all wanted their own versions made and not Van Sant's. This frustration prompted the filmmaker to attempt the feature on a shoestring budget with a cast of actual street kids filling out the roles including Michael Parker and actor Rodney Harvey, who was going to play Scott.
Van Sant faced the problem of casting the two central roles. He decided to send the script to the agents of Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix, figuring that their agents would reject the script.Reeves' agent was amenable to the project, but Phoenix's agent would not even show the screenplay to the young actor. Not to be deterred, Van Sant got the idea for Reeves to personally deliver the film's treatment to Phoenix at his home in Florida.Reeves did so over the Christmas holidays, riding his 1974 Norton Commando motorcycle from his family home in Canada to the Phoenix family ranch in Micanopy, Florida, outside Gainesville. Reeves was no stranger to River Phoenix or members of his family, having worked previously with River on Lawrence Kasdan's I Love You to Death and with his brother Joaquin and girlfriend Martha Plimpton on Ron Howard's Parenthood. After reading the treatment, Phoenix agreed to play the role of Scott. However, since Van Sant had already cast Reeves in the role, they had to convince River to take on the edgier role of drug-addicted hustler Mike Waters. The director promised not to make either actor do anything embarrassing. Van Sant got an offer of $2 million from an outside investor but when he put off production for nine months so that Phoenix could make Dogfight, the investor and his money disappeared.Producer Laurie Parker shopped the script around and, at the time, New Line Cinema was in the process of branching out into producing arthouse films and decided to back Van Sant's vision with a USD$2.5 million budget.
Phoenix arrived in Portland two weeks before principal photography was to begin in order to do research and Van Sant remembered, "He seemed to be changing into this character". One of the film's directors of photography Eric Alan Edwards recalled that the actor looked like a street kid", and "in a very raw way he wore that role. I've never seen anybody so intent on living his role". Several cast and crew members, including Michael Parker, Phoenix, Reeves and Flea lived together in a house in Portland during filming. A couple of times a week they would play music together. Due to the low budget, a typical day of shooting started at 6 am and ended at 11 pm.
The film was not storyboarded and was made without a shot list. The camp fire scene was originally a short, three-page scene that Phoenix re-wrote into an eight-page scene where Mike professes his love for Scott so that it was more apparent that his character was gay whereas Van Sant had originally made it more ambiguous.Reeves reportedly was not comfortable with this aspect of the film as he said in an interview, "I'm not against gays or anything, but I won't have sex with guys. I would never do that on film. We did a little of it in Idaho and, believe me, it was hard work. Never again".
Directed by Gus Van Sant Produced by Laurie Parker Written by Gus Van Sant Narrated by River Phoenix Starring River Phoenix Keanu Reeves James Russo Music by Bill Stafford Cinematography John J. Campbell Eric Alan Edwards Editing by Curtiss Clayton Distributed by Fine Line Features Release date October 18, 1991 Running time 102 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $2,500,000 (estimated) Gross revenue $6,401,336
6. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
PG-13 | 116 min | Comedy, Drama, War
When an open-minded Jewish librarian and his son become victims of the Holocaust, he uses a perfect mixture of will, humor and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp.
Votes: 484,475 | Gross: $57.60M
Life Is Beautiful (Italian: La vita è bella) is a 1997 Italian language film which tells the story of a Jewish Italian, Guido Orefice (played by Roberto Benigni, who also directed and co-wrote the film), who must employ his fertile imagination to help his family during their internment in a Nazi concentration camp.
At the 71st Academy Awards in 1999, Benigni won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the film won both the Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The first half of the movie is a whimsical, romantic, somewhat slapstick comedy set in the years before World War II. Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni), a young Italian Jew, arrives in Arezzo where he plans to set up a bookstore, taking a job as a waiter at his uncle's hotel.
Guido is both funny and charismatic, especially when he romances a local school teacher, Dora, saying she is beautiful like the morning sunrise (portrayed by Benigni's actual wife Nicoletta Braschi). Dora however comes from a wealthy, aristocratic, non-Jewish Italian family. Dora's mother wants her to marry a well-to-do civil servant, but Dora falls instead for Guido where he ends up stealing her away at her engagement party from her aristocratic and arrogant fiancé.
Several years pass in which Guido and Dora marry and have a son, Giosuѐ (Joshua) (Giorgio Cantarini).
Dora and her mother (Marisa Paredes) are estranged due to the unequal marriage. Later on, a reconciliation takes place just prior to Giosuѐ's fourth birthday.
In the second half of the film, World War II has already begun. Guido, Uncle Eliseo and Giosuѐ are forced onto a train and taken to a concentration camp on Giosuѐ's birthday. Dora demands to be on the same train to join her family and is permitted to do so.
In the camp, Guido hides his son from the Nazi guards, sneaks him food and tries to humor him. In an attempt to keep up Giosuѐ's spirits, Guido convinces him that the camp is just a game, in which the first person to get 1,000 points wins a tank. He tells him that if he cries, complains that he wants his mother, or says that he is hungry, he will lose points, while quiet boys who hide from the camp guards earn 1,000 points.
Guido convinces Giosuѐ that the camp guards are mean because they want the tank for themselves and that all the other children are hiding in order to win the game. He puts off Giosuѐ's requests to end the game and return home by convincing him that they are in the lead for the tank. Despite being surrounded by rampant misery, sickness and death, Giosuѐ does not question this fiction because of his father's convincing performance and his own innocence.
Guido maintains this story right until the end when, in the chaos caused by the American advance, he tells his son to stay in a sweatbox until everybody has left, this being the final test before the tank is his. After trying to find Dora, Guido is caught, taken away and shot dead by a Nazi guard, but not before making his son laugh one last time by imitating the Nazi guard as if the two of them are marching around the camp together.
Giosuѐ manages to survive and thinks he has won the game when an American tank arrives to liberate the camp. He is reunited with his mother, not knowing that his father has been killed. Years later, he realizes the sacrifice his father made for him, and that it was because of that sacrifice that he is still alive today. In the film, Giosuѐ is four and a half years old; however, both the beginning and ending of the film are narrated by an older Giosuѐ recalling his father's story of sacrifice for his family.
Life is Beautiful was shown at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to win the Grand Prize of the Jury. At the 71st Academy Awards, the film won awards for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, and Best Foreign Language Film, with Benigni winning Best Actor for his role. The film also received Academy Award nominations for Directing, Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture.
Directed by Roberto Benigni Produced by Gianluigi Braschi Elda Ferri Written by Roberto Benigni Vincenzo Cerami Starring Roberto Benigni Nicoletta Braschi Giorgio Cantarini Giustino Durano Sergio Bini Bustric Music by Nicola Piovani Cinematography Tonino Delli Colli Editing by Simona Paggi Distributed by Cecchi Gori Distribuzione Release date 20 December 1997 Running time 116 minutes Country Italy Language Italian Gross revenue $229,163,264
7. Finding Graceland (1998)
PG-13 | 106 min | Biography, Drama
An eccentric drifter claiming to be Elvis Presley hitches a ride with a young man and they find themselves on an adventurous road trip to Memphis.
Finding Graceland is a 1998 film starring Harvey Keitel, Johnathon Schaech, Bridget Fonda, and Gretchen Mol featuring a "resurrected" Elvis.
Still mourning the loss of his wife, young widower Byron Gruman (Johnathon Schaech) grudgingly picks up a hitchhiking Elvis (Harvey Keitel), who's Memphis-bound for the yearly commemoration of his "death." He's also on a mission to help folks in need -- including the grief-stricken Byron. Bridget Fonda costars as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator from a Mississippi casino revue who joins the duo on their road trip.
Directed by David Winkler Written by Jason Horwitch Starring Harvey Keitel Johnathon Schaech Bridget Fonda Gretchen Mol David Stewart Susan Traylor Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 9 May 1998 Running time 105 minutes Country USA Language English
8. Grand Theft Parsons (2003)
PG-13 | 88 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama
There are times when it's right and proper to simply bury the dead. This is not one of those times... Gram Parsons was one of the most influential musicians of his time; a bitter, brilliant... See full summary »
Grand Theft Parsons is a 2003 film based on the true story of the country musician Gram Parsons (played by Gabriel Macht) , who died of an overdose in 1973. Parsons and his road manager, Phil Kaufman (played by Johnny Knoxville) made a pact in life that whoever died first would be cremated by the other in the Joshua Tree National Park, an area of desert they both loved and cherished.
The death of singer Gram Parsons prompts Phil Kaufman to fulfill his promise and a subtle black comedy unwinds, with Kaufman bribing mortuary personnel, renting a psychedelic hearse from Larry Oster-burg, and trekking across the U.S. with him, pursued all the while by Parsons' ex-girlfriend with Kaufman's girlfriend and Parsons’ father.
Grand Theft Parsons was shown in the "Park City at Midnight" section at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.
The film received mixed notices from critics. In his review for The New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote, "Parsons himself might have written a surreal, funny-sad ballad about the aftermath of his own death, but Grand Theft Parsons is little more than a surreal anecdote, told in too much detail and without enough soul or imagination to make anything more than a footnote to a legend".However, in his review for the Sunday Times, Bryan Appleyard wrote, "Grand Theft Parsons is a delight, a comic tragedy that, though it does not say much about Parsons's art, says a great deal about the context in which it emerged".Time Out London found that the film "hit on a pleasing vein of deadpan stoner humour, especially in the character of a hearse-driving hippie who comes along for the ride" and "could easily become a a cult favourite". The Daily Mirror wrote, "It's a mark of this movie's tremendous charm that, as the flames rise towards the sky, the ending seems gloriously happy".
Directed by David Caffrey Produced by Frank Mannion Written by Jeremy Drysdale Starring Johnny Knoxville Michael Shannon Christina Applegate Music by Richard G Mitchell Cinematography Robert Hayes Editing by Mary Finlay Alan Roberts Distributed by MGM Release date January 21, 2004 (Sundance Film Festival) Running time 88 min. Country United States/United Kingdom Language English
9. Big Night (1996)
R | 109 min | Drama, Romance
A failing Italian restaurant run by two brothers gambles on one special night to try to save the business.
Votes: 14,149 | Gross: $11.88M
Big Night is a 1996 American motion picture drama with comedic overtones directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci. Produced by Jonathan Filley for the Samuel Goldwyn Company, the film met with much critical acclaim both in the United States and internationally. It was nominated for the "Grand Jury Prize" at the Sundance Film Festival and the "Grand Special Prize" at the Deauville Film Festival.
Scott and Tucci won the New York Film Critics Circle Award and the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best New Director. Tucci and Tropiano won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.
The film, presumably set in a small town on the New Jersey Shore in the 1950s, tells the story of two immigrant brothers from Abruzzo (Italy) who own and operate a restaurant called "Paradise." One brother, Primo (Tony Shalhoub), is a brilliant, perfectionist chef who chafes under their few customers' expectations of "Americanized" Italian food. Their uncle's offer for them to return to Rome to help with his restaurant is becoming more and more appealing to Primo. The other brother, Secondo (Tucci), is the restaurant's manager, who is enamored of the possibilities presented by their new endeavor and life in America. Despite Secondo's efforts and Primo's magnificent food, their restaurant is failing.
Secondo's elusive success as a businessman makes him unable to commit to his girlfriend Phyllis (Minnie Driver), and he has recently been sleeping with Gabriella (Isabella Rossellini), the wife of a competitor. Her husband's self-named restaurant, Pascal's (Ian Holm), has enjoyed great success despite (or perhaps due to) the mediocre, uninspired food served there. Desperate to keep Paradise afloat, Secondo asks Pascal for a loan. Pascal demurs, repeating a past offer to have the brothers come work for him. This Secondo in turn refuses; he and his brother want their own restaurant. In an apparent display of generosity, Pascal instead insists that he will persuade Louis Prima to dine at Paradise when he comes to town, assuming the celebrity jazz singer's patronage will revitalize the brothers' business. Primo and Secondo plunge themselves into preparations for this "big night," spending their last savings on the food and inviting dozens of people (including a newspaper reporter) to join them in a magnificent feast centered around a timpano (a form of timballo, a complicated baked pasta dish). Primo pours his heart into each dish, lavishing care and great expertise on the cooking.
As they wait for Prima and his entourage to arrive, the crowd indulges in the exquisite food and partakes in a fabulous celebration. Hours pass, however, and it becomes apparent that the famous singer is not coming. Phyllis catches Secondo and Gabriella kissing and runs away to the beach. At Gabriella's insistence, Pascal admits that he never even called Louis Prima, thus ending the party.
Secondo follows Phyllis to the beach where they have a final quarrel. Primo and Secondo have a fiery, heartwrenching argument, chafing at their mutual differences. In the wee hours of the morning, Pascal admits to Secondo that he set the brothers up for failure; not as revenge for Secondo's affair with Gabriella but because then the brothers would have no choice but to either return to Italy or work for Pascal. Secondo denies him, saying they will never work for him. The film closes with an uninterrupted, nearly wordless long take: as dawn breaks, Secondo silently cooks an omelette. When it is done, he divides it among three plates, giving one to Cristiano (Marc Anthony), their waiter, and eating one himself. Primo hesitantly enters: Secondo hands him the last plate. They eat without speaking, but lay their arms across each others' shoulders as they do so.
Directed by Campbell Scott Stanley Tucci Produced by Jonathan Filley Written by Joseph Tropiano Stanley Tucci Starring Minnie Driver Ian Holm Isabella Rossellini Tony Shalhoub Stanley Tucci Music by Gary DeMichele Louis Prima Editing by Suzy Elmiger Distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company Release date January 24, 1996 Running time 107 minutes Country United States Language English
10. Cry-Baby (1990)
PG-13 | 85 min | Comedy, Musical
In 1950s Baltimore, a bad boy with a heart of gold wins the love of a good girl, whose boyfriend sets out for revenge.
Votes: 47,431 | Gross: $8.27M
Cry-Baby is a 1990 musical-teen film written and directed by John Waters. It stars Johnny Depp as 1950s teen rebel "Cry-Baby" Wade Walker, and also features an expansive ensemble cast that includes Amy Locane, Iggy Pop, Traci Lords, Ricki Lake, Kim McGuire, David Nelson, Susan Tyrrell, and Patty Hearst. The film did not achieve high audience numbers in its initial release but has subsequently become a cult classic and spawned a Broadway musical of the same name which was nominated for four Tony Awards.
The film is a parody of teen musicals (particularly Grease) and centers on a group of delinquents called the "Drapes" and their interaction with the rest of the town and its other subculture, the "Squares", in 1950s Baltimore, Maryland. "Cry-Baby" Walker, a Drape, and Allison, a Square, create upheaval and turmoil in their little town of Baltimore by breaking the subculture taboos and falling in love. The film shows what the young couple have to overcome to be together and how their actions affect the rest of the town.
Part of the film takes place at the now-closed Enchanted Forest amusement park in Ellicott City, Maryland. Others take place in the Historic town of Sykesville, Maryland.
In 1954 Baltimore, Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker (Johnny Depp) is the leader of a gang of "Drapes", which includes his teenage mom sister Pepper (Ricki Lake), facially disfigured Mona "Hatchet Face" Malnorowski (Kim McGuire), wild and free-spirited Wanda Woodward (Traci Lords), and Milton Hackett (Darren E. Burrows), the nervous son of overzealous religious parents. His ability to shed a single tear drives all the girls wild. One day after school, he is approached by Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane), a pretty girl tired of being a "Square", and the two fall in love. That same day, Cry-Baby approaches the "Square" part of town to a talent show ("Sh-Boom", "A Teenage Prayer") at the recreation center where Allison's grandmother (Polly Bergen) hosts events, and introduces himself to her, who is skeptical of his motives. Cry-Baby invites Allison to a party at Turkey Point, a local hangout spot for the Drapes.
Despite her grandmother's skepticism, Allison accompanies Cry-Baby to Turkey Point and sings with the Drapes ("King Cry-Baby"). As Cry-Baby and Allison tell each other about their orphan lives (Cry-Baby's father was sent to the electric chair after being the "Alphabet Bomber" - a killer who bombed places in alphabetical order [airport], [barber shop]); and Allison's parents, who take separate planes so Allison won't be alone, but their planes still collided with each other), Allison's jealous square boyfriend, Baldwin (Stephen Mailer), starts a riot. Cry-Baby is blamed for the fight and sent to a penitentiary, outraging all his friends and even Allison's grandmother, who is impressed by Cry-Baby's posture, manners, and musical talent.
As Lenora (Kim Webb), a slutty girl with a crush on Cry-Baby but constantly rejected by him, claims to be pregnant with his child, Allison feels betrayed and returns to Baldwin and the Squares, though her grandmother advises her against rushing into a decision. Meanwhile, in the penitentiary, Cry-Baby gets a teardrop tattoo. He tells the tattoo artist, fellow Drape Dupree (Robert Tyree): "I've been hurt all my life, but real tears wash away. This one's for Allison and I want it to last forever!".
Eventually, Allison is persuaded by the newly-established alliance between the Drapes and her grandmother to stand by Cry-Baby and join the campaign for his release ("Please, Mr. Jailer"). Cry-Baby is released but immediately insulted by Baldwin who, after revealing that his grandfather is the one who electrocuted Cry-Baby's father, challenges him to a chicken race. Cry-Baby wins, as Baldwin chickens out, and is reunited with Allison.
The film ends with all watching the chicken race crying a single tear, all except for Allison and Cry-Baby, who has finally let go of the past, enabling him to cry from both eyes.
To find a young actor for the role of Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker, director Waters bought $30 worth of teen magazines, all of which showed Johnny Depp of 21 Jump Street on the cover. Depp thought the script was funny and strange, and took the offbeat role to avoid being typecast as a TV teen idol.
Cry-Baby opened on April 6, 1990 in 1,229 North American cinemas — an unprecedented number for a John Waters film. In its opening weekend, it grossed a soft $3,004,905 ($2,445 per screen) and grossed only $8,266,343 by the end of its theatrical run,thus not recouping the estimated $12 million budget. However, thanks to the presence of Johnny Depp, Cry-Baby has since proven lucrative on television, video, and DVD.
Directed by John Waters Produced by Rachel Talalay Written by John Waters Starring Johnny Depp Amy Locane Polly Bergen Susan Tyrrell Iggy Pop Ricki Lake Traci Lords Music by Patrick Williams Cinematography David Insley Editing by Janice Hampton Studio Imagine Entertainment Distributed by Universal Studios Release date April 6, 1990 Running time 85 minutes 91 minutes (Director's cut) Country United States Language English Budget $11 million Gross revenue $8,266,343
11. Red Rock West (1993)
R | 98 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
Upon arriving to a small town, a drifter is mistaken for a hitman, but when the real hitman arrives, complications ensue.
Votes: 17,012 | Gross: $2.50M
Red Rock West (1992) is a neo-noir film directed by John Dahl. The film, written by Dahl and his brother Rick, was shot in Montana and Willcox, Arizona. The film was well received at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, but deemed a cable and direct-to-video product by Columbia Tri-Star, which owned the North American rights. When Bill Banning, the owner of a San Francisco movie theater and a huge fan of the film, arranged for a theatrical release, the film gained a "buzz" and toured U.S as an art-house hit.
Nicolas Cage plays Michael Williams, a drifter living out of his car after being discharged from the Marine Corps. After a job on an oilfield falls through due to his unwillingness to conceal a war injury on his job application, he wanders into rural Red Rock, Wyoming looking for other work. A local bar owner named Wayne (J.T. Walsh) mistakes him for a hit man, "Lyle from Dallas," whom Wayne has hired to kill his wife. Wayne offers him a stack of cash--"half now, half later"-- Michael doesn't correct him and takes the money. Michael then visits Wayne's wife, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle) and attempts to warn her that her life is in danger—instead of killing her. She then makes a tempting counteroffer to him. Michael, knowing that the longer he stays in town the more danger he'll get into, continually tries to leave town, with no success. He complicates matters when he becomes romantically involved with Suzanne, and has to dodge bullets when "Lyle from Dallas" (Dennis Hopper) finally does show up.
Directed by John Dahl Produced by Steve Golin Sigurjón Sighvatsson Written by John Dahl Rick Dahl Starring Nicolas Cage Dennis Hopper Lara Flynn Boyle J.T. Walsh Music by William Olvis Cinematography Marc Reshovsky Editing by Scott Chestnut Distributed by Roxie Releasing Release date April 8, 1994 Running time 98 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $7,000,000 Gross revenue $2,502,551
12. Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
R | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Music
A series of vignettes that all have coffee and cigarettes in common.
Votes: 51,446 | Gross: $1.97M
Coffee and Cigarettes is the title of three short films and a 2003 feature film by independent director Jim Jarmusch. The 2003 film consists of 11 short stories which share coffee and cigarettes as a common thread, and includes the earlier three films.
The film is composed of a comic series of short vignettes shot in black and white built on one another to create a cumulative effect, as the characters discuss things such as caffeine popsicles, Paris in the 1920s, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide – all the while sitting around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. The theme of the film is absorption in the obsessions, joys, and addictions of life, and there are many common threads between vignettes (such as the Tesla coil, medical knowledge, the suggestion that coffee and cigarettes don't make for a healthy meal (generally lunch), cousins, The Lees (Cinqué, Joie, and a mention of Spike), delirium, miscommunication, musicians, industrial music, acknowledged fame, and the idea of drinking coffee before sleeping in order to have fast dreams). In each of the segments of the film, the common motif of alternating black and white tiles can be seen in some fashion. The visual use of black and white relates to the theme of interpersonal contrasts, as each vignette features two people who disagree completely yet manage to sit amicably at the same table.
The eleven segments that make up the film are as follows: Strange to Meet You
This is the original 1986 short Coffee and Cigarettes with Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright having a conversation about coffee and cigarettes. Twins
Originally the 1989 short Coffee and Cigarettes, Memphis Version – aka Coffee and Cigarettes II – this segment features Joie Lee and Cinqué Lee as the titular twins and Steve Buscemi as the waiter who expounds on his theory on Elvis Presley's evil twin. Cinqué Lee also appears in "Jack Shows Meg his Tesla Coil". The scene also features a recounting of the urban legend that Elvis racistly disparaged African-Americans in a magazine interview at one time. Somewhere in California Main article: Coffee and Cigarettes: Somewhere in California
Filmed in 1993 as the short Coffee and Cigarettes - Somewhere in California, and won the Short Film Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. In this segment musicians Iggy Pop and Tom Waits smoke cigarettes to celebrate that they quit smoking, drink some coffee and make awkward conversation. Those Things'll Kill Ya
Joseph Rigano and Vinny Vella have a conversation over coffee about the dangers of smoking. The silent Vinny Vella Jr. also appears to beg his father for money, which is given in exchange for affection, which is not provided. Renée
Renée French (played by herself) drinks coffee while looking through a gun magazine. E.J. Rodríguez plays the waiter anxious to be of service. No Problem
Alex Descas and Isaach De Bankolé are a couple of friends who meet and talk over some coffee and cigarettes. Alex has no problems, or so he answers to Isaach's repeated questioning. At the end of the scene, Alex takes out a pair of dice and rolls three sets of doubles. It could be assumed that Alex Descas has an excessive gambling problem but to him it is not a problem because of what he can roll. Notice he doesn't roll the dice in front of his friend. Cousins
Cate Blanchett plays herself and a fictional and non-famous cousin named Shelly, whom she meets over some coffee in the lounge of a hotel. There is no smoking in the lounge as the waiter, played by Mike Hogan, informs Shelly (but not until Cate is gone). Shelly tells Cate about her boyfriend, Lee, who is in a band. She describes the music style as hard industrial, similar to the band Iggy describes. Cate tells Shelly she looks forward to meeting "Lou" someday. Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil
Features Jack and Meg White of the band The White Stripes having some coffee and cigarettes. They play themselves, although the scene seems to perpetuate the band's former pretense that they are indeed siblings. Jack shows Meg his Tesla coil that he says he built himself and waxes intellectual on the achievements of Nikola Tesla. In the beginning, Jack seems upset that Meg doesn't share his excitement, and it takes Meg some coaxing to get Jack to agree to show Meg his Tesla Coil. He introduces the line, "Nikola Tesla perceived the earth to be a conductor of acoustical resonance." Intrigued by this concept, Meg repeats the phrase and clinks her coffee cup at the end of the segment to produce a ringing noise, and she looks pensively out into the distance before a cut to black. Cinqué Lee plays a waiter in this segment. In the end, the coil breaks, and Meg and the Waiter offer suggestions as to why it might be broken. Finally Meg says something that Jack seems to agree to, and he leaves to "go home and check it out". This particular vignette is full of White Stripes motifs such as childhood innocence, Nikola Tesla, their 'sibling relationship', and a little red wagon.
Early during the segment, "Down on the Street" by The Stooges (Iggy Pop's best-known band) is played in the background. The song is from the album Fun House, which Jack has noted to be 'the best rock'n'roll record ever made." Cousins?
British actors Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan have a conversation over some tea. (Coogan offers Molina a French cigarette, but Molina "saves" his for later.) Molina compliments Coogan's designer jacket but notes that it will make him hot in the 85 degree Los Angeles heat. Molina works up to presenting his evidence that the two are distant cousins. Coogan rebuffs Molina until Katy Hansz asks Steve Coogan for an autograph, and Coogan won't give out his phone number to Molina. Then when Alfred Molina gets a call from his friend Spike Jonze, Coogan tries to make amends, but it is too late, and he regrets missing the chance to make the connection. Although they say they are in LA, the segment was actually shot in Brooklyn at Galapagos, Williamsburg. Delirium
Hip-hop artists (and cousins) GZA and RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan drink naturally caffeine-free herbal tea and have a conversation with the waiter, Bill Murray, about the dangers of caffeine and nicotine. During this conversation GZA makes a reference to how he would drink lots of coffee before going to bed so his dreams would "whip by" similar to the camera-shots at the Indy 500, very similar to the same reference that Steven Wright did in the first segment. Murray requests that GZA and RZA keep his identity secret, while GZA and RZA inform Murray about nontraditional methods to relieve his smoker's hack. Champagne
William "Bill" Rice and Taylor Mead spend their coffee break having a nostalgic conversation, whilst Janet Baker singing "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" from Mahler's Rückert-Lieder appears from nowhere. William Rice repeats Jack White's line, "Nikola Tesla perceived the earth as a conductor of acoustical resonance." It is possible to interpret the relevance of this line to the constant recurrent themes throughout the seemingly unconnected segments.
Directed by Jim Jarmusch Produced by Jason Kliot Rudd Simmons Jim Stark Birgit Staudt Joana Vicente Written by Jim Jarmusch Starring Roberto Benigni Steven Wright Joie Lee Cinqué Lee Steve Buscemi Iggy Pop Tom Waits Joseph Rigano Vinny Vella Vinny Vella Jr. Renée French E.J. Rodriguez Alex Descas Isaach De Bankolé Cate Blanchett Mike Hogan Jack White Meg White Alfred Molina Steve Coogan Katy Hansz GZA RZA Bill Murray William Rice Taylor Mead Distributed by United Artists Release date 2003 Running time 95 minutes Language English/French
13. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
R | 116 min | Crime, Drama
A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong.
Votes: 91,433 | Gross: $7.49M
The Man Who Wasn't There is a 2001 American neo-noir film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Billy Bob Thornton stars in the title role. Also featured are James Gandolfini, Tony Shalhoub, Scarlett Johansson, Adam Alexi-Malle and Coen regulars Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, and Jon Polito.
Set in and around Santa Rosa, California in 1949, the film follows Ed Crane, a suburban barber, married to Doris, a bookkeeper with a drinking problem. Doris' boss at Nirdlinger's, the local department store, is "Big Dave" Brewster, a loud, boisterous man, who constantly brags about his combat adventures in the Pacific Theatre during World War II where he claims to have served as a crack infantry trooper. Ed, by contrast, was rejected from the army due to flat feet and shows little emotion. Ed suspects that Doris and Big Dave are having an affair.
The barber shop where Ed works is owned by his brother-in-law Frank, a good-natured man of Italian ancestry who talks incessantly. A customer named Creighton Tolliver tells Ed that he's a businessman looking for investors in a new technology called dry cleaning. Ed decides he wants to invest and schemes to get the money by anonymously blackmailing Big Dave for the $10,000 he needs. Big Dave, not suspecting anything, confides in Ed that he's being blackmailed, asking for guidance. Ed advises him to pay. Dave delivers the money without seeing Ed make the pick-up.
Ed brings the money to Tolliver, who subsequently disappears, leaving Ed to believe that he has been scammed. Big Dave calls Ed, asking him to meet at Nirdlinger's. Tolliver (whom Big Dave refers to as the "pansy" due to his apparent homosexuality) had also approached Big Dave, asking him for $10,000. Thinking it too much of a coincidence that he was asked for the same sum of money he was blackmailed for, Brewster tracked the man down and beat a confession out of him. Enraged by Ed's betrayal, Brewster attacks Ed and begins to strangle him. Ed stabs him in the neck with a knife that Dave kept in his office as a cigar cutter and Brewster dies. Ed goes home, where his wife is still unconscious from her alcoholic binge at the wedding they had attended that day.
Once evidence of Doris' affair with Big Dave is uncovered, and since she can't account for her activities (she was passed out drunk) at the time of the murder, she becomes the prime suspect. With the local lawyers deemed insufficient for such an important case, Ed is persuaded to hire Freddy Riedenschneider, an expensive defense attorney from Sacramento who arrives and takes up residence in the best and most expensive hotel in town.
While Ed, Doris and Riedenschneider are brainstorming defense strategies, Ed confesses to the murder. Riedenschneider blows him off, thinking Ed is simply fabricating an uncorroborated story to cover for his wife. Instead, Riedenschneider thinks that he's found a winning legal strategy when a private detective he'd hired digs up evidence that Big Dave was lying about his war heroism. The lawyer plans to present an alternate theory that the real killer was someone who was blackmailing Dave with this information.
On the first day of the trial Doris and the judge are both late. When the judge arrives, he calls the counsel to the bench and dismisses the case. Doris has committed suicide, hanging herself in her jail cell. Riedenschneider leaves with all of Ed's life savings. An autopsy later reveals that Doris was pregnant, despite not having sex with Ed for years.
All during the trial, Ed had been visiting Birdy Abundas, a friend's teenage daughter. The girl plays the piano and Ed wants to pay for her lessons to help her have a career as a pianist. Driving her back from an unsuccessful attempt to impress a piano teacher, Jacques Carcanogues, the girl makes a pass at Ed and attempts to perform oral sex on him. Ed tries to stop her; the car swerves across the road to avoid hitting an oncoming car and crashes.
When Ed awakens in a hospital bed, two police officers tell him he's under arrest for murder. Ed assumes that Birdy died in the crash, but it turns out that Birdy is fine and he's actually being arrested for Tolliver's murder. A young boy swimming in a lake discovered Tolliver, beaten to death by Brewster and submerged in his car. In his briefcase is the contract Ed signed; the police now believe that Ed coerced his wife into embezzling the money from Nirdlinger's to use in the investment, and that Ed is the person who killed the "pansy."
Ed is arraigned for the murder and mortgages his house to re-hire Riedenschneider. His opening statement to the jury is interrupted when Ed's brother-in-law Frank attacks Ed; a mistrial is declared. With no money and nothing left to mortgage, Ed is given the inadequate local lawyer. The new lawyer guides Ed to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court. The gambit doesn't work, and the judge sentences him to death.
Ed writes his story out from his cell on death row, to sell to a pulp magazine that pays him by the word. While waiting on death row, he dreams of walking out to the prison courtyard and seeing a flying saucer, to which he reacts with a simple nod. At the end of the film he is walked to the electric chair and strapped in, where he sits thinking about meeting his wife and possibly having the words to explain his thoughts to her. He regrets none of his actions, except that they may have caused pain for others.
The film was inspired by a poster that the Coen brothers saw while filming The Hudsucker Proxy; the poster showed various haircuts from the 1940s. The story takes place in 1949 and, Joel Coen admits, is "heavily influenced by" the work of James M. Cain, a writer best known for the novels Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Mildred Pierce. Many critics have also noticed a striking resemblance between the film and Albert Camus' The Stranger.
Directed by Joel Coen Ethan Coen (uncredited) Produced by Ethan Coen Joel Coen (uncredited) Written by Joel Coen Ethan Coen Starring Billy Bob Thornton Frances McDormand Michael Badalucco Richard Jenkins Scarlett Johansson Jon Polito Tony Shalhoub and James Gandolfini Music by Carter Burwell Cinematography Roger Deakins Editing by Roderick Jaynes Studio Working Title Films Distributed by Focus Features Release date May 13, 2001 Running time 118 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $20 million
14. The Station Agent (2003)
R | 89 min | Comedy, Drama
When his only friend dies, a man born with dwarfism moves to rural New Jersey to live a life of solitude, only to meet a chatty hot dog vendor and a woman dealing with her own personal loss.
Votes: 61,362 | Gross: $5.74M
The Station Agent is a 2003 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Thomas McCarthy. McCarthy's script about a man who seeks solitude in an abandoned train station in Newfoundland, New Jersey won him the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.
Finbar McBride, a quiet, withdrawn, unmarried man with achondroplasic dwarfism, has a deep love of everything related to railroads. He works in a Hoboken model train hobby shop owned by his elderly and similarly taciturn friend Henry Styles. Because he feels ostracized by a public that tends to make fun of his size, Fin keeps to himself. The train station used in the movie.
When Henry dies unexpectedly, Fin is told that the hobby shop is to be closed forever. However, he also learns that in Henry's will he had left him a piece of rural property with an abandoned train depot on it. He moves into the old building hoping for a life of solitude, but he quickly finds himself reluctantly becoming enmeshed in the lives of his neighbors. Joe Oramas, a Cuban American, is operating his father's roadside snack truck while the elder man recovers from an illness, and Olivia Harris is an artist trying to cope with the sudden death of her young son two years earlier and the ramifications it has had on her marriage to David, from whom she is separated. Cleo is a young African American girl who shares Fin's interest in trains and finally convinces him to lecture her class about them. Emily is the local librarian, a young woman dismayed to discover she is pregnant by her ne'er-do-well boyfriend.
Joe, relentlessly upbeat and overly talkative, soon cracks through Fin's reserve. The two begin to take daily walks along the tracks, and when Olivia gives Fin a movie camera to film the passing trains, Joe pursues them in his truck while Fin captures them on film. Joe and Fin sleep over at Olivia's house after watching this footage and the next morning a flustered David is greeted by the two of them in their boxer shorts. The three forge a tentative friendship that is threatened when Olivia descends into a deep depression. Meanwhile, Emily seeks solace from Fin, who slowly is realizing interaction with other humans may not be as unpleasant as he thought. Fin tries to protect Emily from her boyfriend at a bar, but he pushes Fin aside and reaffirms his hatred of others. Fin spends the night drinking and is almost run over by a train. As if feeling blessed by his gift of life (and symbolically upon his watch getting destroyed in the train mishap), Fin picks up the courage to talk to school kids about trains. Later Fin even walks up to Olivia's home (in spite of being humiliated the previous time) only to find she had attempted suicide. He takes care of her home while she recuperates in hospital. The last scene has Olivia, Joe, and Fin all watch the film of their trainspotting at Olivia's house, closing the movie with their small talk and reconciliation.
James Christopher of The Times stated, "The brilliance of Peter Dinklage’s performance as the ironclad loner is that he doesn’t much care. Yet there’s something deeply affecting about his stoicism and suspicion that has nothing to do with artificial sweeteners, Disney sentiment, or party political broadcasts on behalf of dwarfs. Dinklage just gets on with his performance like an actor who can’t understand why he’s got the lead role. It’s this tension between the film and the unwilling Romeo that makes The Station Agent such a hypnotic watch."
The abandoned train station is located on the active New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway.
Directed by Thomas McCarthy Produced by Robert May Mary Jane Skalski Kathryn Tucker Written by Thomas McCarthy Starring Peter Dinklage Patricia Clarkson Bobby Cannavale Michelle Williams Raven Goodwin Music by Stephen Trask Cinematography Oliver Bokelberg Editing by Tom McArdle Distributed by Miramax Films Release date October 3, 2003 Running time 88 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $500,000 (estimated) Gross revenue $8,679,814 (worldwide)
15. Irreversible (2002)
Not Rated | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.
Votes: 96,373 | Gross: $0.75M
Irréversible is a 2002 French film written, directed, photographed, and edited by Gaspar Noé. It stars Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel. Several reviewers[who?] declared it one of the most disturbing and controversial films of 2002. The film employs non-linear narrative. The music is by French electronic musician Thomas Bangalter, who is best known as half of the band Daft Punk.
Irréversible won the "Bronze Horse" award at the Stockholm Film Festival and competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival,as well as the "Best Foreign Language Award" by the Film Critics Circle of Australia. It was also voted "Best Foreign Language Film" by the San Diego Film Critics Society (tied with Les Invasions Barbares).
Irréversible contains thirteen scenes presented in reverse chronological order.
The beginning of the film (that is, the chronological end of the story) features two men talking in a small apartment suite. One of them is the "Butcher", the protagonist of Noé's previous film, I Stand Alone. In a drunken monologue, the Butcher reveals that he was arrested for having sex with his daughter, which happens in I Stand Alone. Their philosophical musings shift to the subject of a commotion in the streets outside, which is derisively attributed to the patrons of a nearby homosexual S&M nightclub called The Rectum.
Minutes earlier, two men named Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) are escorted out of that nightclub by the police. Marcus is on a stretcher, apparently injured, and Pierre is in handcuffs. Men on the streets shout homophobic insults at them. Earlier that evening, Marcus and Pierre arrived at the club in a frantic search for somebody nicknamed le Tenia — "the Tapeworm". Marcus finds the man believed to be le Tenia and attacks him. The man pins Marcus down, then breaks his arm and attempts to rape him. Pierre rescues Marcus by bludgeoning the attacker's face using a fire extinguisher, fatally crushing the man's skull after repeated blows. During the onslaught, the real le Tenia (Jo Prestia) is seen to be amused by the situation.
Before entering the club, it is learned that Marcus and Pierre went in search of le Tenia after questioning several prostitutes. Apparently their goal is retribution for someone's rape. They track down a transsexual prostitute named Concha (Jara-Millo) who identifies the rapist as le Tenia after Marcus threatens to slash her with a piece of broken glass. Concha also reveals that the rapist is likely to be found at a nightclub called The Rectum.
Marcus and Pierre were aided in their search by a street thug named Mourad (Mourad Khimaand) and his friend Layde (Hellal). Mourad promised to help them find le Tenia for money so that Marcus could have his revenge, rather than leave the matter to the police. It is revealed that le Tenia raped Marcus's girlfriend Alex (Monica Bellucci), and beat her so severely that she fell into a coma.
The rape takes place after Alex encounters le Tenia beating Concha in a pedestrian underpass. Le Tenia then turns his attention on Alex and threatens her with a knife to her throat. He then proceeds to rape Alex, pinning her down on her stomach and threatening her. After raping Alex, le Tenia brutally beats her. From this scene, it becomes clear that Pierre and Marcus attack the wrong man later in the story (earlier in the film). Le Tenia was in fact standing right next to the man Pierre killed in Club Rectum.
In the next scene, we see Alex, Marcus, and Pierre at a party. Alex is annoyed by Marcus' unrestrained use of drugs and alcohol and his flirtatious behavior with other women, and consequently decides to leave the party. The next scene shows the trio discussing sex in a metro station and in the train. It is revealed Pierre used to be Alex's lover.
The penultimate scene shows Marcus and Alex lying in bed after sex. Alex reveals she might be pregnant, and Marcus is pleased with the possibility. To prepare for the party, Marcus leaves to buy wine and Alex has a shower. Alone, Alex uses a home pregnancy test that confirms she is now carrying a child, for which she is elated. She is shown sitting on the bed clothed, with her hand on her belly: a poster for Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the tagline "The Ultimate Trip", is above the headboard.
The final colorful scene shows Alex reading An Experiment with Time by John William Dunne in a park, surrounded by playing children. Beethoven's 7th Symphony is heard in the background. The camera spins around faster and faster until it blacks out into a strobe effect, accompanied by a pulsing, roaring sound. A rapidly-spinning image of a water spray can be dimly perceived.
The final title card reads: LE TEMPS DETRUIT TOUT ("Time Destroys Everything") — a phrase uttered in the film's first scene by one of the men in the apartment.
Film critic Roger Ebert has argued that the film's structure makes it inherently moral; that by presenting vengeance before the acts that inspire it, we are forced to process the vengeance first, and therefore think more deeply about its implications.
Audience reaction to both the lengthy, violent rape scene and the murder scene has ranged from appreciation of their artistic merits to leaving the theater in disgust.Newsweek stated that "If outraged viewers (mostly women) at the Cannes Film Festival are any indication, this will be the most walked-out-of movie of 2003." In the same review, Newsweek's David Ansen suggested that the film displayed "an adolescent pride in its own ugliness".
The film grossed $792,200.
Directed by Gaspar Noé Produced by Brahim Chioua Vincent Cassel Written by Gaspar Noé Starring Monica Bellucci Vincent Cassel Albert Dupontel Music by Thomas Bangalter Cinematography Benoît Debie Gaspar Noé Editing by Gaspar Noé Studio Les Cinémas de la Zone StudioCanal Distributed by Mars Distribution (France) Lions Gate Entertainment (USA) Release date 22 May 2002 Running time 97 minutes Country France Language French Budget €4,610,000 Gross revenue €5,810,102
16. Mystery Train (1989)
R | 110 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
Three stories are connected by a Memphis hotel and the spirit of Elvis Presley.
Votes: 20,526 | Gross: $0.37M
Mystery Train is a 1989 independent anthology film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and set in Memphis, Tennessee. The film comprises a triptych of stories involving foreign protagonists unfolding over the course of the same night. "Far From Yokohama" features a Japanese couple (played by Youki Kudoh and Masatoshi Nagase) on a blues pilgrimage, "A Ghost" focuses on an Italian widow (Nicoletta Braschi) stranded in the city overnight, and "Lost In Space" follows the misadventure of a newly single and unemployed Englishman (Joe Strummer) and his companions (Rick Aviles and Steve Buscemi). They are linked by a run-down flophouse overseen by a night clerk (played by Screamin' Jay Hawkins) and his dishevelled bellboy (Cinqué Lee), a scene featuring Elvis Presley's "Blue Moon",and a gunshot.
The starting point for the script was the ensemble cast of friends and previous collaborators Jarmusch had conceived characters for, while the tripartite formal structure of the film was inspired by his study of literary forms. Cinematographer Robby Müller and musician John Lurie were among the many contributors who had been involved in earlier Jarmusch projects and returned to work on the film. Mystery Train's US$2.8 million budget (financed by Japanese conglomerate JVC) was considerable compared to what the director had enjoyed before, and allowed him the freedom to rehearse many unscripted background scenes. It was the first of Jarmusch's feature films to depart from his trademark black-and-white photography, though the use of color was tightly controlled to conform with the director's intuitive sense of the film's aesthetic.
Mystery Train was released theatrically by Orion Classics under a restricted rating in the United States, where it grossed over $1.5 million. It enjoyed critical acclaim on the film festival circuit, and like the director's earlier films premiered at the New York Film Festival and was shown in competition at Cannes, where Jarmusch was awarded the Best Artistic Achievement Award. The film was also shown in the Edinburgh, London, Midnight Sun, Telluride, and Toronto film festivals, and was nominated in six categories at the Independent Spirit Awards. Critical reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with reviewers praising the structure, humor, and characters of the film, though there were discontented rumblings that the director had not been sufficiently adventurous.
The film consists of three stories that take place on the same night in downtown Memphis. The three stories are linked together by the Arcade Hotel, a run-down flophouse presided over by the night clerk (Screamin' Jay Hawkins) and bellboy (Cinqué Lee), where the principal characters in each story spend a part of the night. Every room in the hotel is adorned with a portrait of Elvis.
The first story, "Far From Yokohama", features Mitsuko (Youki Kudoh) and Jun (Masatoshi Nagase), a teenage couple from Yokohama making a pilgrimage to Memphis during a trip across America. Mitsuko is obsessed with Elvis to the point where she believes that there is a mystical connection between Elvis, Madonna and the Statue of Liberty. The film follows the couple as they travel from the train station, through downtown Memphis and an exhausting tour of Sun Records, to the Arcade hotel.
The second story, "A Ghost", is about an Italian widow, Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi), who is stranded in Memphis while escorting her husband's coffin back to Italy. Luisa, who has been conned twice and stuck with armfuls of magazines, is forced to share a room at the hotel with Dee Dee (Elizabeth Bracco), a young woman who has just left her boyfriend (Johnny from the final story) and who plans to leave the city in the morning. Luisa is kept awake by Dee Dee's constant talking, and when the young woman finally does go to sleep, she is visited by an apparition of Memphis' most famous icon – Elvis Presley.
The final story, "Lost In Space," introduces Johnny (Joe Strummer). Upset after losing his job and his girlfriend (Dee Dee from the second story), Johnny – known, much to his chagrin, as Elvis – drunkenly brandishes a gun in a bar before leaving with his friend Will Robinson (Rick Aviles) and his ex-girlfriend's brother Charlie (Steve Buscemi), who believes Johnny is his brother-in-law. They stop at a liquor store, which Johnny robs using the gun and severely wounds the owner in the process. Fearing the consequences of the incident, Johnny, Will and Charlie retire to the hotel to hide out for the night; there, Johnny gets further drunk. Charlie realizes that Will shares the same name as the character Will Robinson from the television show Lost in Space, which Johnny has never heard of. Charlie and Will proceed to tell him about the show, and Will comments that that is how he feels then with Charlie and Johnny: lost in space. The next morning, Charlie discovers that Johnny isn't really his brother-in-law, which angers him because of what they've been through. Johnny attempts to shoot himself, and while struggling to prevent him, Charlie is shot in the leg. Leaving the hotel, the three rush to escape a police car that isn't even looking for them. The closing credits show the train, the airport and the final views of the characters from the first two stories.
Jarmusch wrote the script for the film under the working title "One Night in Memphis",without ever having been to the southern city.The idea for "Far From Yokohama", the first segment, he took from a one-act play he had been writing before filming Down by Law (1986). The play – unrelated to Elvis or Memphis – concerned a constantly argumentative young couple, one of whom gradually comes to realize that their fighting is a unifying force in the relationship.The interconnected stories were inspired by Jarmusch's dwelling on literary forms, and specifically the work of Chaucer,Italian episodic films and Japanese ghost story cinema.As with his other films, Jarmusch's starting point for writing Mystery Train was the actors and characters he had foremost in mind. The great number of these collaborators contributed to it being "the most complicated film to write and execute" according to the director.
What I like about the Japanese kids in Memphis is, if you think about tourists visiting Italy, the way the Romantic poets went to Italy to visit the remnants of a past culture, and then if you imagine America in the future, when people from the East or wherever visit our culture after the decline of the American empire – which is certainly in progress – all they'll really have to visit will be the homes of rock'n'roll stars and movie stars. That's all our culture ultimately represents. So going to Memphis is a kind of pilgrimage to the birthplace of a certain part of our culture. —Jim Jarmusch, Interview, November 1989.
The role of Johnny was written by Jarmusch specifically for Joe Strummer, who had been the frontman of The Clash, the director's favorite 1980s rock band.Jarmusch had conceived the part a few years previously while the two were together in Spain,and although the musician had been in a period of depression at the time following the collapse of the band, he was drawn by the Memphis setting of the film. Unlike the jovial Steve Buscemi, Strummer did not stay on set to joke with the veteran actors between shots, but instead preferred to keep his own company, focusing intensively on orienting himself to the role.
Jarmusch had met blues singer Screamin' Jay Hawkins after featuring his music prominently in his breakthrough feature film debut Stranger Than Paradise (1984). Although reticent about acting, Hawkins responded favorably to the director's offer to appear. The part of Luisa was also written by the director with the star – actress Nicoletta Braschi – in mind; the two had previously collaborated on Down by Law (1986). Cinqué Lee is the younger brother of director Spike Lee, a longtime friend of Jarmusch from their days at New York University's film school, while Youki Kudoh was cast after the director saw her performance in Sōgo Ishii's The Crazy Family (1984) while promoting Down by Law in Japan. Repeat Jarmusch collaborators who worked on the film included John Lurie who provided the original music, cinematographer Robby Müller, and singer Tom Waits, who in a voice appearance reprised his role of radio DJ Lee Baby Sims from Down by Law. Other cameos include Jarmusch's long-time girlfriend Sara Driver as an airport clerk, Rufus Thomas as the man in the train station who greets the Japanese couple, Rockets Redglare as the clerk of the liquor store, Vondie Curtis-Hall as Ed, Sy Richardson as the news vendor, and Richard Boes and Tom Noonan as diner patrons.
Directed by Jim Jarmusch Produced by Rudd Simmons Jim Stark Written by Jim Jarmusch Starring Youki Kudoh Masatoshi Nagase Screamin' Jay Hawkins Cinqué Lee Nicoletta Braschi Elizabeth Bracco Rick Aviles Joe Strummer Steve Buscemi Music by John Lurie Cinematography Robby Müller Editing by Melody London Studio Mystery Train Inc Victor Company of Japan MTI Home Video Distributed by Orion Classics (USA) Release date(s) May 13, 1989 Running time 113 minutes Country Japan United States Language English Japanese Budget $2,800,000 Gross revenue $1,541,218 (domestic)
17. Romanzo criminale (2005)
152 min | Crime, Drama
Set in the 1970s, it's the story of three lifelong friends who take control of organized crime in Rome.
Romanzo Criminale (Crime Novel) is an Italian-language film released in 2005, directed by Michele Placido, a criminal drama, it was highly acclaimed and won 15 awards. It is based on Giancarlo De Cataldo's 2002 novel, which is in turn inspired by the Banda della Magliana true story. The Magliana gang was one of the most powerful Italian criminal associations, dominating Rome's drug, gambling and other kinds of crime activities from the early 1970s to 1992 (death of Enrico De Pedis). The gang's affiliates start their career kidnapping rich people, drug dealing (hashish, cocaine, heroin, etc.) from the 70s they started working with the Italian secret service, fascists, terrorists, the Sicilian Mafia, Camorra and many more. Some gang members are still alive, as inmates of an Italian prison, or justice collaborators.
In 1970s Rome, four young delinquents, nicknamed Ice, Lebanese, Dandy and Grand steal a car. Crashing through a police road block, the driver, Grand is crushed by the steering column. Back at their hideout, a small disused caravan near a beach, they are discovered by the police. Ice, Lebanese and Dandy run away, but are captured. Grand, who is mortally wounded, dies in the caravan. Roll opening credits. Some years later, in the 1970s, Ice is released from prison, and met by Lebanese, who tells him he has come up with a plan to kidnap and hold to ransom Baron Rossellini, a wealthy aristocrat whom Lebanese's parents worked for. He has formed a gang with Dandy - they are Black, Bright Eye, Ricotta, Bufalo, Rat and Ciro & Aldo Buffoni. After negotiating the ransom of 3 billion lire, whilst trying to get the Baron to pose for a proof of life, Lebanese shoots him. Nonetheless, they fake the proof of life, and get the 3 billion lire. However, the local Police Commissioner Nicola Scialoja manages to record the serial numbers of the ransom money before the gang receive it, setting out to capture the gang. As the gang divide up the money, Lebanese proposes to split 500 million lire between them, and use the remaining 2.5 billion to build a foothold in the criminal underworld of Rome, starting with drug dealing. However, the drugs racket is owned by the dealer Terrible, and so the gang wipe his gang out apart from Gemito, who Lebanese bribes to help them. After his home is raided and his body guards killed, Terrible wakes to find Ice, Lebanese and Dandy in his bedroom. Cornered, he reluctantly agrees to let give control of the racket to the gang.
The gang grows in influence and ambition. Rome falls under their rule, and the rule of Lebanese. Dandi meets and becomes enamoured with an upmarket prostitute, Patrizia, who, in order to be kept under the sway of the gang and in order to prevent Dandi becoming involved in brawls provoked by his jealousy, is bought over and given a brothel. Ice, meanwhile falls in love with his younger brother Gigio's tutor, Roberta. However, Lebanese begins to consider Ice's romance a weakness, a point reinforced when Ice asks to be dismissed from the gang. In response, Lebanese casts up the car theft from their childhood, where his leg was permanently damaged by the pursuing police. Ice and Roberta begin to learn English with the idea that they will elope there. Then Ice receives a phone call informing him that Lebanese is dead, stabbed by Gemito after a bitter game of poker.
Then begins Ice's quest for vengeance, aided by Dandy.
Yet Scialoja is on their trail and succeeds in capturing Ice, then the other members of the gang except Dandy. Ice plans from prison with the help of his friends, but a deadly spiral of score settling has already begun to coil around them all.
The film is something of a showcase for a number of Italy's leading young film and television actors, notably Favino, who won a Donatello award for his performance as Lebanese.
Directed by Michele Placido Written by Giancarlo De Cataldo Starring Kim Rossi Stuart, Anna Mouglalis, Pierfrancesco Favino, Claudio Santamaria, Stefano Accorsi and Jasmine Trinca Music by Paolo Buonvino Cinematography Luca Bigazzi Editing by Esmeralda Calabria Distributed by
Italy - Warner Bros, Icon Film - UK, TF1 International - worldwide Release date(s)
Italy 30 September 2005, Germany 15 February 2006, France March 2006, Mexico 21 April UK November 3 2006 Running time 152 mins; 174 mins (extended version) Country Italy Language Italian
18. The Woodsman (2004)
R | 87 min | Drama, Romance
A child molester returns to his hometown after 12 years in prison and attempts to start a new life.
Votes: 29,048 | Gross: $0.04M
The Woodsman is a 2004 drama film directed and co-written (with Steven Fechter) by Nicole Kassell, based on Fechter's play of the same name. The movie stars Kevin Bacon as a convicted child molester who must adjust to life after prison.
Walter (Kevin Bacon), a convicted child molester, returns home to Philadelphia after serving 12 years in prison. Walter finds that his friends and family have abandoned him, with the exception of his brother-in-law, Carlos (Benjamin Bratt). He gets a job at a lumber mill, where he meets Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick), one of the few women working at the mill, who quickly sleeps with him. Vicki initially rejects him after learning of his past, but eventually becomes his girlfriend, convinced that he is a good man at heart.
Walter receives frequent visits from a verbally abusive police officer named Lucas (Mos Def), whose role is to make sure that Walter stays away from the children. Now that he is out of prison, Walter must learn to deal with the community's contempt and avoid temptation, including an elementary school across the street from his apartment and a young bird-watcher, Robin (Hannah Pilkes). He also comes to suspect that a man he has seen watching children near his apartment building is also a child molester. Over the course of the film, Walter observes the man (Kevin Rice) offering young boys candy, chatting them up, and abducting them. Walter nicknames the man "Candy".
Walter's life takes a further downturn when a suspicious co-worker (Eve) learns of his crimes and alerts the entire mill. Seeking "relief", Walter goes to the park intending to molest Robin - who confides in him that her father is abusing her. Finally realizing the damage he has caused, Walter tells her to go home. As she leaves, she hugs him. On his way home, he sees Candy dropping off a young boy at his school at night. In a fit of rage and self-hatred, Walter beats Candy so badly he fractures his jaw.
Soon after, Lucas visits Walter's apartment as he is packing to move in with Vicki and tells him that a man was beaten across the street the night before, and asks if he heard anything. He tells Walter that the boy can make a positive ID of the assailant, and that the victim is wanted in Virginia for raping a young boy, clearing Walter's conscience. Walter later meets his sister, who he hasn't seen in years, and she becomes very angry and leaves. As the movie closes, in a voiceover discussion with his therapist (Michael Shannon), Walter explains that he understands and accepts her anger, and expresses optimism for his own future.
The film was well-received critically, with Bacon's performance in particular drawing praise. It was nominated for the "Grand Jury Prize" award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, won the "Jury Special Prize" at the Deauville Film Festival, and was a featured film at the 2005 Traverse City Film Festival.
The film's release in the U.S. was limited, reaching a peak of 84 theaters. Despite being advertised in cinemas in the UK for several months, the film had a very limited release in the UK due to its controversial subject matter. Its gross in the US was $1.5 million, while its worldwide gross totaled $4.5 million.
Directed by Nicole Kassell Produced by Lee Daniels Marvet Britto Written by Steven Fechter Nicole Kassell Starring Kevin Bacon Kyra Sedgwick Mos Def Benjamin Bratt Eve David Alan Grier Music by Nathan Larson Cinematography Xavier Pérez-Grobet Editing by Lisa Fruchtmann Brian A. Kates Studio Dash Films Distributed by Universal Pictures Release date December 2004 Running time 87 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $2.5 million Gross revenue $4,500,000
19. Oldeuboi (2003)
R | 120 min | Action, Drama, Mystery
After being kidnapped and imprisoned for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su is released, only to find that he must find his captor in five days.
Votes: 407,119 | Gross: $0.71M
Oldboy (Hangul: 올드보이, the phonetic transliteration of "old boy") is a 2003 South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook. It is based on the Japanese manga of the same name written by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya. Oldboy is the second installment of The Vengeance Trilogy, preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and followed by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.
The film follows the story of one Oh Dae-Su, who is locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing his captor's motives. When he is finally released, Dae-su finds himself still trapped in a web of conspiracy and violence. His own quest for vengeance becomes tied in with romance when he falls for an attractive sushi chef.
The film won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and high praise from the President of the Jury, director Quentin Tarantino. Critically, the film has been well received in the United States, with an 80% "Certified Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Roger Ebert has claimed Oldboy to be a "...powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare". In 2008, voters on CNN named it one of the ten best Asian films ever made.
Korean businessman Oh Dae-su is bailed out from a local police station by his close friend Joo-Hwan after a drunken fight, on the night of Dae-su's daughter's birthday. Dae-su calls her on a public phone, but as Joo-Hwan takes the phone, Dae-su disappears. Kidnapped and confined to a shabby room with no explanation, Dae-su is not allowed any contact and is fed only fried dumplings through a narrow slot. Experiencing hallucinations, his attempts at suicide are prevented by being gassed into unconsciousness. Thus he keeps himself fit and occupied with shadowboxing; hardening his knuckles by punching the wall. While watching television, he discovers that his wife has been murdered, his daughter sent to foster parents and that he himself is the prime suspect.
Dae-su is suddenly set free on the rooftop of a building 15 years after his imprisonment began, with a new suit. Dae-su is given a cellphone by a stranger and goes to a local restaurant, where he meets young sushi chef Mi-do (Kang Hye-jeong), who brings him to her home. Dae-su realizes he is being tracked through phone calls from his unidentified captor and instant messaging on Mi-do's computer. Dae-su locates the restaurant that provided the fried dumplings during his imprisonment (following a scrap of paper found accidentally cooked into one, giving Dae-su the symbol for "dragon" to go off of in his search), and subsequently the building he was held captive in, torturing the warden for information. He finds tape recordings of his captor that reveal little. He then fights his way out past numerous goons, suffering a knife wound to his back. When he collapses on the street, a stranger places him in a taxi, only to direct him to Mi-do's address and identify Dae-su by name.
The man, named Woo-jin (Yu Ji-tae), reveals himself as Dae-su's kidnapper and tells him that Dae-su must discover his motives. Mi-do will die if he fails, but if he succeeds, Woo-jin will kill himself. Later, Dae-su and Mi-do grow emotionally closer together and have sex. Dae-su discovers he and Woo-jin briefly attended the same high school and remembers spying on Woo-jin's incestuous relationship with his sister, Soo-ah (Yun Jin-seo). Dae-su, unaware of their familial relationship, inadvertently spread the rumor before transferring to another school in Seoul. Soo-ah's mental turmoil grew, causing physical signs of pregnancy and her eventual suicide. During the investigation, Woo-jin kills Joo-Hwan for insulting Soo-ah, enraging Dae-su further.
Dae-su confronts Woo-jin at his penthouse with the information but instead Woo-jin gives Dae-su a photo album. As Dae-su flips through the album, he witnesses his daughter grow older in the pictures, until discovering that Mi-do is actually his daughter. Woo-jin reveals that the events surrounding Dae-su were orchestrated to cause Dae-su and Mi-do to commit incest. It is also revealed that hypnosis and post-hypnotic suggestion were involved with Dae-su's imprisonment, and had been performed on Mi-do as well. A horrified Dae-su begs Woo-jin to conceal the secret from Mi-do, groveling for forgiveness before slicing out his own tongue and offering it to Woo-jin as a symbol of his silence. Woo-jin agrees to spare Mi-do from the knowledge and leaves Dae-su in his penthouse. As he rides alone in the elevator, he is struck by the vivid memory of his sister's death, in which he was complicit, and shoots himself in the head.
Dae-su sits in a winter landscape, where he makes a deal with the same hypnotist who conditioned him during his imprisonment, asking for her help to allow him to forget the secret. She reads his pleas from a handwritten letter and, touched by his words, begins the hypnosis process, lulling him into unconsciousness. Hours later, Dae-su wakes up, the hypnotist gone, and stumbles about before finally meeting with Mi-do. They embrace, and Mi-do tells Dae-su that she loves him, though whether Dae-su knows the secret is uncertain, as Dae-su smiles and his face slowly crumbles into one of anguish as the credits roll.
Directed by Park Chan-wook Produced by Lim Seng-yong Written by Hwang Jo-yun Park Chan-wook Lim Chun-hyeong Lim Joon-hyung Garon Tsuchiya Starring Choi Min-sik Yu Ji-tae Kang Hye-jeong Music by Jo Yeong-wook Cinematography Jeong Jeong-hoon Distributed by Show East Release date(s) November 21, 2003 (2003-11-21) Running time 120 minutes Country South Korea Language Korean Gross revenue $14,980,005
20. Johnny Suede (1991)
R | 97 min | Comedy, Music, Romance
A struggling young musician and devoted fan of Ricky Nelson wants to be just like his idol and become a rock star.
Johnny Suede is the 1991 film directorial debut of writer-director Tom DiCillo. It starred Brad Pitt and Catherine Keener with early appearances from Samuel L. Jackson and Nick Cave.
Johnny Suede is a young man with an attitude and an immense pompadour, who wants to be a rock n' roll star like his idol Ricky Nelson. He has all the stylistic accouterments, except a pair of black suede shoes. And one night, after leaving a nightclub, like manna from heaven, a pair of black suede shoes falls at his feet. Soon afterward, the recently completed Johnny meets Darlette, a sultry bohemian with whom he beds down for the night. In spite of Darlette's abusive gun-toting boyfriend, Johnny begins to see Darlette everyday. But when Johnny is forced to pawn his guitar for rent money, Darlette mysteriously leaves him. Johnny's pal Deke fronts him the money to get his guitar out of hock, and the two form a band. Depressed about Darlette's desertion, he wanders aimlessly, and he meets Yvonne, a woman much wiser than Johnny who teaches him that there are things in life much more important than a pair of black suede shoes.
Around 1985, while taking acting classes in New York City, DiCillo was impressed with the local punk movement and the resurgence of rockabilly led by acts like Elvis Costello, The Stray Cats and The Clash.Spinning personal experiences into monologues, he created a character whose vulnerability is obscured by a superficial fifties era cool, exaggerated to the point of foolishness. DiCillo first wove what he had into a one hour one-man show, before setting the first draft of the screenplay to paper. Eight months later he had completed the fourth draft. Having received positive feedback from his friend Jim Jarmusch, DiCillo approached German television, ZDF, who gave him eighty thousand dollars.Additional funding came from the National Endowment for the Arts for twenty-five thousand dollars, as well as a Panavision package and help with the script from the Sundance L Around 1988 to 1989, while at the Cannes Film Festival, DiCillo stumbled into a deal with a South African producer wherein he sold worldwide rights to his film for three hundred thousand dollars; an arrangement he would later call, "A shaky thing but still I felt it was worth the risk so I decided to go ahead with it."
Pre-production, early casting and the search for Johnny quickly followed. By August 1989, having not found what they were looking for in New York, DiCillo and his casting director, Marcia Shulman, went to Los Angeles, where Brad Pitt was the second to last guy seen. DiCillo recalls, "[He] didn’t have much on his resume. In fact he only had two things; he’d done a small Canadian TV series and he’d just finished shooting what he’d listed as his only real film credit — something called Thelma and Louise that no one had heard about because it hadn’t even been edited yet." Convinced Pitt was Johnny Suede, DiCillo forced the casting on his South African producer, who was shortly thereafter replaced by Ruth Waldburger when the South African's option expired. The film was ultimately shot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 30 days, from November to December 1990.
Original music for the film was performed by rockabilly guitar legend Link Wray.
Directed by Tom DiCillo Produced by Yoram Mandel Ruth Waldburger Written by Tom DiCillo Starring Brad Pitt Catherine Keener Calvin Levels Nick Cave Music by Jim Farmer Cinematography Joe DeSalvo Editing by Geraldine Peroni Distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment Release date(s) August 1991 (Locarno Film Festival) Running time 90 min. Language English Budget $500,000 US (est.)