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Bull Durham (1988)
literate script, wonderful film
I'm shocked at the poor reviews people are giving this film. It's one of the smartest films of the 1980s. Ron Shelton is one heck of a writer, and it's probably the best film he's directed, too. Like Tootsie, this film is a throwback to 1930s literate screenplays -- Pauline Kael said this film reminded her of Preston Sturges. Perhaps people who don't like it want some sentimental rot like Field of Dreams, or more action like some other sports movie. But this is a romantic-comedy, and it's both romantic and very funny. (If only Costner had stuck to films like this...) It's one of the few films I can watch over and over. If you haven't seen this film, you've missed something beautiful.
Thieves Like Us (1974)
One of the best films of the '70s
Robert Altman made some of the best films America has put out, and this one is up there with McCabe and Mrs Miller and Nashville. Thieves Like Us is a startlingly beautiful film, so full of atmosphere it's scarily evocative. Poetry on celluloid. Check it out.
In truth I can hardly remember this picture - I saw it more than fifteen years ago at a film festival. But I remember being pretty impressed with it. It uses a kind of documentary realism to tell the story of the Baader-Meinhof gang in their German prison. It makes you wonder if the State should be able to take care of business in secret for the betterment of society -- in other words, it's a blistering indictment of State-sponsored terrorism. Polished, tight, absorbing and moving, it's well worth a look if you get the chance.
A Very Peculiar Practice (1986)
Let's face it, almost everyone who writes on IMDb likes to claim such-and-such is the best movie/TV series/mini-series etc. Well this is my pick. I can only assume that not many people have seen this because there are some fairly mediocre programmes getting the nod. This show was a dark black comedy with exquisite scripts and terrific acting. It's the best British show I've seen (Upstairs Downstairs is close and I accept The Singing Detective may be better than I found it). If you get to see reruns of this - make the effort. You'll never regret it or forget it.
Update: the first series is now available on DVD, which is great news. It's truly a programme to treasure. How many others do we buy that we never return to? This is such a literate and witty show that it's worth keeping. The only thing is, Series 2 was probably the best and it's not yet available.
A Year in the Life (1987)
Underrated, special show
It's hard for me to remember this show - I only saw that one season the one time, some sixteen years ago - and I can't be sure it's as good as I think it was. But with Brand and Falsey at the helm I have to assume my memory serves me. This was one of the better shows of its era - fine writing, storylines and terrific acting. It was small scale, nothing briliant, but just good quality. It was also occasionally very funny (I remember the mother getting aversion therapy to quit smoking). I guess it's lying in a vault somewhere and is never repeated (certainly not where I am in New Zealand). But if you ever get the chance to see the show, do watch it, it was nice.
One Night at McCool's (2001)
Good fun (and underrated)
I'm surprised by some of the bad comments people have made about this movie. It's good fun, and it's occasionally laugh-out-loud. Paul Reiser has never been funnier (his comic patter with his shrink is equal parts yuppie macho bluff and neurosis). Matt Dillon plays it very cool and he holds the film together. John Goodman is such a fine clown. And the soundtrack is clever and enjoyable. This movie is the kind of unpretentious piffle that Pauline Kael would have enjoyed while everyone else was knocking it. Check it out.
Love Serenade (1996)
Don't miss this!!
"Love Serenade" is a quirky and original film. I'm reminded of Pauline Kael's remark about "Passport to Pimlico" - "comedy with a fine flavour." I'd never heard of this and only rented it because of a recommendation by David Stratton on the cover. And I'm glad I got it out - it's been years since I liked a film this much. It's generally quiet, but its off-kilter humour is really very funny, and its observations about the sexes are poignant and even disturbing. The soundtrack is a key factor; it's a great collection of smooth seventies soul tracks, but they're used ironically, and you feel a little guilty for enjoying them so much. The performances are really fine, too. In all it's a wonderful film and it needs to be seen.