Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lesser Known Films From Celebrated Directors, Part 2

I realized I had written a "Part 1" of this in May, and never gotten around to the follow-up. So, to continue:

This film from Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) one is not exactly obscure. It was fairly popular during its original 1908s release. But it seems to be largely forgotten now, and I only recently saw it, and found it to be so charming that's hard to get it out of my mind. Kathleen Turner plays a woman who is seperating from her husband, and ends up traveling back in time to her 1950s teenage years, wondering if she can do things differently this time. On the surface, it may seem similar to Back To The Future, and I would expect anything to suffer by compariosn to that classic, but Peggy Sue is really a completely unique film in its own right. Sweet, funny, heartbreaking, and with a sense of truth and resonance about the ups and downs of life, love and growing up. The supporting cast is excellent, including not yet famous versions of Jim Carrey and Helen Hunt, and Peggy Sue's husband is a kockout performance from Coppola's nephew Nicholas (who chose to go by the stage name "Cage" so it wouldn't look like he only got roles because of who his uncle was). But it's Turner's film all the way, and she more than earned the Oscar nomination she recieved. It's an appaling cliche to say this, but I laughed and cried at Peggy Sue Got Married.

Director Ron Howard's western is dark, violent and disturbing, to an extent that will be so offputting to many that this film won't be for them. But his skills as a storyteller and a visual artist have rarely been better. Cate Blanchett plays an widowed frontier doctor who must rescue her kidnapped daughter from an Indian witch doctor/priest. Tommy Lee Jones plays her father, who left Blanchett and her mother years before to "go native" with the Indians. Both actors are at the absolute top of their respective games, giving what should have been Oscar-nominated performances, and that's really what makes the film.

Once you get past the weird factor of one of Hollywood's all time most iconic actor/directors (Clint Eastwood) blatantly impersonating another (John Huston), this thinly veiled portrait of Huston using the making of The African Queen becomes one of the most entertaining movies about movies ever made. Eastwood's monologue to a racist actress still stands as one of my favorite moments in his career.

Woody Allen's silly comedy about a film director who develops a case of hysterical blindness isn't exactly his masterpiece, but it's quite funny and enjoyable, with a very amusing resolution.

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