Ah, the Big Apple in the fifties and sixties! New York oozed as much erotic energy then as ten seasons of "Sex and the City". The retro-moderne set design alone arouses our lust. And of course there's the women in black Dior cocktail dresses and pearls, the guys in their tuxes at a Broadway opening, the classic yellow taxis that took guests to "rent parties", the wonders of an Automat for a quick "career girl" lunch, the beatniks in the Village (go, cat, go!) and all of it set to the sound of ice cubes clinking in a highball glass.
Not all of the following movies are dramatic classics, and it's by no means an extensive list, but the following titles will begin your journey to the mythical land we like to call, "Manhattan Fabulous".
Real Summer Movies
So many so-called "Summer" movies are really just excuses to spend a few hundred million dollars on big explosions and bad concepts. In years past, summertime meant that movies would actually be set during that liberating season, or at least communicate "that summer feeling" in their subject matter. Here's a few that do...
Pauline Kael R.I.P.
Pauline Kael is certainly one of the most influential serious film critics and perhaps one of the liveliest of all arts critics. It's taken for granted now, but she was one of the first to champion films that others dismissed, finding gems among "trash" popular movies. She loved actors, challenged even her favorite directors, hated pretentiousness, and in her tenure at the New Yorker wrote in a voice that one critic said "is impossible to get out of your head." Kael died in September of 2001, several years after retiring from full-time reviewing. Her love of movies, though, according to those close to her, was with her to the end. Here are some picks of films which provoked some of her most notable reviews. Included are some films which were released after she retired, but which in interviews she discussed positively.
Clothes Make The Moviegoer
TV today often seems to be the place where fashion fads start (Jennifer Aniston's hair on "Friends", Manohlo Blahnik shoes on "Sex and the City") but movies have kicked off some of the most infamous fashion crazes. Here's just a partial list. How many did you have in your closet?
Andrew Sarris has mentioned that a critic like him can't "discover" film-noir anymore, because it's been exploited and exhausted by legions of indie filmmakers who think noir is the great truth of life. Sarris said "We don't need any more film-noir these days. We need people who will dare 'film blanc' ". Here is a list of Vidiots' Clerks' Picks of films that brave coming out on the hopeful side of things, and leave you a little more inspired than cynical (not that there's anything wrong with that).
Real "Family" Films: A Dysfunctional List
When we chose this as a theme for a "picks" section here in the store, there was certainly no problem finding titles. Video clerks and filmmakers alike are attracted to working out on celluloid what we can't do in therapy sessions. While this list will mention some famous examples of the "genre", we'll mainly concentrate on lesser-known films that give yet another spin to "family values".
Beyond Harry Potter
It's hard to believe, but "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is not the first film to feature a boarding school full of mischievous kids. Of course, the "magic" the students work in the following movies is perhaps a little more... well, let's just say the transformations that occur aren't always due to digital special effects.
Prisons are one of the largest "growth" industries in California and in the country. What does that mean about us; what are we as a society "growing" into? Movies have long found incarceration a hot topic, whether as exploitation fare ("Women in Cages"!) or as serious and sympathetic investigation ("The Farm"). As imprisonment becomes a "hot" social justice topic in this century, many people of conscience meditate on what it really means to "do time" , and who it benefits. Vidiots has a wide variety of movies on the subject.including hard-to-find documentaries and unjustly overlooked dramas. These movies have also inspired actors to do some of their best work. Here's just a selection of what we have:
Crime and Punishment in America (documentary): A good place to get an overview of todays "rehabilitation" system. The Farm: Life in Angola Prison (documentary): The scenes of a mans testimony before a parole board alone make this Oscar-nominated investigation both compelling and supremely alarming. Straight Time: In my opinion, Dustin Hoffman has never been better than in this psychological analysis of a parolee who can't stay "straight". Marie: Sissy Spaceks steely strength comes through in this little-seen true-life thriller about a woman who blows the whistle on corruption in the Parole system. Tattooed Tears: Nick Broomfields documentary on gangs in prison. A Map of the World: Can jail be a place where a woman has a nervous breakdown and comes back together again? Sigourney Weaver gives a brave performance illustrating how it might be done. The other films in this list show prison life from a variety of social, cultural and political perspectives.
Queer As Folk?
Some movies spell it out. Some deliberately suggest it. Some let it bubble up from the filmmaker's unconscious. Some toy with it to exploit, others have it only when seen in hindsight. "It" is homoerotic subtext and long before the advent of gay independent features, movies that wanted to convey homosexual longing kept it under wraps. Rent a movie or two from the list and judge for yourself, true cinematic gayness, smoldering cinema, or crazy revisionists? (Check out two great documentaries on this subject which we have: "The Celluloid Closet" and Mark Rappaport's, "The Silver Screen").
Just a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Sometimes a movie is released and it becomes everybody's favorite punching bag. Or it has the misfortune to have a setting that has just been the focus of some terrible news headlines, and it quickly becomes the blame for everything from the rise in juvenile crime to What's-Wrong-With-Society-Today. Maybe the ballooned budget or behind-the-scenes scandals overshadow the value of the final project. Occasionally, the director has fallen out of favor. Too often, it's a film the distributor just didn't know how to promote and it dies the quickest of obscure multi-plex release deaths. Whatever the reason, there's a number of films that may have taken their drubbings in the press, but a few critics, clerks or Internet fan clubs find worth championing.
Respect literally means "to take another look." So here are some of our picks for movies that deserve that extra chance. Now that the dust has settled, you just may find something worth your viewing time after all. We'd love to hear your suggestions for movies that should be on this admittedly too-short list.
Vidiots Travel Agency
Got that wandering itch, but your money has wandered away. Feeling some travel lust, but no lust for the hassles of airplane travel these days? No problem; let Vidiots take you away. The following movies have been selected to give you the sense that you have gone on a vacation, visited a foreign locale, or at the very least, taken some kind of "trip".
Capers, robbery and grand larceny--who doesn't love watching a good heist? Built-in suspense, characters under pressure and that moment when the security guard walks in just as the thief nearly gives themselves away. Here's a selection of favorites from the Vidiot's vaults.
A good singer knows how to give a song a sense of drama. Not all vocalists can do the same for the roles they've been cast in. (We could discuss Mariah in "Glitter" but we won't.) Here's a partial list of singers who've impressed us with their dramatic chops, in the roles where they showed some surprising range. We're sure you have some ideas for who should be added to this list; feel free to let us know who we left off. Now if only all actors could reverse the favor and carry a tune (are you listening, William Shatner?)