1. Le Weekend (written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)
Absurd and crass at times, and possibly the first road rage film, this movie embodies a lot of my own dissatisfaction with consumerism and the bourgeoisie. It pokes fun at things in a clever and affecting way – imagine if Michael Moore was making narrative/fictional films in 1960s France.
2. Mystery Train (written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, 1989)
The title should inform you that the movie has something to do with Elvis. Set in Memphis, this film is made up of three vignettes where the characters have some incidental but minimal interaction. However, the underlying character of the film is the town itself. Sweet, funny and real, the performances are well-delivered and Jarmusch has a great ability of linking time and place with character development.
3. Crumb (written and directed by Terry Zwigoff, 1994)
One of the best artist documentaries I’ve seen. While the movie is about the satirist and graphic artist R. Crumb of “Let’s Boogie” fame, some of the most compelling scenes are involving his creative brothers and their varying degrees of mental illness.
4. X: The Unheard Music (written and directed by W.T. Morgan 1986)
This film follows the life and times of the band X with snapshots of the L.A. punk scene in the early-to-mid 1980s. Chock-full of musical interludes, it is most interesting to hear non-public performances which include a haunting duet by John Doe and Exene Cervenka.
5. Duel (written by Richard Matheson and directed by Steven Spielberg for television, 1971)
A much understated, minimalist even, road movie that delivers a large dose of anxiety and paranoia. To me, this kind of suspenseful movie is way more successful than traditional horror. On the surface it is a made-for-television movie but it really offers much more.
6. Straw Dogs (based on a novel by Gordon M. Williams with screenplay adaptation by David Z. Goodman and Sam Peckinpah, directed by Sam Peckinpah, 1971)
This film portrays a pretty grim story that deals with hostility and rage and, as with Duel, it is very suspenseful movie albeit abrasively more so. Peckinpah received a lot of criticism for the long rape scene and accusations that the film was misogynist with an endorsement of vigilantism. It is one of those films that you do not necessarily want to watch multiple times as it is that unsettling.
7. Quiz Show (based on a novel by Richard N. Goodwin with screenplay adapation by Paul Attanasio, directed by Robert Redford, 1994)
Great script and character development, this movie is based on actual events surrounding the “fixing” of a 1950s game show. Well-acted with the right amount of angst and examination of self-imbibed ethics.
8. Roger and Me (written and directed by Michael Moore, 1989)
Michael Moore’s first full-length documentary takes a look at the closing of factories in Flint, Michigan during the Regan years. This film, like many of his films, is simultaneously funny and depressing. Moore’s documentaries are not academic or high-brow, they are made for the masses.
This is terrific screen adaptation of a brilliant play by Tom Stoppard. Tim Roth and Gary Oldman make great verbal sparring partners in their portrayal of minor characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This is a possible scenario portraying how these characters may have interacted with themselves and the major players of Hamlet.
A funny, touching coming-of-age movie with brilliantly delivered lines by Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. I love Wes Anderson’s visual sensibility here and the film is accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack.