This summer I’ve been doing extensive research and self betterment. Which for me of course, means watching loads of films. Later this week I will count down the best new theatrical releases of this season. But for now, I will be listing the best deep cuts I’ve watched this summer. I opted to chose deep cuts that I viewed because I wanted to compile a list of films that you, the readers, may not have heard of, and can check out for yourself. Most of these films were great critical successes (“critical darlings,” as they are sometimes called) at the time, but have faded into obscurity since.
If you have seen these films, then congrats. You are my new best friend. If not, then I recommend giving them a watch to see what’s up.
- The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
The Royal Tenenbaums is a great film in the R rated big family genre. It’s not only a hilarious film with a strong cast but it also has some sincere and emotional scenes. It isn’t ever over the top, but is subtle enough that it really hits home and is believable. As previously stated, the cast is great. You have everyone from Anderson regulars such as the Wilson brothers and Bill Murray to Gene Hackman and Ben Stiller. But all the performances are splendid and I can’t do them justice in this small space. The film is also directed fantastically by Wes Anderson (as usual). Every shot is intricately set up and a work of art in its own right. If you’re not familiar with Anderson’s work, then this is a good place to start.
- Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Despite what you may think of him as a person, Woody Allen does have moments of genius. Purple Rose of Cairo is definitely one of them. If you’re not a fan of Allen’s usual formula, this film diverges from it somewhat. The story concerns a waitress (Mia Farrow) who falls in love with a film, which becomes literal when the main character in the film (Jeff Daniels) comes out of the screen to be with her. Naturally, hijinks and hilarity ensue. The film is a love letter to the golden age of cinema and deals with such themes as reality versus fantasy. The film is loads of fun, yet is still well written and thought out. One of Allen’s strongest works.
- Almost Famous (2000)
Almost Famous is a great coming-of-age story, set during the period of classic 1970s rock and roll. We follow a young reporter who travels with a band for Rolling Stone magazine. The dialogue was spot on and it all felt very believable. This could be attributed to the fact that it’s loosely based on the experiences of the director, Cameron Crowe. There is also a great cast, which includes Billy Crudup and Frances McDormand. Also look out for early bit roles from Jimmy Fallon and Marc Maron. It’s one of those films I found myself absolutely absorbed in. I loved the characters and, of course, the music. Crowe’s films are notorious for their use of popular songs and this one is no exception. It hits on about all bases—give it a watch.
- A Fish Called Wanda
A Fish Called Wanda is possibly one of the finest Python solo works. Starring alumni John Cleese and Michael Palin, the film is a quirky heist comedy. Also starring in it are Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline (who won an Academy Award for best supporting actor for the film). Much of the comedy is derived from the characters. They all have strong personalities and when they clash it’s comic gold. There are also a number for funny scenarios, including Michael Palin’s character, an animal lover trying to assassinate a woman, but only getting her dogs each time. The film is a well cast, comedic masterpiece.
- The Squid and The Whale (2005)
The Squid and The Whale is Noah Baumbach’s directorial debut. The film is a semi autobiographical piece, set in the eighties. It focuses on the divorce of two parents and the effects it has on their two kids. You are not really siding with either of the parents—both are flawed characters. The film is more so about the kids, and how they react to the divorce, and who they side with. Jeff Daniels gives the standout performance as the dad, Bernard. He plays your classic snob and does a hilarious job. He reminded me of many people in my own life. The film on a whole is really funny, but also really heartfelt.
As cliche as it sounds, in these short descriptions I can’t do these films justice. You will have to check them out for yourself on Netflix, iTunes, or even your local library. Yeah, that’s a thing that still exists. Stay tuned for my ranking of the top new theatrical releases for the summer later this week.
Image from Flickr user geek_love13