Zhadi's Den

Random essays on wine, writing, moving to San Francisco, surfing, cats (exotic and otherwise) and zombies...depending on my mood.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Best Movies You Never Saw

Greetings, Culture Lovers: Guest blogger Dave here. I've been working so hard on my book this year that I haven't been going to the movies nearly enough - and cinematic deprivation is clearly taking its toll. To ease my pain, I can at least think about movies I have seen. Here's a list of some amazingly good movies I loved that nobody else seems to have seen. But they are all brilliant!

Dirty Pretty Things - A terrific little movie with great characters, set in London's immigrant underbelly. I don't even want to say more for fear of giving anything away, but I can say it stars Audrey Tautou (Amelie ) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (who played the Operative in Serenity). The title makes it seem smutty, but it isn't. (Still worth seeing, though)

Mirror Mask - From two towering artists: writer Neil Gaiman ( Sandman, Neverwhere, etc.) and illustrator Dave McKean – so how come I never heard about it until it had already come and gone? If you like movies like Spirited Away and Labyrinth, you'll love this. A real visual and imaginative delight.

Fire and Ice - Animator Ralph Bakshi, who did the 80s Lord of the Rings and Wizards teamed up with classic Conan painter Frank Frazetta to make this sword & sorcery flick. Dinosaurs, swordfights and scantily-clad jungle princesses – the perfect film.

Reefer Madness: The Musical - Frigging Hilarious! The music number set in a nightclub Heaven headlining Jesus is worth the price of admission alone. Damn – now I've got the music stuck in my head.

Lost Skeleton of Cadavra - I absolutely love this movie - One of the cleverest and funniest things I've ever seen: it's not just a modern send-up of 1950's sci-fi B-movies – it IS a B-movie! If you love MST3K, you'll love this. The bonus features on the DVD are entertaining too. Will they ever make the sequel like they promised? More retro fun is also available on their website.

The Commitments - I'm not sure if this counts – Didn't everybody see it? I better include it just in case, because everyone should see this brilliant Irish movie. The trials of a Northside Dublin Soul band. Hilarious, lots of heart with 0% treacle, great soundtrack, too. If you like this one, go see The Van and The Snapper, too; all of which are based on Roddy Doyle's Barrytown trilogy, which is a great read, too.

- Trippy indie flick that looks and feels like a documentary about some tech geek entrepreneurs working out of their garage, but it turns anxious and suspenseful when they realize they may have stumbled onto the secret of time travel –and that may not be a good thing… Feels fascinatingly (and disturbingly) real the whole time.

Pi - Primer just reminded me of this other indie sci-fi suspense flick. But you all saw it, didn't you? If not, why not make it a double feature?

Spirit of 76 - I know, you never heard of it, but this obscure little gem is so worth hunting for. Americans from the future time travel back to 1776 – only they accidentally wind up in 1976 instead and don't realize their mistake. 70's kitsch & humor abounds. Corny and sweet, and features not only David Cassidy AND Leif Garrett, but Moon Unit Zappa, Iron Eyes Cody (the crying Indian from the famous commercial) and Father Guido Sarducci. Still not sold? Okay, throw in Olivia D'abo, Tommy Chong, Carl Reiner and Barbara Bain as a hipster chick.

Evil Aliens - Exuberantly gory British indie sci-fi Horror flick. Red Dwarf and Texas Chainsaw Massacre fans alike will love it.

Dead Meat/Boy Eats Girl - Who knew there was not one but two Irish zombie flicks? And that both are terrific? Dead Meat is darker: think Mad cow disease meets Dawn of the Dead. Boy Eats Girl is more romantic comedy ( a Zom Rom Com, like Shaun of the Dead –which would also be on this list except, of course, you all saw it and loved it, right?)

Baraka - A visual opera. Roams the world in a wordless Buddhist meditation. Just an amazing cinematic experience. Totally worth seeing on the big screen if you can find it. (If you're in the Bay Area, the Red Vic Movie house in the Haight screens it often)

When Night is Falling - Just about the most romantic and sexy movie ever. A straitlaced French Canadian college professor finds herself unwillingly attracted to a free-spirited female circus performer. Quirky and beautiful.

24 Hour Party People - Stylish look at the 80's Madchester music scene. Very funny and innovative narration. You don't even have to like Joy Division's music to love this movie. Just like the way you don't have to be a Scottish heroin addict to love Trainspotting, another awesome movie.

The Acid House - And speaking of Trainspotting, here's another from the same motley crew who gave us that classic. A trilogy of Irvine Welsh stories; these have the same gritty Edinburgh feel even though the stories border on science fiction. Fooking deadly, likesay.

The Rapture - Why did everybody protest The Last Temptation of Christ that year when this devastating movie (which came out at the same time) was even more blasphemous, spookier, trippier and had some hot sex, too? It asks the question "Hey, what if those religious wingnuts who go door to door were RIGHT about the second coming?" –and why they'd still be wrong… (for more blasphelicious fun, see also Saved! – but I assume you all did already)

The Contender - A great peek inside Washington as a principled female (and Atheist!) senator gets nominated to become vice-president and endures a gauntlet during the confirmation process : vicious personal attacks and allegations of wild sexual misconduct in her past. Outstanding cast and characters in a gripping story.

Cowboy Bebop - Okay, you probably did see this one. After all it was based on a kick-ass Japanese animae series with awesome, quirky sci-fi bounty-hunter hipster heroes and the greatest theme song ever.

The Twilight Samurai I. Love. This. Movie. And you will, too. Believe it or not, it's a samurai flick you can take your girlfriend to, and she'll also love it – it's true. Hiroyuki Sanada was the bad-tempered samurai who beats the crap out of Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, which was already enough to earn him our eternal gratitude. But you'll love him even more after seeing him in this movie. Not only are there some great samurai duels, but you'll actually care about the characters too. The only samurai movie that made me cry. Twice. Shut up.

Immortal Ad Vitam - If you liked the dizzying level of dystopian detail in The Fifth Element, but want more of a gloomy Blade Runner sensibility, give this French flick a shot. It's based on two of Enki Bilal's classic graphic Nikopol Trilogy novels, The Woman Trap and Gods in Chaos. Egyptian gods, corrupt politicians, and mysterious aliens rub shoulders with mutants, genetically-enhanced hammerhead assassins and revolutionary messiahs.

The Inner Tour - Should be required viewing for every American and Israeli alike. Israeli documentary filmmaker Ra'anan Alexandrowicz accompanies a Palestinian tour group on a three-day sight-seeing trip into Israel. A eye-opening look at the human face of real ordinary Palestinians and their very mixed, often surprising and touching views about Israel. An amazing, life-changing film that may alter your feelings about the Palestinian issue.

Six String Samurai - Just your typical story: a Buddy Holly-like hero who is a guitar-playing samurai (or perhaps a katana-wielding rockabilly star) wandering a post-apocalyptic southwest, encountering Russian Elvises, suburban cannibals and other odd perils in his search for the fabled holy city of Las Vegas. If you like it, you might also like The American Astronaut, a very odd grainy black & white retro-spaceman musical.

Alright, that's plenty from me already. How about you? Any overlooked treasures to recommend?


  • At 4:31 PM, Blogger Mr. Fabulous said…

    Wow, I thought I was hip, but The Commitments was the only one I've seen.

    Two little seen movies that I always thought were hilarious are Real Men and Jake Speed.

    But that's me.

  • At 5:18 PM, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said…

    I haven't seen any of those movies ...

    ... with the exception of The Contender which, by coincidence, I watched yesterday afternoon. Great flick.

  • At 7:34 PM, Blogger zhadi said…

    I haven't seen most of those movies either, guys...well, i've seen the zombie movies (anyone surprised?), but for the most part, I have a lot of catching up to do if I'm gonna live with this guy...

  • At 11:21 PM, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said…

    Big Trouble in Little China.

  • At 12:34 AM, Anonymous J. Branch said…

    I thought Ralph Bakshi was most famous for American Pop.

    I saw "The Rapture" with Mimi Rogers when it was making the rounds on HBO. Man was that one messed up movie. Very disturbing! It's one I always love reccomending to unsuspecting friends.

  • At 1:13 PM, Blogger zhadi said…

    I'm with ya on Big Trouble in Little China, MS!!!

  • At 11:51 PM, Anonymous J. Branch said…

    Should also add Bill Paxton's film "Frailty" to that Must see list. It's almost as bothersome as "rapture."

  • At 12:20 PM, Blogger Dave Fitzgerald said…

    Hey Mr. Fab:
    I had never heard of "Real Men" but a reviewer on IMDB ranked it up there with three of my favorite movies: "Raising Arizona," "A Fish Called Wanda," and "Groundhog Day." I vaguely remember hating the traileror the poster for Jake Speed back in the 80's, but clearly I was a callow youth: I'll definitely have to check out those two.

    MS: Yes, Zhadi got me hooked on BTILC, too. Very fun, very 80's. Excellent timing on The Contender!I was fascinated by all the characters in that movie. Not only did I feel like I was getting a look at how Washington really works, but I so wanted Joan Allen's character to be real. *sigh* Political reality sucks...

    JB: Isn't Bill Paxton awesome? He just seems to make every movie he's in better, and he's been in a million of them. You remind me of two other sleepers he was in: 1) "One False Move," a quietly gut-wrenching western-noir film as twisted and as good as "Blood Simple"
    2) "The Dark Backwards" A very bizarre little film; Judd Nelson grows a third arm out of his back and Bill Paxton plays a gung-ho garbage man (who does something in passing in one scene that still haunts me to this day).
    "Frailty" definitely sounds like my kind of movie - Thanks for the tip!

    Thanks all! Hope more reccomendations come in! And thanks again for letting me fill in, Zhadi.

  • At 3:16 PM, Blogger Redzilla said…

    Dave!!! Why does it not surprise me that you and I share 2 of our 3 favorite movies--Raising Arizona and Groundhog Day? I'm recommending Closely Watched Trains, which despite featuring some of the most disturbing 60's Eastern European sexual dys-fun-ction, won the Oscar for best foreign film the year it was released--1969? Definitely going to check out some of these suggestions.

  • At 3:18 PM, Blogger Redzilla said…

    Oh oh! And Kontroll, and no, not just because it has a hot Hungarian guy who turns out to be a serial killer. There were other reasons I liked it...

  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said…

    Here are a couple more -- John Sayles films, "Lone Star" and "Silver City."

  • At 9:11 PM, Blogger Other Lisa said…

    Scorsese's KING OF COMEDY. Prescient in its treatment of the cultural of celebrity and makes a fine double-bill with TAXI DRIVER.


  • At 2:32 PM, Blogger zhadi said…

    I foresee many hours in front of the TV in our future...

    And Dave, PLEASE feel free to fill in for me any time! Anyone! Guest blog!

  • At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Noizu-kun said…

    Primer and Pi are both ruthlessly intelligent flicks that are so focused on their individual sciences that you might want to break out your physics and math textbooks to be your viewing companions.

    Don't let their undeniable weight and seemingly impenetrable veils of writing turn you off: they are both highly re-watchable, and thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining.

  • At 11:46 PM, Anonymous vegasnites777 said…

    "Swimming Pool" (2003), "Cache" (2005) and Lynch's "Lost Highway" (1997) are worth a visit as well. For the extremely bizarre? Try "The Forbidden Zone" (1982)


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