There are probably hundreds if not thousands of films out there that we’d appreciate — maybe even love — if only we knew about them.
Sadly, we don’t know about them. Either because they didn’t do so well at the box office, or were only released on Mars, or we weren’t born yet.
Or maybe we just weren’t paying close enough attention.
So I compiled a list of ten films I consider worth seeing.
I’m not saying they’re my favourite films (that’s another list for another time).
I’m just saying these are a few cool films that maybe flew under the radar that are worth checking out.
I’ve numbered them, but the numbers don’t matter. Truth is I couldn’t decide which order to number them in. So this is just the order I left them in when I gave up the silly exercise of numbering them.
So, without further ado:
10. Les Visiteurs (1993)
I saw this film, about a French nobleman and his servant who are transported forward in time to the twentieth century, in 1993 when I was living in France. A bunch of my French friends dragged me to it, insisting that I had to see it, it was all the rage, and sure enough since then it has turned into a French cult classic
My French wasn’t so hot back then (my French never actually got past “warm”) so I didn’t understand much of the film when I first saw it.
But one line stood out for me with absolute clarity, a line spoken by Jean Reno: “Je pense que j’ai fait un grosse betise” (I think I just did something really stupid).
I was perversely proud of myself for being able to pick out that one line.
It’s a bit of a silly movie, with a particular French comedic sensibility. There was an American remake (Just Visiting), but you owe it to yourself to see the original.
9. One Week 2008
This is a Canadian movie, currently available on NetFlix, starring Joshua Jackson of Fringe and Dawson’s Creek fame.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Jackson’s character feels compelled to take a motorcycle trip from Toronto to Vancouver, presumably to come to grips with his illness and also to sort out his feelings about the woman he’s about to marry. Along the way he sees a lot of small town Canada and meets several interesting characters (one of whom provides some startlingly dubious advice about his relationship).
The soundtrack to this gentle but engaging film was recorded in the Glenn Gould studio in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre where I work, by my colleague Dennis Patterson. But that’s not why I’m flogging it.
8. The Last Mimzy 2007
This is a lovely little science fiction movie for the kids. And the grown-ups. And everyone in between.
I like it for three reasons in particular.
One, it’s an intriguing story about two kids who discover artefacts from the future that give them seemingly magical powers. But for what purpose?
Two, it’s clearly the result of a labour of love for the director, Robert Shaye (founder and former head of New Line Cinema, also famous for giving the green light to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Ring trilogy).
And three, it’s an adaptation of an old science fiction favourite of mine called Mimsy Were the Borogroves (note the different spelling of “Mimsy”) by Lewis Padgett.
A couple of things about that. The title is a line from Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky:
Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.
And Lewis Padgett is actually a pseudonym of the husband and wife writer team Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore.
7. Away From Her 2006
Another Canadian film, this time by director/actor Sarah Polley. It’s about a man (played by Gordon Pinsent) dealing with his wife’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease (the wife is played by Julie Christie). So, a happy movie. Not. But a compelling movie.
I found a promotional copy of this movie on the infamous “Table of Shit” in the Q production area back when I worked on the show. The Table of Shit was where we put all the books and videos and whatnot that people sent us flogging their wares. So I took this one home and watched it with my wife, and was duly impressed.
6. Le Hussard Sur le Toit (The Horseman on the Roof) 1995
This one is set in Provence, France in 1832. It’s about a young officer trying to help a young woman find her husband during a cholera outbreak. I saw it a long time ago (well, eighteen years ago, to be exact) and would love to see it again. I remember being drawn to it because it’s set in Provence, my home for a year shortly before seeing it. But well worth seeing in its own right.
5. The Emperor’s New Clothes 2001
If you like Bilbo Baggins you’ll like this movie. Well, maybe not. But perhaps if you like Ian Holm, who played both Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings franchise, and Napoleon, in this flick. It’s a small but charming movie about Napoleon’s final attempt to regain the throne of France. An attempt that doesn’t quite go as Napoleon would have liked.
4. Spoorloos (The Vanishing) (1988)
A disturbing movie about the disappearance of a woman with one of the best endings I’ve ever seen in a movie.
I will say nothing more about it, except to say you must see the original, not the Hollywood remake (but isn’t that just about always the case?)
3. The Swimmer 1968
I caught this Burt Lancaster flick on late night television back in the eighties. The best kind of quirky. A couple of months ago I stumbled across the John Cheever short story the film is based on. A good short story. A better movie. Roger Ebert called Lancaster’s performance in this movie his best.
2. Ridicule 1996
(I have removed the trailer for this film because it is rather explicit. I must confess I didn’t watch it all the way through before posting it. Learned my lesson there!)
What can I say? I like French films (I pretty much like French anything). This one has a lot of humour in it but not the kind you might expect from a French film. This one’s smart and sometimes nasty. Highly recommended.
1. Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
This Jackie Chan film is a personal favourite, influenced no doubt by my love of both martial arts and martial arts films. Tons of action and plenty of humour. I brought it home one night from the video store and my wife said, “What the heck is this?”
Five minutes in, after some pretty dubious English dubbing, she said, “Seriously, this is what you want to watch?”
But she watched the whole thing with me.
And the next night, when we felt like watching another movie, she said, “Let’s watch Legend of Drunken Master again!” because she had enjoyed it so much. Watching the same movie two nights in a row is something we’ve never done before or since.
So what’s it about?
Jackie Chan’s character is a martial artist who gets better the more alcohol he drinks. Needless to say his parents don’t approve. But when foreigners start stealing priceless artefacts, Jackie has no choice.
Particularly charming and hilarious is Anita Mui’s performance as Jackie’s character’s mother-in-law.
What little known gems do you recommend?