Tom's Big Score
Big Lots, Big Savings
I love Big Lots because I save lots on DVDs in the $3 bargain bin there. That's less cost than a Starbucks latte for a motion picture - something you can retain a lot longer than coffee. On a recent pilgrammage to the Dundalk Big Lots, conveniently located next door to the Dundalk Giant Food with its state-of-the-art bathroom facilities (which I needed after almost peeing myself over all the good stuff at Big Lots), I recently scored 20-some cool DVDS of the indie, cult and arthouse variety. Since Facebook friends suggested I post my thrift store scores, herein is the list.
1. REEL TALENT: FIRST FILMS BY LEGENDARY DIRECTORS
Two DVDS representing 188 minutes-worth of 12 first films by 9 directors - all of whom attended film school at the University of Southern California - including three by George "Star Wars" Lucas (A Man and His Car , Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB, Freiheit), two by Robert "Back To the Future"/"Forest Gump" Zemeckis (The Lift, A Field of Honor), Richard "Donnie Darko" Kelly (The Goodbye Place), Richard L. Bare (whose The Oval Portrait is based on an Edgar Allan Poe story), Shawn Levy (Broken Record), John Turtletaub (Whatever It Takes), Kevin Reynolds (Proof), James Foley, Jr. (Silent Night), and Steve Sommers (Perfect Alibi).
2. VERNON, FLORIDA
Errol Morris' 1981 documentary, shot in Super 16, about oddball rednecks in this Northwest Florida town plays like a Dixieland version of Northern Exposure. Featuring a turkey hunter, a pet collector, a carpenter-preacher, and a couple who keep a jar of sand that they believe increases every day. Trust me, it's fascinating. I already own a copy, but I picked up an extra copy for an ex-Floridean friend so she can marvel at the vast cultural landscape she left behind.
3. 2006 FIFA WORLD CUP FILM
This one makes me salivate. All the highlights from the 2006 World Cup, including Zinedine Zidane's infamous head-butt in the final against Italy's Azzuri. Again, I already own it, but I got for my soccer fanatic neighbor because I might use it as a bargaining chip in getting him to mow my lawn this week.
4. PUMP UP THE VOLUME
Another one I own but picked up for a friend who's really into '80s movies (PUTV came out in 1990 but it's totally '80s). Christian Slater was still riding his post-Heathers cult popularity when he made this tale about a rebellious high school "pirate radio" DJ named Happy Harry Hard-on. Great soundtrack includes songs by Concrete Blonde, Pixies, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth, and Cowboy Junkies. I remember seeing this at the historic Senator Theater back in the day.
5. PARADISE NOW
Hany Abu-Assad (Rana's Wedding)'s 2005 film about two Palestinian childhood friends recruited to be suicide bombers was the first Palestinian film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and became famously controversial when Israeli officials tried to extract a guarantee from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that Paradise Now would not be presented in the ceremony as representing the state of Palestine, despite the fact it was introduced as such in the Academy Awards' official website. A similar "political" analogy would be that of China and Taiwan, whereby Taiwan is called "Chinese Taipei" in international sports competitions (like the recent Beijing Olympics). As a result, the Internet Movie Database refers to its country of origin as "Occupied Palestinian Territory."
6. THE YES MEN
"Changing the world one prank at a time." I heard good stuff about this documentary concerning anti-corporate activists that travel from conference to conference, impersonating members of the World Trade Organization. Roger Ebert called it a "disturbing" doc. The filmmakers are Dan Ollman, Sarah Price and Chris Smith; Price and Smith previously scored a hit with the critically lauded American Movie (2000).
7. HOUSE OF SAND (CASA DE AREIA)
I love this 2005 Brazilian arthouse film by director Andrucha Waddington that tells the story of a young woman who in 1910 is taken, along with her mother, to a far-away desert by her husband. After her aged husband dies, she spends the next 59 years of her life hopelessly trying to escape her "house of sand." Think a feminine version of Robinson Crusoe, only surrounded by a sea of sand instead of water. Fernanda Torres (Four Days in September) is the star and I found her performance riveting. Her mother in the film is legendary Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro (Central Station, Four Days in September), who was most recently seen stateside in Love in a Time of Cholera.
8. A MIGHTY WIND
Christopher Guest's folk music parody masterpiece with an ensemble cast of the usual comedic suspects - Harry Shearer, Michael Mckena, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, and Bob Balaban. Essential and endlessly rewatchable.
9. RIPLEY'S GAME
Saw this on TV and loved John Malkovich's performance. Lots of garroting, which you don't see every day. A garrot glutton's delight, in fact, especially that assembly-line train garroting scene.
10. THE SQUID AND THE WHALE
Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, The Squid and the Whale tells the story of two young boys dealing with their parents divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980's. Supposed to be great, with outstanding performances by Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels, and numerous award nominations, including an Oscar nom for Best Screenplay for director Noah Baumbach.
11. THE GAY DIVORCEE
Mark Sandrich-directed Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical featuring Oscar winning song "The Continental." Ginger plays Mimi Glossop, a young woman unhappily married to a geologist who, accompanied by her dotty Aunt Hortense (Alice Brady), hires lawyer Edward Everett Horton to help her obtain a divorce. Complicating matters is American dancing sensation Guy Holden (Astaire), who falls madly in love with still-married Mimi. Sandrich was a top-notch director who directed five of the nine RKO musicals starring Astaire and Rogers, including Top Hat, Carefree, Shall We Dance, and Follow the Fleet in addition to this classic.
12. FOLLOW THE FLEET
Another Mark Sandrich-directed Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical, notable for the singing and acting of Harriet Hilliard - later famous as Harriet Nelson on TV's Ozzie and Harriet show.
13. FLYING DOWN TO RIO
An orchestra loses its gig at a ritzy hotel when its leader, Roger (Gene Raymond), is caught romancing Belinha De Rezende (Dolores del Rio), a spicy, Brazilian guest. So it's off to Rio de Janeiro, where the band tries to save a hotel in peril and Raymond tries to woo Belinha from her fiancé. Not the greatest Astaire musical, but it does have that great wing-ding of an airplane dance number.
Internet reviewer "lovejuice" commented that the "Carioca" dance number in Rio is a remarkable example of how Hollywood skirted around the segregation laws then in effect. "The dance of Astaire, Rogers and white dancers are cut intertwined with the ensemble of about 40 black dancers. Audiences get the sense that they are all in the same room, but we never actually see them dance together in one frame, not until the very last part anyway. The very last shot is of black dancers dance Carioca with white dancers standing still on a rotating platform. The white do not dance, but the platform dances for them. This is perhaps the closest one can get to breaking the segregation law in 1933."
Lubitsch and a gabbing Garbo. 'Nuff said! But I actually picked it up for my dad's girlfriend, who adores Garbo. When released in 1939, it was billed as "Garbo laughs!" as it was her one and only comedy. I also like MGM's other tagline "Don't pronounce it - see it!"
Great high school neo-noir starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Mysterious Skin, 500 days of Summer).
17. JACQUES COUSTEAU'S RIVER EXPLORATIONS
Yes! He shoots, he scores! Six DVDs filled with almost 700 minutes ('count 'em!) of river explorations that lists for $44.95 on Amazon! I love Jacques Cousteau and can still remember taking a school field trip to the Loch Raven Theater to see his mind-blowing underwater adventures. This set covers everything from the Danube to the Mississippi to the Amazon. Even Muddy Waters. Not, not really.
A rare "comedy" (or as close to that term as he gets!) by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Pulse, Tokyo Sonata). Thought provoking, as per usual, from the most interesting Japanese director working today.
19. THUNDERBIRDS 6
I'm so blind I misread this one as Thunderbirds G until I put a call in to T-bird expert David Cawley. Dave said it was a lesser Gerry Anderson work, but that's OK, I'll give it to my exterminator pal Scottie, who's a marionette animation fan (he loves Captain Scarlet!) Thunderbirds were go; now they're gone - from Big Lots!
20. NIGHT COURT - FIRST SEASON
OK, this was an Amy pick because she loves mainstream American TV (like her beloved WKRP in Cincinatti) (what can I say, she has peculiar taste - I mean, she likes me.)
*** THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY ***
The ones I put back - and am now regretting doing so, are:
Great movie about suburban ennui. Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly got the big credits, but it also features one of my fave actresses, Jane Adams (Joy Jordan from Todd Solondz' Happiness), who has a very disturbing parking scene on her blind date with a sex offender. Why didn't I get it?
No, not the stupid Howard Stern movie but the debut film by Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul).
ERNEST GOES TO AFRICA
The ninth installment in the Jim Varney/Ernest Powertools Worrell film franchise. As Billy McConnell pointed out, some Ernest flicks are legitimate cult films, like 1994's Ernest Gets a Job, which was directed by future Existo director Coke Sams. This one will torment me through many a sleepless night. Know what I mean, Vern?
*** AMY'S BIG SCORE *** (addendum)
Ohmigod! In my haste I forgot all the big scores my girlfriend Amy has made on budget DVDs at Big Lots, some which she has graciously given to me (we share!). These include many big-name auteurs, like:
PAN'S LABYRINTH (Guillarmo del Toro!)
Some say it should have won the 2007 Best Foreign Film Oscar that went to The Lives of Others.
DAY FOR NIGHT (Truffaut!)
STOREFRONT HITCHCOCK (Jonathan Demme!)
ROADIE (Alan Rudolph!)
Alan Rudolph's 1980 cult classic stars Meatloaf as Travis W. Redfish with a star-studded cast of Don "Soul Train" Cornelius, Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry and Blondie,and members of Asleep at the Wheel.
BROKEN FLOWERS (Jim Jarmusch!)
LOST IN TRANSLATION (Sophia Coppola!)
CUTIE HONEY (LIVE ACTION)
This 2004 tokusatsu (live-action) version of creator Go Nagai's sexy manga and anime superheroine was directed by Hideaki Anno and stars popular Japanese model Eriko Sato as the scantily clad Cutie Honey. But the live-action version is every bit as cartoonish as the manga, playing like a kitschy episode of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers as Honey does battle with a bunch of silly-named villains like Sister Jill, Gold Claw, Cobalt Claw, Scarlet Claw and Black Claw. Great fun!
This is a 2006 hybrid anime project: based on a manga by Taiyo Matsumoto and made in Japan, but directed by an American, first-time helmer Michael Arrias. It tells the story of two orphans, White and Black, who try to survive in a grity metropolitan slum called Treasure Town. It looks cool.
RESCUE ME MAVE-CHAN (Anime)
I think she also scored the eerie Spanish horror film THE ORPHANAGE.