Into the Cinema

Making "Top 10" lists causes me anxiety:  I'm always afraid I'll leave out something crucial, something I feel defines the genre I'm listing.  It's like walking into a record shop-- where do you even start?
But, being a so-called "film buff", please allow me to indulge you with a few of my favorite films.  NOTE:  This is in no way to be taken as a definitive compilation, but merely a short and sweet, very rough guide to some great films; films I think make the world a little better a place to be.  I'm sure I'll think of more to add later, but for now
in no particular order...

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Originally titled 'Each for Himself and God Against All' ('Jeder Für Sich und Gegen Alle') and based on the true story of the actual person named Kaspar Hauser, this incredible film tells the story of a young man brought up in total isolation and captivity by cruel masters, never having learned to talk or even stand on his own...

{ Note:  In the movie, they say he was found "carrying a prayer book", but in reality, the book Kaspar carried had the horribly ironic title 'The Art of Replacing Lost Time and Years Badly Spent.'. }

Interestingly (though not surprisingly), director Werner Herzog found his lead actor in Bruno S., himself a mysterious figure.  The unwanted child of a prostitute, at the age of 3 Bruno was beaten severely enough as to cause temporary deafness.  Consequently, he spent the next 23 years in mental institutions.  It is said that Bruno sometimes "required hours of screaming" before he was able to perform his scenes for "The Enigma", and that he slept on the floor of the movie set, refusing to take off his Kaspar clothing.

{ ABOUT THE REAL KASPAR: from the website Mysterious People--

" In his Autobiography, written in 1829, [Kaspar Hauser] writes that he had grown up in a tiny 'cage' 6 or 7ft long, 4ft wide and only 5ft high. With the two windows boarded up, there was hardly any light, and he never saw the sun. The ceiling consisted of two large pieces of wood, pushed and tied together. He was never allowed out, and the entrance was guarded by a low locked door. He had a straw bed to sleep on a dirt floor, and a woollen blanket, and there was a round hole or bucket where he could relieve himself. He never saw his jailer as he always approached him from behind in the darkness, insisting Kaspar's back was turned. According to Hauser, he never slept lying down, but rather sitting with his back vertical and his legs straight out in front of him." }

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While most know the general story of Jeanne d'Arc, this gorgeous, heavily emotionally-charged film humanizes the martyr-girl (and vilifies her persecutors) in a very tangible way.  The tilted camera angles create a feeling of anxiety and tension, as well as lending a first-person-esque perspective.

One of the most beautiful and heartbreaking pieces of cinema ever made, in my opinion. Features a pitch-perfect soundtrack by In the Nursery, viewing this film is an experience you'll not soon forget.

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  • Hunger (Original title 'Sult' or 'Svalt'); 1966, directed by Henning Carlsen

Rarely have I felt the kind of empathy for a fictional character that I felt while watching 'Hunger'.  A richly filmed movie, with spot-on acting by Per Oscarrson, it tells the story of [literally] starving writer Pontus, who's morality is on such high ground that he will not accept charity of any kind, even though it could mean life or death.  As he wanders the city in a hunger-induced hallucinatory daze, the viewer stumbles and pines right along with him.  WARNING:  do not watch this film on an empty stomach!


Tideland; 2005, directed by Terry Gilliam

What a cinematic delight is 'Tideland', a film about a little girl who's neglectful father (played by the great Jeff Bridges) leaves her an orphan, with only her imagination, a large open countryside and some peculiar locals with which to grow up. 

The young actress Jodelle Ferland does an incredible job portraying Jeliza-Rose, making you almost forget she's just a little girl.

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If you are not familiar with the wonderful identical twin brothers Stephen and Timothy Quay, you're in for a treat.   Their stop-motion films are dark, eerie, melancholic and utterly stunning.
'Street of Crocodiles' is a great place to start, but I guarantee once you watch one of these little masterpieces, you'll be hungry for more...

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And because I realize that's a rather heavy list, I'll end on a light note.  I've long been a fan of Errol Morris and his rather strange sense of humor and love of odd humans.  I share Mr. Morris' interest in natural born "characters", and that is why with great joy I heartily recommend

To watch this movie is to know the sweetness of the soul, for the people we meet in it, these Vernon, Florida locals, are real, unscripted, un-selfconscious and thoroughly eccentric folk.  I love each one of them, from the old man and his gopher-turtle to the couple who keep a jar of sand that grows, to the Gobbler Hunter (oh Turkey Man!), to the Wiggler Farmer, right down to the Therefore Preacher.  All of 'em.  I love them.  And you will too.   Just watch.

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And if you've seen all those, here are some more five-star films to fill your time:

Happy watching!