Love old or unusual movies but never know when they’re on? Here are several I recommend.
The Weight of Gold (2020): I’ve seen such mixed reactions to this documentary. What happens when your entire life has been focused on one narrow thing that comes with enormous attention and privilege, and then that thing comes to an abrupt end? That’s the problem faced by Olympic athletes. And in too many cases, it comes with sharp psychological challenges. I tend to support anything that promotes dialogue and awareness about mental health, and so I don’t look at Michael Phelps and the other athletes in this story and think, “Oh, quit your whining.” I think, “Good for you for seeking help and for being willing to talk about it.” We’ve kept mental health struggles hidden away for far too long. A little sunlight on the issue can help us all, if you ask me. [Climbs off soap box.]
Now streaming on HBO MAX.
ParaNorman (2012): Laika is a remarkable animation company in Portland, Oregon. They specialize in old-fashioned, stop-motion animation. These films are back-breaking work and take forever to make — in 15 years, they’ve only released five films. ParaNorman is the second one. Not only does it have a great title, but it has a wonderful story. The hero, a weird kid named Norman, can talk to dead people. This makes him uniquely qualified to try to save his town from an ancient curse. It is visually delightful and engagingly performed by a terrific cast including Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Alex Borstein and John Goodman. A perfect October movie.
Now streaming on Netflix.
The Crowd Roars (1932): Here’s another pre-Code gem with Joan Blondell. It stars James Cagney as a champion race car driver whose little brother (Eric Linden from Big City Blues) idolizes him. Much as Cagney doesn’t love the idea, Linden is determined to follow in his big brother’s footsteps. Joan plays Linden’s love interest, and Ann Dvorak is Cagney’s long-suffering girlfriend. The legendary Howard Hawks directed this little gem, which includes some pretty impressive racing sequences.
Now streaming on The Criterion Channel.
30 Days of Night (2007): I have a bias in favor of any movie with snow. Particularly any movie that takes place at an extreme latitude. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s because I live in Southern California. So when I hear “vampires north of the Arctic Circle,” I’m on board. The cast is uniformly excellent, including Josh Hartnett and Melissa George as the estranged husband-and-wife sheriff team in Barrow, Alaska. Right as the town is going into its annual “30 days of night” winter darkness, Danny Huston leads a vampire invasion of the town, aided by the luckless Ben Foster. It’s creepy, shivery, vampire-horror fun for October!
Now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Trivia Question 866: Josh Hartnett starred in an adaptation of a Shakespeare play set in a high school. What was the movie?
Answer to Trivia Question 864: Judi Dench won an Oscar for her role as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love.
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