Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks #184: Sundance Favorites

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is "Sundance Favorites", which I would assume means movies that gained their fame through the Sundance Festival. That's not an area of expertise for me, so I'm going in a completely different direction with the theme:

Sundown (1941). Gene Tierney plays a half-Arab woman in British Somaliland who winds up helping the British commanders of a military base there (George Sanders and Bruce Cabot) because Britain is already at war with the Nazis. (The movie was released about two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.) I have a feeling the filmmakers didn't realize Somalis are black Africans, and not Arabs.

Plunder of the Sun (1953). Glenn Ford plays an insurance man who in Havana gets offered a substantial sum of money to take something on the boat to Mexico. He should know better. The guy who paid him (Francis L. Sullivan) dies, and Ford is left to fend for himself as he discovers he's got maps that could lead to ancient Mayan treasure. And everybody wants those maps. Fun enough if undemanding.

Bridge to the Sun (1961). Carroll Baker plays Gwen Terasaki (née Harold), a 1930s southern belle who meets Hidenari (James Shigeta) in Washington where he works at the Japanese embassy. The two fall in love, marry, and have a child despite everybody around them not being sure of an interracial relationship. Sure enough, December 1941 comes and the US and Japan wind up at war. Gwen makes the difficult decision to follow her husband back to Japan. This movie is based on a true story.


joel65913 said...

I like the way you went with this.

Of these I liked Plunder of the Sun best though the other two are not bad films. Sundown does suffer now from the problem of having Caucasian actors playing Arabs and the like but such were the times.

I'm not terribly familiar with what played at Sundance either but poking around a bit I did come up with these three that I liked that showed at the festival.

Silverlake Life: The View from Here (1993) - Won the Grand Jury Documentary Prize at Sundance. Mark Massi and Tom Joslin are in a long time committed relationship, they have also both been diagnosed with AIDS which at the time was a death sentence. We live through their final journey with them. The film has touches of gallows humor but it is a harrowing, heartbreaking trip to an inevitable destination that will leave you emotionally bereft.

Big Night (1996) - Won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci-who co-wrote and co-directed this film) are immigrant brothers who operate an Italian restaurant in America. Primo is a culinary genius, but hot tempered and determined not to squander his expertise making the routine dishes that customers expect. Secondo is the smooth front-man, trying to keep the restaurant financially afloat, despite few patrons other than a poor artist who pays with his paintings. Their friendly competitor who owns a nearby enormously successful restaurant offers a solution, a special benefit lead by a big-time jazz musician who is a friend of his. Excitedly Primo begins to prepare his feast of a lifetime for the brothers' big night. Amusing comic drama with a terrific cast alongside Tucci and Shalhoub including Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver and Liev Schreiber.

You Can Count on Me (2000) - Won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance. Independent, responsible Sammy Prescott (Laura Linney) is a single mother working as a loan officer in upstate New York who is at first delighted when her errant, feckless brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo) shows up unexpectedly for a visit after a long period of not being in touch. When his short visit stretches into an extended stay they both slowly begin to reexamine their lives as their childhood bond strengthens anew. Beautifully acted this is one of the best looks at sibling rivalry and connection ever made.

Birgit said...

I didn’t play this week because my mom died and I’m still dealing with all of it. I agree with Joel that this was a great take on it but I haven’t seen any of these. I think of The Sundowners, The Sun Also Rises and Island in the Sun. Joel, I saw 2 of your Picks-Big Night is excellent and I own the soundtrack. Your 3rd pick is quite good if not a bit wonky but good.