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Saturday, 21 March 2009


My Dinner with Andre

Just watched The Worlds Fastest Indian, seems to fit the bill.


Hannah & Her Sisters
The War Room (Documentary)
Almost Famous

Michael Clayton. Frost Nixon.

Withnail and I

The Insider
Ordinary People
Citizen Kane
City Lights
The Graduate
12 Angry Men (well, there is a knife)
All the President's Men
Modern Times
The Philadelphia Story
Play it Again Sam
Annie Hall
The Hustler
Kramer vs Kramer
The Third Man (don't think it has any guns)
Name of the Rose (murders, but offscreen)
Being There
Apollo 13
Glengarry Glen Ross

OK maybe I am in touch with my feminine side, but "Horse Whisperer" is always worth the time.Loved the scenery. No deep messages but still enough of a story to watch.
Mike Lee

'Hawaii, Oslo' would meet these criteria. It's one of the best films I've seen for a long time. Without giving too much away, it's a kind of love-triangle film with Norwegian surf community elements. Quite a psychological film, really.

Another one that comes to mind is 'Reprise', which also happens to be Norwegian. It's about two good friends who are novelists, one of whom is published but cannot handle the success. The other guy is not initially successful, but then... (I won't give away any more than this).

Both these movies are about real people in real situations. No fantasy and no Hollywood action. I enjoyed both of them.

The Visitor

Oh, and another one... a recent French film called 'The Grocer's Son'. It's about a guy who leaves the city to temporarily take over the running of his parents' village grocery store while his father is in hospital. The title is not very captivating, but the film is a charming story about coming to terms with a slower pace of life in a village. I highly recommend it.

"Ladri di biciclette" (Bicycles' thieves), by De Sica.


Manhatten? Zelig?

I suppose Zelig would fit under the "fantastical" Category.

Bringing Up Baby
The Philadelphia Story
Beautiful Girls
The Royal Tenenbaums
Glengarry Glen Ross
The Terminal
Lost in Translation

I have a feeling you'd enjoy "The Visitor". It should have been a contender in the Oscars this year, but, as so often happens, quiet, thoughtful movies like this usually get overlooked.

That's actually a pretty coarse filter. Sticking to the past four years, major releases only, off the top of my head:

The Constant Gardener (so good it hurts)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


The Lives of Others

Little Miss Sunshine

A Very Long Engagement

The Aviator (Scorsese without bullet holes)

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (best tween chick flick ever - transcends itself, trust me on this, avoid the sequel at all costs)

I think you're basically talking dramas and romantic comedies - most of the films from the 50s in those categories would apply, as would modern ones made by people like Woody Allen.

Or are you talking about what's playing in the theaters right now? (If that's the case, I can't help.)

Some of my favorites that qualify:

Annie Hall
The Graduate
Sid and Nancy
Manufactured Landscapes (great photography film!!!)

Hope that helps!

"What's Eating Gilbert Grape"

The Quiet Man.

To Kill a Mockingbird.

Judgment at Nuremberg.

Lilies of the Field.

A Night at the Opera.

Or did you mean something released in this century?

Of movies I've seen, the following come readily to mind, and include some of my favorites.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Inherit the Wind (1960), The Apartment (1960), Giant (1956), My Fair Lady (1964), Amadeus (1984), Hoosiers (1986), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Roman Holiday (1953), Juno (2007), The Queen (2006), Whale Rider (2002), Rain Man (1988), Chariots of Fire (1981), Absence of Malice (1981), American Graffiti (1973).

Do you consider the knife and rifle in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) as falling under your definition of a "means of adding to or driving the dramatics"? And plots of some of the above assume use of weapon equilavents, but as a backdrop to the story, e.g, Judgment at Nuremberg.



"The Visitor" certainly comes to mind...

Glengarry Glen Ross

One of my all time favorites.

Cinema Paradiso.
release version and director's cut are almost different movies. If you like the release version. you will probably like the directors cut. But the edited "should" be seen first.
(great music as well)

Some obvious answers: by Hitchcock: Vertigo. Rear window for something with a photographer (semi-inspired by Robert Capa.) How about Rope?

Also: Citizen Kane. Roman Holiday. I have a soft spot for Kenneth Branagh's interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing. The Caine Mutiny, for some great acting by Humphrey Bogart.

I think those all fit your requirements. Chances are you've seen most though!

There are all kinds of them -- sports movies, romances, comedies, kids movies, chick flicks, even quite a few dramas, including some with physical violence but no guns or gun substitutes.

Bull Durham, Slapshot, Bad News Bears, Tin Cup
Chocolat, When Harry Met Sally
Ferris Beuhler's Day Off, Good as it Gets...

Even some "thriller" or criminal types, like "Wall Street" or "Train Spotting" (violence but no guns or gun substitutes.)

The central fact about stories of any kind is that they must involve an issue of some importance to people, if people are going to sit around and listen to them or read them or watch then. There are three issues that are important enough to be compelling: sex, non-sexual love (families, clans and tribes), and violence. Since the time of the Bible and the Greeks, these have the been at the core of virtually all interesting stories. You could make the argument that novelty should be included in the list (travel, new cultures), but even then, few stories involving novelty don't refer to to sex, love or violence. Since guns are ubiquitous in our society, and given the central position of violence in story-telling, it's quite natural that many movies include guns, just as you can learn a lot about swords and spears by reading Homer.

I'd argue that the most compelling stories for humans involve large doses of all three of the essential motivators. (Lord of the Rings.)


Almost Famous.

"Elegy" with Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Dennis Hopper, and Peter Sarsgaard comes to mind. That one might pop up sooner for me than for some, since I'm Peter's father.


If you can find it somewhere (I had to download it since I couldn't find it in any other form).

The best recent movie I've seen in recent years and one that fully fits your criteria would be "The Lives of Others", which is about the East German Stazi during the period before and just after the fall of communism in the late 80s. See it if you haven't.

August Rush
Secret Life of Bees
The Great Debaters
Bucket List

Mike, The 1972 version of "Sleuth" that starred Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier. I haven't seen the film in over 30 years but still recall the excellent acting. No tricks or frills in the entire film. Jack Ray

Good Will Hunting

My picks would have to be Stranger than Fiction (a surprisingly-dramatic and subtly-comical performance from Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman) and Flash of Genius (which, conveniently, just hit the DVD shelves in mid-February)... But then again, I enjoy writing, numbers, and designing things for cars, so I guess I'm a bit biased!

Recently I watched the movie "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" which i really liked...

You mean a movie with real dialogues? Just kidding. A few comes to mind

1- Seraphine

2- La graine et le mulet

3- Babette's Feast

4- Vier Minuten

5- The lives of others
May have a gun or two shown. Don't remember


Bringing Up Baby, What's Up Doc, The Philadelphia Story, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Holiday. Damn, they're all old.


How about 'Withnail and I"


There is a gun, and more than one of the characters are not, well, involved in the real world, but, they are not ghosts..

Had to think about it for a while though!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button?

Time Out (L'Emploi du temps) a 2001 French movie

As Good as it Gets, Twister? The one with Helen Hunt, Jack and Greg Kinnear, ???.

I'm watching one this evening: The Royal Tenenbaums. Others from my collection that come to mind include Sideways, The Princess Bride, Lost In Translation, and Buffalo 66.

If you are interested in seeing how well the late Natasha Richardson acted, look out for "The White Countess"

It came out 2005

i guess there's always some subjective issues when you qualify as "well-written, compelling, engaging." to me, that would be indicated by a movie that you always stop to watch whenever you discover that it's on. the quiet man would do it for me.

historical depictions that meet 1 & 2: october sky, apollo 13, remember the titans, we are marshall.

Juno is a smart well written comedy that meets both conditions.

In the "oldies" (that is, more than a couple years old), Castaway was pretty good. I believe there are more, I just can't think of any off the top of my head.

I hope I've understood the question.

The Graduate?

The Appartment?

Citizen Kane?

Back to boring photography, this exhbition looks good:


Tarkovsky's Nostalghia. (Pretty close to the best movie ever made, in fact.)

Most of Bergman's movies from the 60s through the 80s. Try Persona if you haven't seen it already.

It's kind of surprising, when I look through my own collection, how few don't fall into one of those two categories. How about "The Right Stuff" and "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" (although it seems like there may have been a scene in Oh Brother when the warden catches up to them that there's some guns; I don't remember for sure)?

Wow, there are certainly lots. I teach dramatic writing at the Art Institute of Phoenix, and I'll name the film we were watching this morning: Almost famous by Cameron Crowe

The Third Man.

My wife and I watched "Breakfast at Tiffany's" lately - we think it matches both criteria. Another contender would be "Brokeback Mountain", but we weren't sure whether the use of guns in that film falls under 1.

Interesting question, though - it raises a second question: Why is there so little "real life" in movies? Does reality not sell well enough, or do we all need something unrealistic from time to time?

"Good Night and Good Luck" comes to mind. Of course Ron Howards "Apollo 13" is also in the running. How about "The Color Purple"? In my opinion Speilbergs best work. Also "Phone Call From a Stranger", speaking of Gary Merrill how about "12 O'clock High"? Oh! Forgot, not only guns but bombs in that one. I also really liked "Amalie" I'm sure a lot more titles will be offered by others. Two more, "Waking Ned Devine" and "The Closer You Get"(US distribution title "American Girls")

I don't know what audience we are talking about but "Secret Life of Bees" fits - unless, you consider belief in God or religion to be fantastical.

Well, if you're into dancing, then
Shall we dansu:
They made a remake with Richard Gere, but the Japanese original is, IMHO, better.

Of course, I like dancing, so maybe this film is not for you...

'Fat City', a 1970s John Huston film about small time, small town boxers leading a grim existence. If it's bleak reality you're after this film delivers it with style & intelligence.

It certainly is not a high-suspense drama, but no violence or crazy fantasy. One of my all time favorite films that holds up well to repeated viewings, is Singing in the Rain. Well written story line, engaging, and just plain enjoyable. Most everything else in my library tends to violate in one way or another your stipulation #2. ---Woody

I would suggest The Spanish Prisoner, the David Mamet movie starring Steve Martin. Maybe I just miss the obvious, but I was pretty hoodwinked by the plot.

How about Amilie its French so subtitles but its a beautiful film and includes proper photo booths! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211915/

Would any of the following count?
- Breakfast at Tiffany's
- Breaking Away
- The Graduate
- Hoosiers
- Bull Durham
- When Harry Met Sally

Twelve Angry Men?

There must be lots. The first one coming to mind is one of my all-time faves:

Postcards From The Edge

It's a long time since I last watched it, but I don't remember any guns in Citizen Kane, or anything particularly 'fantastical' in the sense that you mean.

No doubt there are plenty of 'art house' films that would satisfy your two main criteria, but which many wouldn't find 'engaging', to the extent that they'd sit through the whole film. For example, the 1966 film Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, which has neither guns nor fantastical devices, can be compelling for many but uncomfortable viewing for others.

If you were to restrict our choice to 21st century films, I think this challenge could be quite hard.

- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Great Muppet Caper (Come on, Charles Grodin in love with Miss Piggy, and the Muppets catching the crooks red handed [What color are their hands now?]... What could be more fantastical than that?!)
- Stranger Than Fiction
- The Double Life Of Veronique
- Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
- Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Hi Mike, I really enjoyed 'Into the Wild' directed by Sean Penn. Another good movie is 'You Can Count on Me' featuring Mark Ruffalo. You can check the Internet Movie Database (IMDB, www.imdb.com) for more information. I guess, you've probably heard of this site before? The viewer comments section is usually an interesting read.

Closer. It started as a play, by Peter Marber. Formally brilliantly written, compellingly acted.

A few more candidates:
- Philadelphia
- Apollo 13
- Bad News Bears (the original)
- Say Anything

Once you give the thumbs up/down on this list and the last one (and posts of others) we can probably populate a larger list.

Putney Swope.

Lost in Translation

Dangerous Liaisons

Vincent and Theo

My Cousin Vinnie

Lust For Life

Keeping the Faith

The Straight Story

The Naked Island


Blues Brothers

The Odd Couple

Philadelphia Story

We've recently enjoyed "Martian Child", although it was made in 2007.

Actually, some of the 'Ealing Comedies' made at Ealing studios UK in the 1950s are still very engaging and surprisingly topical. being British humour they are subtle, thought provoking and completely without firearms. One of the best is 'I'm Alright Jack' about class struggle, industrial relations and human nature. It features one of the late Peter Sellers well observed characters in the form of Fred Kite, union official, commy synpathiser and Hitler look-alike,....brilliant and funny film.

I guess it depends on your other definitions: "well-written, compelling, engaging"

Breakfast at Tiffany's
To Catch a Thief
The Philadelphia Story
The Quiet Man
All About Eve
Good Night, and Good Luck.
12 Angry Men
Citizen Kane
The Conversation

and of course... One Froggy Evening


- The Decline of the American Empire
- In the Mood for Love
- The Bicycle Thief
- Solino
- When Harry Met Sally
- The Blair Witch Project
- Broken Flowers
- Lost in Translation
- Good Bye Lenin
- Mifune
- Duell
- several Jim Jarmush movies
- Sideways

I could go on for a while here. Several of these are not available in English, unfortunately. I also enjoy back-to-basics movies which rely on story-telling rather than action, and fortunately, there are a lot of them out there. I have to admit to also enjoying mindless action, but I would never admit to that.

This is a pretty wide open question Mike - I can think of dozens, but to start the ball rolling how about a couple of French classics "Jean de Florette" and "Manon des Sources" - both directed by Claude Berri and based on the novels of Marcel Pagnol. They have been consistently chosen by UK viewers as the "best" foreign language films - but I don't know how well known they are in the USA. (They are available with English sub-titles, which is just as well as I know French people who struggle with the thick Provençal accent.) There is a gun in "Jean de Florette", but it is not used as a weapon - it is placed in the coffin of a deceased peasant and leads to a wonderful moment as the funeral cortège bumps over rough ground and someone questions whether the gun was loaded or not.

"Smoke" by director Wayne Wang comes to mind. This movie was based on a novel by Paul Auster. Harvey Keitel and William Hurt were among the players. I do not remember the ending clearly; I hope there were no guns or fantasies there :)

There Will Be Blood.

A huge number of movies fit this bill. There's many good dramas that are just about people.

But since you asked for a specific one: "High Fidelity" is one of my all-time top 10 favorites.

"well-written, compelling, engaging"
That's it? And no violence or fantasy? Do you really think that is so hard - err... maybe your idea about what is well-written ... etc. is totally different from mine, but that doesn't seem too hard. Does it have to be like recent, or would anything between say 193x and now do?

Don't Look Now is an excellent starting point - too bad The Man Who fell to Earth is sort of fantastic.

"To be or not to be" - Ernst Lubitsch
"Gone with the wind"
"Dr Shivago"
"Hotel New Hampshire" (too many unlikely deaths maybe?)
"The Way We Were" - Sydney Pollack
"A River Runs Through It" - Redford
"Pretty Woman" (You don't find that Bambi smile c-o-m-p-e-l-l-i-n-g?)
"12 Angry Men"
"The Red Tent" - Mikhail Kalatozov
"Before Sunrise"
"Calendar Girls" - Nigel Cole
"Billy Elliott"
"Das Leben der Anderen"
"The Queen"
"The Hours"

OK, I'll stop here and wait for you to say I got the question wrong. Seemed easy ...

You have something against fantasy, Mike? Anyway, here are some Japanese films my wife and I have enjoyed recently:

• "Twenty-Four Eyes," a story about a school teacher and her students on an island in the Inland Sea. I don't know if you would consider it compelling, but it is well-written and engaging, and was an award-winner in Japan.

• Kurosawa's "Drunken Angel." This was Toshiro Mifune's first film for Kurosawa. Though there is a knifing at the end, the film is mostly about the relationship between a tubercular gangster and the alcoholic doctor who tries to save him.

• Kurosawa's "Rhapsody in August," in which three modern teenagers learn about family history and the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

• Kurosawa's "Ikiru." An old non-entity of a clerk learns he has only a few months to live, and pushes the bureacracy to get a new playground built before he dies.

Can you guess that I like Kurosawa films?

Oh... and of your course
"Blowup" - Antonioni

unforgivable omission ...

Sounds like chick flicks, documentaries and biography's would work. My votes... "Man on Wire", "Chasing Amy", "Flirting with Disaster", "Harold and Maude", "Juno", "March of the Penguins", "The sweet hearafter", "Winged Migration", "A beautiful Mind", "Apollo 13",

Well, I watched Eric Rohmer's Love in the afternoon yesterday, perfect for a lazy saturday afternoon. It forms the final part of Rohmer's six moral tales, any of which would be suit equally well. If you need constant action to keep your attention, then you might get bored, but the subtle drama and writing that highlights the gap between words and action work for me. Think Astia vs Digital HDR maybe.


Lots of good ideas, but I'm looking forward to seeing Everlasting Moments, a recently released Swedish (or Finnish, maybe??) film about a woman and a camera, shot, it seems to me from the trailer, in natural light.

Only problem, is it will only be playing in art house theaters, so I'm going to have to travel about an hour to see it, when it finally opens!

Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now.

Oh, OK then.

Local Hero
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Strictly Ballroom
Shakespeare in Love
Celine and Julie Go Boating
The Man in the White Suit

But for a photographer, it has to be:

Une partie de campagne

as if you are very quick, you can spot Henri Cartier-Bresson, who was an extra.

Unfortunately, one of the most engaging films of all time and an almost perfect lazy Saturday movie, Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, misses out because of your first criterion.

Waking Ned Devine
Lost in Translation
Priscilla Queen of the Desert

It seems, as if many of us don't remember the weapons, e.g. in "Benjamin Button" (Battleship), "The The Lives of Others" (Stasi-Officers with weapons) ... I think many of the other listed movies contain weapons, too.

I can only think of one.

Clockwork Orange.

Unless, of course, you imagine that a large, porcelain penis sculpture, complete with built-in throbbing action, is in some way a pistol substitute. Silly boy.

--Darin Boville

A Beautiful Mind (2000)
Pollock (2001)

I would put down Wall-E... but it violates some of the shallow specifications, even though it's a super character study.

Lacking that, how about

High Fidelity
Blue, from the Blue/White/Red series

The Grapes of Wrath
Inherit the Wind
Elmar Gantry
Any Wood Allen movie (Sleeper and Zelig don't meet your qualifications). Best of all: Radio Days, Everything you Wanted to Know About Sex, and Manhattan.
Any Billy Wilder flick.
The Red Baloon
Divorce Italian Style
All About Eve
The American President
The Great Race

"High Art" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0139362/ , and from the same director "Laurel Canyon" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0298408/

Both relatively unknown, first is revolving around a photographer and an assistant editor. Might be of some interest to the TOP readership.

"The Hudsucker Proxy"

I have not seen these films on the comments list yet:
March of the Penguins
Seven Days in May
Raging Bull
It's been many a moon since I saw the last two. I don't remember guns or purpose-built weapons in any of these, although with that many penguins, probably at least a few were packin'.

Mike given your excellent taste in music .... from what I have read here... you may enjoy this documentary. A truly remarkable man and a life well lived.

Tom Dowd and the Language of Music


I am willing to bet that you have multiple albums in your collection which he produced/engineered.....

Dave N

Trying to mention one's that have not been mentioned and are somewhat recent:

Lars and the Real Girl

The Natural

Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist (a Juno-like teenager movie, but I liked it)

Once - not great acting but ther was some great music



One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The Squid and the Whale

OK, many Ealing comedies...Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, Captain's Paradise. The Fallen Idol, Our Man In Havana (there's a gun, but it is not central to the plot in any real sense). Paper Moon (incredible B&W cinematography, BTW), The Entertainer (w/Olivier, phenomenal movie, but depressing as hell)

"Lost in translation" - the one movie I've seen where Bill Murray is actually a great actor.

Or, if you want to go for the off-beat (there's a bit of Finnish in the beginning but the rest is all in English):

"Leningrad Cowboys go to America"

I'm surprised no one mentined "Casablanca" or "Good Night, and Good Luck" yet. Or maybe I'm blind :(

The movies by Ingmar Bergman and Krzysztof Kieslowski are, unfortunately, not in English...

But you may want to consider some of these:

All About Eve (1950)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Brief Encounter (1945)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Odd Man Out (1947)
On Golden Pond (1981)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Spider (2002)
Vertigo (1958)
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

A couple of comments: you may find Peeping Tom a little dark... and Spider, which is about mental illness, is superb (and accurate).

I hope you enjoy one or two: some of them are quite good.

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