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Shane’s Shelf: Film Discovery List 2019

Shane's Film Discovery List

3.  Mikey and Nicky (1976) – Dir. Elaine May

Mikey and Nicky is a film about friendship, the bonds that tie us together and the emotional blows that tear us apart.  It’s a wonderful two-hander between Peter Falk and John Cassavetes.  Nicky (Cassavetes) has stolen money from the mob and calls in his longtime friend Mikey (Falk) to help him navigate his way out of the city and to safety.  The film is brilliantly acted by both Cassavetes and Falk.  The dialogue between the two is so effortless and natural.  At the helm, Elaine May is able to wrangle in two sublime 70s actors and channel their energy to deliver one of the best crime dramas of the era.  A masterclass of cinema, Mikey and Nicky is one of the best films I watched last year.

2.  The Long Good Friday (1980) – Dir. John Mackenzie

Bob Hoskins is an absolute revelation in one of the best British gangster films I’ve ever seen, The Long Good Friday.  The film centers on Hoskins’ character, Harold Shand, who’s aspiring to turn his criminal empire legit.  He’s in almost every scene and commands every bit of your attention all the way up to the final shots of the film.  It’s in these final moments that Hoskins really dials it down to give a nuanced and heartbreaking performance.  He’s able to exhibit a range of emotions in mere minutes, doing so with just his eyes and without uttering a single word.  Buoyed by solid directing, a brilliant pulsating score and Hoskins’ incredible performance, The Long Good Friday is an all timer of British cinema.

1.  Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) – Dir. Werner Herzog

Many times while watching Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God I asked myself, “Are these actors safe?”.   The film is shot entirely on location in the Peruvian rainforest over the course of almost two months.  The cast and crew actually climbed the mountains and tore through the jungles, creating pathways and spent quite a bit of time in the Amazon River on rafts that were built by the Peruvians.  The film charts the course of a Spanish expedition as they travel through the rainforest searching for El Dorado.  Wrath of God features an absolutely unhinged performance from the always wonderful Klaus Kinski.  It’s almost like he was beamed in from another planet.  Truly one of the most daring films to come from Herzog;  Aguirre, the Wrath of God is not to be missed.

There it is.  Those are the films from prior years that really made an impact on me in 2019.  It’s truly an eclectic batch that spans several genres and decades.  If you haven’t seen something from this list I urge you to consider giving one of them a shot in 2020.  You won’t be disappointed.

If you’re interested in these types of films, keep an eye out for this Column where I plan to cover boutique physical media releases from the likes of Criterion, Arrow, Shout Factory, etc.

Shane’s Shelf will be back in the coming weeks! Stay Tuned!!!

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