A-Z Film Challenge: Day 21

Phew! ‘U’ is really hard. I had my top choice in mind, and ended up sticking with it. But there’s not much to leave for you, except a couple of obvious ones. Good luck with ‘U’!

I don’t laugh at many American comedians in films, no secret there. Adam Sandler leaves me cold, and though I might occasionally grin at Ben Stiller, that’s a stretch too. I have never watched ‘The Hangover’ films, and failed to raise a chuckle at anything involving Owen Wilson. Even ‘Dumb and Dumber’ left me checking the weather reports, for something more interesting. And don’t get me started on the legion of ‘buddy’ comedies. OK, I did laugh at ‘Bridesmaids’ (2011). A little bit.
One American comedian who always made me laugh was John Candy. Something about his smile, maybe his huge bulk, but he got to me every time. So, my first choice today is ‘Uncle Buck’ (1989). This can be watched over and over, never losing its charm or appeal as far as I am concerned. When he died, we lost a real comedy talent. I won’t bother to describe it, as you must have seen it. And if you haven’t, it’s because you don’t want to.

Another comedy film, this time starring ‘proper’ actors. Sometimes, a madcap comedy-drama works so well, it is irresistible. This was the case with ‘Used Cars’ (1980) Kurt Russell heads up a great cast, alongside Jack Warden, and Deborah Harmon. Warden plays two parts, as feuding brothers running very different car dealerships opposite each other. Russel is the pushy young salesman working for the less successful brother, determined to save his boss’s failing business. With some great set pieces, and credible performances all round, this is as enjoyable as it gets in that genre.

A dark thriller with more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at. An excellent plot, with really good performances from a crop of solid stars, and competent direction from Oliver Stone. Mix that together, and you get ‘U-Turn’ (1997). With Sean Penn in the lead as Bobby Cooper, perhaps the man with the unluckiest life ever committed to film, we see him fall foul of a chain of events that starts with his car breaking down in a small town in Arizona. He is attracted to the sexy wife of a local man, setting the scene for some very bad things to happen. Everyone in this film is worth watching, and they are all so good in it too. Nick Nolte, Billy Bob Thornton, Jennifer Lopez, John Voigt, Powers Boothe, Claire Danes, Joaquin Phoenix. Now that’s what I call a cast list! And music from Ennio Morricone too.
It’s a cracker.

I often write about Scarlett Johansson on this blog. I confess that I could happily watch her just standing up. Or lying down. OK, she appeals to me, that’s obvious. Fortunately, she can act too. In this film, she isn’t required to do much acting, just to represent a strange figure from another world. So maybe anyone would have done? Not at all, because she was born to play the compelling alien presence in the wonderful ‘Under The Skin’ (2013). She can act without talking, using expressions and body language to convey the weirdness of a creature inhabiting the form of an attractive young woman. This unique and unusual film is just amazing to behold. All thanks to her.

A pretty obvious top pick, but I wasn’t about to let it go. Sorry. An ensemble cast, one of the best ideas in decades, a snappy script, great visuals, and a mind-bending plot. And Benicio del Toro as the wonderfully-named Fred Fenster. Yes, it doesn’t get any better than ‘The Usual Suspects’ (1995). You also get the brilliant Chazz Palminteri, one man who surely deserves to be a bigger star, and the British legend Pete Postlethwaite, in one of his most unusual roles. To pile on the greatness, Kevin Spacey delivers his poised performance as Verbal, and also guarantees one of the best endings I have ever seen. If you have never seen this fantastic crime thriller, wait no longer. Watch it.
Who is KEYSER SOZE?

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70 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day 21

  1. Well none spring to mind but once again enjoyed your list Pete. You’re quite right about John Candy and Uncle Buck. It is just one of those charming films. Planes, Trains and Automobiles still has something for me too. I find it seldom laugh out loud funny but it has something to say about life and what is really important and I think John Candy just played it right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Doug. Fortunately, I have no family or friends in that area. It is 200 miles from here. Sad news indeed, and likely to provoke a backlash at the forthcoming election too.
      Best wishes, Pete/

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  2. Hello – “Usual Suspects” is almost it’s own genre, I don’t know how to categorize it, other than way more clever than Hollywood usually puts out. Excellent cast of rogues.
    Fingind “Uncle Buck” here kind of surprised me, but Candy was funny and always undeniably appealing somehow. (But Canadian,not American) He was the best part of SCTV.
    Another vote for “Unforgiven” After all the crappy de-mythologizing spaghetti westerns from the ’60’s and ’70’s are forgotten, I think one will hold up as an excellent movie, even if you don’t like westerns, and don’t like Eastwood. Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman were good, as always, and Clint Eastwood took on a very unflattering anti-hero role. It doesn’t glorify the West or violence, but isn’t preachy or silly either, seems like genuine slice of Americana. Regards, RPT

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    1. Robert. we tend to blur Canadian and American here. Thanks for the correction. I understand why you might be surprised to see ‘Uncle Buck’, but I like to be honest, and I do love that film, even if I am unsure why I do.
      I didn’t think ‘Unforgiven’ was a bad film. I prefer ‘Outlaw Josey Wales’ from Eastwood, but as westerns go, I liked ‘Open Range’ and ‘Tombstone’ much more. I like Eastwood a lot, and thought that ‘Play Misty for me’ and ‘The Beguiled’ were both great.
      I suppose ‘The Usual Suspects’ is a ‘crime thriller’ as far as genre is concerned. But it is so much more than that, obviously.
      Thanks as always, for your thoughts and suggestions.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Blur Canadians & Americans?!!? Shock and horror. OK, I guess like us blurring Welsh, Scots, etc. I met a former resident of Wakefield this weekend, and mentioned I’d done a 1/2 year at the Univ. of Hull, and he made it very clear, he was from West Yorkshire and thought Hull was pretty foreign territory.
        I’m sorry I it wasn’t that great a movie, even though John Candy was in it, and Dan Aykroyd did a cameo as an extremely polite Canadian policeman, but Michael Moore’s “Canadian Bacon” (“Surrender pronto, or we’ll level Toronto”) will help clearly distinguish between Americans and those odd people north of here. Just kidding. We visit Canada all the time, I was just in Stratford Ontario this weekend, other than the fact that they really do say “Eh?” constantly, and are beyond obsessed over hockey, we’re hard to tell apart. Unless they’re Québécois of course.
        Well I’ll add “The Beguiled” to my ever-expanding list, thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hull is foreign territory to anyone except those who live there!
          I recall giving directions to a man in central London, when I still lived there five years ago. He had a Maple Leaf flag on his backpack. I asked what part of Canada he was from, and he said that he was actually an American from the west coast, but had the Canadian flag patch because he was concerned about anti-American feeling in Europe. That was an interesting chat.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. All these look interesting, but I have seen none of them. Will try to remedy that.

    I don’t have many ‘U’s – I agree with William’s choice of Underground – one of Kusturica’s more confronting and less humorous films, and very powerful.

    I enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being with Daniel Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche mixing sex and politics while pretending to be Czechs during the Prague Spring. I thought it caught the spirit of Kundera’s book.

    Lastly, I was expecting Ugetsu Monogatari to get a mention as today’s Japanese classic film (and where was Tokyo Story yesterday? Well yesterday you were flooded for choice so its omission is understandable).

    Maybe today is a Nipponsei-free day or maybe you don’t like the film. I haven’t seen Ugetsu yet, but want to soon.
    Cheers Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tokyo Story is indeed worth mentioning, but my lists can only be so long, and ‘Throne of Blood’ took it for me. I haven’t seen ‘Underground’, nor ‘Ugetsu’, which is why they were not mentioned either. I didn’t get the magic of ‘Unbearable lightness’. I thought at the time that they should have used different actors. I might need to watch that one again.
      Thanks as always for your engagement, ozflicks.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes I saw this when it came out, after I had been converted by Judou and Red Lanterns and Red Sorghum. It’s also very good, and Gong Li is always mesmerising, but I was so taken by the earlier period dramas with all their cultural exoticism, that I wasn’t as impressed with this modern social critique type of film as I should have been. But it’s still an excellent film and since then my work led me to study modern Chinese society in more depth, and this type of struggle with petty bureaucracy is very accurate. I think a rewatch is in order.
            Cheers. You’re doing a great job with this challenge. It must have taken so long to put together. I’m impressed on many levels.

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  4. Pete, my eyes haven’t visited “Uncle Buck” (1989), and I plead guilty for not having seen “The Usual Suspects” (1995). I’ve seen “U-Turn” (1997), but don’t recall if it was at the movie theater or on a rented VHS. I remember thinking it was a good film. I borrowed “Used Cars” (1980) and “Under the Skin” (2013) from the library a year or two ago, and enjoyed them both.

    As for films I own on DVD, I thought about including “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (1964), but I always think of it as a P film (“Les Parapluies de Cherbourg”). The only bona fide U films in my collection are “Unlawful Entry” (1992), starring Kurt Russell, Madeleine Stowe, and Ray Liotta; “Ultraviolet” (2006), a sci-fi actioner starring Milla Jovovich; and the “Underworld” films (2003-2016), starring Kate Beckinsale as a vampire death dealer.

    Of the films in my collection, I’d probably choose “Unlawful Entry” as my favorite. Of the films I haven’t seen, I’d most likely go with “The Usual Suspects,” based on its great cast and what I’ve read about it. But since I remember getting such a kick out it, and would give my two front teeth to see it again, even if it’s a library copy that has been previously viewed, I’m going to go with “USED CARS.”

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    1. Thanks, David. I used to have ‘Unlawful Entry’ on VHS, and I haven’t seen it in years. ‘Used Cars’ is a fun film, and a good pick. Thanks for the other suggestions too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Like many “Unforgiven” was a favorite of mine. I need to see your pick, I keep hearing about it.

    del Toro, that guy cracked me up in “Excess Baggage”. The interaction between him and Walken in the car, split my sides. I’ll try to check out your pick this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ron. Del Toro is one of my favourites. He is great in ‘Sicario’ too.
      As for Unforgiven, I can never get past Hackman, and his “The Duck of Death”…
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  6. I have to agree that I also don’t have a passion for much ‘slapstick’ comedy, I avoid Adam sandler movies as I don’t enjoy it unfortunately and I don’t really watch rom com comedy movies of the modern kind but I have a much loving heart.

    It’s great to see Under the skin mentioned. I’m beginning to feel proud of Film4, they’ve produced a few underrated gems. It was odd but visually stunning to watch and one for a small audience I believe who will either love it or loathe it.

    The movie list gets tougher it would seem as the obvious choices have been mentioned but I’d like to add an animated movie called Up. I find it very charming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have seen ‘Up’. The one about the old man and the house tied to balloons? I watched it with my grandson, but it didn’t hold his (or my) attention for too long.
      ‘Under The Skin’ might well be a love or hate film. I will continue to love it, but I haven’t yet read the book. (My cousin sent me a copy, when I reviewed the film.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  7. While there aren’t a lot of options that are worthy, you picked them – especially “Used Cars” and “Usual Suspects” – you could add “The Untouchables” just to watch Sean Connery chew the scenery on his way to an Oscar, or even Best Picture winner “Unforgiven”, Clint Eastwood’s farewell to the west…

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  8. Well all my ‘U’s have been mentioned, will have to agree on the Usual Suspects. No Marvel/DC movies in U though I did think of sneaking in Avengers-The Age of Ultron which was the 2nd Avengers movie, but thought it’d be disqualified for sorting with an A 🙂

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  9. The only one that came to mind was Unforgiven (love the cast and well, I quite like it. As with most Westerns, it always makes me think of my father). I do love The Usual Suspects, but then, it’s another movie about con men…;)

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    1. I thought that ‘Unforgiven’ would attract a lot of praise, Olga. I thought it was pretty good, but not quite as wonderful as the critical acclaim it received at the time.
      Thanks as always for playing along with these,
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  10. I had to look through a list of “U” titles to remind myself, but only made it as far an the “Un”s before giving up, so I didn’t make it to “Ususal Suspects” – your choice of which I totally agree! I did find a listing for “Unfinished Song”, however , which was not great but good, mainly because it starred Terrance Stamp (who also starred in “Priscilla”!) and was a bittersweet story. I’m a sucker for stories like that.

    I could never get into watching “Uncle Buck”, mainly because I felt John Candy was so much better than that movie. I was fortunate to see Candy right from the very beginning, in Sept. 1976, when SCTV first began broadcasting in Canada. Loved that entire cast, but Candy was special, even then.

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  11. My first thought was Unbreakable, it made a change for Bruce not to be blowing things up, but then I remembered Unforgiven, but then I do like a good western. Now of course I have a few more U’s to look for.

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  12. At first I was stumped. “U” is a tough one and your mention of John Candy – one of those ‘aw jeez we miss him’ moments. I finally came up with “Up Periscope”, not so much for being a good film (it sort of dragged out), but I liked the cast, especially James Garner.

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  13. U-571 was great… but then again I’m a little partial. At the end of the film they list the U-boats commandeered on the high seas and one was the U-505.. currently on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. I swear, I had more time on that sub than the original crew. From elementary school field trips through raising my own kids. Das Boot was pretty good also.

    I also enjoyed Uncle Buck.. and have watched it many times. I totally laughed my ass off in the theater when Buck is banging away at the uncooperative washing machine when Laurie Metcalf, the nosey neighbor shows up in the house, and hear’s his frustration… “C’mon bitch.. you’re gonna take this load!” and she thinks Buck is having sex with someone. I laugh just writing this. 🙂

    Anyway.. another “U” movie.. “Unstoppable”… that runaway train movie of a couple years back, with Denzel and Chris Pine. That’s a good “over and over again” movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Doug. ‘U-571’ is a good action film, as long as you don’t mind the liberties with history.
      ‘Unstoppable’ is also very exciting, and has some good set pieces.
      I’m with you on ‘Uncle Buck’. It makes me laugh all over again, just reading your comment.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Okay a tough one…..only one I can think of is a SciFi “Unknown World” with Bruce Kellogg….I believe there was a WW2 movie about a German sub….”U-503″ or something similar…then there was Gene Hackman movie about a rescue of POWs…:Uncommon Valor”…..I got nothing after that….coffee time…have a good Sunday my friend….chuq

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