Mostly Martha/Bella Martha (2002, dir. Sandra Nettelbeck) – This is one of those food-favorite films, up there with Tampopo, Ratatouille, and even moment in Lasse Hallström’s Chocolat. (Still need to watch Le Grande Bouffe and The Thief, the Cook, His Wife, and Her Lover.) It’s a pretty classic little melodrama or something like it, but quite feel-good and touching for a European film, and a German one at that. Just plug your ears during the montages to skip the awful music and savor the beautiful culinary creations. It’s simple, and the story’s been done before, but it’s really one of those nice, unpretentious little stories that you have to enjoy.
Badlands (1973, dir. Terrence Malick) – Trying to delve into Malick (see Days of Heaven earlier), and having some trouble. These seem to have their own grammar, forcing the viewer to shift gears entirely into something more image-driven than the norm but also inseparable from its narrative content. The law is important, and there’s no escaping it ultimately. There’s a solitary joy and beauty, albeit a melancholy one, to being on the lam. And there is something quite solitary about it all, despite the fact that both of these Malick films have the male criminal coupled up with a little lady. These are really timeless, as in, without any sense of time in history. They’re their own time bombs, ticking out slowly but surely until the unavoidable cycle completes itself. These films look a lot like clichés, but there’s too much to them to be that, exactly.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963, dir. Stanley Kramer) – A comedy/satire on cinema taken to its logical ends. The whole thing is a spoof of film history, it seems, inside and out. Spencer Tracy, as the unsurpassed Captain Culpepper, is the movie audience who tries to keep tabs on all the insane plots and subplots, main characters, supporting characters, and cameos, without completely losing it. He’s inundated with more than he can keep track of while overwhelmed with his own life at the same time. There’s even a big board on the wall he uses for reference. How’s this not the cinema experience? The madness really kicks in when he fails to distinguish himself from the characters he’s been watching, delving headfirst into the craze with only one possible outcome. It’s genius in its premise and execution, particularly the scope, the cinematography, the editing, the stunts, and the music.