Monday, June 29, 2009

Double Features

I’ll admit I’ve spent an entire day watching all six Star Wars films back-to-back. I’ve also seen all three extended versions of The Lord of the Rings in a row, and I’ll probably sit down one day to watch all the Harry Potter films in one go. Watching every film in a series is one thing, but what about films that share something, themes, motifs, directors, actors, styles, etc. that would work well as double (or triple, or quadruple or whatever) features?

Say Anything… (1989)/High Fidelity (2000)/Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

Both Say Anything… and High Fidelity star John Cusack, but High Fidelity plays on Cusack’s well-known 80’s movie history in a clever way through flashbacks that brings up memories from not only Say Anything… but also Better Off Dead and The Sure Thing. Grosse Pointe Blank (also starring Cusack) is darker than High Fidelity, but has some great 80’s references as well, not the least of which can be found on the stellar soundtrack, which contains tracks from The Clash, a-Ha, Queen & Bowie, The Specials, and Echo and the Bunnymen among others.

Death Wish (1974)/The Brave One (2007)

The ’74 Charles Bronson vigilante classic Death Wish is basically about a man taking out street thugs for killing his wife. Now, you could watch the 2007 remake/re-imagining Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon, or you could check out Neil Jordan’s excellent The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster and also from 2007. While Death Wish and The Brave One share the same basic premise: the main character’s significant other is murdered so they arm themselves and take the law into their own hands, their tones, styles, and messages differ in interesting and compelling ways.

Taxi Driver (1976)/Down in the Valley (2005)

Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is a classic. A masterpiece about that perfectly capture’s its main character’s, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), anger and alienation. Down in the Valley, made roughly 30 years after Taxi Driver, stars Edward Norton as Harlan, a old-style cowboy who falls into a relationship with Evan Rachael Wood’s Tobe. Harlan and Travis share more than a few character traits, and there is an homage of sorts to De Niro’s famous “You talkin’ to me?” scene. Also check out Paul Schrader’s (Taxi Driver’s screenwriter) “Man in a Room” or “Night Worker” films: American Gigolo, Light Sleeper and The Walker, three films he feels follow the same main character through different stages of his life.

Lady Snowblood (1973)/Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2004)

Want to see one of the (many) films Quentin Tarantino drew inspiration from for his Kill Bill films? Go out and watch Lady Snowblood right now. It’s filled with style, action and story, not to mention the beautiful and charismatic Meiko Kaji in the lead role. For more Kill Bill inspiration, check out the Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion series (also starring Kaji), Sex and Fury, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, Game of Death and numerous others.

Yojimbo (1961)/A Fistful of Dollars (1964)/Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 classic Yojimbo is an example of the idea that there are only a certain number of plots around and every story ever told is basically a different variation on one of those stories. Yojimbo’s basic plot (outsider infiltrates two opposing groups and plays them against eachother for his/her own benefit) has been done numerous times. Sergio Leone remade it in 1964 as a Fistfull of Dollars, two years later Sergio Corbucci made Django, Sonny Chiba starred in a Street Fighter movie (Karate Warriors) with a similar plot, Sean Penn starred in the vastly underrated mob drama State of Grace, Bruce Willis starred in 1996’s dull Last Man Standing, although he made up for it with the ultra-stylish Lucky Number Slevin in 2006, and in 2007 Takashi Miike made Sukiyaki Western Django.

The Illusionist (2006)/The Prestige (2006)

These two mystery/thrillers both came out in 2006 and were both about magicians. In The Illusionist, Edward Norton plays Eisenheim, a magician who uses his skills to woo Jessica Biel’s Sophie in late 1800’s Vienna. In The Prestige, Christian Bale and High Jackman play magicians (also in the late 1800’s) battling each other for the ultimate trick. Each film pays stunning attention to period detail, each has some fine performances, and each has an interesting and rewarding mystery.

The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)/almost any movie Bob Evans worked on

The Kid Stays in the Picture is one of the few documentaries I own that I can watch over and over. Chances are you’ve seen some of the movies Robert Evans talks about in the film, but you might enjoy watching the doc along with Man of a Thousand Faces, The Sun Also Rises, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, The Godfather, Love Story, The Cotton Club or one of the other films Evans worked on at Paramount and discusses.

So, there’s my list of some films I could watch back-to-back. How about your’s? I know I left off Kurosawa’s Rashomon and its many incarnations.