Renaissance

Style for days.

This gorgeous black-and-white animated film, aimed squarely at adults and not kiddos, is a swirling mix of eye-popping images and brain-shattering plot twists.

Set in 2054 Paris, it follows a police captain trying to untangle a mystery revolving around the kidnapping of a young scientist who was hot on the heels of a cure for a rare genetic condition.

Shady people are everywhere, evil corporations rule from on high, and our main cop, a man of great principle, but flexible ethics, sinks ever-deeper into a world which ignores his pleas for help.

A true hidden gem.

 

Body and Soul (1947)

Fast money, faster fists.

Slugging it out with rivals in the ring and slime-dripping hustlers out of it, John Garfield faces a crisis of conscience in one of the best boxing flicks to hit movie screens.

Shot in smoky black and white by cinematographer James Wong Howe, our hero, a mass of cuts, welts, and hurt pride, staggers ever forward against forces which would crush him without a second thought.

Like Raging Bull years later, Body and Soul is a relentless study of a man only at peace when he’s brawling.

And, even then, the peace is a tenuous one.

Young Frankenstein

1974 was a very good year for Mel Brooks.

I was three, and didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but that year he wrote and directed two landmark films – Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

The latter of those two is my favorite comedy, a film I could watch every day, and twice on Sundays.

I love everything about it, from Gene Wilder’s pompous, preening mad scientist, to the way the horses react to Frau Blücher’s name.

And every bit of solid gold dialogue, from “What knockers!” to “Give him an extra dollar…”

Pardon me while I swoon.

 

Clerks

I still have my Clerks hockey jersey.

Kevin Smith’s crude (in every sense of the word) comedy arrived just as I entered the video store world in late ’94.

Jump forward six months and I came into possession of said jersey, plus the movie’s soundtrack, thanks to nabbing first prize in a Miramax short film contest.

Our entry featured several Videoville employees and the world’s largest prop fly swatter.

While I never cashed big Hollywood checks like Smith, his film, and that jersey, remain touchstones to a glorious 15-year run of being paid to watch movies.

How sweet it was.

Samurai Fiction

Quinten Tarantino lifts from the best.

While Kill Bill gets well-deserved praise, some of the action and a major song spring from this fairly unknown ’90s Japanese flick.

Starring rock god Tomoyasu Hotei, who also provided the soundtrack, this is an often very-funny tale of feuding samurai and ninja.

Shot in black and white, the film goes to brief splashes of red when a warrior reaches the end of their mortal life.

Inspired by old-school masters like Akira Kurosawa, it provides a road map for a new group of directors who likely discovered the film thanks to bootleg DVD’s.