Van Duren came out of the same 70’s Memphis music scene as the cultishly adored band Big Star, so it isn’t too surprising that his 1977 debut album Are You Serious? draws heavily from shared influences like Badfinger and Todd Rundgren. Melodic almost to a fault, Are You Serious? is an overlooked gem of 70’s power-pop.
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Adapted from Jules Feiffer’s play, 1971’s Little Murders is a pitch-black paranoid satire which follows a couple and their supremely dysfunctional family through an absurdly (and disquietingly) chaotic New York City. Don’t miss Donald Sutherland’s legendary extended cameo as an unorthodox wedding officiant.
Sweet Smell of Success features gorgeously stark black-and-white cinematography, a crackling Elmer Bernstein jazz score rife with jumpy energy, and muscular dialogue in a memorably hard-boiled style. Add two intensely powerful performances by Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, and you’ve got a masterful ode to blackhearted American ambition.
Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan are neighbors – his wife is having an affair with her husband. Frequently left alone by their unfaithful spouses, the two develop a bond that hovers agonizingly close to courtship. In the Mood for Love is an abstracted romance played out in the tiniest of gestures.
Before Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel teamed up to make the tense, gothic melodrama The Beguiled. Set near the end of the Civil War, The Beguiled tells the story of a Union soldier wounded in Southern territory, who finds refuge in a girls’ school.
Brandon Graham’s quirkily unique graphic novel King City follows Joe, an aimless master of “cat-fu” (i.e., able to use his pet as an absurdly versatile weapon). Joe traverses through a densely pun-filled futuristic metropolis in this elaborate tale enhanced by a playful, high-energy style.
Addie ran away with one of her friends’ husbands. It may sound like a soap opera gimmick, but a first-class cast and a razor-sharp script make A Letter to Three Wives a classic. Skating the fringes of poignancy and black humor with ease, this picture has aged with remarkable grace.
John of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz:
Much of Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao isn’t even about the hapless New Jersey nerd of its title. The impressive scope of the book expands to include multiple generations of Oscar’s family and the supposed curse which first befell them in the Dominican Republic’s oppressive past. Real or imagined, this curse encompasses tragic events for both Oscar and his forebears—but the story unfolds in a voice that’s lively and playful, rich with allusions and digressions. This ingeniously nimble prose will draw you into an unforgettable mix of geeky dreams and nightmarish history.
There is an effortless elegance and charm to Trouble in Paradise, Ernst Lubitsch’s masterful, early Hollywood, romantic comedy. Gaston and Lily are a glamorous, larcenous couple embroiled in a scheme to steal a fortune from a gorgeous perfume magnate – but what happens when Gaston begins to fall for her?
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, cinematic history’s first transsexual, glam-rock musical, follows German expatriate Hedwig and her hilariously unpopular band The Angry Inch (named for Hedwig’s semi-botched sex-change operation). Their cross-country tour plays a chain of cut-rate family seafood restaurants in a film about pain, love, and what identity means.