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Movie Madness, a local independent video store in Portland, Oregon, was in danger of closing. The non-profit Hollywood Theater crowdfunded its purchase of the business, offering some interesting reward levels along the way. The reward level my wife and I picked allowed us to select six to eight movies that will be displayed at Movie Madness for a month, with a write-up for each explaining why we chose them. Ginny let me pick the movies (she’s kind that way), so I thought I’d share my selections and why I chose them.

Living in Oblivion

Tom DeCillo’s movie about making a movie developed from a 20-minute one-act to a feature film over the course of several years. If you avoid movies about making movies, don’t worry—Living in Oblivion makes fun of the tired tropes found in the typical navel-gazing independent film. Even better, it features Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, James Legros (totally not playing Brad Pitt), and Peter Dinklage in his feature film debut. It’s well worth your time.

Rollerball (1975)

This film is the 1975 original, starring James Caan and John Houseman, not the 2001 remake. The dystopian themes might seem a bit contrived after The Hunger Games and, even further back, William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer, but the sociopolitical commentary in the original Rollerball strikes a chord today. As you catalog the familiar themes from contemporary films, realize that Rollerball came out 43 years ago and be amazed at its relevance. An overlooked classic.

Wordplay

Crossword puzzles represent a rigorous, though oddly specific, test of human ingenuity. This documentary, which centers on the annual crossword competition in Stamford, Connecticut, highlights the creativity, stress, and joy of solving the most popular puzzle form in the world. Wordplay focuses on the highest level of competitive crossword solving, but don’t forget to look for the puzzle creators, editors, and enthusiasts who keep the community alive.

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Documentaries are driven by interesting personalities. King of Kong is no exception. The arcade video game Donkey Kong combines skill and pattern recognition with just enough randomness to break a player’s heart. Steve Wiebe (the mild-mannered hero) and Billy Mitchell (the heel) battle to be the first to break one million points at the game. You might have seen their names in the news recently. If so, I don’t want to give away the plot…watch King of Kong, and then check the news.

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino’s career has taken a bit of a hit as past transgressions have come to light, but Pulp Fiction is an outstanding film. Scenes appear out of order, Samuel L. Jackson plays an amazing and ultimately insightful hit man, and co-stars including John Travolta, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Willis, and Uma Thurman bring the story home. This movie isn’t for you if you avoid violence on screen, but otherwise it’s an interesting story that keeps you engaged.

Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels

This film made Guy Ritchie’s name in the U.S. A set of English street scammers (watch for the jewelry bag switch in the opening scene) get heavily in debt to a loan shark who runs a chain of porn shops. The film takes on the feel of a caper complete with copious amounts of weed, finding and losing two antique shotguns, and enjoying how Sting, Jason Statham, and former Manchester United hard man Vinnie Jones add to the festivities. There’s plenty of on-screen violence, especially in the unrated edition, but this film is the best of Ritchie’s offerings.

Written by curtisfrye

May 3, 2018 at 2:56 am

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