Love old or unusual movies but never know when they’re on? Here are several I recommend:
1776 (1972): I never, ever, get tired of this movie. It’s a fanciful, musical riff on the struggle to draft, debate and get a majority of appropriate signatures on that short but history-changing document, The Declaration of Independence. The spectacular cast includes Henry Da Silva as Franklin, Ken Howard as Jefferson, John Cullum as Rutledge and William Daniels as John Adams. Daniels may be most famous for his cranky role on St. Elsewhere, but in my mind he will always be the cranky but noble John Adams. Based on the hit Broadway show (which also starred Da Silva, Howard, Daniels and many others in the film).
Turner Classic Movies, 9:15 a.m. Thursday
Elephant (2003): One of my favorite Gus Van Sant films! This one is a quiet, meditative movie set in a suburban high school. Describing it is going to make it sound super dull: Long takes, not a lot of conversation, and a kind of a “You Are There” realness. The hook is, the only seems like an average day at this school, but it’s not. Two of the students are going to make sure of that. Van Sant plays with timelines and narrative in a subtle but ultimately powerful way.
Now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018): This ridiculously entertaining film was one of my favorites of 2018. And I’m not even into superhero movies. The creators of this film worked incredibly hard to rethink how to animate a comic book, and the results are visually dazzling. But that’s only part of what makes this a great movie. There’s also a great script in which the meta-universe of many iterations of the iconic superhero collide. And finally, it’s full of fantastic vocal work from Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Bryan Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoe Kravitz, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney and many others. If you missed this in the theater, prepare to have your socks knocked off.
Now streaming on Netflix.
Murder By Contract (1958): This scruffy little film noir was made on the cheap in seven days. It features a cool-as-a-cucumber performance by Vince Edwards. He’s a calm, quiet, self-reliant hitman for a crime boss. Everything is going peachy for him until he learns that his next target is a woman, which really freaks him out. But she’s about to provide legal testimony against his boss, so what can he do? His handlers (Phillip Pine and Herschel Bernardi) try to keep him from imploding as they plan the hit. Not a great movie, but a fun example of low-budget, taut ’50s crime noir.
Now streaming on The Criterion Channel.