Love old or unusual movies but never know when they’re on? Here are several I recommend:
Nancy Drew, Detective (1938): I am an unapologetic fan of the old Nancy Drew books. (So sue me.) I also love the quartet of Nancy Drew movies made in the late 1930s. Bonita Granville hits just the right notes as the plucky teen detective. In this first outing, Nancy and her boyfriend, Ted, are on the case of a rich old lady who disappears after making a huge charitable contribution. Unlike many of the Nancy Drew adaptations that came after this movie and its three sequels, it actually feels like the original Nancy Drew books.
Turner Classic Movies, 4:45 a.m. Thursday
Ran (1985): This was the first film by director Akira Kurosawa that I ever saw, and it’s unforgettable. It retells the story of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in medieval Japan. Kurosawa planned this movie for 10 years, and it shows. Filmed mostly in long shots, the pictures he paints are often staggeringly beautiful. The film includes an Oscar-worthy performance by Mieko Harada as Lady Kaede, the vicious schemer who helps destroy Lord Hidetora’s life. You also won’t believe the costumes, for which Emi Wada did win an Oscar. (She also did the beautiful costumers for House of Flying Daggers and Hero.) If you’ve never seen a Kurosawa film, Ran is a great one to start with.
Now streaming on The Criterion Channel.
Peterloo (2019): Maverick British director Mike Leigh is probably most well-known for his small, intimate, largely improvised working-class dramas (Secrets and Lies). But he’s also building up quite a body of work as a master of period dramas as well (Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake, Mr. Turner). Peterloo is his most ambitious film yet, telling the appalling but largely unknown story of a notorious massacre in Manchester, England, in 1819. The film is an epic tapestry of life in Regency England and is rich in period detail: Regional dialects, costumes, and depictions of class differences reward the careful viewer. It’s also full of fabulous actors.
Now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Cloverfield (2008): I love this movie for two reasons. It’s one of my favorite genres (“found footage”), and it uses one of my favorite techniques for a thriller — you only ever know what the characters know. You don’t get the “big picture” of why the scary events are happening, and this ignorance greatly adds to the tension. The movie begins at a Manhattan party with a bunch of young people when suddenly they begin feeling rumblings and seeing flashing lights over the city. All hell breaks loose, and they spend the rest of the movie trying to make it out of the besieged city alive. It’s a truly scary, exciting experience, and the handheld you-are-there camera work makes you feel like you’re one of the characters in the movie.
Now streaming on Netflix.
Trivia Question 799: The great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was nominated for best director for Ran. How many other times was he nominated for an Academy Award?
Answer to Trivia Question 797: Ulrich Mühe, who starred in the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others, died the year after that film was released.