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The Best Movies You Never Heard Of – Part 2

Last week we took a look at eight forgotten movies that we like and wanted to share with you. This week we have eight more.

angelo_my_love-posterAngelo, My Love Released in 1983, Robert Duvall’s second directorial effort (the first was a rodeo documentary, We’re Not the Jet Set) revolves around a family of Greek-American Gypsies, especially one Angelo Evans, the young son of a fortune teller. Duvall said this about his film: “I’d like you to meet my friend Angelo Evans. I first saw him on a street corner in New York City flirting with a beautiful woman twice his age. I had to tell his story.” That story revolves around an ongoing conflict between clans of Greek and Romanian Gypsies, but the real point of the film is just to spend time with young Angelo and watch what he does. He is an outsize personality who dominates the screen. Most of the cast are actual Gypsies playing fictionalized versions of themselves.

SavingGrace-posterSaving Grace No, not the British one from 2000 with Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson, and not the 1998 New Zealand one about the teenage boy who thinks he’s Jesus, and not the 1998 Canadian one about the disfigured guy, and not the 2008 one about the Missouri River flood, not the one from 2010 about the psycho janitor, not the 2007 TV show with Holly Hunter (boy, this is a popular title!); this one is from 1985, made in Italy, and it’s about a runaway Pope. Tom Conti (we looked at two of his films last time; one of the most underrated actors ever) is Pope Leo XIV, fairly recently ascended to the papacy and finding he hates it. Spending all his time on administrative duties, greeting visiting dignitaries and worrying about the political implications of his every utterance is chafing him and he wishes he could go back to being a priest, where he felt like he was actually helping people. When he finds himself accidentally locked out of the Vatican in his gardening clothes, Leo decides that the only thing to do is make his way to a small village that has no priest, there to set up shop, with reluctant help from sheepherder Giancarlo Giannini. One of the villagers is a bold adolescent would-be gangster played by Angelo Evans in his only other film.

RustlersRhapsody-posterRustler’s Rhapsody More subtle than Blazing Saddles, 1985’s Rustler’s Rhapsody is a perfect satire of cowboy movie cliches, from the singing hero (Tom Berenger) and the raincoat-wearing new breed of Italian cowboys, to the final confrontation with another western hero, played by John Wayne’s son Patrick in a perfect Gene Autry vs. Roy Rogers showdown. Andy Griffith plays the evil cattle baron who continually attacks the sheepherders until Berenger’s Rex arrives to stick up for them. The film got mostly negative reviews because it utterly depends on familiarity with the tropes of old western films like those of Autry, Rogers, Tex Ritter and John Wayne. If you don’t know your horse opera, you won’t get it.

spitfire_grill-posterThe Spitfire Grill A young woman, recently released from prison, tries to start over in the small town of Gilead, Maine. The local sheriff, who serves as her parole officer, helps her get a job at the local diner, which the cantankerous owner has been trying to sell for years. She brings a new optimism and energy to the moribund town, but secrets and prejudices threaten to deprive her of the new beginning she seeks. The film, directed by Lee David Zlotoff (creator of the MacGyver TV series), was Audience winner at the 1996 Sundance Festival, and was adapted into a stage musical in 2001.

MotherNight-posterMother Night Nick Nolte stars in this adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel about a man facing trial as a war criminal after World War II because he had broadcast pro-Nazi propaganda. What the court doesn’t know, and what everyone who does know will deny, is that he was secretly transmitting coded messages for the Allies as an American spy. As he awaits his trial, he’s been ordered to write his memoirs of the war, which leads him to re-evaluate the events of his life. The movie’s theme is best summed up by the line “we are what we pretend to be, so we must be very careful about what we pretend to be.” The film adaptation is very faithful to Vonnegut’s novel.

SweetLiberty-posterSweet Liberty In Writer/Director/Star Alan Alda’s 1986 film, historian Michael Burgess (Alda) has sold the movie rights to his scholarly book about a particular incident during the Revolutionary War, and Hollywood has showed up to film on location. Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Caine are the stars of the film-within-the-film, she a sweet young thing that Michael immediately falls for, he a handsome cad who immediately sets about seducing his co-star, Michael’s girlfriend and the Mayor’s wife. Meanwhile, Michael’s elderly mother (Lillian Gish) is certain there’s poison in her food and the devil is in her kitchen, and neanderthal screenwriter Stanley (Bob Hoskins) is happily dumbing down the script to meet the director’s three rules for success: “Defy authority, destroy property, and take people’s clothes off.” An entertaining film in which Alda expresses his feelings about the movie industry. Some critics complained that it wasn’t mean-spirited or biter enough.

MadeInHeaven-posterMade in Heaven In 1957, a young musician named Mike Shea (Timothy Hutton) dies while trying to rescue a family in an accident; when he gets to heaven, he meets and falls in love with a heavenly guide named Annie (Kelly McGillis) who has not yet spent time living as a human on Earth. Before too long, the two are deeply in love, but then Annie is called up to go be born. Desperately Mike begs the Heavenly powers to allow him to be reincarnated at the same time; God, in the form of “Emmett,” a chain-smoking guy with an orange crew-cut, agrees to let him go, with one catch; Mike and Annie will not remember each other, and they only have 30 years to find each other again. Debra Winger (who was then married to Hutton), dresses in male drag to play God.

OtherPeoplesMoney-posterOther People’s Money Danny De Vito departs from his usual roles, playing a mostly non-comedic role as somebody who isn’t a vulgar loser, in a surprisingly even-handed look at corporate raiders and leveraged buyouts. Gregory Peck, in his last major role, plays “Jorgy” Jorgensen, a paternalistic business owner who fights to keep “Larry the Liquidator” from taking over and dissolving his company, which is the largest employer in a small town. He turns to his step-daughter Kate (Penelope Ann Miller), an attorney, to fend off Larry’s efforts. Larry tries to romance Kate, but also pursues his plan to acquire and liquidate the factory, leading to a showdown at the stockholders’ meeting. Piper Laurie and Dean Jones appear in supporting roles. Adapted from a play of the same title and directed by Norman Jewison, most critics felt Other People’s Money was too soft on corporate America and should have had a more satirical bite.

We may come up with another list of forgotten films, but so far I’ve come up with a bunch that are simply not available anywhere but on old VHS tapes from the Goodwill.

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