November, November. How you depress us with your cold weather and possible snow storms. You provide us with the single most overrated holiday in all of America — Thanksgiving — and you set things up on a tee for December to knock it out of the park and be everyone’s favorite month. Think about it: November never promises beautiful snowstorms, yet it always ensures cold weather. The focal point of the entire month is a glorified Sunday dinner that forces most families to see people they always wish to avoid. And maybe most importantly, it brings stuffing into the mix, and who really likes to eating stuffing?
As for the particular November at hand, you may want to give the suggested list below some true consideration before proceeding with your next 30 days. Why is that? Well, as the year winds down and we are reminded to use or lose our yearly vacation time, a lot of us find ourselves on a random Tuesday doing nothing but trying to stay warm and struggling to figure out what “Storage Wars” is. And what better way to pass that time than to sit down with a few can’t-miss movies?
This month owes two of its picks to movies that the wonderful Michael Hunley has given me in recent weeks to watch, and much like the previous flicks he has suggested that have made their way onto one of these collections, none of them disappoint. We also have the single most least-celebrated Best Picture winner since “Crash,” the best movie of 2011 I previously thought didn’t have a single chance at being worth anyone’s time, and Woody Allen. Yes. Again. Woody. Allen.
So, grab that turkey, throw it in the oven and prepare yourself for awkwardly updating your drunken cousins on why you still aren’t married and why you prefer it that way.
Onward and upward …
1. “The Artist” — Recently added to the streaming portion of Netflix’s catalogue, 2011’s best picture (according to Oscar) is now available to view online. Here’s the thing: It’s not bad.Wayyyyy too many people railed against actually going to see it because it was labeled as a silent film, but what most of those people didn’t realize is that the thing was simply just a pretty good movie, and that’s it. Never does it allow your mind to wander away from the story in front of you, and once the 10-minute mark passes and you adjust your mind to accept the fact that you won’t hear any words, the whole no-dialogue thing really doesn’t weigh on you as much as you might think it would. Plus, it’s cute. No, really. It is. The dog is wonderful. The actors are superb. The music is great. It makes you chuckle every now and then. And the ending is memorable. If you have a couple hours to spare, give this a shot. Remember — the Academy thought it was the best the year had. That’s got to count for something, right?
2. “Croupier” — One of the best movies I’ve seen all year comes from 1998 and features, of all people, Clive Owen in what has to be his best performance. The whole look of the film is just so … cool. A card dealer. Twists. Turns. Violence. Romance. Love. Hate. Family. Gambling. A struggling writer. This has everything. It might not be entirely accurate, but it’s something like the British version of “The Grifters” in a weird way. Have a look …
3. “Manhattan” — Some people think this is Woody Allen’s best film. Me? I can’t quite go that far, but I can attest to its unforgettable imagery and fairly cynical plot, which, at the end of the day, means more than most other aspects of theater. Mariel Hemingway offers up the performance of her life and a very young Meryl Streep shows signs of her natural brilliance while being completely under-used. A friend of mine once told me that it’s impossible for people to see it for the first time in today’s world — knowing what we know now about Allen’s personal life — without having at least a little bit of prejudice against the director and this story. It’s unfair to the original production, he said, and he was right. “Six months isn’t so long. Not everybody gets corrupted. You have to have a little faith in people.” Iconic. Oh, and don’t forget this.
4. “Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa” — All right. I watched this last night for the first time, and before the first words were even uttered, I was completely rooting for the thing to work. Why? Two reasons. 1) The opening credits noted how the movie would use Genesis’s “In Too Deep,” and we all know how peerless Phil Collins and company were whenever they decided to put their minds toward a 1980s ballad. And 2) Clarke Peters, or as some may know him, Lester Freamon from HBO’s “The Wire,” turns up as one of the lead bad guys, and as we all know, “The Wire” is better than anything you could possibly be watching right now. In any case, Bob Hoskins turns in a unsuspectingly memorable performance essentially as a lowlife, and his work earned him an Academy Award nomination in 1986. It’s a story of a dude who drives high-end prostitutes around Britain. Or, well, one high-end prostitute, anyway. The result is … well, you’ll have to see for yourself, won’t you? Oh, and by the way, it’s also got Michael Caine. And who doesn’t like Michael Caine?
5. “Albert Nobbs” — So, I’m in the bag for Mia Wasikowska, I get it. We all know that. What I didn’t know, however, was how much in the bag I am for director Rodrigo Garcia (I don’t need to remind you of how much of a love affair I fell into with “In Treatment” again, do I? OK. Good). Either way, this is without question the most surprisingly good movie of 2011 (yes, even more so than “The Artist,” haters). Glenn Close gained a lot of notoriety for her portrayal as a man, but this thing goes far deeper than a mere novelty act. I know you might not be entirely sold on an old-timey tale of a woman struggling with identity, but give it 15 minutes and you won’t be able to turn away. Promise.