As we hit an anniversary we’d rather not (arrival of COVID-19 in Deschutes County), there are still plenty of good things to focus on. This year, a multitude of films are celebrating significant milestones, from classic noirs to films that feel like they were released yesterday.
While some of these are timeless, many other products are in the world they were released into. Either way, it’s still fun to visit or check out for the first time.
A scene from “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001)
“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001) – The epic fantasy series is grander and coherent than Harry Potter (which is also celebrating its 20th anniversary this year), largely due to the fact that all three films were shot at the same time and involved the same creative team. This first film is more lighthearted than the follow-up – which get very dark as the journey continues towards the mountain. Doom – but it shouldn’t be considered frivolous. We meet and learn all of these characters for the first time on the big screen and each actor is perfectly cast in their roles, making the series a series that will stand the test of time. Stream all three movies on HBO Max or rent them on Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu or YouTube.
A scene from “The Commitments” (1991).
“The Commitments” (1991) – The sociable Irish film about a would-be soul band features some of the best covers of classic soul and R&B songs. It has the most poetic use of the word “F” in cinema, but it’s the general story that sticks with you. When self-proclaimed promoter Jimmy (Robert Arkins) decides to start an R&B group in Dublin, Ireland, the band members turn out to be completely white despite being full of talent. Soon their endeavors and increasing popularity at the local level get the best of the group. It’s melancholy and heartbreakingly funny. Rent it from Google Play, iTunes, Vudu or YouTube.
LEFT: From left: Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase in a scene from “The Three Amigos!” (1986).
“The three amigos!” (1986) – The comedy starring Martin Short, Steve Martin and Chevy Chase as silent film cowboys who are released by a young Mexican woman named Carmen (Patrice Martinez) in order to save their village from the tyrant El Guapo (Alfonso Arau). Of course, they don’t realize that this is real and not an acting. The comedy is full of unforgettable lines, moments and even songs, including the beautiful lullaby “Blue Shadows”. Rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu or YouTube.
Peter Finch in a scene from “Network” (1976).
“Network” (1976) – Ahead of its time, the black comedy-drama satire focuses on a fictional news network that takes advantage of the insults of a mentally fragile former anchor (Peter Finch) and decides to develop outrageous and biased programs that are then taken to extremes. It feels a lot less fun today than it did in the 1970s and instead feels more unsettling, but full of incredible performances, including Finch’s iconic “Mad as Hell” speech, the movie still resonates. Rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu or YouTube.
Leslie Caron and Gene Kelley in a scene from “An American in Paris” (1951).
“An American in Paris” (1951) – The stunning film shows Gene Kelley as an American ex-GI who stays in Paris after the war to focus on painting when he falls in love with Lise (Leslie Caron) but from a wealthy American heiress (Nina Foch) being wooed who shows interest in his art and more. The film is beautifully shot and contains a score by George Gershwin, which is heavily influenced by jazz and which always pleases the ears. Kelley also choreographed the film, which won six Academy Awards including Best Picture. Rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu or YouTube.
ABOVE: Humphrey Bogart in a scene from “The Maltese Falcon” (1931).
“The Maltese Falcon” (1931) – – The film, directed by John Huston, stands the test of the 90 years of public consciousness. Humphrey Bogart plays the private detective Sam Spade, who is hired by the secret Ruth (Mary Astor) and is led on a path of murder, intrigue and alleged wealth. Bogart see the noir classics in his “Bogey” with the tilted fedora in smoke-filled rooms with his typical crooked smile. Stream it on HBO Max or rent it on Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu or YouTube.
Jackie Coogan, left, and Charlie Chaplin in a scene from “The Kid” (1921)
“The Child” (1921) – Charlie Chaplin’s Centenary has written, produced, directed and directed a film in which his legendary tramp character raises an orphan (Jackie Coogan) whom the tramp found as a child. Poor, the two of them have little, but a lot of love. When the tramp turns out to be not his father, they both desperately try to stay together by alluding to the authorities. The heartbreaking story of an adoptive father is still so preciously sweet. Chaplin masterfully captures the emotions of every situation in this first feature film. Stream it on Amazon Prime or HBO Max, or rent it from iTunes.