What the Deaf Man Heard (1997)

That it was originally made by a greeting card company shouldn’t dissuade you from giving this a chance. Before Hallmark (or anyone else, for that matter) had an entire channel, they made dramas that aired on network TV. In this clever story, a boy finds himself alone on a bus, which arrives at a small town depot. Unaware of how frightened he is, everyone assumes the boy is deaf and mute (except, perhaps, the local rum runner). He plays the part out of convenience and grows up privy to all the town’s secrets. Instances of prejudice against his supposed handicap notwithstanding, he enjoys being the keeper of information… until circumstances require eyewitness testimony to catch a con artist who’s been scamming the town.

Mushrooms (1995)

While the food is delectable, the humor is dark and dry. In the same irreverent tone as Harold and Maude, 2 old widows share a big house they inherited from their late husbands. One (an agoraphobe) rents their spare room to a police inspector without realizing the other (a compulsive shoplifter) is confronting an intruder– a fugitive who intends to hide in her bedroom. Needless to say, the living arrangement is dicey. When they end up with a dead body on their hands, the ladies must devise a means of disposal without drawing attention to it or to themselves. At least their charming dispositions have the normally cunning inspector blinded to all their suspicious activity!

Tootsie (1982)

It’s as relevant as ever when a man walks a mile in women’s shoes. Michael Dorsey’s a struggling actor who’s fed up with getting turned down for roles so he dresses as a woman to audition for a part on a soap. “Dorothy Michaels” lands it thanks to a pseudo feminist tirade projected at the chauvenist director. Michael becomes so convincing, even he buys into his own hype; his new-found empathy prompts “Dorothy” to insist women everywhere need his advice to stand up for themselves.

Don’t Go (2018)

I’m not one for existential metaphors so I took a risk. Fortunately, this one paid off. Rather than another angsty cliche about loss, it turned out to be layered, nuanced poetry. As the main character teeters between delusion and spiritual experience, the story keenly walks a fine line between heavy-handed symbolism and enigmatic meaning. Other films have explored the effects of grief over time but this is by far the most beautifully written and superbly acted.

Libel (1959)

Rather than a lack of subtle clues and foreshadowing due to a meandering script, this story slowly unfolds just as it does for its subject: a former soldier, who may or may not be the man as whom he’s been living. When his identity is called into question, both he and his wife begin to wonder if the trauma he experienced during the war that affected his memory made it easier for him to inherit the life meant for someone else or if his personality genuinely changed. The evidence will reveal the truth and unlock the key to the nightmares and flashbacks that relentlessly haunt him.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

If you don’t own a copy, you’ve either forgotten about this movie or have never seen it. This is arguably each lead’s most famous role of their career. And for good reason: when an disparate team of jewel theives vie for their loot, Deception is the rule of law in what amounts to The Bermuda Triangle of relationships. Love and lust notwithstanding, greed and revenge bring out a range of emotions– and even slapstick– in those subjected to the whims of manipulative Wanda, a woman so dynamic, a beloved pet is named after her.

Bad Times at The Royale (2018)

Murder and mayhem are in store for deep characters based on historic figures devoid of characature, set in rich tones inspired by a real locale, steeped in the iconic style of Vintage era without a hint of kitsch, in which music is fully integrated into intricately layered secrets anchored by immaculate cinematography.

The Imposter (2012)

How does a foreign man suddenly end up a U.S. citizen, welcomed into the family of a long- missing child? While it’s impossible to fully understand the grief of those keeping vigil by the window, waiting for a phone call that may never come, it is curious that every expert agrees there are many loose ends. Is it merely that hindsight is 20/20 (as the old saying goes) or is there a more sinister explanation? Though the testimony of an identity thief certainly isn’t everything, it seems to corroborate the suspicion of at least one specialist…

Masterfully crafted, the details of this publicly documented incident are recounted chronologically by a rotation of several family members, some government employees, a smattering of friends/ neighbors and one relentless private investigator. During the lengthier portions of each person’s story, voiceover serves as narration for actors’ portrayals of the events being described. By the end of the film you have about as much information as everyone involved to decide for yourself what you think happened.

Masquerade (2012)

Why are 15 days worth of records missing from annals of the Joseon Dynasty? Though we’ll never know for sure, it’s fair to surmise that since the king was kind but cautious (some would say paranoid), it’s not impossible that arrangements were made in anticipation of a potential emergency. Like the switcheroo in American movie, […]