Harold and Maude (1971): An ageless love story
Do you think of yourself as quirky? Maybe even a little bit adorkable? If you answered yes, then you will love the 1971 cult hit Harold and Maude. A rich, morose and unhappy young man, Harold, finds an unlikely companion in elderly — but vivacious — Maude and learns to live life to the fullest. All cougar and cradle-robber jokes aside, Harold and Maude is about true and un-superficial love that defies conformity. Harold and Maude’s love affair seems unnatural and strange, but in actuality it’s one of the purest and most natural love stories ever told. In juxtaposing the themes of life and death, director Hal Ashby makes the blossoming love all the more vibrant and real. This film is sweet, touching, hilarious, shocking, slightly odd for its unconventional plot, and even life-affirming. Ruth Gordon’s spunky performance as Maude, and the entertainingly over-the-top suicides attempted by Harold, played by Bud Cort, are reason enough to ditch the usual channel surfing and rent this movie immediately. Cat Stevens’s earthy soundtrack adds a nice touch and complements the diffuse, hazy imagery of the film. Take note of the movie’s transformational character development that changes the whole tone of the film. Watching Harold become a fulfilled and happy person will put a smile on your face. What are you waiting for? Add Harold and Maude to your Netflix queue and settle in for an offbeat and unforgettable film experience!
Marathon Man (1976): When you actually need to run for your life
WARNING: THIS FILM CONTAINS INTENSE DUSTIN HOFFMAN ACTING, EVIL SPIES AND MORE JARRING CLOSE-UPS THAN A HIGH SCHOOL HEALTH CLASS. The 1976 film Marathon Man is calling your name down at Blockbuster! Babe, a young graduate student and aspiring marathon runner in New York City (Dustin Hoffman) struggles to put together the pieces of his mysterious, fragmented family. Meanwhile, he is unwittingly embroiled in the criminal activity of a psychopathic German dentist (Laurence Olivier) who makes Babe his direct target. Once you start watching, you become so invested in the characters and mysteries of this movie that it’s impossible to look away. Marathon Man was adapted for the screen from the conspiracy thriller by William Goldman (The Princess Bride, anyone?) and directed by John Schlesinger with a creepy score by Michael Small. The film’s line, “Is it safe?” is ranked on AFI’s “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes,” and the film also makes the cut for “100 Years…100 Thrills.” Laurence Olivier scored a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination for his role as the sadistic Dr. Szell. If any teens have a serious fear of dentists, maybe they should stick to Wreck-It Ralph, but otherwise this intense, highly entertaining and adrenaline-filled movie is worth it — for the German accents if nothing else!
Zelig (1983): The mutilcolored life of a human chameleon
Everybody knows Woody Allen’s masterpiece Annie Hall, centered on the complicated love affair of two neurotic New Yorkers. But not as many filmgoers are aware of another great Woody Allen flick, Zelig. This 1983 film is one of the earliest examples of a “mockumentary,” a fictional documentary that both spoofs and reveals truth at the same time. Allen himself stars as Leonard Zelig, a mild-mannered man in the early twentieth century who literally has no real identity. Zelig changes his personality and looks depending on the people he’s around. If he’s speaking with a writer, he’s suddenly spouting literary terms; if he’s with a doctor, he speaks about his non-existent patients. When this uncontrollable phenomenon becomes known to the public, Zelig catapults to fame and his life quickly changes. Mia Farrow co-stars as a doctor who tries to find the real Leonard Zelig somewhere inside the carousel of other people and personalities. Woody Allen draws the viewer in with visual tricks and an animated, period soundtrack that make the movie memorable. Interviews with real historians, psychoanalysts, novelists, and “witnesses” add to the realism of the movie. Zelig is so bitingly accurate, that it was hard to tell if it was fact or fiction until almost halfway through the movie. Woody Allen also uses real newsreels and archival footage from the 1920s and adds his own footage to heighten and enhance the story. The result is clever, entertaining and personality changing!
Illustrations by Vivian Tong