Top 10 Films Mark Duplass
Actor-writer-director-all-around-indie-MVP Mark Duplass recently completed yet another project: recommending a streaming movie on Netflix every day for the past year. Here, then, are Duplass’ top ten selections from his hundreds of suggestions, nabbed from his Twitter handle @MarkDuplass. Long live #Netflix365! Author: Jesse Hassenger
10. OLD JOY
Duplass tweets: "Set in the Oregon Cascades, this lyrical, nostalgic tale of old friendship is heartbreaking."
We say: Before Kelly Reichardt made WENDY AND LUCY, she co-wrote and directed another adaptation of a short story by Jonathan Raymond, this one about a pair of friends on a sad, sweet camping trip. If you want a version of Oregon a bit removed from the satire of PORTLANDIA, this should do the trick.
9. HOOP DREAMS
Duplass tweets: "2 boys want to be NBA stars. Quite possibly the greatest sports doc of all time."
We say: A possible 30-minute short for PBS sprawled out into a three-hour documentary epic in this film about teenagers, basketball, and pretty much American life in general. It placed fourteenth on The AV Club's recent list of the best movies of the nineties, while Roger Ebert placed it at the top of his own nineties list. You can see Ebert discuss the movie with no less than Martin Scorsese on this segment of his old show. So basically, you have to see this movie before you make your own nineties list.
8. HALF NELSON
Duplass tweets: "Ryan Gosling becomes a great actor in this moody drama about a drug-addicted teacher."
We say: Filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden love to zero in on their characters; it's obvious in their minor-league baseball chronicle SUGAR, and it's obvious in their first film, HALF NELSON, which follows a young teacher dealing with a crack addiction. It marks a major step in the growth of Gosling, who played creepy teenagers in movies like THE BELIEVER and THE UNITED STATES OF LELAND, tried out youthful romance in THE NOTEBOOK, and came of age in what was, in 2006, his best adult role to that point.
7. THE HORSE BOY
Duplass tweets: "A couple journeys to Mongolia to help their autistic son in this beautiful/inspiring doc."
We say: If you have low tolerance for movies about the majesty and beauty of horses (a la WAR HORSE or THE HORSE WHISPERER), this documentary, about parents in Texas who bring their autistic son to Mongolia in hopes of improving his condition through contact with animals and shamanistic healing, might turn you around.
6. BUFFALO '66
Duplass tweets: "Vincent Gallo wants to kill former Bill's kicker Scott Wood. Sad. Unique. Funny as hell."
We say: I am from Upstate New York, and BUFFALO '66 is a certified Upstate Classic. Okay, sure, Buffalo is more Western New York than pure Upstate, but Gallo's tragicomic romance of sorts (which seems to veer uncomfortably close to autobiography in parts, having been partially shot in his childhood home) nails the post-industrial chilliness of the region at its worst. It's reason enough to hope that Gallo might make another great film someday.
5. MAN ON WIRE
Duplass says: "In 1974, Philippe Petit walked a high wire btw NY's Twin Towers. Stunning, inspired doc."
We say: Remember how in the fall of 2011, following 9/11, studios raced to digitally erase the Twin Towers from Manhattan skyline shots of their movies, lest the appearances make audiences uncomfortable? Remember how there were anecdotal reports of audiences actually applauding the towers' appearance in GLITTER (which came out too quickly to be modified), in probably the only (anecdotally) recorded instances of audiences non-ironically applauding at GLITTER? Well, MAN ON WIRE offers a feature-length rebuke to the idea that audiences wouldn't want to lay eyes on the Twin Towers onscreen -- and it won't make you sit through Mariah Carey acting or singing or cuddling an immortal cat to get there.
4. KRAMER VS. KRAMER
Duplass tweets: "Streep/Hoffman in their prime as a divorced couple fighting for custody of their son."
We say: This was a major studio hit back in 1979; now, this sort of character-centric drama with a heavy acting showcase often falls to indie filmmakers like, hey, the Duplass Brothers.
3. THIS IS SPINAL TAP
Duplass tweets: "Mockumentary brilliance from Chris Guest and company. This one goes to 11. "
We say: Much has been written about THIS IS SPINAL TAP's status as the greatest mockumentary, greatest rock and roll movie, and, hey, maybe the greatest straight up comedy of all time (at very least, you could pit it against AIRPLANE! and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL for the title of funniest movie since 1970). But on a less monumental but still impressive note, it also kicked off a stunning streak of Rob Reiner classics: he followed it with THE SURE THING, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. Basically, the least iconic and least-known of those movies is only one of John Cusack's best eighties comedies. Study SPINAL TAP to figure out where it all started (then watch NORTH to figure out what scarred him -- or, you know, don't).
Duplass tweets: "An underdog southpaw from Philly just wants to go the distance with the champ. Noble. Inspiring."
We say: If the likes of RAMBO and EXPENDABLES sequels have left you shuddering at the thought of Sylvester Stallone with a screenwriting credit, recall that he also wrote this intimate, affecting sports drama during which not a single person explodes into a bloody mist! With Stallone pulling acting and writing duties, it has more kinship than the Duplass aesthetic than you might expect. If you want to take a closer look at the heart of this Best Picture winner, an unofficial copy of the script sits online, ready to be studied.
1. THE BIG LEBOWSKI
Duplass tweets: "Bc the Coen Bros r an American treasure + the dude is my hero + the film is perfect."
We say: Even if you've seen this movie, this recommendation, too, is perfect: few movies benefit from repeat viewing as much as THE BIG LEBOWSKI. I found it amusing and odd when it came out in 1998. I found it funnier when I watched it again in 1999. I found it absolutely hilarious in 2000, and its reputation has only grown from there, thanks to its stoner-as-amateur-PI originality, brilliant Coen Brothers dialogue, and note-perfect, weirdly iconic performances in just about every role.