Sometimes the best way to watch a movie ... is to see two films back to back. Here's why.
If you love movies as much as I do then you have no problem watching good movies again and again.
So I’ve put together a viewing list of potential double features. The paired movies ahead have similar themes that enhance and contrast each other in interesting ways.
See if you agree…
Double Feature #1: ‘Unfaithful’ & ‘A Walk on the Moon’
Diane Lane has made two amazing films about infidelity. The steamier of the two is “Unfaithful” which is a great film until the third act. That’s when it gives up trying to say something interesting about infidelity. Instead, the story becomes a humdrum suspense film.
The better of the two is “A Walk on the Moon.” It’s an honest portrayal of love, infidelity and rapprochement. Lane has had my heart since “Rumble Fish,” “Streets of Fire” and “Cotton Club.” She’s never more beautiful and sexy than in these two films.
Guiding Question: Between the two marriages in each film, which couple ultimately had the healthier marriage and why?
Double Feature #2: “Inherent Vice” & “The Big Sleep”
The detective feature is a well-worn genre; the lone gumshoe sorting out facts while dodging bullets, beautiful but treacherous dames and a trail of clues that eventually lead to the top. “Inherent Vice” is one of my top 10 favorite films of all time.
There’s something about director Paul Thomas Anderson’s take on the Thomas Pynchon novel that is endearing. The film truly comes alive when you watch it next to Bogie and Bacall in “The Big Sleep.” Both plots are overly complex in silly and surprising ways. Yet there’s a “truth” told in both that rings true: fish are rotten from the head down.
Guiding Questions: A kidnapping is at the heart of both plots. Are the goals of the kidnappers in each movie essentially the same? Does the detective ultimately thwart them?
Double Feature #3: “Platoon” &“The Caine Mutiny”
If I could go back in time and had the power I’d ask writer/director Oliver Stone to cut about 1/3 of the combat and character set up so a courtroom piece could be added at the end.
Both the “Caine” and “Platoon” are about men and what it takes to get to a good man to a breaking point. I love “The Caine Mutiny” and try to watch it at least once a year because the ending with José Ferrer is so powerful that the only comparable maybe Alec Baldwin’s quick turn in “Glengarry Glen Ross” in terms of movie stealing performances.
He delivers the kind of dressing down that every man would like to give his father, the school bully or or the coworker that stirs the pot. “Platoon” is missing that kind of dramatic ending, I know I know, Elias, but ending in a courtroom would’ve been better.
Conversely “Platoon” has what the “Caine” is missing — a realistic sense of combat.
Guiding Questions: How is leadership different from authority in both movies? Who is the real author of “Platoon?”
Best Double Feature #4: “Miss Sadie Thompson” & “Black Snake Moan”
Speaking of José Ferrer, he’s in another gem “Miss Sadie Thompson” which the title completely gives away the plot.
The movie is based on the short story “Rain” by Somerset Maugham which is an equally impenetrable title that also gives away the plot. So it’s about rain and a woman? Kinda sorta.
“Miss Sadie Thompson” starting Rita Hayworth and José Ferrer, follows a prostitute on the run from a shady situation that went down in Hawaii. She’s landed on Samoa and a forgotten military outpost that is under the moral thumb of a righteous Missionary who knows about Sadie’s past.
A test of wills commences and I won’t spoil the story but it has a that bittersweet twist that Maugham was known for.
“Black Snake Moan” is essentially the same story. Both movies have musical numbers and the movies talk to each other across time, a point and counter-point on the integrity of men.
Guiding Question: What is so dangerous about the women in these films that their sexuality must be controlled by men?
Best Double Feature #5: “Ex Machina” & “Cherry 2000”
I often sit back in amazement that we don’t talk about robots and the forthcoming robotic evolution every day. It’s the most interesting, dangerous and potentially liberating human technological advancement ever.
I love robots and have since I was a kid (I’m kinda like Philip J. Fry in that regard) and so any movie with a robot is going to draw me in except for “Real Steel” that’s a forever, “hell, no.”
“Cherry 2000” holds up surprisingly well, no kidding, you’ll be amazed that it’s still a great B movie and “Ex Machina” is like the brilliant prequel.
Guiding Questions: Is sex with a robot immoral? At what point would it become so?
Once upon a time, Roger Ebert would come to the University of Colorado each year and break down a single movie. (His take on ‘Fight Club’ was legendary) I miss that level of depth. So many movies are produced each year now that it’s impossible to see all of them, much less have a deep discussion on the relative merits and meanings. I’ve outlined some double features here that will hopefully help you appreciate each film a bit more.
What pairings would you suggest? Please leave your comment below.