1. “Fargo”: Originally released in 1996, this Coen Brothers police drama has since become recognized as one of the duo’s most relevant works. Not only does it bend the traditional rules of a typical police procedural by humoring and humanizing its subjects, it does so through the eyes of perhaps the brothers’ most unique character to date: the very cunning, extremely willful and extraordinarily pregnant Police Chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand). Even if you’re not that into the Coen Brothers, cops-and-robbers or movies in general, check out “Fargo” for that iconic central performance by McDormand. It’ll stick with you.
2. “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”: George Clooney is a lot of things. Handsome, charming, dat smile, basically a physical incarnation of Danny Ocean from the “Ocean’s” trilogy. Except, of course, he’s not a thief. He’s a filmmaker. And in every sense of the word, he’s a master of his craft. So do yourself a favor and check out his directorial debut, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” boasting a powerhouse leading performance by Sam Rockwell as Chuck Barris, the successful game show host who claimed to live a double life as a CIA assassin. It’s a long movie that requires close attention, but as is habitual to anything produced by GCloons, the effort is more than worth it. Rather than your cut-and-dry biopic, what we get is a film that blurs the line between sanity and fiction. It’s a trippy ride, but you’ll be glad you took it.
3. “King of New York”: This is not a very good film. It’s boring, clichéd and probably the most run-down regurgitation of the crime boss genre until someone does a take-by-take remake of “The Godfather,” but I’m not ashamed to say I’ve watched it three times. Why? Christopher Walken. Walken, without hyperbolizing, is this movie. His lines are never really special, but seem quotable in real time only because they’re being said with perfect Walken inflection. If you, like any sane person, have an excuse to brush up on your Walken impression, this is the movie to watch. Also, Gus from “Breaking Bad” is in it. SOOO …
4. “Ghostbusters”: When your folks back home say they just don’t make ’em funny like they used to, they will almost always refer to the SNL glory days of the ’70s and ’80s. They’re talking about what made funny funny for the next three decades. Very few of the classics that talented group of people produced could make a roller rink as groovy as “Ghostbusters” and its overplayed song could. “Ghostbusters” ’s brand of comedy knows no generation gap — funny is funny — thanks to the deadpan talent of its cast, which includes Billy Murray and Dan Aykroyd and Sci-Fi Queen Sigourney Weaver.
5. “As Good as It Gets”: “As Good as It Gets” is about a man pitted against his OCD and dyspeptic prejudices — all of which he has to overcome to win the love of a waitress. Melvin Udall is, of course, played by Jack Nicholson in an Oscar-winning performance and Carolyn Connelly by Helen Hunt, who also grabbed an Oscar. Ultimately, it’s the film’s romantic gestures that lend it a sweet quality, and it’s the pragmatic hardships both characters must face each day therein portrayed that make it a statement about courage and redemption and love’s relation to both. Nothing says it better than the purity of Melvin’s profession of love, “You make me wanna be a better man.”