makes one a Chewer? It isn’t just reading CHUD.com regularly, although
that’s a great start. It definitely isn’t being an expert at
mastication. Being a Chewer requires a certain sensibility that’s
outside of the mainstream. Sure, a Chewer can hold his or her own in a Star Wars
OT vs PT argument with a standard movie geek, and sure, a Chewer can go
with the rest of the film snobs to an Ozu revival, but a Chewer also
gets really, really excited about the DVD release of The Manitou.
the next few weeks we’re going to be bringing you The CHUD.com
Essential Films Collection – the films that would be in our dream
Chewer DVD Box Set. These are 50 movies that we think every Chewer
should see and love. This is by no means the definitive list of movies
that make one a Chewer, but it’s a good start. It’s also in no order –
the first films that we list are just as essential as the last ones.
And it’s a list that will leave off the obvious as much as possible –
you don’t need us to tell you to see Lawrence of Arabia or Seven
fire up your Netflix or your Amazon accounts – every day we’ll be
bringing you two movies that are worth seeing, and probably worth
owning as well. Chew on, Chewers.
To Live and Die in L.A. (Buy it from CHUD!)
80s-named Secret Service agent Richard Chance (William Petersen) is a rule-breaking
loose cannon working with the US Treasury. He’s sitting well with a trusted
partner who’s just about to retire. But when that partner goes off on his own
to try to take down counterfeiter Rick Masters (Willem Dafoe) and gets killed,
Chance sets off on an obsessive quest for revenge saddled with a new partner
that wants to play by the rules.
This is the gritty side of L.A. rarely seen on film. The cool
cops and synth-heavy soundtrack from Wang Chung may have you thinking it’s just
a West Coast version of Miami Vice, but there’s little glitz, glamour, or
fashion to be seen here. Just hardened, out-of-control law officers and
Why it’s Essential: This baby
takes everything you think you know about cop buddy flicks and throws it out of
the window. It all starts with Chance, who goes way beyond merely being the
typical rebellious 80s cop eager to shoot first and ask questions later. The
guy’s woman (80s mainstay Darlanne Fluegel) is an informant he keeps under his
thumb by threatening to throw her back in jail. When he can’t get the money he
wants to make an undercover buy, he jacks it. If he’s got to endanger lives of
innocent people to get what he needs, so what? He lives his life virtually
indistinguishable from a criminal. By contrast, Masters is a cultured man who
counterfeits money to feed his rather esoteric and sometimes bizarre pursuits.
He’s an artist who burns every painting he finishes. And he’s not the least bit
interested in tangling with agents or even expanding his operation into some
ambitious empire. He just wants to live his glossy life, and will kill anyone
who threatens his lifestyle.
Friedkin’s writing and direction brushes flashy gun battles and clich’d showdowns
to the side for raw, emotive character work. And his fantastic cast including
Dafoe, Petersen, Dean Stockwell, and John Turturro helps make every
confrontation, twist, and turn pop. While the film is firmly rooted in the 80s,
it is far from dated, aside from the stereotyped black criminals working for
Masters, headed by muscleman Steve James. The rat-a-tat meter of the
hard-boiled dialogue and the grim tone give the film a timeless air about it. Movies
went on to build upon the foundation of this film in exploring the vulnerabilities
that cops and criminals share in their eternal game of cat-and-mouse. But for
me, this one is the essential.
Why it’s Essential: You can enumerate a dozen reasons exlpaining why Cronenberg is in the upper eschelon of Essential directors, but the mere existence of Dead Ringers is enough all on it’s own. Fresh from his biggest commercial success with The Fly, the filmmaker dove into a project practically guaranteed to repulse audiences. In doing so, he finalized his transition from inspired but schlocky maven to artful, canonical director.
He did so with the help of Jeremy Irons, who may never top the work he did here. Eliot and Beverly are each wholly individual characters, with obvious personality traits and unique views, but Irons layers in ties between them with incredible grace. He may be a hack in Eragon but he’s a virtuoso here. So too is Peter Suschitsky, making his debut behind the lens for Cronenberg, a position he’s not vacated since. As good a performance piece as the film may be, it’s a also a restrained technical masterpiece. The pre-digital effects are seamless and wholly geared towards making the story work.
Finally, there’s the story, so weird and unsettling that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else taking it on. While never deviating from core concepts about identity and intimacy Cronenberg packs it with memorable images: the doctors in red surgical robes, the bizarre ‘tools for operating on mutant women’ and the powerful revelation of the twins’ fate. A tiny handful of films are incredibly good at bridging the gap between shock and art, and Dead Ringers is indisputably among the best.