Movie Project #40-44: Dirty Dancing, Being John Malkovich, A Christmas Story, Dances With Wolves, and Gomorrah

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Dirty Dancing [1987]
Dirty Dancing [1987]
I can see how this would be a “guilty pleasure” for some. I was honestly quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It’s cheesy in all the right ways (“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”), the performances from Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey are infectious, and the dancing is oddly alluring. I do have to say it was a bit strange that raising money for an abortion was a central plot point, as that’s not something I would have expected from such a wildly popular movie like this. I wouldn’t call Dirty Dancing a great movie by any means, but it’s fun, and sometimes that’s all that is needed. 7/10

Being John Malkovich [1999]
Being John Malkovich [1999]
I have now seen all four of Spike Jonze’s full-length features, and he is 4-for-4 in my book. As much as I loved Her, I’m going to have to call Being John Malkovich my new favorite. This is exactly the type of offbeat humor I love, with a concept that is so far out there and supported by a cast that is up for anything. Major props to John Malkovich for putting himself out there like this, and I loved the performances of John Cusack and Cameron Diaz, both of whom play against type. This is just a ridiculously entertaining movie, and it’s hard to believe this was Jonze’s debut film. 9/10

A Christmas Story [1983]
A Christmas Story [1983]
This is one of those movies that I have caught bits and pieces of over the years but never sat down to watch all of it. I’m glad I finally did this year because I had a lot of fun with it. It took me a little while to get into the film due to its constant voiceover narration, but I was hooked by the time one of the kids got his tongue stuck to a pole. The film is based on a collection of short stories, and it’s easy to see as much. I loved the way the film came across like a series of vignettes because of this (i.e. the father getting a leg lamp award, Ralphie swearing and then having his mouth washed out with soap, etc.). I could see this popping up on my holiday movie shortlist every year. 8/10

Dances With Wolves [1990]
Dancing With Wolves [1990]
One of the true quality tests with 3+ hour movies is whether or not it actually feels that long. Dances With Wolves passes this test, as it did not feel anywhere near its extended running time (with the theatrical version at least). The film focuses on a time that has long since past, and it’s the rare Western that treats Native Americans with respect. It’s clear that this was a major passion project for Kevin Costner, and his meticulous attention to detail is a huge triumph. I know a lot of people give this some flack for beating out Goodfellas for Best Picture (and I agree Scorsese’s is the better film), but this is still a really strong piece of work that holds up quite well. 8/10

Gomorrah [2008]
Gomorrah [2008]
This Italian crime drama is hard to get into (largely because of how it interweaves five different storylines together), but its documentary-like approach is remarkable. The film unflinchingly shows the gritty mafia underworld of modern-day Napoli, one that is full of innocent bystanders, heartless thugs and wannabe gangsters. It’s so authentic that the film’s writer (also the writer of the book this is based on) received death threats because of this, and he is now permanently under police protection. These guys don’t mess around, and as such the film is both fascinating and disgusting to watch. 7/10

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13 thoughts on “Movie Project #40-44: Dirty Dancing, Being John Malkovich, A Christmas Story, Dances With Wolves, and Gomorrah

  1. Dan Heaton says:

    Despite you not loving it as much as I did, I’m glad that you caught up with Gomorrah. I was fascinated by the way it connected all the different stories to paint an extremely bleak picture of the criminal underworld.

    I’ll be checking out Dirty Dancing in my Blind Spots Series later this year. Beyond the basics of it, I’m really not sure what to expect.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Gomorrah’s authenticity was frightening. It’s rare to see a movie that shows the blatant ugliness of the mafia — no Vito Corleones or Tony Sopranos there.

      Dirty Dancing is surprisingly fun! I hope you enjoy it, too.

  2. Jaina says:

    Have never seen Christmas Story either. Had planned on seeing it this Christmas, but it never happened. Though, as a Brit, it’s not the typical Christmas film people think about in the UK. I hadn’t even heard of it until a couple years back.

    Dirty Dancing is a ridiculously cheesy film, but it’s enjoyable. Really silly fun to watch.

  3. Chris says:

    Being John Malkovich [1999] felt like an instant cult classic back then, I watched it several times when it first came out. I’m due a rewatch.

    Let me guess, your girlfriend persuaded you to watch Dirty Dancing with her 🙂 Girls dig the hell out of that movie, I think they imagine themselves as Swayze’s girlfriend/dance partner or something. It’s ok for guys to enjoy the film too, mind you 🙂

    I haven’t seen Gomorrah, wow didn’t know the writer was under police protection. Quite the coincidence, I was just reading The Playlist, and the director’s next film The Tale of Tales was detailed, which could be of interest to you. A pretty good cast he’s assembled: http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/the-100-most-anticipated-films-of-2015-20150105?page=5

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Haha yep, Dirty Dancing was my girlfriend’s idea. She owns the “ultimate edition” DVD and everything. I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed it, too, though it’s not one I will be eager to revisit. 😀

      Had no idea about The Tale of Tales. That’s quite the cast he assembled. Definitely will be keeping an eye on this one, thanks!

  4. ruth says:

    You’ve sold me on Being John Malkovich! I haven’t seen Dances With Wolves, nice to hear that it doesn’t feel long, though it’s still tough to find the time to watch a 3-hour film!

  5. jackdeth72 says:

    Some very notable work from a busy month, Eric!

    ‘Gomorrah’ slipped under my radar. Though I cannot disagree with your rating of chosen films and thumbnail critiques.

    ‘Being John Malkovich’ was a very pleasant surprise to me. After seeing him very early on with Gary Sinise at Chicago’s Steppenwolf theater in ‘True West’. A very tongue in cheek sibling rivalry comedy. And later in ‘Of Mice and Men’, Malkovich has been both an enigma and a chameleon. Finally given the chance to expound, have fun, romp and play! Look for his suave and sophisticated carrying on of Tom Ripley in ‘Ripley’s Game’. Very good stuff, indeed!

    While Costner’s ‘Dances With Wolves’ has been a basic “one and done” for me. It does have a surfeit of story and many wondrous scenes, And ‘A Christmas Story’ is just well detailed and executed family fun, With a “fra-jee-lay” leg lamp!

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Hey Kevin, so cool that you were able to see Malkovich and Sinise at the Steppenwolf! I have caught a couple of shows there, and both were great. I really need to go back sometime soon.

      After finally getting around to The Talented Mr. Ripley fairly recently, I’m very curious to see Ripley’s Game. I would love to see what Malkovich does with that juicy role.

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