by Tim Gordon
Since the COVID-19 virus has changed our habits, more people find themselves in their homes in search of distractions. I’ve been approached to give recommendations of some of my favorite films. Each day, I’ll recommend an “Essential” film (a film that I think is a crucial movie that helps define cinema); an independent film (one produced with a limited budget and NOT a studio release); and finally, a classic Black film. Today’s selections are:
Gabriel Over the White House (1933)
This pre-Code political fantasy film starred Walter Huston as a genial but politically corrupt President who has a near-fatal automobile accident and comes under divine influence—specifically the Archangel Gabriel and the spirit of Abraham Lincoln. Eventually, he takes control of the government, solves the problems of the nation, from unemployment to racketeering, and arranges for worldwide peace, before dying of a heart attack. Directed by Gregory La Cava, produced by Walter Wanger and written by Carey Wilson. The supporting cast features Karen Morley, Franchot Tone, C. Henry Gordon, and David Landau.
Winter’s Bone (2010)
This mystery drama film stars Jennifer Lawrence (in her film debut) as a teenage girl in the rural Ozarks of Missouri who, to protect her family from eviction, must locate her missing father. The film explores the interrelated themes of close and distant family ties, the power and speed of gossip, self-sufficiency, and poverty as they are changed by the pervasive underworld of illegal meth labs. The film was directed by Debra Granik. It was adapted by Granik and Anne Rosellini from the 2006 novel of the same name by Daniel Woodrell. The film won several awards, including the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Film at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It also received four Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress for Lawrence and Best Supporting Actor for John Hawkes.
Car Wash (1976)
This comedy film is an episodic comedy about a day in the lives of the employees and the owner, Mr. B (Sully Boyar), of a Los Angeles, California car wash (filmed at a Westlake car wash at the corner of Rampart Boulevard and 6th Street). The film was directed by Michael Schultz from a screenplay by Joel Schumacher and featured an ensemble cast, including Franklyn Ajaye, Bill Duke, George Carlin, Irwin Corey, Ivan Dixon, Antonio Fargas, Jack Kehoe, Clarence Muse, Lorraine Gary, The Pointer Sisters, and Richard Pryor.