Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (2004)
This Robert Stone-directed documentary is a straightforward account of the Symbionese Liberation Army and that domestic terrorist group's kidnapping of Patty Hearst, who was the granddaughter of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst and heiress to that family's fortune. It is consistently interesting, if not particularly edifying, but the footage of that time period — especially the group's 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police — is captivating.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
Here's a novel twist on the old Cheech & Chong stoner comedies: Two smart young men, Asian-American investment banker Harold (John Cho) and Indian-American med school candidate Kumar (Kal Penn), get stoned one Friday night and set about to satiate their White Castle cravings amid the wilds that are suburban New Jersey. The result is a Goldilocks porridge of teen movies — certainly not aiming too high, but also not stooping to the lowest common denominator. Directed by Danny Leiner (responsible for the safely lowest-common-denominator Dude, Where's My Car?), Harold & Kumar actually boasts some funny vignettes, especially involving a boil-laden meth addict-turned-born again freak and a stripper-fondling, coke-addled Doogie Howser.
The Last Laugh (1924)
F.W. Murnau's silent classic remains electrifying, no small feat for a movie that is essentially about a hotel doorman demoted to washroom attendant. Sound interesting? Well, it is, and more. The damn thing is poetic, an early testament to the power of cinema. Murnau's camera glides through hotel lobbies, climbs up tenement buildings and finds the visual manifestation of internal realities. Not too shabby. Murnau is ably helped by Emil Jannings as the oversized doorman who apparently considers being washroom attendant to be a fate worse than death. This movie must have really cut into the self-esteem of many a hotel employee back in '24.
The Leopard (1963)
Luchino Visonti 's Techniscope epic about 19th century Sicilian royalty is visually lush, long, plodding and still long. I know it's considered a classic; I know I should have appreciated it more. But I fell asleep watching it. Twice.