Living in Iowa, there are few forms of entertainment that are sufficient for an ex-art school student. Food is a major activity in the area as we have some of the best beef and pork in the world. Unfortunately, this also leads to unwanted and unsightly weight-gain.

Movies are one of my passions, but I have been cursed with odd taste. I can’t just wander into a Best Buy and expect to find any DVD that would blow my skirt up. No – I need to venture into murkier waters such as Barnes & Noble, or if that fails, to locate the few shining examples that I deem “movies that don’t suck”.

While I was undergoing the removal of several remnants of what used to be teeth, my dentist had a steady stream of Lortab 10 pills coming my way, and so, with not much else to do, I would search out rentals that I would find engrossing.

The typical film elements that will surely determine that I will not be interested in a particular movie are car chases, explosions, gratuitous sexual content, gun fights, and big name actors-most of the ingredients that American movie-goers cut their teeth on. There are a few exceptions, of course (Ed Wood, Lord of the Rings, the Big Lebowski), but for the most part I enjoy movies that have a few actors, good cinematography and framing, and above all – a good story.

I realize that the Owl originates from New York, so I am sure many of the warped minds that regularly read it may very well be familiar with these titles, but I feel it my duty to spread the word regarding these obscure and under-rated masterpieces. I will try hard not to write any buzz-killing spoilers into this list:


Heavenly Creatures

   Peter Jackson’s pre-Lord of the Rings film based on the true story of the Parker/Hulme murders in New Zealand in the 1950’s.

   Jackson skillfully focuses mainly on the relationship between the two girls, as well as events that lead up to the crime.


 The Corndog Man

Focuses on a foul-mouthed, racist boat salesman, Ace, in South Carolina played wonderfully by Noble Willingham. Ace is the top salesman at the triple-K marine until he receives a mysterious phone call one afternoon. You have to see this one for yourself, but take my word for it – It’s a wild ride of depravity and revenge.


Welcome to the Dollhouse


  I’m sure many of you are familiar with this movie, but I am always surprised by how many have never heard of it. It is a no-holds-barred journey down the brutal path of junior high school. Heather Matarazzo plays the nerdy heroine, Dawn Wiener. Just when you think things can’t get any worse…   The movie leads you down paths that your pre-conceptions will not.




   Lynne Ramsay’s directorial debut. This movie was filmed in Scotland and is so Scottish it has subtitles as the dialect is that thick. It is another film that focuses on the brutality of youth during a sanitation workers’ strike in the 1970’s. Guilt, shame, love, & hate – all wrapped-up in a package of peeling paint & plight.


Smoke Signals


   Directed Chris Eyre, this movie focuses on two young Coeur D’Alene  indians from Plummer, Idaho: Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire, who set out on a journey of self-discovery as they retrieve the ashes of Victor’s father in Mars, Arizona.


Paris, Texas

   Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, & Natassja Kinski star in this quest of a film. I had to purchase it from the Criterion collection at Barnes & Noble (which means it costs three-times what a normal DVD does). It may seem a slow film to some, but all of mine are. It is worth sitting through its nearly three-hour time. Stanton is wandering through the desert until his brother (Stockwell) locates him and takes him home to L.A. where Stanton’s brother and French wife have been raising Stanton’s son for the past four years. Gripping human drama – Yes!


Love Serenade


   An Australian film, Love Serenade is one of the best movies ever made with five actors and a crane. Focuses on a big-city celebrity who moves to a small country town next door to two sisters. The trouble starts almost immediately. The cast is superb and it holds a lot of pleasant scenes and surprises along the way. The soundtrack is particularly tasty.


   Man – I could go on and on, but I figure there has to be one or two that you have perhaps missed or glazed over on a Friday or Saturday. I can leave you with a list of other gems, if you can find them:

          Cannery Row                     1982
Freeway                            1996
Coonskin                           1975
Picnic at Hanging Rock        1975
Titus                                 1999
Pumpkin                            2002
Pecker                               1998
Lolita                                 1997

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