Have you seen Argo in the past few weeks and have fallen in love with its fictionalized version of a true story? Good news! It’s a whole genre of film and you should have a movie marathon soon.
I prefer nonfiction essays to fiction, so it’s not surprising that movies based on true stories are also my favorite.
Some characteristics I appreciate:
- time period specific: 60s or 70s preferred
- game show as a plot point a plus
- cast is full of character actors and cameos
Here are three movies I love that have become forgotten in this world of Darren Aronofskys and PT Andersons.
When I was in high school, Quiz Show was the most important movie in my world. I watched it pretty regularly with my two girlfriends like I had done with Dirty Dancing when I was 12. We all were in love with Ralph Fiennes, and it is the reason I loved The English Patient even though Katie made fun of me.
In the late 1950s, Herb Stemple (John Turturro) is a man from Queens who does well on the game show 21 until he is forced to “go down” and be replaced with intellectual, handsome Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes). Herb goes up the NBC chain with his information that the show is fixed and no one will listen until Rob Morrow, doing the worst Boston accent ever put to film, worse than Blake Lively in The Town, investigates the scandal. This Robert Redford-directed classic is on HBO Go right now and I really recommend spending some quality time with Ralph & a bowl of popcorn this weekend.
Without question, The Informant! is my favorite Steven Soderbergh movie. It stars one of the most underrated comedic actors of our time, Matt Damon (genius in True Grit), as Mark Whitacre, a whistle blower in the corn (lysine) price fixing conspiracy of the 1990s. Scott Bakula and Joel McHale work for the feds and the rest of the supporting cast is rounded out with some of your favorite comedians, like Patton Oswalt. The film progresses into complete nuttiness, where you don’t know what is real and what is the reality created by Mark.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
In this George Clooney-directed biographical spy movie, Sam Rockwell plays Chuck Barris, songwriter of “Palisades Park” and creator of The Dating Game, who is recruited by the CIA to become an assassin. Part of the fun of this movie, besides Clooney’s skillful direction (very Coen influenced) and Rockwell’s breakout performance, is that the writer who adapted Barris’ book (Charlie Kaufman), never believed this CIA crap.
Other selections: Good Night and Good Luck (another Clooney picture!), Frost/Nixon, Catch Me if You Can (worth it for the title sequence alone; more gameshow action), Milk and many others. Are there any hidden gems in this genre I am missing? Do you think it’s weird that so many of these are directed by actors?