If you’re sick of sequels, raging at “re-imaginings” or perturbed by prequels, just say “no” to the latest blockbuster. If you’re still nervous about spending your time on an lesser-known independent or foreign film, let me give you some help: Use one – or all – of these movies as a starting point.
Men With Brooms
This is the greatest-ever movie about the great sport of curling. OK, so it’s also the only movie about curling that I know of. That diminishes nothing about this tale of a curling team out to fulfill the final wishes of its late coach. The team – or rink, as it’s known in curling – and its mission will teach you a bit about curling while squeezing in some laughs and unveiling some interesting characters.
As a pretty casual moviegoer, I recognized just one face in Men With Brooms: that of the late, great Leslie Nielsen. But star power alone doesn’t make a movie. I’ll take original, quirky characters, goofy situations and quality quips any day. Men With Brooms has an abundance of them all. It also inspired me to try curling at the only curling club in Arizona.
Escanaba in da Moonlight
I must have a fetish for movies set in the north. In this case, Jeff Daniels leads a cast of character actors in telling the story of Rueben, who is about to become the oldest member of his family to never have shot a buck. He heads to the family deer camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with his brother and father for opening day of deer season, desperate to change his luck.
The dialogue in Escanaba in da Moonlight would be hysterical, even without the Yooper accents. But the methods Rueben is willing to use – from porcupine urine to ancient Native American potions – provide the biggest laughs. Overlay this with the threat of alien abduction, and you have a movie that takes some unexpected twists. I rarely run into anyone who has seen this overlooked movie.
The History of Future Folk
I never wondered what would happen if an extraterrestrial who’d never encountered music heard the first notes of Muzak piped in through a big box store. Clearly, the makers of The History of Future Folk pondered this questions. If they’re to be believed, any alien in that situation will get his groove on right in the aisles. And then the alien – in the case, a general from the planet Hondo – will start performing at open-mic nights while trying to save his home planet from a killer asteroid, and Earth from a Hondo (or should that be “Hondonian”?) exodus.
There’s not a recognizable star in this movie, and that’s perfectly OK. The special effects are pretty cheesy, and there’s bad science a-plenty. Not to worry. It’s worth those imperfections to see how music staves off the destruction of two different worlds. This movie made peanuts at the box office, and it deserves to claw its way to cult film status as an overlooked movie.
Watch this mockumentary of an Australian portable toilet plumber’s life with the subtitles on: Australian actor Shane Jacobson plays the title character with a heavy accent and a slight speech impediment … and with absolute sincerity. Kenny is Rocky Balboa with a plunger, and you’ll quickly root for him in every encounter, whether with entitled executives, rampaging race fans or a woman who plopped her engagement ring into a toilet.
Kenny embodies everyone who takes unshakeable pride in oddball but necessary professions. After I watched Kenny, I wanted to high-five everyone who keeps portable toilets running at events. It’s a very cool tribute to the people we probably don’t recognize enough. I’m still looking for other great under-the-radar movies. What do you recommend for me?