Being There (1979)
Written by Jerzy Kosinski
Directed by Hal Ashby
Chance is a gardener who has never left the grounds of the Washington, D.C. townhouse where he was born. One day, his wealthy employer dies, and Chance is left entirely alone in the world. Forced out of his home by the estate lawyer, the mentally disabled man stumbles through the modern world until befriending business mogul Ben Rand and his wife Eve through accident. The mistakingly hear his name as Chauncey Gardener and believe him to be a struggling business person who speaks in metaphor and parables. His relationship with the Rands leads to his meeting with the president of the United States and the public becoming obsessed with this visionary stranger.
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Vernon God Little (2003)
Written by D.B.C. Pierre
Vernon Little is a teenager living in the nowhere town of Martirio, Texas. After a life of mundanity, one day his friend Jesus up and shoots 18 of their classmates and then kills himself. Without anyone to heap their collective anger and rage on due to the suicide, suspicious immediately turn to Vernon. Everyone becomes convinced he must have known Jesus had this planned and therefore his hands are covered in blood. A reporter rolls into town who is named Eulalio Ledesma (Lally for short), and he claims to work for CNN with a promise he will help clear Vernon’s name. This is just the beginning of the foul-mouthed teen’s manipulations, and Vernon quickly learns everyone is out to claim their own piece of him. Events begin to spiral out of control, and Vernon is confronted with the fact life as he knew it is effectively over.
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American Psycho (2000)
Written by Guinevere Turner & Mary Harron
Directed by Mary Harron
1987 in New York City was a time of gross consumption and wealth. Patrick Bateman is an investment banker who spends his life dining at exclusive restaurants amongst people whom he seems to regard with vile disdain. When Bateman becomes enraged by a social slight or what he perceives as personal digs at himself, he unleashes his anger in a private and extremely violent manner. Bateman stabs a homeless man to death and stomps his dog into oblivion. Later, he gets a colleague extraordinarily intoxicated and brings him home, only to hack the man apart with a chrome plated ax after opining on the virtues of Huey Lewis’ “Hip to Be A Square.” How long can Bateman sustain such an existence, especially as he feels his sense of individual self-being drowned out by the culture around him.
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The Candidate (1972)
Written by Jeremy Larner
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Marvin Lucas is an election specialist looking for a viable Democratic candidate to oppose incumbent California Republican Crocker Jarman. Lucas finds his candidate in Bill McKay, a lawyer, and advocate for some liberal causes (labor, desegregation, environmentalism). McKay is promised that Jarman will inevitably win and the young man can speak his mind. Lucas just wants an opposing voice in the race. However, McKay begins to find himself being tweaked and shaped by a political machine that is interested in appealing to an open center. This results in the lawyer speaking platitudes he fundamentally disagrees with. As the countdown nears to election day, McKay finds himself increasingly at odds with Lucas and his poll numbers rising.
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Happy End (2017)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke
Teenager Eve Laurent is suddenly thrust into the home of her estranged father and his family after her mother overdoses on antidepressants and ends up comatose. Thomas Laurent, her father, is married to his second wife who has just had their first child together. He’s also involved in an obscene affair with another woman. Anne, Eve’s aunt, owns a construction firm that has come under litigation after an onsite accident has left one of the workers on the verge of death. Anne’s son, Pierre works as the foreman on the site and appears to have emotional issues that might have led to the dangerous conditions on site. Finally, there is the patriarch Georges who is slipping into dementia and contemplating suicide to avoid what this condition will do to his mind, notably forgetting his late wife. Did I mention this is a dark comedy?
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The Bling Ring (2013)
Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola
For almost a full year between October 2008 and August 2009, homes of celebrities in Los Angeles were being robbed while their owners were absent. The culprits were a group of teenagers from Calabasas who used celebrity blogs, looking for notices that a celeb was going to be out of town for an event, to pick their marks. Led by Rachel Lee and Nick Prugo, they managed to steal $3 million in cash and belongings. Fifty homes in all were hit, with public figures like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Orlando Bloom among them. Their eventual arrests and trial made for a moderate media circus and led to one of the gang getting her own reality show on the American channel E! This is the absurd pseudo-celebrity of The Bling Ring.
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The Great McGinty (1940)
Written & Directed by Preston Sturges
We begin at a bar in a banana republic where a forlorn and suicidal American banker is stopped from ending things by the bartender. The bartender is also an American, Dan McGinty, who tells his patron that he was once governor of a state in the U.S. From there we flashback to the story of McGinty’s rise and fall to power. During the Great Depression, he’s another jobless schmoe who is coerced into a voting fraud scheme for two bucks. He ends up showing an impressive level of moxie, and a local mob boss decides to use McGinty in his plans. He starts out as an alderman before moving to mayor and eventually governor of an unnamed state. But, as the film’s opening prologue tells us, one moment of good will topple McGinty back to the bottom.
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