FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Diggers

By BrianOrndorf

April 13th, 2007

For a film about lonesome, working-class drudgeries, "Diggers" is abnormally claustrophobic. It's a picture that should require a 10 minute break in the middle just to get some fresh air back into your lungs. That said, the film may be dreary, but it's far from unpleasant.

Diggers

Off the shores of Long Island in 1976, a group of local clam diggers are facing tough times. A fishing corporation is draining the ocean of profit, leaving a digger like Hunt (Paul Rudd) at a crossroads in his life he’s not ready for. With his digger father recently passed away, a sister (Maura Tierney) who doesn’t need his protection anymore, childhood friends (Ron Eldard, Ken Marino, and Josh Hamilton) who are coping in destructive ways, and a romance with a rich girl (Lauren Ambrose) that won’t make it past summer, Hunt is forced to make some serious choices about his future and plot a new course for his life.

I respect anyone known for one genre who desires to make a change, but “Diggers” made me hesitate a little because it comes from writer Ken Marino and producer David Wain, better known as members of the sketch comedy group, “The State.” Going from brilliantly diseased minds that gave the world “Wet Hot American Summer” to this period drama is a strange course of action, but the transition is smoother than it sounds and the execution couldn’t be better.

“Diggers” is an evocative look at a time and place where tradition is being smothered by the steamroller called progress. The film takes an intimate look at lives caught in the inertia of routine, unable to process that their glory years have ended. Marino might not have the fancy budget to paint a bigger portrait of an economy being swept away by big business, but his rendering of these lives newly aware of their own stagnancy is decidedly compelling screenwriting. “Diggers” is harsh around the edges, confronting the inevitability of change and other swallowing circumstances that make up the anger and shame of poverty; yet, Marino is writing from his heart, sympathizing with the diggers as much as he’s confronting their bad habits and the inbred fallibility of their communication.

Director Katherine Dieckmann has it just as bad as Marino when it comes to budgetary scope, but her sure hand with this unusual location lends the story a certainly oppressive, but oddly comforting life. Through haircuts, music, and the handmade lay of the land, the director convinces the viewer that it’s 1976. With dynamic performances, especially searing lead work by Rudd (who has really come into his own as a performer), Dieckmann brings the film down to a touchingly authentic level than any viewer could relate to. You don’t have to dig for clams to understand the heartbreak of outgrowing a comfortable life and leaving behind close friends.

Risking cliché with Hunt’s photographic pursuits (the grizzled worker who takes time out of his day to snap found art), Marino’s script combats a rising feeling of formula with sharp, detailed writing that pushes “Diggers” to an area of sincerity that’s unexpected and welcome. It’s a heartening journey of loss and growth, and even if it feels like a plastic bag suddenly wrapped over your face at times, contains a dramatic soul, muddied indie-film ease, and pure intention that completely wins you over by the last frame.

My rating: A-