Trees Lounge (1996); Steve Buscemi, director.

I’ve lived a good part of my life in Queens, New York and I can tell you that no other movie has quite captured what that’s all about like Trees Lounge

This look at barflies wasting their lives away is one of my favorite movies of all time, so even though The Avengers’ Samuel L. Jackson is only in it for two quick scenes I’ll use it as an excuse to shill.

Jackson makes deliveries to a local bar, where the mascot of sorts is played by Steve Buscemi. The diminutive and good natured guy is liked by everyone. . .but to a point. He’s getting to an age where if he doesn’t get the hell off the barstool soon, he’s going to end up like one of the old timers that sit there like stone carvings.

This is a master class in character study, and the ensemble has every awesome New York actor you could possibly imagine. Believe me when I say I take Trees Lounge over any of John Cassavetes’s films, and most of Martin Scorsese’s, too. It’s a total fluke, because the three films Buscemi have made since aren’t all that terrific. This one, however, hits me where I live. The time I actually saw Rockets Redglare drinking cheap bottles of Bud at high noon is something that, despite it being a little sad, I’ll always treasure.

Timecode (2000); Mike Figgis, director.

Stellan Skarsgard, who shows up as Dr. Selvig again in The Avengers, has one of the pivotal roles in the groundbreaking experimental film Timecode.

If the idea of watching four movies at once seems off-putting, trust me when I say that once you get into a groove this movie really works. For the most part the main action is only happening in one of the four quadrants, with the other three involving someone traveling somewhere. This in itself speaks to the unthinkable planning and blocking that went into this movie that consists of four concurrent single-takes. But when different POVs interact with one another (or all four shake during one of the many earthquake tremors) it is exhilirating.

I haven’t seen Timecode since it came out, so I wonder if it plays a little easier now that we’ve entered the golden age of multitasking.

Battle For Terra (2007); Aristomenis Tsirbas, director.

I was originally going to put Sunshine down as Chris Evans‘ pick, then I realized that this is hardly an obscure enough movie. But I must admit something – I either never knew, or completely forgot, that Chris Evans was the character Mace. I need to watch it again immediately.

Something else I’d like to see a second time (though not, perhaps, immediately) is the unfairly maligned animated sci-fi picture Battle For Terra. It isn’t a masterpiece, but the spaceships look really frickin’ awesome and for a kids’ flick there are some really fatalistic and heavy themes. Evans voices one of the invading baddies . . .or are they goodies?

Yeah, this is the movie with flying sperm, but if you buy into it, you may catch yourself digging it. Historians should also note that Battle For Terra was one of the first of the recent 3D movies pre-Avatar.

Choke(2008); Clark Gregg, director.

We’re gonna’ conclude with Agent Phil Colson and something you may not know about the fella that plays him – he’s actually a pretty good director.

Based on Chuck Palahnuik’s novel, this is an angry young man bit not that dissimilar from Fight Club in that it starts out awesome and filled with originality but ultimately wears out its welcome. Still, there are many scenes of Sam Rockwell as the nihilistic theme park actor worth that are checking out, as well as the central premise of intentionally choking in restaurants to defraud people of their money. Choke is a unique film about a type of addiction rarely seen or talked about, so for that alone it is worth the price of admission.

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