The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941)
The film noir. Indeed, The Maltese Falcon is one of those films that’s in the same category as Rashomon and Seven Samurai in that even if you haven’t seen it, I guarantee you’ve experienced a work it directly influenced (even if there were a few skipped generations in between). One could make the argument that certain aspects of it haven’t aged well and the tropes it helped pioneer have become played out by this point, but anyone interested in the genre owes it to themselves to check this film out. Humphrey Bogart’s character effortlessly manipulating everyone around him is a sight to behold.
Adaptation. (Spike Jonze, 2002)
Not many directors would be able to handle twice the Nicolas Cage, but Spike Jonze is no ordinary director. Fresh off of the mind trip known as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation. is the story of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s seemingly futile journey to adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief to the silver screen. The results could only be described as one of the finest examples of postmodernism in the history of cinema. It’s very relatable if you’ve ever found yourself with writer’s block, but it manages to be personable enough so as to never come across as pretentious. If you’re looking for a film wherein Nicolas Cage has a full-on freakout, you won’t find it here, and while that may sound disappointing, I can safely say it’s one of his best performances.