Hank’s Recommendations 01/01/12

The_Hunter_DVDhank_paperTHE HUNTER — A solitary hunter (Willem Dafoe) takes an assignment from a pharmaceutical company to find and kill a Tasmanian tiger, an animal thought already extinct. He is sent to lodge with a likewise isolated family whose father has been missing in the mountains for the last half year.

As usual, Dafoe is as fascinating as the unusually lush mountainous Tasmanian landscape in which he stalks his prey. Eschewing the usual tropes of conventional Hollywood plotlines, this understated portrait of a man who himself is the last of his kind builds with a low tension as he plies his bush craft alone and, in likewise studied focus, interacts with the family, laying the groundwork for both storylines to come together for an emotionally fitting payoff. This film, with rich characters and environmental issues woven into the plot, is highly recommended.

THE PLAYER — This bitter satire, (in which the parody isn’t far from the reality,) is perhaps the best film about Hollywood ever made: I’ve been there and this is how it really is.

Director Robert Altman (GOSFORD PARK, SHORT CUTS, NASHVILLE, MCCABE & MRS. MILLER, MASH), always regarded as an actor’s director, was always at odds with the studios. In addition to its great cast (Tim Robbins, Fred Ward, Peter Gallagher, Whoopi Goldberg, Greta Scacchi), scores of celebrity actors appear as cameos in this film. In this black valentine to Hollywood, a studio executive (played by Robbins) receives signals he is about to be replaced at the same time he begins receiving mysterious threatening postcards from—he presumes—one of a legion of writers he has recently rejected. Pursuing clues to the identity of the sender leads him into a horrendous incident that places him in the gun sights of the police, causing him to use all his Hollywood smarts to try to negotiate his way toward a happy ending. This is one of Altman’s best films (nominated for three Oscars) and, oddly, his most mainstream.