Rental Recs: Falling from Buildings

Today, the New York Times, told the incredible story of Alcides Morales, a window washer who took a 47-story dive off a New York apartment building last month. He survived, miraculously, and he has some brave doctors and 24-pints worth of blood donors to thank. He awoke from his coma on Christmas Day.

What is it about falling that excites our imaginations? Is it the fear? The freedom? The thrill? The powerlessness? I can name several dozen films that involve someone falling or being thrown from great heights. But there are only a few where the faller actually survives after leaping from a building. Sometimes it's a paraglider that saves them; other times, it's just a big squishy fat guy to land on. In keeping with this theme of "falling," here are this week's rental recommendations:

Vertigo (1958)


Perhaps the most notorious of the falling-from-building genre, Alfred Hitchcock's 128-minute masterpiece stars Jimmy Stewart as a private dick whose client throws herself off a tower and yet somehow reappears on the street a few weeks later. David Lynch has been emulating these films these last 30 years, but it was the rock band Faith No More that succeeded. Check out Jennifer Jason Leigh in their Vertigo homage music video for the 1997 single "Last Cup of Sorrow."

Buffalo Soldiers (2002)


Yet another rare film that's as good, if not better than the book. This film is about life and death on a US military base during peace time, and stars Joaquin Phoenix in one of his early standout roles. He's an amoral specialist, gifted at manipulation and extremely proficient in the trafficking of goods and drugs. He likes fast cars and he has nightmares of falling, which he does in the end, and survives to tell the tale.

There's Something About Mary (1998)


Toy dog jumps out window. Scene change. Toy dog in body cast. Kids under the age of 10 laugh. Nuff said.

Brazil (1985)


I really think that Terry Gilliam was a creature of the 1980s and this, of all his films, is the truest in its satirization of the time. This slapstick dystopian tale (evenly Vonnegut and Kafka) of a man struggling to break free from the constraints of an authoritarian bureaucracy. Jonathan Pryce plays the mild-mannered lead, while Robert De Niro steals the show as a mysterious super-plumber. It's three of the best moments in De Niro's career: the best killing (drowns Bob Hoskins in fecal matter), the best death (swallowed by newspaper) and the best escape (dives off a building...of course).

The Game (1997)


I call this a 'tweener film: a less notable film that is sandwiched between two others. In this case, David Fincher directed two incredible films, Se7en (1995) and Fight Club (1999). The Game came right in between. Starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, the film follows a corporate fat cat as he's thrust into a dangerous "game" that his brother signed him up for as a birthday present. What are the rules? The only one I can tell you for sure: He's got to jump off a building.