The Top Five Modern Small Screen Movies

It's summertime, and the movies are loud enough to burst your eardrums and jam-packed with explosions and car chases and gunfights. Which is just how we like our summer movies.

But if you need a bit of a break, it's worth remembering that there are, in fact, more than a few movies that are wildly entertaining even without having been touched by the Steven Spielberg angel or the Michael Bay devil. And even better, because these movies rely on small, quiet stuff like wit and humanity and a complete lack of explosions, they play just fine on your TV, so they're great for a night in.

(FYI: I stuck to fairly recent films when assembling this list. Any accounting of movies that are exciting even though they feature only people talking to one another fairly cannot exclude flicks like Casablanca or Duck Soup. But they weren't competing with Will Smith and Batman, either, so maybe they had things a little easier.)

So, best movies mostly about people talking to one another:

1.) This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

It's sex, dumb, and rock 'n' roll in Marty DiBergi's classic documentary about the legendary British band. Sure, the music is fantastic, but the brilliance is in all the small stuff DiBergi captures, like the look of utter density on Nigel Tufnel's face as he explains why his special-made amplifier is better than anyone else's.

2.) Truly Madly Deeply (1991)

Juliet Stevenson mourns her dead boyfriend, Alan Rickman ... and then he comes back to her in ghostly form, which leads to all sorts of new relationship issues, like whether he should ask first before he brings some ghost friends over. Ridiculously romantic, this is one of the sweetest, wisest movies ever made about love, and losing it.

3.) Memento (2000)

Yes, the backwards movie, in which Guy Pearce talks to lots of people, but can't remember from one scene to the next what they said, and hence can't see how they're scheming and manipulating him. But we can.

4.) Raising Arizona (1987)

Actually, there may be one or two teeny explosions here, but the real pleasures come in the wonderful quirkiness of the Coen Brothers' language -- "Edwina's insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase" -- which also happens to be gut-bustin' funny.

5.) Groundhog Day (1993)

Bill Murray is stuck in one place, with nothing to do but talk to the same people over and over again, about the same stuff over and over again, until he figures out how to talk about new stuff. Beautiful.


MaryAnn Johanson (email me)

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