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Brian’s “Hot 300” movie list

October 5th, 2010 · 55 Comments · Grateful Dead, Movies

This is an ever-evolving work-in-progress — last updated:  April 12th, 2024.

Every blue title is a link to the movie’s IMDb page — the industry-standard Internet Movie Database.

If this makes just one person see one great movie, it’ll be worth it.

 

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If you want you can click on any of these section titles and it will jump you right to the start of that particular list.  😉 
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1.  The Number-of-Times Watched Metric
2.  Comedies
3.  Dramas
4.  Biopics (non music) 
5.  Documentaries  (non music)
6.  Movies About Making Movies
7.  Movies about Politics
8.  Music Movies    (musicals, concerts, biopics, docs)
9.  Beat Generation Docs & Dramas
10. Trippy Movies
11. Disturbing Movies
12. Made-For-TV / Streaming Exceptions
13. By Auteur 
14. 300 More Movies “On Deck” for Inclusion

 

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The Number-of-Times Watched Metric

Four or More Viewings and Honest Assessments

The concept here is not what a person would necessarily think are “the greatest movies ever made” but rather a list of the movies actually watched all the way thru a minimum of four times — which I later expanded the parameter to include three times.

Seeing a movie twice is very different than seeing it three or four or more times.  We all see lots of movies once, then maybe a second time to see if we “got it” or maybe passively with a friend — but it’s when you intentionally watch a movie for a third and especially a fourth time that the film crosses a line into a special category.

Some say there’s no point in watching a movie twice.  Or they’re too busy.  To that I say — can you only look at a great painting once?  Or listen to a great song or read a great book only once?

The only reason movies make this list is based on the number times watched — not whether I want to say I liked it or not, or recommend it, or think it’s one of the great films of all time.  Those are different lists — for critics and academics and film institutes and such.

This is an Actually Watched List.  And it’s a game you can play as you fill in your own puzzle — make your own movie of your life’s movies.  What you’ve watched, not what you should have watched, or fib or pretend that you’ve watched, or wished you’d watched more than once.  I wouldn’t put “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on a Greatest Films list, or even want to admit I’ve watched it three times — but I know I have.  And that’s part of the discovery of going down this path.

You must have physically — and joyously (theoretically) — sat thru the entire movie, not just done it in your head, and not just watched it once then seen snippets a few times.

If you can’t remember the movie in great detail, you probably didn’t see it 3 or 4 or more times.  You should be able to recount the plot, the arc, lots of key scenes, the actors, and parts of the dialog in detail.  The movie should give you chills or goosebumps, or make you laugh yourself silly, or cry at some point — and in the best cases, several of the above.

Do Not list movies you’ve only seen twice!  It’s very tempting to embellish your memory.  You have to really think about it to confirm you’ve actually seen the whole thing 3 (or 4) times.
You could have seen a movie once or twice and it really stuck with you, but those don’t count.  To update the Jacqueline Susann novel / Kirk Douglas movie — Twice Is Not Enough.

Also — it really doesn’t count if you started to watch it a second time but then didn’t see it all the way thru! — we’ve all got lots of those!
Also — it doesn’t count if you just want to see the movie a third time.  If you’d like, you can start a “seen twice and wanna see again” list for those movies — as I’ve done at the end of this page.

Also — don’t worry that some movies make it on the list only because your all-movie cable network happened to be playing them in heavy rotation for months.  I would never have seen the great Cage & Travolta performances in “Face/Off” if it wasn’t on some movie network when I was homebound for a spell.

You might catch a few minutes flippin the channels one day, and go, “Hmm, this is actually pretty good.”  Then you make a point to watch it from the beginning, and then it’s so good, you watch it again.  And then once you get the rhythms of it, the different subtexts, and subliminal themes, and subtleties of performances, you can really enjoy watching it a third time as an insider playing in the orchestra and riding the score, hitting the cymbal-crashing peaks, and rising to the top with the solos while simultaneously keeping the backbeat with the supporting melody-players.  Do you want to hear Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” only once in your life?  There are those great rare moments in art where it all comes together.  Nobody’s ever even heard of his “1811 Overture” because it probably sucked.

And films are even harder to create than a symphony.  There are so many variables that all have to come together, including the weather — see Lost In La Mancha or Heart of Darkness, A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, or meddling producers — see Hollywood Ending.

You remember the first time you saw a movie — the discovery, the unfolding, the first impressions.
And you know if you saw it a second time — when you knew what was happening and what was coming.
But once you watch a movie for a third time, it crosses over into a special realm.  You, by choice, relish in it, dance with it, become friends with it.  Or maybe you realize you’ve now seen it enough — but it’s still in that exclusive club of multi-hour rides you’ve chosen to take more than twice.
And you know you’ve seen a movie four times or more because you’ve almost memorized it, played right along with it, became one with it.  This is what we’re talkin’ about.  😉 

Then there’s the Watched-A-Ridiculous-Amount-of-Times List.  These are the movies that have really become a part of you.

Also — Screen Size Does Matter.  I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: “You can’t really say you’ve seen a movie unless you’ve seen it on the big screen.  That’s what they’re made for.”  And I still stand by that.  But for me — and most people — usually the repeat viewings occur on a TV at home.  And that’s okay.

Also — there are lots of great movies not on this list cuz I didn’t like them enough to watch them more than twice — and there’s lots I just haven’t seen four times but I want to — say, Dr. Strangelove, Spellbound or Touch of Evil.

Also — older movies obviously have an advantage since they’ve been able to play over and over again on TV or wherever for so much of your lifetime.  Or you’ve actually got them on VHS, DVD or Blu-ray.

A few movies will also make anyone’s list because they were an old girlfriend or boyfriend’s favorite.  That’s okay, too.  If you’ve seen it 4 times, you’ve seen it 4 times.

The most important thing is to be honest in putting movies on the list and not editing the truth.  It makes a more interesting, fun and accurate picture.  😉

It’s useful to make this list for yourself as you’ll discover directors you didn’t know you liked so much — then you can check out or reconsider their other films.

If I were to teach a film course, these movies would be the curriculum.
Or are recommended movies for friends to see.  If everyone shared their lists, you’d have a great source of movies to see for when you can’t think of one.
It should also have the “Oh, Yeah!” factor — when somebody reads down the list they suddenly remember a movie they always wanted to see, or saw once and always wanted to see again.
The idea is — every one of these movies has to be great or I wouldn’t have watched it three or four times.  If you had passed on the movie for some reason, my hope is that you’ll reconsider.

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Brian’s Top 50 Movies — Watched-A-Ridiculous-Number-of-Times

The Maltese Falcon — 1941
The Treasure of The Sierra Madre — 1948

Beat The Devil — 1953
Rear Window — 1954
Rebel Without a Cause — 1955
N.Y., N.Y. — 1957
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof — 1958
Pull My Daisy — 1959
It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World — 1963

A Hard Day’s Night — 1964
Don’t Look Back — 1967
In The Heat Of The Night — 1967
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid — 1969
Woodstock — 1970
Jesus Christ Superstar — 1973
Paper Moon — 1973
The Sting — 1973
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — 1975

All The President’s Men — 1976
Star Wars — 1977
The Last Waltz — 1978
Being There — 1979
The Shining — 1980
‘Round Midnight — 1986
Goodfellas — 1990
My Cousin Vinny — 1992
The Player — 1992
Groundhog Day — 1993
True Romance — 1993
Forrest Gump — 1994
Fargo — 1996
Jackie Brown — 1997
The Last Time I Committed Suicide — 1997
Primary Colors — 1998
The Talented Mr. Ripley — 1999
Best In Show — 2000
Lucky Numbers — 2000
State & Main — 2000
Festival Express — 2003
Masked & Anonymous — 2003
Phil The Alien — 2004
Inglourious Basterds — 2009
The Social Network — 2010
Moneyball — 2011
The Wolf of Wall Street — 2013
The Imitation Game — 2014
Knives Out — 2019
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood — 2019
Hamilton — 2020
Babylon — 2022
Barbie — 2023


Plus — the TV exceptions —
Fawlty Towers
The Civil War series  (PBS, Ken Burns)
Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

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Note:  Movies below that have a few sentences of a ‘review’ have, generally speaking, been seen since 2020 when this page/list really got formalized and structured.

 

[format:   Title — year;  director;  writer (when notable);  some of the main actors;  notes.  (numbers of time seen.  “(4)” means “4 or more.”)]

Comedies   [118]

re: Comedies vs. Dramas categories — all comedies have a dramatic structure, and most dramas have some comedic relief.  When a film was a close call, I went with IMDb’s first categorization for it.  A handful of movies are listed here in both categories.

The Gold Rush — 1925;  written, directed by & starring Charlie Chaplin  B&W  (seen once) 
The Cocoanuts
— 1929;  Marx Brothers – Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and Margaret Dumont;  Florida real estate.  Based on the Brothers’ Broadway show.  First-ever use of overhead shot of dance choreography. B&W  (3)
City Lights — 1931;  written, scored, produced, edited, directed by & starring Charlie Chaplin.  Chaplin’s favorite of all his films; he developed it for 3 years.  He kept it a silent picture had become the norm.  He brought Albert Einstein to the L.A. premiere, and George Bernard Shaw to the London.   The highest-grossing film of 1931 in the U.S.  B&W   (seen once)

Duck Soup — 1933;  Leo McCarey;  Marx Brothers – Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo, and Margaret Dumont — Freedonia!  B&W  (4)
The Thin Man — 1934;  W.S. Van Dyke; written by Dashiell Hammett; William Powell & Myrna Loy; early classic climax scene with all suspects assembled in same room to reveal the murderer.  B&W  (3)
Modern Times — 1936;  produced, written, edited, scored and directed by & starring Charlie Chaplin;  Paulette Goddard.  The final major American film to use silent conventions like title cards – and Chaplin performing in pantomime.  The last title card ever to appear (thus the end of the silent era) was the Little Tramp saying “Buck up – never say die. We’ll get along!”  Although, Chaplin’s voice is heard on film for the first time — singing a nonsense lyric song in faux Italian.  Contains the assembly line scene that clearly spawned Lucy’s classic bit.  Great choreography and physical comedy by Chaplin.  Fred Astaire must’ve loved this guy.  Sort of – Orwell’s 1984 on film.  This could almost be listed under “Trippy Movies” … but those sorta need to be in color.  🙂  B&W  (seen once)

Arsenic and Old Lace — 1944;  Frank Capra;  Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre  B&W  (3)
Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein — 1948;  Charles Barton;  Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney;  Tarantino cited this as an influence on how to blend genres;  Jerry Garcia’s favorite movie and inspired his lifelong involvement with film.  It was his first sense of the bizarre and that there were weird things in this world.  You can sure see where Mel Brooks took his Young Frankenstein cues from.  Funny script, and Lou at some of his best.  I laughed out loud a few times watching it in 2021.  Comically campy ’40s acting with comically low-budget sets.  B&W  (3)
Here’s a great clip of Garcia reflecting on it —


Harvey — 1950; Henry Koster;  Jimmy Stewart’s classic twisted comedy.  I actually saw it on the stage in London in the early ’70s with Jimmy Stewart – and he got a standing ovation.  🙂  B&W  (seen twice) 
Beat The Devil
— 1953;  John Huston;  screenplay credit to Truman Capote, but he bailed in the middle of the madness and Huston, Bogie, Lorie & others made it up on the fly after that;  Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley.  I can’t believe these guys (Houston, Bogart, Jones) weren’t comedic actors & director. This is SO funny – if you look at it right.  Morley is Brilliant.  And the dialog is brilliant.  I would love to have this script.  This is one of my favorite movies of all time.  There’s also so many plot changes.  Great characterizations.  Jennifer Jones out-Marilyn’s Monroe in 1953, playing the most wonderfully dreamy and deluded blond.  The Talented Mr. Ripley is a kind of later version (although that’s really not a comedy).  B&W  (4)
Limelight — 1953;  written, directed by & starring Charlie Chaplin – plus he wrote all the music and won the Best Oscar for it;  Claire Bloom as the muse, Nigel Bruce, Buster Keaton, Norman Lloyd, and Chaplin’s son Sydney;  Chaplin’s last American-made movie.  Really good.  About the hope and love and art and the meaning of life.  Also about an aging clown facing the end of his career.  B&W  (seen once)
Some Like It Hot — 1959;  written & directed by Billy Wilder;  Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon.  B&W  (3)

It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World — 1963;  Stanley Kramer;  Buddy Hackett & Mickey Rooney, Ethel Merman & Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters (his first movie), Sid Caesar, Spencer Tracy (his 2nd last movie), Terry-Thomas, Phil Silvers, Dick Shawn — and cameos or small parts by Jimmy Durante (his last film), Don Knotts, Carl Reiner, Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, “Rochester”, Buster Keaton, Peter Falk, Jim Backus, Norman Fell, William Demarest, Charles Lane, Andy Devine, ZaSu Pitts, the Three Stooges!  The all-star cameo-rich casting was first pioneered by 1956’s Around The World In 80 Days. It was filmed for Cinerama — those extra-wide, curved screens.  It was the first film ever shown at the legendary Cinerama Dome in LA.  The original Cinerama version ran 202 minutes.  The version most of us saw in regular theaters was cut down to 163 minutes — fully 30 minutes less!  The 3-disc Criterion Collection edition has both versions, the original painstakingly restored frame by frame from uncovered footage.  (4)
The Comedy of Terrors — 1963;  Jacques Tourneur;  Vincent Price (great), Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone.  Bizarre funny black comedy parody of the horror genre; very much like Young Frankenstein, or Beat The Devil.  Soundtrack funny, too.   (1)
The Pink Panther — 1963;  written & directed by Blake Edwards;  Peter Sellers, David Niven, a young Robert Wagner, and two Sophia Loren-like beauties Claudia Cardinale and Capucine; and GREAT music by Henry Mancini.  (3)
Sunday In New York — 1963;  Peter Tewksbury;  Norman Krasna first wrote the Broadway play then the screenplay, and boy is it fantastic writing;  Jane Fonda & Cliff Robertson as brother & sister, Rod Taylor as the love interest, Robert Culp, Mia Farrow, Jim Backus;  great jazzy swing music by Peter Nero who has a great cameo leading the band in the nightclub (sounds like the Johnny Carson theme-song);  great filmmaking;  tons of Manhattan / Central Park location shooting circa 1963 including a great New York apartment as the main set;  how NYC looked just before the ’64 World’s Fair Kesey & the Bus went to – and local buses play a big role in the movie;  funny great movie and terrific warm positive love story.  (seen once)

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken — 1966;  Alan Rafkin;  Don Knotts!!  Dick Sargent.  Great comedy and performance by Don Knotts.  Classic supporting cast of ’60s staples — looks like it could be a Bewitched or Andy Griffith episode.  Don’t know any of their names — but recognize every one of their faces.  Great haunted house sets.  (4)
Casino Royale — 1967;  SIX different directors!  Peter Sellers, David Niven, Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, Orson Welles (+ co-director), John Huston (+ co-director), William Holden, Charles Boyer, George Raft, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Deborah Kerr, Jacqueline Bisset (but her one scene voice is looped by someone else), and “a Bondwagon of the most beautiful girls you ever saw” as the movie poster correctly claimed. James Bond spoof.  Incredible cast — but a total mess of a production & film.  Too many cooks – who were apparently cooked. Strife-&-ego-riddled and out-of-control.  Sellers was such an egomaniacal diva, he called in saying he didn’t feel like working one day, so the producer just fired him and they had to make do with whatever they’d already shot.  Apparently Orson Welles just hated Sellers, and for their long scene together at the Baccarat table they had to be shot with only one of them in the room at a time.  The film has rightly been compared to Cleopatra — it almost bankrupt 20th Century Fox.  Woody was so repulsed by the whole thing, he left mid-movie and they had to write him out of scenes.  Surreal & psychedelic, especially the production design.  Kind of a blend of Help, Dr. Strangelove, Sleeper, Head and Blazing Saddles, except not a lot of laughs.  (for me, 3 times in 2 hours)  Pretty much a scrambled disconnected mess of a movie.  Maybe this would work on acid, but I didn’t try it, and doubt it.  Despite universally bad reviews, the pull of James Bond, the star-studded cast and the naked psychedelic girl on the poster it ended up the 13th highest-grossing film of the year!  (seen once)
The Odd Couple — 1968;  Gene Saks;  Neil Simon;  Walter Matthau & Jack Lemmon, John Fielder  (4)
The Party — 1968;  screenplay & directed by Blake Edwards;  Peter Sellers, The Love Boat’s Gavin MacLeod in a small role, and classic ’60s/’70s Tonight Show / Johnny Carson blond Carol Wayne, and TV staple Steve Franken as the drunken waiter;  Henri Mancini music.  The Pink Panther director, star & composer reunited for this crazy ’60s party movie.  Sellars, playing an Indian actor, has very few lines.  It’s a Chaplinesque masterclass in physical comedy.  Filmed in Los Angeles in the summer of 1967 – so it’s prime time psychedelic ’60s, including a closet full of pot-smoking musicians.  Fantastic futuristic high-tech “sixties” home built as a set.  Largely improvised from a 50-page outline and filmed in sequence.  (seen twice)

M*A*S*H — 1970;  Robert Altman;  Ring Lardner Jr. screenplay (who hated all the improvisations and changes Altman made on the fly … and then happily accepted for the win for Best Screenplay Oscar);  Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, Tom Skerritt, Robert Duval, Sally Kellerman; and all in their first movies — Bud Cort, Gary Burghoff, Fred Williamson, John Schuck & Rene Auberjonois (who’s got more IMDb credits than anyone else in the movie!).  Renegade under-the-studio-radar filmmaking at its best.  Much of the cast came from a San Fransisco theater troupe.  Made on a shoestring $3.5 million budget – and came in under.  14 of the 30 speaking roles in the movie were by actors making their feature film debuts. They had a surgeon on set all shoot to make sure the operating rooms were accurate.  Deservedly highly-praised breakthrough movie for Altman.  Brilliant use of da Vinci’s Last Supper.  The lyrics to the Suicide is Painless song were written by Altman’s 14 year old son.  Altman said he got paid $70,000 for making the movie, and his son earned more than $1 million for co-writing the song.  🙂  (4)
The Out-of-Towners — 1970;  Arthur Hill;  Neil Simon wrote it;  Jack Lemmon & Sandy Dennis  (3) 
Harold and Maude — 1971;  Hal Ashby;  Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, music by Cat Stevens  (4)
Sleeper — 1973;  written & directed by Woody Allen;   Woody, Diane Keaton  (3)
Blazing Saddles — 1974;  cowriter (along with Richard Pryor), director, star & songwriter Mel Brooks; Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman, Burton Gilliam, John Hillerman, Don DeLuise, and Madeline Kahn (nominated for Best Supporting Oscar).  Also nominated for Best Editing and a Mel Brooks’ song!  Strange Count Basie cameo in the desert.  I don’t like humor based around racism or hearing white people say the N word over and over.  Plus it’s a Western.  This was absolutely unwatchable for me.  Other than Young Frankenstein, I’ve never found a Mel Brooks movie funny.  (seen once)
Young Frankenstein — 1974;  Mel Brooks;  screenwriters Mel Brooks & Gene Wilder;  Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Terri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Peter Boyle  B&W  (4)
Phantom of the Paradise — 1974;  written & directed by Brian De Palma;  Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper  (3)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail — 1975;  Terry Gilliam;  written by all of Monty Python;  Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Connie Booth, Carol Cleveland, Neil Innis  (4)
The Sunshine Boys —  1975;  dir. Herbert Ross;  funny Oscar-nominated screenplay by Neil Simon based his Broadway play;  Walter Matthau & George Burns (his first film in 36 years, won Best Actor Oscar), Richard Benjamin, and Howard Hesseman & F. Murray Abraham in bit parts;  best scenes are the two Sunshine Boys in Willy’s (Matthau’s) apt. where they rehearse and reminisce;  brilliant portrayal of aging entertainers and lifelong friends;  love the city vs. the country combative theme.  Somehow this movie always makes me feel good … about friends and life. color (with B&W opening) (4)
Silver Streak — 1976;  Arthur Hiller;  Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Jill Clayburgh, Patrick McGoohan, the always great Ned Beatty, Clifton James, Ray Walston, Scatman Crothers, Richard Kiel (the giant), Fred Willard. Henry Mancini’s music.  A mystery comedy adventure thriller set on a train.  The first of four pairings between Pryor & Wilder (Stir Crazy, See No Evil Hear No Evil, and Another You).  Set on an Amtrak, but the company feared bad publicity so it had to be filmed on the CPR in Canada.  Some good cinematography and editing, but a so-so comedy.  Script holes and cliches as a thriller.  I’d long heard good things about this and wanted to see, but can’t really recommend it.  Makes me want to watch The Sting (also with Ray Walston) again — an infinitely better version of a similar idea.  (seen once)
Annie Hall —  1977;  Woody Allen;  written by Woody Allen;  Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Colleen Dewhurst;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director & Screenplay for Woody, and Actress for Diane Keaton.   (4)
Oh, God!  — 1977;  Carl Reiner;  George Burns & John Denver, Teri Garr, Paul Sorvino  (seen twice) 
Slap Shot — 1977;  George Roy Hill;  Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean.  The classic hockey movie.  (seen twice) 
Animal House — 1978;  John Landis;  written by Harold Ramis;  John Belushi, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce  (4)
Up In Smoke — 1978;  Lou Adler & Tommy Chong;  Cheech & Chong classic  (seen twice)
Life of Brian — 1979;  Terry Jones;  written by and starring Monty Python: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin. A powerful, poignant, brilliant, surreal, silly, equal-opportunity offender.  This and Holy Grail were the peak of Python creations. Great score, sound editing, production design, and location shooting in Tunisia.  And Graham Chapman in the lead right after he got sober.  The Guardian, Channel 4 and Total Film have all raked it as the top comedy of all time.  (4)
Manhattan — 1979;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep  B&W  (3)

9 to 5 — 1980;  Colin Higgins;  Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman  (3)
The Blues Brothers — 1980;  John Landis;  written by Landis & Dan Aykroyd;  John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles  (4)
Caddyshack — 1980;  Harold Ramis;  written by Brian Doyle-Murray & Harold Ramis;  Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Ted Knight  (3)
The Gods Must Be Crazy — 1980;  written & directed by Jamie Uys;  starring N!xau, Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo  (4)

Stripes — 1981;  Ivan Reitman;  Bill Murray, John Candy, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, Nicholas Ray in last screen appearance cameo in final scene.   (3)
Tootsie — 1982;  Sydney Pollack;  Larry Gelbert story;  Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Geena Davis  (3)
Fast Times At Ridgemont High — 1982;  Amy Heckerling;  written by Cameron Crowe;  Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Ray Walston  (4)
Diner — 1982;  written & directed by Barry Levinson;  Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser, Daniel Stern, Ellen Barkin, Steve Guttenberg. The debut/break-out movie for everybody.  Levinson nominated for Best Original Screenplay.  Made in 1981 for $5 million (!)  (3)
Trading Places — 1983;  John Landis;  Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche  (4)
National Lampoon’s Vacation — 1983;  dir. Harold Ramis;  written by John Hughes;  Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quad, Imogene Coca  (4)
Spinal Tap — 1984;  Rob Reiner;  writers Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner;  starring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner, Fred Willard, Bruno Kirby, Fran Drescher  (4)
Zelig — 1983;  written & directed by and starring Woody Allen;  Mia Farrow;  Oscar nominated for Best Cinematography & Costume Design. Smart, interesting movie.  A funny mockumentary blending Woody into historic photographs & footage a la Forrest Gump ten years later.  Woody got New Yorker literati to appear talking about the fictional celebrity.  The footage of F. Scott Fitzgerald is only few seconds known to exist.  They have historic footage of the same block of Washington Square North (where I lived for 6 years) as Zelig’s Greenwich Village flat.  Just as “Rashomon” has become a noun meaning different points of view, “Zelig” is now used to refer to someone who is chameleon-like in any situation, and/or someone who knows everyone or has been everywhere.  both B&W & color  (seen twice)
Ghostbusters — 1984;  Ivan Reitman;  written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis;  Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis  (4)
Clue — 1985;  co-written & directed by Jonathan Lynn;  story & exec produced by John Landis;  Eileen Brennon, Tim Curry (who calls this his favorite of all his movies), Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren and Howard Hesseman (“Our lives are in danger you beatnik! 🙂 ) ;  killer cast and a great script;  based on the classic board game;  set in 1954;  exquisite production design;  everything was an elaborate set except the mansion exterior and the ballroom; three different endings / whodunits, with different endings shown in different theaters, but the DVD has all three; was prompted to watch it again in 2022 after it was talked about it on the Knives Out commentary.  Fun & funny movie.  See also, Neil Simon’s Murder By Death.  (seen twice)
National Lampoon’s European Vacation — 1985;  dir. Amy Heckerling; written by John Hughes;  Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo  (4)
Desperately Seeking Susan — 1985;  Susan Seidelman;  Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Aiden Quinn  (3)
Hannah and Her Sisters — 1986;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody, Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Barbara Hershey, Max Von Sydow, Maureen O’Sullivan, Lewis Black, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, J.T. Walsh, Julie Kavner  (3)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — 1986;  written & directed by John Hughes;  Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Jeffrey Jones  (3)
Club Paradise — 1986;  Harold Ramis;  written by Harry Shearer, Harold Ramis, Brian Doyle-Murray;  Robin Williams, Peter O’Toole, Rick Moranis & Eugene Levy {the two Barry’s}, Twiggy, Jimmy Cliff  (3)
Crocodile Dundee — 1986;  Peter Faiman;  Paul Hogan.  Lots of great NYC location shooting.  (seen twice) 
Throw Mama From The Train — 1987;  dir. Danny DeVito;  starring DeVito & Billy Crystal;  with Branford Marsalis & Rob Reiner in great bit parts.  Although ostensibly about a Hitchcockian double-murder criss-cross, it’s a funny (and I think comically accurate) movie about writing and writers.  (4)
Raising Arizona — 1987;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Frances McDormand  (3)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles — 1987;  written & directed by John Hughes;  John Candy & Steve Martin  (3)
A Fish Called Wanda — 1988;  Charles Crichton;  John Cleese, Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline.  Brilliant.  (4)
Beetlejuice — 1988;  Tim Burton;  Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Robert Goulet, Dick Cavett; Keaton’s only on screen 17 min., but with Burton’s permission, totally created the vibe of the movie, and is his favorite movie that he’s in.  (4)
Big Business — 1988;  Jim Abrahams;  Bette Midler & Lily Tomlin, Fred Ward.  Lots of it set in NYC, and really truly hilarious, but bad title.  Should have been called Twisted Sisters.  (4)
Funny Farm — 1988;  George Roy Hill;  Chevy Chase in a writer-in-the-country comedy.  (4)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels — 1988;  Frank Oz;  Michael Caine, Steve Martin, Glenne Headly  (3)
When Harry Met Sally — 1989;  Rob Reiner;  written by Nora Ephron;  Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby  (3)
The War of The Roses — 1989;  dir. Danny DeVito;  Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito  (4)

I Love You To Death — 1990;  Lawrence Kasdan; Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman, Joan Plowright, River Phoenix, William Hurt & Keanu Reeves  (3)
What About Bob? — 1991;  Frank Oz;  Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty  (4)
City Slickers — 1991;  Ron Underwood;  Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby, Daniel Stern, Jack Palance, Josh Mostel, David Paymer  (3)
My Cousin Vinny — 1992;  Jonathan Lynn;  Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio, Fred Gwynne.  Movie where Pesci motions to Topmei’s, “There’s more.”  (4)
Bob Roberts — 1992;  written & directed by & starring Tim Robbins;  plus Gore Vidal, Ray Wise (the guy from Twin Peaks & Good Night, And Good Luck);  tons of cameos, including a very young Jack Black;  Robbins wrote and performed his own songs, but would not let a soundtrack be released cuz he knew the crazy right would take the satirical songs and make them their anthem.  Done in mock-documentary style.  This could almost be on the Most Disturbing List, and is particularly scary post Iraq War II.  (3)
Dazed and Confused — 1993;  written, produced & directed by Richard Linklater;  Matthew McConaughey (in his film debut, and the source of his legendary “Alright, alright, alright,” which was improvised), Ben Affleck (his first film role), Adam Goldberg, Rory Cochrane, Jason London, the always great Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams (film debut), Milla Jonovich, Marissa Ribisi (film debut; Giovanni’s twin sister), Wiley Wiggins.  Although McConaughey plays a slightly older character, he’s actually younger than most of the cast.  Takes place over 24 hours — May 28/29, 1976 — in Austin Texas, and filmed entirely on locations.  I appreciated that this was not exploitive of women — that there weren’t gratuitous boobie shots like in most movies for and about teenagers.  A couldn’t-be-better mid-’70s soundtrack.  Boy, was this ever my life!  The music, the hair, the clothes, the puka shells, the whole gang camaraderie, the euphoric graduation mayhem.  One of Tarantino’s favorite films.  Some movies I watch and I’m counting the minutes till they’re over; others I want to go on forever.  This is the latter.  😉  This is a joyous movie there just aren’t enough of.  “All I’m saying is that I wanna look back and say that I did the best I could while I was stuck in this place — had as much fun as I could while I was stuck in this place — played as hard as I could while I was stuck in this place.”  (seen once)
Groundhog Day — 1993;  Harold Ramis;  Ramis also cowrote screenplay;  Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stanley Tobolowsky  (4)
Sleepless in Seattle — 1993;  written & directed by Nora Ephron;  Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan  (3)
Mrs. Doubtfire — 1993;  Chris Columbus;  Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein  (3)
The Hudsucker Proxy — 1994;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  Tim Robbins, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh — all brilliant performances. Plus Charles Durning, Peter Gallagher, John Mahoney, Bill Cobbs, Steve Buscemi (playing a Beatnik cafe owner), John Goodman (announcer).  A masterpiece of a film.  Really funny.  Those Coen brothers are certainly visionaries and surrealists.  (4)
The Birdcage — 1996;  Mike Nichols;  Elaine May screenplay;  Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman  (4)
The Cable Guy — 1996;  Ben Stiller;  Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick  (seen twice)
Flirting With Disaster — 1996
written & directed by David O. Russell;  Téa Leoni, Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Richard Jenkins, Josh Brolin.  (3)
Swingers — 1996;  Doug Liman;  written by & starring Jon Favreau;  Vince Vaughn, Heather Graham, Ron Livingston  (3)
Trees Lounge — 1996;  Steve Buscemi wrote, directed and stars;  Carol Kane, Anthony LaPaglia, Debi Mazar, John Ventimiglia  (3)
Waiting For Guffman — 1996;  Christopher Guest;  written by Guest & Eugene Levy;  Guest, Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, Larry Miller, Parker Posey, David Cross, Michael Hitchcock, Bob Balaban  (4)
Clockwatchers — 1997;  Jill Sprecher;  the great script is written by Jill & her sister Karen who were temps in New York;  Toni Collette, Lisa Kudrow, Parker Posey, Alanna Ubach, Bob Balaban, Debra Jo Rupp, Jamie Kennedy, Paul Dooley, Stanley DeSantis, O-Lan Jones — great casting and performances.  Really funny movie about temping that came out the same year as my book about temping The Temp Survival Guide, and the CBS comedy Temporarily Yours (see Made-For-TV Exceptions section).  (3)
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion — 1997;  David Mirkin;  Mira Sorvino & Lisa Kudrow, with great bit parts by Janeane Garofalo & Alan Cumming  (3)
The Big Lebowski — 1998;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Tara Reid  (4)
Pleasantville — 1998;  written & directed by Gary Ross;  Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Jeff Daniels  (3)
Being John Malkovich — 1999;  Spike Jonze;  written by Charlie Kaufman; John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich, Catherine Keener  (3)
Analyze This — 1999;  Harold Ramis;  Billy Crystal & Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Lisa Kudrow  (3)
Office Space — 1999;  written & directed by Mike Judge;  Ron Livingston, Jennifer Anniston, Gary Cole, Stephen Root, Diedrich Bader.  Judge did Beavis & Butthead – so it’s kind of that take on corporate life.  (3)
Eddie Izzard: Dress To Kill — 1999;  Lawrence Jordan;  one-man show written by & starring Eddie Izzard  (4)

Best In Show — 2000;  Christopher Guest;  written by Guest & Eugene Levy;  Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Ed Begley Jr., Stephen Miller, Jane Lynch, and my friend Fulvio Cecere in one scene!  (4)
— great oral history of Best in Showhttps://www.theringer.com/movies/2020/9/29/21479754/best-in-show-oral-history
Meet The Parents — 2000;  Jay Roach;  Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson  (4)
Lucky Numbers —  2000;  Nora Ephron;  written by Adam Resnick (Death To Smoochy, SNL, Letterman, Larry Sanders Show);  John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth.  You can read my review of it here.  (4)
High Fidelity — 2000;  Stephen Frears;  a very relatable fourth wall-inhabiting John Cusack (also co-screenwriter), the quintessential Jack Black role (who the director had no idea of until he turned up on set), beautiful Catherine Zeta Jones, a perfectly awkward Todd Louiso, a sultry Lisa Bonet, the always adorably quirky Joan Cusack, a goofily pompous Tim Robbins, Iben Hjejle, Joelle Carter, Lili Taylor, Sara Gilbert, and a Bruce Springsteen cameo.  Brilliant script — reset from the London of the novel to Cusack’s home of Chicago — with perfect casting.  Besides the killer soundtrack, incidental music by Howard Shore.  Probably the second greatest music–comedy after Spinal Tap.  It came from a novel, and also became both a short-lived Broadway musical and a one-season TV series on Hulu.  (4)
Zoolander — 2001;  written & directed by Ben Stiller;  Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Jerry Stiller  (3)
The Curse of The Jade Scorpion — 2001;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody Allen, Helen Hunt  (4)
Haiku Tunnel — 2001;  written & directed by Jacob & Josh Kornbluth;  starring Jacob & Josh Kornbluth.  Very low budget indi film, but great – twisted & funny.  (3)
Hollywood Ending — 2002;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody, Téa Leoni, Treat Williams, George Hamilton, Tiffani Thiessen, Debra Messing as a wonderful ditz, and Beat pal Peter Gerety as Woody’s shrink.  Great script & filmmaking.  A movie about Woody making a movie . . . and then he goes blind.  Classic stuff.  (4)
Showtime — 2002;  Tom Dey;  Robert De Niro & Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, Alex Borstein  (3)
Luck — 2003;  Peter Wellington;  Luke Kirby, Sarah Polley;  Canadian movie about gambling at the Canada-Russia ’72 hockey summit.  (3)
Phil The Alien — 2004;  written, directed by & starring Rob Stefaniuk;  Jason Jones, Nicole de Boer, Sean Cullen, Graham Greene, Boyd Banks;  funny-cool Canadian comedy about an alien landing in and infiltrating backwoods Canada. The concept, the Phil characterization, the script (especially the first 2 acts), the inexplicable casting, the cinematography, the soundtrack, the costuming, the location choices, the accurate portrayal of lake-country Canada … it’s fantastic! This is Monty Python-twisted, but SO Canadian.  (4)
The Ladykillers — 2004;  written & directed by the Coen Brothers (the first time they’re both credited as directors);  Tom Hanks, early & crazy J.K. Simmens, Marlon Wayans, George Wallace, Stephen Root, and Irma P Hall, the old black woman in the most memorable role of her 100 credits.  Incredible cinematography and art direction.  Smart & effective American translation of a British comedy into an American one.  Fantastic & funny movie.  (4)
The Aristocrats — 2005;  Paul Provenza (and Penn Jillette);  featuring nearly every comedian you’ve ever heard of, but the key & funniest ones I remember are: Gilbert Gottfried, Bob Saget, Drew Carey, Sarah Silverman, Paul Reiser, George Carlin, Andy Dick, Martin Mull, Mario Cantone (as Liza Minelli), Kevin Pollak (as Christopher Walkin), Eric Meed the card trick guy, and South Park.  (4)
Wedding Crashers — 2005;  David Dobkin;  Owen Wilson & Vince Vaughn, plus Christopher Walken, Rachel McAdams, Jane Seymour, Isla Fisher, Bradley Cooper, Henry Gibson, Rebecca De Mornay  (3)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin — 2005;  cowritten & directed by Judd Apatow;  cowritten by & starring Steve Carell;  Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan, Jane Lynch  (3)
Hot Fuzz — 2007;  Edgar Wright (who I just discovered watching this, is a fan-fuckin-tastic filmmaker!);  brilliant funny script written by Wright and star Simon Pegg;  with main cop co-star Nick Frost, a great Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, small cameos by Steve Coogan & Bill Nighy, an uncredited & masked Cate Blanchett as Pegg’s girlfriend, and director Peter Jackson as the Santa Claus who stabs Pegg’s hand.  Great comedy about cops in England.  I laughed out loud about 15 times.  Part of the filmmakers comedy “Cornetto Trilogy.”  Tons of great location shooting in small-town England.  Everything about this film is brilliantly done.  Story, script, casting, cinematography, editing, sound editing, locations.  And it’s funny.   Frequent use of Wright’s classic & signature crash zooms — fast zoom-ins, also employed by Darren Aronofsky & Tarantino. There’s a TON of homages and references to other movies.  No wonder Tarantino, Peter Jackson, Rian Johnson & Kevin Smith are friends with this guy!   Funny press tour documentary — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbJQa1M4LpM&ab_channel=LEKHANHProductions  (4) 
Tropic Thunder — 2008;  written & directed by and starring Ben Stiller;  Robert Downey Jr., Tom Cruise (who’s hysterically, historically funny in a small supporting role), Matthew McConaughey, Jack Black, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Steve Coogan.  Funny movie!  Would love to have seen it in a theater full of laughing people!  Both the commentaries on the DVD are GREAT including Downey doing his in character from the movie.  (4)


21 Jump Street
2012;  Phil Lord & Christopher Miller;  from an original story by Jonah Hill; Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Dave Franco, Brie Larson, Rob Riggle, Chris Parnell, Nick Offerman, Ellie Kemper, with a cameo by Johnny Depp (from the original series).  Great cast, all playing deadpan comedy to the hilt.  I’ve watched it twice, and it IS funny and well written.  Great and funny drug trip sequence.  (seen twice)
Ted
— 2012;  written, directed & voiced by Seth MacFarlane;  Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton  (3)
The Internship — 2013;  Shawn Levy;  original story and script co-writer and lead Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Aasif Mandvi, Rose Byrne, Max Minghella (in both the Google & Facebook movies!), Dylan O’Brien, B.J. Novak, Josh Brener, Josh Gad, with great cameos by Will Farrell, John Goodman, Rob Riggle & Gary Anthony Williams.  Old guys interning at Google.  Great premise, script and execution.  Inspiring theme about being positive and following your dreams and about how oddballs are okay.  Includes Harry Potter homage with the “quidditch” sport with brooms and balls thru hoops.  Fantastic club party scene.  Such echoes of my years at MTV.  The director said on the (highly recommended) commentary that roughly 20% of the movie is ad-libbed improved.  He also says no money exchanged hands between Google and the film company.  Google Creative Labs made the end credits, which are one of the most innovated & unique in movie history.  The director’s mantra for the movie: “Everybody’s searching for something.”  (seen twice)
This Is The End — 2013;  written & directed by Seth Rogan & Evan Goldberg;  James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogan, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Channing Tatum and a TON of cameos. A feast of L.A. party people — with a heavy dose of Canadians.  All-star surreal BizarroWorld end-of-the-world comedy.  Insane shit . . . that was one of the biggest-grossing movies of 2013. Entirely set in L.A., but entirely filmed in New Orleans.  James Franco’s house (where most of the action takes place) is a set built for the movie.  The only film combo featuring the top three “stoner” actors all riffing off each other — Cheech & Chong + 1 — James Franco, Seth Rogan (who co-wrote & co-directed) & Jonah Hill.  Then add to that, Danny McBride who the cast all said was the funniest guy on set.  Then put it all on top of a kind-of Orwellian / H.G. Wells script.  (seen twice)
A Million Ways To Die In The West — 2014;  written & directed by Seth MacFarlane;  with Seth, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris  (seen twice)
Spy — 2015;  produced, written & directed by Paul Feig;  Melissa McCarthy (who, I can’t think of a funnier comedic actress in 2021), Jude Law, action film staple Jason Statham, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne.  Funny comedy – brilliant comedic spoof on James Bond / action movies.  This is the best script I’ve seen manifested in quite a while.  Great filmmaking: perfect casting, rock n roll editing, tone, pacing, cinematography, beautiful location shooting (Paris, Rome, Budapest), special effects and stunts.  Paul Feig comes from a Freaks & Geeks, The Office, Arrested Development background.  Highly recommended.  (seen once)
The Nice Guys — 2016;  directed & co-written by Shane Black;  genuinely funny action-comedy buddy pic set in 1977 with Russell Crowe & Ryan Gosling; a young and absolutely great Margaret Qualley (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood), Kim Basinger.  To-die-for ’70s funk soundtrack.  Smart & really funny script.  Maybe I was just in a good mood, but I laughed out loud multiple times.  “That old lady’s got Coke bottles for glasses.  Paint a mustache on a Volkswagen and she says ‘Boy that Omar Sharif sure runs fast.'” 🙂  Great performances by normally dramatic actors, including Gosling doing a perfect scared Lou Costello at one point.  And all with pitch-perfect mid-’70s production design — set in the L.A. porn world, so obvious shades of Boogie Nights.  Plus some subtle sweet nods to The Rockford Files and Pulp Fiction.  This ain’t Citizen Kane, but when you want something light that’s great, this’ll make you smile.  (seen once)
Mascots — 2016; directed & co-written by Christopher Guest (other writer Jim Piddock) – Michael Hitchcock, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, Ed Begley Jr., Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban, Harry Shearer, Chris O’Dowd, Chris Guest reprising his Corky St. Clair character from Waiting For Guffman, Jim Paddock, Zach Woods, Sarah Baker, Susan Yeagley, Don Lake and a bunch of other great comic actors.  Very much repeats Chris’s Best In Show format — a faux documentary with much of the same cast about a quirky crazy competition involving eccentric weirdos, in this case about small town sports team mascots.  Manitoba is one of the ‘small town’ locations, although they didn’t actually shoot there.   A Netflix original. (seen twice) 

Barbie — 2023; co-written (with husband Noah Baumbach) & directed by Greta Gerwig;  Margot Robbie (who pushed for its creation and also produced it) & Ryan Gosling;  with supporting roles by Kate McKinnon (who’s *great* as Weird Barbie!), America Ferrera, Will Farrell, Michael Cera, Rhea Perlman, and narrated by Helen Mirren.  Really fun, funny, twisted, silly, smart, camp movie that’s pretty to look at.  Shades of La La Land not only with Ryan Gosling, but the surreal visually wild dance numbers.  Movies about dolls coming to life aren’t really in my go-to wheelhouse, but I wanted to see this because of the colorful art direction, and the indie darling creators, and that both Margot Robbie & Ryan Gosling so often knock it outta the park.  I scanned the critic reviews then clicked on the Metacritic User Reviews and I’ve never seen the kind of negative reaction to any movie I’ve ever looked into!  A bunch of people were giving it 0 out of 10!  Then I found out about the reich-wing “review bombing” campaign against it by conservatives and anti-feminists, which of course made me start rooting for it.  So, I saw it, and it’s definitely a chick flick.  I often wonder how women respond to (put up with?) so many movies that have barely a female character in them.  It was nice to experience the tables flipped.  This is clearly a movie by, for and about women — certainly nothing wrong with that, and there should be a lot more of them.  I haven’t yet seen the other weekend opener Oppenheimer, but I bet that’s mostly about men.  I hope every woman who has the desire to see this, does.  It’s certainly a women’s empowerment movie — a fun **lighthearted** women’s empowerment movie.  I enjoyed the surreality of it, and the blending of fantasy worlds and the Real World.  It’s sort of The Twilight Zone with Jim Gaffigan G-rated comedy.  Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor for both Ryan Gosling & America Ferrera, the Terry Gilliam-like Best Production Design, as well as plus Costumes, and Billie Eilish won Best Original Song for Billie Eilish.  It has a great soundtrack including Cyndi Lauper, the Indigo Girls, the Spice Girls & others — but, surprisingly, no Pink!  It’s so absurd that there’s any backlash against this happy cotton candy of a film — especially over China which it has absolutely NOTHING to do with.  The opening weekend brought in the highest gross in history for a woman director with $162M.  Fun movies with women’s themes should be made more often!  (4)

 

Dramas    [146]

The Wizard of Oz — 1939;  Victor Fleming;  Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan  B&W and color.  (4)
Citizen Kane —  1941;  Orson Welles;  screenwriters Orson Welles & Herman Mankiewicz;  Orson Welles, James Cotton, Agnes Moorehead  B&W  (3)
The Maltese Falcon — 1941;  John Huston’s directorial debut;  written by Dashiell Hammett & John Huston;  Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor (an early wild woman Prankster of Hollywood who was having an affair with director Huston during filming) and Sydney Greenstreet in his movie debut (and his only Oscar nomination).  John’s father Walter Huston makes an uncredited cameo as a good luck gesture towards his son’s debut.  Leonardo DiCaprio owns one of the three Maltese falcons used in the movie, the most recent one sold at auction for $4 million (from a movie with a total original budget of $300,000), and he brought it to the set of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood where it can be seen in the rare book store Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate) goes to buy Tess of the d’Urbervilles.  John Huston, Humphrey Bogart & Peter Lorre later made a Bizarroworld send-up of Maltese Falcon with Robert Morley in the Sydney Greenstreet role called Beat The Devil (also on this film page).  B&W  (3)
It’s A Wonderful Life — 1946;  Frank Capra;  James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Frank Albertson  B&W  (3)
Miracle on 34th Street — 1947;  George Seaton;  Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, young Natalie Wood  B&W  (3)
The Treasure of The Sierra Madre — 1948;  John Huston;  Huston and the mysterious B. Traven screenplay;  Huston’s father, Walter Huston, won Best Supporting Actor;  plus Huston won for both directing and screenplay
For me it was one of those movies I had to see more than once to appreciate.  I started watching it once or twice and found it REEEALLY boring — these old farts trudging around the desert and pawing in the dirt. Whoopy! was it actually filmed in slow motion?
Then . . . ah, Then . . . on the 2nd or 3rd try all the pieces came together and now i recognize its mastery and why it’s one of the greatest films ever made.  The original story, perhaps dating back to Chaucer, who could’ve picked it up from somebody else.  Maybe it’s a lost Homer epic.  The story is eternal.  Like “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — how greed can overpower an otherwise good man.  How some, in the face of wealth, become a-holes, and others always retain a clear vision of what’s important in life (Howard/Walter). which kind of person are you?  We all think, as Dobbs/Bogart did, that we would never become morally corrupted — yet we’ve seen in the real world (and as depicted in this movie) how that happens.
The arc of the Dobbs character is a classic in 2-hour cinema, and how Bogart portrays the transition from sanity and good-will into madness, greed & murder is up there with the greatest performances of any actor ever. the leprechaun magic of Walter Huston.  The authenticity of the location shooting, including all the extras and bit roles. the depth, detail and polish of the script. the torn, sweat-soaked costumes. the fabulous music that mutates as the characters do.
If it was a standard western or movie in general, it all would have taken place in the first town and been about how they exacted revenge from the unscrupulous businessman who rips them off — the workers against the corporation.
But then the characters are taken beyond that to where they form their own limited partnership — and how some people turn out to be good and some don’t.   It’s life.
If only we got to watch our own life movie several times until we got it.  But since we can’t, you have another shot at this movie.  It took my reincarnation as a viewer to finally get it right.
“It wouldn’t be that way with me. I swear it wouldn’t.  I’d take only what I set out to get.”
😉
Boy, would this be a great movie to see the alternate takes from!
And think how Walter Huston’s performance pushed Bogart.
Top 10 movie.  B&W  (4)

A Streetcar Named Desire —  1951;  Elia Kazan;  Tennessee Williams;  Marlon Brando, Vivian Lee, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden.  B&W  (4)
The Wild One — 1953;  Laslo Benedek;  Marlon Brando (riding his own Triumph motorcycle), Lee Marvin (as the leader of The Beetles!), Mary Murphy (who sorta tames Brando), and Alvy Moore who went on the play Hank Kimbell in Green Acres ITALICS (1965–71).  Brando wrote of this movie in his autobiography: “More than most parts I’ve played in the movies or onstage, I related to Johnny, and because of this, I believe I played him as more sensitive and sympathetic than the script envisioned. There’s a line in the picture where he snarls, ‘Nobody tells me what to do.’ That’s exactly how I’ve felt all my life.The most famous exchange in the movie, “What are you rebelling against?” — “What have you got?” was first spoken by a member of the real biker gang members they hired to play themselves, and then incorporated into the script. The boppin’ pre-rock ‘n’ roll jazz score was by Julliard-trained normally-classical composer Leith Stevens. B&W  (4)
Dial M For Murder1954;  Alfred Hitchcock;  from a great crime-mystery-thriller stage play (and screenplay) by Frederick Knott; gorgeous Grace Kelly (the first of 3 she made with Hitch), Ray Milland, Robert Cummings (as the American mystery writer), John Williams (as the inspector, reprising his Tony-winning Broadway performance of the role).  Originally filmed in 3D, hence some of the odd placement of props in the extreme foreground. (3)
Rear Window — 1954;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Jimmy Stewart & Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr.  B&W (4)
East of Eden — 1955;  Elia Kazan;  from John Steinbeck book;  James Dean, Raymond Massey, Julie Harris, Burl Ives.  James Dean’s first movie — filmed in the summer of 1954 when he was 23, and the only one released while he was still alive.  Lots of location shooting in Salinas and Monterey, California.  Kazan’s first movie shot in color.  Steinbeck’s on the record liking the film, casting and performances.  When he visited the set and first met Dean, he exclaimed, “Jesus Christ, he IS Cal!”  With the unhappy dysfunctional family and struggling farm life story, this is my least favorite of Dean’s three pictures.  (3)
Rebel Without A Cause — 1955;  Nicholas Ray;  original story by Nicholas Ray;  James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Dennis Hopper  (4)
Giant — 1956;  George Stevens;  James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Dennis Hopper  (3)
The Man Who Knew Too Much — 1956;  Alfred Hitchcock;  James Stewart & Doris Day. (4)
12 Angry Men — 1957;  Sidney Lumet;  Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, John Fielder, Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall, Ed Begley Sr., and a young Jack Klugman  (3)
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof —  1958;  Richard Brooks;  Tennessee Williams’ play;  Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Judith Anderson.  In the middle of filming, Liz Taylor’s husband Mike Todd died in a plane crash.  What an incredible performance she delivered in the middle of grief.  Including while playing a woman whose father-in-law, Big Daddy, was dying.  It’s all about the acting.  And sex.  (4)
North By Northwest — 1959;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Gary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau — GREAT script and cinematography – great Manhattan location shots circa 1958; great Mount Rushmore shots.  (4)

Psycho — 1960;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam.  Hitch hated location shooting.  He wanted complete control of the shots.  Every scene except Marion buying the used car was shot on the Universal backlot.  Hitch planted rumors in Hollywood about the casting of the mother. 🙂  B&W  (4)
Swiss Family Robinson — 1960;  Ken Annakin;  loosely based on an 1812 novel;  John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, John MacArthur, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran.  Largely filmed on locations in Trinidad and Tobago.  The movie had a big influence on George Lucas, and he revamped several scenes into his Star Wars movies.  A rare widescreen Panavision movie for the time.  This was sure a big movie for little boys (like me) in the ’60s.  Fantastic tree house that I tried to build in my backyard and have kind-of always been looking for ever since seeing this.  I’ve never seen it in writing, but there has to be some connection between the success of this movie and Gilligan’s Island four years later.  The movie is the very manifestation of Disney’s corny whitewashed Father Knows Best-type family programming, and maybe a bit politically incorrect, and was made before laws protecting animals during filming, but it’s still a helluva rustic fantasy world and adventure they created.  Funny — I remembered the battle with the pirates as the main part of the movie, but it’s only the last 15 minutes!  (4)
Dr. No — 1962;  Terence Young;  Sean Connery, Ursula Andress.  The first in the James Bond franchise.  (3)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — 1966;  Mike Nichols;  Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis.  The brilliant mesmerizing Shakespearian heavyweight rollercoaster based on Edward Albee’s Tony Award-winning Best Play.  All his words of the play were the script, except for 2 lines, after the screenwriter who was paid and credited and delivered a disaster was still given writing credit.  Mike Nichols’ directorial debut. (!) Liz Taylor had never rehearsed for a film performance before in her life — until Mike Nichols made all four of them work it up for 3 solid weeks.  The four actors were all nominated for Oscars.  Liz & Sandy won, plus for Best Cinematography, Art Direction & Costumes.  This film drove a stake into the heart of film censorship and is kind of in a class of its own.  Or in whatever class is the top of all movies ever made.  B&W  (4)

George & Martha’s house on the Smith College campus in Northampton, Mass. (taken post-LCK, October, 2015) All the rest of the exteriors were also shot around the house on the campus.


In The Heat of The Night — 1967;  Norman Jewison (Torontonian);  edited by Hal Ashby;  Sidney Pottier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Anthony James (creepy diner guy);  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Actor for Steiger, Screenplay, Editing and Sound.  Hal Ashby’s only Oscar win (for Best Editing).  “They call me Mr. Tibbs.”  This is such a masterpiece, but so many people don’t know it.  Just tonight I sent out an email to get people to catch the PBS airing of it, and a few did, but one write back asking me if this was a “cult classic”?!  🙂  I’ve watched it many times – the next time you do, dig and study the ancillary music – it’s all Quincy Jones, and all the piano playing is Ray Charles, the organ by Billy Preston, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk on sax.  Also listen for the diversity and both musical styles and instrumentation.  The music got nominated for a Grammy but crazilly not an Oscar.  This is an amazing movie for blind people.  It almost sounds as good at it looks.  (4)

The Graduate — 1967;  Mike Nichols;  Buck Henry & Calder Willingham from a novel by Charles Webb;  Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, and Norman Fell, writer Buck Henry in a bit part.  (4)
Cool Hand Luke — 1967;  Stuart Rosenberg;  Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin  (3)
The Dirty Dozen — 1967;  Robert Aldrich;  Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, Donald Sutherland, Trini Lopez  (3)
2001: A Space Odyssey — 1968;  Stanley Kubrick;  Kubrick screenplay from Arthur C. Clarke novel;  Keir Dullea  (3)
The Planet of The Apes — 1968;  Franklin Shaffner;  screenplay cowritten by Rod Serling;  Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, and some right-wing gun-pimping prick  (4)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang — 1968;  Ken Hughes;  Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes  (4)
Midnight Cowboy — 1969;  John Schlesinger;  Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Brenda Vaccaro, Sylvia Miles;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director for Schlesinger, and Screenplay.  (3)
Easy Rider — 1969;  Dennis Hopper;  written by Hopper, Peter Fonda & Terry Southern;  starring Hopper & Fonda, early breakout role by Jack Nicholson, Karen Black  (3)
Airport — 1970;  adapted (from Arthur Hailey’s novel) & directed by George Seaton;  from Arthur Hailey novel;  Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy, Jacqueline Bisset (25 yrs old), Helen Hayes (age 70, deservedly won Best Supporting Actress Oscar), Jean Seberg (Breathless), Van Heflen (bomber, his final film role), Maureen Stapleton, Barbara Hale, Lloyd Nolan, Larry Gates, Whit Bissell, Gary Collins, and Pat Priest (better known as Marilyn Munster, sitting behind Helen Hayes).  Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Costumes (Edith Head), Original Score (Alfred Newman’s last), and Maureen Stapleton for Best Supporting.  Great split screen effects.  Universal thought it would be a dud but it ended up being the 2nd highest grossing film of 1970 (after Love Story).  A staple of my childhood.  Saw this many times in the theater and we watched it as a family every time it was on TV.  My mom loved Helen Hayes, I loved Jacqueline Bisset. 🙂  Funny — they talk to the Toronto airport a bunch in the film.  (4)
Little Big Man — 1970;  Arthur Penn;  Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George, Martin Balsam, William Hickey  (3)
The French Connection — 1971;  William Friedkin;  Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider & a buncha badguys.  Deservedly won Oscars for Best Picture, Director for Friedkin, Actor for Hackman, Screenplay, and Editing.  And the music by Don Ellis is great.  Poppy Doyle in the porkpie hat.  Shot almost entirely on locations in New York City circa 1970.  I love that there’s a street hockey game at night during the stakeout under the Brooklyn Bridge.  🙂  (4)
A Clockwork Orange — 1971;  Stanley Kubrick;  Kubrick wrote screenplay from Anthony Burgess novel;  Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee  (3)
Happy Birthday Wanda June — 1971;  Mark Robson;  written by Kurt Vonnegut;   Rod Steiger, Susannah York, William Hickey;  Steiger & Hickey give amazing performances.  (4)
Cabaret — 1972;  Bob Fosse;  Liza Minelli, Joey Grey, Michael York  (4)
The Candidate — 1972;  Michael Ritchie;  Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, Allan Garfield, Mike Barnicle, and a gorgeous Karen Carlson.  (4)
The Poseidon Adventure — 1972; Ronald Neame;  a great Gene Hackman, a touching Shelley Winters, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons (who turned out to be a pretty good actor!), Jack Albertson, an accent-challenged Roddy McDowell, Pamela Sue Martin, Leslie Nielsen, Stella Stevens, Arthur O’Connell.  Waddy Wachtel is the guitarist in the onboard band – he’d later go to play with Dylan, Keith Richards and a ton of others.  Nominated for 10 Oscars, won for Best Visual Effects and Best Song (The Morning After, which soon became a #1 hit for Maureen McGovern.)  Incredible upside-down art direction, creative cinematography, and a pretty good script.  The highest grossing film of 1973.  (I know I bought tickets several times. 🙂 )  Some of the pre-disaster footage was shot aboard the Queen Mary.  I was pretty wide-eyed and on-the-edge-of-my-seat watching it for the first time in nearly 50 years in 2021.  (4)
Deliverance — 1972;  John Boorman;  writer James Dickey;  Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox  (3)
Sleuth — 1972;  Joseph Mankiewicz;  written by Anthony Schaffer;  Lawrence Oliver, Michael Caine  (4)
The Sting — 1973;  George Roy Hill;  Paul Newman, Robert Redford, a riveting Robert Shaw, Charles Durning (who’s in six movies on this page!), Ray Walston, Eileen Brennon, Harold Gould;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director for Hill, and quite deservingly – Screenplay, Art Direction, Costumes (Edith Head – won her 8th & final Oscar), Editing and Music by Marvin Hamlisch (via Scott Joplin).  I’ve never forgotten watching live Liz Taylor’s announcement of it for Best Picture.  And upon 2020 reviewing – don’t miss the cars!  (4)
Paper Moon 1973;  Peter Bogdanovich;  Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn, John Hillerman (in 2 brother roles), Burton Gilliam’s film debut, and Randy Quaid in a bit part.  Tatum won the Oscar, the youngest person ever in a competitive category.  Madeline Kahn was also nominated in the same category.  Also deservedly nominated for Best Screenplay.  Set in the depression, and filmed largely on locations in Missouri and Kansas.  Brilliant cinematography by Laszlo Kovaks.  Great film in every regard.  When this played in the Gimli Theater in the summer of 1973, I saw it on Friday night … and went back again Saturday.  B&W  (4)
Live and Let Die — 1973;  Guy Hamilton;  Roger Moore, Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto  (3)
American Graffiti — 1973;  George Lucas;  Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Wolfman Jack, Harrison Ford.  Set in 1962.  (3)
The Paper Chase — 1973;  James Bridges;  Timothy Bottoms, John Houseman, Lindsay Wagner, Edward Hermann  (3)

The Towering Inferno — 1974;  John Guillermin, action sequences directed by Irwin Allen;  Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, Gregory Sierra (that lanky, balding Puerto Rican actor from Barney Miller and Hill Street Blues), and Mike Lookinland (Bobby Brady). The pair of cinematographers, Fred Koenekamp & Joseph Biroc, won the Oscar, and they were pretty imaginative, thoughtful and versatile, but rewatching this for the first time since the mid-’70s, I sure liked this movie a lot more when I was 13. 🙂  Didn’t notice until viewing it again nearly 50 years later, but there are huge plot holes in that the fire that originally started could have been easily put out with the fire hoses on the floor; and then there were all these explosions in a basically empty office tower with nothing explodable in it.  It’s kind of a ridiculous, implausible, melodramatic and badly paced script.  There are 85 “Goofs” listed on its IMDb page.  How did we fall for this stuff? 🙂  All that said, there are a couple of real seat-of-your-pants suspenseful moments.  And, according to IMDb, it was the highest-grossing movie of 1974.  But no question — it’s a whole different movie to experience post the World Trade Centers on 9/11.  (4)
Jaws — 1975;  Stephen Spielberg;  Peter Benchley novel & screenplay; Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Schnieder, Robert Shaw.  The first movie to gross $100 million at the box office.  (4)
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest — 1975;  Miloš Foreman;  based on parts of the novel by Ken Kesey;  Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, Scatman Crothers;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director for Miloš!, Actor for Jack, Actress for Louise Fletcher, and Screenplay.  (4)
Taxi Driver — 1976;  Martin Scorsese;  Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle.  One of the three movies Tarantino cites as his Best Three ever made (along with Howard Hawks Rio Bravo and De Palma’s Blow Out).   (3)
Network — 1976;  Sidney Lumet;  written by Paddy Chayefsky (winning his third Best Screenplay Oscar);  Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway & Beatrice Straight all won Best Actor Oscars, but Finch died of a heart attack before receiving his for becoming Howard Beale. This and A Streetcar Named Desire are the only 2 films in history to win 3 acting Oscars (!) — and as of 2021 it’s the last film to receive 5 acting nominations.  Beatrice Straight’s 5 mins & 2 seconds of screen time is the shortest-ever Oscar-winning performance.  Plus: William Holden, Robert Duvall & Ned Beatty are all drop-dead brilliant.  Also Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, and Holden & Beatty for Acting.  Aaron Sorkin has cited the script as a big influence on his screenwriting.  Love the name of the fictional network — UBS. 🙂  (3)
Star Wars1977;  George Lucas;  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness  (4)
Kramer vs. Kramer1979;  screenplay & directed by Robert Benton;  Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director for Benton, Actor for Hoffman, Actress for Streep, and Screenplay.  (3)
Being There1979;  Hal Ashby;  novel & screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski;  Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden  (4)
Apocalypse Now1979;  directed and cowritten by Francis Ford Coppola;  Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duval, Dennis Hopper  (4)
Return of the Secaucus Seven1979;  written & directed by John Sayles;  John Sayles, David Strathairn, this movie is widely credited as the inspiration for The Big Chill, which many say was just a rip-off of this Sayles film.  (3)

The Shining — 1980;  Stanley Kubrick;  Stephen King book, Kubrick screenplay;  Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers  (4)
Carny — 1980;  written & directed by Robert Kaylor;  Jodie Foster, Gary Busey, Robbie Robertson  (3)
Raiders of the Lost Ark — 1981;  Steven Spielberg;  Harrison Ford, Karen Allen  (3)
On Golden Pond — 1981;  Mark Rydell;  Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman  (3)
E.T. the ExtraTerrestrial — 1982;  Steven Spielberg; Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, C. Thomas Howell’s first film;  John Williams won for Best Score.  Was the top-grossing film of all time until Spielberg’s own Jurassic Park beat it in 1993.  (4)
The World According to Garp — 1982;  George Roy Hill;  John Irving novel;  Robin Williams, Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Mary Beth Hurt, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn  (4)
Deathtrap — 1982;  Sidney Lumet;  Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, Dyan Cannon  (4)
The Big Chill — 1983;  Lawrence Kasdan;  Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, William Hurt, Jeff Goldblum, Meg Tilly, Mary Kay Place, Tom Berringer  (4)

Places In The Heart — 1984;  written & directed by Robert Benton;  Sally Field, John Malkovich, Ed Harris, Danny Glover, Lindsay Crouse, Amy Madigan  (3)
Paris, Texas — 1984;  Wim Wenders;  the idea came from Sam Shepard wanting to turn his book Motel Chronicles into a film – Shepard, Texas writer L.M. Kit Carson & Wenders all collaborated on the script; Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, Nastassja Kinski. Perfect slide guitar soundtrack by Ry Cooder.  Great casting & performances, and some good cinematography, but kind of a sad & depressing movie.  (3)
Prizzi’s Honor — 1985;  John Huston;  Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, John Randolph, Angelica Huston (won best actress directed by her father, just as John had directed his father Walter to an Oscar in Treasure of the Sierra Madre), William Hickey’s brilliant performance  (3)
Back To The Future — 1985;  written & directed by Robert Zemeckis;  Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover  (4)
The Breakfast Club — 1985;  written & directed by John Hughes;  Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Michael Anthony Hall, Judd Nelson,  Ally Sheedy and Paul Gleason as the teacher, who spent time with Kerouac in Florida in the ’60s and tells a couple wonderful stories about it on the Extra disc in the 2012 Deluxe Edition of What Happened to Kerouac?  1986 (see entry in Beat Generation section below)  (3)
Stand By Me — 1986;  Rob Reiner;  written by Stephen King;  Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Cory Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland  (3)
Matewan — 1987;  written & directed by John Sayles;  Chris Cooper stars – and it’s his first movie!  plus James Earl Jones, David Straithairn  (4)
Broadcast News — 1987;  written & directed by James Brooks;  William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter  (4)
Witches of Eastwick — 1987;  George Miller;  from John Updike book;  Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon, Cher, Richard Jenkins  (4)
The Untouchables — 1987;  Brian de Palma;  screenplay David Mamet;  Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro  (4)
Throw Mama From The Train — 1987;  dir. Danny DeVito;  starring DeVito & Billy Crystal;  with Branford Marsalis & Rob Reiner in great bit parts.  Although ostensibly about a Hitchcockian double-murder criss-cross, it’s a funny (and I think comically accurate) movie about writing and writers.    (4)
Rain Man — 1988;  Barry Levinson;  Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino, plus cool cameo by Levinson as the doctor;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director for Levinson, Actor for Hoffman, and Screenplay.  (3)
Mississippi Burning — 1988;  Alan Parker;  Gene Hackman, Willem Defoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, Stephen Tobolowsky  (3)
Midnight Run — 1988;  Martin Brest;  Robert De Niro & Charles Grodin  (3)
Dead Poets Society — 1989;  Peter Weir;  Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard  (4)

Dances With Wolves —  1990;  dir. Kevin Costner;  Costner, Graham Greene, Fred “Red Crow” Westerman;  won Best Picture Oscar, Best Director for Costner, Screenplay, Cinematography, Sound, Editing & Music.  (3)
Ghost — 1990;  Jerry Zucker;  Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze, Whoopie Goldberg  (4)
Pretty Woman — 1990;  Garry Marshall;  Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Jason Alexander, Ralph Bellamy  (3)
Misery — 1990;  Rob Reiner;  from Stephen King book;  Kathy Bates & James Caan  (3)
Thelma & Louise — 1991;  Ridley Scott;  Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Brad Pitt, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald (as Daryl), Stephen Tobolowsky  (4)
JFK — 1991;  written & directed by Oliver Stone;  cinematography by Robert Richardson – won Oscar for it;  Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon, Ed Asner, Sally Kirkland  (3)
Glengarry Glen Ross — 1992;  James Foley;  David Mamet play & screenplay;  Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce  (4)
Dave —  1993;  Ivan Reitman;  Oscar-nominated screenplay by Gary Ross (who also wrote Big, Pleasantville & Seabiscuit);  Kevin Kline (boy, that guy is one helluvan actor), Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella (a perfectly despicable badguy), Kevin Dunn (as Press secretary), Ving Rhames, Ben Kingsley (who doesn’t appear until an hour 20 into the movie), Laura Linney, Charles Grodin, Stephen Root, Anna Deavere Smith, Bonnie Hunt;  plus tons of cameos of entertainers and politicos playing themselves including — Tip O’Neill, Chris Dodd, Tom Harkin, Howard Metzenbaum, Alan Simpson, Paul Simon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Helen Thomas, Nina Totenberg, Sander Vanocur, Michael Kinsley, Jay Leno, Larry King, Ben Stein — and John McLaughlin, Eleanor Clift, Chris Matthews, Mort Kondracke & Freddie “The Beatle” Barnes in an improvised McLaughlin Group segment.  Absolutely great political comedy about a doppelgänger (Kline) for the president being enlisted to fill in for him.  Both Clinton & Obama loved this movie.  And so do I.  This is SUCH a great movie!  I actually got choked up several times, but then I’m a softy that way.  It’s a beautiful modern update on Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  (3)
Short Cuts1993;  Robert Altman;  based on stories by Raymond Carver;  Lily Tomlin & Tom Waits, Jennifer Jason Leigh & Chris Penn, Andie MacDowell & Bruce Davison, Julianne Moore & Matthew Modine, Fred Ward & Anne Archer, Tim Robbins & Madeleine Stowe, Francis McDormand & Peter Gallagher, Lili Taylor & Robert Downey Jr., Annie Ross & Lori Singer, Lyle Lovett, Buck Henry, Huey Lewis, Jack Lemmon.  Music producer: Hal Willner.  Great filmmaking by Altman, of course, with an unbelievable cast, but there’s no real through-plot, or character development, or any character I particularly gave a shit about.  It’s just a montage of occasionally vaguely connected lives in and around LA.  I LOVED The Player (which preceded this) and correctly got nominated for Best Screenplay, which this correctly did not. I get that there’s great performances by a to-die-for cast — cuz they wanna work with Altman — but it’s like a 3-hour soap opera recap.  It’s maybe a good *idea* for a movie . . . but there’s too many storylines for any of them to be explored in depth … and the “short cuts” cause, at least this viewer, to not invest any emotion into any of these mostly duplicitous unethical heartless people.  (3)
Forrest Gump — 1994;  Robert Zemeckis;  Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Robin Wright, Sally Field’. won Best Picture Oscar, Best Director for Zemeckis, Best Actor for Hanks, Screenplay, Editing, Special Effects.  (4)
Pulp Fiction — 1994;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  John Travota, Samuel Jackson, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette  (3)
The Shawshank Redemption — 1994;  Frank Darabont;  Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton (bad guy warden)  (3)
The Mask — 1994;  Chuck Russell;  Jim Carrey, 21-yr-old Camron Diaz in her first movie, Peter Riegert, Richard Jeni, Peter Greene.  This was the movie that made both Jim Carrey & Cameron Diaz stars, and was the last time Carrey was paid less than $1 million for a role.  (4)
Reality Bites — 1994;  Ben Stiller;  Ethan Hawk, Winona Ryder, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, Ben Stiller, Swoozie Kurtz  (3)
Casino — 1995;  Martin Scorsese;  book by Nicholas Pileggi, screenplay by Scorsese — the same duo who created Goodfellas;  cinematography by the great Robert Richardson – the first time he & Scorsese worked their magic together;  Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone (her sole Oscar nomination), Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Frank Vincent, Kevin Pollak, Alan King, L.Q. Jones, Dick Smothers, Katie Scorsese (Marty’s mom), and a Steve Allen cameo.  A rare 3-hour movie.  The great Saul Bass did the exquisite title sequence.  And great sound editing.  And, boy, what a climax!  From story to script to casting to art direction to costuming to cinematography to editing to soundtrack — THIS is a masterpiece miracle that Iñárritu talks about when he says: “To make a film is easy.  To make a good film is war.  To make a great film is a miracle.”
Fargo — 1996;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  William H. Macy, Francis McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell  (4)
That Thing You Do! —  1996;  written & directed by Tom Hanks;  Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Steve Zahn, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Tom Hanks  (4)
Sling Blade — 1996;  written & directed by Billy Bob Thornton;  starring Thornton, J.T. Walsh, John Ritter, Dwight Yoakam  (4)
Jerry Maguire — 1996;  Cameron Crowe;  Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr. (won Oscar for it), Renee Zellweger, Kelly Preston, Jay Mohr  (3)
Boogie Nights — 1997; Oscar-nominated Original Screenplay written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson; mind-blowing cast — 25-yr-old Mark Wahlberg (how did he not get a Best Actor nomination?!), but Burt Reynolds & Julianne Moore correctly were! Plus William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman (appears 40 mins in and is riveting as always), John C. Riley, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, early Heather Graham, Joanne Gleason, Robert Ridgley, Nina Hartley, Ricky Jay, Philip Baker Hall (appears 70 mins in), Thomas Jane! (72 mins), Jack Riley.  Set in San Fernando Valley beginning in 1977.  Great filmmaking.  Smart storytelling and script – deservedly Oscar nominated.  Great interweaving story, cinematography, editing, pacing.  Mind-blowing casting.  SO many young actors who grew into full-on masters. Brilliant now-renown 4-minute opening ‘oner’ tracking shot introducing all the characters in the Hot Traxx dance club.  This tells you right away you’re in for something special, a la The Player, Touch of Evil.  Same type of opening as Babylon — where you meet everyone at the club/party, then follow each character home. Interesting smart original score and soundtrack cuts.  The corny movies-within-a-movie porn scene dialog was lifted from real porn movies because Anderson wanted it authentic.  Also a bit like Babylon in that the first half is the happy up-trail . . . and the second half is the downside. (3)
Titanic — 1997;  James Cameron;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Costume Design, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Effects, Song & Score – 11 total!  (3)
Men In Black — 1997;  Barry Sonnenfeld;  Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Linda Fiorentino, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub  (3)
Good Will Hunting — 1997;  Gus Van Sant;  written by Matt Damon & Ben Affleck;  Damon & Affleck, Robin Williams.  The last line of the credits reads: “In Memory of Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs”  (3)
Jackie Brown — 1997;  Quentin Tarantino;  screenplay by Tarantino based on Elmore Leonard novel;  Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker, Michael Bowen.  His followup to Pulp Fiction. Great mature character drama.  Brilliant writing & filmmaking, as always. (3)
The Devil’s Advocate — 1997;  Taylor Hackford;  Al Pacino, Charlize Theron, Keanu Reeves, Jeffrey Jones  (4)
Breakdown — 1997;  Jonathon Mostow;  Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan  (4)
Face/Off — 1997;  John Woo;  John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Gina Gershon, John Carroll Lynch (as the prison warden, was the husband in Fargo) and Harve Presnell (as the FBI, and was William H. Macy’s father-in-law in Fargo – made the year before this movie).  (3)
Primary Colors — 1998;  Mike Nichols;  Joe Klein book, Elaine May screenplay;  John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Kathy Bates; about the Clintons in 1992.  (3)

The Talented Mr. Ripley — 1999;  written & directed by Anthony Minghella; to-die-for cast and everybody brings their A game — Matt Damon, Gweneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Rebhorn, Philip Baker Hall.  Shot entirely on location in Italy. (4)
Pushing Tin — 1999;  Mike Newell;  Billy Bob Thornton, Angelina Jolie, John Cusack. not to mention Cate Blanchett and Vicki “NewsRadio” Lewis — fantastic performances by all.  Plus a cameo by the great John Carroll Lynch (husband Norm in Fargo) as the scared Dr. Freeze.  (3)
The Haunting — 1999;  Jan de Bont;  Catherine Zeta-Jones, Liam Neeson, Owen Wilson, Lili Taylor, Bruce Dern  (4)

Memento — 2000;  Chris Nolan;  screenplay by Nolan, from a short story by his younger brother Jonathan;  Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantollano, Stanley Tobolowsky, Mark Boone Junior.  (4)
Almost Famous — 2000;  written & directed by Cameron Crowe;  Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Francis McDormand, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anna Paquin, Zooey Deschanel  (3)
Cast Away — 2000;  Robert Zemeckis;  Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt.  Best plane crash scene I’ve ever seen on film.  (3)

Requiem for a Dream — 2000;  Darren Aronofsky;  Hubert Selby wrote; Jared Leno, Jennifer Connelly, Ellen Burstyn  (3)
28 Days — 2000;  Betty Thomas;  Sandra Bullock, Dominik West, Viggo Mortensen;  about rehab, really good; small role for Steve Buchemi.  (3)
Happy Accidents — 2000;  written & directed by Brad Anderson;  Vincent D’Onofrio, Marisa Tomei – who are both great. About time travel and love. Set in SoHo / Lower East Side with lots of location shooting. Really engaging and wonderful film with priceless performances by Vince & Marisa. One of the only movies with science fiction elements that I actually enjoyed. (3)
Adaptation — 2002;  Spike Jonze;  Charlie Kaufman’s ingenious Oscar-nominated screenplay;  Nicholas Cage & Meryl Streep – both Oscar-nominated, Chris Cooper (who won for Best Supporting), Tilda Swinton, the director Curtis Hanson (in his only role ever as an actor), Ron Livingston, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Brian Cox, Judy Greer.  A brilliant twisted funny Oscar-winning comedy about writing — that also happens to include the two most terrifying car crash scenes I’ve ever seen on film.  Plus it features one of my favorite songs from the ’60s — Happy Together!  (3)
Secret Window — 2004;  David Koepp;  from a Stephen King novel;  Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello;  music Philip Glass.  (4)
The Departed — 2006;  Martin Scorsese;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen;  Won Oscars for Best Picture, Screenplay, and Editing, and Scorsese finally for Best Director  (4)
Death Proof — 2007;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell (in an unbelievable performance in basically her first movie, and she doesn’t appear until 65 minutes into it — yet steals the show), Rosario Dawson, Rose McGowan, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Tracie Thoms, Eli Roth, Michael Parks, Tarantino as the bar owner, AMi the jukebox (Tarantino’s), and Sydney Tamila Poitier (Sidney’s daughter) as Jungle Julie with the incredible hair.  Tarantino built this movie around a desire to film a classic car chase scene … and having a stuntwoman who could be an engaging lead on camera.  It’s his attempt at doing the greatest car chase scene ever — and the climactic 20 minutes of the movie certainly put it in contention.  😉  He made a point to credit himself as the Director of Photography which is quite visible in the imaginative and brilliantly filmed climactic sequence.  Done as a homage to ’70s car chase movies, specifically Vanishing Point, including the cool music (by Jack Nitzsche) and physically scratching & damaging the print to make it look old.  Contains a signature Tarantino 8-minute continuous shot with the four girls at a round table in a diner a la Reservoir Dogs at the start of the second half.  After three viewings, I really like this least-seen lowest-rated QT film.  (3)

Charlie Wilson’s War — 2007;  Mike Nichols;  Aaron Sorkin;  Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Peter Gerety  (3)
Sleuth — 2007;  great filmmaking by Kenneth Branagh;  Harold Pinter wrote a brilliant new screenplay based on Anthony Shaffer’s original Tony Award-winning play;  both the playwright & screenwriter are British;  Michael Caine & Jude Law in maybe his best film performance, he was also the one who spearheaded the film getting made — it was largely a creation of Law & Pinter . . . and a remake of Joe Mankiewicz’s 1972 film of the same name with Laurence Olivier & Michael Caine, which took 16 weeks to shoot.  This was done in 4.  And it was all shot chronologically.  Great art direction/production design by Tim Harvey who’s done all of Branagh’s movies.  Brilliant lighting. Great subtle score — minimal music — cello, viola & grand piano.  I saw this on the stage in London in 1972 with the original defining cast.  (seen 3 times if you count commentaries)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall — 2008;  Nicholas Stoller;  Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Russell Brand, Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Steve Landesberg (in his last film role)  (3)
Inglourious Basterds — 2009;  Quentin Tarantino;  Robert Richardson Oscar nominated for his cinematography;  Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Rod Taylor, Mike Myers  (4)

Moneyball — 2011;  Bennett Miller;  Aaron Sorkin co-wrote;  Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Spike Jonze.  I’m not really a baseball fan, but this character-rich real-story drama about a revolutionary process of putting together a winning team with a low budget is compelling from start to finish.  Nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, Editing, and both Brad & Jonah’s Acting.  (4)
Blue Jasmine — 2013;  brilliant, deep, emotive Oscar-nominated for Best Screenplay & directed by Woody Allen;  Cate Blanchett most deservedly won Best Lead Actress Oscar, Sally Hawkins (nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Alex Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale (great), Andrew Dice Clay (who’s actually not a bad actor), Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K.  About a wealthy woman losing everything.  Inspired by blending Bernie Madoff’s wife with A Streetcar Named Desire.  Spectacularly perfect old jazz & blues music — as always, chosen by Woody.  Brilliant title once you’ve seen this absolutely great movie.  And great location shooting, as per Woody.  (3)
Django Unchained — 2012;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Robert Richardson Oscar nominated for his cinematography;  Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Michael Parks, and with tiny cameos as the trackers holding Kerry Washington, Michael Parks’ son James, Robert Carradine (younger brother of David), and his half-brother Michael Bowen, Zoe Bell, and Ted Neeley in the chair (Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar – his first film appearance in 30 years).  Won Oscar for Best Screenplay, and Waltz for Best Actor.  Also nominated for Best Picture & Cinematography for Robert Richardson.  Tarantino wanted to make a classic Western – but with a black hero – because there are no Westerns that black people can watch with a brother to root for.  And all done with smatterings of humor.  Fantastic filmmaking, as always.  (3)
Silver Linings Playbook — 2012;  written & directed by David O. Russell;  Jennifer Lawrence won her Best Lead Actress Oscar;  Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro & Jacki Weaver all Oscar nominated, first time a picture got all 4 since Reds in 1981.  Plus Chris Tucker (other than Rush Hour, his first film since Jackie Brown), Julia Stiles, Paul Herman.  Also nominated for Best Picture, and the brilliant Screenplay, Director, Editing.  A great movie about how broken people can deal with life — something we can all relate to.  (3)
On The Road — 2012 — film version of the iconic novel finally hit the screen 65 years after the adventure, 61 years after the Scroll was written, 55 years after publication, 33 years after Coppola bought the rights, and 8 years after the director Walter Salles was approached;  over 60,000 miles covered in the filming;  ironically it took an international consortium to get this Great American Novel filmed — a Brazilian director, French producers, cinematographer & editor, British actors, Argentineans doing the art direction and score composition, a Puerto Rican screenwriter, and it was mostly filmed in Canada — directed by Walter Salles — starring Sam Riley as Jack;  Garrett Hedlund as Neal;  Kristen Stewart as LuAnne;  Kirsten Dunst as Carolyn;  Tom Sturridge as Allen;  Viggo Mortensen as Bill;  Amy Adams as Joan;  Danny Morgan as Al Hinkle, and Elisabeth Moss as Helen Hinkle.  Also includes surprise appearances by Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard, and Coati Mundi as Slim Gaillard.  Notable for its use of the scroll version of On The Road rather than the ’57 version;  the cinematography, the editing, the musical score, the art direction, the location shooting, the actors’ camaraderie & improvising, Viggo’s Burroughs and Kristen’s LuAnne.  It’s its own work of art — based on an existing work of art.  Color, 126 min. (revised North American version);  137 min. (original European version)
Here’s a story of going to the U.K. premiere in London.
Here’s the tale of being at the North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and meeting Walter Salles.
Here’s what it was like being at the New York premiere and afterparty.
Here’s the amazing Cannes press conference — absolute required viewing for anyone interested in this movie.
Here’s the cool trailer.
Here’s three minutes from early in the movie where Sal & Dean are talking about their missing fathers, into Dean parking cars.
Here’s the new year’s eve party dancing scene.
Here’s Marylou and Sal in the car.
Here’s Sal & Camille dancing together to Ella Fitzgerald in the roadhouse.
Here’s the six deleted scenes that are included on the French DVD as Extras. (4)
Or the stories of seeing the screenings are also available in How The Beats Begat The Pranksters along with a whole bunch of other Beat tales and Adventures.
Kill Your Darlings — 2013;  directed by first-timer John Krokidas;  incredible cast — Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg;  Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr;  Jack Huston (John’s grandson) as Jack Kerouac;  Ben Foster as William Burroughs;  Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer;  Kyra Sedgwick as Lucien’s mother;  Elizabeth Olson (the twins’ younger sister) as Edie Parker;  Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Cross as Ginsberg’s parents;  and John Cullum as the Columbia English teacher.  Allen Ginsberg’s coming of age story from entering Columbia through the David Kammerer killing, which was the subject of the early Kerouac/Burroughs co-authored novel And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks.  The film’s title comes from the William Faulkner line, “In writing, you must kill your darlings,” meaning you sometimes have to delete your favorite passage for the betterment of the story.  Sadly, the Kerouac character is very much minimized, gay themes are stressed, women are portrayed as shrews, and there’s tons of perplexing factual inaccuracies in a film that presents itself as “a true story.”  (4)
You can read my full detailed review from its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival here.
Big Sur — 2013;  screenplay adaptation and directed by Michael Polish;  starring Jean-Marc Barr as Kerouac;  Josh Lucas as Neal;  Kate Bosworth as Billie (Jacky Gibson);  Patrick Fischler is great as Lew Welch;  Anthony Edwards as Ferlinghetti;  Radha Mitchell as Carolyn;  Balthazar Getty as McClure;  Henry Thomas as Philip Whalen;  and gorgeous Stana Katic as Lenore Kandel.  The second major Kerouac novel released as a movie in a year — a 180 degree counterpoint vision to the youth and optimism of On The Road.  Setting aside Pull My Daisy, this is probably the best portrayal of Jack and his writing on film.  Hauntingly shot on location in Big Sur and S.F., including an evocative cabin set.  Definitely the most artfully lensed and edited (visually composed) of any of the Kerouac films.  Roughly 80% of the dialogue is voiceover of Jack’s own Big Sur prose.  They use the real names for everybody, not the novel’s fictional ones.  Beautiful haunting minimalist electric guitar and grand piano score by the Dessner twin brothers from The National.  (3)
Here’s the trailer.

Get Out — 2017;  written & directed by Jordan Peele;  Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Stephen Root, Lil Ray Howery, Erika Alexandra.  Deservedly won Best Screenplay.  (3)
Knives Out — 2019; written & directed by Rian Johnson; Daniel Craig (playing a very deep colorful private investigator), Christopher Plummer (his second last movie after 60 years of making them, playing an old man about to die!), Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Frank Oz (the actor/director, Yoda and Muppet pioneer), Emmet Walsh (replacing Ricky Jay who died just before the film went to production) and a great not-too-well-known 30-year-old Cuban actress Ana de Armas. This film is everything great filmmaking is: an ever-twisting script; surprising Tarantinoesque casting; masterful cinematography & editing (pacing); perfect sound editing, production design art direction that makes you salivate; the blend of killer location shooting and to-die-for sets; a surprise third act with a classic dramatic mystery movie soliloquy reveal . . . everything you want in a movie! I literally got goosebumps – more than once.  What A Script!  No wonder it was nominated for Best Screenplay Oscar.  And it should have been for Best Editing, Sound Editing, Costume Design and Original Score.  Theme: be a good person.  On third viewed, I laughed out loud a buncha times once I knew the characters and story. And What A House that it’s set in and around!  Gorgeous evocative Production Design and Art Direction! Bonus points for the spectacular score by Nathan Johnson (cousin of Rian Johnson), and a killer soundtrack including Animal Zoo by Spirit in the background then to prominence in big scene, plus Roxy Music, Gordon Lightfoot & the Rolling Stones.  Rian the writer/director said in the commentary all the names of the family members/couples are ’70s rock stars: Joni Mitchell & Neil Young, Richard & Linda Thompson, Walt & Donna are Walter Becker & Donald Fagen (Steely Dan).  I like this guy.   (4)

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood — 2019;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Robert Richardson Oscar nominated for his cinematography;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margo Robbie, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Emile Hirsch.  Rightly nominated for 10 Oscars — the top five films in every category for that year.  It rightly won two.  Production Design and Brad Pitt’s acting.  But shoulda won all ten.  Every time I watch this – prolly 6 or 7 times by now – I think, “This is a brilliant masterpiece of filmmaking in every regard.”  Here’s a great documentary on the making of it.  (4)

 

Biopics   (non music)    [76]


Lust For Life
— 1956;  Vincente Minelli, father of Liza; based on book by Irving Stone;  Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn  (4)

Cleopatra — 1963;  co-written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz;  Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Hume Cronyn, Martin Landau, Roddy McDowall.  Won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design (26,000 of them! including a record-breaking 65 for Liz alone) & Visual Effects; nominated for Best Picture, Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar for Best Actor, Editing, Music & Sound.  At the time, it was the most expensive movie ever made.  It ended up not only basically bankrupting 20th Century Fox, but also ending the studio system in Hollywood.  Legendary for it’s production cost overruns and general production mismanagement.  Four hour epic.  Mankiewicz original wanted it to be two movies — Caesar & Cleopatra, and Anthony & Cleopatra, but the studio nixed it.  It’s where Taylor & Burton met and fell for each other, and is the first of 11 pictures they made together.  (seen once)
Bonnie and Clyde — 1967;  Arthur Penn;  Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway (both Oscar nominated), Estelle Parsons (won Best Supporting Actress), Michael J. Pollard (nominated for Best Supporting), Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder.  Spectacular filmmaking from a great Oscar nominated script.  Won for Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey).  Foundation film of the sexy “New Hollywood” antihero movies.  (4)
In Cold Blood — 1967;  screenplay and directed by Richard Brooks;  based on the Truman Capote “fictional novel” / New Journalism book;  Robert Blake & Scott Wilson as the killers, John Forsythe as the detective, Jeff Corey.  No other “movie stars” were cast as director Brooks wanted it to seem like a real documentary;  most of the smaller roles were filled by Kansans.  An amazing movie, nominated for Best Director, Screenplay, Cinematography (in part because of the rain on Blake’s face shot) and the super-cool Music by Quincy Jones (immediately following In The Heat of The Night, see above, {which also starred Scott Wilson, these being his first two movies}, and including a song partly played on bottles during the bottle collection scene).  Largely shot on location, including inside & outside the Clutter family’s actual home & farm, the courtroom where the trial took place (with six actual jurors playing jurors), the suit store where they passed a bad check using the very salesman they’d conned, the store where they bought the rope and tape, and the bus depot.  The two killers talk about the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre which a young Robert Blake was in as the young kid who sold Humphrey Bogart the winning lottery ticket.  It was killer Perry Smith’s favorite movie.  The first mainstream American movie to use the word “bullshit” on screen.  B&W  (seen once)
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid — 1969; George Roy Hill;  written by William Goldman;  Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Jeff Corey, plus Cloris Leachman in a bit part, and Sam Elliott playin cards.  Originally planned as Steve McQueen & Paul Newman.  Shot in both sepia and color.  (4)

10 Rillington Place — 1971;  Richard Fleischer;  Richard Attenborough, and an incredible John Hurt.  Dramatization of a real British serial killer circa 1953.  (2)
Papillon — 1973;  dir. Franklin Schaffner;  Dustin Hoffman & Steve McQueen.  Only AA nomination was for music!?  (3)
Serpico — 1973;  Sidney Lumet;  from Peter Maas book;  a brilliant wide-ranging Al Pacino, John Randolph (the original Frank Costanza on Seinfeld), Tony Roberts.  Great filmmaking.  Shot entirely on location at over 100 different places around New York City — and so much the New York I remember and “grew up” in.  1973 was not much different than 1980 when I arrived.  His Village apt. in the movie was 2 minutes from my front door.  Great scene of Pacino riding a motorcycle right along my street — Washington Square North.  Pacino and the screenplay nominated for Oscars.  Went from shooting to theaters in an insanely short 5 months.  Shot in reverse order, so the long-haired/beard Pacino/Serpico (at the end of the movie) was filmed first, and then they gradually trimmed his hair and beard until he was clean shaven as the movie starts.  He was a strong supporting actor in The Godfather the year prior — but this was the movie that established him as a lead who could carry a film. Funny marijuana scene.  A bit of a sad story, though.  (3)
Lenny — 1974;  Bob Fosse;  Dustin Hoffman & Valerie Perrine — biopic of Lenny Bruce & wife Honey.  Most of Hoffman’s routines are word-for-word from Lenny recordings.  Deservedly Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, and both Hoffman & Perrine for Lead Actors.  Julian Barry wrote the screenplay from his own successful Lenny Broadway show.  Beautifully & evocatively shot in B&W.  Vivid depiction of the nightclub comedy scene in the ’50s & ’60s, the degradation of drug addition, and the persecution of American puritanism — that’s, sadly, ascendant again.  (seen twice)

Dog Day Afternoon — 1975;  Sidney Lumet;  A-list duo of Al Pacino & John Cazale (who played brothers in the first 2 Godfather movies), plus Charles Durning (who’s great, as always), James Broderick (in his final film appearance), Carol Kane, Chris Sarandon, and Living Theatre co-founder Judith Malina is great as Sonny’s (Pacino’s) mother.  Fantastically great & riveting filmmaking!  The script deservedly won the Best Screenplay Oscar.  Was also deservedly nominated for Best Picture, Director, Editing, Lead Actor, and Supporting for Sarandon.  Dramatic depiction of a real bank robbery in Aug. 1972.  Unbelievable tension 8 mins into the movie.  The fourth year in a row Pacino was nominated for an acting Oscar: Best Supporting for The Godfather, Best Lead for Serpico, The Godfather II, then this.  Altman-influenced overlapping dialog.  Filmed entirely on locations in Brooklyn and Queens.  The New York City that this film depicts is so much the New York I first moved to five years after it came out.  (3)
Bound For Glory — 1976;  Hal Ashby;  based on Woody Guthrie’s somewhat fictional autobiography;  David Carradine (just after Kung Fu ended), with a wonderful cast who all said Yes to Hal & Guthrie in all the small supporting roles — Ronny Cox (famously on guitar in Deliverance), Randy Quaid, Melinda Dillon (as Woody’s wife), James Hong! Gail Strickland, M. Emmett Walsh, Brion James, David Clennon, and the film debut of Mary Kay Place.  Great filmmaking.  The morning after watching this I woke up dreaming I was hoboing across the country.  Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Costume Design; master Haskell Wexler deservedly won for Cinematography (probably in a landslide), plus it rightly won Best Adapted Score f0r the Woody-written music throughout.  Lots of location shooting in California, including a fantastic sequence with Carradine & the cameraman riding on top of a train.  Besides everything else great about this movie, it’s a landmark in the history of film in that it features the first-ever use of a new invention — the Steadicam.  In an unbroken 2-minute shot (1:10:54–1:13:07 in the film), master D.P. Haskell Wexler (Cuckoo’s Nest, Virginia Wolfe) had the camera inventor, Garrett Brown, begin 30 feet up on a crane, then come down, get off and follow Carradine/Woody as he walks through a dust bowl camp filled with 900 extras.  Brown then shot scenes in The Marathon Man and the famous Rocky running up the steps scene.  Both the latter two beat Glory into theaters, but this was the first time the history-changing camera was ever used on a film.  Many actors were offered the lead role including singer-songwriter Tim Buckley who tragically died just before shooting was to commence; Dustin Hoffman who wanted too much prep time to learn to play the guitar; Kris Kristofferson who didn’t think he was right for it but suggested Bob Dylan; Robert De Niro who had scheduling conflicts with Taxi Driver; and Richard Dreyfuss who wanted too much money.  Classic American myth-making.  Great cinematic portrayal of the historic dust storm that’s also a virtual reality experience at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa.  For a similar role in the same era by David Carradine, see Scorsese’s Boxcar Bertha.  I was hanging on every scene and development.  Woody meets a ‘Slim’ on the road … like Kerouac famously does in his On The RoadWalter Salles’s On The Road cinematically and thematically really echoes this — embracing the same wide expanse visages of the American landscape.  Focuses more on his union organizing than his songwriting.  (seen once)
Midnight Express — 1978;  Alan Parker;  Oscar-nominated screenplay by Oliver Stone, based on book by Billy Hayes;  Brad Davis, John Hurt (Max), Randy Quaid  (2)
All That Jazz — 1979;  co-written and directed by Bob Fosse (telling his own sordid life story);  Roy Scheider in the Fosse character, Jessica Lange, Ben Vereen.  Won Oscars for Beat Art Direction, Editing, Costumes & Music; nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography & Actor (Scheider).  (seen once)

Raging Bull — 1980;  Martin Scorsese;  from Jake LaMotta’s autobiography;  Robert De Niro (won the Best Actor Oscar), Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent.  Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, and Pesci & Moriarty for Supporting; Thelma Schoonmaker won for Editing!  Great filmmaking — including for all the above nominations, plus the script, art direction, and the New York and L.A. location shooting.  This is borderline making the Disturbing Movies list for its sexism and violence, but I decided it makes the list because I never want to watch it for those two reasons again.  B&W  (seen twice)
Where The Buffalo Roam — 1980;  Art Linson (his directorial debut);  based on the stories & life of Hunter Thompson;  Bill Murray, Peter Boyle as his lawyer, Bruno Kirby as the Rolling Stone editor (Jann Wenner), Rene Auberjonois as the Post reporter who gets dosed, Mark Metcalf, Danny Goldman, and Cork Hubbert who plays a bellboy in both this and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.  Neil Young sings the the title song — his first dramatic film credit — and can be seen in an early shot outside Jimmie’s bar lighting a cigarette with his producer David Briggs.  Hunter’s artist Ralph Steadman did the title art.  Murray & Thompson spent some time together at Hunter’s Aspen ranch before shooting.  Great cast and subject, and seemed cool when I was a teenager — but by 2021 it’s painfully simplistic, cartoonish, a caricature rather than a characterization, and B-movie bad.  (4)
Reds1981;  written & directed by Warren Beatty;  Beatty as John Reed, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Jerzy Kosinski, Edward Hermann, Paul Sorvino, Maureen Stapleton   (seen once)
Star 80 — 1983;  directed and co-screenwritten by Bob Fosse (his final project);  Mariel Hemingway (granddaughter of Ernest) and Eric Roberts, plus Cliff Robertson (as Hugh Hefner), Roger Rees (as the Peter Bogdanovich character), Josh Mostel (as the private investigator), and Carroll Baker.  Based on the true story of the murder of Canadian Playboy model and Playmate-of-the-Year Dorothy Stratten.  Incredible movie.  Could almost be on the Disturbing Movies list because of Eric Roberts’ performance, which Hefner said was “right on the money.”  (3)
The Right Stuff — 1983;  screenplay & directed by Philip Kaufman; from the Tom Wolfe book;  one helluva cast!  a young, nearly ’70s Sam Shepard (Oscar-nominated as Chuck Yeager), Scott Glenn (as Alan Shepard), Ed Harris (as John Glenn), Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Barbara Hershey, Levon Helm, Harry Shearer & Jeff Goldblum, Lance Henriksen, David Clennon, Veronica Cartwright, and the great Chuck Yeager in a couple of cameos.  Great filmmaking.  Won the Oscar for Best Editing, Effects, Bill Conti’s Score, and Sound; and deservedly nominated for Best Picture, Cinematography, Art Direction & Supporting Actor (Sam).  A rare over-3-hour movie!  And a very weird yet smart & dramatic film.  (seen once)
The Killing Fields — 1984;  Roland Jaffe;  Sam Waterson, John Malkovich, Haing S. Ngor  (seen twice)
Barfly — 1987;  Barbet Schroeder;  written by Charles Bukowski about his own life in L.A.;  Mickey Rourke is pretty great as Buk, and Faye Dunaway as his girlfriend.  Robby Muller cinematography.  Francis Ford Coppola was instrumental in the film getting made.  Filmed entirely on locations around seedy L.A.  I don’t really care for movies about drunken lowlifes like this.  (seen once)
The Last Temptation of Christ — 1988;  Martin Scorsese;  Willem Dafoe as Jesus, Harvey Keitel as Judas.  Great hallucination scene at the climax.  (seen once)
Tucker: The Man and His Dream — 1988; Francis Ford Coppola;  Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Martin Landau — great movie about re-life Preston Tucker the car inventor.  (seen twice)

Goodfellas — 1990;  Martin Scorsese;  write Nicholas Pileggi;  Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino  (4)
Here’s the 3-minute tracking shot going into the Copacabana:

Awakenings1990;  Penny Marshall;  from Oliver Sacks books;  Robin Williams, Robert De Niro, Julie Kavner, John Heard, Judith Malina, Anne Meara  (seen once)
Vincent & Theo — 1990;  Robert Altman;  Tim Roth as Vincent Van Gogh (!) — the performance that Quentin Tarantino caught that led him to cast Tim in Reservoir Dogs and become one of his stable of actors.  Great biopic on Van Gogh & his brother by none other than Robert Altman!  Opens with footage of Christie’s historic 1987 auction when Van Gogh’s Sunflowers shattered the record for the most money ever paid for a work of art.  The movie was originally designed as a four hour mini-series for the BBC, then cut down to this 2 hour film.  (3)
Chaplin — 1992;  Richard Attenborough;  from Charlie Chaplin’s book;  Robert Downey Jr., Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter, Eugene O’Neill’s granddaughter), Dan Aykroyd, Hevin Kline, Marisa Tomei, Penelope Ann Miller.  Downey, Set Design & Music all got Oscar nominations.  (seen twice)
Schindler’s List — 1993;  Steven Spielberg;  Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley  (1)
Ed Wood — 1994;  Tim Burton (who said this is the favorite of his movies);  from Rudolph Grey’s book Nightmare of Ecstasy, with a great screenplay by the duo team of Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski (Big Eyes, the upcoming Garcia/Dead biopic); incredible cast – Johnny Depp as Ed Wood, Martin Landau who most deservedly won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Jones, Patricia Arquette, George ‘The Animal’ Steele, Brent Hinkley, Stanley DeSantis, Bobby Slayton, Juliet Landau (Martin’s daughter) who’s absolutely great, Rance Howard (Ron’s son), Bill Cusack (John & Joan’s brother), Vincent D’Onofrio (in a brief but brilliant turn as Orson Welles), Ned Bellamy, G.D. Spradlin.  About the legendary B-movie director Ed Wood.  Great music by Howard Shore.  As per the documentary “Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora” the budget of ”Ed Wood” was “more than one hundred times greater than every Edward D. Wood Jr. budget combined!”  Great comedic biopic by a collaboration of masters.  Brilliant, riveting filmmaking.  Beautifully atmospheric.  B&W  (seen once)
Quiz Show — 1994;  dir. by Robert Redford;  John Turturro, Ralph Fiennes, Hank Azaria, David Paymer, Rob Morrow, and my friend Pat Russell in bit part as a reporter  (4)
Apollo 13 — 1995;  Ron Howard (reportedly his favorite of the films he’s made);  docudrama based on astronaut Jim Lovell’s memoir (John Sayles uncredited script rewriter);  Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Kathleen Quinlan, Chris Ellis, brother Clint Howard in Mission Control, father Rance Howard as the priest, mother Judy Howard as Lovell’s mother, and nice cameos by Roger Corman as a questioning Senator on a site tour, and Chuck Lovell as the commander of the recovery carrier.  Deservedly Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actors for Ed Harris & Kathleen Quinlan, Art Direction, Visual Effects Music; won for Best Editing & Sound. Filming was done in conjunction with NASA and Lovell. Exact replicas of both Mission Control and the command modules were built, and the actors went thru actual space training exercises in flight simulators. Ron Howard started calling them “actornauts.” NASA was involved from start to finish, including technicians, flight transcripts and allowing the film crew to shoot in actual weightlessness in an astronaut training craft in the upper atmosphere. All-in-all, insanely accurate — including a great period soundtrack (circa 1969/70). Ron Howard said of the launch sequence, “As a filmmaker, that might be the most cinematic thing I’ve ever done.” Both Tom & Kathleen stayed for a few days with the Lovells to absorb their relationship and personas. Spectacular, super emotional & suspenseful nail-biter of a movie. Bravo Ron Howard & crew. (seen once)
Nixon —  1995;  Oliver Stone;  Anthony Hopkins in title role, Joan Allen, Ed Harris, Bob Hoskins, E.G. Marshall, J.T. Walsh, Paul Sorvino, Mary Steenburgen, David Paymer, David Hyde Pierce  (1)
Donnie Brasco — 1997;  Mike Newell;  based on true memoir by FBI agent Joseph Pistone;  Al Pacino & Johnny Depp, with Anne Heche, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby.  Depp goes undercover in the NY mob in the ’70s.  (3)

Shakespeare In Love — 1998;  John Madden;  Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay about the playwright as a young man, set in 1593;  Gwyneth Paltrow (won Best Actress), Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth (won Best Supporting), Tom Wilkinson, Ben Affleck (as the famous actor of the time), Colin Firth, Imelda Staunton, Rupert Everett, Martin Clunes.  Also won the Best Picture Oscar, Best Art Direction and (mind-blowing) Costumes & Original Score.  Great love story of a movie.  Brilliant (Oscar-winning) script blending the play Romeo & Juliet with the film’s tale of two star-crossed lovers.  Great romance — and great Shakespearean farce comedy.  Filmed on location in England.  I wonder if this got green-lit because of the success of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet two years earlier?  For a fun Shakespeare story, check out my Adventure at The Globe Theater in London.  (3)
Man On The Moon — 1999;  Miloš Forman;  Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti, Courtney Love, Vincent Schiavelli, with cameos by Richard Belzer, Patton Oswalt, Norm Macdonald, Tracey Walter, David Koechner, Lorne Michaels, Budd Friedman, plus the original cast of Taxi reunited for those scenes, and Andy’s real-life manager George Shapiro plays a comedy club manager.  Did poorly at the box office and was ignored at the Oscars, but grew over time into a comedy/biopic classic.  A great documentary about it was made in 2017 — Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (on Netflix).  The film’s production is legendary for Jim Carrey staying in character when the cameras weren’t rolling.  I love Miloš Forman, but the poor guy!  This must be up there in the ranks of most difficult movies to direct of all time.  Funny — it starts with the ending.  SUPER well-made movie.  Really captures Andy’s bizarre mind.  Title comes from the R.E.M. song of the same name about Kaufman, and the band wrote the film’s score.  (seen twice)
The Hurricane — 1999;  Norman Jewison;  Denzel Washington (won the Golden Globe and was rightly Oscar nominated for the title role), Liev Schreiber, John Hannah, Deborah Kara Unger, David Paymer, Vincent Pastore, Dan Hedaya, Rod Steiger, Clancy Brown.  Based on Rubin Carter’s memoir The Sixteenth Round. Roger Deakins lensed it.  Great soundtrack including the Dylan song, Ray Charles, Gil Scott-Heron, Marvin Gaye, Ruth Brown, Etta James, Dinah Washington & others.  Another hard to watch story about a Black man done bad by white racists.  Seen by some as a bookend to Norman Jewison’s In The Heat of The Night — Rod Steiger appearing in both.  I didn’t know the key aspect about the Toronto family adopting a Black guy from NYC who then spearheaded his release, and that’s where Hurricane moved to when he got freed.  Powerful movie.  It’s pretty good filmmaking if it brings you to tears at its climax.  (seen once) 

Erin Brockovich — 2000;  Steven Soderbergh;  Julia Roberts (won Best Actress Oscar), Albert Finney (nominated and should have won for Best Supporting), Aaron Eckhart, Peter Coyote, Tracey Walker.  Also nominated for Best Picture, Director & Screenplay.  Nice cameo with the real Erin Brockovich as a waitress.  Brilliant music by Thomas Newman.  Shot largely on locations, including with a lot of extras who were actual plaintiffs in the case.  I’ve prolly watched this movie 15 times; absolutely love every minute and scene.  You won’t find me complementing hair stylists anywhere else on this page, but whoever did Julia Roberts’ for this movie deserved an Oscar.  🙂  (4)
Steal This Movie — 2000;  Robert Greenwald;  based on Abbie & Anita’s memoir;  a prankster-twinkling Vincent D’Onofrio as Abbie Hoffman, Janeane Garofalo as Anita Hoffman, Kevin Pollak as lawyer Gerry Lefcourt, Kevin Corrigan as Jerry Rubin, a very young Michael Cera as Abbie & Anita’s son america, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Donal Logue, and Troy Garity as Tom Hayden, who’s Tom & Jane Fonda’s actual son!  Nice Marshall McLuhan reading cameo, and some Allen Ginsberg crediting.  Fantastic soundtrack with Jimi, Lennon, Dylan, Woody, Donovan, Aretha, CSNY, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Country Joe, Richie Havens, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Ani DiFranco, The Fugs, David Peel & others.  Great movie!  Vividly accurate art direction and costuming recreating the late ’60s.  Inspirational story and message.  In the closing minute, Abbie/D’Onofrio speaks directly to the camera for the first time — “You go out and make tomorrow better than today.  You go out and you save your country.  It’s your turn now.”  (seen once, S.A. Griffin recommendation)
A Beautiful Mind— 2001;  Ron Howard (won Best Director & Best Picture); Russell Crowe (Oscar nominated), a mesmerizing Jennifer Connelly (won Best Supporting Actress), the always great Ed Harris and Adam Goldberg, Josh Lucas (who would later wonderfully play Neal Cassady in Big Sur), Christopher Plummer, Judd Hirsch, and Austin Pendleton (such a gift to all those who love film).  Lensed by Roger Deakins.  Great movie about an eccentric genius code breaker, an obvious progenitor of the equally gripping & masterfully executed The Imitation Game (2014).  (seen once)
Blow — 2001;  Ted Demme;  Johnny Depp, Jordi Molla, Penelope Cruz, Paul Reubens, Ray Liotta, Max Perlich.  (3)

Catch Me If You Can
— 2002;  Steven Spielberg;  from Frank Abagnale book;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams  (3)
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind — 2002;  George Clooney in his directorial debut;  Charlie Kaufman screenplay from Chuck Berris’s wild memoir;  Sam Rockwell who’s fantastic as Chuck Barris;  Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Cera, Jerry Weintraub, Richard Kindand, and funny unpeaking cameos by Brad Pitt and Matt Damion on The Dating Game.  Fantastic filmmaking.  Surreal and playful, as befitting the subject.  (seen once)
Owning Mahowny — 2003;  Richard Kwietniowski;  with two of the greatest actors who ever lived Philip Seymour Hoffman & John Hurt — plus Minnie Driver, Maury Chaykin, and a tiny uncredited cameo by Sandra Oh.  A tragic riveting movie based on a real story about a Canadian banker who embezzled $10 million to feed a gambling addiction.  Brilliant script and performances. A Canadian production of a Canadian story — made with a meager $10 million budget. I’ve happily been mesmerized by this movie many times. (4)
The Aviator — 2004;  Martin Scorsese;  Robert Richardson won the Oscar for his cinematography;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alex Baldwin, Alan Alda, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Edward Herrmann, Gwen Stefani.  Great biopic about Howard Hughes.  Cate Blanchett deservedly won Best Supporting Actress for her Katherine Hepburn; plus it won for cinematography, editing, art direction and costumes.  (3)
Kinsey
— 2004;  written & directed by Bill Condon;  Liam Neeson (as Alfred Kinsey) & Laura Linney (as his wife) and both are frickin’ brilliant, the always-masterful John Lithgow, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris O’Donnell, Timothy Hutton, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker, Veronica Cartwright, John Krasinski.  Wow — what a cast!!  *great* script; spectacular editing, and cinematography & mise-en-scene by Frederick Elmes; absolutely GREAT movie — about an historically transformational figure — who did his most important work during the same years as the Beats.  And in the Wizard’s Indiana to boot!  Can’t believe it took me so long to see this movie! 🙂  (seen once) 
Miracle — 2004;  Gavin O’Connor;  Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks;  dramatization of U.S. hockey team’s upset of Russia and winning Gold Medal in 1980 Olympics.  (seen twice)
The Motorcycle Diaries — 2004;  Walter Salles;  Jose Rivera’s screenplay based on Che Guevara’s book;  the “road” movie that caused Roman Coppola to bring Walter Salles in to direct Kerouac’s On The Road, who then brought the screenwriter to the project.  (seen once)

Good Night, and Good Luck — 2005;  written & directed by George Clooney;  David Strathairn, Ray Wise, Jeff Daniels, George Clooney, Alex Borstein, Tate Donovan, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., Frank Langella.  Brilliant docudrama about Edward R. Murrow, including the powerful use of archival footage of McCarthy & committee hearings within the new film.  B&W  (3)
Capote — 2005;  Bennett Miller (in his directorial debut);  Dan Futterman screenplay; Philip Seymour Hoffman (deservedly won his one Oscar for Best Actor, although as I’ve said, Hoffman coulda/shoulda won an Oscar for every single performance he ever delivered), Catherine Keener as Harper Lee, Capote’s friend since they were 5 years old (deservedly nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Bob Balaban as William Shawn (editor at the New Yorker), Chris Cooper as Detective Dewey, Bruce Greenwood as Capote’s life-partner Jack Dunphy, and the guy who plays the photographer Richard Avedon is the film’s cinematographer Adam Kimmel.  Film nominated for Best Picture, Director & Screenplay — although the director & Hoffman’s DVD commentary revealed a ton of the scenes were improvised.  Primarily about the In Cold Blood period — the 1966 book, which was one of the early landmarks of literary nonfiction / new journalism, which was also being simultaneously created in the mid-’60s by Hunter Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion & others.  Filmed largely in and around my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, including Stony Mountain Penitentiary (where they employed real guards in the roles) & the Legislative Building.  Director Miller, screenwriter Futterman & actor Hoffman all knew each other since they were 16.  The movie Capote is talking about in the early dinner scene with the detective (Chris Cooper) & his wife is Beat The Devil (1953, see in top list above).  The speech Capote quotes the prisoner as wanting to say is basically verbatim Marlon Brando’s acceptance speech for winning the Best Actor Oscar for On The Waterfront in 1955.  (3)
Charlie Wilson’s War — 2007;  Mike Nichols;  Aaron Sorkin;  Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Peter Gerety  (3)
Milk — 2008;  Gus Van Sant;  Sean Penn (won Best Actor Oscar), James Franco, Josh Brolin (as the bad-guy shooter), Emile Hirsch, Victor Garber. Great movie.  Lots of San Francisco location shooting and recreation of the ’70s.  Won Best Original Screenplay Oscar.  (seen twice)
Invictus — 2009;  produced & directed by Clint Eastwood;  Morgan Freeman & Matt Damon — both Oscar-nominated for Best Lead and Supporting.  Biopic about Nelson Mandela.  ‘Invictus’ is Latin for ‘undefeated’, and the name of an inspirational 1875 Victorian poem by England’s William Ernest Henley that Mandela used as a mantra in prison.  He said Morgan Freeman was the only person who could play him — and my gawd, does Morgan have it down!  You completely forget you’re not hearing the real Mandela.  One of the great biopic performances of all time.  Morgan & company were developing the project for a while, then when the World Cup happened they completely scrapped what they’d done and started again.  When they showed up to tell Mandela they’d gone in a new direction, before they’d even finished the sentence, he said, “Ah, the World Cup.” 🙂  Opens in 1990 when he’s released from prison, then the bulk of the film is right after he’s first elected and the nation hosted the tournament.  What a great man and hero of history.  This is an important movie.  It’s got one helluva script, plus the cinematography, editing and soundtrack are great.  Filmed entirely on location in South Africa, including a scene at the prison where Mandela was held.  There are some shots with visual imperfections, but I assume that’s due to Clint “One Take” Eastwood.  The climactic rugby game could have been half as long, but other than that, super-well made film, like so many of Eastwood’s.  (seen once)

127 Hours — 2010;  screenplay co-written and directed by Danny Boyle;  based on trapped rock slide survivor Aron Ralston’s memoir;  James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Treat Williams;  nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Lead Actor, Best Editing (really deserved), Best Score and Best Original Song;  I don’t know how it missed out on Best Director and Cinematography!  The camcorder Franco uses is the one Ralston used when he was trapped, and the helicopter pilot who rescues him is the actual pilot.  Harrowing movie.  Not for the squeamish.  (seen once)
Tom Brokaw and NBC did an incredible documentary with the real guy, Aron Ralston, and actually aired, the only place ever, some of the video footage and video he shot while trapped — made six months to the day after the event.  This is fantastic.  The guy climbs back to the site!  I thought, watching the movie and knowing the story and human beings, this guy would NEVER want to go back there.  But he does!  This is jaw-dropping heavy after you’ve seen the movie.  You can watch it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObPb01zGYRA
Part 2:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hirhsWXRazs
Part 3:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkGHN-8s5yw
Part 4:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM8x79kIsEA
Part 5 – how breaks his bones and cuts his arm:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIgwm2Lq4Q4
Part 6 – the climax:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn9Fxw8MAlg

The Social Network — 2010;  David Fincher;  brilliant and Oscar-winning screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (who also, effectively, co-directed);  Jesse Eisenberg Oscar-nominated as Mark Zuckerberg, Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, Andrew Garfield, Rashida Jones, and Sorkin with a nice cameo as an ad executive.  Brilliant casting all the way through.  Perfect original Oscar-winning piano-based music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross.  Also Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Director & Cinematography.  The “twins” were done by computer superimposing the one actor’s face over the other’s to make them look identical.  David Fincher is one helluva filmmaker!  The 92-minute making-of doc on the 2-disc DVD release is by far the best making-of DVD doc I’ve ever seen.  And there’s TWO commentaries — both David Fincher & Aaron Sorkin.  (4)
Moneyball — 2011;  Bennett Miller;  Aaron Sorkin co-wrote;  Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, Spike Jonze.  I’m not really a baseball fan, but this character-rich real-story drama about a revolutionary process of putting together a winning team with a low budget is compelling from start to finish.  Nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, Editing, and both Brad & Jonah’s Acting.  (4)
Hitchcock — 2012:  Sacha Gervasi;  Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson (great as Janet Leigh), Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel (as Vera Miles), Ralph Macchio (as the screenwriter), James D’Arcy (great as Anthony Perkins), Kurtwood Smith.   Great portrayal of the moviemaking process, focusing on one master.  (seen once)
Lincoln — 2012:  Steven Spielberg (nominated for Best Director);  based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin book Team of Rivals, turned into a really smart script by Tony Kushner;  Daniel Day-Lewis (won Best Actor Oscar), Sally Fields (nominated for Best Supporting), Tommy Lee Jones (nominated for Best Supporting), David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tim Blake Nelson, David Constabile, Bruce McGill, David Oyelowo, and in bit parts Lucas Haas, Dane DeHaan & Adam Driver.  Music by John Williams.  Won Oscar for Best Production Design, nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design and Original Music.  Rather than a full biopic, it just focuses on his final few months when he fought for the Amendment to abolish slavery.  The only movie Spielberg ever directed wearing a suit & tie every day — because he wanted the formality and solemnity of the subject to be set from the top down.  Cool tidbit: he recorded the ticking of Lincoln’s own pocket watch for the scenes where you hear a watch/clock ticking. (seen once)
12 Years A Slave — 2013;  Steve McQueen;  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Kenneth Williams, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt (also a producer), Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano.  Depiction of a true story of a reputable free Black man from the North (Saratoga Springs, NY) being kidnapped and sold into slavery, who then wrote a firsthand account of it back in 1853.  Begins in 1841.  Won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o in her film debut, and Adapted Screenplay; plus nominated for Best Director, Lead Actor (Ejiofor), Support Actor (Fassbender), Editing, Production Design and Costume Design.  An important and horrifically graphic movie. (seen once)
Dallas Buyers Club — 2013; Jean-Marc Vallée;  Matthew McConaughey deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar (he shed 50 pounds to portray an AIDS victim!);  an unrecognizable Jared Leto who also deservedly won Best Supporting Actor (he shed 30 pounds!)  Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn & Griffin Dunne.  Won Best Hair & Makeup Oscar with a budget of $250.00!  7.9 rating on IMDb.  (seen once)
The Wolf of Wall Street — 2013;  Martin Scorsese;  based on Jordan Belfort book;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner  (3)
Big Eyes — 2014;  Tim Burton;  Amy Adams & Christoph Waltz;  screenplay by the team of Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski;  great dramatization about artist Margaret Keane who did the widely reproduced “big eyes” paintings and how her husband tried to take credit for them;  set largely in and around San Francisco in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  (seen once)
The Imitation Game— 2014;  Morten Tyldum (Norwegian, directing his first English movie);  Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, Keira Knightly (who doesn’t appear until 30 mins in and plays an empowering early feminist), Matthew Goode, Mark Strong.  Freakin masterpiece of filmmaking. Brilliant script (most deservedly won Best Screenplay … with the writer’s first film script!) about the real-life British math genius who cracked the Germans’ secret communication code during WWII by inventing the world’s first computer.  Nominated for 8 Oscars (all the big ones, including, quite deservedly, Musical Score). Stunning production design throughout. Cumberbatch is absolutely riveting, as is the whole movie.  Super historically accurate down to the actual Enigma machine, encrypted messages, puzzles, electric plugs, and wartime still photos recreated as film. Takes place in 3 time periods — childhood, during the war, and post war — and jumps back and forth between all 3.  Reminds me of Pulp Fiction in how the story is not linear.  This is one of those movies that gets richer & deeper with every viewing.  1:10:20 big scene begins in bar where Turing figures it out.  Fun fact: Originally, ‘computer’ was the name or designation given to a person who was very good at working with numbers or ‘computing’ them.  Turing calls his invention a ‘digital computer’, meaning that it is a machine that functions like a human computer.  (5)
The Big Short — 2015;  co-written & directed by Adam McKay;  Christian Bale, Steve Carrell (great!), Ryan Gosling, (a coproducer and almost unrecognizable) Brad Pitt, Tracy Letts (the guy who wrote August: Osage County), Marisa Tomei, Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez.  Deservedly won the Oscar for Best Screenplay, and equally deservedly nominated for Best Picture, Directing, Editing and Bale for Lead Actor.  A great drama & film based on the true story of the subprime mortgage scandal in banking (and the collapse in 2008).  A fascinating, riveting movie.  (seen once)
“Truth is like poetry. And people hate poetry.”  — overheard in a Wash. DC bar.
Black Mass — 2015;  Scott Cooper;  Johnny Depp as mobster Whitey Bulger, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Scott, David Harbour, Corey Stoll.  Lots of accurate location shooting, including where some of the murders actually took place.  Depp completely transformed himself into this real-life mob boss — one of his best performances ever.  He said in an interview he picked up his Boston accent in part by hanging with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, who he ended up with in the band Hollywood Vampires.  And speaking of music, great suspenseful minimalist score.  An absolutely riveting engrossing real-life gangster biopic on the order of Goodfellas.  (seen twice)
Joy — 2015;  produced, cowritten & directed by David O. Russell;  Jennifer Lawrence (Oscar nominated for Lead Actress), Robert De Niro, a magnificent Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, Edgar Ramirez, a wicked Isabella Rossellini, and Melissa Rivers playing her mother Joan.  A biopic of inventor Joy Mangano with some dramatic license taken by writer/director Russell.  Bradley & Jennifer’s 4th film together (after Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, Serena).  Great characters & spectacular performances in a rich uplifting story.  What a great movie this is.  (seen twice)
Spotlight — 2015;  co-written and directed by Tom McCarthy; Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton (right after Birdman), Liev Schreiber, John Slattery (as Ben Bradlee Jr.!), Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, Michael Cyril Creighton, Jamey Sheridan, and Richard Jenkins on the phone.  Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning story of how one of the world’s great newspapers, the Boston Globe, uncovered systemic sexual abuse coverups by the Catholic church.  Appropriately won Oscars for Best Picture and the brilliant Screenplay, with deserved nominations for Director, Editor, Ruffalo, & McAdams.  Incredible script and performances.  The real journalists upon whom this is based all praised their portrayals’ accuracy.  Spoken by Stanley Tucci: “Mark my words: if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”  This is SUCH a GREAT movie.  (seen twice)
Sully — 2016;  Clint Eastwood;  based on Chesley Sullenberger’s book;  Tom Hanks as Sully, Aaron Eckhart as the copilot, Laura Linney, Michael Rapaport, Katie Couric.  Great movie about the landing of the plane on the Hudson River in January 2009.  Very positive New York story with lots of location shots.  Really well crafted script.  (seen twice)
I, Tonya — 2017;  Craig Gillespie;  produced by & starring Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding (Oscar nom for Best Lead), an amazing Allison Janney (won the Best Supporting Oscar for playing her wholly evil mother), plus Bobby Cannavale as the Hard Copy reporter, and Paul Walter Hauser (who played Richard Jewell in another great biopic).  Incredible, well-chosen soundtrack including Cliff Richards, Bo Diddley, Vivaldi, Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky, Supertramp, Heart, Dire Straits, Chicago, Fleetwood Mac, Bad Company, ZZ Top & the Violent Femmes.  Done in faux documentary style, including “Rashomon” type interviews with characters sharing entirely different perspectives of the same events.  It was after this performance that Margot felt she had the acting chops and contacted Quentin Tarantino to say she wanted to work with him sometime, and he promptly cast her as Sharon Tate in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.  Graphically told story without a single redeeming person in the whole sad tale.  (seen twice)
Loving Vincent — 2017;  written & directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Walchman;  filmed with actors portraying characters from Van Gogh paintings, then each of the film’s 65,000 frames were hand painted over in oil in Vincent’s style making it the world’s first fully painted animated feature.  You can read my review here.  (seen twice – at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto with Sky & George Walker, and at Lowell Celebrates Kerouac where I introduced it)
The Disaster Artist
— 2017;  directed by and starring James Franco;  Dave Franco (who’s absolutely great), Seth Rogan, and cameos in order of appearance:  Randall Park, Melanie Griffith, Megan Mullally, Sharon Stone, Bob Odenkirk, Jerrod Carmichael, Judd Apatow, Zac Efron, Brian Huskey, Bryan Cranston.  Great (Oscar-nominated) script from the wingman character’s memoir — a dramatization of the making of “the best worst movie ever made” The RoomI LOVE this Disaster movie.  The editing, the acting, the casting of two Franco brothers as “brothers,” the weirdness, the big dreams, the dealing with failure. Amazing closing split-screen pairing of the original The Room footage beside this new portrayal.  This is WAY better than the original.  (3)
The Post
— 2017;  Steven Spielberg;  Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bruce Greenwood (as McNamara), Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Bradley Whitford, Tracy Letts, Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Zach Woods, and Matthew Rhys as Daniel Ellsberg.  A masterpiece of filmmaking.  Nominated for Best Picture and Streep for Best Actress.  About the leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and is thus a prequel to another cinematic masterpiece All The President’s Men about the Watergate story which broke in the same Post newsroom in late 1972.  In fact, the last scene of The Post (the Watergate break-in) is the beginning of All The President’s Men.  The script was co-written by Josh Singer (who also wrote Spotlight) and is based on 3 memoirs: Ellsberg’s, Ben Bradlee’s and Katherine Graham’s.  John Williams once again with a note-perfect original score — the 28th collaboration and 44th year of he & Spielberg working together.  The great Ann Roth did the costumes, as she’s done in cinematic from Midnight Cowboy on.  The film is dedicated “For Nora Ephron.” (4)
A Futile and Stupid Gesture — 2018;  David Wain;  Will Forte as Doug Kenney, Martin Mull as an old Doug Kenney, Thomas Lennon as Michael O’Donoghue, Joel McHale as Chevy Chase. Great Netflix docudrama about comedy giant Douglas Kenney and National Lampoon / Animal House.  Basically a dramatization of the documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead  — 2015;  cowritten & directed by Douglas Tirola.  I liked it.  Really well made.  Great casting.  Great story.  Great movie.  (seen once)
Stan & Ollie — 2018;  Jon Baird;  Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel, John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy — perfect casting, both really great, plus Danny Huston as the manipulative Hal Roach.  Funny & heartwarming docudrama written in the style of Laurel & Hardy about their late-career comeback that turned into their swan song.  A beautiful bittersweet movie about the love between two old friends.  Filmed on locations all over the U.K.  (seen once)
Ford v Ferrari — 2019;  James Mangold;  Matt Damon & Christian Bale, plus Josh Lucas (Neal Cassady in Big Sur), Ray McKinnon & the always great Tracey Letts as Henry Ford II. Damon said he said yes to this role mainly becxause he wanted to work with Christian Bale. Oscar nominated for Best Picture and won for Editing and Sound. Set in the 1960s, boy, would Neal Cassady have ever liked this movie!  Funny riff on ‘beatniks’ — referring to the hero driver of the movie — at the 59 min mark. 🙂 The movie was in development for 10 years and was at one point called “Go Like Hell” with Brad Pitt & Tom Cruise as the leads but they could never get it to a budget a studio wanted to make. A definite edge-of-your-seat movie.  Great story, script, performances, cinematography, score, soundtrack, editing — just Great Filmmaking! No wonder it was nominated for Best Picture. I’m not a ‘car guy’ in the slightest, and this had me riveted from the ignition. Beyond cars — it’s also a movie about friendship, and iconoclasts vs. corporate suits — a conflict I always enjoy in both real-life and the movies. (seen twice )
Richard Jewell
— 2019;  Clint Eastwood;  Paul Walter Hauser (great as the titular character), Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates (as the mother, nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Jon Hamm (FBI agent), Olivia Wilde (reporter).  Great biopic — riveting filmmaking & script & casting.  Laughed out loud 3 times and cried once.  (seen once)

Mank2020; David Fincher;  Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz, should have won Best Actor Oscar; Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davis;  about Hollywood in the 1930s, alcoholism, and the writing of Citizen Kane; really liked it.  B&W  (seen once)
Oppenheimer — 2023;  screenwritten & directed by Christopher Nolan; Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Josh Hartnett, Tom Conti, Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Modine, Dane DeHaan, Rami Malek, Matthew Modine, James Remar, Casey Affleck, Sean Avery, and a masterful nearly unrecognizable Gary Oldman as President Truman!  Nolan said he intentionally chose well-known actors for the many men in suits so the audience could more easily keep them straight.  Amazing cast, but a dry story with too much inserted politics and personal relationships including embarrassingly gratuitous naked sex scenes and a lot of men arguing in rooms. It never made me care about the character or story — like Benedict Cumberbatch did successfully in the similar The Imitation Game (set during the same time and war effort), or Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind or Jesse Eisenberg in A Social Network — all stories about eccentric socially awkward geniuses.  These are not impossible to make engaging.  Somehow the Barbenheimer double feature made the doll seem more important than the history-changing scientist.  The film is hard to follow due to the incessant flipping around between all different time periods.  Watching it felt like homework for a required class I didn’t want to take in the first place.  It’s too much about *inquiries* into Oppenheimer than the story of the invention and use of the bomb — more of a courtroom or boardroom drama than a personal story like, say, Hamilton.  And it’s completely devoid of any light moments, which to me is a failure of filmmaking when dealing with a 3-hour serious drama.  Even Death of a Salesman or Goodfellas contain light moments in dark dramas.  B&W (the Strauss [Downey] perspective) and color (Oppenheimer’s perspective).  (seen twice)
One Life — 2024;  James Hawes (his first feature);  Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Lena Olin, Johnny Flynn, and a monumental performance by Helena Bonham Carter.  Inspired casting and magnificent performances all around.  Brilliant BBC biopic about the real story of an English guy, Nicky Winton, who snuck 669 Jewish children out of Czechoslovakia in 1939.  My God this is a powerful film in all the best ways.  Great script.  Great filmmaking.  Great editing.  Really captures British sensibilities, mores and life.  Lots of location shooting in Prague and the Czech Republic.  Search ‘Nicky Winton’ on YouTube and you’ll find a bunch of great clips from after this story first surfaced in 1988.  As hero Nicky put it and is the lesson of the story — there is passive goodness . . . and there is active goodness.  (seen once)


Documentaries   (non music)    [37]

N.Y., N.Y. — 1957;  Francis Thompson;  a 15-minute revolutionary cinematic masterpiece that has been described as both Cubist and Dadaist.  A young D.A. Pennebaker (see next entry) was an assistant to the filmmaker in Manhattan on the project, and used his projector and phonograph playing Bartók to screen it for Aldous Huxley in Thompson’s apartment.  (4)
With Love from Truman1966;  Albert & David Maysles; 30-min. documentary / interview with Capote for the Newsweek cover story shortly after In Cold Blood came out and became a hit.  This is included on the Extras on the Criterion Collection version of In Cold Blood.  (seen twice)
Salesman — filmed in 1966, released in 1969;  Albert & David Maysles riveting masterpiece documentary about four door-to-door Bible salesmen.  Starts outside Boston (Webster, Mass), then they go down to Miami.  First saw in Phyllis Condon’s kitchen.  What’s amazing is the complete breakdown of one of the salesmen.  From the excellent Criterion commentary, Albert explains how he makes his documentaries — empathy: from commentary: Albert Maysles became lifelong friends with Paul Brennan (the guy who lost it).  David Maysles loved Arthur Miller plays, would see them multiple times.  Just the two brothers made it, no assistants or crew.  David was on sound (directional microphone, into a customized Nagra to record for 15 times at a time), Albert on camera (weighted 20 pounds; had early zoom lens).  Albert says it took 30 years to get it on TV.  Shot 100 hours of film, boiled down to 90 mins!  Cost $200-300,000!!! mainly for the processing of the film.  Plus the editor’s salary (the woman).  The 200th film added to my list!  B&W  (4)

Grey Gardens — 1975;  the Maysles brothers;  great documentary about eccentric Long Island mother & daughter Edith Bouvier Beale and “Little Edith.”  An unnecessary dramatization of the documentary was made by HBO in 2009 starting Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.  (seen twice)

Lightning Over Water — 1980;  directed by and starring Wim Wenders and Nicholas Ray.  Ronee Blakley’s in it.  I saw at Papp’s Public Theater in the Village with Susan Ray.
Sherman’s March — 1986;  Ross McElee;  quirky, engaging documentary ostensibly about tracing Sherman’s historic Civil War march to the sea, but evolves into the filmmaker exploring his past & present love life.  (2)

Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse — 1991;  written & directed by Fax Bahr & George Hickenlooper;  the Coppola family, various actors from Apocalypse Now!  (2)
The War Room — 1993;  D.A. Pennebaker & wife Chris Hegedus;  great documentary about the behind-the-scenes of Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign.  (3)
Swear To Tell The Truth — 1998;  written & directed by Robert Weide;  great Lenny Bruce documentary  (3)

Dogtown and Z-Boys — 2001;  dir: Stacy Peralta (the famous guy);  Jay Adams, Tony Alva; Craig Stecyk (original writer & photographer); narrator: Sean Penn;  memorizing “birth of skateboarding” documentary.  (4)
Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days — 2001;  amazing AMC (American Movie Classics) documentary with the 37 missing min. of last film Something’s Got To Give.  (2)
Bowling For Columbine — 2002;  documentary written & directed by Michael Moore; won Best Documentary Oscar.  (3)
The Kid Stays In The Picture — 2002;  Nanette Burstein & Brett Morgan; from Robert Evans book;  starring Robert Evans and half of Hollywood.
Lost In La Mancha — 2002;  great documentary on Terry Gilliam making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote;  with Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges  (3)
Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
— 2002;  written & directed by Maureen Maldaur;  Tommy & Dick Smothers, Steve Martin, Mason Williams, Rob Reiner, Bob Einstein, David Halberstam, Ken Kragen, David Steinberg, plus all sorts of archival footage.  (seen once)
Los Angeles Plays Itself2003;  written & directed by Thom Anderson.  Highly recommended documentary about films shot in L.A., how the city’s portrayed, real sites versus the life incarnations, including architecture & interior design, and public transport & automobiles.  Nearly 3 hours of fantastic editing of film clips, weaving together hundreds of different movie snippets telling a riveting history of filmmaking with an L.A. location focus.  B&W and color  (seen once)
The Aristocrats — 2005;  Paul Provenza (and Penn Jillette);  featuring nearly every comedian you’ve ever heard of, but the key & funniest ones I remember are: Gilbert Gottfried, Bob Saget, Drew Carey, Sarah Silverman, Paul Reiser, George Carlin, Andy Dick, Martin Mull, Mario Cantone (as Liza Minelli), Kevin Pollak (as Christopher Walkin), Eric Meed the card trick guy, and South Park.  (4)
Grizzly Man — 2005;  Warner Herzog;  Timothy Treadwell  (1)
Sketches of Frank Gehry — 2006;  Sydney Pollack – the last film he directed before being diagnosed and dying of cancer.  One of my favorite filmmakers documents one of my favorite architects, who was in his mid-70s at the time, after the two been friends for decades.  Spectacular doc getting inside the mind of the most influential architect of the last half-century.  A good Canadian boy, he began his creative life in Toronto.  He’s funny, makes dry jokes, and is Prankster-like in this playfulness.  He hung with artists (painters) feeling more at home with them than other architects.  He doesn’t know how to use computers (!) so he assembled a team who knew 3D computer generating which allowed him to be even more creative because they could reproduce his visions precisely for contractors and construction people.  They talk about his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain as the building that blew open what he did, including causing visitors to the city to double in its first year.  Includes interviews with Dennis Hopper (who lives in a Gehry house!), Philip Johnson, artists Julian Schnabel and Ed Ruscha, Bob Geldof, Michael Eisner and Barry Diller.  (seen once)
Chicago 10 — 2007;  written & directed by Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays In The Picture, Jane [Goodall]); fantastic documentary about the 1968 Chicago protests and trial – blending incredible behind-the-scenes & archival footage and cool motion–capture animation – great great storytelling — tons of great Abbie footage! Plus multiple Allen Ginsberg, Paul Krassner and Ed Sanders clips;  and a killer cast doing the voiceover during the animation — Hank Azaria as both Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg (including on the stand), Mark Ruffalo as Jerry Rubin, Roy Scheider at Judge Hoffman, Nick Nolte as the prosecutor, Liev Schreiber as the brilliant William Kunstler, Dylan Baker as David Dellinger.  MC5 cameo playing Kick Out The Jams in the park;  multiple Bob Fass on WBAI recordings with Abbie.  Killer soundtrack including Rage Against The Machine, Black Sabbath, Beastie Boys, Eminem, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Steppenwolf, Parliament Funkadelic & Billy Preston.  Color & B&W.  (seen once)
The Gates — 2007;  Albert & David Maysles;  amazing doc about Christo’s “Gates” installation in Central Park.  (3)
Run Granny Run — 2007;  Mario Poras;  Indie documentary about 94 year old Doris ‘Granny D’ Haddock’s run for the 2004 New Hampshire Senate seat  (3)
Sicko — 2007;  Michael Moore — fantastic doc about healthcare.  (seen twice)
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson — 2008;  Alex Gibney;  Johnny Depp narrator;  great doc!  Lots about ’72.  (3)
Man on Wire — 2008;  James Marsh;  great documentary with tons of archival footage of Philippe Petit’s high wire walk between World Trade Center buildings.  (seen once)

Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place — 2011;  by Oscar-winning documentary director Alex Gibney & his longtime editor Alison Ellwood;  narrated by Stanley Tucci;  original ’64 Furthur Bus footage mixed with modern recreations.  Includes footage of the 1964 NYC party when Kerouac & Cassady saw each other for the last time.  Shot on 16mm with no sound, which had to be painstakingly matched up from original audio tapes.  (seen three times, including its premiere at TIFF and with Carolyn Cassady at her house)
Supermensch — 2013;  Mike Myers & Beth Aala;  great 90-min. documentary about music artist manager Shep Gordon;  inspired me to be a better person;  lots of Alice Cooper, plus Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, Mick Fleetwood, Anne Murray, Bob Ezrin, Tom Arnold, Willie Nelson, Sammy Hager & others.  I first read about Shep Gordon when I was 13 or 14 years old when I was reading everything I could about Alice Cooper.  Dig this — if anybody knows my longstanding email address . . . a couple facts I didn’t know until this week — Shep Gordon is a big believer in karma . . . and he bases his business approach on giving and collecting “coupons.”  (seen once)
You can rent it for $4 here:
https://www.vudu.com/content/movies/details/Supermensch-The-Legend-of-Shep-Gordon/569709
Altman2014;  Ron Mann;  spectacular Canadian-made 96-min. doc. by the great Ron Mann spanning the rebel film auteur’s complete life.  Loving, smart, honest & inspirational.  (seen once)
Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Gore  —  2015;  cowritten & directed by Robert Gordon;  besides the two heavyweights in the main bout, also features archival footage with Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Paul Newman, Noam Chomsky & Jon Stewart, and contemporary observations from Dick Cavett, Frank Rich, Christopher Hitchens & Andrew Sullivan.  John Lithgow (Vidal) and Kelsey Grammer (Buckley) voice readings by the headliners.  You can read my review of it here.  (seen once – at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto)
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead — 2015;  Chevy Chase, Judd Apatow, Tony Hendra, Michael O’Donoghue, Ivan Reitman, John Landis, plus everyone you ever heard of who worked for National Lampoon, which this a great documentary about.  (seen twice) 
Going Furthur — 2016;  Colby Tex O’Neill, Matt “Puds” Pidutti, Lindsay Kent;  Wavy Gravy, George Walker, Ken Babbs, Roy Sebern, Anonymous, Alex Grey, Zane Kesey, Sam Cutler, countless Merry Pranksters new and old, and a camei by Yours Unruly.  About the 2014 50th anniversary of the Pranksters’ bus trip across America and all the new next-gen Pranksters who rode along.  Here’s my full review of it.  (3)
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — 2017; Chris Smith; Jim Carrey, Miloš Forman, Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti & others. Fantastic documentary about the making of the Man On The Moon biopic. Behind the scenes footage from shooting the movie that Universal refused to allow to be shown and sat in Jim’s storage for 20 years. Jim talks about how he became possessed by Andy from “the great beyond.” Includes tons of original footage of Andy’s TV clips, and was nominated for a Best Documentary Emmy. (seen once)
Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists — 2018;  directed by Jonathon Alter!  (the political journalist) and John Block;  interviews with Colin Quinn, John Avlon, Mike Barnicle, Gail Collins, Mike Lupica, Robert Krulwich, Gloria Steinem, Shirley MacLaine, Robert De Niro, Spike Lee, Tom Brokaw, Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Garry Trudeau, Tony Bennett & many others, plus tons of archival footage.  Every one of those people is on the List of Heroes for this reporter.  Riveting HBO documentary about the two quintessential pioneering New York reporters & columnists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill who were active during my decades in New York.  They were fantastically gifted writers — newspapermen men, specifically — carving out “New Journalism” the way Thompson, Wolfe & Mailer were with books.  And talk about on-the-scenesters — they were both standing with Bobby Kennedy the moment he was shot — and both of them jumped on and held down the assassin — and both of them wrote their accounts.  Footage of each of them typing reveals they were both one-finger typists!  The millions of words they each wrote and were read — were all typed by one finger on each hand!  (seen once)
The Great Buster: A Celebration — 2018;  written, directed & narrated by film scholar Peter Bogdanovich (produced by MK2 out of France who did On The Road!) — about Buster Keaton, including interviews with (in order of appearance):  Dick Van Dyke, Johnny Knoxville, Richard Lewis, Carl Reiner, Bill Hader, Mel Brooks, Cybill Shepard, Werner Herzog, Spiderman director Jon Watts (who studied Keaton and “used as the baseline” for Spidey), Nick Kroll, Quentin Tarantino, Leonard Maltin, Bill Irwin, Paul Dooley — plus *tons* or archival footage and best-of movie clips.  But kind of a sad tragedy.  (seen once)
Jane Fonda In Five Acts — 2018;  Susan Lacy;  fantastic doc;  I love her husbands — Roger Vadim a film director, Tom Haden an activist, and Ted Turner a media visionary.  Explores how she grew up without emotional connections/ intelligence, then learned it in her later years and reveals the story of how she found it.  She won two Academy Awards for Best Lead Actor — something only 20 others actors ever achieved.  “My hair needs its own agent.”  🙂  (seen once)

Laurel Canyon — 2020;  photographers Henry Diltz & Nurit Wilde;  Alex Gibney a producer;  they used audio interviews over still pictures with (in order) the Byrds, Love, the Buffalo Springfield, the Turtles, the Doors, Zappa, Alice Cooper, the Monkees, the Mamas & the Papas, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, CSN, Elliot Roberts, Jackson Browne, Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Glenn Frey, David Geffen, Linda Ronstadt, J.D. Souther, Steve Martin, Don Henley, Paul Barrere, Bill Payne, Sam Clayton, Lowell George, Little Feat, the Eagles, Russ Kunkel set to still photos of the time, plus some period TV appearances like American Bandstand, Ed Sullivan, The Monkees, Playboy After Hours, and footage from films Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Gimme Shelter, Festival Express and Riot on Sunset Strip.  Part 1 is basically the ’60s, part 2 the ’70s; each an hour & 20 mins.  (seen twice)
Tripping The Niagara — 2021; John Morrison;  Canadian-made visual documentary using a bird’s-eye view flying from the mouth of Niagara River up to The Falls, including into towns along the way, and melding in historic black & white shots superimposed over present scenes.  Full fantastic doc is on YouTube.  (seen twice)
Here’s lotsa background on how it was made: https://www.trippingtheniagara.com/

 

Movies About Making Movies   [27]

The Bad and The Beautiful — 1952;  Vincent Minnelli;  Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell, Gloria Grahame.  Won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes and Gloria Grahame for Best Supporting Actress.  Great insider portrait of moguls (played by Kirk Douglas) and the old studio system.  Shades of Citizen Kane.  Classic opening sequence.  B&W.  (seen once)
 — 1963;  written & directed by Frederico Fellini;  Marcello Mastroianni.  Won Oscars for Best Foreign Film and Best Costumes; nominated for Best Director, Screenplay & Art Direction. Like many Italian films at the time, filmed without audio recording on set and all dialog and sound was dubbed later. Fellini taped a note to the eyepiece of the camera “Remember, this is a comedy.” The numerical title refers to the number of films Fellini had directed to that point. Supposedly Scorsese’s favorite movie. Recommended by everybody.  B&W  (never seen)

Alex In Wonderland — 1970;  written & directed by Paul Mazursky (his 3rd film); Donald Sutherland, a great young Ellen Burstyn, plus Michael Lerner, Mazursky himself wonderfully as a hustling studio exec, Meg Mazursky (Paul’s daughter), the actual Federico Fellini at an editing machine!  And also Jeanne Moreau as herself. About a hot-shot hippie filmmaker who’s trying to decide between making a movie for art or for big money, and as he travels around he has fantasy visions of movie scenes playing out in his real life.  Late ’60s surreal hippie movie about movie making.  Shot entirely on locations, with lotsa cool interiors and exteriors circa summer of 1970.  (recommended by Judith B — seen once)
Day For Night — 1973;  directed & screenplay by Francois Truffaut;  Jacqueline Bisset.  Truffaut’s movie about making movies.  (never seen)
The Big Picture — 1989;  Christopher Guest;  written by Guest, Michael McKean & Michael Varhol;  Kevin Bacon, Michael McKean, J.T. Walsh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Teri Hatcher in her first movie  (4)

Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse — 1991;  written & directed by Fax Bahr & George Hickenlooper;  the Coppola family, various actors from Apocalypse Now!  (1)
The Player — 1992;  Robert Altman;  Michael Tolkin (novel & screenplay);  Tim Robbins, Vincent D’Onofrio, Fred Ward, Greta Scacchi, Cynthia Stevenson, Whoopi Goldberg, Dean Stockwell, Brion James, Lyle Lovett, Peter Gallagher, Sydney Pollack, Jeremy Piven, Gina Gershon, and a million cameos.  Gawd!  What a brilliant movie!  One of my favorites of all time.  Music by the great Thomas Newman. Deservedly Oscar-nominated for Best Editing by Altman 90’s compadre Geraldine Peroni (Short Cuts, Vincent & Theo, Ready To Wear). Brilliant & beautiful cinematography by his go-to Jean Lepine (Vincent & Theo, Bob Roberts, Tanner ’88). 
This film has more Oscar-winning actors and actresses in the cast than any other movie in history.  (!)  Twelve:  Cher, James Coburn, Louise Fletcher, Whoopi Goldberg, Joel Grey, Anjelica Huston, Jack Lemmon, Marlee Matlin, Tim Robbins, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, and Rod Steiger.
Thirteen, when you count Oscar winning Producer and Director Sydney Pollack, who also makes a cameo appearance.
Also includes fifteen other actors and actresses who received Oscar nominations: Karen Black, Dean Stockwell, Michael Tolkin, Gary Busey, Peter Falk, Teri Garr, Jeff Goldblum, Elliott Gould, Sally Kirkland, Buck Henry, Sally Kellerman, Burt Reynolds, Nick Nolte, Richard E. Grant and Lily Tomlin.  (4)
Here’s probably the greatest continuous tracking shot in film history — the 8-minute opening of this movie:
https://vimeo.com/75881931

Swimming With Sharks — 1994;  written & directed by George Huang;  Kevin Spacey, Frank Whaley, Michelle Forbes, Benicio Del Toro.  Unforgettable performance by Spacey as the ruthless soulless movie executive egomaniac.  Accurate to my experience of the general life in the executive ranks in the entertainment biz.  (seen twice)
Get Shorty — 1995;  Barry Sonnenfeld;  fantastic script from a Elmore Leonard novel (who said this was the best of the many film adaptations of his books);  great casting:  John Travolta (who turned it down until Tarantino talked him into doing it), Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito (great), Rene Russo, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo (great), James Gandolfini, the always great David Paymer, Bobby Slayton, plus Bette Midler, Harvey Keitel & Penny Marshall in uncredited roles/cameos.  Music by John Lurie, and great soundtrack including lots of Booker T & MGs.  Great & funny movie-business send-up with a mob twist.  Definite echoes of The Player (from 3 years earlier) – with the script of the movie being pitched reflecting the movie we’re watching, the restaurant meetings, the fictional Hollywood laid over the real.  Tons of fantastic location shooting in L.A.  (seen once)
Living in Oblivion — 1995;  written & directed by Tom DiCillo;  Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, Peter Dinklage, and James Le Gros as the arrogant “star.” About low budget independent filmmaking in NYC — made by indi actors & crew.  Brilliantly written & executed.  Buscemi rules the roost.  And WHAT an opening!  Funny. Surreal.  Love it.  (4)
Hurlyburly — 1998;  Anthony Drazen;  David Rabe play;  Sean Penn (great), Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri and his wife Gianna (playing husband & wife), Robin Wright (who was married to Sean Penn at the time), Garry Shandling, Winnipeg’s own Anna Paquin (16 years old), Meg Ryan.  Rather male-centric Tony Award-winning play about coked-up crazy movie biz in L.A. Seeing Penn & Spacey play off each other is alone worth the price of admission.  (seen once)

State & Main —  2000;  written & directed by David Mamet;  with an Unbelievable cast – the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy (and, boy, does he carry it), Alec Baldwin (as the naturally perfect movie star), Charles Durning, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Stiles, Rebecca Pidgeon, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, Patti LuPone, Ricky Jay, Michael Higgins, Matt Malloy, a cameo by Jonathan Katz, plus a lot of locals and Mamet’s non-actor friends;  tasteful perfect music by Theodore Shapiro.  GAWD this is a masterpiece of a movie!  Sheesh!  Really Funny.  Personable.  Movie-making accurate.  America & Americana.  Masterful filmmaking.  Master-upon-master building on each other.  I watched this movie 10 times and see and love new stuff in it every time.  “It’s about purity.”  (4)
The Independent — 2000;  Jerry Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Stiller, a zillion cameos. funny. (1)
Hollywood Ending — 2002;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody, Téa Leoni, Treat Williams, George Hamilton, Tiffani Thiessen, Debra Messing as a wonderful ditz, and Beat pal Peter Gerety as Woody’s shrink.  Great script & filmmaking.  A movie about Woody making a movie . . . and then he goes blind.  Classic stuff.  (4)
The Kid Stays In The Picture — 2002;  Nanette Burstein & Brett Morgan; from Robert Evans book;  starring Robert Evans and half of Hollywood.  (1)
Lost In La Mancha — 2002;  great documentary on Terry Gilliam making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote;  with Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges  (3)
A Decade Under the Influence — 2003;  Ted Demme (his last movie);  great documentary about filmmaking in the 1970s, including new and archival interviews with Francis Ford Coppola (cites Kerouac & the Beats), Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, William Friedkin, Sidney Lumet, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Pollack, Paul Mazursky, John Cassavetes, Roger Corman, Robert Towne, Miloš Forman, Paul Schrader, Jerry Schatzberg, Julie Christie, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Roy Scheider, Pam Grier, Ellen Burstyn, Polly Platt.  Brilliant, inspirational, rockin, beautifully made documentary about the transformational decade of film from the late ’60s thru the late ’70s — the golden era / maturation of the American auteur filmmakers.  (seen twice)
You can watch it on YouTube here . . .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbxz-Z5ECL0&ab_channel=joucy 
Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How The Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood — 2003;  written & directed by Kenneth Browser;  (based on Peter Biskind’s book of the same name);  new & archival interviews with Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Warren Beatty, Peter Bogdanovich, Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese, Arthur Penn, John Milius, Roger Corman, Richard Dreyfuss, Margot Kidder, Karen Black, Micky Dolenz, Joan Tewkesbury, Laszio Kovacs & many others.  William H. Macy narrates.  Fantastic documentary about my favorite period of filmmaking — when Hollywood transitioned from the staid studio system into independent filmmakers speaking from & to the new generation — the birth of American auteurism — when American film became an art form.  “You can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys.”  Riveting and smart.  I absolutely loved it and highly recommend to all.  Really, required viewing for everyone interested in film.  (seen twice)
The entire doc is currently viewable on YouTube . . . 

I Love Your Work — 2003;  co-written & directed by Adam Goldberg;  Giovanni Ribisi, Joshua Jackson, Marisa Coughlin, Judy Greer, plus lots of cameos by Elvis Costello, Vince Vaughan, Jason Lee, Randall Batinkoff, Christina Ricci & others.  (1)
For Your Consideration — 2006;  Christopher Guest;  written by Guest & Eugene Levy;  starring Guest, Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Michael Hitchcock, Jennifer Coolidge, Richard Kind, Sandra Oh, Don Lake, Ricky Gervais & Larry Miller.  Funny character-rich comedy about actors hoping to be nominated for an Academy Award.  The Guest & Levy commentary and outtake extras on the DVD are fantastic.  (3)
Tales From The Script2009;  Peter Hanson.  Documentary about screenwriting.  Great!  Absolutely riveting.  But then I love anything about the writing process. 🙂  Nothing but writers telling stories about writing and filmmaking for nearly 2 hours!  Must-see for film fans, as far as I’m concerned.  Brilliantly made, IMO.  (seen once)

La La Land2016; written & directed by Damien Chazelle; Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling, with a great supporting role by John Legend; and small scene by J.K. Simmons.  Update on the classic Hollywood musicals, with a parallel story of an aspiring jazz musician.  Won Oscars for Emma Stone, Best Director, Cinematography, Music & Production Design.  (seen once)
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood — 2019;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Robert Richardson Oscar nominated for his cinematography;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margo Robbie, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Emile Hirsch.    Rightly nominated for 10 Oscars — the top five films in every category for that year.  It rightly won two.  Production Design and Brad Pitt’s acting.  But shoulda won all ten.  Every time I watch this – prolly 6 or 7 times by now – I think, “This is a brilliant masterpiece of filmmaking in every regard.”  Here’s a great documentary on the making of it.  (4)
Here’s the 4-minute continuous tracking shot from the middle of the movie — the confrontation/fight between Brad Pitt’s Cliff and the Bruce Lee character:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcsPAcLDBkc

Babylon — 2022;  written & directed by Damien Chazelle La La Land;  Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, newcomers Diego Calva & Li Jun Li, Jean Smart, Flea, Lukas Haas, director Damien’s wife & creative partner Olivia Hamilton as a woman director, Jeff Garlin as the studio head, Max Minghella as Irving Thalberg, Toby Maguire as the insane gangster chief (and also co-produced the movie), Spike Jonze is brilliant as the eccentric European director chasing the fading light, Eric Roberts kind-of reprises his sleazeball Star 80 role as an old man, and Olivia Wilde in an opening nails-it one-take scene.  I laughed out loud many times at unexpected funny lines.  Brilliant casting, cinematography, editing, score by Oscar-winner Justin Hurwitz, production design by Florencia Martin (who also did Blonde and Licorice Pizza), not to mention the drool-inducing old car show, and over 7,000 costumes designed from poverty to royalty. Great filmmaking in general, although some questionable dark choices.  I bet D.A. Pennebaker would have loved the dramatization of the birth of sound in film.  Very much a modern remaking of Singin’ in The Rain (without the corniness) — a movie about movie-makers in the silent pictures into talkies era. Several similar scenes in both movies — the actress learning diction training scene, trouble recording the first talking scenes, the audience laughing at a screening, not to mention the lead character going to see Singin’ in the final reel.  Both movies loosely inspired by real-life silent movie star John Gilbert, who fell from grace when he couldn’t make the transition.  From the 4 minute mark (the start of the opening party) until 1:01 (when the “1927” title card appears) is the best hour of new film I’ve seen in a long time — and pretty-much a must-see for any film fan.  The cable cam/Steadicam ‘oners’ in the party scene and the two tracking shots on the Kinoscope lot passing through multiple movie sets are absolute masterworks.  If this was a 3-part TV series (instead of a 3-hour movie), the first episode would sweap the award shows. Eric Roberts compared Margot Robbie’s performance to Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe.  And he’s right. The movie opens in 1926 and has a coda ending in 1952.  (4)

 

Movies about Politics   [25]

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington — 1939;  Frank Capra;  Lewis Foster won Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story;  James Stewart & Jean Arthur; Claude Rains (as the morally corrupted & conflicted Senator) and Harry Carey (as the President of the Senate) were both nominated for Best Supporting Actors; plus Edward Arnold (as the evil bossman), Charles Lane, Thomas Mitchell.  Nominated 11 Oscars.  Of course I absolutely love this movie — including that there’s 96 Senators — cuz Hawaii & Alaska weren’t states yet.  It’s so interesting how the corrupt Jim Taylor criminal cabal echoes the corrupt trump cult.  Plus there’s a great love story that gets me every time.  The film was placed in preservation in the National Film Registry the first year of its existence.  B&W  (3)
State of The Union — 1948;  Frank Capra;  Spencer Tracy & Katherine Hepburn, Angela Lansbury, Van Johnson.  A married industrialist (Spencer) runs for President.  B&W  (1)

The Candidate — 1972;  Michael Ritchie;  Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, Allan Garfield  (4)
All The President’s Men — 1976;  Alan Pakula;  based on book by Woodward & Bernstein;  brilliant cinematography by Gordon Willis;  Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Ned Beatty, Stephen Collins, Meredith Baxter, Robert Walden.  87 mins in there’s an historic TV clip of the great Elizabeth Drew interviewing Nixon’s Attorney General.  Rewatching and being blown away by this film for the first time in decades during the lockdown summer of 2020 inspired my Film Studies deep-dive program.  Revisiting this movie is mind-blowing in how it reflects trump taking Nixon’s amoral authoritarian corruption to the stratosphere.  This authoritarian power grab is trumpism in its infancy.  Everything that Watergate and this movie foretold as an immanent danger to American democracy came to pass with the practiced evil of trump’s manipulative sociopathy.  Exactly what was stopped by the Washington Post is the evil that’s proliferating now when a criminal autocrat can manipulate the functions of government and media.  The 2-disc Special Edition has fantastic making-of documentaries, but the Robert Redford commentary is to-die-for.  He was the guy who first saw the story as being about Woodward & Bernstein, not the Watergate crime per se.  He contacted the two before they ever wrote the book, and said THIS was the story.  HOW they uncovered it.  Not the “it” — but the “how.”  Redford saw and pitched it as a real-life detective thriller … and every studio turned him down.  And the lone studio that was interested, Warner Brothers, wouldn’t make it unless he starred in it.  It was making The Candidate that led to Redford’s connections to political journalists.  It’s almost as amazing a story of how this film came to be created as the story itself.  And hearing Redford describe what was behind each scene and shot is a gift from beyond. Nobody was more involved in why this film exists than Robert Redford. It deservedly won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Art Direction and Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee, but what an historic mistake that this didn’t win Best Picture.  Mind you, it was up against Taxi Driver, Network, Bound For Glory and Rocky . . . and fucking Rocky won!  I love the Academy of filmmakers n all — but boy, do they get it wrong sometimes.  🙂  (4)
Tanner ’88 — 1988;  HBO;  really smart arcing detail-rich script by Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury) but large parts improvised;  Robert Altman (who won the Best Director Emmy);  experimental 11-episode series featuring a fictional candidate in the Democratic primary, shot on locations along the campaign trail as it played out, blending real events with fictional ones.  An absolutely great Michael Murphy plays the candidate Jack Turner (he worked with Altman 12 times! including M*A*S*H, Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller).  Also staring 22-year-old later real-life NY Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, plus a superb Pamela Reed (who won the CableACE Best Actress award) as the campaign manager and Veronica Cartwright as the NBC reporter, and a great 2-episode cameo by Waylon Jennings (If Only Hank Could See Us Now), E.G. Marshall, a fucking WILD Hunter Thompson-ish Harry Anderson as the intense convention vote wrangler, plus some killer one-offs with Cleavon Little, the great Linda Ellerbee!, Rebecca De Mornay, Ned Bellamy, David Alan Grier, Bela Fleck, and cameos by pretty much all the 1988 primary candidates from both parties and loads of sitting Congresspeople and journalists.  Perfect format for Altman with the overlapping dialog and general cinematic chaos.  He says in the Criterion commentary: “In my mind, this was the most creative work I’ve ever done – in all films and theater.”  Brilliant cinematography by Jean Lépine (The Player, Bob Roberts, Vincent & Theo).  Aaron Sorkin credits this as the inspiration for The West Wing.  Filmed back when American politics was still civil. Very much like today’s weekly half-hour The Circus on Showtime.  Six hours in length – a one-hour pilot, then 10 half-hour episodes.  Amazing portrayal of a primary campaign, and masterful blend of reality and fiction.  It feels like you’re watching a documentary.  Famous scene with Bruce Babbitt walking with Tanner along the Tidal Basin under the blossoming cherry trees talking about making a difference in politics.  Starts in New Hampshire!  Then goes to Nashville/Tennessee, and a Hollywood party.  Climactic episode 10 featuring the delegate fight and convention vote is exciting as hell!  Incredible editing of fictional scenes with real convention footage.  Denouement episode 11 deals with the problem with Bernie Sanders that manifested in 2016 — that the liberal challenger the centrist nominee (and their supporters) didn’t unite resulting in the Democrats basically splitting their vote causing the Republican to win.  The final scene seems like an homage to (or reflection of) The Candidate’s “What do we do now?” final scene.  Absolute must-see for all politicos.  And Altman fans.  (seen once)

Bob Roberts — 1992;  written & directed by & starring Tim Robbins;  plus Gore Vidal, Ray Wise (the guy from Twin Peaks & Good Night, And Good Luck);  tons of cameos, including a very young Jack Black;  Robbins wrote and performed his own songs, but would not let a soundtrack be released cuz he knew the crazy right would take the satirical songs and make them their anthem.  Done in mock-documentary style.  This could almost be on the Most Disturbing List, and is particularly scary post Iraq War II.  (3)
The War Room — 1993;  D.A. Pennebaker & wife Chris Hegedus;  great documentary about the behind-the-scenes of Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign.  (3)
The American President — 1995;  Rob Reiner;  written by Aaron Sorkin; Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael J. Fox, Anna Deavere Smith, David Paymer;  a widowed sitting President runs for re-election while falling in love with an environmental lobbyist.  (1)
Wag The Dog — 1997;  Barry Levinson;  David Mamet screenplay; cinematography by Robert Richardson;  Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Denis Leary, Anne Heche, John Michael Higgins, Andrea Martin, Willie Nelson, William Macy, Woody Harrelson, Kristen Dunst, Craig T. Nelson, Pops Staples!, Harland Williams; music by Mark Knopfler.  Mamet – Levinson – De Niro – Hoffman – Robert Richardson filming — mind-blowingly BRILLIANT movie.  (4)
The Newsroom – “The Campaign” episode — 1997;  CBC;  written & directed by Ken Finkleman;  Finkleman, Peter Keleghan, Jeremy Holtz  (3)
Primary Colors — 1998;  Mike Nichols;  Joe Klein book, Elaine May screenplay;  John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Kathy Bates; about the Clintons in 1992.  (3)
Bulworth — 1998;  written & directed by Warren Beatty;  Beatty, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, Don Cheadle, Jack Warden, Christine Baranski, Paul Sorvino, Laurie Metcalf, Norn Dunn, and Amiri Baraka (yes, the Beat poet!)   (3)

Silver City — 2004;  written, directed & edited by John Sayles;  Chris Cooper, Richard Dreyfuss, Tim Roth, Danny Huston (John’s son), Mary Kay Place, James Gammon, Miguel Ferrer, Maria Bello, Billy Zane, Michael Murphy, David Clennon, Ralph ‘Mr. Walton’ Waite, Thora Birch, Kris Kristofferson, and a great Daryl Hannah.  Incredible cast because everyone wants to work for one of my favorite directors rocking a political satire of a George W. Bush-like candidate (Cooper) running for the Governor of Colorado with a manipulative Karl Rove-like campaign manager (Dreyfuss) and all with a polluter profiteer subplot.  The legendary Haskell Wexler lensed it. Dexter Gordon, Lucinda Williams, Joan Osbourne, the Cowboy Junkies and Steve Earle provide some of the music.  (seen once) 
Man of The Year — 2006;  Barry Levinson;  Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Lewis Black, Jeff Goldblum;  about a comedian who runs for president, and by a fluke, wins.  The comedian (Robin) says many lines similar to Obama.  This is made shortly after Obama’s speech at the DNC Convention in 2004.  (2)
Run Granny Run — 2007;  Mario Poras;  Indie documentary about 94 year old Doris ‘Granny D’ Haddock’s run for the 2004 New Hampshire Senate seat  (3)
Frost/Nixon — 2008;  Ron Howard;  Peter Morgan wrote the screenplay based on his award-winning Broadway play;  Frank Langella as Nixon (who stayed in character thru the whole shoot) & Michael Sheen as David Frost both reprise their New York/London performances for the screen — and, boy, are they both great!  Plus Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell & Oliver Platt — who are all frickin great! — and, as is often the case in Ron’s films, small roles for his brother Clint and his father Rance.  Hans Zimmer did the music.  This is a great movie!  Deservedly Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing, and Langela for Lead Actor – which his late-night drunken monologue alone was worthy of.  According to IMDb, Scorsese, Mike Nicols, George Clooney, Sam Mendes & Bennett Miller were all in the running for this at one point before the great Ron Howard snagged it.  It’s so great to have a script that was originally developed as a play and evolved over many years.  Much like how the actors had perfected their portrayals, films pretty much never have the gestation and growth period this one did.  The interview dialog is from the actual transcripts.  Great location including at the house where the interviews took place and Nixon’s home in California.  I was on the edge of my seat — and I know how the story goes!  Great filmmaking.  (seen twice)
Recount — 2008;  Jay Roach;  Kevin Spacey, John Hurt, Laura Dern, Bob Balaban, Denis Leary;  Ed Begley Jr.;  amazing HBO dramatization about the 2000 election recount in Florida.  (1)

The Ides of March — 2011;  Oscar-nominated screenplay (from a theatrical play), produced & directed by and starring George Clooney;  killer cast – Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Max Minghella, Evan Rachel Wood.  Great political thriller set on a 21st century 2-person dramatic Democratic primary campaign trail in Ohio — an Pennsylvania Governor Morris (Clooney) versus sitting Arkansas Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell).  Echoes of both the Bill Clinton and Obama campaigns.  About idealism versus the business of politics.  Tons of location shooting.  Stuart Stevens was a consultant on the film — before he was a strategist for Mitt Romney or co-founder of The Lincoln Project.  Exec produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.  Great DVD commentary by Clooney and his co-screenwriting parter Grant Heslov.  Clooney said, “I think we dubbed one line in this whole movie.” ie, no looping, everything was captured live.  And he hates reading off computers.  🙂  (seen twice)
Game Change — 2012;  Jay Roach;  Danny Strong screenplay from the Heilemann – Halperin book;  Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin, Ed Harris as John McCain, Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt, Sarah Paulson as Nicole Wallace, plus Ron Livingston, Austin Penndleton.  HBO Film about the Palin pick and election in 2008.  Won Emmys for Best Movie, Director, Writing, Lead Actor, and Casting.  An accurate dramatization praised by Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace, who were both right in the middle of it.  (2)
Veep — HBO – TV exception for political cinema;  2012–2019 (65 episodes) – the second show I ever binge-watched, after Barry.  Casting: Julia Louis-Dreyfus (won the Best Actress Emmy SIX years in a row, and y’know, I kinda think she deserved every one of them), the great Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn, Tony Hale, Timothy Simons (as the bad guy/doofus Jonah), the always comedically odd Dan Bakkedahl, Randall Park; guest casting (in series appearance order): Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Foley, Alison Janney, Tracie Thoms (Death Proof), Diedrich Bader, Patton Oswald, Hugh Laurie, Martin Mull, John Slattery, Brian Doyle-Murray, Peter MacNicol, Amy Brenneman, Stephen Fry, Michael Hitchcock, Stephen Root, Adam Scott, John Carroll Lynch, Heidi Gardner, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Lennon & Michael McKean.  Pretty brilliant writing, — nominated for a half-dozen Emmys, and won a Peabody in 2017.  The great NY Times political & theater writer Frank Rich is one of the producers.  I liked the seasons more as each rolled out.  It’s a comedic West Wing, with an echo of classic office dramas with great ensemble casts like NewsRadio, 30 Rock and The Office.  Nowhere in the 65 episodes does anyone say the names of the two parties, so it’s kept intentionally nonpartisan.  But on the fictional election night, the “Veep” Selina Meyer (JL-D) wins the states Democrats would win.  One of the character’s favorite bands is the Grateful Dead.  And Alice Cooper gets a reference in season three. 🙂  There may have been a lull at some point but I laughed a lot in season 6, and season 7.  They created a great dumb-ass political character years before trump came on the scene – then could him as a parody.  Second Grateful Dead reference 11 mins into season 6 ep 8, Gary Cole (playing the smartest guy on the show) on phone corrects Dan Egan character about him saying on air that Bruce Hornsby was a member of the Grateful Dead correcting him that he was a touring member of the Dead but not a full member.  Then the Cole character has a ponytail in his final scene of the series.  Before I watched it, I was dubious about Louis-Dreyfus winning SIX Best Actress Emmys *in a row* for this — obviously an all-time record in TV history.  Then I saw the range of emotions — often with multiple layers of subtext — in just one episode, let alone across the course of a season: crying, laughing, duplicitous, charming, mean, dictatorial, Machiavellian, funny, hurt, arrogant, hyper, bedridden, angry, desperate, demeaning, heartless, power hungry, subservient, conniving, twitchy — there’s surely never been an actress in a comedy who’s had to convey so many states of mind and facets of a character.  And she delivers the coast-to-coast ranges flawlessly.  *Now* I understand the six wins in a row.  (binge-watched entire series March 2021)
A two-minute trailer of the complete series:


Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House
— 2017; screenplay & directed by Peter Landesman; based on Mark Felt’s book; produced by Jay Roach, Hollywood’s go-to political film director for the last 2 decades;  Liam Neeson (absolutely brilliantly as Mark Felt, aka “Deep Throat”), Michael C. Hall (as John Dean), Diane Lane, Bruce Greenwood, Tom Goldwyn (the bad guy from Ghost), Tom Sizemore (!).  How did this not get more attention?!  This is All The President’s Men … but from the real Deep Throat’s perspective.  THIS is filmmaking! — cinematography, editing … and dramatization.  What a great script!  And all with a subtle, perfect music score.  Here’s the trailer.  (1)
Shock and Awe — 2017;  directed by and starring Rob Reiner;  Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Tommy Lee Jones, Jessica Biel, Mila Jovovich and the always mesmerizing Richard Schiff.  Powerful fact-based docudrama about Knight Ridder newspapers uncovering the truth of the Bush administration’s lies about WMDs in Iraq.  Vivid capture of the absolute evil of Cheney, Rumsfeld, George W. & company.  Great script (even if a smidge melodramatic sometimes).  Perfect balance of drama, lightness, and romance.  Plus, enticing cinematography and transportive production design.  It’s a movie about historic journalism like All The Presidents Men and The Post, including a Woodward & Bernstein-like pairing with Woody & Marsden, and a Deep Throat character (named Loose Nukes).  Nice Tim Russert archival footage.  Gawd — do I (we all) miss him!  (seen twice)

Irresistible — 2020; Jon Stewart wrote & directed; Steve Carell, Chris Cooper, Topher Grace, Bill Irwin. A fictional account of a mayoral election in a small town in Wisconsin that becomes the focus of both major parties.  Good but not great.  (1)

 

Music Movies — Musicals, Biopics & Docs   [74]


West Side Story — 1961;  Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise;  Robbins wrote the play;  Natalie Wood, Russ Tamblyn, and the rest largely forever unknowns  (seen twice)
A Hard Day’s Night —  1964;  Richard Lester;  starring The Beatles, with Wilfrid Brambell as the Grandfather foil.  Roger Ebert said in a 1994 documentary he’s “probably seen A Hard Day’s Night 25 times.”  I always saw this movie as sort of a pair with D.A. Pennebaker’s B&W Dylan portrait Don’t Look Back filmed the following year. Filmed one year apart in the same country, both are Portraits of The Artist As A Young Man — and the two artists in this case would go on to rewrite global cultural history.  This film itself changed Western culture in that there were effectively no rock ‘bands’ before this came out. Easy Rider, Woodstock and some others *amplified* history . . . but in all fairness this even beats Rebel Without a Cause for the mass public alteration of society. I can’t think of any other film that had the overarching impact this one did. Jerry Garcia talked about seeing this in the summer of 1964 and basically putting down his banjo and picking up an electric guitar. There’s been a couple of amazing DVD 2-disk re-releases with TONS of cool Extras. A bunch of the people working on it were also making the Bond movies in England at that time. It’s such a blast to hear those involved reflect back on it from an objective mindset. They were inadvertently capturing the birth of Beatlemania … and on a zero budget. United Artists went for it with the idea the band would be ‘over’ by the fall – so get out a quick-hit money-grab. On the Extras interviews you hear these film company execs laughing at themselves at their own stupidity. And P.S. — think about how it was only 5 years from this B&W quasi-biopic movie coming out till a half-million kids came together in Woodstock NY. . . . and that was the spark for another movie that changed filmmaking. B&W  (4)
What’s Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A. — 1964;  Albert & David Mayseles;  incredible documentary!!  the Maysles brothers documentary about The Beatles’ first visit to America for The Ed Sullivan Show and capturing Beatlemania, their first ever concert in America (in Washington D.C.), then Miami — immediately preceding the band shooting A Hard Day’s Night . . . about Beatlemania.  The real Hard Day’s Night. Later repackaged as The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit.  B&W  (3)
Help! — 1965; Richard Lester (same as A Hard Day’s Night); starring The Beatles, and Victor Spinelli from Hard Day’s Night; road manager Mal Evans has a couple cameos as the swimmer looking for the White Cliffs of Dover; weird fuckin movie!!  I thought when it started with that Indian scene I put in the wrong movie.  😀  Prime-time Beatles, made just as they were moving into their master period beginning with Rubber Soul, with their hair just starting to get long.  Only time we ever see them wearing casual blue jeans!  Funny amalgam with the other big British export of the time — James Bond movies: the theme music is used once, and mimicked often — also echoing all the foreign locations … and enemies … and underground lairs … and nonstop action.  Even the bikini girls at the water’s edge a la Ursula in Dr. No.  It’s part slapstick comedy, but also foreshadows Magical Mystery Tour with the psychedelic outdoor performance scenes, and a little How I Won The War with the tanks and army getups.  Has a strange curling scene — a sport so unfamiliar to American audiences that many reviewers & viewers thought it was just another made-up fantasy in the film.  “Not a bit like Cagney.”  🙂  (seen twice)
Don’t Look Back — 1967;  D.A. Pennebaker;  Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Donovan, Joan Baez, Alan Price, Bobby Neuwirth, Albert Grossman  B&W  (4)
’65 Revisited — 2007;  new version of Don’t Look Back made by Pennebaker of original footage outtakes not used in the original.  B&W  (2)

Monterey Pop — 1968;  D.A. Pennebaker;  Mamas & Papas, Canned Heat, Simon & Garfunkel, Hugh Masekela, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Animals avec violin, The Who, Country Joe & The Fish, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar.  The first rock festival movie that set the standard for all that followed.   (4)
The Grateful Dead aren’t in it — but a rippin 10-minute surreptitiously filmed Viola Lee Blues surfaced years later.  This is primo proto psychedelic Dead as it was being born.  This was the early song they used to create the canvas that became 30 years of Grateful Dead music and inspired an entire genre.  That Pennebaker’s team knew this was the song in the Dead’s set to capture is the same reason this movie is so gem-packed. 
Jimi Plays Monterey — 1986;  D.A. Pennebaker’s revisit of the ’67 concert footage featuring all of Hendrix’s half-hour set.  (3)
Yellow Submarine — 1968;  George Dunning;  The Beatles’ voices  (4)

Woodstock — 1970;  Michael Wadleigh;  Richie Havens, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe McDonald, Crosby, Stills & Nash, 10 Years After, John Sebastian, Santana, Sly & The Family Stone  (4)
Let It Be1970;  Michael Lindsay-Hogg;  starring – The Beatles! plus Billy Preston, George Martin, Yoko Ono, Linda McCartney, Mal Evans & others.  The 81-minute doc about The Beatles near-final recording sessions and rooftop concert.  Actually won the Oscar for Best Original Song Score; Quincy Jones accepted on their behalf.  Shot for TV screen, not wide-screen film.  The first 20 minutes are at the Twickenham soundstage they thought would be a good idea, but it was cold (unheated) and impersonal, so they switched to the basement studio Magic Alex had started (but never finished) in the basement at Apple Corp at 3 Saville Row – where they then played on the roof.  A surprising amount of Ringo playing piano!  I don’t know why this movie is thought of as anything less than GREAT!  A lot of smiling faces and camaraderie.  A great Two Of Us.  And of course the climactic 20-min. 5-song rooftop concert — Get Back, Don’t Let Me Down, I’ve Got A Feeling, One After 909, I Dig A Pony and Get Back a second time.  Alan Parsons manned the recording from the studio in the basement.  The movie shows what we could hear on the last 2 albums — how McCartney was really the driving force in the band at this point.  I’m sure looking forward to six hours of this coming from Peter Jackson in Nov. 2021.  Gawd — it’s so too bad they couldn’t have just taken a hiatus (like the Dead did in ’75) and reconvened when a year or three later.  (3)
Mad Dogs & Englishmen — 1971;  Pierre Adidge;  Joe Cocker, Leon Russell.  Cocker’s mad touring commune.  (seen once)
Medicine Ball Caravan — 1971;  French director & crew;  edited by Martin Scorsese;  concept by legendary SF DJ Tom Donahue (seen in footage in booth at KSAN).  It was a bus caravan across the country, funded by Warner Brothers in hope of recapturing their Woodstock film success (this time with all Warner Bros acts) — “Woodstock on wheels” as the Oakland Tribune called it.  Performances by B.B. King, Alice Cooper, Doug Kershaw and Stoneground.  Filmed in August 1970 with a French crew that largely couldn’t speak English.  Chaos ensued.  Final cut included Wadleigh/Scorsese split screens.  I wanted to see this since in mid-’70s when I’d read there was a live Alice Cooper performance in it — Black Juju (at 57:30–1:03:00) — which really stands out — totally different than anything else in the movie — for one thing, filmed in an evening performance whereas everything else was shot in the daylight — plus Coop’s crazy theatrics.  The Grateful Dead were gonna be the house band in the original concept of the tour but (wisely) backed out.  The Stoneground musical collective filled in the role. Includes bizarre sequence in the last half hour with an angry David Peel (pre John Lennon associated fame).  Kind of a disaster of a movie — lasted about a week in theaters and has never been released in any home video format.  Viewable on Vimeo here — https://vimeo.com/568564245  Good article on it here — https://ultimateclassicrock.com/medicine-ball-caravan/  (seen once)
Sweet Toronto — 1971;  D.A. Pennebaker;  documentary of the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival concert in Toronto in 1969 featuring John Lennon’s first solo gig, along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis & Bo Diddley.  (3)
You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zb_PRqyqn_A&ab_channel=cecilioperlan
Cabaret — 1972;  Bob Fosse;  Liza Minelli, Joey Grey, Michael York  (4)
Fillmore (aka The Last Days of The Fillmore) — 1972;  great documentary about the last week of shows at the Fillmore West, featuring the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Elvin Bishop, Boz Scaggs  (seen twice)
Jesus Christ Superstar — 1973;  Norman Jewison;  Ted Neeley, Yvonne Elliman, Carl Anderson as Judas, Josh Mostel as King Herod. What a masterpiece of filmmaking this is — the cinematography, the editing, all the location shooting in Israel, the costumes, the production design, the dance choreography, the MUSIC — Jesus Christ this is Amazing!  The greatest location shooting of any movie I’ve ever seen – natural caves, rock formations, ancient temples & ruins.  All of the kids & other extras in crowd scenes were people who came to watch the production.  Spontaneously captured birds in flight shots used as scene transitions.  On the DVD commentary, Jewison recalls being in the studio with Andre Previn conducting the London Philharmonic, and when the Crucifixion climax played on the giant screen in the studio he went over to the grand piano and started improvising all that stunning jazz piano that was not part of the original score. I remember in 1973 seeing my babysitter (!) at the Winnipeg screening — and we both exuberantly saying how we’d both come to see it multiple times!  Just to be clear — I am *extremely* anti-Christian fanatics, including some of my former friends — but this is one brilliant film!  Norman Jewison is an unmitigated master of the cinematic art.   (4)
Phantom of the Paradise — 1974;  written & directed by Brian De Palma;  Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper  (3)
Tommy — 1975;  Ken Russell; written by Pete Townshend & The Who;  starring The Who, and Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner, Elton John, Eric Clapton  (3)
The Grateful Dead Movie — 1977;  dir. Jerry Garcia;  starring the band and fans.  Albert Maysles was one of the cameramen.  (3)
The Last Waltz — 1978;  Martin Scorsese;  The Band, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, the Staple Sisters  (4)
The Buddy Holly Story — 1978;  Steve Rash;  Gary Busey (Oscar nominated for Best Lead Actor), plus Charles Martin Smith & Dan Stroud as the Crickets, and Arch Johnson.  It won the Oscar, and thus Buddy won, for Best Original Score.  Made in cooperation with Buddy’s widow, Maria Elena Holly.  Buddy Holly was the first rock n roll musician to write, perform and record his own songs — a feat that in itself that changed history.  All the music in all the performances in the film are played live by the actors — there’s no lip-synching, and nothing was prerecorded.  Great biopic.  (seen twice)
Hair — 1979;  Miloš Forman;  book/score by Gerome Ragni & James Rado;  Treat Williams, Beverly De Angelo, John Savage, Nicholas Ray cameo.  Lots of Central Park location shots;  Fantastic!  (4)
The Kids Are Alright — 1979;  written & directed by Jeff Stein;  starring The Who.  Great song-rich documentary of one of rock’s great quartets.  (3)
The Rose — 1979;  Mark Rydell;  Bette Midler.  Sorta kinda quasi bio-pic of Janis Joplin.  (seen once)

The Blues Brothers — 1980;  John Landis;  written by Landis & Dan Aykroyd;  John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles  (4)
One Trick Pony — 1980;  Robert Young;  written by & starring Paul Simon, with Blair Brown, Rip Torn, Lou Reed, Allan Garfield, Steve Gadd, Harry Shearer.  Great music biz movie about an aging rock star trying to keep both his relevance and his integrity.  Scenes were shot outside and inside the apartment building I lived in from 1981–1987 — 27 Washington Square North.  The Simon classic Late In The Evening (“I stepped outside to smoke myself a J”) was written for this movie.  (3)
Pink Floyd: The Wall — 1982;  Alan Parker;  Bob Geldof in lead role (seen twice)
Amadeus — 1984;  Miloš Forman;  Tom Hulce as Mozart, F. Murray Abraham as Salieri  (seen twice) 
Spinal Tap — 1984;  Rob Reiner;  writers Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner;  starring Guest, McKean, Shearer, Reiner, Fred Willard, Bruno Kirby, Fran Drescher  (4)
Stop Making Sense — 1984;  Jonathan Demme;  Talking Heads, saw it when it first came out at the 8th Street Playhouse.  (seen twice) 
‘Round Midnight1986;  cowritten & directed by Bertrand Tavernier;  Dexter Gordon (Oscar nominated for Best Lead, 63 at time of shooting), Francoise Cluzet, cameo by Martin Scorsese.  Music composed, conducted & arranged by Herbie Hancock — who won an Oscar for his efforts.  The live stage band includes John McLaughlin & Wayne Shorter.  The Francois character is based on a real-life friend of Bud Powell’s, and seems quite a lot like Jack Kerouac — young smart jazz enthusiast — even looks like him and are both French–English bilingual.  Dexter on jazz — “You just don’t go out and pick a style off a tree one day.  The tree is inside you growing naturally.”  Great cinematography and sound.  All the music is performed live on set.  One of the greatest movies ever made about music.  (4)
Bird — 1988;  produced & directed by Clint Eastwood;  Forest Whitaker as Bird, the first actor to ever play him in a film (and won Best Lead Actor at Cannes);  Diane Venora as Bird’s longtime girlfriend Chan whose memoir the biopic’s based on;  Michael Zelniker memorably as Red Rodney.  Clint had been a fan of Charlie’s since seeing him in 1945.  Actual Parker recordings are used for all the music tracks including some unreleased from Chan.  A lot of jumping back and forth in time, not a linear story.  Incredible tracking shot depiction of 52nd Street in its heyday.  It got good reviews but was a commercial flop.  Despite this being a favorite subject, time period and locations, I found myself bored and struggled to get thru it.  It’s kind of depressing.  Very much about drug addition and alcoholism and not about the breakthrough creations of art that he made and is remembered for.  (3)
Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser — 1988;  Charlotte Zwerin;  produced by Clint Eastwood;  great documentary about Monk with tons of both live and off-stage archival footage.  The Don’t Look Back of Bebop.  B&W  (2)

The Beatles Anthology — 1995;  ABC;  Bob Smeaton;  8 episode retrospective of the band’s career;  included two new songs, Free As A Bird and Real Love that had been unfinished demos from John that the band added music to.  (seen once — the one time it aired in America, late 1995)
That Thing You Do! —  1996;  written & directed by Tom Hanks;  Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Steve Zahn, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Tom Hanks  (4)

Masked & Anonymous — 2003;  Larry Charles (his first directing gig ever!);  written by Bob Dylan & Larry Charles;  mind-blowing cast — an enigmatic Dylan, a funny John Goodman, a psychotic Jessica Lange, a brilliant scene-stealing Jeff Bridges, a Bobby Neuwirth-inspired Luke Wilson, Mickey Rourke, Penelope Cruz, Giovanni Ribisi, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Fred Ward, Cheech Marin, Val Kilmer, Ed Harris, Christian Slater, Chris Penn, Tracey Walter, Steven Bauer. Bob’s band: Tony Garnier, Larry Campbell, Charlie Sexton & George Receli.  It was pretty much a no-budget movie and all the actors worked for union scale minimum.  Great cinematography — many scenes were shot in one take, almost all handheld, almost all in sequence, over 20 days, in digital, all in L.A.  The Art Direction is spectacular.  And it’s got a killer, diverse soundtrack, including tons of sweet Jerry Garcia.  And fantastic sound editing, and mixing, and editing.  And there’s a ton of funny comedy written into it, undoubtedly due to Larry Charles, and much of it pulled off by John Goodman.  This is definitely in my Top Movies of All Time.  (4)
Festival Express — 2003;  Bob Smeaton;  The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, Flying Burrito Brothers, Ian & Sylvia, Delaney & Bonnie, Mashmekhan.  You can read my feature story about it here.  (4)
My Dinner with Jimi — 2003;  Bill Fishman.  Justin Henry (the Oscar-nominated kid in Kramer vs. Kramer) as Howard Kaylan;  George (Norm) Wendt as the band manager;  John Corbett as photographer Henry Diltz;  Taylor Negron as the psychiatrist;  Chris Ellis (the first band manager in That Thing You Do) as the sergeant.  Great dramatization of real events in the life of The Turtles/Flo & Eddie’s Howard Kaylan about their 1966/67 heyday including great period recreations (using both new and archival footage) of the L.A. and London music scenes, and meeting The Beatles, Doors, Zappa & Jimi Hendrix etc.  You can read my review here.  (3)
Prey For Rock n Roll — 2003;  Alex Steyermark;  written by former L.A. rocker Cheri Lovedog;  Gina Gershon, Drea de Matteo — very authentic tale of low level rock band.  (seen twice)
Ray — 2004; Taylor Hackford; Jamie Foxx (won Best Actor Oscar), Regina King, Kerry Washington, Terrence Howard, and Richard Schiff as Jerry Wexler.  Beautiful, vividly realistic Ray Charles biopic.  (seen once)
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan — 2005;  PBS American Masters;  co-produced & directed by Martin Scorsese. Masterful inclusive detailed documentary about Dylan, mostly covering his birth through 1966 motorcycle accident and retirement from touring, with lots of Ginsberg & Beats.  Incredible archival audio & video that musta taken a huge research staff and a lot of dough to compile, including rare footage of Woody Guthrie, Izzy Young, the New Lost City Ramblers, Billie Holiday, Johnny Cash, and Pennebaker’s 1966 tour footage. No fictional elements that tainted & confused Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue.  Great interviews with Allen Ginsberg, Joan Baez, Liam Clancy, Dave Van Ronk, John Cohen, Pete Seeger, Mavis Staples, Suze Rotolo, Bobby Neuwirth, D.A. Pennebaker! drummer (and actor) Mickey Jones & others.  Wonderful fast-paced Scorsese-style editing.  And apologies for my ignorance, but I didn’t know there was actual footage of Bob’s electric performance at Newport!!  3½ hours  (seen twice)
Walk The Line — 2005;  cowritten & directed by James Mangold;  Joaquin Phoenix Oscar nominated as Johnny Cash, Reese Witherspoon Oscar winner as June Carter, and you can sure see why.  Both played all the music & sang themselves, and both were approved in advance by Johnny & June.  Based on Johnny Cash’s two autobiographies.  Also nominated for Best Editing, Costumes and Sound Mixing.  Waylon Jennings’ son Scooter plays his dad in the movie, and singer Shelby Lynn plays Johnny’s mother.  T. Bone Burnett was Music Supervisor and trained both Joaquin & Reese to sing.  Was Executive Produced by Johnny & June’s son John Carter Cash.  Cool portrayals of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips & the gang at Sun Records on Memphis.  It really picks up once they hit The Road — and you’re rooting for John & June to become a couple.  (seen once)
Dreamgirls — 2006;  screenwritten & directed by Bill Condon;  Jennifer Hudson’s Best Supporting Oscar-winning performance, plus Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, Oscar-nominated Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, and John Lithgow & John Krasinski for one scene.  Also deservedly nominated for Best Art Direction.  Coulda/shoulda been nominated for Best Cinematography and Editing.  This is a GREAT movie.  And great art.  Music.  Theater.  Drama.  Talent.  (seen once)
Shut Up and Sing — 2006;  Barbara Kopple;  Dixie Chicks tour documentary — mind-blowingly great — it’s like Don’t Look Back in so many ways — London, controversy, news + backstage + stage + young performer(s) caught in a contemporary controversy . . . Rick Rubin scene in the middle is super insightful — core of the movie.  Plus they play an awesome version of Bob Dylan’s “Mississippi” at one of the climaxes of the movie.  Also, Toronto has a sweet and proud cameo.  (3)
I’m Not There — 2007;  co-written & directed by Todd Haynes;  with a mind-blowing cast! Cate Blanchett (absolutely unforgettably brilliant! and deservedly Oscar-nominated), Christian Bale, Heath Ledger (his last film to be released in his lifetime), Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franken (the little Black boy), Julianne Moore (as the Joan Baez character), David Cross (as Allen Ginsberg), Ben Winshaw (B&W at the table), Richie Havens (!), Kim Gordon (!), Bruce Greenwood (as the Mr. Jones reporter), Michelle Williams (briefly as an Edie Sedgwick type), and Kris Kristofferson (narrator).  Brilliant cinematography by Edward Lachman.  Lee Ranaldo was one of the music supervisors (the Cate Blanchett electric section) — all with a succulent soaring sound — a surreal sonorous symphony of cinema.  A dancing Dylan delight of a drama.  Amazing flowing script, and snappily edited.  Watching it again for the first time in more than 10 years (in 2021) — and my f’n Gawd this is a *masterpiece* of a movie!  Sheesh.  Historic ’60s Greenwich Village footage merged into this brilliant 21st century interpretation.  There’s TONS of original Dylan recordings in the film — so he must’ve loved it or they couldn’t be using them.  Brilliant editing.  And casting.  Made for $20 million.  This is f’n *brilliant* masterpiece filmmaking.  Lots of original time-period quoting — merging with new stuff — much like Dylan’s songwriting.  He lifts original lines and puts them in a new context.  And this film does that as well.  (4)
You can read my review of it here
Shine A Light — 2008;  Martin Scorsese;  Robert Richardson headed up an all-star camera team including Oscar-winners Robert Elswit, John Toll and The Lord of the Rings‘ Andrew Lesnie, and soon-to-be 3-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki;  Rolling Stones concert film from the Beacon Theater in NYC, with guest performances by Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy, & Jack White.  You can read my review of it here.  (seen once)
Crazy Heart — 2009;  screenplay & directed by Scott Cooper;  from Thomas Cobb novel;  Jeff Bridges (who won his only Best Lead Actor Oscar for this, on his fifth nomination), Maggie Gyllenhaal (nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Colin Farrell (who’s really good), Robert Duvall, Paul Herman (as the sleazy agent).  T. Bone Burnett won Oscar for Best Original Song.  And it was he who talked Daniels into making the movie — who told the producers he’d only do it if T. Bone wrote the music for it.  Filmed largely on location in New Mexico.  Great movie.  Got both goosebumps and choked up in the last 10 minutes.  (seen once)

Burlesque — 2010:  written & directed by Steve Antin;  Christina Aguilera, Cher, Alan Cumming, a super-cool and film’s glue Stanley Tucci, Cam Gigandet, Eric Dane, a cameo by James Brolin, and Peter Gallagher & Kristen Bell as great foils.  Basically a custom-made vehicle for Christina’s strengths — filmed at age 29 — her first and only role in a feature film.  And I love Cher — filmed at age 54 — her first and only musical.  Plus Alan Cumming!  It’s a lot like Cabaret … with him, the choreography, plot and art direction.  Also like Fosse in the backstage of dancing showbiz.  And there’s flashes of the Margot character in Babylon.  And you can’t help but think A Star Is Born when she creates Tough Love.  And also like Taylor Swift’s stage show with the sequined costumes and showgirl dancing by the blond lead singer.  Great editing and filming of the show numbers.  (seen twice)
LennoNYC — 2010 – part of PBS American Master series;  written & directed by Michael Epstein;  great 2-hour doc focusing on Lennon’s New York years, which was much of the last decade of his life;  covers the Bank Street and protest years, plus interviews with Elephant’s Memory band, plus Jack Douglas and the Double Fantasy players.  Saw at Bloor Cinema, Nov 2010.  (3)
20 Feet from Stardom — 2013;  Morgan Neville;  Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Merry Clayton, Sheryl Crow.  Won Oscar for Best Documentary. (seen once)
Good Ol’ Freda — 2013; Ryan White; great documentary about The Beatles’ fan club president, Freda Kelly, who was with them before Ringo Starr or Brian Epstein and until after their breakup. Contains tons of Beatles original songs, which is very rare for any film because they rarely authorize the usage. (seen once)
Muscle Shoals — 2013;  Greg Camalier;  really, the founder Rick Hall story; Aretha Franklin! (I Never Loved A Man), Percy Sledge When A Man Loves A Woman, with Donna Jean Godchaux on harmony vocals), Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Jimmy Cliff, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Steve Winwood, Gregg Allman (about brother Duane), Bono, Alicia Keys, Jerry Wexler, Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Documentary about the legendary Alabama recording studio.  (seen once)
Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty — 2014;  Greg Olliver;  historic footage of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Son House, Willie Dixon, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Freddie King and all the rest who created the music Johnny built upon;  plus contemporary masters like Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Billy Gibbons, Joe Perry and others explain how Johnny inspired their approach.  You can read my review about it here.  (seen once)
The Wrecking Crew! — 2015;  written & directed by Denny Tedesco (son of one of founding Wrecking Crew members);  starring the original Crew musicians, plus Brian Wilson, Leon Russell, Frank Zappa, Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, Lou Adler and a host of others.  Great documentary about the historic L.A. musician collective that played the music on hundreds of hit songs you love.  You can read my review of it here.  (seen once)
Miles Ahead2015;  produced, directed, cowritten by and starring Don Cheadle (his directorial debut) — Ewan McGregor as a fictional Rolling Stone reporter doing a ‘comeback’ story on Miles, and his casting brought the financing.  Also LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out).  Live concert band at the end with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Gary Clark Jr., Esperanza Spalding.  Miles’ family wanted Cheadle to make it and encouraged him to take the path he did.  Eight years in the works, it’s not strictly a ‘biopic’ but a fictional story with vignettes written to interpret his life.  He wanted the film to be freeform like Miles’ music.  The New York Times called it “playfully impressionistic.”  The music & story spans roughly 1957 to 1981.  Fantastic use of his songs.  And my gawd does Cheadle have Miles’ voice down!  Cheadle is a lifelong sax player and learned every Miles solo played in the film so his fingering would be correct.  His and the Junior character’s solos were actually played by Keyon Harrold.  Lots of real Miles quotes used throughout.  “Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.”  How he called jazz “social music.”  And one that may have been written for the film — “Be wrong strong.  Otherwise lay the fuck out.”  This plays in the same realm as I’m Not There — scatological riffing from inside the brain of the artist. Great cinematography, editing, and filmmaking.  I sure hope Cheadle makes more movies.  (seen once)
Eight Days A Week — 2016;  Ron Howard;  this doc shows how & why the Beatles stopped touring.  This is great cinematic storytelling by a master, Ron Howard — like what Peter Jackson did with the January ’69 footage — and what Michael Lindsey Hogg was totally unable to do with Let It Be.  *Every* movie I see about the Beatles shows how MLH was a horrible filmmaker.  How can you fuck up the Beatles?!?! (seen twice)
Vinyl — 2016 — HBO;  1 season, 10 episodes created by Martin Scorsese (also directed 2-hour pilot), Mick Jagger & Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire);  Bobby Cannavale (who’s fantastic), Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano, James Jagger (Mick & Jerry Hall’s son, and whose punk band also plays in it), Juno Temple.  Set in the New York music business in the 1970s. Incredible music choices all throughout (a la Scorsese).  They must have paid a fortune!  Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Andy Warhol, Elvis Presley & Hilly Kristal appear as characters.  A show that has multiple storylines that I like every one of.  GREAT filmmaking / cinematography / editing / storytelling.  It’s gotta be a next gen supervised Scorsese crew — cuz it seems like his filmmaking style.  This is the first show of the I’ve binge-watched that I would watch again.  That says a lot.  I wouldn’t need to / want to see Barry or Veep a second time.  (seen once)
Long Strange Trip – The Untold Story of The Grateful Dead — 2017;  Amir Bar-Lev;  starring the Dead and everyone in their circle;  four hours long, and 14 years in the making;  by the 7 minute mark Dennis McNally’s saying – “Kerouac was Jerry’s great hero.”  Then it closes with Jack (!)  WHERE does this pre-Dead and Warlocks/early Dead footage come from?!  This is a documentary masterpiece.  Un-fuckin-believable editing blending effects and footage!  Fantastic acid depiction.  Sure makes me wanna trip! 🙂  New on-camera interviews with Phil, Bobby, Kreutzmann, Mickey, Barlow & Donna, plus Trixie Garcia, McNally, Sam Cutler, Alan Trist, Al Franken, Joe Smith, Steve Silberman, Barbara Meier (Garcia’s early girlfriend & later wife, but not the evil one) & others.  Re: the band’s name, McNally said – “By confronting death you learn how to live.”  Funny brief moment when Weir takes the doc makers over to Hunter’s house unannounced.  The Dead wanted to control their music — just like I want to with my books.  I’m in this!  During the halloween Not Fade Away at Radio City! at 37:36 of episode 5 — the guy with the painted Steal Your Face face on the front left of the screen!  Climaxes with Jerry’s Watts Tower / Neal Cassady revelation about being part of a bigger scene than one person’s work.  Boy, is this ever a gold standard for the production & editing of rock band documentaries.  What a bunch of nonstop joy this celebrates and conveys.
The final words heard in the documentary are spoken by Jerry Garcia — “Kerouac’s books opened up doors for me that put me in this life.  I would like to do that for somebody else.  And then it’ll be there for anybody who’s got the spirit to go for it.”  (seen twice – once in theater, once on Amazon Prime)
Here’s my detailed review from its Toronto Lightbox screening with the director.

Grateful Dead Brian Hassett Radio City Music Hall Not Fade Away

 

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World — 2017;  written & directed by Catherine Bainbridge & Alfonso Maiorana;  Link Wray archive footage & interviews, plus new interviews with Taj Mahal, Robbie Robertson, John Trudell, John Sinclair, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Cyril & Ivan Neville, Buddy Guy, George Clinton, Billy Cox, Quincy Jones, Derek Trucks, Steve Van Zant, Slash, Iggy Pop, Wayne Kramer, Taylor Hawkins, Charlie Sexton, Tony Bennett, Jackson Browne, Steve Tyler, Jim Keltner, Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas, Scorsese, David Fricke, Gary Giddins — with archival footage of Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix & his grandmother! Ronnie Hawkins & his Band, Taj Mahal & Jesse Ed Davis, the Faces, Redbone, Randy Castillo.  Absolutely GREAT documentary.  Canadian made!  First 15 mins focus on the foundational Link Wray and his Rumble.  When I worked on a one-time-ever show in ’84 for MTV produced by John Scher called Guitar Greats at the 3000-seat Capitol Theater in Passaic we had David Gilmour, Johnny Winter, Dickie Betts, Steve Cropper, Tony Iommi, Dave Edmunds, Brian Setzer and all these other cats . . . and the ONE guy they ALL stopped what they were doing to go watch perform was Link Wray.  This movie prompted me to pull out my old Graffitti Man album from the ’80s!  (seen once)
Bohemian Rhapsody — 2018;  Bryan Singer;  Rami Malek (won Best Actor Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury), Mike Myers;  I don’t even like Queen, and this was GREAT!  (seen once)
John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky — 2018;  Michael Epstein (same guy who did the 2010 masterpiece LennoNYC);  great documentary about the 1971 recording of Lennon’s Imagine album at his Tittenhurst Park house, and their life in England and New York in general;  lots of previously never-scene footage of the time, plus new interviews with Yoko, Julian, Klaus Voormann, Jack Douglas, Jim Keltner, Alan White and a bunch of other cool people around at the time.  (seen once)
Quincy — 2018;  co-written and co-directed by his cool daughter Rashida Jones;  incredible documentary about the inimitable Quincy Jones.  Features footage & interviews with Ray Charles, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Aretha, Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Peggy Lipton, Colin Powell, Carlos Santana, Oprah, Stevie Wonder, Common and about a thousand other giants.  (seen once)
Rocketman — 2019;  Dexter Fletcher (the producer of 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody – and, boy, they’re a pair);  Taron Egerton as Elton;  Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin.  Really fun beautiful surreal heartfelt fantasy biopic using great new arrangements of Elton’s songs to tell his story — all sung by the actor.  Elton said of the film, “It’s obviously not all true, but it’s the truth.”  His original song composed for it won him an Oscar.  Implies he chose ‘John’ as his last name inspired by Lennon, but Elton clarified that he took it from Long John Baldry.  Great filmmaking — the script, cinematography, editing, vivid period production design & costuming.  Giles Martin was the music supervisor.  It’s a nice echo of Damien Chazelle’s 2016 La La Land.  Great portrayal of the historic Troubadour gig that sparked him career — then they go to a Laurel Canyon party at Mama Cass’s!  Only drawback is a kind of a sappy preachy melodramatic downer of a third act.  (seen once)
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese — 2019;  Netflix; Scorsese;  with Dylan, lots of Allen Ginsberg, plus Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Scarlet Rivera, Ronee Blakley, Ronnie Hawkins, David Mansfield, Hurricane Carter, Gordon Lightfoot, Patti Smith.  Scorsese used footage shot for Bob’s ill-fated Renaldo & Clara and made a highly watchable documentary of the coolest single tour that ever happened.  Lots of footage at Kerouac’s gravesite, including Allen reading Jack’s Mexico City Blues to Bob.  I was struck again by the fact that it was D.A. Pennebaker filming Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop that started this whole necessity of having handheld 16mm cameras filming rock shows and backstage.  Downside: There is an annoying & unnecessary inclusion of a fictional filmmaker and fictional promoter and actress Sharon Stone telling fictional stories about attending the shows that detracts from an otherwise invaluable telling of a priceless moment in cultural history.   (3)


Hamilton
— released on DisneyPlus in 2020 but filmed in June 2016 with the original cast; directed by Thomas Kail, written by and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda; unbelievably GREAT staging — choreography — lighting — staging — costumes — casting — singing — the compositions and musical arrangements;  I cried my eyes out twice watching the beauty of this — because it’s SUCH a great work of art!  The pricelessly hilarious King George at 20 mins, 1:03 & 1:51.  One of the greatest works of art in any medium in the last 50 or more years.  (seen twice)
Laurel Canyon — 2020;  photographers Henry Diltz & Nurit Wilde;  Alex Gibney a producer;  they used audio interviews over still pictures with (in order) the Byrds, Love, the Buffalo Springfield, the Turtles, the Doors, Zappa, Alice Cooper, the Monkees, the Mamas & the Papas, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, CSN, Elliot Roberts, Jackson Browne, Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Glenn Frey, David Geffen, Linda Ronstadt, J.D. Souther, Steve Martin, Don Henley, Paul Barrere, Bill Payne, Sam Clayton, Lowell George, Little Feat, the Eagles, Russ Kunkel set to still photos of the time, plus some period TV appearances like American Bandstand, Ed Sullivan, The Monkees, Playboy After Hours, and footage from films Monterey Pop, Woodstock, Gimme Shelter, Festival Express and Riot on Sunset Strip.  Part 1 is basically the ’60s, part 2 the ’70s; each an hour & 20 mins.  (seen once)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — 2020;  George C. Wolfe;  based on August Wilson play;  Viola Davis as Ma Rainey, Chadwick Boseman – both deservedly nominated for Best Actor/Actress.  IMHO, shoulda swept the 2021 Oscars instead of Nomadland.  (seen twice)
The Beatles: Get Back — 2021;  DisneyPlus;  3 episodes totaling 7½ hours;  Peter Jackson;  starring THE BEATLES – with Billy Preston, and supporting roles by George Martin, Glyn Johns, Mal Evans, Alan Parsons & many others.  Original footage director Michael Lindsay-Hogg of the January 1969 Get Back / Let It Be sessions and rooftop concert.  Arguably the most important music documentary ever released.  (watched each episode 3 or 4 times, and at multiple times was brought to tears of joy)
For a full annotated and time-coded breakdown of the entire 7½ hours — check this amazingly detailed page.
Jimmy Carter: Rock n Roll President — 2021;  CNN Films;  Mary Wharton; written by an MTV/VH1 guy I know, Bill Flanagan;  Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Gregg Allman, Chuck Leavell, Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood, Jimmy Buffett, Rosanne Cash, Nile Rodgers, Larry Gatlin, Paul Simon, Bono, Jann Wenner, Andrew Young, Madeline Albright & others;  TONS of Dylan in the soundtrack! 
plus performance footage of Dylan, twice (Isle of Wight & the Christian tour), the Allman Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown, Mahalia Jackson, Bonnie Bramlett, tons of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash & June Carter, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, Loretta Lynn, Dizzy Gillespie & Dexter Gordon, Dizzy & Jimmy Carter, Dizzy & Sarah Vaughan, Chick Corea, Bono with Nile Rodgers, Linda Ronstadt, the Charlie Daniels Band, and The Staple Singers during the closing credits;  cameo footage of Hunter Thompson, Andy Warhol, Whispering Bob Harris, Jerry Brown, Cher, John & Yoko, Paul Newman, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dolly Parton and Charles Mingus.  Great doc weaving together rock n roll and a President of the United States.  Lots of Dylan, Hunter Thompson, soul, jazz and gospel … as it should be.  😉  (seen twice)
Elvis— 2022;  co-written & directed by Baz Luhrmann;  Austin Butler (Oscar-nominated for Best Actor), Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker, Gary Clark Jr. cameo as guitarist playing in the rural colored shack.  This is fascinating and spectacular!  Rightfully Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Lead Actor for Austin (who woulda got my vote), Cinematography (a woman, Many Walker), Production Design, Editing & more.  It was when seeing Hanks and Colbert riffing on Baz’s unique filmmaking vision that I became aware of him.  Of course I immediately did a deep dive including this must-see conversation in 2022 and clearly he’s one of the most distinctive visionary filmmakers of all time.  The scene where Elvis first performs at the Hayride in his pink suit and the girls lose it is one of my favorite scenes in any film in years.  And like Babylon, the first hour of the upwards trajectory is one of the best single hours of filmmaking in the last many years.  And the Hollywood sign scene is an absolute classic.  If you remember when Covid first hit and Tom Hanks was the first famous person to get it — it was when he was making this movie, in March 2020 in Australia.  Two other parentheticals — of the Top 10 grossing Australian films of all time — Baz made 4 of them!  And his wife Catherine Martin winning 4 Oscars for Art Direction & Costume Design makes her the most Oscar-winning Aussie of all time!  Isn’t that frickin unbelievable?!  (seen twice)

Revival69: The Concert That Rocked The World — 2022; Ron Chapman; original concert footage by D.A. Pennebaker; John Lennon, Yoko Ono & The Plastic Ono Band, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Diddley, Gene Vincent, Alice Cooper, Chicago Transit Authority.  Documentary about how the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival concert came to be in Toronto in 1969 and lured John Lennon into his first gig beyond The Beatles, including memories by Klaus Voormann, Alice Cooper, Shep Gordon, Robbie Krieger, Geddy Lee, Robert Christgau & others.  See my complete story on the film, concert and backstory here.  (4)
Maestro — 2023;  co-produced, co-written, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper;  Carey Mulligan, an almost unrecognizable Sarah Silverman, and an uncredited Edward R. Murrow recording from a real interview they did.  Produced by Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg & Bradley Cooper.  Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, Cinematography, and both Bradley and Carey for Lead Actors.  Boy, Bradley SURE looks like and embodies Lenny!  Completely immersed in the character.  He’s certainly my choice for Best Lead Actor this year.  And, boy — what a strong year for Best Lead Actress with Carey Mulligan in this, Lily Gladstone in Flower Moon and Emma Stone in Poor Things!  The movie starts in 1943 — his first time unexpectedly conducting the NY Philharmonic.  Incredible aerial tracking shot in theater to open!  There is a 4-minute one-take stationary camera scene in their Central Park West apt. between Lenny & his wife that is absolute masterpiece theater, harkening back to when Tennessee Williams’ plays were turned into movies.  This is great filmmaking!  “Tour de force” comes to mind.  What a GREAT movie about the creative process!  If you love symphonic music, what a treat of a movie!  Every note of music is perfectly selected and performed.  And there’s an incredible conducting scene in a cathedral that’ll be talked about forever!  The first half 1940s & ’50s shot in B&W — the second half ’60s and beyond in color.  Both on 35mm film.  Made in a 4:3 aspect ratio like an old television screen — from the era when the story takes place.  GREAT production design creating all the different eras.  Should win the Oscar for Best Hair & Makeup.  And if anybody’s wondering, all three of his kids were not only involved and signed off on this but rave about the finished product.  Beautiful climax with footage with the real Bernstein conducting.  (seen once)
The Greatest Night in Pop — 2024;  Bao Nguyen.  Spectacular riveting colorful fun documentary about the behind-the-scenes making of We Are The World in 1985 with clips of everybody who was involved.  This is not only one of the best music documentaries ever made, it’s one of the greatest cinematic portraits of master artists collectively creating a masterpiece.  It shows how this historic event was sparked by Harry Belafonte and coordinated by Ken Kragen, then led by Maestro Quincy Jones, with songwriters Michael Jackson & Lionel Richie writing “the script.”  (3)
For a full review with photos and tons of details see the review on my website.

 

Beat Generation – Dramatizations & Docs   [13]

All the Beat Generation dramatizations over the decades can be read about in detail on my Beat Movie Guide page.

Pull My Daisy — 1959 — the definitive and only authentic Beat dramatization — a filming of act 3 of Jack Kerouac’s “The Beat Generation” play/screenplay.  This 26-minute movie may be the single greatest Beat Generation creation ever made, in good part because of the collaboration:  Jack’s narration is perhaps the best audio he ever laid down;  it’s set to a jazzy world-beat score;  and has the Beat badboys filmed in their prime by a visionary cameraman Robert Frank in an actual Greenwich Village artist’s apartment, typical of where the whole movement was born.  It’s based on a real event at the Cassady’s house in Los Gatos in the summer of 1955, which can be read about in detail in ch. 45 of Carolyn Cassady’s “Off The Road.”  Directed by Robert Frank & Alfred Leslie — starring Gregory Corso as Jack; Allen Ginsberg as himself;  Larry Rivers as railroad man Milo / Neal Cassady;  Delphine Seyrig as Carolyn;  portraitist Alice Neel as the bishop’s mother;  dance choreographer Sally Gross as the bishop’s sister.  Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress in 1996.  B&W, 26 min.
* This once uber-rare film is now on the interwebs and you can experience the entire masterpiece here or here.
Heart Beat — 1980;  written & directed by John Byrum;  based on a part of Carolyn Cassady’s autobiography Off The Road;  Nick Nolte as Neal, Sissy Spacek as Carolyn, John Heard as Jack, Ray Sharkey as the Allen-like character, Ann Dusenberry as LuAnne; also notable for four weird/cool cameos:  Jack’s daughter Jan is the smoking girl in a white dress sitting in the cafe/bar around 11 minutes into the movie in the scene that begins with Cassady/Nolte tipping out of his chair onto the floor; John Larroquette in his first ever film role playing an obnoxious TV talk show host interviewing Jack;  director David Lynch appears briefly as a painter;  and Steve Allen pokes his head in the TV studio makeup room when Jack’s in the chair.
Carolyn called this movie “Heart Break” because she hated the final product, but did like Sissy Spacek’s portrayal and as a person.  There’s loads of fictionalized liberty-taking and deviations from real events & Carolyn’s book, but it’s a pretty great capturing of the late ’40s/early ’50s era, and deserves praise for its casting, acting, editing, art direction, costumes, and Jack Nitzsche’s fantastically cool score.  One little detail they got bizarrely right, undoubtably because of Carolyn’s on-set consultation, they used the real names for the Cassady children, and had kids their ages appear throughout as the three children came into the real life storyline.
Nick Nolte really embraced playing Cassady, and even channeled him into the role he played immediately before this one in Who’ll Stop The Rain — which also starred Ray Sharkey, the Allen character here.
A mistake I’ve made my whole life was taking these Beat dramatizations too seriously — looked at them through a Beat historian’s eye — where they inevitably all come up short. Upon re-viewing in 2022 I realized for the first time that this was crafted as a romantic comedy — in the classic Hollywood tradition.  The editing is often done to create comedic juxtapositions — like when Carolyn talks Neal into selling their car so they can move to a house in the suburbs — cut to forlorn Neal riding in the back of the moving truck.  Or the refrained cut of the suburban foil couple leaving the Cassady’s house after three successive visits.  Think of the scene of the Allen character being oblivious to everyone in a restaurant as he passionately yells out his poetry.  Or Jack & Neal happily, obliviously, planting marijuana in the front yard of their suburban house.  Or the scene where Jack nervously thinks he’s become Carolyn’s new husband, then Neal literally sweeps her off her feet into his arms and carries her to the bedroom.  Or Neal getting stoned when the straight suburban couple comes over and then goofing on them.  This film is unique among all other Beat dramatizations in that it has multiple intentionally funny scenes written into it — again, in the tradition of countless 1940s and ’50s romantic comedy classics — the very era this film is set in.  (4)
Note:  Jack’s only child Jan appears 11 minutes into the movie in the white-walled café/bar scene that begins with the Nolte/Cassady character tipping over out of his chair.  Jan is the girl in the white dress sitting along the wall on the right smoking.  In her book “Trainsong” she wrote in chapter 22, “In September I was offered the job as an extra in Heart Beat, a movie about my father’s menage-a-trois with the Cassadys. … The Acropolis Cafe was just the place for a beat generation coffeehouse scene: a Greek restaurant in downtown L.A., unchanged since the thirties.  …  My job was to sit at a table where two guys were playing chess:  to follow their moves like a cat, to look mildly bored, … and to puff like mad on Camels to produce a thick, smoke-filled atmosphere.”  If you watch it on a screen larger than a computer’s, you can see that the two men at the table with her are indeed playing chess — especially visible in the 3rd and final shot of them, starting 9:37.  Further, you can see photographs of the Acropolis Cafe in L.A. that this scene was shot at that location and therefore is the scene with Jan.
What Happened to Kerouac? — 1986;  Richard Lerner & Lewis MacAdams;  Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, Jan Kerouac, Herbert Huncke, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Edie Kerouac, Michael McClure & others.  Probably the best Kerouac documentary.  Filmed largely at the 1982 Kerouac summit in Boulder, CO, that I attended and wrote an entire book about — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac.  If you’re going to get this on DVD, be sure to get the 2012 2-disk re-release with all the extra footage.  (4)
The Beat Generation: An American Dream — 1988; Janet Foreman;  written by Janet & Regina Weinrich;  great documentary — with everybody in it — archival footage and interviews circa mid-1980s.  (4)


The Last Time I Committed Suicide — 1997;  written & directed by Stephen Kay;  Thomas Jane as Neal, Keanu Reeves in a Kerouac-like role (named Harry), Adrien Brody in a Ginsberg-like role, a great Claire Forlani as Joan Anderson, 24-year-old Gretchen Mol playing 16-year-old Cherry Mary, the great Marg Helgenberger (from Erin Brockovich) as Joan’s mother.  A really well made film based on the then-only-surviving part of Neal Cassady’s famous Joan Anderson/Cherry Mary letter to Jack (written Dec. 1950) about events around Christmas 1945 before Neal had met any of the other soon-to-be Beats.  It’s notable that this is the earliest Beat writing ever turned into cinema.  Carolyn Cassady & I agree this is the best Beat dramatization on film.  Interesting tidbits: Carolyn Cassady and George Walker both said this Thomas Jane portrayal was the closest to Neal they ever saw on screen; — the complete 16,000-word letter, a fragment of which this movie is based on, was lost in the mid-1950s — but was miraculously found intact in 2012 in an old box that had been stored since being rescued from the Sausalito publisher Golden Goose’s garbage when it folded in 1955; — it’s got a bitchin soundtrack, both snappy original compositions by Tyler Bates, plus Bird, Dizz, Monk, Mingus, Ella & others; — it’s got shades of Michael Polish’s Big Sur with its heavy use of voiceovers of the original text (although with additions and edits) and the cinematic details thereof; — it’s like Walter Salles’s On The Road in that it expands upon the existing text using other Beat writings, except in Suicide’s case they also completely make stuff up like adding Jack-like and Allen-like characters to a story set before they ever met; — the acclaimed Bobby Bukowski (no relation) is the cinematographer; — filmed in Ogden Utah filling in for old Denver at last.  The film builds to a brilliantly executed beautifully exploding-like-stars climax.  The whole last half hour is masterful filmmaking – cinematography, editing, acting, pacing, dynamics, score.  (4)
Here’s the official trailer.
Here’s a cooler longer more Beat trailer.
Here’s the masterpiece climactic sequence where Neal gets out of jail and goes for a run — featuring the swingin’ soundtrack by Tyler Bates who went on to score a ton of other movies.
The Source: The Story of The Beats and The Beat Generation — 1999;  written & directed by Chuck Workman;  Johnny Depp reads Kerouac, Dennis Hopper reads Burroughs, John Turturro reads Allen, plus absolutely everybody’s interviewed in it.  (4)

Beat Angel 2004;  director, cinematographer & edited by Randy Allred;  written by Bruce Boyle, Frank Tabbita, Randy Allred & Vincent Balestri;  Vincent Balestri as the Jack character, Frank Tabbita as the foil.  The story was loosely based on Balestri’s one-man show Kerouac: The Essence of Jack that he had been performing live on stages since 1980.  A quirky, clever, kind of surreal, interesting, sometimes funny, well done, low budget indi movie about Jack Kerouac coming back to life for a night in 1999, inducing a cool minimalist jazz score.  All shot in funky locations, including some neat footage of Desolation Peak and the cabin.  The centerpiece performance at the poetry reading in the middle of the film was all shot in one take on the last roll of film they had.  (!)  (3)
Neal Cassady — 2007;  written & directed by Noah Buschel;  Tate Donovan as Neal (who a lot of people including John Cassady and myself think did a pretty good job), Amy Ryan as Carolyn, Glenn Fitzgerald as Kerouac, and Chris Bauer as Kesey.   The first 15 minutes, shot in B&W, are Jack & Neal looking for Neal Sr. pre On The Road being published — then the rest is post Neal’s arrest during the Prankster years (shot in color).  A well-intentioned low-budget ($1 million) film that fairly accurately portrays Jack as the born writer (forever taking notes) and Neal as somebody with aspirations but who gets on a merry-go-round he can’t get off of.  Features the only dramatization on film of the historic 1964 Prankster party in New York where Jack and Neal saw each other for the last time.  It would be easy to call it bad, and many do, but there’s lots of interesting little accurate details, and Donovan really has Neal’s mannerisms and speech pattern down.  B&W and color, 80 min.
Here’s the trailer.
One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur — 2009;  Curt Worden;  great documentary including interviews with Sam Shepard, Robert Hunter, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Carolyn & John Cassady, Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, David Amram, Sterling Lord, Joyce Johnson, John Tytell, Bill Morgan, Aram Saroyan, Jack Hirschman, Brenda Knight, Diamond Dave Whitaker, Lenny Kaye, Dar Williams, Donal Logue, Paul Marion;  music by Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard.  (3)
Howl — 2010;  written & directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman;  James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in a biopic about the publication and censorship trial of his most famous poem, with a transcendent performance by Franco.  The script is composed entirely from court transcripts, Allen interviews, and the text of Howl.  Includes animation sequences by Eric Drooker interpreting the poem; a courtroom drama of the trial; and Franco’s uncanny Ginsberg reading and reflecting on the poem, the trial, and his life.  Todd Rotondi as Jack;  Jon Prescott as Neal. Plus a slew’a cool cats in supporting roles — Jon Hamm & David Strathairn as the lawyers (!) Bob Balaban as the judge (!) plus Jeff Daniels, Treat Williams and Mary-Louise Parker as witnesses.  Really well edited and constructed.  A nice recreation of the Six Gallery reading refrains throughout.  They also reproduce in cinema many of the famous photos we know of Allen and Jack & company. (!)  I love this movie. It’s both accurate AND in the Spirit of Allen.  Color, B&W and animation.  84 min. (seen twice)

On The Road — 2012 — film version of the iconic novel finally hit the screen 65 years after the adventure, 61 years after the Scroll was written, 55 years after publication, 33 years after Coppola bought the rights, and 8 years after the director Walter Salles was approached;  over 60,000 miles covered in the filming;  ironically it took an international consortium to get this Great American Novel filmed — a Brazilian director, French producers, cinematographer & editor, British actors, Argentineans doing the art direction and score composition, a Puerto Rican screenwriter, and it was mostly filmed in Canada — directed by Walter Salles — starring Sam Riley as Jack;  Garrett Hedlund as Neal;  Kristen Stewart as LuAnne;  Kirsten Dunst as Carolyn;  Tom Sturridge as Allen;  Viggo Mortensen as Bill;  Amy Adams as Joan;  Danny Morgan as Al Hinkle, and Elisabeth Moss as Helen Hinkle.  Also includes surprise appearances by Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard, and Coati Mundi as Slim Gaillard.  Notable for its use of the scroll version of On The Road rather than the ’57 version;  the cinematography, the editing, the musical score, the art direction, the location shooting, the actors’ camaraderie & improvising, Viggo’s Burroughs and Kristen’s LuAnne.  It’s its own work of art — based on an existing work of art.  Color, 126 min. (revised North American version);  137 min. (original European version)
Here’s a story of going to the U.K. premiere in London.
Here’s the tale of being at the North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and meeting Walter Salles.
Here’s what it was like being at the New York premiere and afterparty.
Here’s the amazing Cannes press conference — absolute required viewing for anyone interested in this movie.
Here’s the cool trailer.
Here’s three minutes from early in the movie where Sal & Dean are talking about their missing fathers, into Dean parking cars.
Here’s the new year’s eve party dancing scene.
Here’s Marylou and Sal in the car.
Here’s Sal & Camille dancing together to Ella Fitzgerald in the roadhouse.
Here’s the six deleted scenes that are included on the French DVD as Extras. (4)
Or the stories of seeing the screenings are also available in How The Beats Begat The Pranksters along with a whole bunch of other Beat tales and Adventures.


Kill Your Darlings — 2013;  directed by first-timer John Krokidas;  incredible cast — Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg;  Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr;  Jack Huston (John’s grandson) as Jack Kerouac;  Ben Foster as William Burroughs;  Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer;  Kyra Sedgwick as Lucien’s mother;  Elizabeth Olson (the twins’ younger sister) as Edie Parker;  Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Cross as Ginsberg’s parents;  and John Cullum as the Columbia English teacher.  Allen Ginsberg’s coming of age story from entering Columbia through the David Kammerer killing, which was the subject of the early Kerouac/Burroughs co-authored novel And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks.  The film’s title comes from the William Faulkner line, “In writing, you must kill your darlings,” meaning you sometimes have to delete your favorite passage for the betterment of the story.  Sadly, the Kerouac character is very much minimized, gay themes are stressed, women are portrayed as shrews, and there’s tons of perplexing factual inaccuracies in a film that presents itself as “a true story.”  (4)
You can read my full detailed review from its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival here.
Big Sur — 2013;  screenplay adaptation and directed by Michael Polish;  starring Jean-Marc Barr as Kerouac;  Josh Lucas as Neal;  Kate Bosworth as Billie (Jacky Gibson);  Patrick Fischler is great as Lew Welch;  Anthony Edwards as Ferlinghetti;  Radha Mitchell as Carolyn;  Balthazar Getty as McClure;  Henry Thomas as Philip Whalen;  and gorgeous Stana Katic as Lenore Kandel.  The second major Kerouac novel released as a movie in a year — a 180 degree counterpoint vision to the youth and optimism of On The Road.  Setting aside Pull My Daisy, this is probably the best portrayal of Jack and his writing on film.  Hauntingly shot on location in Big Sur and S.F., including an evocative cabin set.  Definitely the most artfully lensed and edited (visually composed) of any of the Kerouac films.  Roughly 80% of the dialogue is voiceover of Jack’s own Big Sur prose.  They use the real names for everybody, not the novel’s fictional ones.  Beautiful haunting minimalist electric guitar and grand piano score by the Dessner twin brothers from The National.  (3)
Here’s the trailer.

Trippy Movies   [15]

The Wizard of Oz — 1939;  Victor Fleming;  Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan  B&W and color  (4)
N.Y., N.Y. — 1957;  Francis Thompson;  a super-surreal 15-minute revolutionary cinematic masterpiece that’s been described as both Cubist and Dadaist.  A young D.A. Pennebaker was an assistant to the filmmaker in Manhattan on the project, and used his projector and phonograph playing Bartók to screen it for Aldous Huxley in Thompson’s apartment.  (4)
I Love You, Alice B. Toklas — 1968;  Hy Averback;  screenplay partly by Paul Mazursky;  Peter Sellers, Jo Van Fleet, Joyce Van Patten (Dick’s sister), and introducing young Leigh Taylor-Young (who was married to Ryan O’Neal at the time).  A pretty wild 1968 drug movie.  A “square” 30-something guy falls in love with a young hippie and tries to become one.  Allen Ginsberg is mentioned in the first minute 🙂 and Peter Sellers ends up driving a beautiful wildly psychedelic painted (a la Ken Kesey’s bus) ’54 Ford Country Squire.  The title references Gertrude Stein’s life partner, Alice B. Toklas, who was the first to publish a “canibus” [sic] fudge recipe, which she actually got from Beat confrère Brion Gysin, and is a plot point in the movie.  The first act set-up is weak (script, pacing, staging) but it picks up once Sellers & company eat the brownies and the trip begins, and he starts to look positively Lennonesque with his glasses and hair.  It’s an interesting portrait of the 1967/68 hippie culture (as captured by Hollywood), with lots of L.A. location shooting, including Venice Beach.  (1)
Candy — 1968;  Christian Marquand;  Buck Henry screenplay from a Terry Southern novel;  Ewa Aulin as Candy, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, James Coburn, John Huston, Walter Matthau, Ringo Starr (in Dec ’67–Apr ’68 when he was still think in the thick of The Beatles), John Astin, Charles Aznavour, Anita Pallenberg, Buck Henry, Sugar Ray Robinson, plus Judith Malina & Julian Beck in one scene.  Story about a high school girl meeting colorful characters in search of the meaning of life.  Crazy surreal experimental ’60s film.  Brando was an old friend of the director who had helped Marlon buy an island in Tahiti, so Brando agreed to do a film as a favor, and that caused the other top-name actors to join the cast.  In the same cinematic realm as Head, Sleeper, 200 Motels, Dr. Strangelove (also by Terry Southern) and even some shades of 2023’s Poor Things.  You can see the Get Smart type humor Buck Henry & company are going for, but it doesn’t quite his the bullseye.  (seen once, recommended by S.A. Griffin)

Woodstock — 1970;  Michael Wadleigh;  Richie Havens, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe McDonald, Crosby, Stills & Nash, 10 Years After, John Sebastian, Santana, Sly & The Family Stone  (4)
200 Motels — 1971; story, screenplay, music composer & conductor, starring and co-directed by Frank Zappa; Ringo Starr, Theodore Bikel, Flo & Eddie (Mark Volman & Howard Kaylan) and prime-time Mothers of Invention, Keith Moon, Pamela Des Barres, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Shot on videotape over 5 days at Pinewood Studios in England – even though it’s set in a small fictional Southern town in the U.S. (3)
House1977;  Surreal Japanese teen adventure film.  Like an acid trip, says Marc Sherman to Ethan Hawke.  (never seen)
Time Bandits — 1981;  Terry Gilliam;  written by Gilliam & Michael Palin;  Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, John Cleese as Robin Hood, and Sir Ralph Richardson as God;  incredible sets / props / production design;  George Harrison was one of the producers and mortgaged his office building to get the film made, like he mortgaged his home to finance Monty Python’s Life of Brian two years earlier;  this ended up being one of the highest grossing films of the year;  the first in what Gilliam called his Trilogy of Imagination” soon to include Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).  (seen twice)
Brazil — 1985;  Terry Gilliam;  screenplay by Gilliam & Tom Stoppard;  Jonathan Pryce (who’s great!), Robert De Niro, Michael Palin, Bob Hoskins, Katherine Helmond, Jim Broadbent, Ian Holm.  Wonderfully beautifully twisted 1984-ish vision — inspired in a general way by Orwell’s book.  Rightfully Oscar-nominated for its comically surreal Art Direction (Out of Africa won (?) ); and for Original Screenplay (Witness won).  It was too weird for me the first viewing, then I read a bunch about it, and watched it the second time decades later and was blown away by the vision & filmmaking.  Surreal filmmaking at its finest.  Terry Gilliam is one helluva filmmaker!  Gawd, he’s a weird guy!  🙂  The Salvador Dali of film.  See his listing in the Auteur section above.  The movie’s final cut and release is a somewhat legendary story in film history, how a honcho schmuck at Universal tried to completely recut it and Gilliam circumvented him.  There’s an entire book written about it.  The second in what Gilliam called his “Trilogy of Imagination” along with Time Bandits (1981) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).  Both Frank Zappa and River Phoenix’s favorite movie.  “This has not been a recording.”  (seen twice)
The Lion King — 1994;  Disney / Pixar production;  voices by Matthew Broderick, Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Cheech Marin;  beautiful animation.  (2)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — 1998;  Terry Gilliam, who also wrote the screenplay based on Hunter Thompson’s book;  brilliant combo performances by Johnny Depp & Benicio Del Toro; plus loaded with great cameos by (roughly in order of appearance) Tobey Maguire, Katherine Helmond, Penn Jillette, Cameron Diaz, Lyle Lovett, Flea, Gary Busey, Christina Ricci, Laraine Newman, Mark Harmon, Christopher Meloni, Harry Dean Stanton, Michael Jeter, Larry Brandenburg, Ellen Barkin, the Grateful Dead in the Panhandle & Paul Krassner — who Gilliam said “It was very much a magnet, this project.  And a lot of people, the new kids on the block.  And then there was Ellen Barkin and Gary Busey and Harry Dean Stanton and Katherine Helmond — they all came in and worked for scale” — to be in Gilliam doing Thompson with Depp.  Plus the good Doctor himself makes an appearance during an hallucination in The Matrix.  Depp spent 4 months with Thompson in prep for the role, “I watched him like a hawk,” and Hunter leant Johnny & the production a bunch of his clothes, his actual I.D. you see in his wallet, and his original Red Shark convertible.  Great use of music throughout, but particularly Tom Jones in Las Vegas, the Airplane in S.F., and Bob Dylan On The Road.  Gilliam-surreal, occasionally funny — and definitely some of the best portrayals of being high on acid I’ve ever seen on the screen.  Made me wanna trip. 🙂  IMO, other than Holy Grail, this is Gilliam’s best film.  It holds together, and it doesn’t let up. 😉  Great making-of doc on the DVD.  (3)
Pleasantville“1998;  written & directed by Gary Ross;  Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Jeff Daniels  (3)
Across The Universe — 2007;  story and directed by Julie Taymor;  Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs.  GREAT filmmaking.  GREAT script. Great choreography.  And cinematography. Nominated for Best Costume Design Oscar.  FANTASTIC locations – including a lot of it in Winnipeg!  Bill Irwin cameo!  And Joe Cocker as a subway bum singing Come Together!  Jack Kerouac name-checked 25 mins in!!  The cinematography & filmmaking remind me of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas – both film adaptations of a different medium than the original.  (3)

Alice in Wonderland — 2010;  Tim Burton;  Mia Wasikowska (as a 19-yr-old Alice), Johnny Depp (the Mad Hatter), Helena Bonham Carter (the Red Queen), Anne Hathaway (the White Queen), Crispin Glover (Knave of Hearts), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee), Christopher Lee (Jabberwocky’s voice), Alan Rickman (the Caterpillar’s voice), Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat’s voice).  A $200 million psychedelic epic . . . that grossed over $1 billion worldwide – the fifth highest of any film at the time.  Perfect source material for Tim Burton — who created a wonderfully surreal, colorful and imaginative film — like all his others.  Visually delicious.  Spectacular falling down the rabbit hole scene!  Rightfully won the Oscars for Best Art Direction (over Harry Potter & Inception!) and Costumes, and was nominated for Visual Effects (but lost to Inception).  And boy, Johnny & Helena sure coulda been nominated for their exaggerated perfectly mad comic portrayals.  The 7th collaboration between Burton & Depp, and the 6th with Tim & Helena.  (seen twice)
Hugo2011;  Martin Scorsese;  Johnny Depp was one of the producers;  John Logan screenplay, based on a brilliant Brian Selznick illustrated book;  Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen (to great comic relief), Christopher Lee, Jude Law, Michael Stuhlbarg – and the two great unknown kid actors, Asa Butterfield & Chloë Grace Moretz;  the Oscar-winning cinematography by Robert Richardson is to die for!  It also deservedly won for Best Art Direction, Visual Effects & Sound Editing;  and shoulda won in its nominations for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Costumes & Music!  James Cameron called this “a masterpiece” and it sure as puck is.  You don’t want to take your eyes off the screen for one split second.  THIS is why God invented filmmakers!  Second-by-second jaw-dropping.  Set in Paris in 1931.  It cost $150,000,000 to make!!  Originally released in theaters in 3D.  In a way, it’s kind of a twist on Oliver Twist.  And there’s some echoes of the magic and fantasy and children’s perspective of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (without the music).  It’s Martin Scorsese meets Terry Gilliam.  Again — one of these movies NOBODY recommended I see — and it’s absolutely mind-blowing.  I don’t think there’s any movie that I’ve never seen before in my year-long Film Studies program that blew me away like Hugo did.  I only sought it out because my favorite cinematographer Robert Richardson won an Oscar for it.  Dig this — Robert Richardson shot the great live Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon, Scorsese’s Shine A Light in 2008;  Inglourious Basterds in 2009;  Shutter Island in 2010;  Hugo in 2011;  then Django Unchained in 2012.  WTF?!  😮  That’s FIVE cinematic masterpieces in a row!!  Be completely undistracted and focused for the opening sequence.  Trust me. 😉  It actually includes a literal History of Film.  There’s a great Harold Lloyd clock scene tribute, and multiple Django Reinhardt homage cameos.  8 minutes in — James Joyce & Salvador Dali can briefly be seen at a table together as Hugo is being chased through the train station.  This is one of those movies you never forget the first time you saw it.  Ken Kesey would’ve loved this.  It’s a movie about meaning and purpose and dreams and destiny.
“We could get into trouble.”
“That’s how you know it’s an adventure.” 🙂 (seen twice)
Bonus Round: People who have seen the movie, or who are interested in how films are made, will enjoy this 2-minute view of Robert Richardson’s final 2-minute tracking shot. 

 

Disturbing Movies   [18]

Movies that were so effectively disturbing, I don’t want to see them again:

Rosemary’s Baby — 1968;  Roman Polanski;  Mia Farrow, Ruth Gordon, John Cassavetes (Guy), Charles Grodin  (1)
10 Rillington Place — 1971;  Richard Fleischer;  Richard Attenborough, and an incredible John Hurt.  Dramatization of a real British serial killer circa 1953.  (2)
The Exorcist — 1973;  William Friedkin;  written by William Peter Blatty;  Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow  (1)
Midnight Express — 1978;  Alan Parker;  Oscar-nominated screenplay by Oliver Stone, based on book by Billy Hayes;  Brad Davis, John Hurt (Max), Randy Quaid  (2)

Schindler’s List — 1993;  Steven Spielberg;  Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley  (1)
Natural Born Killers — 1994;  Oliver Stone; original story (script) by Quentin Tarantino, later changed and he disowned the film;  Robert Richardson’s wild jaw-dropping cinematography;  Woody Harrelson & Juliette Lewis, with Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Downey Jr., Tommy Lee Jones, and small parts by Steven Wright, Edie McClurg & O-Lan Jones.  The movie is the first half of an early “mini series” length script by Tarantino that also included True Romance.  Disturbing movie.  Not directed by Tarantino, but is sure Tarantinoesque – even more comically surreal at times, plus animation!  Gifted glorious filmmaking, but the subject matter is far from my go-to.  (2)
Se7en — 1995;  David Fincher;  Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Schiff, Richard Roundtree, Mark Boone Jr.  About a serial killer inspired by the seven deadly sins.  After a long award-winning career making music videos, this was Fincher’s first film (other than an emergency under-duress call to try and save Aliens 3).  Great score by Howard Shore.  Fast-cut rock n roll filmmaking — but horrific subject matter.  I’ll never watch this a second time.
From Dusk Till Dawn — 1996;  Robert Rodriguez;  screenplay by Quentin Tarantino; George Clooney & Tarantino (in one very sick role), Harvey Keitel (holds the movie together), Juliette Lewis (rocks!), Selma Hayek (snake dance), Michael Parks, Cheech Marin (in three roles!), Danny Trejo, Fred Williamson. (seen twice, and reckon I’ll never watch again)
Fight Club — 1999;  David Fincher;  Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier, Jared Leto.  Great script, cast and filmmaking . . . but a stupid subject.  A guy (Edward Norton) gets hooked on going to different support group meetings, then found solace in fighting.  Secret Window (from the Stephen King novel) starring Johnny Depp & John Turturro has a similar kind of haunting / startling character reveal at the end.  Ugly, depressing nihilism about a violent Manson-like cult promoting senseless violence on innocent people.  Another David Fincher movie I’ll never watch a second time.
The Pianist — 2002;  Roman Polanski (won Best Director Oscar);  Adrian Brody, otherwise all little-known actors.  Incredible and disturbing film about war and Jewish persecution.  Shot on location in Poland.  Adrian Brody was the youngest person to ever win Best Actor at 29 (beating 4 prior winners!), and Polanski was the oldest to win Best Director at 64.  Also nominated for Best Picture, Cinematography, Editing & Costume Design.  (seen once)
Grizzly Man — 2005;  Warner Herzog;  Timothy Treadwell  (1)
Harsh Times — 2005;  written & directed by David Ayer;  Christian Bale, Freddy Rodriguez, Eva Longoria, J.K. Simmons   (1)
Babel — 2006; original script idea and directed by Alejandro Iñárritu; Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett.  Three separate stories on three different continents (Morocco, Japan, Mexico);  nominated for 7 Oscars but only Gustavo Santaolalla won for Best Original Score — the same guy who did the music for On The Road.  The title comes from there being at least 4 different languages spoken by the various characters.  Very disturbing.  Not my kind of movie.  (1)
No Country For Old Men — 2007;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Tess Harper, Woody Harrelson, Stephen Root.  SUCH a first-view movie; mesmerizing on first viewing; very so-so on second.  This movie is all “style” — there’s plot holes and bad scenes all thru this — no wonder the Coen’s were surprised they won Best Picture, and acted like they didn’t deserve it.  I can sure see why JB won best actor.  Riveting, memorable performance. But I needed closed-captions to understand what many of the others were saying.  It’s very disturbing, like Natural Born Killers.  (2)

12 Years A Slave — 2013;  Steve McQueen;  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Kenneth Williams, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt (also a producer), Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano.  Depiction of a true story of a reputable free Black man from the North (Saratoga Springs, NY) being kidnapped and sold into slavery, who then wrote a firsthand account of it back in 1853.  Begins in 1841.  Won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o in her film debut, and Adapted Screenplay; plus nominated for Best Director, Lead Actor (Ejiofor), Support Actor (Fassbender), Editing, Production Design and Costume Design.  An important and horrifically graphic movie. (seen once)
Tusk — 2014;  written & directed by Kevin Smith;  Michael Parks, Justin Long, Johnny Depp.  About a guy who is kidnapped and turned into a walrus.  (seen once)
Joker — 2019;  directed & co-screenwritten by Todd Phillips;  Joaquin Phoenix (won Best Actor Oscar), Robert De Niro.  (seen once)

 

The Made-For-TV / Streaming Exceptions   [33]

The Twilight Zone — 1959–1964;  CBS;  created by and many episodes written by Rod Serling;  the Gold Standard for weirdness and alternative dramatic perspectives on television.  B&W
Route 66 (one-hour B&W dramatic TV series) — c1960–64, airing Friday nights on CBS — obviously “inspired by” / ripped-off from Jack’s On The Road — two young men (an outgoing street-wise orphan and a bookish New England Ivy Leaguer who recently lost his father, hmmm), drive around the country having adventures while looking for the meaning of life (Hollywood is nothing if not original!).  It was shot almost entirely on location around North America — with 3/4 of the episodes written by show creator Sterling Silliphant (who’d later win a Best Screenplay Oscar for In The Heat Of The Night).  Starring George Maharis and Martin Milner (who narrowly beat out Robert Redford for the role).  Often compared to the original Twilight Zone, the intelligent adult scripts attracted a mile-long list of now-household-name guest stars — Martin Balsam, Joan Crawford, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, Cloris Leachman, Peter Lorre, Lee Marvin, Walter Matthau, Robert Redford, William Shatner, Martin Sheen, Rod Steiger, Rip Torn — to just scratch the surface.  They also employed local actors so the dialects were both authentic and different in every episode.  Also notable was Nelson Riddle’s music, including the instrumental theme song that actually became a Top 30 Billboard hit in the summer of 1962.  Show sponsor Chevrolet saw their product-placement Corvette sales double by the end of the first season!  B&W, 50 min.
Here’s the entire 3rd episode — all filmed in New Orleans in 1960!  Unreal footage!
There’s tons of other entire full episodes on YouTube.
Magical Mystery Tour — 1967;  BBC;  dir by George Harrison! and Bernard Knowles;  starring The Beatles.  Inspired by Ken Kesey’s magical mystery tour in a bus.  😉  (2)
The Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus — filmed in Dec. 1968;  BBC  (never aired);  Michael Lindsay-Hogg;  the classic live one-time-ever Lennon–Clapton–Richards–Mitch Mitchell Yer Blues;  plus great performances by (in order) Jethro Tull (the only existing footage with Tommy Iommi before he left to form Black Sabbath), arguably the best ’60s Who performance footage, a soulful Taj Mahal with Jesse Ed Davis on guitar, Marianne Faithful, John’s all-star band, Yoko with violin virtuoso Ivry Gitlis augmenting John’s band playing a blues jam, and The Stones in their Beggars Banquet moment for six songs, including a wild Sympathy of the Devil, and Brian Jones’ last performance with the band.  Finally released in 1996 on VHS; and in 2004 on DVD.  Michael Lindsay-Hogg also directed The Beatles’ videos for Hey Jude and Revolution, the Let It Be film they never wanted released and which Peter Jackson is remaking in 2021.  This is an overlooked capture of the birth of the magic of rock n roll art circa 1968.  Not to mention in the John–Mick clip showing how the bandleaders of the two biggest British bands were actually friends and not enemies like some press pimped.  😉    (3)

Liza with a ‘Z’ — Sept. 10, 1972;  NBC;  dir & choreographed by Bob Fosse; Liza Minnelli;  Marvin Hamlisch musical Director;  Phil Ramone engineer; won 4 Emmy’s, Best Single Program, Best Director, Best Choreography, Best Music;  shot live, one take.  (2)
Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story — 1972;  PBS;  written & directed by & starring Woody Allen; Diane Keaton, Louise Lasser, Conrad Bain;  funny 26-minute mockumentary skewering Republicans blending archival footage and real events with Woody being a fictional McCarthyite and goofball aide to Nixon.  It’s currently on YouTube here. (1)
Fawlty Towers — 1975 and 1979 (6 episodes in each year, 12 total);  BBC;  first 1975 six directed by John Howard Davies, second 1979 six directed by Bob Spiers;  written by John Cleese & Connie Booth;  Cleese (Basil), Connie (Polly), Prunella Scales (Sybil), Andrew Sachs (Manuel), Ballard Berkely (the Major).  You can read my primer on the show here.  (4)
The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash — 1978;  NBC special;  conceived, written, co-directed by & starring Eric Idle;  plus, in order of appearance, Neil Innes, Mick Jagger, Bill Murray, Paul Simon, Lorne Michaels, Dan Aykroyd, George Harrison, Michael Palin, Ronnie Wood, Bianca Jagger, John Belushi, Al Franken, Tom Davis, Gilda Radner.  Monty Python meets SNL in a Spinal Tap prequel.  Spoof of The Beatles incorporating ’60s period footage.  It started as a sketch on Eric Idle’s BBC2 show Rutland Weekend Television, then when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1976 it was incorporated into the show, which then birthed the NBC special.  (3)
True West —  1984;  PBS – American Playhouse;  Allan Goldstein;  Sam Shepard;  John Malkovich & Gary Sinise  (3)
Death of A Salesman — 1985;  CBS;  Victor Schlondorff; Arthur Miller; Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich, Kate Reid, Charles Durning  (3)
Tanner ’88 — 1988;  HBO;  really smart arcing detail-rich script by Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury) but large parts improvised;  Robert Altman (who won the Best Director Emmy);  experimental 11-episode series featuring a fictional candidate in the Democratic primary, shot on locations along the campaign trail as it played out, blending real events with fictional ones.  An absolutely great Michael Murphy plays the candidate Jack Turner (he worked with Altman 12 times! including M*A*S*H, Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller).  Also staring 22-year-old later real-life NY Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, plus a superb Pamela Reed (who won the CableACE Best Actress award) as the campaign manager and Veronica Cartwright as the NBC reporter, and a great 2-episode cameo by Waylon Jennings (If Only Hank Could See Us Now), E.G. Marshall, a fucking WILD Hunter Thompson-ish Harry Anderson as the intense convention vote wrangler, plus some killer one-offs with Cleavon Little, the great Linda Ellerbee!, Rebecca De Mornay, Ned Bellamy, David Alan Grier, Bela Fleck, and cameos by pretty much all the 1988 primary candidates from both parties and loads of sitting Congresspeople and journalists.  Perfect format for Altman with the overlapping dialog and general cinematic chaos.  He says in the Criterion commentary: “In my mind, this was the most creative work I’ve ever done – in all films and theater.”  Brilliant cinematography by Jean Lépine (The Player, Bob Roberts, Vincent & Theo).  Aaron Sorkin credits this as the inspiration for The West Wing.  Filmed back when American politics was still civil. Very much like today’s weekly half-hour The Circus on Showtime.  Six hours in length – a one-hour pilot, then 10 half-hour episodes.  Amazing portrayal of a primary campaign, and masterful blend of reality and fiction.  It feels like you’re watching a documentary.  Famous scene with Bruce Babbitt walking with Tanner along the Tidal Basin under the blossoming cherry trees talking about making a difference in politics.  Starts in New Hampshire!  Then goes to Nashville/Tennessee, and a Hollywood party.  Climactic episode 10 featuring the delegate fight and convention vote is exciting as hell!  Incredible editing of fictional scenes with real convention footage.  Denouement episode 11 deals with the problem with Bernie Sanders that manifested in 2016 — that the liberal challenger the centrist nominee (and their supporters) didn’t unite resulting in the Democrats basically splitting their vote causing the Republican to win.  The final scene seems like an homage to (or reflection of) The Candidate’s “What do we do now?” final scene.  Absolute must-see for all politicos.  And Altman fans.  (seen once)
Seinfeld — 1989–1998;  NBC;  created by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld;  Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis–Dreyfus, Michael Richards  (watched every episode multiple times)

The Civil War — 1990;  PBS;  Ken Burns;  made by Florentine Films for WETA PBS in Washington, D.C.  (4)
Woodstock Diary — 1994;  Showtime;  3-part TV special about the ’69 concert by D.A. Pennebaker & wife Chris Hegedus;  features tons of performances and audience footage not in Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 Woodstock movie.  (1)
NewsRadio — 1995–1999;  NBC;  incredible cast – Phil Hartman, Stephen Root, Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Vicki Lewis, Andy Dick.  (saw most episodes multiple times)
The Newsroom – “The Campaign” episode — 1997;  CBC;  written & directed by Ken Finkleman;  Finkleman, Peter Keleghan, Jeremy Holtz. (3)
Stephen King’s The Shining — 1997;  ABC, 3-episode mini-series (4½ hours);  Mick Gerris;  Steven Weber (who absolutely blew me away), Rebecca De Mornay, Pat Hingle, Elliott Gould, Melvin Van Peebles — freaking great movie.  Stephen King was extremely unhappy with Kubrick’s version so wrote this teleplay and had this made so there would be a faithful filmed version of it.  Shot at the Stanley Hotel where King stayed that inspired the book.  Really scary, actually better than Kubrick’s in both my opinion and Stephen King’s.  (seen twice)
Temporarily Yours — 1997;  CBS;  6-episode show about temping that came out at the same time as my book The Temp Survival Guide;  also at the same time as the movie Clockwatchers about temping (see entry under Comedies);  Debi Mazar (Goodfellas), Joanna Gleason (Winnipeg’s Monty Hall’s daughter), Seth Green (Chris on Family Guy) and Saverio Guerra (Mocha Joe on Curb Your Enthusiasm);  rewatched Dec. 2020: I actually laughed out loud multiple times in the first 3 episodes, then it died in episodes 4–6;  Lots of NYC location shots & scenes.  (3)
Family Guy — 1999–present;  Fox;  created & largely voiced by Seth MacFarlane;  Seth Green, Alex Borstein, Mila Kunis, Mike Henry, Patrick Warburton;  I love the artwork, and the music, every note of which is played by an orchestra in a conscious effort to pay musicians.
The West Wing — 1999–2006;  created and written by Aaron Sorkin;  starring Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Rob Lowe, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Dule Hill, and later Stockard Channing, Jimmy Smitts, Alan Alda, Mary McCormack & others.  It took Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction’s depictions of personal lives behind the headlines and made it about the workers in the West Wing.  Brilliant writing by Sorkin; super serious, but I end up laughing out loud at different unexpected lines / deliveries every episode.  Basically invented (certainly popularized) the “walk & talk” tracking shots.  Won nine Emmys for its first season, and for Outstanding Drama Series four years in a row (and 22 other Emmys total).  Aired Wednesdays 9PM on NBC. 

Curb Your Enthusiasm — 2000;  HBO;  Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman, Richard Lewis, J.B. Smoove, Ted Danson, Bob Einstein, Shelley Berman.  I watched it from its first pilot before the series was even an idea.
Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days — 2001;  amazing AMC (American Movie Classics) documentary with the 37 missing minutes of last film Something’s Got To Give.  (2)
The Rocket (aka “Maurice Richard”) — 2005;  CBC;  dir. Charles Binamé;  Roy Dupuis;  This, along with Miracle may be the two best sports dramas.  (2)
Canada-Russia ’72 — 2006;  CBC;  featuring all unknowns except Gerry Dee as Wayne Cashman;  documentary style dramatization of the classic hockey series – unbelievably great.  (2)

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee — 2012–2019;  Crackle, then Netflix;  Jerry Seinfeld created, produces & stars in.  I’ve seen all 85 episodes over the years.  I love how it’s shot in different cities — and even when in New York, which I know well, they often go to out-of-the-way places I’ve never heard of.  And after watching all the episodes and wanting to skip the intro about the car … on subsequent viewings I came to love how he opens each show with a 2-minute poetic love ode to the uniqueness of each rare car.  One thing I learned – it was only 5 years from when Seinfeld did his first standup in a club until being on The Tonight Show.  It’s a show about friends.  Real friends.  Real smart & funny friends.  And I love how it’s so multi-generational – people in their 70s & 80s, and in their 20s & 30s.  Also, the cinematography and editing is absolutely top-frickin-notch fantastic.  And the incredible jazz / funk music score is to-die-for.  Rewatching all the episodes again in May 2023, it’s first time I’ve laughed out loud at anything on TV in quite a while.  (85 total episodes)
The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth — 2016–present;  Showtime;  John Heilleman, Alex Wagner, Mark McKinnon, with Jenn Palmieri added by season 5/6.  What a wild Fab Four they are!  Half-hour On The Road Gonzo style cable show covering the U.S. political world.  It’s a new documentary every week. I’ve known about The Circus since it first came on the air in 2016 – but never had the chance to see it until I got this free Showtime preview in early 2021.  And I’ll tell ya, I may very well end up paying for it just for this show!  It’s weekly — it’s political — and it’s New Journalism manifesting on television.  It’s Hunter’s renegadeness set on Jack’s Road Adventuring, with some Woodward & Bernstein massaging of sources. 😉  It’s the best political TV show ever, no question about it.  Better than any daily or weekly show on PBS, or any of the Sunday morning shows, or any single show on any of the cable news networks.  Plus!  The subtle dramatic music scoring is pitch perfect!  And the editing is brilliant.  And the storytelling – my gawd!  And they get it right – live – week after week.  (seen once)
Crisis in Six Scenes — 2016;  written & directed by and starring Woody Allen;  six 23-minute episodes (basically, a 2 hour 20 min movie);  the duo of Woody Allen and his wife played by the great Elaine May in her first role on television in 58 years is the masterwork to love here!  Also starring Miley Cyrus (who’s clearly not a great actor) as the young radical, with supporting roles by Rachel Brosnahan, Joy Behar, Michael Rapaport, Lewis Black, Max Casella, Judy Gold, David Harbour, Bobby Slayton. Set in the late ’60s — radical hippie comes into life of suburban America.  Shot entirely on locations.  The Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers opens it!  Features a cute old ladies’ book club.  1st episode — scene shot at The Bitter End!  This is only listed because it’s a Woody Allen “film” (in six parts) but it’s only recommended for die-hard Woody people.  Sort-of cliche been-there Woody neuroticism – but with a ’60s radical setting.  (seen once)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel — 2017–2022 – 4 seasons – 34 hour-long episodes;  Amazon Prime;  created, produced, written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino (also with her husband and creative partner David Palladino);  Rachel Brosnahan in title role, the great Alex Borstein as her manager/partner, Luke Kirby as Lenny Bruce, Tony Shalhoub (all 4 won acting Emmys), Kevin Pollak, Caroline Aaron, with recurring supporting roles by Jane Lynch, David Paymer, Max Casella, Jason Alexander, Veanne Cox, Wallace Shawn, Saul Rubinek, and one-offs by Gilbert Gottfried, Wanda Sykes, John Waters and Peter Gerety.  The story begins in the fall of 1958, and by season 4 it’s in the summer of 1960.  It won 20 Emmys over first 3 seasons (!) and was nominated for another 34.  The first two seasons are the greatest television ever produced.  By season 3 it starts to get a bit soap-opera-y with forced conflicts, and veers off too from the core story of a young woman trying to make it as a comedian into ancillary family bullshit.  The show has unquestionably the greatest cinematography in the history of television — with an enormous amount of long unbroken moving Steadicam shots rivaling Altman, Scorsese or Welles.  The award-winning Production Design throughout is absolutely jaw-dropping and must have cost $10 million an episode.  And the Emmy-winning costumes are to-die-for.  Some have already been acquired by the Smithsonian for gawdsakes!  Also, the editing throughout is riveting and as-good-as-it-gets.  As are the music choices.  I watched all 34 episodes once, then the first two seasons a second time.
For a much more complete breakdown of the highs and lows of the first four seasons, see this separate page on this site.
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese — 2019;  Netflix; Scorsese;  with Dylan, lots of Allen Ginsberg, plus Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Scarlet Rivera, Ronee Blakley, Ronnie Hawkins, David Mansfield, Hurricane Carter, Gordon Lightfoot, Patti Smith.  Scorsese used footage shot for Bob’s ill-fated Renaldo & Clara and made a highly watchable documentary of the coolest single tour that ever happened.  Lots of footage at Kerouac’s gravesite, including Allen reading Jack’s Mexico City Blues to Bob.  I was struck again by the fact that it was D.A. Pennebaker filming Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop that started this whole necessity of having handheld 16mm cameras filming rock shows and backstage.  Downside: There is an annoying & unnecessary inclusion of a fictional filmmaker and fictional promoter and actress Sharon Stone telling fictional stories about attending the shows that detracts from an otherwise invaluable telling of a priceless moment in cultural history.   (3)

McCartney 3,2,1 — 2021 — DisneyPlus series of six 30-minute episodes with Rick Rubin interviewing Paul McCartney.  Two musical geniuses jamming the creation of Beatles music.  B&W!  (seen once)
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar — 2023;  screen-written & directed by Wes Anderson, based on a story by Roald Dahl;  Ben Kingsley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, Richard Ayoade.  A 40-min short film, that won the Best Live Action Short Oscar (Wes’s first in 8 noms).  The first Wes Anderson film I’ve really enjoyed — maybe because it comes from an existing complete story by another writer, and maybe because it’s only 40 mins long and not an hour and 40.  Super fast-paced, with beautiful production design and staging, and a funny script with quirky characters perfectly brought to life.  A visual cinematic masterpiece.  At 33 mins there’s a vertical walk-back-&-forth scene by Benedict C. that would earn him an Oscar nom if this was a full-length feature.  One of a 4-part series of shorts made for Netflix based on Roald Dahl stories.  I don’t care for the other three (gruesome & unpleasant), but this main one is brilliant and wildly enjoyable.  (seen twice)

The only shows I have binge-watched every episode — in order I saw them:  Barry (2018–19 – 16 episodes), Veep (2012–19 – 65), Vinyl (2016 – 10), The Marveous Mrs. Maisel (2017–22 – 34), Pretend It’s A City (2021 – 7).

526 different movies (and TV shows) so far.

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By Auteur  [69]

Top Filmmakers by Number of Films Watched & Enjoyed  (5 or more movies)

Martin Scorsese — 20

Woody Allen — 13

Sidney Lumet — 10
Robert Altman — 10

Alfred Hitchcock — 9
John Huston — 9
Steven Spielberg — 9
Quentin Tarantino — 9

Coen brothers — 8
Terry Gilliam — 8
Mike Nichols — 8
Rob Reiner — 8

D.A. Pennebaker — 7

Paul Thomas Anderson — 6
Tim Burton — 6
Francis Ford Coppola — 6
Christopher Guest — 6
Jim Jarmusch — 6
Harold Ramis — 6
Jay Roach — 6
John Sayles — 6
Edgar Wright — 6

Clint Eastwood — 5
Blake Edwards — 5
Nora Ephron — 5
Miloš Forman — 5
Bob Fosse — 5
Ron Howard — 5
Elia Kazan — 5
Stanley Kubrick — 5
Maysles brothers — 5
Sydney Pollack — 5
Nicholas Ray — 5
Billy Wilder — 5
Robert Zemenkis — 5

 

Favorite ‘Young’ / Living / Working Filmmakers — kind-of roughly in order:

Tarantino
the Coen Brothers
Damien Chazelle
Edgar Wright
Baz Luhrmann
Spike Jonze
Bradley Cooper
David Fincher
David O. Russell
Greta Gerwig
Paul Thomas Anderson
George Clooney
Jim Jarmusch
Jay Roach
Walter Salles
Rian Johnson

Some Still-Living Giants to Appreciate:

Woody Allen
Tim Burton
Terry Gilliam
Christopher Guest
Rob Reiner
John Sayles
Martin Scorsese
Steven Spielberg

 

Woody Allen
“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”
Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story — 1972;  PBS;  written & directed by & starring Woody Allen; Diane Keaton, Louise Lasser, Conrad Bain;  funny 26-minute mockumentary skewering Republicans blending archival footage and real events with Woody being a fictional McCarthyite and goofball aide to Nixon.  It’s currently on YouTube here. (1)
Sleeper — 1973;  written & directed by Woody Allen;   Woody, Diane Keaton  (3)
Love and Death — 1975;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody & Diane Keaton (one of their eight together), Harold Gould.  1800s period-piece meaning-of-life comedy.  A spoof of historical Russian novels a la Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, including the title playing on “War and Peace” and “Crime and Punishment.”  It’s shot with lots of allusions to Ingmar Bergman films; plus played with the slapstick of Chaplin and writing in the style of the smart clipped one-liner banter of the Marx Brothers.  A lot of funny lines & visuals and Woody standup asides, but kind of a lot of what we now know of as cliche Woody — cheapskates, his ineptitude and cowardice.  (seen once)
Annie Hall —  1977;  Woody Allen;  written by Woody Allen;  Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Colleen Dewhurst;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director & Screenplay for Woody, and Actress for Diane Keaton.   (4)
Manhattan — 1979;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep.  B&W  (3)
Zelig — 1983;  written & directed by and starring Woody Allen;  Mia Farrow;  Oscar nominated for Best Cinematography & Costume Design. Smart, interesting movie.  A funny mockumentary blending Woody into historic photographs & footage a la Forrest Gump ten years later.  Woody got New Yorker literati to appear talking about the fictional celebrity.  The footage of F. Scott Fitzgerald is only few seconds known to exist.  They have historic footage of the same block of Washington Square North (where I lived for 6 years) as Zelig’s Greenwich Village flat.  Just as “Rashomon” has become a noun meaning different points of view, “Zelig” is now used to refer to someone who is chameleon-like in any situation, and/or someone who knows everyone or has been everywhere.  both B&W & color  (seen twice)
Hannah and Her Sisters — 1986;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody, Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Barbara Hershey, Max Von Sydow, Maureen O’Sullivan, Lewis Black, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, J.T. Walsh, Julie Kavner  (3)
The Curse of The Jade Scorpion — 2001;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody Allen, Helen Hunt  (4)
Hollywood Ending — 2002;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody, Téa Leoni, Treat Williams, George Hamilton, Tiffani Thiessen, Debra Messing as a wonderful ditz, and Beat pal Peter Gerety as Woody’s shrink.  Great script & filmmaking.  A movie about Woody making a movie . . . and then he goes blind.  Classic stuff.  (4)
Midnight In Paris — 2011;  written and directed by Woody Allen;  Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Kurt Fuller.  (McAdams & Sheen were a couple during th.  time this movie was made) Owen Wilson slips through a time hole to Paris in the 1920s and hangs out with Hemingway (Corey Stoll, great), F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Picasso, Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), T.S. Elliot, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, Matisse, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker;  and then goes back to 1889 and meets Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin & Degas.  Woody deservedly won Best Screenplay (his most recent Oscar) — and was nominated for Picture and Direction.  Fantastic location shooting in Paris, and perfect music.  This guy is an insanely great filmmaker.  And it’s a movie about a writer!  Like Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen was a master at capturing a woman’s face beautifully.  The idea for the film just started with the title.  Woody wanted to write a movie set in Paris.  He came up with the idea of “Midnight in Paris” cuz it sounded romantic and sort of the epitome / essence of the town.  Then he built the entire story from there.  (seen twice)
Blue Jasmine — 2013;  brilliant, deep, emotive Oscar-nominated for Best Screenplay & directed by Woody Allen;  Cate Blanchett most deservedly won Best Lead Actress Oscar, Sally Hawkins (nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Alex Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale (great), Andrew Dice Clay (who’s actually not a bad actor), Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K.  About a wealthy woman losing everything.  Inspired by blending Bernie Madoff’s wife with A Streetcar Named Desire.  Spectacularly perfect old jazz & blues music — as always, chosen by Woody.  Brilliant title once you’ve seen this absolutely great movie.  And great location shooting, as per Woody.  🙂  (3)
Cafe Society — 2016; written & directed by Woody Allen; Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Corell, Parker Posey, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Tony Sirico.  Loved it.  A love story set in 1930s Hollywood.  (seen once)

Crisis in Six Scenes — 2016;  written & directed by and starring Woody Allen;  six 23-minute episodes (a 2hour 20 min movie);  the duo of Woody Allen and his wife played by the great Elaine May in her first role on television in 58 years is the masterwork to love here!  Also starring Miley Cyrus (who’s clearly not a great actor) as the young radical, with supporting roles by Rachel Brosnahan, Joy Behar, Michael Rapaport, Lewis Black, Max Casella, Judy Gold, David Harbour, Bobby Slayton. Set in the late ’60s — radical hippie comes into life of suburban America.  Shot entirely on locations.  The Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers opens it!  Features a cute old ladies’ book club.  1st episode — scene shot at The Bitter End!  This is only listed because it’s a Woody Allen “film” (in six parts) but it’s only recommended for die-hard Woody people.  Sort-of cliche been-there Woody neuroticism – but with a ’60s radical setting.  (seen once)

Robert Altman
“It’s all just one film to me.  Just different chapters.”
M*A*S*H — 1970;  Robert Altman;  Ring Lardner Jr. screenplay (who hated all the improvisations and changes Altman made on the fly … and then happily accepted for the win for Best Screenplay Oscar);  Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, Tom Skerritt, Robert Duval, Sally Kellerman; and all in their first movies — Bud Cort, Gary Burghoff, Fred Williamson, John Schuck & Rene Auberjonois (who’s got more IMDb credits than anyone else in the movie!).  Renegade under-the-studio-radar filmmaking at its best.  Much of the cast came from a San Fransisco theater troupe.  Made on a shoestring $3.5 million budget – and came in under.  14 of the 30 speaking roles in the movie were by actors making their feature film debuts. They had a surgeon on set all shoot to make sure the operating rooms were accurate.  Deservedly highly-praised breakthrough movie for Altman.  Brilliant use of da Vinci’s Last Supper.  The lyrics to the Suicide is Painless song were written by Altman’s 14 year old son.  Altman said he got paid $70,000 for making the movie, and his son earned more than $1 million for co-writing the song.  🙂  (4)
Brewster McCloud — 1970; Robert Altman; Doran William Cannon (who also wrote Skidoo); Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman, Stacy Keach, Shelley Duvall’s first film (and first of seven with Altman). (seen once)
Thieves Like Us — 1974;  Robert Altman;  Joan Tewksbury (Nashville) & Altman wrote screenplay based on Edward Anderson’s 1937 novel (you can read a great piece about the book and its connection to Bonnie & Clyde here);  Keith Carradine, Shelley Duvall, John Schuck, Louise Fletcher, Tom Skerritt;  great crazy weird filmmaking and beautifully evocative cinematography;  but wasn’t a big fan overall.  Seemed a little plodding and the characters not really fleshed out.  See, also: Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night – both based on the same novel, but Nick’s is much more evocative & captivating, more of a tender appealing love story and not just bank robbers, much more believable screenwriting & acting, and much better pacing (editing), IMO.  (seen once)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller — 1971;  screenplay co-written & directed by Robert Altman;  Warren Beatty, Julie Christie (gorgeous and Oscar nominated for Best Lead Actress), John Schuck, Rene Auberjonois, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine (20 yrs old and prolly the one character in who movie I liked – and of course he gets senselessly killed), Michael Murphy, William Devane;  brilliantly perfect soundtrack using Leonard Cohen songs;  incredible town in the wilderness they built for the set, and the building of it was included in the plot — to me, it’s the most impressive and interesting part of the film.  Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond was very creative in his use of lenses and filters and lighting to capture the feel was going for.  The big snowfall at the end really happened on location in British Columbia, so Altman incorporated it into the script for the climax.  The movie reconfirmed that I just don’t care for Westerns — even when made by a favorite director of mine.  Society and humanity and living conditions have advanced so much since these olden days.  We are so far removed from this era of no running water or electricity or bathrooms . . . I don’t care about these characters from two centuries ago.  People getting killed all the time.  Women are generally either nonexistent or whores.  I hate these kinds of movies.  (seen twice)
California Split — 1974;  Robert Altman;  George Segal & Elliot Gould, Ann Prentiss, and Jeff Goldblum in a bit part.  A buddy picture set around poker & gambling.  Echoes of Owning Mahowny.  (seen once)
Nashville — 1975;  Robert Altman (his first independent film with zero studio interference);  Joan Tewkesbury (here’s a great interview with her about how she wrote it);  unbelievable ensemble cast — Ronee Blakley (in fine voice in her film debut), Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter, who’s hilarious & great), Shelly Duvall, Michael Murphy, Ned Beatty, Keith Carradine, Allen Garfield, Barbara Harris, Barbara Baxley, Cristina Raines, Keenan Wynn, Karen Black, Gwen Welles, Scott Glenn, a young Jeff Goldblum as the magician on the motorized tricycle who never speaks a word, cameos as themselves by Elliott Gould & Julie Christie (who just showed up unannounced and Altman threw them in as themselves), and a great violin-playing cameo by Vassar Clements.  Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Lily and Ronee for Best Supporting Actresses; Keith Carradine won for Best Original Song (I’m Easy).  Still holds the record for most Golden Globe nominations for a single film at 11.  Siskel & Ebert declared it the best movie of 1975.  All the musicians (almost all from Nashville) sing & perform live, and most were originals by the singers who sang them.  There was a solid 175-page script created by Altman and his Script Supervisor Joan Tewkesbury, based on the diary Altman instructed her to keep while staying in Nashville — but the actors improvised a lot of the actual dialog.  Great filmmaking, including the editing.  I literally laughed out loud several times watching it for the first time in 40 years in 2021.  Shot almost entirely in sequence. 2 hrs 40 mins.  (seen twice)
Tanner ’88 — 1988;  HBO;  really smart arcing detail-rich script by Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury) but large parts improvised;  Robert Altman (who won the Best Director Emmy);  experimental 11-episode series featuring a fictional candidate in the Democratic primary, shot on locations along the campaign trail as it played out, blending real events with fictional ones.  An absolutely great Michael Murphy plays the candidate Jack Turner (he worked with Altman 12 times! including M*A*S*H, Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller).  Also staring 22-year-old later real-life NY Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, plus a superb Pamela Reed (who won the CableACE Best Actress award) as the campaign manager and Veronica Cartwright as the NBC reporter, and a great 2-episode cameo by Waylon Jennings (If Only Hank Could See Us Now), E.G. Marshall, a fucking WILD Hunter Thompson-ish Harry Anderson as the intense convention vote wrangler, plus some killer one-offs with Cleavon Little, the great Linda Ellerbee!, Rebecca De Mornay, Ned Bellamy, David Alan Grier, Bela Fleck, and cameos by pretty much all the 1988 primary candidates from both parties and loads of sitting Congresspeople and journalists.  Perfect format for Altman with the overlapping dialog and general cinematic chaos.  He says in the Criterion commentary: “In my mind, this was the most creative work I’ve ever done – in all films and theater.”  Brilliant cinematography by Jean Lépine (The Player, Bob Roberts, Vincent & Theo).  Aaron Sorkin credits this as the inspiration for The West Wing.  Filmed back when American politics was still civil. Very much like today’s weekly half-hour The Circus on Showtime.  Six hours in length – a one-hour pilot, then 10 half-hour episodes.  Amazing portrayal of a primary campaign, and masterful blend of reality and fiction.  It feels like you’re watching a documentary.  Famous scene with Bruce Babbitt walking with Tanner along the Tidal Basin under the blossoming cherry trees talking about making a difference in politics.  Starts in New Hampshire!  Then goes to Nashville/Tennessee, and a Hollywood party.  Climactic episode 10 featuring the delegate fight and convention vote is exciting as hell!  Incredible editing of fictional scenes with real convention footage.  Denouement episode 11 deals with the problem with Bernie Sanders that manifested in 2016 — that the liberal challenger the centrist nominee (and their supporters) didn’t unite resulting in the Democrats basically splitting their vote causing the Republican to win.  The final scene seems like an homage to (or reflection of) The Candidate’s “What do we do now?” final scene.  Absolute must-see for all politicos.  And Altman fans.  (seen once)
Vincent & Theo — 1990;  Robert Altman;  Tim Roth as Vincent Van Gogh (!) — great biopic on Van Gogh & his brother by none other than Robert Altman!  Opens with footage of Christie’s historic 1987 auction when Van Gogh’s Sunflowers shattered the record for the most money ever paid for a work of art.  The movie was originally designed as a four hour mini-series for the BBC, then cut down to this 2 hour film.  (3)
The Player — 1992;  Robert Altman;  Michael Tolkin (novel & screenplay);  Tim Robbins, Vincent D’Onofrio, Fred Ward, Greta Scacchi, Cynthia Stevenson, Whoopi Goldberg, Dean Stockwell, Brion James, Lyle Lovett, Peter Gallagher, Sydney Pollack, Jeremy Piven, Gina Gershon, and a million cameos.  Gawd!  What a brilliant movie!  One of my favorites of all time.  Music by the great Thomas Newman.  Deservedly Oscar-nominated for Best Editing by Altman 90’s compadre Geraldine Peroni (Short Cuts, Vincent & Theo, Ready To Wear). Brilliant & beautiful cinematography by his go-to Jean Lepine (Vincent & Theo, Bob Roberts, Tanner ’88). 
This film has more Oscar-winning actors and actresses in the cast than any other movie in history.  (!)  Twelve:  Cher, James Coburn, Louise Fletcher, Whoopi Goldberg, Joel Grey, Anjelica Huston, Jack Lemmon, Marlee Matlin, Tim Robbins, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, and Rod Steiger.
Thirteen, when you count Oscar winning Producer and Director Sydney Pollack, who also makes a cameo appearance.
Also includes fifteen other actors and actresses who received Oscar nominations: Karen Black, Dean Stockwell, Michael Tolkin, Gary Busey, Peter Falk, Teri Garr, Jeff Goldblum, Elliott Gould, Sally Kirkland, Buck Henry, Sally Kellerman, Burt Reynolds, Nick Nolte, Richard E. Grant and Lily Tomlin.  (4)
Here’s probably the greatest continuous tracking shot in film history — the 8-minute opening of this movie:
https://vimeo.com/75881931
Short Cuts1993;  Robert Altman;  based on stories by Raymond Carver;  Lily Tomlin & Tom Waits, Jennifer Jason Leigh & Chris Penn, Andie MacDowell & Bruce Davison, Julianne Moore & Matthew Modine, Fred Ward & Anne Archer, Tim Robbins & Madeleine Stowe, Francis McDormand & Peter Gallagher, Lili Taylor & Robert Downey Jr., Annie Ross & Lori Singer, Lyle Lovett, Buck Henry, Huey Lewis, Jack Lemmon.  Music producer: Hal Willner.  Great filmmaking by Altman, of course, with an unbelievable cast, but there’s no real through-plot, or character development, or any character I particularly gave a shit about.  It’s just a montage of occasionally vaguely connected lives in and around LA.  I LOVED The Player (which preceded this) and correctly got nominated for Best Screenplay, which this correctly did not. I get that there’s great performances by a to-die-for cast — cuz they wanna work with Altman — but it’s like a 3-hour soap opera recap.  It’s maybe a good *idea* for a movie . . . but there’s too many storylines for any of them to be explored in depth … and the “short cuts” cause, at least this viewer, to not invest any emotion into any of these mostly duplicitous unethical heartless people.  (3)

Paul Thomas Anderson
“All of life’s questions and answers are in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  It’s about greed and ambition and paranoia and looking at the worst parts of yourself.  When I was writing There Will Be Blood, I would put The Treasure of the Sierra Madre on before I went to bed at night, just to fall asleep to it.”  [I used to play this to send me off to sleepland!]
Hard Eight — 1996; written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (his first feature film); an all-star cast!  the always great Paul Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samual L. Jackson, Philip Seymour Hoffman (in one scene).  Great musical soundscape by Jon Brion & Michael Penn.  Shot entirely on location in Reno, Nevada.  A good adult drama.  Great script.  You can see why this kick-started a great film career.  (seen once)
Boogie Nights — 1997; Oscar-nominated Original Screenplay written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson; mind-blowing cast — 25-yr-old Mark Wahlberg (how did he not get a Best Actor nomination?!), but Burt Reynolds & Julianne Moore correctly were! Plus William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman (appears 40 mins in and is riveting as always), John C. Riley, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, early Heather Graham, Joanne Gleason, Robert Ridgley, Nina Hartley, Ricky Jay, Philip Baker Hall (appears 70 mins in), Thomas Jane! (72 mins), Jack Riley.  Set in San Fernando Valley beginning in 1977.  Great filmmaking.  Smart storytelling and script – deservedly Oscar nominated.  Great interweaving story, cinematography, editing, pacing.  Mind-blowing casting.  SO many young actors who grew into full-on masters. Brilliant now-renown 4-minute opening ‘oner’ tracking shot introducing all the characters in the Hot Traxx dance club.  This tells you right away you’re in for something special, a la The Player, Touch of Evil.  Same type of opening as Babylon — where you meet everyone at the club/party, then follow each character home. Interesting smart original score and soundtrack cuts.  The corny movies-within-a-movie porn scene dialog was lifted from real porn movies because Anderson wanted it authentic.  Also a bit like Babylon in that the first half is the happy up-trail . . . and the second half is the downside. (3)
Magnolia — 1999;  written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson;  amazing ensemble cast — Tom Cruise (in a very off-brand role as a sexist pick-up-artist seminar leader), Jason Robards (his last film), Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Melora Walters, William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman, Luis Guzman, Michael Bowen, Henry Gibson, Ricky Jay (also the narrator), Robert Downey Sr., Alfred Molina, Michael Murphy, Patton Oswald.  Oscar nominated for Best Screenplay, Tom Cruise for Best Supporting, and Aimee Mann for Best Original Song (who also sings a bunch of other sings, including a beautiful version of Harry Nilsson’s “One”).  Very weird movie.  Probably needs to be seen twice — I couldn’t make head or tail of it.  3-hour drama of interrelated stories during one day in L.A., alternating storylines like a soap opera.  Very Short Cuts.  Took 79 days of shooting.  PTA wrote a bunch of the script in 2 weeks staying at William H. Macy’s cabin in Vermont.  (seen once)
Punch-Drunk Love — 2002;  written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (won Best Director at Cannes); Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzmán, Mary Lynn Rajakub, Robert Smigel.  Amazing drum music score that perfectly augments the jazzy editing.  As PTA said, “This is an arthouse Adam Sandler film.”  (seen once)
The Master — 2012;  written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson;  Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams – all 3 nominated for Oscars – plus Rami Malek, Laura Dern, Jesse Plemons.  Watching Philip Seymour Hoffman & Joaquin Phoenix chew up the scenery together is worth the price of admission.  Talk about two Masters!  When PTA saw what Joaquin was doing, he had the sets lit wide and told the camera crew to be prepared to follow him wherever he went.  The one take / first take 3-minute oner of the jail scene with Joaquin & Phil is mind-blowing and no wonder they both got Best Actor noms!  Maybe I’m imagining things, but there sure seems to be a connection between Joaquin’s character here and his Joker.  PTA is sure a Master of mise-en-scene.  (seen twice)
Licorice Pizza — 2021:  written, produced & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson;  Cooper Hoffman (Philip Seymour’s son, his first film, a 17 yr old playing a 15 yr old), Alana Haim (her real family plays her family in the film;  PTA directed the Haim sisters music videos), Sean Penn, a priceless Tom Waits, the always great John Michael Higgins, Bradley Cooper, PTA’s life-partner Maya Rudolph and John C. Reilly (briefly, as Herman Munster!).  Plus Leo DiCaprio’s dad sells Hoffman his first waterbed!  Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Director & Best Screenplay.  Set in L.A. in 1973, about a student going on a date with a teacher.  Licorice Pizza is slang for an L.P. (album).  PTA knew young Hoffman his whole life and even ‘directed’ him in little home movies.  Mind-blowing soundtrack!  Similar use of L.A. radio stations & period music as Tarantino’s similarly time & place set Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.  This is GREAT Filmmaking — no wonder it got The Big Three nominations.  (seen once)

Hal Ashby
The great thing about film is, it really is the communal art.”
Harold and Maude — 1971;  Hal Ashby;  Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, music by Cat Stevens  (4)
The Last Detail — 1973;  Hal Ashby;  Robert Towne screenplay (Chinatown);  Jack Nicholson, 22-yr-old Randy Quaid, Otis Young, Carol Kane, Clifton James, Michael Moriarty, and Gilda Radner’s first screen appearance.  Oscar nominated for Screenplay, Lead (Nicholson) and Supporting (Quaid).  The premise is that Jack & Otis transport Randy Quaid to a Marine jail.  There’s actually a scene shot in Ben’s Pizza at 3th & MacDougal in the Village!  Apparently it was an Italian sausage place back in 1972.  Kind of a sad, stupid, depressing movie.  Not my cup of tea.  (seen once)
Shampoo — 1975;  Hal Ashby;  written by Robert Towne & Warren Beatty; Warren Beatty, Lee Grant (won Oscar for Best Supporting), Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Jack Warden, Carrie Fisher’s first movie, age 17, 2 years before Star Wars.  Set in L.A. in 1968, including a fantastic ’60s party scene with the kinda soundtrack from that era that readers of this site would love.  (seen once)
Bound For Glory — 1976; Hal Ashby;  based on Woody Guthrie’s somewhat fictional autobiography;  David Carradine (just after Kung Fu ended), with a wonderful cast who all said Yes to Hal & Guthrie in all the small supporting roles — Ronny Cox (famously on guitar in Deliverance), Randy Quaid, Melinda Dillon (as Woody’s wife), James Hong! Gail Strickland, M. Emmett Walsh, Brion James, David Clennon, and the film debut of Mary Kay Place.  Great filmmaking.  The morning after watching this I woke up dreaming I was hoboing across the country.  Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Costume Design; master Haskell Wexler deservedly won for Cinematography (probably in a landslide), plus it rightly won Best Adapted Score f0r the Woody-written music throughout.  Lots of location shooting in California, including a fantastic sequence with Carradine & the cameraman riding on top of a train.  Besides everything else great about this movie, it’s a landmark in the history of film in that it features the first-ever use of a new invention — the Steadicam.  In an unbroken 2-minute shot (1:10:54–1:13:07 in the film), master D.P. Haskell Wexler (Cuckoo’s Nest, Virginia Wolfe) had the camera inventor, Garrett Brown, begin 30 feet up on a crane, then come down, get off and follow Carradine/Woody as he walks through a dust bowl camp filled with 900 extras.  Brown then shot scenes in The Marathon Man and the famous Rocky running up the steps scene.  Both the latter two beat Glory into theaters, but this was the first time the history-changing camera was ever used on a film.  Many actors were offered the lead role including singer-songwriter Tim Buckley who tragically died just before shooting was to commence; Dustin Hoffman who wanted too much prep time to learn to play the guitar; Kris Kristofferson who didn’t think he was right for it but suggested Bob Dylan; Robert De Niro who had scheduling conflicts with Taxi Driver; and Richard Dreyfuss who wanted too much money.  Classic American myth-making.  For a similar role in the same era by David Carradine, see Scorsese’s Boxcar Bertha.  Great cinematic portrayal of the historic dust storm that’s also a virtual reality experience at the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa.  I was hanging on every scene and development. Woody meets a ‘Slim’ on the road … like Kerouac famously does in his On The RoadWalter Salles’s On The Road cinematically and thematically really echoes this — embracing the same wide expanse visages of the American landscape.  Focuses more on his union organizing than his songwriting.  (seen once)
Being There — 1979;  Hal Ashby;  novel & screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski;  Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden  (4)

Noah Baumbach
“When I’m editing, I tend to cut, go back over it, cut, go back over it, cut, so by the time I’m done, even with a cut, I don’t have a rough cut and then work on it so much.  I have a pretty rigorous cut of the movie that’s usually in the range of what the final movie is going to be.  It doesn’t mean I don’t work on it a lot after that, but I get it into a shape so I feel I can really tell what it needs, or at least it’s ready to show people.”
The Squid and The Whale — 2005;  written and directed by Noah Baumbach;  Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, 13-yr-old Owen Kline (Kevin & Phoebe Cates’ son), Billy Baldwin, Anna Paquin. Oscar-nominated for Best Original Screenplay.  Entirely location shot, including lots in Park Slope Brooklyn.  Made on a $1.5 million budget!  Explores the common themes in Baumbach’s work — childhood, dysfunctional families & divorce.  (seen once)
The Meyerowitz Stories — 2017;  written & directed by Noah Baumbach;  Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Ben Stiller, Adam Driver, Judd Hirsch, Candice Bergen.  A helluva movie about a family of artists in New York City — what more could you want?!  This is a movie for adults. Great filmmaking — BRILLIANT screenwriting!  Holy shit!  Cinematography is smart and unusual.  REALLY cool editing — you’ll see.  The music is subtle and perfect. Great location shooting in NY including at MOMA.  Opens with a classic New York parking scene!  Noah Baumbach is an important filmmaker.  After seeing this and Marriage Story, this guy’s going on my Auteur’s list and I look forward to seeing his other works.  (seen twice)
Marriage Story — 2019;  written & directed by Noah Baumbach;  Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern won Oscar for Best Supporting.  Also nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, and both Driver & Johansson for Lead Actors.  (seen once, recommended by Al Robinson & Benji)

Peter Bogdanovich 
“Drama is easy.  Comedy is hard.”
The Last Picture Show — 1971;  directed & edited by Peter Bogdanovich;  screenplay by Larry McMurtry (from his book) & Bogdanovitch;  Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges (in his first big movie role), Cybill Shepherd (her film debut), Cloris Leachman (won Best Supporting Actress), Ben Johnson (won Best Supporting Actor; with less than 10 mins screen time, it’s the shortest on-screen performance ever to win an Oscar), Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennon, Clu Gilager, and also the film debuts of Randy Quaid & Sam Bottoms (Timothy’s little brother, playing his younger brother).  Set in 1951/52; filmed almost entirely on location in Archer City, Texas, where Larry McMurtry grew up and was writing about.  All the music is diegetic, meaning the characters are hearing it and it comes from a source on screen such as a radio, jukebox, record player, musicians or such.  Great use of shadows and light throughout by master cinematographer Robert Surtees.  But kind of a depressing movie.  B&W  (seen twice)
Paper Moon — 1973;  Peter Bogdanovich;  Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn, John Hillerman (in 2 brother roles), Burton Gilliam’s film debut, and Randy Quaid in a bit part.  Tatum won the Oscar, the youngest person ever in a competitive category.  Madeline Kahn was also nominated in the same category.  Also deservedly nominated for Best Screenplay.  Set in the depression, and filmed largely on locations in Missouri and Kansas.  Brilliant cinematography by Laszlo Kovaks.  Great film in every regard.  When this played in the Gimli Theater in the summer of 1973, I saw it on Friday night … and went back again Saturday.  B&W  (4)
The Great Buster: A Celebration — 2018;  written, directed & narrated by film scholar Peter Bogdanovich (produced by MK2 out of France who did On The Road!) — about Buster Keaton, including interviews with (in order of appearance):  Dick Van Dyke, Johnny Knoxville, Richard Lewis, Carl Reiner, Bill Hader, Mel Brooks, Cybill Shepard, Werner Herzog, Spiderman director Jon Watts (who studied Keaton and “used as the baseline” for Spidey), Nick Kroll, Quentin Tarantino, Leonard Maltin, Bill Irwin, Paul Dooley — plus *tons* or archival footage and best-of movie clips.  But kind of a sad tragedy.  (seen once)

Richard Brooks
Directing is only writing with a camera.”
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof —  1958;  Richard Brooks;  Tennessee Williams’ play;  Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Judith Anderson.  In the middle of filming, Liz Taylor’s husband Mike Todd died in a plane crash. What an incredible performance she delivered in the middle of grief. Including while playing a woman whose father-in-law, Big Daddy, was dying. It’s all about the acting.  And sex.  (4)
Sweet Bird of Youth — 1962;  Richard Brooks;  screenplay by Brooks from a Tennessee Williams play;  Paul Newman, Geraldine Page (who was nominated for a Tony for this on Broadway and also for Best Supporting Actress Oscar), Rip Torn, Madeline Sherwood, all four main actors reprising their Broadway roles as directed by Elia Kazan, plus Ed Begley Sr. (won Best Supporting Actor Oscar), Mildred Dunnock, Dub Taylor, Corey Allen.  Page & Torn married the year after making the movie.  About a gigolo (an often shirtless Paul Newman) and a sorta Norma Desmond-like late-career actress in a typical Tennessee Williams southern patriarchy. Nice highway location shooting in first 10 mins. Includes pot, hash and bennies in a 1962 movie. (seen once)
Lord Jim — 1965;  produced, screen-written & directed by Richard Brooks;  from Joseph Conrad novel;  Peter O’Toole, a transformed Eli Wallach, James Mason. Lots of location shooting in Cambodia, although by all accounts unbearably awful with dysentery, deadly snakes, stinging insects, heat rashes, the threat of angry anti-Western mobs, and “knee-deep in lizards” as O’Toole put it.  It sounds like the ’60s version of Apocalypse Now, which was also based on a Joseph Conrad novella about going up a river.  The production had Dith Pran as a translator, who was later imprisoned and became the subject of The Killing Fields (1984).  Kind of dry, boring, slow and dated.  Wasn’t very well received in its time, either.  (seen once)
In Cold Blood — 1967;  screenplay and directed by Richard Brooks;  based on the Truman Capote “fictional novel” / New Journalism book;  Robert Blake & Scott Wilson as the killers, John Forsythe as the detective, Jeff Corey.  No other “movie stars” were cast as director Brooks wanted it to seem like a real documentary;  most of the smaller roles were filled by Kansans.  An amazing movie, nominated for Best Director, Screenplay, Cinematography (in part because of the rain on Blake’s face shot) and the super-cool Music by Quincy Jones (immediately following In The Heat of The Night, see above, {which also starred Scott Wilson, these being his first two movies}, and including a song partly played on bottles during the bottle collection scene).  Largely shot on location, including inside & outside the Clutter family’s actual home & farm, the courtroom where the trial took place (with six actual jurors playing jurors), the suit store where they passed a bad check using the very salesman they’d conned, the store where they bought the rope and tape, and the bus depot.  The two killers talk about the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre which a young Robert Blake was in as the young kid who sold Humphrey Bogart the winning lottery ticket.  It was killer Perry Smith’s favorite movie.  The first mainstream American movie to use the word “bullshit” on screen.  B&W  (seen once)

Tim Burton
“When I was growing up, Dr. Seuss was really my favorite.  There was something about the lyrical nature and the simplicity of his work that really hit me.”
Beetlejuice — 1988;  Tim Burton;  Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Robert Goulet, Dick Cavett; Keaton’s only on screen 17 min., but with Burton’s permission, totally created the vibe of the movie, and is his favorite movie that he’s in.  (4)
Ed Wood — 1994;  Tim Burton (who said this is the favorite of his movies);  from Rudolph Grey’s book Nightmare of Ecstasy, with a great screenplay by the duo team of Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski (Big Eyes, the upcoming Garcia/Dead biopic); incredible cast – Johnny Depp as Ed Wood, Martin Landau who most deservedly won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Jones, Patricia Arquette, George ‘The Animal’ Steele, Brent Hinkley, Stanley DeSantis, Bobby Slayton, Juliet Landau (Martin’s daughter) who’s absolutely great, Rance Howard (Ron’s son), Bill Cusack (John & Joan’s brother), Vincent D’Onofrio (in a brief but brilliant turn as Orson Welles), Ned Bellamy, G.D. Spradlin.  About the legendary B-movie director Ed Wood.  Great music by Howard Shore.  As per the documentary “Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora” the budget of ”Ed Wood” was “more than one hundred times greater than every Edward D. Wood Jr. budget combined!”  Great comedic biopic by a collaboration of masters.  Brilliant, riveting filmmaking.  Beautifully atmospheric.  B&W  (seen once)
Big Fish — 2003; Tim Burton; Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Loudon Wainwright, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito.  Surreal fantasy about relationship between father and son.  I sure find Burton and Terry Gilliam interchangeably weird.  (seen once)
Alice in Wonderland — 2010;  Tim Burton;  Mia Wasikowska (as a 19-yr-old Alice), Johnny Depp (the Mad Hatter), Helena Bonham Carter (the Red Queen), Anne Hathaway (the White Queen), Crispin Glover (Knave of Hearts), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee), Christopher Lee (Jabberwocky’s voice), Alan Rickman (the Caterpillar’s voice), Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat’s voice).  A $200 million psychedelic epic . . . that grossed over $1 billion worldwide – the fifth highest of any film at the time.  Perfect source material for Tim Burton — who created a wonderfully surreal, colorful and imaginative film — like all his others.  Visually delicious.  Spectacular falling down the rabbit hole scene!  Rightfully won the Oscars for Best Art Direction (over Harry Potter & Inception!) and Costumes, and was nominated for Visual Effects (but lost to Inception).  And boy, Johnny & Helena sure coulda been nominated for their exaggerated perfectly mad comic portrayals.  The 7th collaboration between Burton & Depp, and the 6th with Tim & Helena.  (seen twice)
Dark Shadows — 2012;  Tim Burton;  Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Christopher Lee, Jackie Earle Haley, and a great cameo by Alice Cooper!  Set in 1972 — with a fantastic period soundtrack!  The music rights budget must have been enormous! (overall film budget $200 mil)  Great, fun, funny, weird movie with beautiful imagery.  Really has the spirit of the original soap opera.  (seen once)
Big Eyes2014;  Tim Burton;  Amy Adams & Christoph Waltz;  screenplay by the team of Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski;  great dramatization about artist Margaret Keane who did the widely reproduced “big eyes” paintings and how her husband tried to take credit for them;  set largely in and around San Francisco in the late ’50s and early ’60s.  (seen once)

Frank Capra
“Scriptwriting is the toughest part of the whole racket … the least understood and the least noticed.”
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington — 1939;  Frank Capra;  Lewis Foster won Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story;  James Stewart & Jean Arthur; Claude Rains (as the morally corrupted & conflicted Senator) and Harry Carey (as the President of the Senate) were both nominated for Best Supporting Actors; plus Edward Arnold (as the evil bossman), Charles Lane, Thomas Mitchell.  Nominated 11 Oscars.  Of course I absolutely love this movie — including that there’s 96 Senators — cuz Hawaii & Alaska weren’t states yet.  It’s so interesting how the corrupt Jim Taylor criminal cabal echoes the corrupt trump cult.  Plus there’s a great love story that gets me every time.  The film was placed in preservation in the National Film Registry the first year of its existence.  B&W  (3)
Arsenic and Old Lace — 1944;  Frank Capra;  Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre  B&W  (3)
It’s A Wonderful Life — 1946;  Frank Capra;  James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Frank Albertson  B&W  (3)
State of The Union — 1948;  Frank Capra;  Spencer Tracy & Katherine Hepburn, Angela Lansbury, Van Johnson.  A married industrialist (Spencer) runs for President.  B&W  (1)

Charlie Chaplin
“People want the truth.  In the human heart, for some reason or other, there is love of truth.  You must give them the truth in comedy.  Spontaneous acting hits the truth nine times out of ten, where studied work misses it just as often.
The Gold Rush — 1925;  written, directed by & starring Charlie Chaplin  B&W  (seen once) 
City Lights — 1931;  written, scored, produced, edited, directed by & starring Charlie Chaplin.  Chaplin’s favorite of all his films; he developed it for 3 years.  He kept it a silent picture had become the norm.  He brought Albert Einstein to the L.A. premiere, and George Bernard Shaw to the London.   The highest-grossing film of 1931 in the U.S.  B&W   (seen once)
Modern Times — 1936;  produced, written, edited, scored and directed by & starring Charlie Chaplin;  Paulette Goddard.  The final major American film to use silent conventions like title cards – and Chaplin performing in pantomime.  The last title card ever to appear (thus the end of the silent era) was the Little Tramp saying “Buck up – never say die. We’ll get along!”  Although, Chaplin’s voice is heard on film for the first time — singing a nonsense lyric song in faux Italian.  Contains the assembly line scene that clearly spawned Lucy’s classic bit.  Great choreography and physical comedy by Chaplin.  Fred Astaire must’ve loved this guy.  Sort of – Orwell’s 1984 on film.  This could almost be listed under “Trippy Movies” … but those sorta need to be in color.  🙂  B&W  (seen once)

Limelight — 1953; written, directed by & starring Charlie Chaplin – plus he wrote all the music and won the Best Oscar for it; Claire Bloom as the muse, Nigel Bruce, Buster Keaton, Norman Lloyd, and Chaplin’s son Sydney; Chaplin’s last American-made movie. Really good. About the hope and love and art and the meaning of life. Also about an aging clown facing the end of his career. B&W (seen once)

Damien Chazelle
“I love the idea of thinking of cinema as not that far from music.  A lot of my favorite movie makers, the way they move their cameras or the way they cut just feel very musical – even if the movies have no music in them at all.”
Whiplash — 2014;  written & directed by Damien Chazelle;  J.K. Simmons (won Best Supporting Actor & 46 other awards for this performance), Miles Teller (the young drummer, who really is a drummer), and Paul Reiser in a small role; also nominated for Best Picture & for the mindblowingly great Screenplay, and it deservedly won 2 Oscars for Best Editing & Sound Mixing).  Shot in 19 days.  This is a great movie – no wonder Chazelle got financing after this!  This was made for $3.3 million.  His next movie, La La Land had a $30 mil budget and won Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Music & Lead Actress.  Chazelle says on the (great) director’s commentary how the “boom” quick ending was inspired by Tarantino’s Death Proof.  (seen twice)
La La Land — 2016; written & directed by Damien Chazelle; Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling, with a great supporting role by John Legend; and small scene by J.K. Simmons.  Update on the classic Hollywood musicals, with a parallel story of an aspiring jazz musician.  Won Oscars for Emma Stone, Best Director, Cinematography, Music & Production Design.  (seen once)
Babylon — 2022;  written & directed by Damien Chazelle La La Land;  Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, newcomers Diego Calva & Li Jun Li, Jean Smart, Flea, Lukas Haas, director Damien’s wife & creative partner Olivia Hamilton as a woman director, Jeff Garlin as the studio head, Max Minghella as Irving Thalberg, Toby Maguire as the insane gangster chief (and also co-produced the movie), Spike Jonze is brilliant as the eccentric European director chasing the fading light, Eric Roberts kind-of reprises his sleazeball Star 80 role as an old man, and Olivia Wilde in an opening nails-it one-take scene.  I laughed out loud many times at unexpected funny lines.  Brilliant casting, cinematography, editing, score by Oscar-winner Justin Hurwitz, production design by Florencia Martin (who also did Blonde and Licorice Pizza), not to mention the drool-inducing old car show, and over 7,000 costumes designed from poverty to royalty. Great filmmaking in general, although some questionable dark choices.  I bet D.A. Pennebaker would have loved the dramatization of the birth of sound in film.  Very much a modern remaking of Singin’ in The Rain (without the corniness) — a movie about movie-makers in the silent pictures into talkies era. Several similar scenes in both movies — the actress learning diction training scene, trouble recording the first talking scenes, the audience laughing at a screening, not to mention the lead character going to see Singin’ in the final reel.  Both movies loosely inspired by real-life silent movie star John Gilbert, who fell from grace when he couldn’t make the transition.  From the 4 minute mark (the start of the opening party) until 1:01 (when the “1927” title card appears) is the best hour of new film I’ve seen in a long time — and pretty-much a must-see for any film fan.  The cable cam/Steadicam ‘oners’ in the party scene and the two tracking shots on the Kinoscope lot passing through multiple movie sets are absolute masterworks.  If this was a 3-part TV series (instead of a 3-hour movie), the first episode would sweap the award shows. Eric Roberts compared Margot Robbie’s performance to Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe.  And he’s right. The movie opens in 1926 and has a coda ending in 1952.  (4)

George Clooney
I cast myself to pay for the film.  That’s part of the deal.”
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind — 2002;  George Clooney in his directorial debut;  Charlie Kaufman screenplay from Chuck Berris’s wild memoir;  Sam Rockwell who’s fantastic as Chuck Barris;  Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Cera, Jerry Weintraub, Richard Kindand, and funny unpeaking cameos by Brad Pitt and Matt Damion on The Dating Game.  Fantastic filmmaking.  Surreal and playful, as befitting the subject.  (seen once)
Good Night, and Good Luck — 2005;  written & directed by George Clooney;  David Strathairn, Ray Wise, Jeff Daniels, George Clooney, Alex Borstein, Tate Donovan, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., Frank Langella.  Brilliant docudrama about Edward R. Murrow, including the powerful use of archival footage of McCarthy & committee hearings within the new film.  B&W  (3)
The Ides of March — 2011;  Oscar-nominated screenplay (from a theatrical play), produced & directed by and starring George Clooney;  killer cast – Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Max Minghella, Evan Rachel Wood.  Great political thriller set on a 21st century 2-person dramatic Democratic primary campaign trail in Ohio — an Pennsylvania Governor Morris (Clooney) versus sitting Arkansas Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell).  Echoes of both the Bill Clinton and Obama campaigns.  About idealism versus the business of politics.  Tons of location shooting.  Stuart Stevens was a consultant on the film — before he was a strategist for Mitt Romney or co-founder of The Lincoln Project.  Exec produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.  Great DVD commentary by Clooney and his co-screenwriting parter Grant Heslov.  Clooney said, “I think we dubbed one line in this whole movie.” ie, no looping, everything was captured live.  And he hates reading off computers.  🙂  (seen twice)
The Monuments Men — 2014;  co-written, directed, produced by & starring George Clooney;  Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, the always great Hugh Bonneville, Jean Dujardin (six Oscar winners!), and a cameo by Clooney’s father Nick playing George in later years.  The best actors in Hollywood wanna work for Clooney for way-reduced fees cuz they like his projects and him as a person.  Loved the screenplay.  Based on a true story about assembling art experts from around the world to save the art in Europe from the Nazis during WWII.  Great movie!  Killer cast, killer subject.  Stunning Art Direction, as befitting the subject. 🙂 )  Nice musical score.  $70 million budget!  Originally slated for a December release to have it be top-of-mind for year-end Award voters, but Clooney was having trouble meeting the deadline, and the studio made an extremely rare concession, allowing him to finish the picture as he wanted even though with a February release it was certain to not be acknowledged by voters at the end of the year (which it wasn’t).  I was jaw-dropped riveted watching it — cherished every minute.  I hate war movies — but this is a movie about a love of and dedication to art.  Tons of fantastic location shooting all over Germany and England.  Absolutely loved this movie.  Very emotional.  The fourth Clooney-directed movie I’ve seen — and he’s 4-for-4 in my book.  (seen once)

Joel & Ethan Coen
“We tend to do period stuff because it helps make it one step removed from boring everyday reality.”
Raising Arizona — 1987;  written & directed by the Joel & Ethan Coen;  Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, Frances McDormand  (3)
The Hudsucker Proxy — 1994;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  Tim Robbins, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh — all brilliant performances. Plus Charles Durning, Peter Gallagher, John Mahoney, Bill Cobbs, Steve Buscemi (playing a Beatnik cafe owner), John Goodman (announcer).  A masterpiece of a film.  Really funny.  Those Coen brothers are certainly visionaries and surrealists.  (4)
Fargo — 1996;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  William H. Macy, Francis McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell  (4)
The Big Lebowski — 1998;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Tara Reid  (4)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? — 2000;  written & directed by the Coen Brothers (based on Homer’s The Odyssey);  George Clooney (great!), John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Stephen Root! (playing a blind guy, like in Get Out), Charles Durning, Michael Badalucco as George not Baby Face Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Daniel von Bargen (Kruger on Seinfeld).  Roger Deakins Oscar nominated for cinematography; T Bone Burnett’s music supervision garnered the soundtrack album winning the Grammy for Best Album of The Year (!) and Best Soundtrack; great script, typical surreal twisted Coen brothers “comedy.”  (seen once)
The Ladykillers — 2004;  written & directed by the Coen Brothers (the first time they’re both credited as directors);  Tom Hanks, early & crazy J.K. Simmens, Marlon Wayans, George Wallace, Stephen Root, and Irma P Hall, the old black woman in the most memorable role of her 100 credits.  Incredible cinematography and art direction.  Smart & effective American translation of a British comedy into an American one. Fantastic & funny movie.  (4)
No Country For Old Men — 2007;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Tess Harper, Woody Harrelson, Stephen Root.  SUCH a first-view movie; mesmerizing on first viewing; very so-so on second.  This movie is all “style” — there’s plot holes and bad scenes all thru this — no wonder the Coen’s were surprised they won Best Picture, and acted like they didn’t deserve it.  I can sure see why JB won best actor.  Riveting, memorable performance. But I needed closed-captions to understand what many of the others were saying.  It’s very disturbing, like Natural Born Killers.  (2)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs — 2018;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  six different segments/stories, one part inspired by a Jack London story;  Tim Blake Nelson, Tom Waits, James Franco, Stephen Root, Liam Neeson, Bill Heck, Zoe Kazan (Elia’s granddaughter), Saul Rubinek, Tyne Daly.  Funny and cool.  A rare Western I actually liked.  (seen once)

Bradley Cooper
“Anything has a rhythm to it, comedy or drama.  There has to be a musicality to it.  And everybody can’t play the same instrument, ideally.  But I think that we all have the same comedic tendencies, and that’s why it works.  We all sort of agree with what’s funny.”
A Star Is Born — 2018;  produced, cowritten, starring and his directorial debut Bradley Cooper;  with Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Griffin, Ron Rifkin.  Gaga & co. won the Oscar for Original Song “Shallow”;  film was nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Lead Actor for both Cooper and Gaga, Supporting for Sam Elliott, & Cinematography.  At Gaga’s insistence, are the songs were filmed live – no lip-synching.  Lukas Nelson gave Bradley Cooper private music lessons for a year before shooting, co-wrote several songs for the film, and his band The Promise of The Real are Bradley’s backing band in the movie.  He also mentioned in an interview his inspiration as a guitar player was Neil Young, who used the same combo as his backing band for a few years and albums.  The dialog in the drag queen bar scene was mostly improvised by the real drag queens.  I LOVE this movie.  Whatta script!  Such a great love story and art story.  And so tragic and heartbreaking.  An emotional thrashing.  (seen twice)
Maestro
— 2023;  co-produced, co-written, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper;  Carey Mulligan, an almost unrecognizable Sarah Silverman, and an uncredited Edward R. Murrow recording from a real interview they did.  Produced by Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg & Bradley Cooper.  Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, Cinematography, and both Bradley and Carey for Lead Actors.  Boy, Bradley SURE looks like and embodies Lenny!  Completely immersed in the character.  He’s certainly my choice for Best Lead Actor this year.  And, boy — what a strong year for Best Lead Actress with Carey Mulligan in this, Lily Gladstone in Flower Moon and Emma Stone in Poor Things!  The movie starts in 1943 — his first time unexpectedly conducting the NY Philharmonic.  Incredible aerial tracking shot in theater to open!  There is a 4-minute one-take stationary camera scene in their Central Park West apt. between Lenny & his wife that is absolute masterpiece theater, harkening back to when Tennessee Williams’ plays were turned into movies.  This is great filmmaking!  “Tour de force” comes to mind.  What a GREAT movie about the creative process!  If you love symphonic music, what a treat of a movie!  Every note of music is perfectly selected and performed.  And there’s an incredible conducting scene in a cathedral that’ll be talked about forever!  The first half 1940s & ’50s shot in B&W — the second half ’60s and beyond in color.  Both on 35mm film.  Made in a 4:3 aspect ratio like an old television screen — from the era when the story takes place.  GREAT production design creating all the different eras.  Should win the Oscar for Best Hair & Makeup.  And if anybody’s wondering, all three of his kids were not only involved and signed off on this but rave about the finished product.  Beautiful climax with footage with the real Bernstein conducting.  (seen once)

Francis Ford Coppola
I believe that filmmaking – as, probably, is everything – is a game you should play with all your cards, and all your dice, and whatever else you’ve got.  So, each time I make a movie, I give it everything I have.  I think everyone should, and I think everyone should do everything they do that way.”
The Godfather — 1972;  directed and co-screenwritten by Francis Ford Coppola;  from Mario Puzo book;  Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Abe Vigoda, Diane Keaton, John Cazale.  Won Best Picture, Screenplay and Actor for Brando.  Seen parts of many times, have real trouble sitting through the whole thing.  (seen once)
Apocalypse Now — 1979;  directed and cowritten by Francis Ford Coppola;  Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duval, Dennis Hopper  (4)
Rumble Fish — 1983;  screenplay co-written & directed by Francis Ford Coppola;  18-year-old Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke (great – although the sound crew started calling the movie Mumble Fish cuz of how he delivered his lines 🙂 In the finished product almost all his dialog is dubbed.), Dennis Hopper (whose scenes with Matt & Mickey are pretty classic! Sorta torch-passing.), Tom Waits (so glad this guy made so many films!), 18-year-old Nicholas Cage, 17-year-old Chris Penn, 17-year-old Diane Lane, 11-year-old Sofia Coppola, Lawrence Fishburne.  Ethan Hawke said in the Criterion closet that Matt Dillon delivers the greatest performance by a juvenile in the history of film.  What a weird Coppola movie! Cinematography & editing unlike anything else he’s done. Not to mention it’s in B&W! Companion movie to The Outsiders — both based on S.E. Hinton novels, both shot the same summer in 1982 and released in 1983, both about restless teenagers, both shot in and around Tulsa, both featuring Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Tom Waits, Glenn Withrow & Sofia Coppola. Killer percussive soundtrack by Stewart Copeland, including some reggae-ish jams. Filmed largely in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Great Art Direction, Cinematography & Editing. Smoky German Expressionist film homage. B&W (seen once) 
“Even the most primitive society has an innate respect for the insane.”
The Outsiders — 1983; Francis Ford Coppola; crazy killer cast — Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, a little cameo by Tom Waits, Glenn Willow, Diane Lane (who plays a character named Cherry Mary!), Leif Garrett, Sofia Coppola.  Music by Francis’s dad Carmine Coppola.  Companion movie to Rumble Fish — both based on S.E. Hinton novels (a woman author born in Tulsa), both shot the same summer in 1982 and released in 1983, both about restless teenagers, both shot in and around Tulsa, both featuring Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Tom Waits, Glenn Withrow & Sofia Coppola.  Great ’50s rock n roll soundtrack.  There was a lot to like about Rumble Fish — this one, not so much.  Seemed a bit sappy, corny, moralistic & Disney juvenile to me.  The film’s biggest takeaway is Tom Cruise’s teeth.  (seen once)
The Cotton Club — 1984;  Francis Ford Coppola;  Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, Fred Gwynne, and Bill Graham in a bit part.  (seen twice) 
Tucker: The Man and His Dream — 1988; Francis Ford Coppola;  Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Martin Landau — great movie about re-life Preston Tucker the car inventor.  (seen twice) 

Danny DeVito
It’s fun to be on the edge.  I think you do your best work when you take chances, when you’re not safe, when you’re not in the middle of the road.”
Throw Mama From The Train — 1987;  dir. Danny DeVito;  starring DeVito & Billy Crystal;  with Branford Marsalis & Rob Reiner in great bit parts.  Although ostensibly about a Hitchcockian double-murder criss-cross, it’s a funny (and I think comically accurate) movie about writing and writers.  (4)
The War of The Roses — 1989;  dir. Danny DeVito;  Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito  (4)

Clint Eastwood
“Everybody accuses me of moving fast when I direct a picture.  I don’t move fast, but I just keep moving.”
Bird — 1988;  produced & directed by Clint Eastwood;  Forest Whitaker as Bird, the first actor to ever play him in a film (and won Best Lead Actor at Cannes);  Diane Venora as Bird’s longtime girlfriend Chan whose memoir the biopic’s based on;  Michael Zelniker memorably as Red Rodney.  Clint had been a fan of Charlie’s since seeing him in 1945.  Actual Parker recordings are used for all the music tracks including some unreleased from Chan.  A lot of jumping back and forth in time, not a linear story.  Incredible tracking shot depiction of 52nd Street in its heyday.  It got good reviews but was a commercial flop.  Despite this being a favorite subject, time period and locations, I found myself bored and struggled to get thru it.  It’s kind of depressing.  Very much about drug addition and alcoholism and not about the breakthrough creations of art that he made and is remembered for.  (3)
Unforgiven — 1992;  directed by and starring Clint Eastwood;  Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris;  won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing & Best Supporting Actor for Hackman, the always-expressive Frances Fisher, the always-smarmy Saul Rubinek, and the always-ominous Anthony James’ last movie;  also nominated for Best Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction & Lead Actor for Eastman;  shot in various towns & locations in Alberta.  Nice cinematography.  But I cannot fucking *stand* Westerns.  See my comments under McCabe & Mrs. Miller.  I can’t watch films where women are treated the way they are in Westerns.  Or watching people living in slop.  Or the corny adolescent comic book dialog.  Or the ridiculously plot hole-filled scripts.  Or the faux macho bullshit, and pointless sadistic violence.  THIS is what people think is a masterpiece of this genre?!  FUCK this shit.  (seen once – and will never watch again)
Mystic River — 2003;  Clint Eastwood;  from Dennis Lehane novel, who also write Shutter Island; Sean Penn, Tim Robbins – both won Oscars for roles – Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney;  nominated for Best Picture, Director & Screenplay.  (seen twice)
Invictus — 2009;  produced & directed by Clint Eastwood;  Morgan Freeman & Matt Damon — both Oscar-nominated for Best Lead and Supporting.  Biopic about Nelson Mandela.  ‘Invictus’ is Latin for ‘undefeated’, and the name of an inspirational 1875 Victorian poem by England’s William Ernest Henley that Mandela used as a mantra in prison.  He said Morgan Freeman was the only person who could play him — and my gawd, does Morgan have it down!  You completely forget you’re not hearing the real Mandela.  One of the great biopic performances of all time.  Morgan & company were developing the project for a while, then when the World Cup happened they completely scrapped what they’d done and started again.  When they showed up to tell Mandela they’d gone in a new direction, before they’d even finished the sentence, he said, “Ah, the World Cup.” 🙂  Opens in 1990 when he’s released from prison, then the bulk of the film is right after he’s first elected and the nation hosted the tournament.  What a great man and hero of history.  This is an important movie.  It’s got one helluva script, plus the cinematography, editing and soundtrack are great.  Filmed entirely on location in South Africa, including a scene at the prison where Mandela was held.  There are some shots with visual imperfections, but I assume that’s due to Clint “One Take” Eastwood.  The climactic rugby game could have been half as long, but other than that, super-well made film, like so many of Eastwood’s.  (seen once)
Sully — 2016;  Clint Eastwood;  based on Chesley Sullenberger’s book;  Tom Hanks as Sully, Aaron Eckhart as the copilot, Laura Linney, Michael Rapaport, Katie Couric.  Great movie about the landing of the plane on the Hudson River in January 2009.  Very positive New York story with lots of location shots.  Really well crafted script.  (seen twice)
Richard Jewell – 2019;  Clint Eastwood;  Paul Walter Hauser (great as the titular character), Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates (as the mother, nominated for Best Supporting Actress), Jon Hamm (FBI agent), Olivia Wilde (reporter).  Great biopic — riveting filmmaking & script & casting.  Laughed out loud 3 times and cried once. (seen once)

Blake Edwards
“In the States, there is a kind of spoon-full-of-sugar mentality.  People go to be entertained.”
Breakfast at Tiffany’s — 1961;  Blake Edwards;  from Truman Capote novel;  Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Ebsen, Patricia Neal, Martin Balsam.  Marilyn Monroe was offered the role of Holly Golightly, but her acting coach Lee Strasberg said playing a call-girl would be bad for her career so she turned it down.  Henri Mancini & Johnny Mercer won the Oscar for Best Score and Original Song.  Hepburn & the screenplay were also nominated.  (seen twice)
Days of Wine and Roses — 1962;  Blake Edwards;  an unbelievable Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford, a powerfully sober Jack Klugman, Jack Albertson.  Powerful cinematic portrayal of alcoholism — through a P.R. man & his wife in San Francisco, with tons of location shooting.  S.A. Griffin recommendation.  Lemmon & Remick both deservedly Oscar nominated Leads (Peck won for Mockingbird; Lee’s only nom), plus for Best Production Design and Costumes; won for Best Original Song by Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer (which became a Top 10 Billboard hit).  The film’s credited with bringing the first mass awareness to Alcoholics Anonymous.  Stark counterpoint to the rampant alcoholism in movies from the ’30s thru the ’60s.  Was originally a live teleplay on Playhouse 90 in 1958.  Charles Bickford wonderfully reprised his role as the father.  Bill Withers said he wrote “Ain’t No Sunshine (When She’s Gone)” right after watching this movie on TV.  B&W  (seen once and want to again)

The Pink Panther — 1963;  written & directed by Blake Edwards;  Peter Sellers, David Niven, a young Robert Wagner, and two Sophia Loren-like beauties Claudia Cardinale and Capucine; and GREAT music by Henry Mancini.  (3)
The Party — 1968;  screenplay & directed by Blake Edwards;  Peter Sellers, The Love Boat’s Gavin MacLeod in a small role, and classic ’60s/’70s Tonight Show / Johnny Carson blond Carol Wayne, and TV staple Steve Franken as the drunken waiter;  Henri Mancini music.  The Pink Panther director, star & composer reunited for this crazy ’60s party movie.  Sellars, playing an Indian actor, has very few lines.  It’s a Chaplinesque masterclass in physical comedy.  Filmed in Los Angeles in the summer of 1967 – so it’s prime time psychedelic ’60s, including a closet full of pot-smoking musicians.  Fantastic futuristic high-tech “sixties” home built as a set.  Largely improvised from a 50-page outline and filmed in sequence.  (seen twice)
Switch — 1991;  written & directed by Blake Edwards;  Ellen Barkin & Jimmy Smits in the leads, plus JoBeth Williams, Lorraine Bracco, Tony Roberts, Catherine Keener.  Bizarre but effective comedy/fantasy about a sexist guy being reincarnated as a woman.  (seen once)

Nora Ephron
I don’t care who you are.  When you sit down to write the first page of your screenplay, in your head, you’re also writing your Oscar acceptance speech.”
Heartburn — 1986;  Mike Nichols;  from novel & screenplay by Nora Ephron;  Meryl Streep (as Nora), Jack Nicholson (as her husband Carl Bernstein), plus Jeff Daniels, Maureen Stapleton, Stockard Channing, Catherine O’Hara, Miloš Forman.  The great Nora Ephron’s firsthand account her marriage and breakup with the legendary Watergate reporter.  And with Mike Nichols directing a Nora Ephron script starring Nicholson & Streep . . . that is one Fab Four!  (seen twice)
When Harry Met Sally — 1989;  Rob Reiner;  written by Nora Ephron;  Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby  (3)
Sleepless in Seattle — 1993;  written & directed by Nora Ephron;  Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan  (3)
Michael — 1996;  produced, cowritten & directed by Nora Ephron;  an adorable John Travolta (including a classic comic dance scene!), Andie MacDowell, William Hurt, a fiery Bob Hoskins, an absolutely wonderful and all-too-brief Jean Stapleton, Teri Garr, Joey Lauren Adams, one short scene with Richard Schiff, and a little cameo by Calvin Trillin.  Brilliant script, incredible soundtrack, and original music by Randy Newman.  A funny comedy about angels and sensationalist tabloids.  Nora & John also teamed up a few years later in the criminally underrated Lucky Numbers.  Angel Michael: “You gotta learn to laugh.  That’s the way to true love.”  It kinda falls apart in the third act, but a lot of films do.  (seen once, Sky recommendation)
Lucky Numbers —  2000;  Nora Ephron;  written by Adam Resnick (Death To Smoochy, SNL, Letterman, Larry Sanders Show);  John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth.  You can read my review of it here.  (4)

David Fincher
“In film, we sculpt time, we sculpt behavior and we sculpt light.  I think intelligence is totally subjective; it’s like sexiness.  Everything seems really simple on paper until you take a camera out of the box.  A movie is made for an audience and a film is made for both the audience and the film-makers.”
Se7en — 1995;  David Fincher;  Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Schiff, Richard Roundtree, Mark Boone Jr.  About a serial killer inspired by the seven deadly sins.  After a long award-winning career making music videos, this was Fincher’s first film (other than an emergency under-duress call to try and save Aliens 3).  Great score by Howard Shore.  Fast-cut rock n roll filmmaking — but horrific subject matter.  I’ll never watch this a second time.
Fight Club — 1999;  David Fincher;  Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier, Jared Leto.  Great script, cast and filmmaking . . . but a stupid subject.  A guy (Edward Norton) gets hooked on going to different support group meetings, then found solace in fighting.  Secret Window (from the Stephen King novel) starring Johnny Depp & John Turturro has a similar kind of haunting / startling character reveal at the end.  Ugly, depressing nihilism about a violent Manson-like cult promoting senseless violence on innocent people.  Another David Fincher movie I’ll never watch a second time.
Zodiac — 2007;  David Fincher;  Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, John Carroll Lynch;   LOVED it. totally surprised — I’m not a serial killer movie fan at all — other than Scorsese there’s not many movies with much killing on my list.  There’s not much in this either, but again, it’s just not a movie i would normally watch — but, like many a great movie, I discovered it cuz it was on regular rotation on the movie network. first of all, I LOVE Jack Gyllenhaal, AND his sister Maggie!  I love how it’s set in a newspaper newsroom, and how the JG character is a lowly guy with ideas.  Also — Robert Downey Jr. is his typical great self.  And just his whole pursuit of how he tries to track the killer down is a well-told story.  Plus I love that it’s a period piece set in the 70s and also set in and around SF, one of my very favorite cities.  Also — Great Casting — all the secondary / supporting roles are just perfectly cast. (another big thing I appreciate in films)  (seen twice)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — 2008;  David Fincher (made in between his two other masterpieces, Zodiac and The Social Network);  screenplay by Eric Roth (same guy who wrote Forrest Gump);  based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story;  Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julia Ormond, Mahershala Ali, Tilda Swinton.  Won Oscars for Best Art Direction, Visual Effects & Makeup, and nominated for 10 others, including Brad, Fincher, Screenplay & Cinematography.  Lots of location shooting in New Orleans.  Commonalities noticed with Forrest Gump: A life-story arc … theme of eternal love … incorporating real historic events into a fictional story … groundbreaking visual effects … … both with one of America’s greatest leading actors … both nominated for exactly 13 Academy Awards … and both by the same screenwriter … who in both cases was adapting an existing work.  S.A. Griffin said of this: “One of the films I can never stop watching!!”  (seen once)
The Social Network — 2010;  David Fincher;  brilliant and Oscar-winning screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (who also, effectively, co-directed);  Jesse Eisenberg Oscar-nominated as Mark Zuckerberg, Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, Andrew Garfield, Rashida Jones, and Sorkin with a nice cameo as an ad executive.  Brilliant casting all the way through.  Perfect original Oscar-winning piano-based music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross.  Also Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Director & Cinematography.  The “twins” were done by computer superimposing the one actor’s face over the other’s to make them look identical.  David Fincher is one helluva filmmaker!  The 92-minute making-of doc on the 2-disc DVD release is by far the best making-of DVD doc I’ve ever seen.  And there’s TWO commentaries — both David Fincher & Aaron Sorkin.  (4)
Gone Girl — 2014; David Fincher; Ben Affleck, Roseamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Emily Ratajkowski, Patrick Fugit;  music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, (same as Social Network & Mank). Great plot-twisting script, but the acting, particularly Ben Affleck’s, seems forced and inauthentic. Also, had to watch it with captions on cuz I couldn’t make out the dialog. Sure has echoes of the Laci & Scott Peterson case — the unrepentant husband having an affair — and of course the 2024 Netflix doc American Nightmare which prompted me to watch this drama.  Yet another Fincher movie I’ll never watch a second time. (seen once)
Mank — 2020; David Fincher;  Gary Oldman as Herman Mankiewicz, should have won Best Actor Oscar; Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davis;  about Hollywood in the 1930s, alcoholism, and the writing of Citizen Kane; really liked it.  B&W  (seen once)

Miloš Forman
“I know this sounds so little, and not serious enough, but I believe that I have to have fun.  We all have to have fun — me, the actors, the cameraman, everybody should feel as if we are making a home movie, because that is the only way to open the film to a certain kind of lightness.”
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest — 1975;  Miloš Foreman;  based on parts of the novel by Ken Kesey;  Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, Scatman Crothers;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director for Miloš!, Actor for Jack, Actress for Louise Fletcher, and Screenplay.  (4)
Hair — 1979;  Miloš Forman;  book/score by Gerome Ragni & James Rado;  Treat Williams, Beverly De Angelo, John Savage, Nicholas Ray cameo.  Lots of Central Park location shots;  Fantastic!  (4)
Ragtime — 1981;  Miloš Forman;  based on E.L. Doctorow book;  fantastic cast all bringing their A game — James Cagney (his first movie since 1961 (!) and his final feature at age 81), also Pat O’Brien (also his final feature after 150 screen credits), a 19-yr-old Elizabeth McGovern, the always intense Brad Dourif, Henry E. Rollins Jr., Mandy Patinkin, Mary Steenburgen, Debbie Allen, Kenneth McMillian, Moses Gunn as Booker T. Washington, James Olson, Norman Mailer (as Stanford White), Fran Drescher, and Jeff Daniels & Samuel L. Jackson (both in their big feature debuts).  Incredible recreation of New York City in the 1910s — deservedly Oscar nominated for Best Art Direction and Costumes — as well as for Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, and Best Supporting Acting for McGovern & Rollins, plus for Original Song and Score both by Randy Newman (his first feature).  Includes the shooting of Stanford White in the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden.  Although the music is played in the movie, it doesn’t have much to do with ragtime.  Heavy powerful movie with a story that obviously comes from a rich novel, but it’s ultimately a sad tale of racism.  (seen once)
Amadeus — 1984;  Miloš Forman;  Tom Hulce as Mozart, F. Murray Abraham as Salieri  (seen twice)
Man On The Moon — 1999;  Miloš Forman;  Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti, Courtney Love, Vincent Schiavelli, with cameos by Richard Belzer, Patton Oswalt, Norm Macdonald, Tracey Walter, David Koechner, Lorne Michaels, Budd Friedman, plus the original cast of Taxi reunited for those scenes, and Andy’s real-life manager George Shapiro plays a comedy club manager.  Did poorly at the box office and was ignored at the Oscars, but grew over time into a comedy/biopic classic.  A great documentary about it was made in 2017 — Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (on Netflix).  The film’s production is legendary for Jim Carrey staying in character when the cameras weren’t rolling.  I love Miloš Forman, but the poor guy!  This must be up there in the ranks of most difficult movies to direct of all time.  Funny — it starts with the ending.  SUPER well-made movie.  Really captures Andy’s bizarre mind.  Title comes from the R.E.M. song of the same name about Kaufman, and the band wrote the film’s score.  (seen twice)

Bob Fosse
“I drink too much, I smoke too much, I take pills too much, I work too much, I girl around too much, I everything too much.”
Cabaret — 1972;  Bob Fosse;  Liza Minelli, Joey Grey, Michael York  (4)
Liza with a ‘Z’ — Sept. 10, 1972;  NBC;  dir & choreographed by Bob Fosse; Liza Minnelli;  Marvin Hamlisch musical Director;  Phil Ramone engineer; won 4 Emmy’s, Best Single Program, Best Director, Best Choreography, Best Music;  shot live, one take.  (2)
Lenny — 1974;  Bob Fosse;  Dustin Hoffman & Valerie Perrine — biopic of Lenny Bruce & wife Honey.  Most of Hoffman’s routines are word-for-word from Lenny recordings.  Deservedly Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, and both Hoffman & Perrine for Lead Actors.  Julian Barry wrote the screenplay from his own successful Lenny Broadway show.  Beautifully & evocatively shot in B&W.  Vivid depiction of the nightclub comedy scene in the ’50s & ’60s, the degradation of drug addition, and the persecution of American puritanism — that’s, sadly, ascendant again.  (seen twice)

All That Jazz — 1979;  co-written and directed by Bob Fosse (telling his own sordid life story);  Roy Scheider in the Fosse character, Jessica Lange, Ben Vereen.  Won Oscars for Beat Art Direction, Editing, Costumes & Music; nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography & Actor (Scheider).  (seen once)
Star 80 — 1983;  directed and co-screenwritten by Bob Fosse (his final project);  Mariel Hemingway (granddaughter of Ernest) and Eric Roberts, plus Cliff Robertson (as Hugh Hefner), Roger Rees (as the Peter Bogdanovich character), Josh Mostel (as the private investigator), and Carroll Baker.  Based on the true story of the murder of Canadian Playboy model and Playmate-of-the-Year Dorothy Stratten.  Incredible movie.  Could almost be on the Disturbing Movies list because of Eric Roberts’ performance, which Hefner said was “right on the money.”  (3)

Terry Gilliam
If you really want your films to say something that you hope is unique, then patience and stamina, thick skin and a kind of stupidity, a mule-like stupidity, is what you really need.”
Monty Python and the Holy Grail — 1975;  Terry Gilliam;  written by all of Monty Python;  Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Connie Booth, Carol Cleveland, Neil Innis  (4)
Time Bandits — 1981;  Terry Gilliam;  written by Gilliam & Michael Palin;  Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, John Cleese as Robin Hood, and Sir Ralph Richardson as God;  incredible sets / props / production design;  George Harrison was one of the producers and mortgaged his office building to get the film made, like he mortgaged his home to finance Monty Python’s Life of Brian two years earlier;  this ended up being one of the highest grossing films of the year;  the first in what Gilliam called his Trilogy of Imagination” soon to include Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).  (seen twice)
Brazil — 1985;  Terry Gilliam;  screenplay by Gilliam & Tom Stoppard;  Jonathan Pryce (who’s great!), Robert De Niro, Michael Palin, Bob Hoskins, Katherine Helmond, Jim Broadbent, Ian Holm.  Wonderfully beautifully twisted 1984-ish vision — inspired in a general way by Orwell’s book.  Rightfully Oscar-nominated for its comically surreal Art Direction (Out of Africa won (?) ); and for Original Screenplay (Witness won).  It was too weird for me the first viewing, then I read a bunch about it, and watched it the second time decades later and was blown away by the vision & filmmaking.  Surreal filmmaking at its finest.  Terry Gilliam is one helluva filmmaker!  Gawd, he’s a weird guy!  🙂  The Salvador Dali of film.  See his listing in the Auteur section above.  The movie’s final cut and release is a somewhat legendary story in film history, how a honcho schmuck at Universal tried to completely recut it and Gilliam circumvented him.  There’s an entire book written about it.  The second in what Gilliam called his “Trilogy of Imagination” along with Time Bandits (1981) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).  Both Frank Zappa and River Phoenix’s favorite movie.  “This has not been a recording.”  (seen twice)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen — 1988;  cowritten & directed by Terry Gilliam;  John Neville, Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Oliver Reed, Jonathan Pryce, Uma Thurman.  The third in what Gilliam called his “Trilogy of Imagination” along with Time Bandits (1981) and Brazil (1985).   (seen once)
12 Monkeys — 1995;  Terry Gilliam;  Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt (deservedly received his first of many Oscar noms for Best Supporting), Madeline Stowe, plus in small roles Frank Gorshin, Christopher Plummer, David Morse, Christopher Meloni and Annie Golden.  Movie about the effects of a deadly global plague … made 15 years before Covid.  Bruce Willis deferred his payment because he so much wanted to work with Terry Gilliam.  Tons of great location shooting.  Wildly surreal with dark humor as befitting Gilliam.  A bit Brazil-like in its subject and production design — a dystopian machine-dominated future — and bit like Time Bandits with the time travel.  Very strange movie, like all of Gilliam’s.  (seen once) 
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — 1998;  Terry Gilliam, who also wrote the screenplay based on Hunter Thompson’s book;  brilliant combo performances by Johnny Depp & Benicio Del Toro; plus loaded with great cameos by (roughly in order of appearance) Tobey Maguire, Katherine Helmond, Penn Jillette, Cameron Diaz, Lyle Lovett, Flea, Gary Busey, Christina Ricci, Laraine Newman, Mark Harmon, Christopher Meloni, Harry Dean Stanton, Michael Jeter, Larry Brandenburg, Ellen Barkin, the Grateful Dead in the Panhandle & Paul Krassner — who Gilliam said “It was very much a magnet, this project.  And a lot of people, the new kids on the block.  And then there was Ellen Barkin and Gary Busey and Harry Dean Stanton and Katherine Helmond — they all came in and worked for scale” — to be in Gilliam doing Thompson with Depp.  Plus the good Doctor himself makes an appearance during an hallucination in The Matrix.  Depp spent 4 months with Thompson in prep for the role, “I watched him like a hawk,” and Hunter leant Johnny & the production a bunch of his clothes, his actual I.D. you see in his wallet, and his original Red Shark convertible.  Great use of music throughout, but particularly Tom Jones in Las Vegas, the Airplane in S.F., and Bob Dylan On The Road.  Gilliam-surreal, occasionally funny — and definitely some of the best portrayals of being high on acid I’ve ever seen on the screen.  Made me wanna trip. 🙂  IMO, other than Holy Grail, this is Gilliam’s best film.  It holds together, and it doesn’t let up. 😉  Great making-of doc on the DVD.  (3)
Lost In La Mancha — 2002;  great documentary on Terry Gilliam making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote;  with Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges  (3)
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote — 2018; written and directed by Terry Gilliam; Adam Driver as Toby/Sancho Panza, a wild Jonathan Pryce as Don Quixote, Stellan Skarsgård, Jordi Mollà.  Surreal comedic update on Don Quixote.  Gilliam’s finally-completed movie that he’s been working on since 1989, a production so famously beset with disasters there was a whole film about it not being a film, Lost in La Mancha, much like Heart of Darkness was made about Apocalypse Now.  Beautiful location shooting among ancient ruins in Spain and Portugal.  (1)

Christopher Guest
“In real life, people fumble their words.  They repeat themselves and stare blankly off into space and don’t listen properly to what other people are saying.  I find that kind of speech fascinating but screenwriters never write dialogue like that because it doesn’t look good on the page.”
Spinal Tap — 1984;  Rob Reiner;  writers Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner;  starring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner, Fred Willard, Bruno Kirby, Fran Drescher  (4)
The Big Picture — 1989;  Christopher Guest;  written by Guest, Michael McKean & Michael Varhol;  Kevin Bacon, Michael McKean, J.T. Walsh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Teri Hatcher in her first movie  (4)
Waiting For Guffman — 1996;  Christopher Guest;  written by Guest & Eugene Levy;  Guest, Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, Larry Miller, Parker Posey, David Cross, Michael Hitchcock, Bob Balaban  (4)
Best In Show — 2000;  Christopher Guest;  written by Guest & Eugene Levy;  Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Ed Begley Jr., Stephen Miller, Jane Lynch, and my friend Fulvio Cecere in one scene!  (4)
For Your Consideration — 2006; Christopher Guest; written by Guest & Eugene Levy; starring Guest, Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Michael Hitchcock, Jennifer Coolidge, Richard Kind, Sandra Oh, Don Lake, Ricky Gervais & Larry Miller.  Funny character-rich comedy about actors hoping to be nominated for an Academy Award.  The Guest & Levy commentary and outtake extras on the DVD are fantastic.  (3)
Mascots — 2016; directed & co-written by Christopher Guest (other writer Jim Piddock) – Michael Hitchcock, John Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, Ed Begley Jr., Jane Lynch, Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban, Harry Shearer, Chris O’Dowd, Chris Guest reprising his Corky St. Clair character from Waiting For Guffman, Jim Paddock, Zach Woods, Sarah Baker, Susan Yeagley, Don Lake and a bunch of other great comic actors.  Very much repeats Chris’s Best In Show format — a faux documentary with much of the same cast about a quirky crazy competition involving eccentric weirdos, in this case about small town sports team mascots.  Manitoba is one of the ‘small town’ locations, although they didn’t actually shoot there.   A Netflix original. (seen twice)

George Roy Hill
Lately it’s come around so that the director is more of a star than he was in the past, but I’ve never wanted that.  I feel that I can accomplish more if I have a low profile.”
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid — 1969;  George Roy Hill;  written by William Goldman;  Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Jeff Corey, plus Cloris Leachman in a bit part, and Sam Elliott playin cards.  Originally planned as Steve McQueen & Paul Newman.  Shot in both sepia and color.  (4)
The Sting — 1973;  George Roy Hill;  Paul Newman, Robert Redford, a riveting Robert Shaw, Charles Durning (who’s in six movies on this page!), Ray Walston, Eileen Brennon, Harold Gould;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director for Hill, and quite deservingly – Screenplay, Art Direction, Costumes (Edith Head), Editing and Music by Marvin Hamlisch (via Scott Joplin).  I’ve never forgotten watching live Liz Taylor’s announcement of it for Best Picture.  And upon 2020 reviewing – don’t miss the cars!  (4)
The World According to Garp — 1982;  George Roy Hill;  John Irving novel;  Robin Williams, Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Mary Beth Hurt, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn  (4)
Funny Farm — 1988;  George Roy Hill;  Chevy Chase in a writer-in-the-country comedy.  (4)

Alfred Hitchcock
“When we tell a story in cinema we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise.  I always try to tell a story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between.”
Saboteur — 1942;  Albert Hitchcock; screenplay co-writer Dorothy Parker;  Robert Cummings; Priscilla, Otto Kruger.  Nice location shooting around Rockefeller Center, inside Radio City, and on Liberty Island circa 1942.  Classic climax at the top of the Statue of Liberty.  (seen twice)
Spellbound — 1945;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Ben Hecht screenplay;  Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman.  Hitchcock’s use of Salvador Dali’s work in sets for the dream sequence.  B&W  (seen once) 

Rope
1948;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Jimmy Stewart, Farley Granger.  Inspired by the 1924 Leopold & Loeb murder.  Hitchcock’s first color movie.  Only 10 different shots in the whole movie, each running 5 to 10 minutes in a single unbroken shot.  One of the five “lost Hitchcocks” (along with Vertigo, Rear Window, Man Who Knew Too Much, Trouble with Harry) that were finally rereleased in 1984 — and I saw this in a theater in Greenwich Village with my Dad during his only visit ever to NYC (for my NYU graduation).  (seen twice)
Dial M For Murder1954;  Alfred Hitchcock;  from a great crime-mystery-thriller stage play (and screenplay) by Frederick Knott; gorgeous Grace Kelly (the first of 3 she made with Hitch), Ray Milland, Robert Cummings (as the American mystery writer), John Williams (as the inspector, reprising his Tony-winning Broadway performance of the role).  Originally filmed in 3D, hence some of the odd placement of props in the extreme foreground. (3)
Rear Window — 1954;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Jimmy Stewart & Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr  B&W  (4)
The Man Who Knew Too Much — 1956;  Alfred Hitchcock;  James Stewart & Doris Day.  B&W (4)
North By Northwest — 1959;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Gary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau — GREAT script and cinematography – great Manhattan location shots circa 1958; great Mount Rushmore shots.  (4)
Psycho — 1960;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam.  Hitch hated location shooting.  He wanted complete control of the shots.  Every scene except Marion buying the used car was shot on the Universal backlot.  Hitch planted rumors in Hollywood about the casting of the mother.  🙂  B&W  (4)
Frenzy — 1972;  Alfred Hitchcock;  great script by Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth, Murder on the Orient Express) from an Arthur Le Bern novel;  Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Anna Massey, Jean Marsh, Bernard Cribbins (Fawlty Towers), Clive Swift (Keeping Up Appearances).  I’d read about it and watched a “making of” doc and figured I didn’t really wanna see it — including after not loving 1976’s Family Plot.  But I kinda really like this.  Seems like classic suspenseful Hitchcock including tinges of macabre humor — ‘cept set wonderfully in Swinging London circa 1971 (complete with all British accents).  Maybe it’s about a serial rapist/murderer, but it’s a good Hitchcockian wrong-man-accused thriller.   Basically, his last great movie after Psycho/Marnie.  He made ample use of the liberalized restrictions on showing a woman’s breast, which resulted in his only “R” rated picture.  And once again, just as in almost every movie he ever made, there’s a very cool use of … stairs.  Hitchcock is the cinematic M.C. Escher of stairs.  Here’s a great mini essay about his use of stairs, including a great 6-minute video montage. https://sites.middlebury.edu/videographiccourse/2017/12/04/alfred-hitchcocks-39-stairs/  (seen once)

Ron Howard 
I’ve worked with Bette Davis, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda. Here’s the thing they all have in common: they all, even in their 70s, worked a little harder than everyone else.
The Paper — 1994;  Ron Howard;  Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Marisa Tomei, Randy Quaid, Jason Robards, Spalding Gray! Jason Alexander, Catherine O’Hara! Jill Hennessy, Clint and Rance Howard, Bruce Altman, plus great cameos by William Kunstler, Pete Hamill and 1010 WINS!  Oscar-nominated music by Randy Newman.  Whole film takes place across 24 hours.  Many newspaper people around the world say this is the most accurate depiction of a newsroom on film.  A real New York movie — 100% location shooting, including inside Radio City.  Exciting story!  Incredible script.  And fantastic editing.  Really well made movie hardly anybody seems to know about!  (seen once)
Apollo 13 — 1995;  Ron Howard (reportedly his favorite of the films he’s made);  docudrama based on astronaut Jim Lovell’s memoir (John Sayles uncredited script rewriter);  Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Kathleen Quinlan, Chris Ellis, brother Clint Howard in Mission Control, father Rance Howard as the priest, mother Judy Howard as Lovell’s mother, and nice cameos by Roger Corman as a questioning Senator on a site tour, and Chuck Lovell as the commander of the recovery carrier.  Deservedly Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actors for Ed Harris & Kathleen Quinlan, Art Direction, Visual Effects Music; won for Best Editing & Sound. Filming was done in conjunction with NASA and Lovell. Exact replicas of both Mission Control and the command modules were built, and the actors went thru actual space training exercises in flight simulators. Ron Howard started calling them “actornauts.” NASA was involved from start to finish, including technicians, flight transcripts and allowing the film crew to shoot in actual weightlessness in an astronaut training craft in the upper atmosphere. All-in-all, insanely accurate — including a great period soundtrack (circa 1969/70). Ron Howard said of the launch sequence, “As a filmmaker, that might be the most cinematic thing I’ve ever done.” Both Tom & Kathleen stayed for a few days with the Lovells to absorb their relationship and personas. Spectacular, super emotional & suspenseful nail-biter of a movie. Bravo Ron Howard & crew. (seen once)
A Beautiful Mind— 2001;  Ron Howard (won Best Director & Best Picture); Russell Crowe (Oscar nominated), a mesmerizing Jennifer Connelly (won Best Supporting Actress), the always great Ed Harris and Adam Goldberg, Josh Lucas (who would later wonderfully play Neal Cassady in Big Sur), Christopher Plummer, Judd Hirsch, and Austin Pendleton (such a gift to all those who love film).  Lensed by Roger Deakins.  Great movie about an eccentric genius code breaker, an obvious progenitor of the equally gripping & masterfully executed The Imitation Game (2014).  (seen once)
Frost/Nixon — 2008;  Ron Howard;  Peter Morgan wrote the screenplay based on his award-winning Broadway play;  Frank Langella as Nixon (who stayed in character thru the whole shoot) & Michael Sheen as David Frost both reprise their New York/London performances for the screen — and, boy, are they both great!  Plus Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell & Oliver Platt — who are all frickin great! — and, as is often the case in Ron’s films, small roles for his brother Clint and his father Rance.  Hans Zimmer did the music.  This is a great movie!  Deservedly Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing, and Langela for Lead Actor – which his late-night drunken monologue alone was worthy of.  According to IMDb, Scorsese, Mike Nicols, George Clooney, Sam Mendes & Bennett Miller were all in the running for this at one point before the great Ron Howard snagged it.  It’s so great to have a script that was originally developed as a play and evolved over many years.  Much like how the actors had perfected their portrayals, films pretty much never have the gestation and growth period this one did.  The interview dialog is from the actual transcripts.  Great location including at the house where the interviews took place and Nixon’s home in California.  I was on the edge of my seat — and I know how the story goes!  Great filmmaking.  (seen twice)
Eight Days A Week — 2016;  Ron Howard;  this doc shows how & why the Beatles stopped touring.  This is great cinematic storytelling by a master, Ron Howard — like what Peter Jackson did with the January ’69 footage — and what Michael Lindsey Hogg was totally unable to do with Let It Be.  *Every* movie I see about the Beatles shows how MLH was a horrible filmmaker.  How can you fuck up the Beatles?!?! (seen twice)

John Huston
“I don’t try to guess what a million people will like.  It’s hard enough to know what I like.”
The Maltese Falcon — 1941;  John Huston’s directorial debut;  written by Dashiell Hammett & John Huston;  Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor (an early wild woman Prankster of Hollywood who was having an affair with director Huston during filming) and Sydney Greenstreet in his movie debut (and his only Oscar nomination).  John’s father Walter Huston makes an uncredited cameo as a good luck gesture towards his son’s debut.  Leonardo DiCaprio owns one of the three Maltese falcons used in the movie, the most recent one sold at auction for $4 million (from a movie with a total original budget of $300,000), and he brought it to the set of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood where it can be seen in the rare book store Margot Robbie (Sharon Tate) goes to buy Tess of the d’Urbervilles.  John Huston, Humphrey Bogart & Peter Lorre later made a Bizarroworld send-up of Maltese Falcon with Robert Morley in the Sydney Greenstreet role called Beat The Devil (also on this film page).  B&W  (3)
The Treasure of The Sierra Madre — 1948;  John Huston;  Huston and the mysterious B. Traven screenplay;  Huston’s father, Walter Huston, won Best Supporting Actor;  plus Huston won for both directing and screenplay.  For me it was one of those movies I had to see more than once to appreciate.  I started watching it once or twice and found it REEEALLY boring — these old farts trudging around the desert and pawing in the dirt. Whoopy! was it actually filmed in slow motion?
Then . . . ah, Then . . . on the 2nd or 3rd try all the pieces came together and now i recognize its mastery and why it’s one of the greatest films ever made.  The original story, perhaps dating back to Chaucer, who could’ve picked it up from somebody else.  Maybe it’s a lost Homer epic.  The story is eternal.  Like “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — how greed can overpower an otherwise good man.  How some, in the face of wealth, become a-holes, and others always retain a clear vision of what’s important in life (Howard/Walter). which kind of person are you?  We all think, as Dobbs/Bogart did, that we would never become morally corrupted — yet we’ve seen in the real world (and as depicted in this movie) how that happens.  The arc of the Dobbs character is a classic in 2-hour cinema, and how Bogart portrays the transition from sanity and good-will into madness, greed & murder is up there with the greatest performances of any actor ever. the leprechaun magic of Walter Huston.  The authenticity of the location shooting, including all the extras and bit roles. the depth, detail and polish of the script. the torn, sweat-soaked costumes. the fabulous music that mutates as the characters do.
If it was a standard western or movie in general, it all would have taken place in the first town and been about how they exacted revenge from the unscrupulous businessman who rips them off — the workers against the corporation.  But then the characters are taken beyond that to where they form their own limited partnership — and how some people turn out to be good and some don’t.   It’s life.  If only we got to watch our own life movie several times until we got it.  But since we can’t, you have another shot at this movie.  It took my reincarnation as a viewer to finally get it right.  “It wouldn’t be that way with me. I swear it wouldn’t.  I’d take only what I set out to get.”  😉  Boy, would this be a great movie to see the alternate takes from!  And think how Walter Huston’s performance pushed Bogart.  Top 10 movie.  B&W  (4)
Key Largo — 1948;  John Huston;  screenplay cowritten by Huston & Richard Brooks, based on Maxwell Anderson’s popular Broadway play, which ran at the Ethel Barrymore theater, named for the sister of Lionel;  Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Marc Lawrence, and Claire Trevor as the rambunctious drunk who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  Robinson plays a gangster (modeled on Al Capone & Lucky Luciano) who takes the owners and guests of a Key Largo hotel hostage during a hurricane.  Bogart & Bacall’s 4th and final picture together, and the fifth and final collaboration for Bogart & Robinson.  Huston was forced to film it on sets on the Warner Brothers’ lot after going so over budget filming The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in Mexico the year before.  Classic old film drama from a stage play.  B&W  (seen twice)
The Asphalt Jungle — 1950;  directed & cowritten by John Huston;  Sterling Hayden, Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore, John McIntire, 23-year-old Marilyn Monroe in her small but breakout role, and also Jack Warden’s first film.  Nominated for Best Director, Screenplay, Cinematography & Sam Jaffe for Supporting Actor.  Film Noir heist drama set in Cincinnati, with some cool location shooting there circa 1949. Helluva script and cinematography.  A movie about vice.  Capraesque ending.  Love John Huston – but boy he sure sometimes makes weird, verging on surreal, movies. 🙂  B&W  (seen once)
The African Queen — 1951;  John Huston;  Humphrey Bogart & Katherine Hepburn  B&W  (seen once)
Beat The Devil — 1953;  John Huston;  screenplay credit to Truman Capote, but he bailed in the middle of the madness and Huston, Bogie, Lorie & others made it up on the fly after that;  Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley.
I can’t believe these guys (Houston, Bogart, Jones) weren’t comedic actors & director. This is SO funny – if you look at it right.  Morley is Brilliant.  And the dialog is brilliant.  I would love to have this script.  This is one of my favorite movies of all time.  There’s also so many plot changes.  Great characterizations.  Jennifer Jones out-Marilyn’s Monroe in 1953, playing the most wonderfully dreamy and deluded blond.  The Talented Mr. Ripley is a kind of later version (although that’s really not a comedy).  B&W  (4)
The Misfits — 1961;  John Huston;  written by Arthur Miller (with screenwriting help from John Huston);  breathlessly beautiful Marilyn Monroe, Clark “the King” Gable, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter with a fairly major role, Eli Wallach (Marylin recommended her New York acting school friend for the part).  Helluva cast!  Marylin, Monty, Eli & Kevin McCarthy were all Method actors from the Actor’s Studio in New York.  Eli reminds of Joe Pesci and feels like a Scorsese troupe member.  Amazingly, the film was not nominated for a single Oscar!  Monroe & Miller were married at the time, but broke up during the course of the movie, in part because she didn’t like the character he wrote for her (lost, needy, the focus of all men’s attention), and felt he was using private elements of her life against her.  Both Monroe & Gable’s last movie.  A famously problematic production with Monroe & Miller’s marriage falling apart; Monroe & Clift’s pill & alcohol problems; Monroe arriving late on set every day (due to both pills & booze, and hating the character she was playing) and then having to go into detox for 2 weeks which shut down production; director Huston’s nightly gambling addiction (in legal gambling Reno) and his heavy-handed multi-take directing style; Arthur Miller rewriting scenes nightly; and 100 degree Nevada temperatures on many shooting days.  Marilyn did a topless bedroom scene (at her insistence), but it would’ve been a distraction in the storyline, and been the first nude scene in an American major motion picture, and thus never made it in the final cut.  When filming was finished and just days before his death, Gable told the producer that along with Gone With The Wind he now had two pictures he was proud of.  He told Arthur Miller at an early rough-cut screening, “This is the best picture I have made, and it’s the only time I’ve been able to act.”  The last play Arthur Miller ever wrote, “Finishing the Picture” was about the making of this movie.  I loved this movie watching it for only the second time (and *really* only the first time) in July 2021.  Great filmmaking (cinematography, pacing, casting, writing, editing, location choices, art direction, costumes, music) by Huston.
And p.s. — There was always a connection between Jack Kerouac and Marylin Monroe — ’50s mega-stars, meteoric fame, inspiration to the young, personified their moment in time, addiction, tragic lives.
Marilyn delivers a line (written by Arthur Miller) that sounds like something Jack would say: “We’re all dying, aren’t we?  All the husbands and all the wives.  Every minute.  And we’re not teaching each other what we really know, are we?”
As Jack phrased it in Visions of Cody — “I’m writing this book because we’re all going to die. In the loneliness of my life, my father dead, my brother dead, my mother faraway, my sister and my wife far away, nothing here but my own tragic hands that once were guarded by a world, a sweet attention, that now are left to guide and disappear their own way into the common dark of all our death, sleeping in my raw bed, alone and stupid.”  (seen twice)
Prizzi’s Honor — 1985;  John Huston;  Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner, John Randolph, Angelica Huston (won best actress directed by her father, just as John had directed his father Walter to an Oscar in Treasure of the Sierra Madre), William Hickey’s brilliant performance  (3)
The Dead1987;  John Huston (the last of the 47 movies he directed);  based on James Joyce’s short story in Dubliners, screenplay by Huston’s son Tony, who was nominated for an Oscar;  starring Anjelica Huston and a bunch of unknowns.  Moody atmospheric drama set around a family dinner in snowy Dublin, January 1904.  (seen once)

Alejandro Iñárritu
“To make a film is easy.  To make a good film is war.  To make a great film is a miracle.”
Babel — 2006; original script idea and directed by Alejandro Iñárritu; Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett.  Three separate stories on three different continents (Morocco, Japan, Mexico);  nominated for 7 Oscars but only Gustavo Santaolalla won for Best Original Score — the same guy who did the music for On The Road.  The title comes from there being at least 4 different languages spoken by the various characters.  Very disturbing.  Not my kind of movie.  (1)
The Revenant2015;  directed and co-written by Alejandro Iñárritu;  Emmanuel Lubezki won Oscar for Best Cinematography;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy.  Won Best Director, Cinematography, and Leonardo’s first Oscar after 4 nominations.  (seen once)
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)2014;  written & directed by Alejandro Iñárritu;  Emmanuel Lubezki won Oscar for Best Cinematography;  Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifinakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough.  Distinctive and super-cool drum score by Antonio Sanchez.  Fantastic film.  Deservedly won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay & Cinematography.  All shot in long takes, only 16 visible cuts in the whole movie.  (seen twice)

Jim Jarmusch
“Life has no plot.  Why must films or fiction?”
Permanent Vacation1980;  written & directed by Jim Jarmusch (his first movie);  Chris Parker, John Lurie; move about a guy who goes on an Adventure in Manhattan and meets all kinds of strange people in 1980 — the year I moved to the city;  pretty low budget and dark;  didn’t like it at all, not recommended.  (seen once)
Stranger Than Paradise1984;  co-written & directed by Jim Jarmusch (his second film);  co-written by & starring John Lurie (who also did the excellent atmospheric largely cello music);  the great character actor Richard Edson’s first film.  The 90-minute movie is done in only 67 (mostly static) shots; the average film has around 1,200 different shots.  The camera pans maybe six times (by my count) in the entire movie.  The static shots are prolly the most interesting thing about it.  Jarmusch won the Golden Camera at Cannes in 1984 awarded for the best debut feature at the festival.  Won Special Jury Recognition at Sundance in 1985.  Inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2002.  2-disc release as part of the Criterion Collection in 2007.  Very “independent” film — and very New York — the early ’80s when I first moved there.  Screamin Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You is a reoccurring song.  From IMDb: “Director Jim Jarmusch was dismayed to discover all the money he paid for the rights to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put a Spell on You went to the record company, with nothing going to Hawkins himself.  When the film earned a profit, Jarmusch took it upon himself to track down Hawkins (who was living in a trailer park, at the time) and give him some money.  It was the beginning of a friendship between the two which lasted until Hawkins’ death.  According to Jarmusch, Hawkins continuously promised to pay him back, despite Jarmursch’s insistence that the money was a gift.”  I know you’re supposed to love Jarmusch, but other than Paterson I don’t really love his films.  B&W  (seen once)
Down By Law — 1986;  written & directed by Jim Jarmusch;  Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, Ellen Barkin, Rockets Redglare.  Imaginative original story & a well-crafted script, with three very different well-drawn characters.  Great cinematography by Robby Müller (who Jarmusch long wanted to work with).  Songs by Tom Waits (from Rain Dogs), and atmospheric music by John Lurie.  Shot entirely on location in Louisiana.  Jarmusch’s follow-up to his highly-acclaimed Stranger Than Paradise.  He could now get a top cinematographer and name actors.  A pretty good movie.  B&W  (seen once)
Mystery Train — 1989;  written & directed by Jim Jarmusch;  Steve Buscemi, Joe Strummer (in a rare dramatic role), Tom Noonan, Screamin Jay Hawkins. Three different stories in adjacent rooms on the same night at the same hotel.  Some common things like a gunshot and the songs Domino by Roy Orbison & Blue Moon of Kentucky by Elvis is heard in all three.  Screamin’ Jay ties the three stories together as the hotel desk clerk.  Gubba recommendation.  Kind of interesting film of three interconnected stories & characters. Filmed entirely on location in Memphis, TN.  (seen once)
Dead Man —  1995;  written & directed by Jim Jarmusch;  Johnny Depp (who’s great playing a character named William Blake – some of whose lines are quoted in the movie), Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover (in one scene in the beginning), the great John Hurt, Robert Mitchum (in his final film performance), Lance Henriksen, Iggy Pop, Gabriel Byrne, Jared Harris, Alfred Molina, plus a barely recognizable Steve Buscemi cameo.  Fantastic music improvised by Neil Young on various instruments while watching the final cut.  $9 million budget.  Part of the Criterion Collection.  Finally some great art direction, cinematography (by Robby Müller, who Jim said in a Strangers interview he dreamed of working with one day) and costumes in a Jarmusch film.  Unquestionably his most interesting (and occasionally funny) script, too.  It’s certainly the best cast he ever worked with, and is the best of Jarmusch’s many B&W films.  Filmed entirely on locations in Oregon, Washington, Arizona & Nevada.  This would be one of the few movies that would be classified as a Western that I liked.  It’s almost Tarantinoesque in some of its graphic violence and the dead body count.  Very Native-American with characters, dialog and plot.  The words spoken in Native tongues are intentionally not captioned, and include some inside jokes for those who do speak the language.  Jarmusch is sure into the fade-to-black between scenes routine.  This is one Jim Jarmusch movie I didn’t want to end. 😉  Michael Omar’s quality recommendation.  B&W  (seen once)
Coffee & Cigarettes2003;  written & directed Jim Jarmush;  Steven Wright & Roberto Benigni, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop & Tom Waits, Cate Blanchett (in two roles playing off each other!), Jack White & Meg White, Alfred Molina & Steve Coogan, Bill Murray, Taylor Mead.  11 vignettes set around coffee and cigarettes.  B&W  (seen twice)
Paterson — 2016;  great script written by & directed by Jim Jarmusch;  Adam Driver plays a bus Driver named Paterson living in Paterson.  About a poet — like two of Paterson New Jersey’s most famous sons, Allen Ginsberg & William Carlos Williams.  Shot entirely on locations in Paterson & Great Falls, Queens & Yonkers.  Adam Driver actually trained for and got his bus driver’s license just before filming began.  He wanted to be able to be on “auto pilot” while driving the bus.  It also meant that the film could feature more authentic footage opening up the possibilities for a greater variety of camera shots.  He was taught over a period of three months in Queens, passing the test one week before filming began.  It’s nice to see a movie about a married couple who love each other – something that’s oddly rare in films.  Very atmospheric film, with nice use of mirrors, reflections and windows.  Beat cousin poet Ron Padgett writes most of the poems.  I love this couple, and since movies usually have bad things happen, I was praying the whole time that nothing would to these two.  It’s a very gentle, kind movie about love and poetry. 
(seen once)

Norman Jewison
“I’m just a storyteller.”
The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming — 1966;  produced & directed by Norman Jewison;  Carl Reiner & Eva Marie Saint, Jonathan Winters, Brian Keith, Theodore Bikel, and Alan Arkin in his first movie (and he was nominated for an Oscar!)  Bikel & Sorkin both cast cuz they speak Russian.  Also nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay and Editing.  Comedy about a stranded Russian submarine off the coast of New England, but more broadly about fear and rumors and panic and misinformation.  Location of location shooting, mostly in Mendocino CA filling in for coastal Massachusetts; plus lots of cool ’50s & early ’60s cars.  Kind of corny and simplistic or and moralistic.  (seen once)

In The Heat of The Night
— 1967;  Norman Jewison (Torontonian);  edited by Hal Ashby;  Sidney Pottier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Anthony James (creepy diner guy);  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Actor for Steiger, Screenplay, Editing and Sound.  Hal Ashby’s only Oscar win (for Best Editing).  “They call me Mr. Tibbs.”  This is such a masterpiece, but so many people don’t know it.  Just tonight I sent out an email to get people to catch the PBS airing of it, and a few did, but one write back asking me if this was a “cult classic”?!  🙂  I’ve watched it many times – the next time you do, dig and study the ancillary music – it’s all Quincy Jones, and all the piano playing is Ray Charles, the organ by Billy Preston, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk on sax.  Also listen for the diversity and both musical styles and instrumentation.  The music got nominated for a Grammy but crazilly not an Oscar.  This is an amazing movie for blind people.  It almost sounds as good at it looks.  (4)
Jesus Christ Superstar — 1973;  Norman Jewison;  Ted Neeley, Yvonne Elliman, Carl Anderson as Judas, Josh Mostel as King Herod. What a masterpiece of filmmaking this is — the cinematography, the editing, all the location shooting in Israel, the costumes, the production design, the dance choreography, the MUSIC — Jesus Christ this is Amazing!  The greatest location shooting of any movie I’ve ever seen – natural caves, rock formations, ancient temples & ruins.  All of the kids & other extras in crowd scenes were people who came to watch the production.  Spontaneously captured birds in flight shots used as scene transitions.  On the DVD commentary, Jewison recalls being in the studio with Andre Previn conducting the London Philharmonic, and when the Crucifixion climax played on the giant screen in the studio he went over to the grand piano and started improvising all that stunning jazz piano that was not part of the original score. I remember in 1973 seeing my babysitter (!) at the Winnipeg screening — and we both exuberantly saying how we’d both come to see it multiple times!  Just to be clear — I am *extremely* anti-Christian fanatics, including some of my former friends — but this is one brilliant film!  Norman Jewison is an unmitigated master of the cinematic art.   (4)
The Hurricane — 1999;  Norman Jewison;  Denzel Washington (won the Golden Globe and was rightly Oscar nominated for the title role), Liev Schreiber, John Hannah, Deborah Kara Unger, David Paymer, Vincent Pastore, Dan Hedaya, Rod Steiger, Clancy Brown.  Based on Rubin Carter’s memoir The Sixteenth Round. Roger Deakins lensed it.  Great soundtrack including the Dylan song, Ray Charles, Gil Scott-Heron, Marvin Gaye, Ruth Brown, Etta James, Dinah Washington & others.  Another hard to watch story about a Black man done bad by white racists.  Seen by some as a bookend to Norman Jewison’s In The Heat of The Night — Rod Steiger appearing in both.  I didn’t know the key aspect about the Toronto family adopting a Black guy from NYC who then spearheaded his release, and that’s where Hurricane moved to when he got freed.  Powerful movie.  It’s pretty good filmmaking if it brings you to tears at its climax.  (seen once) 

Spike Jonze 
“You make a movie that is about what you want it to be about and let people have their reaction to it.  I don’t understand the whole testing-numbers thing.  It is not how I want to make movies.  I like hiring people based on a feeling – this person gets it – rather than what they’ve done in the past.”
Being John Malkovich — 1999;  Spike Jonze;  written by Charlie Kaufman; John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich, Catherine Keener  (3)
Adaptation — 2002;  Spike Jonze;  Charlie Kaufman’s ingenious Oscar-nominated screenplay;  Nicholas Cage & Meryl Streep – both Oscar-nominated, Chris Cooper (who won for Best Supporting), Tilda Swinton, the director Curtis Hanson (in his only role ever as an actor), Ron Livingston, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Brian Cox, Judy Greer.  A brilliant twisted funny Oscar-winning comedy about writing — that also happens to include the two most terrifying car crash scenes I’ve ever seen on film.  Plus it features one of my favorite songs from the ’60s — Happy Together!  (3)
Her — 2013;  written & directed by Spike Jonze;  Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde. Spike won for Best Screenplay Oscar, nominated for Best Picture, Production Design, Original Music and Song.  Man falls in love with a digital artificial intelligence ‘woman.’  I would rank this 3rd in Spike Jonze movies behind Adaptation and Being John Malkovich.  Joaquin & Rooney met on this movie, started dating a few years later, eventually got married & have a son named River together.  (seen once)

Elia Kazan
“The writer, when he is also an artist, is someone who admits what others don’t dare reveal.”
A Streetcar Named Desire —  1951;  Elia Kazan;  Tennessee Williams;  Marlon Brando, Vivian Lee, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden  B&W  (4)
On The Waterfront — 1954;  Elia Kazan – he claimed it was his justification for giving names to the McCarthy hearings – (Kazan being in the Brando & Malden roles);  Marlon Brando (his first Oscar), Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, both Eva Marie Saint & Martin Balsam’s first movie, and Fred Gwynne in an uncredited union mob role.   Won best picture, director, actor (Brando), screenplay, cinematography; and Leonard Bernstein nominated for the music.  B&W  (seen twice)
East of Eden — 1955;  Elia Kazan;  from John Steinbeck book;  James Dean, Raymond Massey, Julie Harris, Burl Ives.  James Dean’s first movie — filmed in the summer of 1954 when he was 23, and the only one released while he was still alive.  Lots of location shooting in Salinas and Monterey, California.  Kazan’s first movie shot in color.  Steinbeck’s on the record liking the film, casting and performances.  When he visited the set and first met Dean, he exclaimed, “Jesus Christ, he IS Cal!”  With the unhappy dysfunctional family and struggling farm life story, this is my least favorite of Dean’s three pictures.  (3)
A Face in The Crowd — 1957;  Elia Kazan;  Budd Schulberg story & screenplay;  Andy Griffith’s first movie, Lee Remick’s first movie, Patricia Neal, Walter Watthau.  The story of how fame goes to a weak person’s head and how they manipulate it.  Prescient portrait of trump.  B&W  (seen twice)
Splendor in the Grass — 1961;  Elia Kazan;  Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle, Barbara Loden (who Kazan later married), and the film debuts of Warren Beatty, Sandy Dennis & Phyllis Diller;  music by David Amram; won Best Screenplay Oscar, and Natalie was nominated for Best Actress.  The limp Pat Hingle walks with was real: he had fallen down an elevator shaft and broke multiple bones shortly before filming began.  I found it unreal; teenagers who love each other, but for the first half Natalie doesn’t want to have sex with Warren Beatty, and for the second half he doesn’t want to have sex with her.  (seen once)

Stanley Kramer
“I don’t make films to stir the world.  I am not conscious of a responsibility to society or even to my own social consciousness when I make a film.  My motivation can be as simple as saying, gee, this would make an exciting picture.”
The Defiant Ones — 1958;  Stanley Kramer;  Sidney Poitier, Tony Curtis (his one & only Oscar nomination), plus Theodore Bikel, Lon Chaney, Claude Akins, and Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer’s last film.  Great movie about a black guy and a white guy who escape jail and are shackled together. Won Best Screenplay & Cinematography;  nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actors, including Poitier being the first Black man ever nominated.  A pretty good movie (for the time) about race relations and equality.  All the music is diegetic, meaning the characters are hearing it and it comes from a source on screen such as a radio, jukebox, record player, musicians or such.  B&W (seen once)
It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World — 1963;  Stanley Kramer;  Buddy Hackett & Mickey Rooney, Ethel Merman & Milton Berle, Jonathan Winters (his first movie), Sid Caesar, Spencer Tracy (his 2nd last movie), Terry-Thomas, Phil Silvers, Dick Shawn — and cameos or small parts by Jimmy Durante (his last film), Don Knotts, Carl Reiner, Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, “Rochester”, Buster Keaton, Peter Falk, Jim Backus, Norman Fell, William Demarest, Charles Lane, Andy Devine, ZaSu Pitts, the Three Stooges!  The all-star cameo-rich casting was first pioneered by 1956’s Around The World In 80 Days. It was filmed for Cinerama — those extra-wide, curved screens.  It was the first film ever shown at the legendary Cinerama Dome in LA.  The original Cinerama version ran 202 minutes.  The version most of us saw in regular theaters was cut down to 163 minutes — fully 30 minutes less!  The 3-disc Criterion Collection edition has both versions, the original painstakingly restored frame by frame from uncovered footage.  (4)

Stanley Kubrick 
However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
Lolita — 1962;  Stanley Kubrick;  Vladimir Nabokov wrote screenplay based on his novel;  James Mason, Shelley Winters, 14-year-old Sue Lyon, and a pretty amazing multi-character performance by Peter Sellers that presage Kubrick using him in his next film, Dr. Strangelove.  I fairly hated this movie – about a young girl who leads on an older man.  And the man is an asshole — so you’re not rooting for either character, or for the couple to be together.  Shelley Winters plays a sad desperate middle-aged woman in love with the despicable James Mason character.  There’s nothing extraordinary about the cinematography, the production design or the editing.  B&W  (seen twice)
Dr. Strangelove — 1964; Stanley Kubrick; Peter Sellers — 3 roles., George C Scott  B&W  (seen twice)
2001: A Space Odyssey — 1968;  Stanley Kubrick;  Kubrick screenplay from Arthur C. Clarke novel;  Keir Dullea  (3)
A Clockwork Orange — 1971;  Stanley Kubrick;  Kubrick wrote screenplay from Anthony Burgess novel;  Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee  (3)
Barry Lyndon — 1975;  written, directed & produced by Stanley Kubrick;  based on a Thackeray novel;  Ryan O’Neal, Marissa Berenson (speaks only 13 lines of dialog, less than 100 words), Patrick Magee.  Set in late 1700s, Warner Brothers required a Top 10 movie star in order to finance it – which is why Love Story’s Ryan O’Neal is in it.  Deservedly won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes & Score; nominated for Best Picture, Director & Adapted Screenplay.  Fantastic script — really well brought to cinematic life.  I thought about 20 times while watching it, “This is great filmmaking!”  In 2022, it ranked 12th greatest of all time by directors in Britain’s Sight & Sound magazine, and it’s Scorsese’s favorite Kubrick film.  I don’t know why this isn’t regarded as a comedy — sure seems comedic to me. Made after A Clockwork Orange and was followed by The Shining.  Took 300 days to shoot over two years!  Several scenes are filmed using only candlelight.  Incredible locations in England, Ireland & Germany, including landscapes, gardens, castles and palaces.  Shot with the custom lens NASA used on the moon to capture the landscapes.  Magnificently filmed — would have been great on the big screen.  A lot of reverse zooms revealing the beautiful landscapes.  The framing has a painterly aspect – a lot of the imagery inspired by period paintings by Gainsborough and others.  Kubrick did his usual 20 – 50 takes per scene, much to the exasperation of all.  I was unexpectedly captivated.  I think I’m agreeing with Scorsese (but second to The Shining).  A great movie that’s almost Tim Burton-level weird!  (seen once)
The Shining — 1980;  Stanley Kubrick;  Stephen King book, Kubrick screenplay;  Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers  (4)

John Landis 
“A movie has a life of its own.  A movie goes out there, and it exists, and it continues.”
Animal House — 1978;  John Landis;  written by Harold Ramis;  John Belushi, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce  (4)
The Blues Brothers — 1980;  John Landis;  written by Landis & Dan Aykroyd;  John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles  (4)
Trading Places — 1983;  John Landis;  Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche  (4)

Barry Levinson  
“You need to be open and explore while heading where you want to go.  You can never be too in love with your own ideas.  If you can remember every idea that is yours in a script, as opposed to someone else’s, then something is wrong.”
Diner — 1982;  written & directed by Barry Levinson;  Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser, Daniel Stern, Ellen Barkin, Steve Guttenberg. The debut/break-out movie for everybody.  Levinson nominated for Best Original Screenplay.  Made in 1981 for $5 million (!)  (3)
Good Morning Vietnam — 1987;  Barry Levinson;  Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, J.T. Walsh, Bruno Kirby, Robert Wuhl  (seen twice)
Rain Man — 1988;  Barry Levinson;  Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino, plus cool cameo by Levinson as the doctor;  won Best Picture Oscar, plus Best Director for Levinson, Actor for Hoffman, and Screenplay.  (3)
Wag The Dog — 1997;  Barry Levinson;  David Mamet screenplay;  cinematography by Robert Richardson;  Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Denis Leary, Anne Heche, John Michael Higgins, Andrea Martin, Willie Nelson, William Macy, Woody Harrelson, Kristen Dunst, Craig T. Nelson, Pops Staples!, Harland Williams; music by Mark Knopfler.  Mamet – Levinson – De Niro – Hoffman – Robert Richardson filming — mind-blowingly BRILLIANT movie.  (4)

George Lucas 
“Having a really good understanding of history, literature, psychology, sciences – is very, very important to actually being able to make movies.”
American Graffiti — 1973;  George Lucas;  Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Wolfman Jack, Harrison Ford.  Set in 1962.  (3)
Star Wars — 1977;  George Lucas;  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness  (4)

Baz Luhrmann
“Don’t waste your time on jealousy.  Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind.  The race is long but in the end it is only with yourself.”
Romeo & Juliet — 1996;  Baz Luhrmann;  21-yr-old Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes (immediately post My So-Called Life; John Leguizamo, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy, Paul Rudd, M. Emmet Walsh, Pete Postlethwaite, Miriam Margolyes, Jamie Kennedy.  A masterpiece of filmmaking.  Captivating & mesmerizing.  A master-class of actors helmed by a master of the cinematic arts.  Shaky’s classic set in a modern-day urban center, but keeping all the dialog as Willie wrote it.  Funny use of lines from other Shakespeare plays as slogans on billboards around the city.  Smart use of TV news reports to tell the story.  The top grossing movie in the U.S. on its opening weekend; and it and Branagh’s star-filled Much Ado About Nothing are the two biggest grossing Shakespeare adaptations of all time.  All the location shooting was done in free-flowing Mexico over four months.  Reminded me of how Larry Charles & Bob Dylan used guerrilla shooting around L.A. to create the real-world / fantasy amalgam that was Masked & Anonymous.  Baz & Leo liked working together enough that they joined up 7 years later for The Great Gatsby.  Oscar nominated only for Best Art Direction.  (seen once)

The Great Gatsby — 2013;  Baz Luhrmann;  Leonardo DiCaprio (who doesn’t appear until 30 mins in), and his decades-long friend Toby Maguire, plus Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher & Elizabeth Debicki.  Deservedly won Oscars for Production Design and Costumes.  Baz’s wife Catherine Martin is his co-creating partner and does the costumes among many other things.  GREAT Expressionistic filmmaking — the effects and visuals and overall production.  $100 million budget.  It looks *so* New York … but was filmed entirely in Australia!  A lot of connections to Babylon — the same 1920s era, the opulent decadent parties & lifestyle, the blending of modern music & fashion with that of the time.  Master Baz’s biggest-grossing film … until Elvis. (seen twice)
Elvis — 2022;  co-written & directed by Baz Luhrmann;  Austin Butler (Oscar-nominated for Best Actor), Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker, Gary Clark Jr. cameo as guitarist playing in the rural colored shack.  This is fascinating and spectacular!  Rightfully Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Lead Actor for Austin (who woulda got my vote), Cinematography (a woman, Many Walker), Production Design, Editing & more.  It was when seeing Hanks and Colbert riffing on Baz’s unique filmmaking vision that I became aware of him.  Of course I immediately did a deep dive including this must-see conversation in 2022 and clearly he’s one of the most distinctive visionary filmmakers of all time.  The scene where Elvis first performs at the Hayride in his pink suit and the girls lose it is one of my favorite scenes in any film in years.  And like Babylon, the first hour of the upwards trajectory is one of the best single hours of filmmaking in the last many years.  And the Hollywood sign scene is an absolute classic.  If you remember when Covid first hit and Tom Hanks was the first famous person to get it — it was when he was making this movie, in March 2020 in Australia.  Two other parentheticals — of the Top 10 grossing Australian films of all time — Baz made 4 of them!  And his wife Catherine Martin winning 4 Oscars for Art Direction & Costume Design makes her the most Oscar-winning Aussie of all time!  Isn’t that frickin unbelievable?!  (seen twice)

Sidney Lumet 
“While the goal of all movies is to entertain, the kind of film in which I believe goes one step further.  It compels the spectator to examine one facet or another of his own conscience.  It stimulates thought and sets the mental juices flowing.”
12 Angry Men — 1957;  Sidney Lumet;  Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, John Fielder, Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall, Ed Begley Sr., and a young Jack Klugman  B&W  (3)
A View From The Bridge — 1962; Sidney Lumet, based on the Arthur Miller play;  Raf Vallone, Maureen Stapleton, Carol Lawrence.  The whole cast performs at top level, but the two women leads are magnificent.  The whole film’s riveting.  A German producer made this with French & Italian studios, using an American director doing this quintessential American play, with lots of Brooklyn location shooting.  Quite the intimate portrait of the immigrant story of New York — in this case, Italian.  Like Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront … with a Lolita storyline.  An evil father obsessed with his niece.  Pretty brutal.  Maureen Stapleton great as a guiding elder.  B&W  (seen once)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night — 1962;  Sidney Lumet;  Eugene O’Neill play;  Ralph Richardson, Katherine Hepburn, Jason Robards  B&W  (seen once)
Serpico — 1973;  Sidney Lumet;  from Peter Maas book;  a brilliant wide-ranging Al Pacino, John Randolph (the original Frank Costanza on Seinfeld), Tony Roberts.  Great filmmaking.  Shot entirely on location at over 100 different places around New York City — and so much the New York I remember and “grew up” in.  1973 was not much different than 1980 when I arrived.  His Village apt. in the movie was 2 minutes from my front door.  Great scene of Pacino riding a motorcycle right along my street — Washington Square North.  Pacino and the screenplay nominated for Oscars.  Went from shooting to theaters in an insanely short 5 months.  Shot in reverse order, so the long-haired/beard Pacino/Serpico (at the end of the movie) was filmed first, and then they gradually trimmed his hair and beard until he was clean shaven as the movie starts.  He was a strong supporting actor in The Godfather the year prior — but this was the movie that established him as a lead who could carry a film. Funny marijuana scene.  A bit of a sad story, though.  (3)
Murder on the Orient Express — 1974;  Sidney Lumet;  from Agatha Christie novel; with a to-die-for cast — Albert Finney as Poirot (brilliant, Oscar-nominated for Best Lead Actor;  Agatha Christie said he was the closest portrayal of any of her characters in any movie), Martin Balsam, Richard Widmark, Anthony Perkins, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bisset & Michael York, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, and Ingrid Bergman (won Best Supporting Actress Oscar);  Oscar-nominated for Best Screenplay, Cinematography, Costumes & Music;  Bergman’s Oscar was for her interrogation scene, all shot in one 5-minute continuous take.  (seen twice)
Dog Day Afternoon — 1975;  Sidney Lumet;  A-list duo of Al Pacino & John Cazale (who played brothers in the first 2 Godfather movies), plus Charles Durning (who’s great, as always), James Broderick (in his final film appearance), Carol Kane, Chris Sarandon, and Living Theatre co-founder Judith Malina is great as Sonny’s (Pacino’s) mother.  Fantastically great & riveting filmmaking!  The script deservedly won the Best Screenplay Oscar.  Was also deservedly nominated for Best Picture, Director, Editing, Lead Actor, and Supporting for Sarandon.  Dramatic depiction of a real bank robbery in Aug. 1972.  Unbelievable tension 8 mins into the movie.  The fourth year in a row Pacino was nominated for an acting Oscar: Best Supporting for The Godfather, Best Lead for Serpico, the Godfather II, then this.  Altman-influenced overlapping dialog.  Filmed entirely on locations in Brooklyn and Queens.  The New York City that this film depicts is so much the New York I first moved to five years after it came out.  (3)
Network — 1976;  Sidney Lumet;  written by Paddy Chayefsky (winning his third Best Screenplay Oscar);  Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway & Beatrice Straight all won Best Actor Oscars, but Finch died of a heart attack before receiving his for becoming Howard Beale. This and A Streetcar Named Desire are the only 2 films in history to win 3 acting Oscars (!) — and as of 2021 it’s the last film to receive 5 acting nominations.  Beatrice Straight’s 5 mins & 2 seconds of screen time is the shortest-ever Oscar-winning performance.  Plus: William Holden, Robert Duvall & Ned Beatty are all drop-dead brilliant.  Also Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, and Holden & Beatty for Acting.  Aaron Sorkin has cited the script as a big influence on his screenwriting.  Love the name of the fictional network — UBS. 🙂  (3)
Deathtrap — 1982;  Sidney Lumet;  Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, Dyan Cannon  (4)
The Verdict — 1982;  Sidney Lumet;  David Mamet screenplay;  Paul Newman brilliant performance.  James Mason, Jack Warden.  (seen twice)
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead — 2007;  Sidney Lumet – his final film;  Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney, Amy Ryan, Rosemary Harris, Michael Shannon, Leonardo Cimino (in his last movie) — obviously a real ‘actor’s movie.’  A film about desperate children robbing their parents.  Riveting and super suspenseful.  Fantastic script and brilliant moviemaking.  A little bit like Owning Mahowny in that Hoffman is financially desperate, and a little like Memento in that it keeps jumping back and forth in time.  Uses unique crackling broken-frame scene transitions.  (seen once)

David Mamet — writer & director
“Good stories have problems that are rooted in character.”
The Verdict — 1982;  Sidney Lumet;  David Mamet screenplay;  Paul Newman brilliant performance.  James Mason.  (seen twice)
The Untouchables — 1987;  Brian de Palma;  screenplay David Mamet;  Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro  (4)
Glengarry Glen Ross — 1992;  James Foley;  David Mamet play & screenplay;  Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce  (4)
Wag The Dog — 1997;  Barry Levinson;  David Mamet screenplay; cinematography by Robert Richardson;  Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Denis Leary, Anne Heche, John Michael Higgins, Andrea Martin, Willie Nelson, William Macy, Woody Harrelson, Kristen Dunst, Craig T. Nelson, Pops Staples!, Harland Williams; music by Mark Knopfler.  Mamet – Levinson – De Niro – Hoffman – Robert Richardson filming — mind-blowingly BRILLIANT movie.  (4)
State & Main —  2000;  written & directed by David Mamet;  with an Unbelievable cast – the great Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy (and, boy, does he carry it), Alec Baldwin (as the naturally perfect movie star), Charles Durning, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Stiles, Rebecca Pidgeon, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, Patti LuPone, Ricky Jay, Michael Higgins, Matt Malloy, a cameo by Jonathan Katz, plus a lot of locals and Mamet’s non-actor friends;  tasteful perfect music by Theodore Shapiro.  GAWD this is a masterpiece of a movie!  Sheesh!  Really Funny.  Personable.  Movie-making accurate.  America & Americana.  Masterful filmmaking.  Master-upon-master building on each other.  I watched this movie 10 times and see and love new stuff in it every time.  “It’s about purity.”  (4)

James Mangold
You see the assets of your actors and you see their strengths and you try to play into them. It’s like I feel part of my job is as a coach. I’m putting a team on the field and you want to formulate how to make the best game out of these players.
Walk The Line — 2005;  cowritten & directed by James Mangold;  Joaquin Phoenix Oscar nominated as Johnny Cash, Reese Witherspoon Oscar winner as June Carter, and you can sure see why.  Both played all the music & sang themselves, and both were approved in advance by Johnny & June.  Based on Johnny Cash’s two autobiographies.  Also nominated for Best Editing, Costumes and Sound Mixing.  Waylon Jennings’ son Scooter plays his dad in the movie, and singer Shelby Lynn plays Johnny’s mother.  T. Bone Burnett was Music Supervisor and trained both Joaquin & Reese to sing.  Was Executive Produced by Johnny & June’s son John Carter Cash.  Cool portrayals of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Phillips & the gang at Sun Records on Memphis.  It really picks up once they hit The Road — and you’re rooting for John & June to become a couple.  (seen once)

Ford v Ferrari — 2019;  James Mangold;  Matt Damon & Christian Bale, plus Josh Lucas (Neal Cassady in Big Sur), Ray McKinnon & the always great Tracey Letts as Henry Ford II. Damon said he said yes to this role mainly becxause he wanted to work with Christian Bale. Oscar nominated for Best Picture and won for Editing and Sound. Set in the 1960s, boy, would Neal Cassady have ever liked this movie!  Funny riff on ‘beatniks’ — referring to the hero driver of the movie — at the 59 min mark. 🙂 The movie was in development for 10 years and was at one point called “Go Like Hell” with Brad Pitt & Tom Cruise as the leads but they could never get it to a budget a studio wanted to make. A definite edge-of-your-seat movie.  Great story, script, performances, cinematography, score, soundtrack, editing — just Great Filmmaking! No wonder it was nominated for Best Picture. I’m not a ‘car guy’ in the slightest, and this had me riveted from the ignition. Beyond cars — it’s also a movie about friendship, and iconoclasts vs. corporate suits — a conflict I always enjoy in both real-life and the movies. (seen twice )

Albert & David Maysles
“I think it’s inevitable that people will come to find the documentary a more compelling and more important kind of film than fiction.  Just as in literature, as the taste has moved from fiction to nonfiction, I think it’s going to happen in film as well.  In a way you’re on a serendipitous journey, a journey which is much more akin to the life experience.  When you see somebody on the screen in a documentary, you’re really engaged with a person going through real life experiences.  So for that period of time, as you watch the film, you are, in effect, in the shoes of another individual.  What a privilege to have that experience.”  Albert Maysles
What’s Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A. — 1964;  Albert & David Mayseles;  incredible documentary!!  the Maysles brothers documentary about The Beatles’ first visit to America for The Ed Sullivan Show and capturing Beatlemania, their first ever concert in America (in Washington D.C.), then Miami — immediately preceding the band shooting A Hard Day’s Night . . . about Beatlemania.  The real Hard Day’s Night. Later repackaged as The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit.  B&W  (3)
With Love from Truman — 1966;  Albert & David Maysles; 30-min. documentary / interview with Capote for the Newsweek cover story shortly after In Cold Blood came out and became a hit.  This is included on the Extras on the Criterion Collection version of In Cold Blood.  (seen twice)
Salesman — filmed in 1966, released in 1969;  Albert & David Maysles riveting masterpiece documentary about four door-to-door Bible salesmen.  Starts outside Boston (Webster, Mass), then they go down to Miami.  First saw in Phyllis Condon’s kitchen.  What’s amazing is the complete breakdown of one of the salesmen.  From the excellent Criterion commentary, Albert explains how he makes his documentaries — empathy: from commentary: Albert Maysles became lifelong friends with Paul Brennan (the guy who lost it).  David Maysles loved Arthur Miller plays, would see them multiple times.  Just the two brothers made it, no assistants or crew.  David was on sound (directional microphone, into a customized Nagra to record for 15 times at a time), Albert on camera (weighted 20 pounds; had early zoom lens).  Albert says it took 30 years to get it on TV.  Shot 100 hours of film, boiled down to 90 mins!  Cost $200-300,000!!! mainly for the processing of the film.  Plus the editor’s salary (the woman).  The 200th film added to my list!  B&W  (4)
Grey Gardens — 1975;  the Maysles brothers;  great documentary about eccentric Long Island mother & daughter Edith Bouvier Beale and “Little Edith.”  An unnecessary dramatization of the documentary was made by HBO in 2009 starting Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.  (seen twice)
The Gates — 2007;  Albert & David Maysles;  amazing doc about Christo’s “Gates” installation in Central Park.  (3)

Sam Mendes
“Truly great actors carry their characters in silence with them.  They communicate without words the relationships that predate the movie.”
American Beauty — 1999;  Sam Mendes;  great script by Alan Ball;  Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Sivari, Chris Cooper, Allison Janney, Peter Gallagher, Scott Bakula.  The faces of mid-life crisis and teenage desolation in suburbia.  Won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography & Lead Actor for Spacey.  Music by Thomas Newman (who did Erin Brockovich, which this really sounds like).  (seen twice)
The Road to Perdition — 2002;  Sam Mendes (his first movie after winning Best Director and Best Picture for American Beauty);  Tom Hanks, Paul Newman (his last film appearance, nominated for an Oscar), a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig (as the sick psycho killer), Jude Law (against type as the pale bad-guy evil assassin), Jennifer Jason Leigh, Stanley Tucci.  Beautiful filmmaking.  Nominated for six AAs, won for Best Cinematography (Conrad L. Hall), and Thomas Newman nominated for his haunting music, as well as deservedly the spot-on Art Direction.  (seen once)
Spectre
— 2015;  Sam Mendes;  don’t care for the trite predictable silly stereoBond script, but masterful cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema;  Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz as the evil mastermind, Ralph Fiennes as M, Lea Seydoux as the Bond girl;  fantastic opening tracking shot thru an amazingly staged & costumed Day of The Dead in Mexico City;  first Bond movie I’ve seen since the ’70s;  I like Daniel Craig as 007 — wouldn’t have watched this is not for his great performance in Knives Out;  exquisite exotic location shooting, as is Bond stock-in-trade, in a half-dozen different countries;  plus incredible sets;  and sound editing;  and art direction;  and great music by the brilliant Thomas Newman (who’s now my favorite film composer);  incredible filmmaking but not a great film (never care about any character, and you know how it’s gonna end);  $245,000,000 budget!  (seen once)

Mike Nichols 
In making movies, time is so short — because it is so expensive — that we tend to neglect the place from which the best ideas come, namely that part of ourselves that dreams.  The unconscious is our best collaborator.”
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — 1966;  Mike Nichols;  Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis.  The brilliant mesmerizing Shakespearian heavyweight rollercoaster based on Edward Albee’s Tony Award-winning Best Play.  All his words of the play were the script, except for 2 lines, after the screenwriter who was paid and credited and delivered a disaster was still given writing credit.  Mike Nichols’ directorial debut. (!) Liz Taylor had never rehearsed for a film performance before in her life — until Mike Nichols made all four of them work it up for 3 solid weeks.  The four actors were all nominated for Oscars.  Liz & Sandy won, plus for Best Cinematography, Art Direction & Costumes.  This film drove a stake into the heart of film censorship and is kind of in a class of its own.  Or in whatever class is the top of all movies ever made.  B&W  (4)
The Graduate — 1967;  Mike Nichols;  Buck Henry & Calder Willingham from a novel by Charles Webb;  Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross, and Norman Fell writer Buck Henry in a bit part.  (4)
Catch 22 — 1970;  Mike Nichols;  from Joseph Heller book, screenplay by Buck Henry;  Alan Arkin, Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel, Martin Balsam, Jack Gifford, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Martin Sheen, Orson Welles, Bob Balaban, Norman Fell  (seen once)
Heartburn — 1986;  Mike Nichols;  from novel & screenplay by Nora Ephron;  Meryl Streep (as Nora), Jack Nicholson (as her husband Carl Bernstein), plus Jeff Daniels, Maureen Stapleton, Stockard Channing, Catherine O’Hara, Miloš Forman.  The great Nora Ephron’s firsthand account her marriage and breakup with the legendary Watergate reporter.  And with Mike Nichols directing a Nora Ephron script starring Nicholson & Streep . . . that is one Fab Four!  (seen twice)
Postcards From The Edge —  1990;  Mike Nichols;  Carrie Fisher wrote book & screenplay;  Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep & Shirley MacLaine as mother & daughter, with great small role cameos by Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner, Conrad Bain, Mary Wickes, Annette Bening, Oliver Platt, and Canada’s own Blue Rodeo (with Bob Weisman playing accordion in bare feet); score by Carly Simon, and an Oscar-nominated song by Shel Silverstein;  about drugs, addiction, showbiz families & rock n roll.  (seen twice)
The Birdcage — 1996;  Mike Nichols;  Elaine May screenplay;  Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman  (4)
Primary Colors — 1998;  Mike Nichols;  Joe Klein book, Elaine May screenplay;  John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Kathy Bates; about the Clintons in 1992.  (3)
Charlie Wilson’s War — 2007;  Mike Nichols;  Aaron Sorkin;  Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Peter Gerety  (3)

Christopher Nolan
The screen is the same size for every story.  A shot of a teacup is the same size as an army coming over the hill.  It’s all storytelling.”
Memento — 2000;  Chris Nolan;  screenplay by Nolan, from a short story by his younger brother Jonathan;  Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantollano, Stanley Tobolowsky, Mark Boone Junior.  (4)
Inception — 2010;  written & directed by Christopher Nolan;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Lucas Haas, Tom Hardy.  Amazing effects, and interesting concepts, but hard to follow and ultimately meaningless and unrewarding. (seen once)
Oppenheimer — 2023;  screenwritten & directed by Christopher Nolan; Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Josh Hartnett, Tom Conti, Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Modine, Dane DeHaan, Rami Malek, Matthew Modine, James Remar, Casey Affleck, Sean Avery, and a masterful nearly unrecognizable Gary Oldman as President Truman!  Won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor for Cillian, Supporting for Downey, Cinematography, Editing and Score.  Nolan said he intentionally chose well-known actors for the many men in suits so the audience could more easily keep them straight.  Amazing cast, but a dry story with too much inserted politics and personal relationships including embarrassingly gratuitous naked sex scenes and a lot of men arguing in rooms. It never made me care about the character or story — like Benedict Cumberbatch did successfully in the similar The Imitation Game (set during the same time and war effort), or Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind or Jesse Eisenberg in A Social Network — all stories about eccentric socially awkward geniuses.  These are not impossible to make engaging.  Somehow the Barbenheimer double feature made the doll seem more important than the history-changing scientist.  The film is hard to follow due to the incessant flipping around between all different time periods.  Watching it felt like homework for a required class I didn’t want to take in the first place.  It’s too much about *inquiries* into Oppenheimer than the story of the invention and use of the bomb — more of a courtroom or boardroom drama than a personal story like, say, Hamilton.  And it’s completely devoid of any light moments, which to me is a failure of filmmaking when dealing with a 3-hour serious drama.  Even Death of a Salesman or Goodfellas contain light moments in dark dramas.  B&W (the Strauss [Downey] perspective) and color (Oppenheimer’s perspective).  (seen twice)

Frank Oz
“Do or do not.  There is no try.  Only do.”
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels — 1988;  Frank Oz;  Michael Caine, Steve Martin, Glenne Headly  (3)
What About Bob? — 1991;  Frank Oz;  Bill Murray, Richard Dreyfuss, Julie Hagerty  (4)

Alan Pakula
“If you’re going to make a film, you have to try to make sure it comes out of a childlike passion, as if you’re doing it for the first time.”
Klute — 1971;  Alan Pakula;  Jane Fonda (deservedly won Best Lead Actress Oscar) and Donald Sutherland, Roy Scheider with a bit part, and a pre-Edith Jean Stapleton in a tiny part; great script nominated for Best Screenplay;  Jane Fonda’s New York apartment was an elaborate set that she could actually live in during filming.  (seen once)
All The President’s Men — 1976;  Alan Pakula;  based on book by Woodward & Bernstein;  brilliant cinematography by Gordon Willis;  Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Ned Beatty, Stephen Collins, Meredith Baxter, Robert Walden.  87 mins in there’s an historic TV clip of the great Elizabeth Drew interviewing Nixon’s Attorney General.  Rewatching and being blown away by this film for the first time in decades during the lockdown summer of 2020 inspired my Film Studies deep-dive program.  Revisiting this movie is mind-blowing in how it reflects trump taking Nixon’s amoral authoritarian corruption to the stratosphere.  This authoritarian power grab is trumpism in its infancy.  Everything that Watergate and this movie foretold as an immanent danger to American democracy came to pass with the practiced evil of trump’s manipulative sociopathy.  Exactly what was stopped by the Washington Post is the evil that’s proliferating now when a criminal autocrat can manipulate the functions of government and media.  The 2-disc Special Edition has fantastic making-of documentaries, but the Robert Redford commentary is to-die-for.  He was the guy who first saw the story as being about Woodward & Bernstein, not the Watergate crime per se.  He contacted the two before they ever wrote the book, and said THIS was the story.  HOW they uncovered it.  Not the “it” — but the “how.”  Redford saw and pitched it as a real-life detective thriller … and every studio turned him down.  And the lone studio that was interested, Warner Brothers, wouldn’t make it unless he starred in it.  It was making The Candidate that led to Redford’s connections to political journalists.  It’s almost as amazing a story of how this film came to be created as the story itself.  And hearing Redford describe what was behind each scene and shot is a gift from beyond. Nobody was more involved in why this film exists than Robert Redford. It deservedly won Oscars for Best Screenplay, Art Direction and Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee, but what an historic mistake that this didn’t win Best Picture.  Mind you, it was up against Taxi Driver, Network, Bound For Glory and Rocky . . . and fucking Rocky won!  I love the Academy of filmmakers n all — but boy, do they get it wrong sometimes.  🙂  (4)

Arthur Penn 
“I don’t storyboard.  I guess it dates back to my days in live television, where there was no possibility of storyboarding and everything was shot right on the spot — live on the air — at the moment we were transmitting.  I prefer to be open to what the actors do, how they interact to the given situation.”
Bonnie and Clyde — 1967;  Arthur Penn;  Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway (both Oscar nominated), Estelle Parsons (won Best Supporting Actress), Michael J. Pollard (nominated for Best Supporting), Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder.  Spectacular filmmaking from a great Oscar nominated script.  Won for Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey).  Foundation film of the sexy “New Hollywood” antihero movies.  (4)
Little Big Man — 1970;  Arthur Penn;  Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George, Martin Balsam, William Hickey  (3)

D.A. Pennebaker 
“I think the process is one of using the camera and sound in the way a detective uses a magnifying glass: to find the clues.  They’re discovery devices, not performance devices — you’re watching things the way a cat does.  You’re not judging.  You’re there to witness something.”
Don’t Look Back — 1967;  D.A. Pennebaker;  Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Donovan, Joan Baez, Alan Price, Bobby Neuwirth, Albert Grossman  B&W  (4)
’65 Revisited — 2007;  new version of Don’t Look Back made by Pennebaker of original footage outtakes not used in the original.  B&W (2)
Monterey Pop — 1968;  D.A. Pennebaker;  Mamas & Papas, Canned Heat, Simon & Garfunkel, Hugh Masekela, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Animals avec violin, The Who, Country Joe & The Fish, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar.  The first rock festival movie that set the standard for all that followed.   (4)
Sweet Toronto — 1971;  D.A. Pennebaker;  documentary of the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival concert in Toronto in 1969 featuring John Lennon’s first solo gig, along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis & Bo Diddley.  (3)
You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zb_PRqyqn_A&ab_channel=cecilioperlan

Jimi Plays Monterey — 1986;  D.A. Pennebaker’s revisit of the ’67 concert footage featuring all of Hendrix’s half-hour set.  (3)
The War Room — 1993;  D.A. Pennebaker & wife Chris Hegedus;  great documentary about the behind-the-scenes of Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign.  (3)
Woodstock Diary — 1994;  3-part TV special about the ’69 concert by D.A. Pennebaker & wife Chris Hegedus;  features tons of performances and audience footage not in Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 Woodstock movie.  (1)

Roman Polanski
“Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.”
Rosemary’s Baby — 1968;  Roman Polanski;  Mia Farrow, Ruth Gordon, John Cassavetes (Guy), Charles Grodin  (seen once)
Chinatown — 1974;  Roman Polanski;  Robert Towne won the Best Screenplay Oscar from his own original story, and this script is now taught in every screenwriting course (Polanski also sculpted a lot of it, uncredited);  Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston (the king of original Film Noir), John Hillerman, Burt Young, James Hong (the maitre d’ in the famous Seinfeld “Chinese Restaurant” episode), and Roman Polanski with a cameo as the man with the knife. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Lead Actor (Nicholson) & Actress (Dunaway), Art Direction, Costumes & more – but only Towne won — it was Coppola & Godfather II‘s big year.  Polanski’s last film made in America.  Filmed on locations all over Los Angeles.  Jack Nicholson is in every scene of the movie (ie; the story’s all seen thru his eyes).  Set in 1937.  Seabiscuit makes a newspaper cameo at the start of the 3rd scene.  Great score composed by Jerry Goldsmith in 11 days (the same number of days it took me to write The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac 🙂 ).   It’s kind of weird seeing a classic Film Noir in color.  “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”  Polanski wrote that line.  All that going for it, I don’t really like this movie as much as everybody else seems to.  (seen once)

Sydney Pollack
“There’s no question that a good script is absolutely the essential thing for a movie.  But it’s a director’s medium because all of the major decisions are made by the director, including who the writer is most of the time, or whether the writer will be rewritten.  The director decides things like cast, where you’ll shoot, when you’ll shoot, is it going to be a long shot, is it going to be a close shot, is it going to go round and round the people, how fast are they going to talk, what’s the pacing of the scene, what they’re going to wear.  All those decisions are directorial decisions, just as they are in the editing room.”
The Swimmer — 1968;  Sydney Pollack & Frank Perry;  Burt Lancaster, Kim Hunter, Joan Rivers (screen acting debut).  Based on a 12-page John Cheever story about a guy who decides to swim home through his neighbors’ pools.  Marvin Hamlisch’s first film as a composer, age 23.  A surreal epic journey home a la Odysseus, with an element of Dante’s descending levels of Inferno.  It’s about the illusions and delusions of grandeur we tell ourselves finally confronting reality.  Beautifully filmed entirely on location in upscale Connecticut suburbs.  Burt Lancaster said repeatedly it was his favorite of all his films.  He called it “Death of A Salesman in swimming trunks.”  (seen once and would love to again) 
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? — 1969;  Sydney Pollack;  Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Suzannah York, Gig Young, Red Buttons, Bruce Dern, Al Lewis, Michael Conrad.  Nominated for nine Academy Awards! Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Jane Fonda for Lead, Susannah York for Supporting (her only nom), Production Design, Editing, Costumes and Score — and Gig Young won for Best Supporting.  Holds the distinction of being the movie with the most nominations without getting a Best Picture nod.  Based on a 1935 novel about desperate people in a dance marathon in the depression (1932) — very similar visually and character-wise to The Sting — which was set 4 years later (and made 4 years later).  A movie about exploiting misery, and how the poor are pushed beyond dignity and endurance for profiteering and showbiz.  (seen once)
Absence of Malice — 1981;  Sydney Pollack; Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Wilfred Brimley.  (seen once)
Tootsie — 1982;  Sydney Pollack;  Larry Gelbert story;  Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Geena Davis  (3)
Sketches of Frank Gehry — 2006;  Sydney Pollack – the last film he directed before being diagnosed and dying of cancer.  One of my favorite filmmakers documents one of my favorite architects, who was in his mid-70s at the time, after the two been friends for decades.  Spectacular doc getting inside the mind of the most influential architect of the last half-century.  A good Canadian boy, he began his creative life in Toronto.  He’s funny, makes dry jokes, and is Prankster-like in this playfulness.  He hung with artists (painters) feeling more at home with them than other architects.  He doesn’t know how to use computers (!) so he assembled a team who knew 3D computer generating which allowed him to be even more creative because they could reproduce his visions precisely for contractors and construction people.  They talk about his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao Spain as the building that blew open what he did, including causing visitors to the city to double in its first year.  Includes interviews with Dennis Hopper (who lives in a Gehry house!), Philip Johnson, artists Julian Schnabel and Ed Ruscha, Bob Geldof, Michael Eisner and Barry Diller.  (seen once) 

Harold Ramis
“I’m at my best when I’m working with really talented people, and I’m there to gently suggest or guide or inspire or contribute whatever I can to their effort.  It’s not like I’m gonna tell Robert De Niro how to act — but I could provide him with useful anecdotal material from my own life or other people I’ve known, or actual psychological information, or insights into his character.  The technique’s up to him.  But, there are ways to gently urge an actor to pick up the pace or slow it down or focus more, to go bigger or smaller.  Some actors are very open right at the beginning — they say, ‘You only need four words with me: bigger, smaller, faster, slower.'”
Animal House — 1978;  John Landis;  written by Harold Ramis;  John Belushi, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce  (4)
Caddyshack — 1980;  Harold Ramis;  written by Brian Doyle-Murray & Harold Ramis;  Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Ted Knight  (3)
National Lampoon’s Vacation — 1983;  dir. Harold Ramis;  written by John Hughes;  Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quad, Imogene Coca  (4)
Club Paradise — 1986;  Harold Ramis;  written by Harry Shearer, Harold Ramis, Brian Doyle-Murray;  Robin Williams, Peter O’Toole, Rick Moranis & Eugene Levy {the two Barry’s}, Twiggy, Jimmy Cliff  (3)
Groundhog Day — 1993;  Harold Ramis;  Ramis also cowrote screenplay;  Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stanley Tobolowsky  (4)
Analyze This — 1999;  Harold Ramis;  Billy Crystal & Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Lisa Kudrow  (3)

Nicholas Ray
“In the theater, words are eighty to eighty-five percent of the importance of what is happening to you for your comprehension.  In film, words are about twenty percent — it’s a different figure, almost an opposite ratio — the words are only a little bit of embroidery, a little bit of lacework.”
They Live By Night1948;  Nicholas Ray;  produced by John Houseman;  adapted for the screen by Ray from a 1937 novel Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson (you can read a great piece about the book and its connection to Bonnie & Clyde here);  Farley Granger & Cathy O’Donnell, plus Jay C. Flippen, Will Wright.  The first film Ray made, but the third to be released.  The opening sequence (and several other spots) features some of the first helicopter-shot action sequences on film.  Theme of a sympathetic young couple on the run from the law, a sub-genre that later included Bonnie & Clyde and Badlands.  Altman made a version of the same novel (and keeping its name) in 1974, Thieves Like Us.  Truffaut thinks this is Ray’s best film, and both Godard & Scorsese are huge fans of it.  B&W  (seen once)
In A Lonely Place1950;  Nicholas Ray;  Humphrey Bogart & Gloria Graham.  Murder mystery love affair set in L.A.  The movie was a big influence on Curtis Hanson for his L.A. Confidential.  B&W  (seen once)
Rebel Without A Cause1955;  Nicholas Ray;  original story by Nicholas Ray;  James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Dennis Hopper  (4)
We Can’t Go Home Again1973 (there was an updated version in 1976, but the one you want to see is the 2011 restored/reconstructed version);  written (including with his wife Susan Ray), directed by & starring Nicholas Ray — his revealing, honest, weird, wild, experimental, simultaneous-multi-image (superimpositions) documentary/fiction blend film about the counterculture and filmmaking with his film students as subjects.  Shot on Super 8, 16mm, 35mm & a video synthesizer (donated by Nam June Paik).  It’s an absolutely insane movie, but I did find it can’t-turn-away riveting. It’s very fast-paced, and surreal, and — you have NO IDEA what’s going to happen next.  I saw it once 30 years ago, and realized when I watched it a second time in 2021 that I never forgot a lot of the scenes.  This is the craziest movie in the world that I LOVE.  This movie is not Titanic. 🙂  Scorsese, Godard & Truffaut think Nick Ray’s brilliant – and I do, too.  (seen twice)
Lightning Over Water1980;  directed by and starring Wim Wenders and Nicholas Ray.  Ronee Blakley’s in it.  I saw at Papp’s Public Theater in the Village with Susan Ray.

Rob Reiner 
“The most important thing is that you be a good person and you live by the golden rule of do unto others.  If you live by that, that’s all I care about.”
Spinal Tap — 1984;  Rob Reiner;  writers Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner;  starring Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner, Fred Willard, Bruno Kirby, Fran Drescher  (4)
Stand By Me — 1986;  Rob Reiner;  written by Stephen King;  Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Cory Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland  (3)
When Harry Met Sally — 1989;  Rob Reiner;  written by Nora Ephron;  Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby  (3)
Misery — 1990;  Rob Reiner;  from Stephen King book;  Kathy Bates & James Caan  (3)
A Few Good Men — 1992;  Rob Reiner;  original play & brilliant script (his first) by Aaron Sorkin (inspired by true story of a Code Red at Guantanamo);  the great Robert Richardson as cinematographer; Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Bacon, J.T. Walsh, Kiefer Sutherland, Christopher Guest, Cuba Gooding Jr., and an Aaron Sorkin cameo.  I’m not really a fan of courtroom dramas – but this one’s riveting.  A to-die-for cast working for one of the best directors in the game using one of the best storyteller’s words.  A modern classic for good reason.  (seen once)
The American President — 1995;  Rob Reiner;  written by Aaron Sorkin; Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael J. Fox, Anna Deavere Smith, David Paymer;  a widowed sitting President runs for re-election while falling in love with an environmental lobbyist.  (1)
The Bucket List2007;  Rob Reiner;  great “meaning-of-life” script by Justin Zackham;  Jack Nicholson & Morgan Freeman, plus Sean Hays, Rob Morrow (playing a doctor like he did on Northern Exposure).  Two guys with terminal diseases decide to and do all the things they always wanted to.  Working with Jack Nicholson was on Morgan Freeman’s bucket list. 🙂  John Mayer wrote the beautiful song “Say” for the movie.  “Say what you need to say.”  (seen once)
Shock and Awe — 2017;  directed by and starring Rob Reiner;  Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Tommy Lee Jones, Jessica Biel, Mila Jovovich and the always mesmerizing Richard Schiff.  Powerful fact-based docudrama about Knight Ridder newspapers uncovering the truth of the Bush administration’s lies about WMDs in Iraq.  Vivid capture of the absolute evil of Cheney, Rumsfeld, George W. & company.  Great script (even if a smidge melodramatic sometimes).  Perfect balance of drama, lightness, and romance.  Plus, enticing cinematography and transportive production design.  It’s a movie about historic journalism like All The Presidents Men and The Post, including a Woodward & Bernstein-like pairing with Woody & Marsden, and a Deep Throat character (named Loose Nukes).  Nice Tim Russert archival footage.  Gawd — do I (we all) miss him!  (seen twice)

Ivan Reitman
“Everybody says how hard comedy is, but, when it comes time to honor things, whether it’s on a weekly critical basis or whether it’s awards time, at that time of the year, comedy is the poor, dumb child of dramatic work.”
Stripes — 1981;  Ivan Reitman;  Bill Murray, John Candy, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, Nicholas Ray in last screen appearance cameo in final scene.   (3)
Ghostbusters — 1984;  Ivan Reitman;  written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis;  Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis  (4)
Dave —  1993;  Ivan Reitman;  Oscar-nominated screenplay by Gary Ross (who also wrote Big, Pleasantville & Seabiscuit);  Kevin Kline (boy, that guy is one helluvan actor), Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella (a perfectly despicable badguy), Kevin Dunn (as Press secretary), Ving Rhames, Ben Kingsley (who doesn’t appear until an hour 20 into the movie), Laura Linney, Charles Grodin, Stephen Root, Anna Deavere Smith, Bonnie Hunt;  plus tons of cameos of entertainers and politicos playing themselves including — Tip O’Neill, Chris Dodd, Tom Harkin, Howard Metzenbaum, Alan Simpson, Paul Simon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Helen Thomas, Nina Totenberg, Sander Vanocur, Michael Kinsley, Jay Leno, Larry King, Ben Stein — and John McLaughlin, Eleanor Clift, Chris Matthews, Mort Kondracke & Freddie “The Beatle” Barnes in an improvised McLaughlin Group segment.  Absolutely great political comedy about a doppelgänger (Kline) for the president being enlisted to fill in for him.  Both Clinton & Obama loved this movie.  And so do I.  This is SUCH a great movie!  I actually got choked up several times, but then I’m a softy that way.  It’s a beautiful modern update on Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  (3)

Jay Roach 
“I love making people laugh. It’s an addiction and it’s probably dysfunctional, but I am addicted to it, and there’s no greater pleasure for me than sitting in a theater and feeling a lot of people losing control of themselves.”
Mystery Alaska — 1999;  Jay Roach;  Russell Crowe, Hank Azaria, Michael McKean, Burt Reynolds, Phil Esposito, Mike Myers, Terry David Mulligan, Little Richard, Mary McCormick.  Funny hockey movie.  (seen once)
Meet The Parents — 2000;  Jay Roach;  Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson  (4)
Recount — 2008;  Jay Roach;  Kevin Spacey, John Hurt, Laura Dern, Bob Balaban, Denis Leary;  Ed Begley Jr.;  amazing HBO dramatization about the 2000 election recount in Florida.  (seen once)
Game Change — 2012;  Jay Roach;  Danny Strong screenplay from the Heilemann – Halperin book;  Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin, Ed Harris as John McCain, Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt, Sarah Paulson as Nicole Wallace, plus Ron Livingston, Austin Penndleton.  HBO Film about the Palin pick and election in 2008.  Won Emmys for Best Movie, Director, Writing, Lead Actor, and Casting.  An accurate dramatization praised by Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace, who were both right in the middle of it.  (seen once)
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House — 2017; screenplay & directed by Peter Landesman; based on Mark Felt’s book; produced by Jay Roach, Hollywood’s go-to political film director for the last two decades;  Liam Neeson (absolutely brilliantly as Mark Felt, aka “Deep Throat”), Michael C. Hall (as John Dean), Diane Lane, Bruce Greenwood, Tom Goldwyn (the bad guy from Ghost), Tom Sizemore (!).  How did this not get more attention?!  This is All The President’s Men … but from the real Deep Throat’s perspective.  THIS is filmmaking! — cinematography, editing … and dramatization.  What a great script!  And all with a subtle, perfect music score.  Here’s the trailer.  (seen once)
Bombshell — 2019;  Jay Roach;  Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, John Lithgow as Roger Ailes, Richard Kind as Rudy Giuliani, Allison Janney as Susan Estrich, Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch, Stephen Root as one of the lawyers, and Kate McKinnon & Margot Robbie as composite characters created for the narrative through-line.  Theron & Robbie were nominated for Oscars, and the makeup & prosthetics were so good creating the likenesses that it *won* for the Oscar.  It’s from an original script by Charles Randolph, who won for writing The Big Short, and directed by Jay Roach who did all the Austin Powers and Meet The Parents/Fockers movies before switching to the political world doing Recount about the 2000 election, then Game Change about 2008, and now this about politics in 2016.  He also did a comedy called The Campaign with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.  Roach’s wife is Susanna Hoffs from The Bangles who does a very cool, haunting vocal soundtrack.  Megyn Kelly watched it with four other people depicted in the movie and thought it was so important she made a half-hour show about it to her YouTube channel.  (seen once)

David O. Russell
“The holy trifecta of directing and filmmaking is character emotion, camera movement and music.  When you hit those three, that’s magical.  That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Flirting With Disaster — 1996;  written & directed by David O. Russell;  Téa Leoni, Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Richard Jenkins, Josh Brolin.  (3)
Silver Linings Playbook — 2012;  written & directed by David O. Russell;  Jennifer Lawrence won her Best Lead Actress Oscar;  Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro & Jacki Weaver all Oscar nominated, first time a picture got all 4 since Reds in 1981.  Plus Chris Tucker (other than Rush Hour, his first film since Jackie Brown), Julia Stiles, Paul Herman.  Also nominated for Best Picture, and the brilliant Screenplay, Director, Editing.  A great movie about how broken people can deal with life — something we can all relate to.  (3)
American Hustle — 2013;  screenplay co-written & directed by David O. Russell;  Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence — all four of whom were deservedly nominated for Academy Awards.  Not to mention Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., an uncredited Robert De Niro, and Jack Huston (John Huston’s grandson who played Kerouac in “Kill Your Darlings”).  Nominated for TEN Academy Awards — won zero.  🙁 Opens with a card” “Some of this actually happened.”  (How Kill Your Darlings should have opened instead of with “This is a true story.” 😉 )  Set in 1978.  Fantastic filmmaking!  Brilliant script.  Killer soundtrack.  (seen once)
Joy — 2015;  produced, cowritten & directed by David O. Russell;  Jennifer Lawrence (Oscar nominated for Lead Actress), Robert De Niro, a magnificent Bradley Cooper, Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, Edgar Ramirez, a wicked Isabella Rossellini, and Melissa Rivers playing her mother Joan.  A biopic of inventor Joy Mangano with some dramatic license taken by writer/director Russell.  Bradley & Jennifer’s 4th film together (after Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, Serena).  Great characters & spectacular performances in a rich uplifting story.  What a great movie this is.  (seen twice)

Gene Saks
“It isn’t easy to make people laugh.  I’ve never directed a serious play or movie.  To me, all the comedies I’ve directed are serious.  I approach them with deadly seriousness.  If it’s so serious it becomes funny.”
Barefoot In The Park — 1967;  Gene Saks;  screenplay & play by Neil Simon;  Robert Redford (reprising his role from the hit Broadway production directed by Mike Nichols, and his first movie to be a box office hit), Jane Fonda – the third of five movies the two would star in – plus Charles Boyer and Mildred Natwick (also reprising her role from the Broadway stage, and nominated for Best Supporting Actress);  costumes by Edith Head; great production design with the New York apartments and staircases; comedy set in and with tons of location shooting in Greenwich Village;  their apt. was on Waverly Place right next to my Washington Sq North apt.  Climactic scene on location in Washington Sq. Park.  Not really a great story or anything.  Kinda corny simplistic G-rated Simon dialog.  (seen once)
The Odd Couple — 1968;  Gene Saks;  Neil Simon;  Walter Matthau & Jack Lemmon, John Fielder  (4)
Cactus Flower — 1969;  Gene Saks;  from Abe Burrows’ Broadway stage play;  Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman (her first shooting in America since the 1940s) [Lauren Bacall had been playing the role on Broadway for two years when film was made & was pissed she didn’t get the movie], Goldie Hawn (won Oscar in her first role), Jack Weston, Vito Scotti;  Quincy Jones does great sixties music.  Sarah Vaughan sings the closing song.  Tons of great location shooting in Greenwich Village and Midtown Manhattan circa 1969.  (seen twice)

Walter Salles
“The more you reason about what the project should be at the beginning of the process, the more you can improvise later.”
Central Station — 1998;  Walter Salles;  touching movie about search for parental and spiritual heritage; all filmed on location in Brazil.  Also effectively a “road” like Motorcycle Diaries and On The Road.  (seen twice)
The Motorcycle Diaries — 2004;  Walter Salles;  Jose Rivera’s screenplay based on Che Guevara’s book;  the “road” movie that caused Roman Coppola to bring Walter Salles in to direct Kerouac’s On The Road, who then brought the screenwriter to the project.  (seen once)
On The Road — 2012 — film version of the iconic novel finally hit the screen 65 years after the adventure, 61 years after the Scroll was written, 55 years after publication, 33 years after Coppola bought the rights, and 8 years after the director Walter Salles was approached;  over 60,000 miles covered in the filming;  ironically it took an international consortium to get this Great American Novel filmed — a Brazilian director, French producers, cinematographer & editor, British actors, Argentineans doing the art direction and score composition, a Puerto Rican screenwriter, and it was mostly filmed in Canada — directed by Walter Salles — starring Sam Riley as Jack;  Garrett Hedlund as Neal;  Kristen Stewart as LuAnne;  Kirsten Dunst as Carolyn;  Tom Sturridge as Allen;  Viggo Mortensen as Bill;  Amy Adams as Joan;  Danny Morgan as Al Hinkle, and Elisabeth Moss as Helen Hinkle.  Also includes surprise appearances by Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard, and Coati Mundi as Slim Gaillard.  Notable for its use of the scroll version of On The Road rather than the ’57 version;  the cinematography, the editing, the musical score, the art direction, the location shooting, the actors’ camaraderie & improvising, Viggo’s Burroughs and Kristen’s LuAnne.  It’s its own work of art — based on an existing work of art.  Color, 126 min. (revised North American version);  137 min. (original European version)
Here’s a story of going to the U.K. premiere in London.
Here’s the tale of being at the North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and meeting Walter Salles.
Here’s what it was like being at the New York premiere and afterparty.
Here’s the amazing Cannes press conference — absolute required viewing for anyone interested in this movie.
Here’s the cool trailer.
Here’s three minutes from early in the movie where Sal & Dean are talking about their missing fathers, into Dean parking cars.
Here’s the new year’s eve party dancing scene.
Here’s Marylou and Sal in the car.
Here’s Sal & Camille dancing together to Ella Fitzgerald in the roadhouse.
Here’s the six deleted scenes that are included on the French DVD as Extras. (4)
Or the stories of seeing the screenings are also available in How The Beats Begat The Pranksters along with a whole bunch of other Beat tales and Adventures.

John Sayles 
“I want to direct films that no one else is going to make.  I know if I don’t make them, I’m never going to see them.  Of course, I hope some people will want to see my movies as well, but I don’t pander to the public.  I won’t try to second guess what a Hollywood studio would like to see in a low-budget film, so that they will hire me the next time around.  I know I will always do better work if I do projects in which I really believe.  And if I never get to direct again, I will have made some movies I can feel proud of.”
Return of the Secaucus Seven — 1979;  written & directed by John Sayles;  John Sayles, David Strathairn, this movie is widely credited as the inspiration for The Big Chill, which many say was just a rip-off of this Sayles film.  (3)
The Brother From Another Planet — 1984;  written & directed by John Sayles;  Joe Morton as the “Brother”  (seen once)
Matewan — 1987;  written & directed by John Sayles;  Chris Cooper stars – and it’s his first movie!  plus James Earl Jones, David Straithairn  (4)
Eight Men Out — 1988;  written & directed by John Sayles;  cinematography by Robert Richardson;  John Cusack, Bill Irwin, John Mahoney, David Strathairn, Charlie Sheen.  Dramatization of “the Black Sox” baseball scandal of 1919.  (seen twice)
City of Hope — 1991;  written, directed & editor by John Sayles who also plays a key role;  Vincent Spano, Barbara Williams, Chris Cooper, Tony Lo Bianco, Angela Bassett, Joe Morton, Kevin Tighe, Josh Mostel, a great David Strathairn, Joe Grifasi, Louis Zorich, Lawrence Tierney, and a small early role by Gina Gershon.  Urban street drama in an unnamed Eastern city about deteriorating neighborhoods full of drug users, thieves, liars, muggers, racists, the mob, corrupt city officials.  I’m so sick of movies filled with assholes.  I love John Sayles, but I don’t know why anyone would want to make or even watch movies like this.  There sure ain’t much “Hope” in this City.  (seen once)
The Secret of Roan Inish — 1994;  written for the screen, directed & edited by John Sayles;  beautifully photographed by Haskell Wexler;  about myths and reality blending in Ireland.  “Roan Inish” means “Island of Seals.”  Kind of like The Banshees of Inisherin — small town life shot on an island off Ireland — with a little bit of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Hitchcock’s The Birds.  Fantastic portrayals by all unknown actors — at least unknown to us North Americans.  Beautiful Irish fiddle, harp & drum music.  I don’t know HOW they got all the nature scenes with the seals and fish and birds!  (seen once)
Lone Star — 1996;  written & directed by John Sayles;  Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey (great performances by all), Clifton James, Stephen Mendillo, Ron Canada, Marco Perella, and a masterful young Francis McDormand in one scene.  Captivating plot-twisting script Oscar nominated for Best Screenplay.  Made for a minuscule $5 million.  Despite budget, incredible soundtrack including Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams, Big Joe Turner, Little Walter, Little Willie John & Freddy Fender.  Was #4 on both Roger Ebert’s and Time’s best films of 1996.  Set in a Texas/Mexico border town/county, and shot entirely on location.  Beautiful amazingly cool transitions — slow pan switches from present to flashbacks and back.  (seen twice)
Silver City — 2004;  written, directed & edited by John Sayles;  Chris Cooper, Richard Dreyfuss, Tim Roth, Danny Huston (John’s son), Mary Kay Place, James Gammon, Miguel Ferrer, Maria Bello, Billy Zane, Michael Murphy, David Clennon, Ralph ‘Mr. Walton’ Waite, Thora Birch, Kris Kristofferson, and a great Daryl Hannah.  Incredible cast because everyone wants to work for one of my favorite directors rocking a political satire of a George W. Bush-like candidate (Cooper) running for the Governor of Colorado with a manipulative Karl Rove-like campaign manager (Dreyfuss) and all with a polluter profiteer subplot.  The legendary Haskell Wexler lensed it. Dexter Gordon, Lucinda Williams, Joan Osbourne, the Cowboy Junkies and Steve Earle provide some of the music.  (seen once) 

Martin Scorsese 
“Always get to the set or the location early, so that you can be all alone and draw your inspiration for the blocking and the setups in private and quiet.  In one sense, it’s about protecting yourself; in another sense, it’s about always being open to surprise, even from the set, because there may be some detail that you hadn’t noticed.  I think this is crucial.  There are many pictures that seem good in so many ways except one: they lack a sense of surprise; they’ve never left the page.”

Boxcar Bertha — 1972;  Martin Scorsese; produced by Roger Corman;  Barbara Hershey & David Carradine (who were a couple at the time), Barry Primus, plus a great John Carradine (David’s father).  Like The Sting, Bonnie & Clyde & Paper Moon, a Depression-era criminal-hustler antihero drama.  Carradine plays a character very similar to his union-organizing train-hopping Woody Guthrie in Bound For Glory.  Scorsese’s second feature-length film.  He followed this with Mean Streets.  No masterpiece of filmmaking, but a good period drama with quality casting and characterizations.  (seen once)
Mean Streets — 1973;  directed and screenplay co-written by Martin Scorsese;  Robert De Niro & Harvey Keitel, plus Richard Romanus, David Proval, and a little cameo by David & Robert Carradine.  Scorsese’s first film that was all his — and was based on his own experiences growing up in Little Italy.  He & De Niro would go on to make 9 films together.  Precursor to Goodfellas, The Sopranos et al.  (seen once)
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore1974;  Martin Scorsese;  Ellen Burstyn (won Best Actress Oscar), Diane Ladd, Kris Kristofferson, Harvey Keitel, and a very young Jodie Foster.  Pretty great movie.  Very real-life.  But not boring.  Spawned the hit TV series Alice (which ran for 9 seasons, starring Linda Lavin).  Mott The Hopple & Leon Russell music!  (seen once)

Taxi Driver — 1976;  Martin Scorsese;  Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle.  One of the three movies Tarantino cites as his Best Three ever made (along with Howard Hawks Rio Bravo and De Palma’s Blow Out).   (3)
The Last Waltz — 1978;  Martin Scorsese;  The Band, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Eric Clapton, the Staple Sisters  (4)
Raging Bull — 1980;  Martin Scorsese;  from Jake LaMotta’s autobiography;  Robert De Niro (won the Best Actor Oscar), Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent.  Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, and Pesci & Moriarty for Supporting; Thelma Schoonmaker won for Editing!  Great filmmaking — including for all the above nominations, plus the script, art direction, and the New York and L.A. location shooting.  This is borderline making the Disturbing Movies list for its sexism and violence, but I decided it makes the list because I never want to watch it for those two reasons again.  B&W  (seen twice)
The King of Comedy — 1982;  Martin Scorsese; Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard (as very much herself), Shelley Hack, Johnny Carson’s producer Freddy De Cordova (which the show show is a total play on), plus a Clash cameo on the Times Square sidewalk, Tony Randall, Scorsese as the TV and Victor Borge on piano.  A lot of permit-less guerrilla shooting on the streets of Midtown Manhattan.  Great Ray Charles & Van Morrison music.  Very disturbing and wonderful.  (seen twice)
After Hours — 1985;  Martin Scorsese;  Griffin Dunne, Roseanna Arquette, Tommy Chong, Cheech Marin, Teri Garr, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara  (seen twice)
The Color of Money — 1986;  Martin Scorsese (his only film that came in under schedule and under budget);  Paul Newman as Fast Eddie (won his only Best Actor Oscar – but like Liz Taylor winning for Butterfield 8, it was Academy guilt to make up for for not giving it to him for The Verdict, Absence of Malice, Cool Hand Luke, Hud, The Hustler and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof), Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (age 27), John Turturro, Forest Whitaker and a cameo by Iggy Pop!  Spectacular editing (by Thelma Schoomaker) and cinematography (by Michael Ballhaus) of pool games. Music by Robbie Robertson – although Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London features in a great scene.  Nominated for Best Screenplay, Art Direction, and Mastrantonio for Supporting.  Based on the followup book to The Hustler, both written by Walter Tevis, but Scorsese & Paul Newman reworked Tevis’s original script, including to include a Jackie Gleason/ Minnesota Fats in it, but Gleason didn’t feel the character fit the script so he turned it down.  Set in Chicago and Atlantic City.  The only time Paul Newman ever reprised a character.  (seen once)
Goodfellas — 1990;  Martin Scorsese;  write Nicholas Pileggi;  Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino  (4)
Here’s the 3-minute tracking shot going into the Copacabana:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rX_vDVdmYA
Casino — 1995;  Martin Scorsese;  book by Nicholas Pileggi, screenplay by Scorsese — the same duo who created Goodfellas;  cinematography by the great Robert Richardson – the first time he & Scorsese worked their magic together;  Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone (her sole Oscar nomination), Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Frank Vincent, Kevin Pollak, Alan King, L.Q. Jones, Dick Smothers, Katie Scorsese (Marty’s mom), and a Steve Allen cameo.  A rare 3-hour movie.  The great Saul Bass did the exquisite title sequence.  And great sound editing.  And, boy, what a climax!  From story to script to casting to art direction to costuming to cinematography to editing to soundtrack — THIS is a masterpiece miracle that Iñárritu talks about when he says: “To make a film is easy.  To make a good film is war.  To make a great film is a miracle.”

The Aviator — 2004;  Martin Scorsese;  Robert Richardson won the Oscar for cinematography; ;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alex Baldwin, Alan Alda, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Edward Herrmann, Gwen Stefani.  Great biopic about Howard Hughes.  Cate Blanchett deservedly won Best Supporting Actress for her Katherine Hepburn; plus it won for cinematography, editing, art direction and costumes.  (3)
The Departed — 2006;  Martin Scorsese;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen;  Won Oscars for Best Picture, Screenplay, and Editing, and Scorsese finally for Best Director  (4)
Shine A Light — 2008;  Martin Scorsese;  Robert Richardson headed up an all-star camera team including Oscar-winners Robert Elswit, John Toll and The Lord of the Rings‘ Andrew Lesnie, and soon-to-be 3-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki;  Rolling Stones concert film from the Beacon Theater in NYC, with guest performances by Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy, & Jack White.  You can read my review of it here.  (seen once)
Shutter Island — 2010;  Martin Scorsese;  Robert Richardson cinematography;  from novel by Dennis Lehane (who also wrote Mystic River);  Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Michelle Williams, John Carroll Lynch  (seen twice)
Hugo — 2011;  Martin Scorsese;  Johnny Depp was one of the producers;  John Logan screenplay, based on a brilliant Brian Selznick illustrated book;  Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen (to great comic relief), Christopher Lee, Jude Law, Michael Stuhlbarg – and the two great unknown kid actors, Asa Butterfield & Chloë Grace Moretz;  the Oscar-winning cinematography by Robert Richardson is to die for!  It also deservedly won for Best Art Direction, Visual Effects & Sound Editing;  and shoulda won in its nominations for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Costumes & Music!  James Cameron called this “a masterpiece” and it sure as puck is.  You don’t want to take your eyes off the screen for one split second.  THIS is why God invented filmmakers!  Second-by-second jaw-dropping.  Set in Paris in 1931.  It cost $150,000,000 to make!!  Originally released in theaters in 3D.  In a way, it’s kind of a twist on Oliver Twist.  And there’s some echoes of the magic and fantasy and children’s perspective of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (without the music).  It’s Martin Scorsese meets Terry Gilliam.  Again — one of these movies NOBODY recommended I see — and it’s absolutely mind-blowing.  I don’t think there’s any movie that I’ve never seen before in my year-long Film Studies program that blew me away like Hugo did.  I only sought it out because my favorite cinematographer Robert Richardson won an Oscar for it.  Dig this — Robert Richardson shot the great live Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon, Scorsese’s Shine A Light in 2008;  Inglourious Basterds in 2009;  Shutter Island in 2010;  Hugo in 2011;  then Django Unchained in 2012.  WTF?!  😮  That’s FIVE cinematic masterpieces in a row!!  Be completely undistracted and focused for the opening sequence.  Trust me. 😉  It actually includes a literal History of Film.  There’s a great Harold Lloyd clock scene tribute, and multiple Django Reinhardt homage cameos.  8 minutes in — James Joyce & Salvador Dali can briefly be seen at a table together as Hugo is being chased through the train station.  This is one of those movies you never forget the first time you saw it.  Ken Kesey would’ve loved this.  It’s a movie about meaning and purpose and dreams and destiny.
“We could get into trouble.”
“That’s how you know it’s an adventure.” 🙂  (seen twice)
The Wolf of Wall Street — 2013;  Martin Scorsese;  based on Jordan Belfort book;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner  (3)
The Irishman — 2019;  Martin Scorsese;  Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin (from Winnipeg!), Sebastian Maniscalco, Steven Van Zandt, and comedian Jim Norton as Don Rickles (telling jokes Rickles actually told at the real event);  famous for its pioneering (and effective) digital de-aging technology for actor’s faces;  nominated for 10 Oscars – won zero;  Scorsese’s career-spanning editor Thelma Schoonmaker became oldest person ever nominated for a Best Editing Oscar at age 80;  the 9th film for Scorsese & De Niro (and the first since Casino in 1995!), but the first for Scorsese & Pacino;  Pacino & De Niro have been briefly in scenes together on film twice before – but nothing remotely like their extended back-&-forths here;  the 7th pairing of De Niro and Pesci, the first since The Good Shepherd in 2006;  at 3½ hours it’s the longest movie of Scorsese’s career, and the 106-day shooting schedule also the longest;  the first time both Pacino & Keitel and Pacino & Pesci appeared together on screen;  Joe Pesci’s last film, and had to be pleaded out of retirement;  the film was in development for over 10 years;  no Hollywood studio was willing to finance it, so Netflix finally did;  a wonderful fictional story based around real historical people & events;  almost immediately became a coveted Criterion Collection release.  This may be long, but my gawd, Scorsese is one helluva filmmaker!  (seen once)
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese — 2019;  Netflix; Scorsese;  with Dylan, lots of Allen Ginsberg, plus Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Scarlet Rivera, Ronee Blakley, Ronnie Hawkins, David Mansfield, Hurricane Carter, Gordon Lightfoot, Patti Smith.  Scorsese used footage shot for Bob’s ill-fated Renaldo & Clara and made a highly watchable documentary of the coolest single tour that ever happened.  Lots of footage at Kerouac’s gravesite, including Allen reading Jack’s Mexico City Blues to Bob.  I was struck again by the fact that it was D.A. Pennebaker filming Don’t Look Back and Monterey Pop that started this whole necessity of having handheld 16mm cameras filming rock shows and backstage.  Downside: There is an annoying & unnecessary inclusion of a fictional filmmaker and fictional promoter and actress Sharon Stone telling fictional stories about attending the shows that detracts from an otherwise invaluable telling of a priceless moment in cultural history.   (3)
Killers of The Flower Moon — 2023;  co-written (with Eric Roth) & directed by Martin Scorsese;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, John Lithgow, Brendan Fraser, Gene Jones.  Cost $200 million to make!  Part-Native Robbie Robertson scored the music — his final film.  Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto – who finished this, then went and shot Barbie!  A ton of dialog spoken in original Osage, including by De Niro.  Scorsese said he didn’t want to put in captions cuz he wanted the audience to watch the movie — not read the movie. (exactly how I feel about subtitled non-English films)  I can’t stomach the cruelty in this.  Too much death, suffering and betrayal.  As a Scorsese and film fan I haven’t enjoyed his transition into streaming services.  I’ll never watch his 3½ hour The Irishman a second time – but I’ll watch Goodfellas endlessly.  This story could have been told in half the time.  The only redeemable character spends half the film dying in bed.  Good points: Lily’s performance should win her a Best Actress Oscar — a first for a Native-American.  She reminds me of Damien Chazelle’s choice of unknown Mexican Diego Calva as the lead in Babylon.  Beautiful sets and costumes.  Nice casting with lots of native Osage filling out the supporting roles and extras.  I liked how the FBI flipped lower level criminals to work up the chain to get the kingpin — something that’s playing out in real life in a contemporary American tragedy.  (since once)

Steven Spielberg 
You can’t start a movie by having the attitude that the script is finished, because if you think the script is finished, your movie is finished before the first day of shooting”
Jaws — 1975;  Stephen Spielberg;  Peter Benchley novel & screenplay; Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Schnieder, Robert Shaw.  The first movie to gross $100 million at the box office.  (4)
Raiders of the Lost Ark — 1981;  Steven Spielberg;  Harrison Ford, Karen Allen  (3)
E.T. the ExtraTerrestrial — 1982;  Steven Spielberg; Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, C. Thomas Howell’s first film;  John Williams won for Best Score.  Was the top-grossing film of all time until Spielberg’s own Jurassic Park beat it in 1993.  (seen once)
Hook — 1991;  Steven Spielberg;  from J.M. Barrie’s book;  Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Maggie Smith, Bob Hoskins.  Incredible sets! (appropriately nominated for an Academy Award)   (seen twice)
Schindler’s List — 1993;  Steven Spielberg;  Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley  B&W and color  (1)
Catch Me If You Can — 2002;  Steven Spielberg;  from Frank Abagnale book;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Amy Adams  (3)
Lincoln — 2012:  Steven Spielberg (nominated for Best Director);  based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin book Team of Rivals, turned into a really smart script by Tony Kushner;  Daniel Day-Lewis (won Best Actor Oscar), Sally Fields (nominated for Best Supporting), Tommy Lee Jones (nominated for Best Supporting), David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tim Blake Nelson, David Constabile, Bruce McGill, David Oyelowo, and in bit parts Lucas Haas, Dane DeHaan & Adam Driver.  Music by John Williams.  Won Oscar for Best Production Design, nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design and Original Music.  Rather than a full biopic, it just focuses on his final few months when he fought for the Amendment to abolish slavery.  The only movie Spielberg ever directed wearing a suit & tie every day — because he wanted the formality and solemnity of the subject to be set from the top down.  Cool tidbit: he recorded the ticking of Lincoln’s own pocket watch for the scenes where you hear a watch/clock ticking. (seen once)
The Post — 2017;  Steven Spielberg;  Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bruce Greenwood (as McNamara), Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Bradley Whitford, Tracy Letts, Jesse Plemons, Sarah Paulson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Zach Woods, and Matthew Rhys as Daniel Ellsberg.  A masterpiece of filmmaking.  Nominated for Best Picture and Streep for Best Actress.  About the leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, and is thus a prequel to another cinematic masterpiece All The President’s Men about the Watergate story which broke in the same Post newsroom in late 1972.  In fact, the last scene of The Post (the Watergate break-in) is the beginning of All The President’s Men.  The script was co-written by Josh Singer (who also wrote Spotlight) and is based on 3 memoirs: Ellsberg’s, Ben Bradlee’s and Katherine Graham’s.  John Williams once again with a note-perfect original score — the 28th collaboration and 44th year of he & Spielberg working together.  The great Ann Roth did the costumes, as she’s done in cinematic from Midnight Cowboy on.  The film is dedicated “For Nora Ephron.” (4)
The Fabelmans — 2022;  co-written & directed by Steven Spielberg;  at 91, John Williams became the oldest person ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, including the use of Ragtime; plus 88-yr-old Judd Hirsch for Best Supporting Actor.  Also-nominated Best Lead Actress Michelle Williams is similarly great.  Plus newcomer Gabriel LaBelle is perfect as the teenage Spielberg, and Seth Rogan also goes beyond anything I’ve seen him do.  And a cameo by David Lynch as John Ford!  Heartfelt fictional biopic about someone becoming a filmmaker.  As soon as it ended, I wanted to see the sequel.  (seen once)

Quentin Tarantino 
“I treat actors like stars, and stars like actors.”
Reservoir Dogs — 1992;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney  (seen twice)
True Romance — 1993;  Tony Scott (Ridley Scott’s brother);  killer script by Quentin Tarantino;  with an mind-blowing cast — Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman (MAN is this guy one helluvan actor!), Christopher Walken (devastating), James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport (who I’ve loved in every role I’ve ever seen him in), Brad Pitt, Bronson Pinchot, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Saul Rubinek, Samuel Jackson (for one minute), Val Kilmer (as the largely unseen “Elvis” mentor), and Jack Black for a few seconds as the movie theater usher with the dog.  Brad Pitt created the whole stoner on the couch character which was not on the page in the script, improvising a lot of his lines you hear.  Fantastic music by the great Hans Zimmer.  Incredible Tarantinoesque film.  The pacing, the editing, the framing including the closeup choices, the casting including giving actors’ the leeway to improvise, the character introductions, the use of music, the graphic seat-of-your-pants scenes of violence, the underbelly-of-life realism, the use of humor in a bloody psychotic murder movie, the empathetic portrayal of people who kill other people, the obvious love of cars including the inordinate usage of scenes with dialog delivered in moving vehicles, effectively telling multiple storylines that all come together in the end . . . it’s uncanny and a glorious synergy we’re all that better for that these two filmmakers merged into one here.  This was written as part of his Natural Born Killers script; after the Hollywood writer wrote the glitzy script about Mickey & Mallory (in NBK) and they tried to track him down, this is the next script he wrote – about being stalked by psychotic killers.  Absolute must-see for any Tarantino fan.  (seen twice)
Pulp Fiction — 1994;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  John Travota, Samuel Jackson, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette  (3)
Four Rooms — 1995;  Four young master auteurs who all write & direct their own movies (Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Alexandre Rockwell & Allison Anders) tell four different stories all set in the same formerly upscale Hollywood hotel on New Year’s Eve, with bellhop Tim Roth as the thru-line character (and he positively slays, starring in four different movies in one).  It doesn’t jump around between the four stories like some movies do that tell multiple stories.  Each is a self-contained short film.  The way the four directors’ visions and style harmonize together is really something.  Featuring Antonio Banderas, Lili Taylor, Ione Skye (Donovan’s daughter), Madonna, Jennifer Beals & David Proval, Marisa Tomei & Kathy Griffin, Salma Hayek dancing on TV, producer Lawrence Bender, Bruce Willis (whose name doesn’t appear in credits because he violated SAG by appearing for free as a favor to Tarantino) plus oodles of others.  Fantastic 6-minute unbroken single-camera take by Tarantino opening his segment.  The great animator Chuck Jones (Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner, etc.) did the opening animation as a homage to The Pink Panther’s opening.  Five of Tarantino’s old friends from the Video Archives store days are in the Marisa Tomei / Kathy Griffin transition scene.  Wonderfully surreal playful crazy funny movie … with a to-die-for cast. (seen once — although the final 25-minute Tarantino segment I had caught on TV back in the ’90s and it was the first time I’d ever been exposed to a Q production).  Great line: “I’m not a frog, and you’re not a bunny — so let’s not jump ahead.” 🙂  (seen once)
Jackie Brown1997;  Quentin Tarantino;  screenplay by Tarantino based on Elmore Leonard novel;  Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker, Michael Bowen.  His followup to Pulp Fiction. Great mature character drama.  Brilliant writing & filmmaking, as always. (3)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 — 2003;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  cinematography by Robert Richardson;  Uma Thurman (with Zoë Bell as her stunt double), David Carradine (voice only), Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Michael Parks.  Q’s homage to the martial arts / kung-fu movies of the ’70s.  The Kill Bills are definitely my least favorite Tatantino films.  (seen once) 
Kill Bill Vol. 2 — 2004;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  cinematography by Robert Richardson;  Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Parks.  (seen once)
Death Proof — 2007;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell (in an unbelievable performance in basically her first movie, and she doesn’t appear until 65 minutes into it — yet steals the show), Rosario Dawson, Rose McGowan, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Tracie Thoms, Eli Roth, Michael Parks, Tarantino as the bar owner, AMi the jukebox (Tarantino’s), and Sydney Tamila Poitier (Sidney’s daughter) as Jungle Julie with the incredible hair.  Tarantino built this movie around a desire to film a classic car chase scene … and having a stuntwoman who could be an engaging lead on camera.  It’s his attempt at doing the greatest car chase scene ever — and the climactic 20 minutes of the movie certainly put it in contention.  😉  He made a point to credit himself as the Director of Photography which is quite visible in the imaginative and brilliantly filmed climactic sequence.  Done as a homage to ’70s car chase movies, specifically Vanishing Point, including the cool music (by Jack Nitzsche) and physically scratching & damaging the print to make it look old.  Contains a signature Tarantino 8-minute continuous shot with the four girls at a round table in a diner a la Reservoir Dogs at the start of the second half.  After three viewings, I really like this least-seen lowest-rated QT film.  (3)
Inglourious Basterds — 2009;  Quentin Tarantino;  Robert Richardson Oscar nominated for his cinematography;  Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Rod Taylor, Mike Myers  (4)
Django Unchained — 2012;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Robert Richardson Oscar nominated for his cinematography;  Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Michael Parks, and with tiny cameos as the trackers holding Kerry Washington, Michael Parks’ son James, Robert Carradine (younger brother of David), and his half-brother Michael Bowen, Zoe Bell, and Ted Neeley in the chair (Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar – his first film appearance in 30 years).  Won Oscar for Best Screenplay, and Waltz for Best Actor.  Also nominated for Best Picture & Cinematography for Robert Richardson.  Tarantino wanted to make a classic Western – but with a black hero – because there are no Westerns that black people can watch with a brother to root for.  And all done with smatterings of humor.  Fantastic filmmaking, as always.  (3)
The Hateful Eight — 2015; written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Robert Richardson Oscar nominated for his cinematography;  Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Zoe Bell.  Ennio Morricone won Best Music Oscar.  Eight people trapped in a cabin in the woods in winter.  Along the Kill Bill movies, my least favorite Tarantino film.  (seen once)
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood — 2019;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Robert Richardson Oscar nominated for his cinematography;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margo Robbie, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Emile Hirsch.  Rightly nominated for 10 Oscars — the top five films in every category for that year.  It rightly won two.  Production Design and Brad Pitt’s acting.  But shoulda won all ten.  Every time I watch this – prolly 6 or 7 times by now – I think, “This is a brilliant masterpiece of filmmaking in every regard.”  Here’s a great documentary on the making of it.  (4)

Gus Van Sant 
“You’re following your track, the story, your plan, your map for the audience, and all the other stuff is the fun stuff — the costumes, the locations, the set-dressing, the actors.  They can all be variables as you stick, however roughly, to your path.”
Drugstore Cowboy— 1989 — cowritten & directed by Gus Van Sant (his 2nd feature);  incredible cast — 24-yr-old Matt Dillon (he claims his favorite of all his films), Kelly Lynch, 18-yr-old Heather Graham in here first feature, James Le Gros, Max Perlich (Dulli in Blow), James Remar, Grace Zabriskie (Mrs. Ross on Seinfeld), and William Burroughs (who doesn’t appear until an hour-14 into the movie, and who wrote his own dialog and character backstory)!  About lowlife low-level drug addict thieves in Van Sant’s hometown of Portland in 1971 — not my kind of movie.  Editing of drug-taking scenes very much like Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000).  #2 on Roger Ebert’s and #3 or Gene Siskel’s Best Films of 1989!  Van Sant’s first feature, made on a minuscule $2.5 million budget.  (seen once and never again)
My Own Private Idaho — 1991;  written & directed by Gus Van Sant;  River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, Flea, James Russo, Grace Zabriskie.  About street hustlers in Van Sant’s hometown of Portland.  River, Keanu & Flea all lived in Gus’s house during filming, but they partied so hard he had to move out.  Tremendous performance by River — many cite it as his best — won a bunch of awards for it.  So tragic what happened to him.  Smart script using Shakespearian language and dramatic scenes at points.  Innovative imaginative cinematography, including captivating landscape and location shooting.  (seen once)
Good Will Hunting — 1997;  Gus Van Sant;  written by Matt Damon & Ben Affleck;  Damon & Affleck, Robin Williams.  The last line of the credits reads: “In Memory of Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs”  (3)
Finding Forrester — 2000;  Gus Van Sant;  Sean Connery (also a producer), newcomer Rob Brown reigns supreme in his first movie, Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham, Busta Rhymes, Matt Damon, Glenn Fitzgerald (played Kerouac in the Neal Cassady movie), Matt Malloy.  Costumes by the legendary Ann Roth.  GREAT filmmaking!  I LOVE every second of this movie.  If I were to write a movie, this might be it.  Fantastic empowering positive story about a smart kid achieving his potential.  A J.D. Salinger-type author recluse meets a young rapper, set in the Bronx.  Beautiful cinematography.  The production design of the author (Connery’s) apartment and the classrooms are spectacular.  Terence Blanchard scored it, and there’s lots of great tracks including a bunch of Miles Davis & Ornette.  There’s an uncredited couple songs that sure sound like Hans Zimmer’s score in True Romance.  The script’s got tons of really funny stuff written into it — something not many thoughtful movies have.  I laughed out loud a dozen times in this deep moving soulful life drama.  Love this advice from the older author to the younger — “No thinking.  That comes later.  You write your first draft with your heart.  And you rewrite with your head.  The first key to writing is to write, not to think.”  In all my time talking with film people, I never once remember anyone ever bringing up this movie — and IT’S FANTASTIC!  (seen twice)
Milk — 2008;  Gus Van Sant;  Sean Penn (won Best Actor Oscar), James Franco, Josh Brolin (as the bad-guy shooter), Emile Hirsch, Victor Garber. Great movie.  Lots of San Francisco location shooting and recreation of the ’70s.  Won Best Original Screenplay Oscar.  (seen twice)

Orson Welles 
“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.”
Citizen Kane —  1941;  Orson Welles;  screenwriters Orson Welles & Herman Mankiewicz;  Orson Welles, James Cotton, Agnes Moorehead  B&W  (3)
Macbeth — 1948;  directed by and starring Orson Welles  B&W  (seen twice)
Touch of Evil — 1958;  written & directed by Orson Welles;  Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and a very weird Dennis Weaver.  Music by Henry Mancini.  Opens with famous 3½ minute crane / tracking shot; then a second 10-minute single continuous shot with 14 actors during the claustrophobic interrogation scene in the shoe clerk’s apartment a half-hour into the movie.  Everything except for apartment scene was shot on locations in Venice, California.  B&W  (seen twice)
The Trial — 1962;  Orson Welles;  from the Franz Kafka novel;  Anthony Perkins (who’s great!)  B&W  (seen once)

Billy Wilder
“A director must be at times a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant and a bastard.”
Double Indemnity — 1944;  Billy Wilder;  screenplay by Wilder & Raymond Chandler;  Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson.  Considered by many the definitive Film Noir example.   B&W  (seen once)
Sunset Blvd.
— 1950;  Billy Wilder;  Gloria Swanson & William Holden  B&W  (seen twice)
The Seven Year Itch — 1955;  screenplay co-written & directed by Billy Wilder;  based on a long-running Broadway play by George Axelrod; Marylin Monroe, Tom Ewell (reprising his role on Broadway);  some great Manhattan location shooting besides Marilyn at the Flatiron subway grate, including the original Penn Station;  maybe known to history, but it’s a painfully bad lowest-common-denominator melodrama.  (seen once)
Some Like It Hot — 1959;  written & directed by Billy Wilder;  Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon.  B&W  (3)
The Fortune Cookie — 1966;  directed and co-written by Billy Wilder; Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau’s first picture of 12 they’d make together, plus film debut bit part by William Christopher (Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H), and a young Keith Jackson as the football announcer; Matthau won Best Supporting, plus nominated for Best Screenplay, Cinematography & Art Direction.  (seen once)

Edgar Wright
“Whenever I’m writing a script, I’m scoring myself by playing the right kind of music.
Shaun of The Dead — 2004;  co-written & directed by Edgar Wright;  co-written & starring Simon Pegg, with their comedic partner Nick Frost, plus Bill Nighy.  Wright’s low-budget breakthrough film — the first in his “Cornetto” comedy trilogy, jokingly named for an ice cream that supposedly helps cure hangovers — all written by Wright & Pegg, and all starring Pegg & Nick Frost.  Great U.K. location shooting (like all Wright movies).  (seen twice)
Hot Fuzz — 2007;  Edgar Wright (who I just discovered watching this, is a fan-fuckin-tastic filmmaker!);  brilliant funny script written by Wright and star Simon Pegg;  with main cop co-star Nick Frost, a great Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, small cameos by Steve Coogan & Bill Nighy, an uncredited & masked Cate Blanchett as Pegg’s girlfriend, and director Peter Jackson as the Santa Claus who stabs Pegg’s hand.  Great comedy about cops in England.  I laughed out loud about 15 times.  Part of the filmmakers comedy “Cornetto Trilogy.”  Tons of great location shooting in small-town England.  Everything about this film is brilliantly done.  Story, script, casting, cinematography, editing, sound editing, locations.  And it’s funny.   Frequent use of Wright’s classic & signature crash zooms — fast zoom-ins, also employed by Darren Aronofsky & Tarantino.  There’s a TON of homages and references to other movies.  No wonder Tarantino, Peter Jackson, Rian Johnson & Kevin Smith are friends with this guy!   Funny press tour documentary — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbJQa1M4LpM&ab_channel=LEKHANHProductions  (4)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World — 2010;  co-written & directed by Edgar Wright;  an absolute cavalcade of stars, none of whom were famous when this was made — Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, and an hilarious Chris Evans & Jason Schwartzman.  Brilliantly written script.  Wonderfully surreal & funny love story, set and filmed entirely in Toronto (including Casa Loma!)  Boy, this Edgar Wright is one weird dude! 🙂  Visionary, brilliant filmmaking.  Incredible visuals and sound editing.  Watching a lot of films, I think in some ways I could create something like that. Watching Edgar Wright or Baz Luhrmann, I’m like, “These guys are operating on some super-human level so far beyond where my brain goes!”  (seen once)
The World’s End — 2013;  co-written & directed by Edgar Wright;  co-written & starring Simon Pegg;  Nick Frost, Pierce Brosnan;  about reviving a classic 12 pub run in small town England;  brilliant script, performances, cinematography and editing as always with the mighty Edgar Wright – and all with a twisty funny sense of humor!  Simon Pegg is an absolute Master in Wright’s Comedy Trilogy;  all 3 have a sci-fi / horror plot with zombies, a cult or robots taking over the world; surreality is common in all his films; and comedy — they’re all funny & twisted.  (seen once)
Baby Driver — 2017;  written & directed by Edgar Wright;  Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Flea, Lily James (British), Eiza Gonzalez, Paul Williams, Jon Bernthal.  Great filmmaking — script, casting, cinematography, editing, soundtrack.  The soundtrack is a guiding force in every beat of the storytelling/film.  In a way, it’s like a music video as a feature film.  Tons of musicians in the movie — Flea, Jamie Foxx, Paul Williams, Big Boy & Killer Mike, and the lead, Ansel Elgort is a musician. Amazing opening credit sequence using a single Steadicam shot setting flowing images to music.  Shot almost entirely on film (not digital).  Only two sets were built for the movie — everything else was location shooting.  The diner was so realistic, people would go into it to order a meal.  I can see why Edgar Wright is friends with Tarantino and Rian Johnson — contemporary masters of the art of filmmaking.  (seen twice)
Last Night In Soho — 2021;  co-wrote and directed by Edgar Wright; Thomasin McKenzie (18-year-old lead, from New Zealand, she turned down Top Gun: Maverick to do this), Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg (fantastic in the last movie she ever made) & a creepy Terence Stamp;  an homage to London of the mid-’60s with fantastic location shooting;  great script;  goosebump-raising ghost story mystery movie; surreal, dream sequences, visions, being possessed, a person who’s a channel, time travel;  mind-blowing use of mirrors!  the production design, cinematography shot-getting and editing is master level.  The writer/director cites the 1960 Beat exploitation film Beat Girl as a cinematic influence on this, including multiple direct homage shots.  Plus there’s a definite Edgar Allen Poe Tell-Take Heart angle going on.  And there’s some Coen brothers Big Lebowski with the surreal dream-sequency cinematography.  Think of the Jeff Bridges What Condition My Condition Is In stairway sequence.  And of course a beautiful Grammy-worthy soundtrack.  This guy’s a master filmmaker.  (seen once)

Robert Zemeckis 
“All artists are anarchists in some way — some more extreme than others, but it’s something that I think artists are supposed to do.  We’re supposed to present a different angle on everything, and I certainly think it is art as much as poetry.”
Romancing The Stone — 1984;  Robert Zemeckis;  Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito  (seen twice)
Back To The Future — 1985;  written & directed by Robert Zemeckis;  Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover  (4)
Forrest Gump — 1994;  Robert Zemeckis;  Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Robin Wright, Sally Field’. won Best Picture Oscar, Best Director for Zemeckis, Best Actor for Hanks, Screenplay, Editing, Special Effects.  (4)
Contact — 1996;  Robert Zemeckis;  Jodie Foster, John Hurt, Matthew McConaughey  (seen twice)
Cast Away — 2000;  Robert Zemeckis;  Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt.  Best plane crash scene I’ve ever seen on film.  (3)

.

On deck for “Auteur” status —

Jim Abrahams — Big Business
Mel Brooks — Young Frankenstein
Larry Charles — Masked & Anonymous, Seinfelds & Curbs
Victor Fleming — The Wizard of Oz
William Friedkin — The French Connection, The Exorcist, To Live and Die in L.A.
Taylor Hackford — The Devil’s Advocate, Ray 
Tom Hanks — That Thing You Do!
Amy Heckerling — Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Lawrence Kasdan — The Big Chill, I Love You to Death
Richard Lester — A Hard Day’s Night, Help!
Bennett Miller — Capote, Moneyball
Vincente Minnelli, father of Liza — Lust For Life
Anthony Minghella — The Talented Mr. Ripley
Ronald Neame — The Poseidon Adventure
Gary Ross — Pleasantville, Seabisquit, Ocean’s Eight, wrote Dave
Franklin Schaffner — The Planet of The Apes, Papillion
Ridley Scott — Thelma & Louise, Blade Runner
George Seaton — Airport (1970)
Bob Smeaton — Festival Express, The Beatles Anthology
Oliver Stone — JFK, Natural Born Killers, Nixon, Midnight Express script
Bertrand Tavernier — Round Midnight
Michael Wadleigh — Woodstock
Peter Weir — Dead Poets Society


Here’s a fantastic list of the best directors, with links up the wazoo:

https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/best-movie-directors-of-all-time/

 

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“I’ve seen this movie before …”

 

Movies I want to see again — or for the first time:
These movies are NOT listed in the “Hot 300” above because I haven’t watched them all the way through three times or more — but here’s some “in waiting” titles that may soon get bumped up.

Sullivan’s Travels1941;  written & directed Preston Sturges;  Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake.  Rich movie producer goes on the road and live the life of a hobo to understand life better.  B&W  (seen twice)
Casablanca1942;  Michael Curtiz;  Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorrie, Dooley Wilson (Sam).  Won Best Picture, Director & Screenplay Oscars.  “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”  “Here’s lookin at you, kid.”  “We’ll always have Paris.”  B&W  (seen twice)
Saboteur1942;  Albert Hitchcock; screenplay co-writer Dorothy Parker;  Robert Cummings; Priscilla, Otto Kruger.  Nice location shooting around Rockefeller Center, inside Radio City, and on Liberty Island circa 1942.  Classic climax at the top of the Statue of Liberty.  (seen twice)
Nightmare Alley — 1947;  Edmund Goulding;  Tyrone Power (his favorite role he ever played, and is considered in retrospect his finest performance;  sure looks like George Clooney!), Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray (whadda stunning face!), Helen Walker. A classic of Film Noir.  Great script.  And very atmospheric art direction & cinematography.  Richard Modiano’s comments: “Nightmare Alley, with its range of characters, intelligent script and unusual visual style, remains one of the few examples of a classic film noir still capable of shocking viewers.  Once seen, Goulding’s film is not easily forgotten.” and “Gresham’s novel did for the carney world in the 1940s what Burroughs’ Junky did for the drug scene, and some of the slang Gresham used seems to have appeared in print for the first time in Nightmare Alley.  Geek, in its sideshow sense, may have been one of them.  As for the movie adaptations, the 1947 version was true to the spirit of the novel while eliminating some sexual material and allowing for the redemption of the protagonist, but stylistically it is a brilliant film noir rendered in Lee Garmes’ chiaroscuro black and white, and Edmund Goulding’s direction is sensitive and his mise-en-scene fits the story well.  This was Tyrone Power’s favorite role by the way.  Del Toro’s 2021 version is certainly more baroque and sexually explicit but also stays true the themes developed in the novel and is staged with his usual brio.  The actual quote on my paperback is “‘One hundred-proof evil’ ~ New York Times.””  Film audiences weren’t ready to accept Power in role, but history has treated it well.  In the first 45 mins or so, his character looks like and is the personality of Neal Cassady.  A personality-reader and conman.  The key scene is when Tyrone Power charms the marshal who had come to bust the show, roughly 40 mins into film. Dresses like Cassady — white t-shirt, and perfectly combed back hair.  And the girl he falls for is drop-dead pretty like Carolyn was.  And he grew up in an orphanage — and was in reform school — and it was a preacher who saved him (like the one he mentions in the Joan Anderson letter).  And then the Carolyn-like wife wants to leave him for his own good.  B&W  (seen twice)
The Bicycle Thief (aka Bicycle Thieves) — 1948;  Vittorio De Sica;  from a Luigi Bartolini novel; the actors were all amateurs, chosen intentionally;  frequently cited on Best Films Ever lists – including those by filmmakers;  filmed entirely on location in Rome, usually without permits.  The best known exemplar of Italian neorealism film.  Great location shooting and capture of life in post-war Rome, but I sure don’t love this movie about thieves and poverty the way others do.  B&W  (seen twice)
Key Largo1948;  John Huston;  screenplay cowritten by Huston & Richard Brooks, based on Maxwell Anderson’s popular Broadway play, which ran at the Ethel Barrymore theater, named for the sister of Lionel;  Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Marc Lawrence, and Claire Trevor as the rambunctious drunk who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  Robinson plays a gangster (modeled on Al Capone & Lucky Luciano) who takes the owners and guests of a Key Largo hotel hostage during a hurricane.  Bogart & Bacall’s 4th and final picture together, and the fifth and final collaboration for Bogart & Robinson.  Huston was forced to film it on sets on the Warner Brothers’ lot after going so over budget filming The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in Mexico the year before.  Classic old film drama from a stage play.  B&W  (seen twice)
The Naked City1948;  Jules Dassin;  Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff;  New York producer Mark Hellinger’s love letter to New York (plus he’s the narrator), but he died shortly after filming was completed;  a fundamental concept of the film was to shoot it entirely on location in New York City (at over 100 external locations) in 1947, the same year Kerouac & the early Beats were experiencing and capturing the city;  the streets were not blocked off for filming, and the “extras” are actual New Yorkers just going about their business;  tells the story of a single murder investigation;  the acting is mostly painfully amateur and the dialog isn’t exactly Mamet, but it makes up for it all the authentic location shooting in the city;  the studio (Universal) almost scraped the movie, having no idea how to market it and assumed it would be a commercial flop, but the late producer’s family reminded them they were contractually obligated to release it, then it became an unexpected hit with audiences;  won Oscars for both Cinematography & Editing;  one of the first films to include technical (non-acting) credits at the end;  spawned a TV series by the same name that ran for 5 years (1958–1963).  B&W  (seen twice)
Macbeth1948;  directed by and starring Orson Welles  B&W  (seen twice)
Rope1948;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Jimmy Stewart, Farley Granger.  Inspired by the 1924 Leopold & Loeb murder.  Hitchcock’s first color movie.  Only 10 different shots in the whole movie, each running 5 to 10 minutes in a single unbroken shot.  One of the five “lost Hitchcocks” (along with Vertigo, Rear Window, Man Who Knew Too Much, Trouble with Harry) that were finally rereleased in 1984 — and I saw this in a theater in Greenwich Village with my Dad during his only visit ever to NYC (for my NYU graduation).  (seen twice)

Sunset Blvd.1950;  Billy Wilder;  Gloria Swanson & William Holden  B&W  (seen twice)
Strangers on a Train1951;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Farley Granger, Robert Walker.  Origin of the “criss-cross” murder referenced in countless movies and TV shows.   B&W  (seen twice)
On The Waterfront1954;  Elia Kazan – he claimed it was his justification for giving names to the McCarthy hearings – (Kazan being in the Brando & Malden roles);  Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, both Eva Marie Saint & Martin Balsam’s first movie, and Fred Gwynne in an uncredited union mob role.   Won best picture, director, actor (Brando), screenplay, cinematography; and Leonard Bernstein nominated for the music.  B&W  (seen twice)
To Catch a Thief1955;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Grace Kelly, Cary Grant. (seen twice)
Marty1955;  Delbert Mann;  Paddy Chayefsky story & screenplay;  Ernest Borgnine & Betsy Blair;  won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay & Lead Actor (Borgnine, very deservedly);  also won the Palme d’Or in Cannes;  first movie to win Best Picture that was produced by an actor (Burt Lancaster);  to get away from typical Hollywood movie star love stories, Chayefsky set out to write “the most ordinary love story in the world,” and have it star non-stars, and he succeeded most beautifully;  tons of location shooting in the Bronx circa 1954;  was first staged as TV play for the Philco Television Playhouse in 1953.  Marty is also a part of the Quiz Show movie and real TV game show scandal in 1956.  Herb Stempel had been the 6-week reigning champion when he was told to get a question wrong and lose.  The question was “What movie won the Beat Picture Oscar for 1955?”  This particularly bothered Stempel because Marty was a movie celebrating a non-glamorous everyman man like himself.  He was particularly hurt, because Marty “was one of my favorite pictures of all time,” he said later.  B&W  (seen twice)
Around The World in 80 Days1956;  Michael Anderson;  based on Jules Verne’s 1872 adventure novel;  David Niven, Robert Morley, Shirley MacLaine, Trevor Howard, and cameos by Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Charles Boyer, Cesar Romero, Peter Lorre, George Raft, Red Skelton, Marlene Dietrich, John Carradine, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, John Mills and Cantinflas as Passeprtout;  the film’s credited with creating the idea of “cameos” in movies; won Oscars for Best Picture, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing & Music.  Great Michael Todd production with incredible cinematography shot on beautiful locations all around the world.  (seen twice)
A Face in The Crowd1957;  Elia Kazan;  Budd Schulberg story & screenplay;  Andy Griffith’s first movie, Lee Remick’s first movie, Patricia Neal, Walter Watthau.  The story of how fame goes to a weak person’s head and how they manipulate it.  Prescient portrait of trump.  B&W  (seen twice)
Touch of Evil1958;  written & directed by Orson Welles;  Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Marlene Dietrich, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and a very weird Dennis Weaver.  Music by Henry Mancini.  Opens with famous 3½ minute crane / tracking shot; then a second 10-minute single continuous shot with 14 actors during the claustrophobic interrogation scene in the shoe clerk’s apartment a half-hour into the movie.  Everything except for that apartment scene was shot on locations in Venice, California.  B&W  (seen twice)

Ocean’s 111960;  Lewis Milestone;  Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, Angie Dickinson, Cesar Romero  (seen  twice)
The Misfits1961;  John Huston;  written by Arthur Miller (with screenwriting help from John Huston);  breathlessly beautiful Marilyn Monroe, Clark “the King” Gable, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter with a fairly major role, Eli Wallach (Marylin recommended her New York acting school friend for the part).  Helluva cast!  Marylin, Monty, Eli & Kevin McCarthy were all Method actors from the Actor’s Studio in New York.  Eli reminds of Joe Pesci and feels like a Scorsese troupe member.  Amazingly, the film was not nominated for a single Oscar!  Monroe & Miller were married at the time, but broke up during the course of the movie, in part because she didn’t like the character he wrote for her (lost, needy, the focus of all men’s attention), and felt he was using private elements of her life against her.  Both Monroe & Gable’s last movie.  A famously problematic production with Monroe & Miller’s marriage falling apart; Monroe & Clift’s pill & alcohol problems; Monroe arriving late on set every day (due to both pills & booze, and hating the character she was playing) and then having to go into detox for 2 weeks which shut down production; director Huston’s nightly gambling addiction (in legal gambling Reno) and his heavy-handed multi-take directing style; Arthur Miller rewriting scenes nightly; and 100 degree Nevada temperatures on many shooting days.  Marilyn did a topless bedroom scene (at her insistence), but it would’ve been a distraction in the storyline, and been the first nude scene in an American major motion picture, and thus never made it in the final cut.  When filming was finished and just days before his death, Gable told the producer that along with Gone With The Wind he now had two pictures he was proud of.  He told Arthur Miller at an early rough-cut screening, “This is the best picture I have made, and it’s the only time I’ve been able to act.”  The last play Arthur Miller ever wrote, “Finishing the Picture” was about the making of this movie.  I loved this movie watching it for only the second time (and *really* only the first time) in July 2021.  Great filmmaking (cinematography, pacing, casting, writing, editing, location choices, art direction, costumes, music) by Huston.
And p.s. — There was always a connection between Jack Kerouac and Marylin Monroe — ’50s mega-stars, meteoric fame, inspiration to the young, personified their moment in time, addiction, tragic lives.
Marilyn delivers a line (written by Arthur Miller) that sounds like something Jack would say: “We’re all dying, aren’t we?  All the husbands and all the wives.  Every minute.  And we’re not teaching each other what we really know, are we?”
As Jack phrased it in Visions of Cody — “I’m writing this book because we’re all going to die. In the loneliness of my life, my father dead, my brother dead, my mother faraway, my sister and my wife far away, nothing here but my own tragic hands that once were guarded by a world, a sweet attention, that now are left to guide and disappear their own way into the common dark of all our death, sleeping in my raw bed, alone and stupid.”  (seen twice)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s1961;  Blake Edwards;  from Truman Capote novel;  Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Ebsen, Patricia Neal, Martin Balsam.  Marilyn Monroe was offered the role of Holly Golightly, but her acting coach Lee Strasberg said playing a call-girl would be bad for her career so she turned it down.  Henri Mancini & Johnny Mercer won the Oscar for Best Score and Original Song.  Hepburn & the screenplay were also nominated.  (seen twice)
Lolita — 1961;  Stanley Kubrick;  Vladimir Nabokov wrote screenplay based on his novel;  James Mason, Shelley Winters, 14-year-old Sue Lyon, and a pretty amazing multi-character performance by Peter Sellers that presage Kubrick using him in his next film, Dr. Strangelove.  I fairly hated this movie – about a young girl who leads on an older man.  And the man is an asshole — so you’re not rooting for either character, or for the couple to be together.  Shelley Winters plays a sad desperate middle-aged woman in love with the despicable James Mason character.  There’s nothing extraordinary about the cinematography, the production design or the editing.  B&W  (seen twice)
The Great Escape
1963;  John Sturges;  the Steve McQueen classic, also with James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, David McCallum, and a young Charles Bronson.  The movie makes a a great cameo in Tarantino’s masterpiece Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.   Personally, I don’t think this stands the test of time.  It’s almost comically fanciful … while purporting to be accurate.  You can sure see how Hogan’s Heroes was born two years later.  🙂  (seen twice)
Dr. Strangelove1964; Stanley Kubrick; Peter Sellers — 3 roles., George C Scott  B&W  (seen twice)
Bullitt1968;  Peter Yates;  Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn, Robert Duvall, Norman Fell, Don Gordon, Simon Oakland.  Shot almost entirely on location in San Francisco in 1968. Painfully cliched — stone-faced bad-guys, straight-laced police chief, corrupt politician, cool renegade cop saves the day — but a genre-defining streets of San Francisco car chase, and a 23-year-old Jacqueline Bisset.  (seen twice)
The Magic Christian — 1969;  Joseph McGrath;  novel & screenplay by Terry Southern, with assists by McGrath, Peter Sellers, John Cleese & Graham Chapman;  Peter Sellers, Ringo Star, with bit parts by Raquel Welch, Spike Milligan, Richard Attenborough, Roman Polanski, John Cleese & Yul Brynner.  The theme song, Come And Get It, was written by Paul McCartney especially for the film, and recorded by British band Badfinger, who were the first band signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records, and the song became a Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic.  (seen twice)
Cactus Flower1969;  Gene Saks;  from Abe Burrows’ Broadway stage play;  Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman (her first shooting in America since the 1940s) [Lauren Bacall had been playing the role on Broadway for two years when film was made & was pissed she didn’t get the movie], Goldie Hawn (won Oscar in her first role), Jack Weston, Vito Scotti;  Quincy Jones does great sixties music.  Sarah Vaughan sings the closing song.  Tons of great location shooting in Greenwich Village and Midtown Manhattan circa 1969.  (seen twice)
Five Easy Pieces1970;  written & directed by Bob Rafelson;  Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Fannie Flagg  (seen twice)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller — 1971;  screenplay co-written & directed by Robert Altman;  Warren Beatty, Julie Christie (gorgeous and Oscar nominated for Best Lead Actress), John Schuck, Rene Auberjonois, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine (20 yrs old and prolly the one character in who movie I liked – and of course he gets senselessly killed), Michael Murphy, William Devane;  brilliantly perfect soundtrack using Leonard Cohen songs;  incredible town in the wilderness they built for the set, and the building of it was included in the plot — to me, it’s the most impressive and interesting part of the film.  Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond was very creative in his use of lenses and filters and lighting to capture the feel was going for.  The big snowfall at the end really happened on location in British Columbia, so Altman incorporated it into the script for the climax.  The movie reconfirmed that I just don’t care for Westerns — even when made by a favorite director of mine.  Society and humanity and living conditions have advanced so much since these olden days.  We are so far removed from this era of no running water or electricity or bathrooms . . . I don’t care about these characters from two centuries ago.  People getting killed all the time.  Women are generally either nonexistent or whores.  I hate these kinds of movies.  (seen twice)
Sometimes A Great Notion1971;  Paul Newman;  based on the Ken Kesey novel;  Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, Michael Sarrazan, Richard Jaeckel.  Made 4 years before One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.  Opens with a gorgeous Oregon coast helicopter shot.  Filmed at a beautiful all-wood house on the side of a lake.  Opening & closing song (All His Children, music by Henry Mancini and sung by Charlie Pride) nominated for Oscar, along with Richard Jaeckel for Best Supporting Actor.  At about 1:06 when Newman & Remick are in the town, you can see a brown ’49 Hudson like Cassady bought and famously drove in On The Road, and the one used in the movie is now sitting in The Beat Museum.  Painful for me to watch with all the logging and anti-“socialism” stuff.  (seen twice)
The Last Picture Show — 1971;  directed & edited by Peter Bogdanovich;  screenplay by Larry McMurtry (from his book) & Bogdanovitch;  Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges (in his first big movie role), Cybill Shepherd (her film debut), Cloris Leachman (won Best Supporting Actress), Ben Johnson (won Best Supporting Actor; with less than 10 mins screen time, it’s the shortest on-screen performance ever to win an Oscar), Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennon, Clu Gilager, and also the film debuts of Randy Quaid & Sam Bottoms (Timothy’s little brother, playing his younger brother).  Set in 1951/52; filmed almost entirely on location in Archer City, Texas, where Larry McMurtry grew up and was writing about.  All the music is diegetic, meaning the characters are hearing it and it comes from a source on screen such as a radio, jukebox, record player, musicians or such.  Great use of shadows and light throughout by master cinematographer Robert Surtees.  But kind of a depressing movie.  B&W  (seen twice)
We Can’t Go Home Again1973 (there was an updated version in 1976, but the one you want to see is the 2011 restored/reconstructed version);  written (including with his wife Susan Ray), directed by & starring Nicholas Ray — his revealing, honest, weird, wild, experimental, simultaneous-multi-image (superimpositions) documentary/fiction blend film about the counterculture and filmmaking with his film students as subjects.  Shot on Super 8, 16mm, 35mm & a video synthesizer (donated by Nam June Paik).  It’s an absolutely insane movie, but I did find it can’t-turn-away riveting. It’s very fast-paced, and surreal, and — you have NO IDEA what’s going to happen next.  I saw it once 30 years ago, and realized when I watched it a second time in 2021 that I never forgot a lot of the scenes.  This is the craziest movie in the world that I LOVE.  This movie is not Titanic. 🙂  Scorsese, Godard & Truffaut think Nick Ray’s brilliant – and I do, too.  (seen twice)
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore1974;  Martin Scorsese;  Ellen Burstyn (won Best Actress Oscar), Diane Ladd, Kris Kristofferson, Harvey Keitel, and a very young Jodie Foster.  Pretty great movie.  Very real-life.  But not boring.  Spawned the hit TV series Alice (which ran for 9 seasons, starring Linda Lavin).  Mott The Hopple & Leon Russell music!  (seen once)
Harry and Tonto1974;  cowritten & directed by Paul Mazursky;  Art Carney, Ellen Burstyn, Philip Burns, Herbert Berghof (my next door neighbor on Washington Square North), Josh Mostel (son of Zero; King Harrod in Jesus Christ Superstar), Chief Dan George, Larry Hagman.  Carney won Best Actor Oscar (at age 55) over Nicholson in Chinatown and Hoffman as Lenny Bruce.  Bill Conti music.  A great “on the road” movie.  Shot entirely on locations including in Manhattan, on the road, Chicago, Arizona, Las Vegas, L.A., Venice Beach in 1973.  (seen twice)
Murder on the Orient Express1974;  Sidney Lumet;  from Agatha Christie novel; with a to-die-for cast — Albert Finney as Poirot (brilliant, Oscar-nominated for Best Lead Actor;  Agatha Christie said he was the closest portrayal of any of her characters in any movie), Martin Balsam, Richard Widmark, Anthony Perkins, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bisset & Michael York, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, and Ingrid Bergman (won Best Supporting Actress Oscar);  Oscar-nominated for Best Screenplay, Cinematography, Costumes & Music;  Bergman’s Oscar was for her interrogation scene, all shot in one 5-minute continuous take.  (seen twice)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three1974;  Joseph Sargent;  Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam  (seen twice)
Nashville1975;  Robert Altman (his first independent film with zero studio interference);  Joan Tewkesbury (here’s a great interview with her about how she wrote it);  unbelievable ensemble cast — Ronee Blakley (in fine voice in her film debut), Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter, who’s hilarious & great), Shelly Duvall, Michael Murphy, Ned Beatty, Keith Carradine, Allen Garfield, Barbara Harris, Barbara Baxley, Cristina Raines, Keenan Wynn, Karen Black, Gwen Welles, Scott Glenn, a young Jeff Goldblum as the magician on the motorized tricycle who never speaks a word, cameos as themselves by Elliott Gould & Julie Christie (who just showed up unannounced and Altman threw them in as themselves), and a great violin-playing cameo by Vassar Clements.  Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Lily and Ronee for Best Supporting Actresses; Keith Carradine won for Best Original Song (I’m Easy).  Still holds the record for most Golden Globe nominations for a single film at 11.  Siskel & Ebert declared it the best movie of 1975.  All the musicians (almost all from Nashville) sing & perform live, and most were originals by the singers who sang them.  There was a solid 175-page script created by Altman and his Script Supervisor Joan Tewkesbury, based on the diary Altman instructed her to keep while staying in Nashville — but the actors improvised a lot of the actual dialog.  Great filmmaking, including the editing.  I literally laughed out loud several times watching it for the first time in 40 years in 2021.  Shot almost entirely in sequence. 2 hrs 40 mins.  (seen twice)
The China Syndrome1979;  James Bridges;  Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas  (seen twice)

On Golden Pond1981;  Mark Rydell;  Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman  (seen twice)
Time Bandits1981;  Terry Gilliam;  written by Gilliam & Michael Palin;  Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, John Cleese as Robin Hood, and Sir Ralph Richardson as God;  incredible sets / props / production design;  George Harrison was one of the producers and mortgaged his office building to get the film made, like he mortgaged his home to finance Monty Python’s Life of Brian two years earlier;  this ended up being one of the highest grossing films of the year;  the first in what Gilliam called his Trilogy of Imagination” soon to include Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).  (seen twice)
The King of Comedy — 1982;  Martin Scorsese; Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard (as very much herself), Shelley Hack, Johnny Carson’s producer Freddy De Cordova (which the show show is a total play on), plus a Clash cameo on the Times Square sidewalk, Tony Randall, Scorsese as the TV and Victor Borge on piano.  A lot of permit-less guerrilla shooting on the streets of Midtown Manhattan.  Great Ray Charles & Van Morrison music.  Very disturbing and wonderful.  (seen twice)
The Verdict1982;  Sidney Lumet;  David Mamet screenplay;  Paul Newman brilliant performance.  James Mason.  (seen twice)

The Cotton Club1984;  Francis Ford Coppola;  Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, Fred Gwynne, and Bill Graham in a bit part.  (seen twice) 
Romancing The Stone1984;  Robert Zemeckis;  Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito  (seen twice)
Brazil 1985;  Terry Gilliam;  screenplay by Gilliam & Tom Stoppard;  Jonathan Pryce (who’s great!), Robert De Niro, Michael Palin, Bob Hoskins, Katherine Helmond, Jim Broadbent, Ian Holm.  Wonderfully beautifully twisted 1984-ish vision — inspired in a general way by Orwell’s book.  Rightfully Oscar-nominated for its comically surreal Art Direction (Out of Africa won (?) ); and for Original Screenplay (Witness won).  It was too weird for me the first viewing, then I read a bunch about it, and watched it the second time decades later and was blown away by the vision & filmmaking.  Surreal filmmaking at its finest.  Terry Gilliam is one helluva filmmaker!  Gawd, he’s a weird guy!  🙂  The Salvador Dali of film.  See his listing in the Auteur section above.  The movie’s final cut and release is a somewhat legendary story in film history, how a honcho schmuck at Universal tried to completely recut it and Gilliam circumvented him.  There’s an entire book written about it.  The second in what Gilliam called his “Trilogy of Imagination” along with Time Bandits (1981) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).  Both Frank Zappa and River Phoenix’s favorite movie.  “This has not been a recording.”  (seen twice)
After Hours1985;  Martin Scorsese;  Griffin Dunne, Roseanna Arquette, Tommy Chong, Cheech Marin, Teri Garr, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara  (seen twice)
Heartburn1986;  Mike Nichols;  from novel & screenplay by Nora Ephron;  Meryl Streep (as Nora), Jack Nicholson (as Bernstein), plus Jeff Daniels, Maureen Stapleton, Stockard Channing, Catherine O’Hara, Miloš Forman.  The great Nora Ephron’s firsthand account her marriage and breakup with the legendary Watergate reporter.  (seen twice)
The Color of Money — 1986;  Martin Scorsese (his only film that came in under schedule and under budget);  Paul Newman as Fast Eddie (won his only Best Actor Oscar – but like Liz Taylor winning for Butterfield 8, it was Academy guilt to make up for for not giving it to him for The Verdict, Absence of Malice, Cool Hand Luke, Hud, The Hustler and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof), Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (age 27), John Turturro, Forest Whitaker and a cameo by Iggy Pop!  Spectacular editing (by Thelma Schoomaker) and cinematography (by Michael Ballhaus) of pool games. Music by Robbie Robertson – although Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London features in a great scene.  Nominated for Best Screenplay, Art Direction, and Mastrantonio for Supporting.  Based on the followup book to The Hustler, both written by Walter Tevis, but Scorsese & Paul Newman reworked Tevis’s original script, including to include a Jackie Gleason/ Minnesota Fats in it, but Gleason didn’t feel the character fit the script so he turned it down.  Set in Chicago and Atlantic City.  The only time Paul Newman ever reprised a character.  (seen once)
Swimming to Cambodia 1987;  Jonathan Demme;  Spalding Grey’s one-man show.  (seen twice) 
Good Morning Vietnam1987;  Barry Levinson;  Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, J.T. Walsh, Bruno Kirby, Robert Wuhl  (seen twice)
Fatal Attraction1987;  Adrian Lynn;  Michael Douglas, Glenn Close  (seen twice)
Eight Men Out1988;  written & directed by John Sayles;  cinematography by Robert Richardson;  John Cusack, Bill Irwin, John Mahoney, David Strathairn, Charlie Sheen.  Dramatization of “the Black Sox” baseball scandal of 1919.  (seen twice)

Postcards From The Edge —  1990;  Mike Nichols;  Carrie Fisher wrote book & screenplay;  Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep & Shirley MacLaine as mother & daughter, with great small role cameos by Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner, Conrad Bain, Mary Wickes, Annette Bening, Oliver Platt, and Canada’s own Blue Rodeo (with Bob Wiseman playing accordion in bare feet); score by Carly Simon, and an Oscar-nominated song by Shel Silverstein;  about drugs, addiction, showbiz families & rock n roll.  (seen twice)
Wild at Heart1990;  David Lynch;  Barry Gifford novel;  Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe  (seen twice)
Barton Fink1991;  written & directed by the Coen brothers; John Turturro, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi.  About writers and ethics.  (seen twice) 
Hook1991;  Steven Spielberg;  from J.M. Barrie’s book;  Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Maggie Smith, Bob Hoskins.  Incredible sets! (appropriately nominated for an Academy Award)   (seen twice)
The Fisher King1991;  Terry Gilliam;  Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges (seen twice – hard to get through)
Reservoir Dogs1992;  written & directed by Quentin Tarantino;  Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney  (seen twice)
True Romance — 1993;  Tony Scott (Ridley Scott’s brother);  killer script by Quentin Tarantino;  with an mind-blowing cast — Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman (MAN is this guy one helluvan actor!), Christopher Walken (devastating), James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport (who I’ve loved in every role I’ve ever seen him in), Brad Pitt, Bronson Pinchot, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Saul Rubinek, Samuel Jackson (for one minute), Val Kilmer (as the largely unseen “Elvis” mentor), and Jack Black for a few seconds as the movie theater usher with the dog.  Brad Pitt created the whole stoner on the couch character which was not on the page in the script, improvising a lot of his lines you hear.  Fantastic music by the great Hans Zimmer.  Incredible Tarantinoesque film.  The pacing, the editing, the framing including the closeup choices, the casting including giving actors’ the leeway to improvise, the character introductions, the use of music, the graphic seat-of-your-pants scenes of violence, the underbelly-of-life realism, the use of humor in a bloody psychotic murder movie, the empathetic portrayal of people who kill other people, the obvious love of cars including the inordinate usage of scenes with dialog delivered in moving vehicles, effectively telling multiple storylines that all come together in the end . . . it’s uncanny and a glorious synergy we’re all that better for that these two filmmakers merged into one here.  This was written as part of his Natural Born Killers script; after the Hollywood writer wrote the glitzy script about Mickey & Mallory (in NBK) and they tried to track him down, this is the next script he wrote – about being stalked by psychotic killers.  Absolute must-see for any Tarantino fan.  (seen twice)
Much Ado About Nothing1993;  directed by & starring Kenneth Branagh; with Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Kate Beckinsale (in her first movie), Robert Sean Leonard, Michael Keaton (who’s really funny), Keanu Reeves.  One of the highest-grossing of the over 400 adaptations of Shakespeare’s works for the screen — and probably my favorite.  (seen twice)
Four Rooms — 1995;  Four young master auteurs who all write & direct their own movies (Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Alexandre Rockwell & Allison Anders) tell four different stories all set in the same formerly upscale Hollywood hotel on New Year’s Eve, with bellhop Tim Roth as the thru-line character (and he positively slays, starring in four different movies in one).  It doesn’t jump around between the four stories like some movies do that tell multiple stories.  Each is a self-contained short film.  The way the four directors’ visions and style harmonize together is really something.  Featuring Antonio Banderas, Lili Taylor, Ione Skye (Donovan’s daughter), Madonna, Jennifer Beals & David Proval, Marisa Tomei & Kathy Griffin, Salma Hayek dancing on TV, producer Lawrence Bender, Bruce Willis (whose name doesn’t appear in credits because he violated SAG by appearing for free as a favor to Tarantino) plus oodles of others.  Fantastic 6-minute unbroken single-camera take by Tarantino opening his segment.  The great animator Chuck Jones (Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner, etc.) did the opening animation as a homage to The Pink Panther’s opening.  Five of Tarantino’s old friends from the Video Archives store days are in the Marisa Tomei / Kathy Griffin transition scene.  Wonderfully surreal playful crazy funny movie … with a to-die-for cast. (seen once — although the final 25-minute Tarantino segment I had caught on TV back in the ’90s and it was the first time I’d ever been exposed to a Q production).  Great line: “I’m not a frog, and you’re not a bunny — so let’s not jump ahead.” 🙂  (seen twice)

Contact1996;  Robert Zemeckis;  Jodie Foster, John Hurt, Matthew McConaughey  (seen twice)
Lone Star — 1996;  written & directed by John Sayles;  Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey (great performances by all), Clifton James, Stephen Mendillo, Ron Canada, Marco Perella, and a masterful young Francis McDormand in one scene.  Captivating plot-twisting script Oscar nominated for Best Screenplay.  Made for a minuscule $5 million.  Despite budget, incredible soundtrack including Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams, Big Joe Turner, Little Walter, Little Willie John & Freddy Fender.  Was #4 on both Roger Ebert’s and Time’s best films of 1996.  Set in a Texas/Mexico border town/county, and shot entirely on location.  Beautiful amazingly cool transitions — slow pan switches from present to flashbacks and back.  (seen twice)
L.A. Confidential1997;  screenplay & directed by Curtis Hanson;  from James Ellroy novel; Kim Basinger, Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, David Strathairn, James Cromwell, Ron Rifkin, Simon Baker, Matt McCoy.  The script won Best Screenplay, and Basinger Best Supporting Actress, plus it was nominated for Best Picture, and Curtis Hanson Best Director, plus Cinematography, Art Direction, Score and others.  Great cast and story.  Lots of Los Angeles shooting locations.  Modern Noir thriller about organized crime and corrupt cops.  Major movie!  (seen twice)
Central Station — 1998;  Walter Salles;  touching movie about search for parental and spiritual heritage; all filmed on location in Brazil.  Also effectively a “road” like Motorcycle Diaries and On The Road.  (seen twice)
American Beauty1999;  Sam Mendes;  great script by Alan Ball;  Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Sivari, Chris Cooper, Allison Janney, Peter Gallagher, Scott Bakula.  The faces of mid-life crisis and teenage desolation in suburbia.  Won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography & Lead Actor for Spacey.  Music by Thomas Newman (who did Erin Brockovich, which this really sounds like).  (seen twice)

The Beach2000;  Danny Boyle;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swenson (seen twice)
Finding Forrester — 2000;  Gus Van Sant;  Sean Connery (also a producer), newcomer Rob Brown reigns supreme in his first movie, Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham, Busta Rhymes, Matt Damon, Glenn Fitzgerald (played Kerouac in the Neal Cassady movie), Matt Malloy.  Costumes by the legendary Ann Roth.  GREAT filmmaking!  I LOVE every second of this movie.  If I were to write a movie, this might be it.  Fantastic empowering positive story about a smart kid achieving his potential.  A J.D. Salinger-type author recluse meets a young rapper, set in the Bronx.  Beautiful cinematography.  The production design of the author (Connery’s) apartment and the classrooms are spectacular.  Terence Blanchard scored it, and there’s lots of great tracks including a bunch of Miles Davis & Ornette.  The script’s got tons of really funny stuff written into it — something not many thoughtful movies have.  I laughed out loud a dozen times in this deep moving soulful life drama.  Love this advice from the older author to the younger — “No thinking.  That comes later.  You write your first draft with your heart.  And you rewrite with your head.  The first key to writing is to write, not to think.”  In all my time talking with film people, I never once remember anyone ever bringing up this movie — and IT’S FANTASTIC!  (seen twice)
Pay It Forward — 2000;  Mimi Leder;  Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, Jay Mohr, Jon Bon Jovi.  An ancient concept and old old expression that became part of our general vernacular because of this cool film.  (seen twice)
Traffic2000;  Steven Soderbergh won Best Director, Benico del Toro won Best Supporting Actor, film also won Best Screenplay (for an incredible script) and Best Editing.  Incredible cast! Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, Miguel Ferrer, Amy Irving, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Erika Christensen, Albert Finney, James Brolin, Viola Davis, Peter Reigert, John Slattery, Benjamin Brett, Salma Hayek, Rena Sofer.  Plus cameos by lots of active politicians – Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, Bill Weld, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley.  The whole Mexican storyline is spoken in Spanish (with subtitles).  Great location shooting.  It’s 2½ hours, and I didn’t want it to end.  (seen twice)
Laurel Canyon2002;  written & directed by Lisa Cholodenko;  Kate Beckinsale, Frances McDormand.  “Inspired by” Joni Mitchell.  (seen twice)
Mystic River2003;  Clint Eastwood;  from Dennis Lehane novel, who also write Shutter Island; Sean Penn, Tim Robbins – both won Oscars for roles – Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney;  nominated for Best Picture, Director & Screenplay.  (seen twice)
Seabiscuit — 2003;  screenplay & directed by Gary Ross;  Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges, Tobey Maguire (also an executive producer), William H. Macy, Elizabeth Banks.  Randy Newman wrote the exquisitely diverse & perfect music. Great filmmaking … cinematography … editing.  Nominated for all those and a total 7 Oscars.  Uplifting story about underdogs, second chances and perseverance. David McCullough (Ken Burns’ guy) adds a pitch-perfect narration setting the film in historical perspective. Gary Ross & Tobey Maguire’s second collaboration, immediately following Ross’s  directorial debut with Pleasantville, and he wrote the screenplay with Tobey in mind. He also wrote William Macy’s radio announcer character for him. (seen twice)

Coffee & Cigarettes
2003;  written & directed Jim Jarmush;  Steven Wright & Roberto Benigni, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop & Tom Waits, Cate Blanchett (in two roles playing off each other!), Jack White & Meg White, Alfred Molina & Steve Coogan, Bill Murray, Taylor Mead.  11 vignettes set around coffee and cigarettes.  B&W  (seen twice)
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy 2004;  cowritten & directed by Adam McKay;  cowritten & starring Will Farrell;  Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Chris Parnell, Fred Willard. (seen twice)
Shaun of The Dead — 2004;  co-written & directed by Edgar Wright;  co-written & starring Simon Pegg, with their comedic partner Nick Frost, plus Bill Nighy.  Wright’s low-budget breakthrough film — the first in his “Cornetto” comedy trilogy, jokingly named for an ice cream that supposedly helps cure hangovers — all written by Wright & Pegg, and all starring Pegg & Nick Frost.  Great U.K. location shooting (like all Wright movies).  (seen twice)
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby2006;  Adam McKay;  Will Ferrell, John C. Riley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole, Jane Lynch, Amy Adams  (seen twice)
A Prairie Home Companion — 2006;  Robert Altman;  Garrison Keillor; boring, even though it’s Altman and a great cast  (seen twice)
Zodiac — 2007;  David Fincher;  Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, John Carroll Lynch;   LOVED it.  Totally surprised — I’m not a serial killer movie fan at all — other than Scorsese there’s not many movies with much killing on my list.  There’s not much in this either, but again, it’s just not a movie I would normally watch — but, like many a great movie, I discovered it cuz it was on regular rotation on the movie network. first of all, I LOVE Jack Gyllenhaal, AND his sister Maggie!  I love how it’s set in a newspaper newsroom, and how the JG character is a lowly guy with ideas.  Also — Robert Downey Jr. is his typical great self.  And just his whole pursuit of how he tries to track the killer down is a well-told story.  Plus I love that it’s a period piece set in the 70s and also set in and around SF, one of my very favorite cities.  Also — Great Casting — all the secondary / supporting roles are just perfectly cast. (another big thing I appreciate in films)  (seen twice)
Be Kind Rewind — 2008;  written & directed by Michel Gondry; Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Melonie Diaz, P.J. Byrne (Wolf of Wall Street, Babylon), Marcus Carl Franklin (who’s also in I’m Not There), Sigourney Weaver.  Funny, quirky comedy about video rental clerks who accidentally erase all the movies in their store, then try to remake them on the cheap.  Shot in Passaic, NJ, using tons of locals as extras & crew.  The writer-director birthed the idea while directing Dave Chappelle’s Block Party; and Chappelle suggested some of the movies they ended up remaking.  Funny heart-warning movie particularly for film fans.  And it’s wonderfully naturally interracial.  Cool Fats Waller subplot, included an uncredited cameo with McCoy Tyner, Booker T. and Steve Cropper as his fans.  (seen twice)
Blood Diamond — 2008;  Edward Zwick;  Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly  (seen twice)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona2008;  Woody Allen;   Scarlett Johannson, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem.  All filmed on location in Spain.  (seen twice)
Burn After Reading2008;  written & directed by the Coen brothers;  Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, J.K. Simmons.  Typically wonderfully twisted, funny, quirky, weird, brilliant Coen brothers — set in Washington.  Great score / use of music to accent.  (seen twice)

I Love You, Man2009;  written & directed by John Hamburg;  Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, with Jamie Pressly, Jon Favreau, Jane Curtin, J.K. Simmons.  Great buddy bro film, with authentic definitive performances by Rudd and Segel.  (seen twice)

Shutter Island2010;  Martin Scorsese;  Robert Richardson cinematography;  from novel by Dennis Lehane (who also wrote Mystic River);  Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Michelle Williams, John Carroll Lynch  (seen twice)
Midnight In Paris2011;  written and directed by Woody Allen;  Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kurt Fuller.  Owen Wilson slips through a time hole to Paris in the 1920s and hangs out with Hemingway (Corey Stoll, great), F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Picasso, Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), T.S. Elliot, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, Matisse, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker;  and then goes back to 1889 and meets Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin & Degas.  Woody deservedly won Best Screenplay (his most recent Oscar) — and was nominated for Picture and Direction.  Fantastic location shooting in Paris, and perfect music.  This guy is an insanely great filmmaker.  And it’s a movie about a writer!  Like Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen was a master at capturing a woman’s face beautifully.  The idea for the film just started with the title.  Woody wanted to write a movie set in Paris.  He came up with the idea of “Midnight in Paris” cuz it sounded romantic and sort of the epitome / essence of the town.  Then he built the entire story from there.  (seen twice)

The Master — 2012;  written & directed by Paul Thomas Anderson;  Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams – all 3 nominated for Oscars – plus Rami Malek, Laura Dern, Jesse Plemons.  Watching Philip Seymour Hoffman & Joaquin Phoenix chew up the scenery together is worth the price of admission.  Talk about two Masters!  When PTA saw what Joaquin was doing, he had the sets lit wide and told the camera crew to be prepared to follow him wherever he went.  The one take / first take 3-minute oner of the jail scene with Joaquin & Phil is mind-blowing and no wonder they both got Best Actor noms!  Maybe I’m imagining things, but there sure seems to be a connection between Joaquin’s character here and his Joker.  PTA is sure a Master of mise-en-scene.  (seen twice)
The Great Gatsby — 2013;  Baz Luhrmann;  Leonardo DiCaprio (who doesn’t appear until 30 mins in), and his decades-long friend Toby Maguire, plus Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher & Elizabeth Debicki.  Deservedly won Oscars for Production Design and Costumes.  Baz’s wife Catherine Martin is his co-creating partner and does the costumes among many other things. GREAT Expressionistic filmmaking — the effects and visuals and overall production.  $100 million budget.  It looks *so* New York … but was filmed entirely in Australia!  A lot of connections to Babylon — the same 1920s era, the opulent decadent parties & lifestyle, the blending of modern music & fashion with that of the time.  Master Baz’s biggest-grossing film … until Elvis. (seen twice)
Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) — 2014;  written & directed by Alejandro Iñárritu;  Emmanuel Lubezki won Oscar for Best Cinematography;  Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifinakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough.  Distinctive and super-cool drum score by Antonio Sanchez.  Fantastic film.  Deservedly won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay & Cinematography.  All shot in long takes, only 16 visible cuts in the whole movie.  (seen twice)

Whiplash — 2014;  written & directed by Damien Chazelle;  J.K. Simmons (won Best Supporting Actor & 46 other awards for this performance), Miles Teller (the young drummer, who really is a drummer), and Paul Reiser in a small role; also nominated for Best Picture & for the mindblowingly great Screenplay, and it deservedly won 2 Oscars for Best Editing & Sound Mixing).  Shot in 19 days.  This is a great movie – no wonder Chazelle got financing after this!  This was made for $3.3 million.  His next movie, La La Land had a $30 mil budget and won Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Music & Lead Actress.  Chazelle says on the (great) director’s commentary how the “boom” quick ending was inspired by Tarantino’s Death Proof.  (seen twice)
Baby Driver — 2017;  written & directed by Edgar Wright;  Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Flea, Lily James (British), Eiza Gonzalez, Paul Williams, Jon Bernthal.  Great filmmaking — script, casting, cinematography, editing, soundtrack.  The soundtrack is a guiding force in every beat of the storytelling/film.  In a way, it’s like a music video as a feature film.  Tons of musicians in the movie — Flea, Jamie Foxx, Paul Williams, Big Boy & Killer Mike, and the lead, Ansel Elgort is a musician. Amazing opening credit sequence using a single Steadicam shot setting flowing images to music.  Shot almost entirely on film (not digital).  Only two sets were built for the movie — everything else was location shooting.  The diner was so realistic, people would go into it to order a meal.  I can see why Edgar Wright is friends with Tarantino and Rian Johnson — contemporary masters of the art of filmmaking.  (seen twice)
The Meyerowitz Stories — 2017;  written & directed by Noah Baumbach;  Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Ben Stiller, Adam Driver, Judd Hirsch, Candice Bergen.  A helluva movie about a family of artists in New York City — what more could you want?!  This is a movie for adults. Great filmmaking — BRILLIANT screenwriting!  Holy shit!  Cinematography is smart and unusual.  REALLY cool editing — you’ll see.  The music is subtle and perfect. Great location shooting in NY including at MOMA.  Opens with a classic New York parking scene!  Noah Baumbach is an important filmmaker.  After seeing this and Marriage Story, this guy’s going on my Auteur’s list and I look forward to seeing his other works.  (seen twice)
A Star Is Born — 2018;  produced, cowritten, starring and his directorial debut Bradley Cooper;  with Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Griffin, Ron Rifkin.  Gaga & co. won the Oscar for Original Song “Shallow”;  film was nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Lead Actor for both Cooper and Gaga, Supporting for Sam Elliott, & Cinematography.  At Gaga’s insistence, are the songs were filmed live – no lip-synching.  Lukas Nelson gave Bradley Cooper private music lessons for a year before shooting, co-wrote several songs for the film, and his band The Promise of The Real are Bradley’s backing band in the movie.  He also mentioned in an interview his inspiration as a guitar player was Neil Young, who used the same combo as his backing band for a few years and albums.  The dialog in the drag queen bar scene was mostly improvised by the real drag queens.  I LOVE this movie.  Whatta script!  Such a great love story and art story.  And so tragic and heartbreaking.  An emotional thrashing.  (seen twice)


The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent — 2022;  directed & co-written Tom Gormican;  Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Neil Patrick Harris, Tiffany Haddish.  A funny smart meta movie about & starring Nic Cage with a brilliant twist-turning script.  Obvious harmony with Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich including the buy-in by the subject, and also echoes the pair’s Adaptation with Nic playing 2 parallel characters.  I was also flashing on Beat The Devil in it’s self-deprecating parodying of idioms and happily dancing in comedy and surreality amid a life-&-death drama.  And it also reminded of The Talented Mr. Ripley in its multiple layers of cons going on in gorgeous Mediterranean settings.  Plus great music, cinematography, editing, pacing and plot twists.  45 mins into the movie the main characters take acid and go for an adventure.  Could almost be including in Movies About Making Movies.  It’s brilliant filmmaking and a funny comedy.  If you like movies where you say, “I did *not* see that coming” every ten minutes, then this is for you.  (seen twice)
American Fiction — 2023;  cowritten and directed by Cord Jefferson;  Jeffrey Wright (Best Actor nominated), Leslie Uggams, Sterling K. Brown (Best Supporting nominated), the mesmerizing Erika Alexander, Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Rose, John Ortiz, Michael Cyril Creighton, and Patrick Fischler in a small part. GREAT movie.  Won the People’s Choice Award at TIFF.  The failed author character creates the pseudonym — Stagg R. Leigh.  🙂 Great movie about writers and writing and the business thereof.  Really smart and compelling script.  It’s a comedy about a joke played on the publishing industry — but very real in how it deals with relationships and families and race.  After Barbie and Poor Things, this is my third favorite movie of 2023.  And Issa Rae was key in both!  Killer-cool Oscar-nominated jazz score. Another great 2023 movie about a publishing identity scam –  A Little White Lie.  (seen twice)

SEEN  ONCE

Now, Voyager — 1942;  Irving Rapper;  Bette Davis is great, Claude Rains (as the therapist), Paul Henreid, Gladys Cooper, and unstoppable scene-stealer Mary Wickes.  Wow!  Whadda movie!  Brilliant script.  Inspirational women empowerment film.  Very On The Road – but for women.  The title comes from a Walt Whitman line.  Both brilliant Bette & Gladys (as the evil mother) were deservedly Oscar nominated for Best Lead & Supporting Actress.  The great Max Steiner won the Oscar for Best Music.  Spectacular costuming by Orry-Kelly throughout.  Biggest box office hit in Bette Davis’ career.  Both Rains & Henreid started shooting Casablanca right after this; in Rains’ case, the day after wrapping Now, Voyager, which had gone 15 days over schedule.  The making out in the transported limo on board the oceanliner was the inspiration for the DiCaprio–Kate Winslet scene in Titanic.  Made famous the guy lighting two cigarettes and handing one to the girl.  “Don’t ask for the moon. We have the stars.”  B&W  (seen once)
Double Indemnity1944;  Billy Wilder;  screenplay by Wilder & Raymond Chandler;  Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson.  Considered by many the definitive Film Noir example.   B&W  (seen once)
To Have or Have Not — 1944;  Howard Hawks;  William Faulkner cowrote the screenplay very loosely based on the Ernest Hemingway novel – although almost nothing of Hemingway’s story was used by Faulkner, and almost none of Faulkner’s dialog was used by Howard Hawks! 🙂  The movie where Humphrey Bogart met sultry Lauren Bacall in her first film, plus 3-time Academy Award winner Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael as the barroom piano player playing & singing mostly his own songs.  Includes the famous Bacall line “You know how to whistle don’t you?  You put your lips together and blow.”  Set in the summer of 1940 in Martinique, a small fishing village on the coast of France at the start of the war.  Cut from the same cloth as Casablanca.  B&W  (seen once)
Spellbound1945;  Alfred Hitchcock;  Ben Hecht screenplay;  Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman.  Hitchcock’s use of Salvador Dali’s work in sets for the dream sequence.  B&W  (seen once) 
Notorious1946;  Alfred Hitchcock; Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains  B&W  (seen once)

The Red Shoes1948; Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger; based on Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale; Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring.  A movie about the conflict between love between two people and the creation of great art.  A show production movie set around a ballet.  Incredible sets & art direction (won Oscar), and lots of beautiful location shooting around England, France and Monaco.  One of Scorsese’s favorite movies – influenced his own editing & cinematography.  (seen once)
They Live By Night — 1948;  Nicholas Ray;  produced by John Houseman;  adapted for the screen by Ray from a 1937 novel by Edward Anderson (you can read a great piece about the book and its connection to Bonnie & Clyde here)
;  Farley Granger & Cathy O’Donnell, plus Jay C. Flippen, Will Wright.  The first film Ray made, but the third to be released.  The opening sequence (and several other spots) features some of the first helicopter-shot action sequences on film.  Theme of a sympathetic young couple on the run from the law, a sub-genre that later included Bonnie & Clyde and Badlands.  Altman made a version of the same novel (and keeping its name) in 1974, Thieves Like Us.  Truffaut thinks this is Ray’s best film, and both Godard & Scorsese are huge fans of it.  B&W  (seen once)

Every Girl Should Be Married1948;  Don Hartman;  Gary Grant & Betsy Drake (in her film debut) as the romantic leads when they were courting in real life and married shortly after the movie came out, plus a young Eddie Albert.  Howard Hughes had just taken over RKO Pictures and got very involved in the production including casting Drake and allowing Grant to unofficially direct her scenes and re-write the script to put the focus on her.  It became RKO’s biggest-grossing film of 1949.  B&W  (seen once)
The Asphalt Jungle1950;  directed & cowritten by John Huston;  Sterling Hayden, Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore, John McIntire, 23-year-old Marilyn Monroe in her small but breakout role, and also Jack Warden’s first film.  Nominated for Best Director, Screenplay, Cinematography & Sam Jaffe for Supporting Actor.  Film Noir heist drama set in Cincinnati, with some cool location shooting there circa 1949. Helluva script and cinematography.  A movie about vice.  Capraesque ending.  Love John Huston – but boy he sure sometimes makes weird, verging on surreal, movies. 🙂  B&W  (seen once)
All About Eve1950;  written & directed by Joseph Mankiewicz;  Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders.  Best Picture, Director, Screenplay & Costumes (Edith Head).  B&W  (seen once)
In A Lonely Place1950;  Nicholas Ray;  Humphrey Bogart & Gloria Graham.  Murder mystery love affair set in L.A.  The movie was a big influence on Curtis Hanson for his L.A. Confidential.  B&W  (seen once)
Rashomon — 1950;  screenplay & directed by Akira Kurosawa.  The same event as seen from from different perspectives.  Credited as being the film that caused the Academy to create a Best Foreign Film category. Japanese film with subtitles. I know this is considered a classic, but I found it boring, painful sexist, and the melodramatic acting like by actors who failed out of first year acting class. B&W  (seen once)
The African Queen1951;  John Huston;  Humphrey Bogart & Katherine Hepburn  B&W  (seen once)
Shane — 1953; George Stevens; Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, a young Jack Palance, Edgar Buchanon, Ben Johnson, Brandon De Wilde; won Oscar for Best Cinematography; nominated for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Palance & De Wilde for Acting. Some nice cinematography shot in Wyoming. But the sound editing is often awful – dialog washed out by non-verbal sounds (rain, horses, music, distance).  And the film editing is often awkward.  And the score!  Good Lord!  It’s *comical* it’s so corny, simplistic and predictable.  And the non-Wyoming sets couldn’t be cheaper.  By 1953 Hollywood had dough and was making movies like Roman Holiday, From Here to Eternity, The African Queen.  This is a bad TV Western episode.  How do these things even get made — let alone get elevated to one of the best of the genre?!  The movie opens with a landscape shot, zooming in on a beautiful buck in a stream, then cuts to a kid aiming a rifle to shoot it.  And when the deer shows up again, the first thing the kid does is run for his gun.  And then there’s the acting.  I keep thinking I’m watching a Mel Brooks version of a Western.  This makes soap operas look like Shakespeare.  This is cornier than the worst Disney melodramas.  How does *anyone* like this?!  Thank gawd this is the last Western I’ll ever have to endure.  I watched NINE films to cleanse my palette after hating Unforgiven … and that still wasn’t enough to make me not hate Westerns from the opening scene!  Fuck this macho sexist bullshit.  THIS is what people consider a great Western?  I couldn’t wait for this to be over.  I don’t write bad reviews or add movies to this list I don’t like, but since so many mentioned it, I had to include it.  (seen once and only once)
The Ladykillers — the original 1955 version;  Alexander Mackendick;  written by American-cum-Brit William Rose, who dreamt the whole thing then wrote it down as soon as he woke up!  Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers (in as he described his “first real film,” and he also voiced the parrots), Katie Johnson as the old lady (who won a BAFTA for this).  Nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar and won the BAFTA Best Screenplay.  Macabre comedy.  Filmed entirely on locations in London in 1955.  Paul Dante recommendation.  (seen once)
The Seven Year Itch — 1955;  screenplay co-written & directed by Billy Wilder;  based on a long-running Broadway play by George Axelrod;  Marylin Monroe, Tom Ewell (reprising his role on Broadway);  some great Manhattan location shooting besides Marilyn at the Flatiron subway grate, including the original Penn Station;  maybe known to history, but it’s a painfully bad lowest-common-denominator melodrama.  (seen once)
Funny Face1957;  Stanley Donan;  Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire;  mind-blowing and Oscar-nominated Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design (by Edith Head);  really brought Greenwich Village / Beat life to mainstream movie screens.  There’s a lot of songs, as in, it’s kind of an (ugh) musical, but the storyline, and Audrey Hepburn’s stunning face and adorable accent, is worth every minute.  Her killer Beat dance scene in the beatnik Paris club is roughly 35 mins into the movie, which was according to a fashion designer on TCM was the birth of the black turtleneck.  (seen once)
The Three Faces of Eve — 1957;  written & directed by Nunnally Johnson;  Joanne Woodward – won Best Actress for portrayal of woman with multiple personality disorder.  B&W  (seen once)
The Defiant Ones 1958;  Stanley Kramer;  Sidney Poitier, Tony Curtis (his one & only Oscar nomination), plus Theodore Bikel, Lon Chaney, Claude Akins, and Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer’s last film.  Great movie about a black guy and a white guy who escape jail and are shackled together. Won Best Screenplay & Cinematography;  nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actors, including Poitier being the first Black man ever nominated.  A pretty good movie (for the time) about race relations and equality.  All the music is diegetic, meaning the characters are hearing it and it comes from a source on screen such as a radio, jukebox, record player, musicians or such.  B&W  (seen once)
The Long, Hot Summer —1958;  Martin Ritt;  from the William Faulkner novel;  Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Orson Welles, a mesmerizing Lee Remick, Angela Lansbury, Anthony Franciosa, Richard Anderson.  Sort of a different version of the Southern Big Daddy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, which came out the same year, and both with Paul Newman battling with Big Daddy (Burl Ives & Orson Welles). Newman & Woodward got married a month after shooting.  Filmed entirely on location in Louisiana in 1957.  Great music by master composer Alex North.  (seen once)
Suddenly Last Summer1959;  Joseph Mankiewicz;  Gore Vidal screenplay from a Tennessee Williams play;  Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Katherine Hepburn.  Liz, Kate & Art Direction all nominated for Oscars.  B&W  (seen once)

Breathless1960; written & directed by Jean-Luc Godard (his first feature);  Francois Truffaut wrote the first treatment of the story that became the film;  Jean Seberg, Jean-Paul Belmondo.  The beginning of the French New Wave.  Made on such a small budget ($90,000!), dolly shots were done by the cameraman being pushed in a wheelchair;  no makeup was used because they couldn’t afford to reapply it every day;  it was entirely shot using natural light because they couldn’t afford lights;  there were no shooting permits, so all the great Paris & elsewhere location shooting was done on the fly – you see lots of people on the street looking at the actors and film crew going by, and it’s before roads had traffic lanes or traffic lights;  they didn’t have microphones or synch equipment, so all the dialog was recorded later by the actors.  The jazzy cool music surrounding the dialog is great.  Inspired by a true story of a petty criminal who stole a car to go visit his mother and accidentally killed a cop.  The short men’s ties are unintentionally hilarious throughout.  But I just don’t deal well with movies that are entirely subtitled.  RashomonParasite … I don’t like having to read a book while I’m trying to watch a movie.  Jean Seberg’s a real dish, and it’s interesting/good filmmaking, but I didn’t really care for the characters or the story or the movie.  I have no patience for or desire to watch sexist asshole male characters.  I was just counting the minutes and praying it would end.  B&W  (seen once)
BUtterfield 81960;  Daniel Mann;  Elizabeth Taylor (mesmerizing & luminous), Laurence Harvey, Eddie Fisher (Liz’s husband at the time).  Taylor’s first Oscar (she won again later for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), and she was vocal the whole rest of her life how much she hated this movie.  (Her and Eddie Fisher called it “Butterball 4”.)  It was done as a contractual obligation to MGM.  The voting Academy was making up for not giving it to her for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof; plus she’d been sick and voters thought she might die or never act again, so she was stuck with this Oscar for playing a promiscuous drinker in a maudlin melodrama.  B&W  (seen once)
Splendor in the Grass1961;  Elia Kazan;  Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle, Barbara Loden (who Kazan later married), and the film debuts of Warren Beatty, Sandy Dennis & Phyllis Diller;  music by David Amram; won Best Screenplay Oscar, and Natalie was nominated for Best Actress.  The limp Pat Hingle walks with was real: he had fallen down an elevator shaft and broke multiple bones shortly before filming began.  I found it unreal; teenagers who love each other, but for the first half Natalie doesn’t want to have sex with Warren Beatty, and for the second half he doesn’t want to have sex with her.  (seen once)
The Hustler1961;  Robert Rossen; Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Vincent Gardenia, Michael Constantine, Murray Hamilton, with a wee cameo by Jake LaMotta as a bartender.  Won Oscars for Best Cinematography & Art Direction; nominated for Best Picture, Direction & Screenplay, plus for Newman, Gleason & George C. Scott’s acting.  B&W  (seen once)
One-Eyed Jacks — 1961;  directed by & starring Marlon Brando;  Karl Malden, Slim Pickens;  revenge Western set largely in Monterey, California;  filming lasted 7 months (Dec. ’58 – June ’59);  Brando’s original cut was 4 hours & 42 mins long;  Rod Serling & Sam Peckinpah worked on the script;  Stanley Kubrick was set to direct, but dropped out 2 weeks before shooting began, and Brando then took over.  (seen once)
A View From The Bridge — 1962; Sidney Lumet, based on the Arthur Miller play;  Raf Vallone, Maureen Stapleton, Carol Lawrence.  The whole cast performs at top level, but the two women leads are magnificent.  The whole film’s riveting.  A German producer made this with French & Italian studios, using an American director doing this quintessential American play, with lots of Brooklyn location shooting.  Quite the intimate portrait of the immigrant story of New York — in this case, Italian.  Like Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront … with a Lolita storyline.  An evil father obsessed with his niece.  Pretty brutal.  Maureen Stapleton great as a guiding elder.  B&W  (seen once)
Days of Wine and Roses — 1962;  Blake Edwards;  an unbelievable Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford, a powerfully sober Jack Klugman, Jack Albertson.  Powerful cinematic portrayal of alcoholism — through a P.R. man & his wife in San Francisco, with tons of location shooting.  S.A. Griffin recommendation.  Lemmon & Remick both deservedly Oscar nominated Leads (Peck won for Mockingbird; Lee’s only nom), plus for Best Production Design and Costumes; won for Best Original Song by Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer (which became a Top 10 Billboard hit).  The film’s credited with bringing the first mass awareness to Alcoholics Anonymous.  Stark counterpoint to the rampant alcoholism in movies from the ’30s thru the ’60s.  Was originally a live teleplay on Playhouse 90 in 1958.  Charles Bickford wonderfully reprised his role as the father.  Bill Withers said he wrote “Ain’t No Sunshine (When She’s Gone)” right after watching this movie on TV.  B&W  (seen once and want to again)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night — 1962;  Sidney Lumet;  Eugene O’Neill play;  Ralph Richardson, Katherine Hepburn, Jason Robards.  B&W  (seen once)
The Manchurian Candidate — 1962;  John Frankenheimer;  Richard Condon novel;  Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Lawrence Harvey, Janet Leigh;  music by David Amram.  B&W  (seen once)
Sweet Bird of Youth — 1962;  Richard Brooks;  screenplay by Brooks from a Tennessee Williams play;  Paul Newman, Geraldine Page (who was nominated for a Tony for this on Broadway and also for Best Supporting Actress Oscar), Rip Torn, Madeline Sherwood, all four main actors reprising their Broadway roles as directed by Elia Kazan, plus Ed Begley Sr. (won Best Supporting Actor Oscar), Mildred Dunnock, Dub Taylor, Corey Allen.  Page & Torn married the year after making the movie.  About a gigolo (an often shirtless Paul Newman) and a sorta Norma Desmond-like late-career actress in a typical Tennessee Williams southern patriarchy. Nice highway location shooting in first 10 mins. Includes pot, hash and bennies in a 1962 movie. (seen once)

The Trial — 1962;  Orson Welles;  from the Franz Kafka novel;  Anthony Perkins (who’s great!)  B&W  (seen once)

Paris When it Sizzles — 1964;  Richard Quine;  Audrey Hepburn, William Holden — pretty surreal and comedic!  about a screenwriter and his girl — “the screenplay within the screenplay.”  (seen once)
Cat Ballou1965;  Elliot Silverstein;  Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin playing twin brothers (for which he won the Best Lead Actor Oscar, his only nomination or win, in one of his only comedic roles), a singing Nat King Cole (who died of lung cancer before the movie could even be released), Jay C. Flippen;  nominated for Best Screenplay, Editing, Score and Original Song.  A goofy campy comedy send-up of Westerns.  Marvin’s over-the-top comic performance was very much his own creation, initially going against the director’s direction.  But he was making the crew laugh with every take, and when the producer visited the set early on and saw what was happening he told the director to let Marvin take it where he wanted.  It includes a little Butch Cassidy and the Hole In The Wall Gang.  A precursor to both Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid and Blazing Saddles.  Includes some nice location shooting in Colorado.  “What’s wrong with my eyes?”  “They’re bloodshot.”  “You oughta see them from my side.”  🙂  (seen once)
Lord Jim — 1965;  produced, screen-written & directed by Richard Brooks;  from Joseph Conrad novel;  Peter O’Toole, a transformed Eli Wallach, James Mason. Lots of location shooting in Cambodia, although by all accounts unbearably awful with dysentery, deadly snakes, stinging insects, heat rashes, the threat of angry anti-Western mobs, and “knee-deep in lizards” as O’Toole put it.  It sounds like the ’60s version of Apocalypse Now, which was also based on a Joseph Conrad novella about going up a river.  The production had Dith Pran as a translator, who was later imprisoned and became the subject of The Killing Fields (1984).  Kind of dry, boring, slow and dated.  Wasn’t very well received in its time, either.  (seen once)
Blow-Up — 1966;  written & directed by Michelangelo Antonioni;  David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles;  Jeff Beck & Jimmy Page Yardbirds scene;  captures London in 1965/66 just as the Swinging Sixties is birthing.  Other than the period location shooting and Yardbirds moment, did not like it at all.  To me it was one of those pointless, intentionally meaningless movies.  (seen once)
How To Steal a Million1966;  William Wyler; Audrey Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Eli Wallach.  Fun 1960s art theft caper film.  Great chemistry between Hepburn & O’Toole; getting to work with him was why she took the role.  Lots of location shooting in Paris and various places in France.  (seen once)
The Fortune Cookie1966;  directed and co-written by Billy Wilder; Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau’s first picture of 12 they’d make together, plus film debut bit part by William Christopher (Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H), and a young Keith Jackson as the football announcer; Matthau won Best Supporting, plus nominated for Best Screenplay, Cinematography & Art Direction.  (seen once)
The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming — 1966;  produced & directed by Norman Jewison;  Carl Reiner & Eva Marie Saint, Jonathan Winters, Brian Keith, Theodore Bikel, and Alan Arkin in his first movie (and he was nominated for an Oscar!)  Bikel & Sorkin both cast cuz they speak Russian.  Also nominated for Best Picture, Screenplay and Editing.  Comedy about a stranded Russian submarine off the coast of New England, but more broadly about fear and rumors and panic and misinformation.  Location of location shooting, mostly in Mendocino CA filling in for coastal Massachusetts; plus lots of cool ’50s & early ’60s cars.  Kind of corny and simplistic or and moralistic.  (seen once)
Barefoot In The Park — 1967;  Gene Saks;  screenplay & play by Neil Simon;  Robert Redford (reprising his role from the hit Broadway production directed by Mike Nichols, and his first movie to be a box office hit), Jane Fonda – the third of five movies the two would star in – plus Charles Boyer and Mildred Natwick (also reprising her role from the Broadway stage, and nominated for Best Supporting Actress);  costumes by Edith Head; great production design with the New York apartments and staircases; comedy set in and with tons of location shooting in Greenwich Village;  their apt. was on Waverly Place right next to my Washington Sq North apt.  Climactic scene on location in Washington Sq. Park.  Not really a great story or anything.  Kinda corny simplistic G-rated Simon dialog.  (seen once)
The Taming of the Shrew — 1967;  Franco Zeffirelli; Shakespeare’s great play (that I saw at The Globe in London) A great Adventure you can read here.  Liz Taylor & Richard Burton, Michael York, Victor Spinetti.  Deservedly nominated for Best Art Direction and Costumes.  Great and fun adaptation of a great and fun play.  Director Zeffirelli wrote in his memoir this was the most fun he had making a movie in his entire career.  (seen once)
Valley of The Dolls — 1967;  Mark Robson;  from Jacqueline Susann novel;  Patty Duke (in a real drugged-out stretch from her girl-next-door persona), the breakout role for Sharon Tate (who’s movie-star gorgeous), Barbara Parkins (an almost Liz Taylor-like beauty), Lee Grant, Paul Burke, Martin Milner, Susan Hayward, Joey Bishop. John Williams music.  PG13 version (literally) of a very racy bestselling novel.  A showbiz story set in New York and L.A. in the ’60s with lots of pill taking.  Harlan Ellison wrote the screenplay but had his name removed from the credits when the studio tacked on a happy ending.  Corny as heck, and high up on many Worst Movies Ever Made lists.  (seen once)
Head — 1968;  Bob Rafelson;  screenplay by Rafelson & Jack Nicholson;  starring The Monkees, plus Victor Mature & Annette Funicello, with cameos by Frank Zappa, Dennis Hopper, Nicholson, and Teri Garr in a bit part.  (seen once)
Skidoo — 1968;  Otto Preminger;  Doran William Cannon (who also wrote Altman’s Brewster McCloud);  Rob Reiner was one of several script doctors who worked on the script but was uncredited;  Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx as God (in his final film appearance), Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Peter Lawford, Mickey Rooney, George Raft, Slim Pickens, Harry Nilsson, Austin Pendleton, Michael Constantine;  and Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin & Caesar Romero who were all starring in the Batman TV show at the time, as well as director Otto Preminger who appeared in two episodes as the villain Mr. Freeze; plus Tom Law (from the Hog Farm, the Woodstock movie, and Lisa Law’s husband) handing the mayor a joint in the courtroom scene, whose brother John Philip Law was a working actor with 85 credits and is the lead male hippie in the movie.  Music by Harry Nilsson.  Infamous psychedelic all-star comedy with a depiction of multiple acid trips.  Groucho took acid with Paul Krassner to prepare for the film; and Preminger was inspired to make the film after taken acid a few times himself.  Filmed in San Francisco.  (seen once)
The Swimmer — 1968;  Sydney Pollack & Frank Perry;  Burt Lancaster, Kim Hunter, Joan Rivers (screen acting debut).  Based on a 12-page John Cheever story about a guy who decides to swim home through his neighbors’ pools.  Marvin Hamlisch’s first film as a composer, age 23.  A surreal epic journey home a la Odysseus, with an element of Dante’s descending levels of Inferno.  It’s about the illusions and delusions of grandeur we tell ourselves finally confronting reality.  Beautifully filmed entirely on location in upscale Connecticut suburbs.  Burt Lancaster said repeatedly it was his favorite of all his films.  He called it “Death of A Salesman in swimming trunks.”  (seen once and would love to again) 
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? — 1969;  Sydney Pollack;  Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Suzannah York, Gig Young, Red Buttons, Bruce Dern, Al Lewis, Michael Conrad.  Nominated for nine Academy Awards! Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Jane Fonda for Lead, Susannah York for Supporting (her only nom), Production Design, Editing, Costumes and Score — and Gig Young won for Best Supporting.  Holds the distinction of being the movie with the most nominations without getting a Best Picture nod.  Based on a 1935 novel about desperate people in a dance marathon in the depression (1932) — very similar visually and character-wise to The Sting — which was set 4 years later (and made 4 years later).  A movie about exploiting misery, and how the poor are pushed beyond dignity and endurance for profiteering and showbiz.  (seen once)

Brewster McCloud — 1970;  Robert Altman;  Doran William Cannon (who also wrote Skidoo);  Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman, Stacy Keach, Shelley Duvall’s first film (and first of seven with Altman).  (seen once)
Catch 22
1970;  Mike Nichols;  from Joseph Heller book, screenplay by Buck Henry;  Alan Arkin, Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel, Martin Balsam, Jack Gifford, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Martin Sheen, Orson Welles, Bob Balaban, Norman Fell  (seen once)
Zabriskie Point — 1970;  Michelangelo Antonioni;  all unknown young actors except Rod Taylor.  Sam Shepard wrote his dialog.  Hippie love story — sort of a surreal cinematic acid trip.  A fictional exploration of social revolution and California commune life circa 1969. Great filmmaking and documentary of the times (shot in the fall of ’68 / spring of ’69).  All shot on locations in Los Angeles, Death Valley, Carefree, Arizona, Mojave Desert and the like.  Beautiful dessert photography.  Inspired by a real story of a young guy who borrowed a plane for a joyride.  In the film, the hippies paint the plane like Kesey did his bus.  Contains the greatest house explosion ever captured on film!  They built a model to blow up to the tune of $100,000 1969 dollars!  Shot from 17 different camera set-ups, it plays out on screen for fully 97 seconds.  Pink Floyd scores the aftermath.  Incredible soundtrack featuring the Grateful Dead (Dark Star), Garcia scores the multi-couple sex scene in the dessert (cast from Joe Chaikin’s Open Theater in New York), the Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, John Fahey, the Youngbloods and David Lindley’s Kaleidoscope.  (seen once)
Two-Lane Blacktop — 1971;  Monte Hellman;  James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates, pixieish Laurie Bird (her first of only 3 films), and Harry Dean Stanton for a couple minutes as one of the hitchhikers.  Both Taylor & Wilson’s only film roles.  A road movie — a bizarre race across the southern U.S. from West to East – California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina.  Filmed entirely on locations On The Road, Aug–Oct 1970.  Like The Defiant Ones and The Last Picture Show — all diegetic music, including Kristofferson’s Me & Bobby McGee.  No one in film wore makeup.  The ending came to director Hellman in a dream.  Same 1955 Chevrolet that Harrison Ford drove in American Graffiti.  By 1983, 3 of the 4 leads were all dead, except James Taylor.
A testimonial of 16 reasons why he loves this movie by the great writer/director Richard Linklater:
(1) Because it’s the purest American road movie ever. (2) Because it’s like a drive-in movie directed by a French new wave director. (3) Because the only thing that can get between a boy and his car obsession is a girl, and Laurie Bird perfectly messes up the oneness between the Driver, the Mechanic, and their car. (4) Because Dennis Wilson gives the greatest performance ever . . . by a drummer. (5) Because James Taylor seems like a refugee from a Robert Bresson movie, and has the chiseled looks of Artaud from Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. (6) Because there was once a god who walked the earth named Warren Oates. (7) Because there’s a continuing controversy over who is the actual lead in this movie. There are different camps. Some say it’s the ’55 Chevy, some say it’s the GTO. But I’m Goat man, I have a GTO-’68. (8) Because it has the most purely cinematic ending in film history. (9) Because it’s like a western. The guys are like old-time gunfighters, ready to outdraw the quickest gun in town. And they don’t talk about the old flames they’ve had, but rather old cars they’ve had. (10) Because Warren Oates has a different cashmere sweater for every occasion. And of course the wet bar in the trunk. (11) Because unlike other films of the era, with the designer alienation of the drug culture and the war protesters, this movie is about the alienation of everybody else, like Robert Frank’s The Americans come alive. (12) Because Warren Oates, as GTO, orders a hamburger and an Alka-Seltzer and says things like “Everything is going too fast and not fast enough.” (13) Because it’s both the last film of the sixties-even though it came out in ’71-and also the first film of the seventies. You know, that great era of “How the hell did they ever get that film made at a studio?/Hollywood would never do that today” type of films. (14) Because engines have never sounded better in a movie. (15) Because these two young men on their trip to nowhere don’t really know how to talk. The Driver doesn’t really converse when he’s behind the wheel, and the Mechanic doesn’t really talk when he’s working on the car. So this is primarily a visual, atmospheric experience. To watch this movie correctly is to become absorbed into it. (16) And, above all else, because Two-Lane Blacktop goes all the way with its idea. And that’s a rare thing in this world: a completely honest movie. 
(seen once)
Vanishing Point — 1971;  Richard Sarafian;  Barry Newman (Petrocelli), Cleavon Little, and the always creepy Anthony James as one of the hitchhikers.  Great road movie.  The inspiration for Tarantino’s Death Proof, down to the use of a white 1970 Challenger.  Plus a thousand other filmmakers & scholars have cited it.  INCREDIBLE soundtrack — including lotsa drums, bluegrass, and an on-screen appearance by Delaney & Bonnie!  Boy, would Neal Cassady have ever loved this movie! 🙂  It must’ve been quite the experience in 1971-72 seeing this on the big screen!  Beautiful landscape scenery — and seat-of-your-pants car chases!  But don’t love the ending.  (seen once)
Klute — 1971;  Alan Pakula;  Jane Fonda (deservedly won Best Lead Actress Oscar) and Donald Sutherland, Roy Scheider with a bit part, and a pre-Edith Jean Stapleton in a tiny part; great script nominated for Best Screenplay;  Jane Fonda’s New York apartment was an elaborate set that she could actually live in during filming.  (seen once)
Boxcar Bertha — 1972;  Martin Scorsese; produced by Roger Corman;  Barbara Hershey & David Carradine (who were a couple at the time), Barry Primus, plus a great John Carradine (David’s father).  Like The Sting, Bonnie & Clyde & Paper Moon, a Depression-era criminal-hustler antihero drama.  Carradine plays a character very similar to his union-organizing train-hopping Woody Guthrie in Bound For Glory.  Scorsese’s second feature-length film.  He followed this with Mean Streets.  No masterpiece of filmmaking, but a good period drama with quality casting and characterizations.  (seen once)
The Godfather1972;  directed and co-screenwritten by Francis Ford Coppola;  from Mario Puzo book;  Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Abe Vigoda, Diane Keaton, John Cazale.  Won Best Picture, Screenplay and Actor for Brando.  Seen parts of many times, have real trouble sitting through the whole thing.  (seen once)
Frenzy1972;  Alfred Hitchcock;  great script by Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth, Murder on the Orient Express) from an Arthur Le Bern novel;  Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Anna Massey, Jean Marsh, Bernard Cribbins (Fawlty Towers), Clive Swift (Keeping Up Appearances).  I’d read about it and watched a “making of” doc and figured I didn’t really wanna see it — including after not loving 1976’s Family Plot.  But I kinda really like this.  Seems like classic suspenseful Hitchcock including tinges of macabre humor — ‘cept set wonderfully in Swinging London circa 1971 (complete with all British accents).  Maybe it’s about a serial rapist/murderer, but it’s a good Hitchcockian wrong-man-accused thriller.   Basically, his last great movie after Psycho/Marnie.  He made ample use of the liberalized restrictions on showing a woman’s breast, which resulted in his only “R” rated picture.  And once again, just as in almost every movie he ever made, there’s a very cool use of … stairs.  Hitchcock is the cinematic M.C. Escher of stairs.  Here’s a great mini essay about his use of stairs, including a great 6-minute video montage. https://sites.middlebury.edu/videographiccourse/2017/12/04/alfred-hitchcocks-39-stairs/  (seen once)
The Harder They Come1972;  written & directed by Perry Henzell;  starring Jimmy Cliff as a young Jamaican trying to make it in the music business.  (seen once)
Badlands
— 1973;  written & directed by Terence Malick;  Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates.  Malick’s first movie.  Based on the a real-life sociopath who had a 14-year-old girlfriend and who killed ten people in eight days in 1958.  The pair were also the inspiration for the Tarantino-penned Oliver Stone film Natural Born Killers.  Sissy met and soon married the Art Director Jack Fisk, who later was the Production Designer on Heart Beat, based on Carolyn Cassady’s book, whom Sissy played (and her & Carolyn became friends).  (seen once)
The Last Detail — 1973;  Hal Ashby;  Robert Towne screenplay (Chinatown);  Jack Nicholson, 22-yr-old Randy Quaid, Otis Young, Carol Kane, Clifton James, Michael Moriarty, and Gilda Radner’s first screen appearance.  Oscar nominated for Screenplay, Lead (Nicholson) and Supporting (Quaid).  The premise is that Jack & Otis transport Randy Quaid to a Marine jail.  There’s actually a scene shot in Ben’s Pizza at 3th & MacDougal in the Village!  Apparently it was an Italian sausage place back in 1972.  Kind of a sad, stupid, depressing movie.  Not my cup of tea.  (seen once)
Mean Streets1973;  directed and screenplay co-written by Martin Scorsese;  Robert De Niro & Harvey Keitel, plus Richard Romanus, David Proval, and a little cameo by David & Robert Carradine.  Scorsese’s first film that was all his — and was based on his own experiences growing up in Little Italy.  He & De Niro would go on to make 9 films together.  Precursor to Goodfellas, The Sopranos et al.  (seen once)

California Split — 1974;  Robert Altman;  George Segal & Elliot Gould, Ann Prentiss, and Jeff Goldblum in a bit part.  A buddy picture set around poker & gambling.  Echoes of Owning Mahowny.  (seen once)
Chinatown — 1974;  Roman Polanski;  Robert Towne won the Best Screenplay Oscar from his own original story, and this script is now taught in every screenwriting course (Polanski also sculpted a lot of it, uncredited);  Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston (the king of original Film Noir), John Hillerman, Burt Young, James Hong (the maitre d’ in the famous Seinfeld “Chinese Restaurant” episode), and Roman Polanski with a cameo as the man with the knife. Nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Lead Actor (Nicholson) & Actress (Dunaway), Art Direction, Costumes & more – but only Towne won — it was Coppola & Godfather II‘s big year.  Polanski’s last film made in America.  Filmed on locations all over Los Angeles.  Jack Nicholson is in every scene of the movie (ie; the story’s all seen thru his eyes).  Set in 1937.  Seabiscuit makes a newspaper cameo at the start of the 3rd scene.  Great score composed by Jerry Goldsmith in 11 days (the same number of days it took me to write The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jack Kerouac 🙂 ).   It’s kind of weird seeing a classic Film Noir in color.  “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”  Polanski wrote that line.  All that going for it, I don’t really like this movie as much as everybody else seems to.  (seen once)
Thieves Like Us1974;  Robert Altman;  Joan Tewksbury (Nashville) & Altman wrote screenplay based on Edward Anderson’s 1937 novel (you can read a great piece about the book and its connection to Bonnie & Clyde here);  Keith Carradine, Shelley Duvall, John Schuck, Louise Fletcher, Tom Skerritt;  great crazy weird filmmaking and beautifully evocative cinematography;  but wasn’t a big fan overall.  Seemed a little plodding and the characters not really fleshed out.  See, also: Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night – both based on the same novel, but Nick’s is much more evocative & captivating, more of a tender appealing love story and not just bank robbers, much more believable screenwriting & acting, and much better pacing (editing), IMO.  (seen once)
Barry Lyndon — 1975;  written, directed & produced by Stanley Kubrick;  based on a Thackeray novel;  Ryan O’Neal, Marissa Berenson (speaks only 13 lines of dialog, less than 100 words), Patrick Magee.  Set in late 1700s, Warner Brothers required a Top 10 movie star in order to finance it – which is why Love Story’s Ryan O’Neal is in it.  Deservedly won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes & Score; nominated for Best Picture, Director & Adapted Screenplay.  Fantastic script — really well brought to cinematic life.  I thought about 20 times while watching it, “This is great filmmaking!”  In 2022, it ranked 12th greatest of all time by directors in Britain’s Sight & Sound magazine, and it’s Scorsese’s favorite Kubrick film.  I don’t know why this isn’t regarded as a comedy — sure seems comedic to me. Made after A Clockwork Orange and was followed by The Shining.  Took 300 days to shoot over two years!  Several scenes are filmed using only candlelight.  Incredible locations in England, Ireland & Germany, including landscapes, gardens, castles and palaces.  Shot with the custom lens NASA used on the moon to capture the landscapes.  Magnificently filmed — would have been great on the big screen.  A lot of reverse zooms revealing the beautiful landscapes.  The framing has a painterly aspect – a lot of the imagery inspired by period paintings by Gainsborough and others.  Kubrick did his usual 20 – 50 takes per scene, much to the exasperation of all.  I was unexpectedly captivated.  I think I’m agreeing with Scorsese (but second to The Shining).  A great movie that’s almost Tim Burton-level weird!  (seen once)
Love and Death — 1975;  written & directed by Woody Allen;  Woody & Diane Keaton (one of their eight together), Harold Gould.  1800s period-piece meaning-of-life comedy.  A spoof of historical Russian novels a la Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, including the title playing on “War and Peace” and “Crime and Punishment.”  It’s shot with lots of allusions to Ingmar Bergman films; plus played with the slapstick of Chaplin and writing in the style of the smart clipped one-liner banter of the Marx Brothers.  A lot of funny lines & visuals and Woody standup asides, but kind of a lot of what we now know of as cliche Woody — cheapskates, his ineptitude and cowardice.  (seen once)
The Passenger1975;  Michelangelo Antonioni;  Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider.  Walter Salles’s pick as one of the great movies of all time; caused me to see it as part of his film festival at the Waverly Theater when On The Road premiered in New York.  (seen once)
Shampoo1975;  Hal Ashby;  written by Robert Towne & Warren Beatty; Warren Beatty, Lee Grant (won Oscar for Best Supporting), Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Jack Warden, Carrie Fisher’s first movie, age 17, 2 years before Star Wars.  Set in L.A. in 1968, including a fantastic ’60s party scene with the kinda soundtrack from that era that readers of this site would love.  (seen once)

The Front — 1976;  Martin Ritt;  written by Walter Bernstein – who were both blacklisted by the McCarthy witch-hunt in the 1950s, the subject of the movie, and his great script was nominated for Best Screenplay (but lost to Paddy Chayefsky for Network);  starring Woody Allen (in his first dramatic role he didn’t write), plus Zero Mostel (who’s wholly engaging in his final film appearance before his untimely aneurysm death at 62), Herschel Bernardi, Lloyd Gough & Joshua Shelley, all of whom had been blacklisted, and Michael Murphy & Danny Aiello.  Movie posters featured text that read: “What if there were a list?  A list that said: Our finest actors weren’t allowed to act. Our best writers weren’t allowed to write. Our funniest comedians weren’t allowed to make us laugh. What would it be like if there were such a list? It would be like America in 1953.” (which is the year the film is most vividly set in).  The Catskills scenes were shot at Brown’s Hotel including Zero Mostel performing in its Jerry Lewis Theater Club room.  Powerful film.  color (with a B&W opening)  (seen once)
The Goodbye Girl — 1977;  Herbert Ross;  written specifically as a movie by Neil Simon (not an adaptation of an existing play);  Richard Dreyfuss (won his sole Oscar, and at the time, was the youngest actor in history to win), Marsha Mason (Neil Simon’s wife), Paul Benedict, and an uncredited Jamie Farr as a bartender.  Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Neil Simon for the Screenplay, Marsha Mason for Lead Actress, and Quinn Cummings the 10-yr-old girl for Best Supporting.  A woman (Marsha Mason) gets dumped by her actor boyfriend, then Richard Dreyfuss (another actor) moves into her apartment.  This was the first rom-com to gross $100 million, and Dreyfuss became the first actor in history to have three movies in a row hit that mark, the others being Jaws and Close Encounters.  Fantastic performances by both Dreyfuss and Mason!  Great script.  Lots of authentic New York location shooting.  A mind-blowingly accurate New York apartment built as the set.  It fooled me — and I spent thousands of hours in apartments like that.  Should have gotten a Production Design Oscar nom.  Super vivid mid-’70s movie, and a realistic portrait of being an actor/artist.  I really loved this film.  SO New York — and set just before I moved there and into the artists’ community.  (seen once)
Days of Heaven — 1978;  written & directed by Terence Malick;  Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard.  Not to be confused with Heaven’s Gate or Heaven Can Wait!  Boy, I’m 0-for-2 liking Terence Malick movies.  (seen once)
Who’ll Stop The Rain — 1978;  Karel Reisz;  from Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers novel about a Vietnam vet who gets conned into a drug deal that goes bad – the lead character, played by Nolte, was loosely based on Stone knowing Neal Cassady through Kesey;  Nick Nolte, Tuesday Weld, Michael Moriarty, Ray Sharkey (plays Allen/Ira in Heart Beat), Richard Masur.  Nolte was in prep for playing Cassady and channeled him into the role.  They go to a place loosely based on Kesey’s wired mountain La Honda retreat.  Ends with a Cassady-like railroad track scene.  S.A. Griffin recommendation.  I didn’t much care for it. Drug dealers and losers.  (seen once)

Permanent Vacation — 1980;  written & directed by Jim Jarmusch (his first movie);  Chris Parker, John Lurie; move about a guy who goes on an Adventure in Manhattan and meets all kinds of strange people in 1980 — the year I moved to the city;  pretty low budget and dark;  didn’t like it at all, not recommended.  (seen once)