Cumulative Movie Recommendations


EXCALIBUR directed by John Boorman 

The Arthurian Cycle is the great myth of the English speaking people.

Arthur, Gwenivere, Lancelot, Morgana, Merlin, Mordred in the “Dark Ages.”

This movie done on a shoestring, with an unknown cast, (and very little money - the battles done in a fog obscure the fact that they could not afford too many extras) However, it vividly captures the spirit of myth, magic and the odd notion of the “just king,” and the clash of Paganism and Christianity. This film, more than any other captures the spirit of T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King” and Mallory’s “Morte d’Arthur.” 

Nicole Williamson (Merlin) and Helen Mirren (Morganna) shine!

*****

AMERICAN GRAFFITI directed by George Lucas (1973) (110 min.)

This movie teems with life!! 

It chronicles a long evening in the late summer of 1962, and follows four chums who’ve just finished high school and their adventures on this summer night. They are unknowingly on the cusp of a cultural divide. In a few months the Beatles will arrive in the U.S., and JFK will be assassinated, and America will be dramatically changed.

The particular era and the cultural artifacts, notwithstanding, and even though the characters are slightly caricatured, you will recognize your 17 year-old self and your 17 year-old contemporaries in the characters in this movie. (and you will revel in it!!)

The cinematography is extraordinary! (the great Haskell Wexler - uncredited) Chrome, neon, and cars - and you can almost smell the pizza, fast food, and teen hormones! Lucas presents a delicious fantasy where the beautiful, elusive blonde in the white T-bird is just around the corner, or in the next fast food parking lot.

 Then there is the Greek Chorus; DJ Wolfman Jack and his continuous stream of oldie R&B and Rock ‘n Roll! It’s just wonderful!

Be prepared to obsess on your post high school youth! 

Here’s the IMdB link for further info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069704/

*****



THE LAST PICTURE SHOW directed by Peter Bogdanovitch (1971) (118 min.)

This is a coming of age tale - and so much more. The year is 1951, and the mythical Anarene TX is a dreary town in the Texas flatlands which no longerhas a reason to exist. The town has a pool hall, a cafe, and a movie theater, and the movie theater is closing because it cannot compete with the new medium called television. Sonny and Duane are recent grads of Anarene’s tiny high school with nothing to do but drive around in a dusty pickup truck, and in the course of their non-adventures, you meet most of the town-folks. But - as I’m sure you remember - these town-folks are portrayed by one of the most amazing ensemble companies ever assembled!!  And that makes all the difference. Jeff Bridges,  Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen Busrtyn, Randy Quaid...(the list goes on and on.)

This was one of the first movies to use a soundtrack which reflected the times. so you will hear a lot of Hank Williams, and Jo Stafford.

If you’ve not seen it recently, watch it again - it’s even better than you remembered!

Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067328/

*****

THE MALTESE FALCON directed by John Huston (1941) (101 min.)


This is the movie that created the “Film Noir” genre: mean streets, a hardboiled, hard-edged, cynical hero, depraved villains, and “a femme fatale.”  It also rescued Humphrey Bogart from “B” movie purgatory and positioned him to play Rick in “Casablanca.")


The hero is confirmed cynic, yet he lives by a code, so we have the classic “film noir” plot; a beautiful and mysterious woman wants the “private eye” to find someone. This leads of course, to the “bad guys;” Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Elisha Cook, Jr. who are debauched because they are gay. (how quaint - but this was, after all, 1941!!) 


The plot is silly and absurd, but don’t let that stop you, this is Bogart and John Huston weaving their movie magic - and you will be utterly enthralled and fascinated! (And, oh yes, there is that hawk statuette and  “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”)

 

This is one of the best movies ever! Watch it again!


Here’s the IMdB link for further info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033870/



*****



CHINATOWN directed by Roman Polanski (1974) (131 min.)


Because last week’s choice was the “Maltese Falcon,” I thought it would be worthwhile to recommend Polanski’s brilliant re-visioning of the “Maltese Falcon.” Jack Nicholsen steps into Bogart’s shoes, and John Huston is now an actor cast as a polite, refined, and sinister monster. The plot and characters are essentially the same mix, but what’s different is a more modern sensibility and complexity. The same era, with mean streets, but the locale is L.A. and not San Francisco, and Technicolor replaces the b&w cinematography. (And it is exraordinary!)


A movie about flawed vision; Nicholsen’s character who is smart and competent, keeps missing the really important clues, especially Noah Cross' immense wealth (note also the imperfection in Evelyn's iris, the broken tail light, the cracked lens in the eyeglasses with the resulting Oedipal implications.) So in keeping with the code of the private eye to protect his client, Jake unwittingly causes her demise. 


“Chinatown” is the equal of its great predecessor, “The Maltese Falcon.” Watch it again!


Here’ the link for further info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071315/  



*****


ATONEMENT directed by Joe Wright (2007) (123 min.)


From an upstairs window in an opulent post WWI mansion, a preteen girl observes her older sister being sexually abused by a young man. At least that is how she perceives the event. (Immersion in water is a recurring and foreshadowing event.)


Halfway through the film we discover that what she had perceived as abuse, was merely a playful erotic game between a young couple who were falling desperately in love. The younger sister’s misperception will ultimately, and tragically doom the three of them. This is an achingly beautiful film!


It is wonderfuly directed. The cinematography is stunning, and the casting us surperb. (The whisper thin, Keira Knightly is perfect as the rich heroine - in the green gown scene, she seems to the manor born.) And the late Stanley Kubrick would revel in the longest tracking scene ever shot! (Three soldiers trying to reach Dunkirk)


If you missed it the first time around, by all means see it, and if you’ve seen it, by all means see it again, and celebrate its beauty! You wont regret it 


Here's the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0783233/ 



*****


THE SURE THING directed by Rob Reiner (1985) (100 min.)


It’s Winter Break and a disparate couple from an Eastern college are thrust together on a trip across the country. She to spend time with her boring fiancé, and he for a sexual encounter with a ‘sure thing’ that a California buddy has arranged. This is, or course, the classic screwball plot updated, and it is indeed a sly homage to Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night.” 


In the mid ’80’s, director Rob Reiner was on an incredible roll, and in his hands this potentially raunchy plot, becomes a funny, witty and surprisingly sweet story; the sure thing becomes the real thing. A young John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga as the bickering couple are exceptional.



Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090103/


*****


MILLION DOLLAR BABY directed by Clint Eastwood  (2004) (132min.)


I still regard this movie as so far the best film of the the 21st Century. I know some who have not yet seen it because they object to the brutality of boxing, and others who've not seen it dismissing it as "Rocky in a sports bra." 

Unlike Rocky, which was emotionally contrived, this film is the real deal!

Although women's boxing is the plot point, this is a film about relationships - particularly about fathers and daughters. The acting is superb! Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, and Clint, sometimes go past the veil of acting and almost become real people! It is a powerful story and an amazing movie!


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0405159/


*****


CASABLANCA directed by Michael Curtiz (1942) (102 min.)


Bogart and Bergman in Morocco!


It’s hard to imagine anyone who has not seen this movie! Certainly no one on this e-mail list. My reason for suggesting another viewing is that this movie never disappoints, and you have the added pleasure of anticipating all those great lines of dialog that have become inscribed into your memory.


A breathtaking love story, that is perfectly cast - you cannot imagine any other actors playing the roles assigned to them right down to Sascha the Russian bartender and S.Z. Sakall as the avuncular Carl. (It is apparently not true that Warner Bros. considered Ronald Reagan to play Rick.)


So sit back and watch it yet again, starting with “Play it, Sam.” to “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” - and revel in all the lines in between. Watch the patrons of The Cafe Americain out-sing the Nazis; find Capt. Renault “schocked” after collecting his winnings; hear Dooley Wilson sing “As Time Goes By” And on and on...


Aside from the powerful sentiment, this is a movie that is beautifully crafted. Michael Curtiz was a superior director, the cinematography is excellent, and the screenplay is just wonderful!!


Here’s (looking at you, Kid) - and also the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/



*****


STAND BY ME directed by Rob Reiner (1986) (89 min.)


A writer reflects on a boyhood memory.

 

It is the summer of 1957 and four twelve year old boys embark on a poignant adventure to find the body of a kid who has disappeared in the woods. Based on a short story by Stephan King, this is a subtly realized coming of age story. 


What makes this film work so well is the chemistry between the boys. The way they talk and the way they act. It seems real. 


Worth another look, and you too will remember what twelve was like. This is the movie's last line,

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” 


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092005/



*****


LONE STAR directed by John Sayles (1996) (135 min.)


I missed this movie the first time around. It was released the year I retired, and I needed a break from watching films. I am sorry that I missed it because it is a great film. 


The setting is a border town in present day Texas. A skeleton and a sheriff’s badge are found in the desert on the outskirts of the town; and thus begins a complex and layered story involving the town’s history as seen through the eyes of the town’s Anglo, Black, and Chicano population, and the fundamental question becomes, whose history? The screenplay is brilliant, and the movie is compelling!  Chris Cooper’s performance is especially notable. 


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116905/



*****


2001: A  SPACE ODYSSEY directed by Stanley Kubrick (1968) (141 min.)


There are only two “awesome” sci-fi movies: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and this one. No, the Star Wars movies, clever as they are, just don’t come close to these two.


Somewhere in huge expanse of space exist a vastly intelligent race who have taken on the chore of monitoring the entire universe for life forms that posses a crude intelligence and an aggressive nature who possibly pose a threat to the stability of the entire universe. These monitors called “monoliths” start signaling alarms when, on the planet, Earth, Neanderthals kill their apelike forbears, and become increasingly shrill when when this race discovers that they can travel short distances in space, and have a nuclear capability. 


This intelligent race determines that they need a specimen of these Earth creatures to discover how dangerous they are. On a space journey by two astronauts to Jupiter, this advanced race takes over the Spaceship’s on-board computer, HAL, so a human specimen can be captured, however, this plan is almost foiled by the aggressiveness of the astronaut, Bowman, but he is eventually captured, and put on display in a zoo, in a natural environment. (curiously, an 18th Century one) Bowman ages and dies, and his DNA is sent back to Earth as a “star child” (who shall become what??)


Soo...before the days of “special effects” and CGI, Kubrick made this movie that still has not been surpassed for beauty and effects that are extraordinary. (The bone tossed into space has not yet been surpassed!!)


The above is my take on what the movie is about. But I must warn you that there are dozens of other interpretations. (Man and his machines is another) Check it out again to see if you’re in agreement. Once again this film is absolutely first rate and still one of the best movies ever!

**************

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION directed by Frank Darabont  (1994) (142 min.)


Most of this film is set in a prison, but this is an atypical prison story.  The protagonists are two convicts serving life sentences and the themes which are patiently explored are personal worth and the importance of community. The movie is deliberately constructed, beautifully performed, and quite uplifting.


This is an awfully good movie that improves with another viewing, a simple, elegant story expertly acted by the two principals; Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111161/?ref_=nv_sr_1


You’ll find the trailer at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hB3S9bIaco


Here’s the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062622/



*****



BLACK ORPHEUS (Orfeu Negro) directed by Marcel Camus (1959) (107min.)


The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice set in mid-twentieth century Rio during Carnaval. For a movie haunted by death, this film pulses with joy, life, color and exuberance to the beat of the the Brazilian samba. 


“Black Orpheus” introduced the world to the music of Brazil, called Bossa. The soundtrack is composed by Tom Jobim and Luis Bonfa. (Jobim dubbed the singing voice of Orpheus)  The actors playing the principal roles are unimaginably beautiful, and Orfeu serenading Eurydice singing Manha de Carnival is unsurpassed.  Here’s that scene on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwDYcyqn7DY&feature=related


This film is wonderful!!

 

Here’s the IMdb link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053146/



*****


WHEN HARRY MET SALLY directed by Rob Reiner (1989) (96 min.)


The “Screwball Comedy” which was done regularly and spectacularly in the ‘30s and 40’s and was a movie art form.  The scenario: (a) boy meets girl, contentiously, (b) their egos clash and they bicker, continually, (c) they end up in each others arms, happily.


Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne, Katherine Hepburn et. al. because of their extraordinary acting skills, made this genre seem so simple, easy and natural. Alas, when they were gone movie-makers just weren’t able to replicate this wonderful comedic form. 


However, “When Harry Met Sally” comes very close! Thanks to a witty script by Nora Ephron, and the great chemistry between the principal actors, this movie works as a modern “screwball.” The episodic romance between Harry and Sally clings closely to its roots, and it is quite compelling and amusing.


A very young Harry Connick, Jr. presides over a very appropriate and clever soundtrack.


The “fake orgasm” scene in the restaurant is truly hilarious!


Here's the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098635/ 


*****


PSYCHO directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1960) (109 min.)


Fifty years ago this was the most frightening movie ever made. It remains so!

It's not for naught that Hitchcock was called "The Master of Suspense" His timing was impeccable and his film cutting skills were extraordinary. In "Psycho" all the now familiar Hitchcockian tropes appear; the "bird" imagery, the staircase, the likable villain, the high overhead shots, the macabre wit. ("I can handle a sick old woman.") (Some people stuff larger animals, I could never do that!")


This is a beautifully crafted movie, and terribly suspenseful. Curiously the violence that takes place is in the viewers imagination and not on the screen. You see a knife, you see blood, and your imagination fills in the spaces. (Aided by the brilliant "soundscapes" of Bernard Herrmann)

Check out "Psycho" again - but please shower before you watch it!!


Here's the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054215/



*****



DAY FOR NIGHT (La nuit américaine) directed by François Truffaut (1973) (115 min,


This is a wonderful movie about making a movie. A cast and crew are assembled on location in Nice, France to make film, and by virtue of this filmmaking endeavor become a hastily thrown together family. The drama that takes place on the set is far more compelling than the film being made, and Truffaut effortlessly spins a half dozen absorbing and amusing tales involving the folks engaged in this enterprise. Movie making is a complicated and messy undertaking. Stuff goes wrong, Egos have to be placated. Props don’t work. This movie’s director is played by Truffaut himself and early on in the film he remarks, "Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach trip, at first you hope for a nice ride. Then you just hope to reach your destination."


M. Truffaut gets us to this destination in fine style, with his affectionate, gentle humanity.


This is a “must see” movie for film lovers, and you will finally get to see what a Key Grip does.


Here the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070460/ 



*****


BODY HEAT directed by Lawrence Kasdan (1981) (113 min.)


Early in this movie a slinky Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner in her film debut) says to Ned Racine, a small town, lazy lawyer, “You’re not very bright. I like that in a man.” 


Here is one of the very best of the “neo-noir” films. Set in south Florida during a heat wave, which metaphorically replicates the scenerio. This movie sizzles with noir plot twists, and deviousness, and is one of the rare movies where the female character is not an appendage, but drives the plot. Matty Walker is a  unforgetable "femme fatale!"


And, yes, similarities to "Double Indemnity" are indeed a deliberate homage!


Kathleen Turner, William Hurt, Ted Danson, and Mickey Rourke shine!!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082089/



*****


TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH directed by Henry King (1949) (132 min.)


I first saw this movie when I was twelve. I was terribly impressed then. Sixty years later, I saw it again and was even more impressed. It still retains its potency and timelessness. 


It is WWII, and a bomber group commander has to make an agonizing daily decision to whether to send his pilots and crews into harm’s way from a base in England to destroy German cities and kill lots of civilians. Once over Europe, the bombers are subject to relentless attack from German fighter planes and antiaircraft fire. This movie aptly captures the crushing moral ambiguity of the commander's regular decisions and the heroism the entire bomber group who know that on each mission some of the B17's will not ever return.


This is a powerful and visually stunning movie (in glorious black and white) that in spite of its age, still holds. Very strong performances by Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger. 


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041996/


*****


THE CONVERSATION directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1974) (113 min.)


In the interim between the epics Godfather and Godfather Part II, Francis Coppola made this extraordinary small movie. This film is both a thriller and a character study. Harry Caul (a particularly superb performance by Gene Hackman) is an expert wiretapper, and a wreck of a human being; isolated, secretive, and paranoid. He takes no moral responsibility for the harm that his work may cause. He is just doing his job. That is until he is hired to eavesdrop on a young couple, and he skillfully extracts the remark “He’d kill us if he had the chance.” He becomes emotionally connected to this assignment, and fearful that harm may come to the couple if he turns in the tapes. The conclusion is devastating and shattering.


This is an outstanding movie with allusions to Antonioni’s Blow Up, Hitchcock, and the Watergate scandal.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/find?s=tt&q=The+Conversation



*****


L.A. CONFIDENTIAL directed by Curtis Hanson (1997) (138 min.)


This is one of the best of the “neo noir” films. It is set in Los Angeles in the mid 50’s where under the bright shiny surface of L.A. in that era, the new trash tabloid magazines are intent on sensationalizing the sleaze under the surface. The protagonists are three LAPD detectives. Each with a differing ethos and view of police work. The plot is labyrinthian, complex, and very compelling. The scenario goes in many directions, and uncovers startling corruption, but all is resolved in a surprising and shocking conclusion. Excellent performances by Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, and Russell Crowe, with an exceptional turn by Kim Basinger. This movie will reside in your memory the way the equally peerless Chinatown does. Watch it again!


Here's the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119488/



*****


THE GRADUATE directed by Mike Nichols (1967) (105min.)


Okay! This was the movie that redefined the movie experience of our generation!


The adventures of Benjamin Braddock after college graduation, who wants “something to do,” and he decides that “something” is marrying Elaine the daughter of his paramour, the immortal “Mrs. Robinson,” Dustin Hoffmann and Ann Bancroft are brilliant! Mrs. Robinson is the original “cougar, (in reality Hoffman & Bancroft were only a half dozen years apart,) but Hoffmann is a so convincing as a twenty year old and Bancroft is the defines the myth of the mid fortiysh seductress.


And then there’s the wonderful Simon and and Garfunkel soundtrack that mirrors the plot. (One of the first, movies that used a contemporary music to advance the plot.) We’ve a couple of enduring lines to remember: “Plastics,” and “Mrs. Robinson, I think you’re trying to seduce me!”


But it is, of course. the ending that makes this movie so memorable. I does not end with Benjamin and Elaine boarding the bus. The movie continues to the rear of the bus; Elaine looking ruefully at her wedding gown, and Benjamin with his triumphal smile. He has accomplished  his goal “to marry Elaine, but there is not a shred of evidence that he loves Elaine, nor even cares about her other than an object of desire.

 

The final shot  is that of an old fashioned bus with split rear windows, with Elaine on one side, Benjamin on the other. This ending to Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence,” suggesting strongly that their own marriage will be more banal than the marriage of their parents.


Here's the IMDb iink:


*****


ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST directed by Milos Foreman(1975) (133min.)


Okay! You’ve all seen this movie, but it is the real deal! Jack Nicolson is brilliant as R.P McMurphy, the quintessential rebel against “the system” against the equally brilliant Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched as the implacable embodiment of the “status quo.” 


Then there are the wonderful ancillary characters; “the Chief,” Billy, Harding, Mancini, and Seifert. 


One of the best movies ever. Check it out once again. Here's the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073486/ 



*****


SLEEPER directed by Woody Allen (1973) (89 min.)


This is one of the last of Woody’s hilarious comedies. Where he uses gags and physical comedy instead of his later cerebral humor, and pays homage to the slapstick movies of the silent era; particularly those of Buster Keaton and Chaplin. 


It is hard to remember how good Allen was at physical comedy, and he was indeed very adept at it: the trysts in the Ogasmatron, or trying to escape capture in his “cheap Japanese flying machine,” and the pretending to be a robot schtick.


Movie comedies don’t generally last the test of time, because comedy tends to reflect the present. But this film holds up quite well, and is laugh-out-loud funny!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070707/



*****


PAPER MOON directed by Peter Bogdanovitch (1973) (102 min.)


Moses Pray a fast talking con man selling Bibles in the Depression era is saddled with a 9 year old girl (who may or may not be his daughter.) Tatum O’Neal’s  performance as Addie Loggins is nothing short of brilliant. A wise child who is a far better con artist than her partner. This is a splendid father-daughter “buddy” movie.


Probably Bogdanovitch’s best film! He seems to get the feel of the the mid 30’s Depression era as well as he did the demise of small town America in The Last Picture Show. But this movie has much more heft.


Beside being revelatory, it is a really fine, amusing and very observant movie.


Additionally,  there is the great cinematographer Laslo Kovacs and his deep focus B&W cinematographer!


Here’s the link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070510/



*****


NASHVILLE directed by Robert Altman (1975) (159 min.)


The best film of a truly great director! An epic of ensemble acting encompassing two dozen fine actors who mesh seamlessly in a complex but very satisfying scenario.


Ostensibly, about the music business and politics, but in reality a movie about American core values.


Altman gave a “homework” assignment to the actors who portrayed performers; each had to compose the songs that they sung. Keith Carridine won hands down with “I’m Easy” which became a huge hit.  (Note Lilly Tomlin’s performance while that song is being sung. One of the great moments of silent acting!!)


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073440/



*****


BLAZING SADDLES directed by Mel Brooks (1974) (93 min.)


This movie is so politically incorrect that using Mel Brooks' own description, it... "rises below vulgarity." And is absolutely hilarious!! The opening scene is particularly memorable! (Cole Porter meets Steven Foster - You have to see it to believe it!)

Every cliché ever seen in a Western is comically deflated; the cowpokes eating beans around a campfire, the dancehall gal with the heart of gold, the alcoholic  deputy... and on and on. Brooks' audacious humor is legendary!! (And don't eat popcorn while re-watching this movie. You'll choke on it from laughing.) 


Here's the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071230/



*****


THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE directed by John Frankenheimer (1962) (126 min.)


A movie that was made nearly fifty years ago is still powerful and relevant - and still a dramatic tour de force The political conspiracy movie that started a genre, and still has not been surpassed! Surreal and brilliant, it is one of those films that will forever remain in your movie memory. Angela Landsbury is wonderful as the “Red Queen!” (And Sinatra does one of his best turns as a movie actor!)


Here’s the IMDb link http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056218/


.                                                                                             +++++++


CABARET directed by Bob Fosse (1972) (124 min.)


Unlike the confectionery musicals of the MGM ‘40s & ‘50s, this  musical has a real bite. Set in Wiemar Germany in the 1930s. It chronicles in cabaret performances the rise of Nazism, and incorporates the sexual ambiguity and decadence of that era. Absolutely brilliant performances by Joel Grey and Liza Minelli, and the extraordinary direction by the great Bob Fosse, who also crafted the wonderful choreography


Here’s the link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068327/


******


STARMAN directed by John Carpenter (1984) (115 min.)


This is a “small” movie that was largely overlooked when it was released. Ostensibly it’s a SciFi movie about an alien who takes a human form, it is really a love story and a road movie. 


Another amazing performance by Jeff Bridges, ably assisted by the delightful Karen Allen, this movie tracks an otherworld alien trying to find his way home. (This is a familiar SciFi trope, but in this movie the human elements far outweigh the archetype.) 


It is quite a likable and compelling movie, very likely John Carpenter’s best, and if you’ve not seen it, I urge you to do so.


Here’s the IMDb link:http://www.imdb.com/find?tt=on;mx=20;q=Starman


*******



DOUBLE INDEMNITY directed by Billy Wilder (1944) (107 min.)


An insurance salesman, staggering and bleeding, returns at night to his home office to relate a tale of greed and lust into the office Dictaphone.


So begins this dazzling move, which along with “The Maltese Falcon” inaugurated the great movie genre called Film Noir.


Three indelible performances by Fred McMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and the great Edward G. Robinson mark this terrific film. Watch it again!! 


Here’s the link: http://www.imdb.com/find?s=all&q=double+indemnity


***********


HENRY V directed by Kenneth Branaugh (1989) (137 min.)

In the year 1215 Harry of Monmouth led a small English expeditionary force to invade France. They were intercepted and vastly outnumbered on the plains of Agincourt by the French army. The sturdy English yeomen and longbow archers won the day for England against heavily armored French knights in one of the most famous battles in history.


Who better to write the screenplay of this stirring story than Will Shakespeare? “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” 


Kenneth Branaugh is superb as the warrior king, and he also is the director os this splendid and gritty film version of this Shakespearian History. (And a terrifically rousing movie! “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...”) Just splendiid! - with “...a touch of Harry in the night.”


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097499/

                                      

*************


STAR WARS directed by George Lucas (1977 121 min.)


From 1967 until 1977 there were no science fiction films made. The reason being Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant 1967 movie: “2001.” After this film, viewers would no longer accept toy spaceships on strings with sparks flashing from their tails.


In 1977, George Lucas re-imagined the sci-fi movie with a retelling of the Arthurian saga (Arthur, Lancelot, Gwenevere, Mordred) and mixing elements of both “Robin Hood” and “The Wizard of Oz ” into a truly wonderful adventure movie.


If you’ve not seen it for a while, treat yourself!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/


*******


SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE directed by John Madden (1998 123 min.)


Will Shakespeare, an up-and-coming poet and playwright, is bereft of new ideas and searching for his muse. He finds her in Viola de Lesseps a beautiful noblewoman who loves the theater, and yearns to be on stage, but cannot because of the societal proscription of women actors. She pretends to be a man to get a role (echoing the cross dressing that is a major element in many of Shakespeare’s plays...)

A delightful and very literate romantic comedy, which is characterized by exceptional acting. (Judi Dench is wonderful as Queen Bess!!)


Watch it once again! It puts to shame the banal silliness that has passed lately for romantic comedy. 


Here the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/find?s=tt&q=shakespeare+in+love


*************


NORMA RAE directed by Martin Ritt (1979 110 min.)


A simple and powerful story of a young single mother working a mindless job in a Southern textile mill, who against her better judgment agrees to become a union organizer. Despite the problems and dangers of this choice, her life is changed for the better.


Regrettably, there is a dearth of movies about strong, ordinary women. This film is about a strong, ordinary woman!


An inspired performance by Sally Field, and it’s been more than thirty years since you saw it last!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079638/


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ALL THAT JAZZ directed by Bob Fosse (1979 123 min.)


A brilliant opening scene. George Benson’s insistent guitar playing “On Broadway.” A wide angle shot of chorus line gypsies auditioning on stage for a upcoming show, and the camera angle becomes tighter and tighter as the ruthless process starts winnowing out the less proficient dancers until those talented few left are desperately competing in close-up for casting in the show!


This movie is a musical bio of the director and great choreographer, Bob Fosse. Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon plays the egocentric, womanizing, drug addled, movie version of Fosse. The film is a dazzling tour de force. It is hard to  imagine a movie musical with graphic open-heart surgery, and the protagonist being zipped up in a body bag in the finale, but somehow it works!


 Check it out again. Roy Scheider and Ann Reinking are marvelous!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078754/


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COOL HAND LUKE directed by Stuart Rosenberg (1967 126 min.)


“What we have here is - failure to communicate!”

This is the quintessential “chain gang” prison movie. Paul Newman is again playing an anti-hero, who keeps escaping from the prison, fully knowing that he will be subjected to brutal, sadistic treatment when recaptured - and he is aware that his recapture is very likely.  


What you have to decide. if you choose to watch this movie again, is whether Luke is the free spirit who cannot abide confinement, or the perpetual loser who just wants to be put out of his misery. Also you may note on a re-viewing, all the Jesus imagery and Christian iconography.


A wonderful supporting cast particularly George Kennedy as Luke’s pal, Dragline.


Lots of great images from the legendary cinematographer, Conrad Hall. Dust, heat, sweat so intense that it stinks, but what you shall remember most is Paul Newman’s ice blue eyes and his dazzling, yet somehow pathetic smile!


Here’s the IMDb link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061512/


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DR. STRANGELOVE directed by Stanley Kubrick (1964 95 min.)


I cannot imagine a more brilliant movie “black comedy!” 

The subject matter as most of you remember is nuclear annihilation, but it is wickedly funny, and you will laugh hard! It also has the innovative and stark cinematography that was the Kubrick hallmark of his many b&w movies, and some wonderfully memorable performances: Peter Sellers (three different roles,) George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, and James Earl Jones’ first movie part with a memorable line, “What’s happened to Maj. Kong?”


Here’s the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/




 

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ROMEO AND JULIET directed by Franco Zefferelli (1968 138 min.)


Okay, you’ve all seen it! 

I urge you to watch it again! Shakespeare as he ought to be experienced. Beautifully filmed, with a magnificent performance by a pair of teen actors who, true to the play, are more in lust, than in love. The ball scene where first they meet an extraordinary insight to to the beauty and opulence of Renaissance Italy - but more than that is one of those movie scenes that once seen, remain an indelible part of your move memory!! - as does most of this entirely lovely film.

Here’s the IMDb link” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063518/



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I am departing from the usual format to comment on the "Millennium Series." Not since the heyday of Ingmar Bergman have Swedish films created a buzz like these movies. All three films of this series are now available on DVD and from Netflix. They are: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. 


These films feature an an extraordinary character; Lisbeth Salander, who is horribly abused at a very young age, by the men in her life; her father, her half brother, various social workers, and others. The movies are revenge films, but not in the conventional Hollywood sense of tracking down stereotypical one dimensional abusers and killing them. All of these abusers are complex personalities and therefore even more monstrous, and also are involved in a shadowy government conspiracy. She kills no one in this film, but her revenge is terrible and poetically Nordic. The character, Lisbeth, is not one to be trifled with!


Equally remarkable is the Swedish actress who plays Lisbeth: Noomi Rapace. Not since I saw a young Jack Nicholsen in The Shooting, and Five Easy Pieces  have I seen a young actor more compelling, charismatic...and scary!! (And in these films, she is not particularly pretty - but feral and truly fierce!)


If you've an aversion to violence, as I have, you'll have a hard time watching these movies, so be forewarned, but the violence is not gratuitous, and these movies are well crafted, atmospheric, and genuinely memorable.


Here are the IMDb links: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1132620/ ; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1216487/ :http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1343097/


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SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly (1952 103 min.)


One of the last of the great MGM musicals, and one of the greatest films ever!! Gene Kelly at the very top of his game, aided by the wonderful Donald O’Conner and a teen Debbie Reynolds. And all those wonderful dance numbers” You Are My Lucky Star, Broadway Rhythm, You Were Meant for Me. Fit as a Fiddle, Moses Supposes, Make ‘em Laugh. Good Mornin’ and the unforgettable and iconic title number!

Treat yourself! Watch it once again!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045152/


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THE SEARCHERS directed by John Ford (1956 119 min.)


John Ford directed John Wayne in over twenty movies many of them first rate. (Stagecoach, The Quiet Man, ...Liberty Valance. ...Yellow Ribbon) but 

The Searchers is the ultimate meeting of these two legends. 


True to its title, this movie chronicles the obsessive five year search for a niece who was kidnapped by a Comanche war party by a racist who despises Indians. Wayne’s very best acting was when he eschewed the heroic “Duke” roles and played a darkly conflicted character. 


The setting is ostensibly Texas, but as many of you know, Ford preferred Monument Valley in Utah for his “Texas” westerns, and the cinematography is breathtaking with some astonishingly beautiful scenery.


If you’ve not seen it for a while, put it in your Netflix queue; it’s one of the great ones.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049730/


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THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE directed by John Houston (1948 126 min.


Three prospectors set off for the mountains of Mexico in search of gold. A grizzled old miner, a surly and paranoid panhandler, and a young cowboy. (Walter Houston, the director’s father, Humphrey Bogart, and Tim Holt respectively)


Gold and greed. It is an old tale. And, indeed, it is loosely based on Chaucer’s “Pardoner’s Tale.” But its a spellbinding story - beautifully directed and wonderfully acted! (And, oh, that final scene....!)


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040897/


And here’s the trailer link: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi567346201/



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THE FRENCH CONNECTION directed by William Friedkin (1971 104 min.)


Ostensibly, this movie is about a pair of narcs trying to make a huge heroin bust, but actually it is all about a brutal, ferociously, obsessed bad cop named “Popeye” Doyle who is brought brilliantly to life by an early Gene Hackman. This is a really fine “cops and robbers” movie! And, of course, it contains the car chase sequence that has never been surpassed!! Popeye undeneath the elevated subway train chasing it through the streets of Brooklyn. The chase is seen mostly from Popeye’s POV, this scene defines the term, “road rage!!”


Check it out again, if you’ve not seen it recently.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067116/


And the trailer is here: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi2196898073/


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AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN directed by Taylor Hackford (1982 124min.)


This film holds up very well.


 As you may remember, it is both a coming of age movie featuring adults, and a “blue collar” fairy tale. But it is a well crafted character driven story that follows an insecure loser, Zack Mayo, through thirteen weeks of Naval Air OCS hectored by a tough drill sergeant with uncompromising standards. 


On weekend shore leave, Zack meets a townie factory girl and they have an affair which turns into an absorbing romance that doesn’t follow the usual Hollywood scenario, because the film follows the thirteen weeks of OCS we experience the problems of trust, insecurity, honesty - that is inherent in an actual love affair, so the famous ending is not a Hollywood cliché, but a satisfying, heart melting, well earned conclusion.


Lou Gossett, Jr., and Debra Winger are terrific!! A quarter century later, it is worth another viewing! 


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084434/


And the movie trailer link:http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi988349209/


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BONNIE AND CLYDE directed by Arthur Penn (1967 112min.)


1967 was a watershed year for films.

The Graduate, Cool Hand Luke, Blow Up, El Dorado. All of these films changed forever the arc of the Hollywood movie, but none more so than Bonnie And Clyde. It is impossible in a capsule summary to any kind of justice to this film. A entire reimagination of the classic American Gangster Movie, and the way movies are presented. Comedy and tragedy coexist side by side. We moviegoers finally learn that bulltes leave large bloody holes in human flesh and tissue. (As if we did not already know!)  And that choosing crime and murder as a vocation has deadly consequences as in the famed slo-mo conclusion. 


Bonnie and Clyde were indeed historical bank robbers, but if they were anywhere near as beautiful as the actors who portray them, they would have found employment in modeling or movie stardom.


Wonderful performances by Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, and Michael Pollard!!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi2495283481/


And here’s the trailer link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061418/


YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN directed by Mel Brooks (1974 106min.)


This movie captures Mel Brooks at the height of his comic genius. Brooks carved out a notable directorial career by making parodies of legacy films.  Here he is at his hilarious best. He even goes to great pains to capture the deep focus black and white cinematography of the originals, and the results are truly hilarious. 

Peter Boyle as the monster is both funny and pathetic, and Gene Wilder’s performance as Dr. “Fronkenstien” is wonderful! (with a terrific supporting cast!)

The “Putting on the Ritz” number is a memorable hoot!!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072431/


And here is the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3070165273/


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YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN directed by Mel Brooks (1974 106min.)


This movie captures Mel Brooks at the height of his comic genius. Brooks carved out a notable directorial career by making parodies of legacy films.  Here he is at his hilarious best. He even goes to great pains to capture the deep focus black and white cinematography of the originals, and the results are truly hilarious. 

Peter Boyle as the monster is both funny and pathetic, and Gene Wilder’s performance as Dr. “Fronkenstien” is wonderful! (with a terrific supporting cast!)

The “Putting on the Ritz” number is a memorable hoot!!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072431/


And here is the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3070165273/


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ALMOST FAMOUS directed by Cameron Crowe (2000 122min.)


A fifteen year old high school student gets hired by Rolling Stone to write an article on an up-and-coming rock band. This is both a wonderful coming of age movie and an accurate reflection of the seventies rock scene, when art and commerce began to collide. 


A delightful and nostalgic look at that era with fine performances by a whole bunch of excellent actors. 


You’ve probably not seen this movie since it opened, if you’ve seen it at all. The “Tiny Dancer” sing-a-long on the tour bus alone is worth the rental! Treat yourself, and put this movie in your Netflix queue.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181875/


And here’s the trailer: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0036OODFU/ref=atv_feed_catalog&tag=imdb-amazonvideo-20


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PICNIC directed by Joshua Logan (1955 113min)


It is hard to believe that this movie was considered “hot” in the mid-fifties! A hunky drifter hits a Kansas town in the ’50’s and ignites almost everyones libido on a Labor Day picnic. 



This movie is now very quaint and amusing, were it not for the segment that everyone who has seen this movie remembers; William Holden and Kim Novak dancing lakeside (replete with paper lanterns) to the lovely “Moonglow/Picnic” music. One of the most romantic - and erotically charged - scenes ever done! And for all of its ’50’s old fashioned morality, it is still one of the sexiest scenes ever filmed! Check it out.


Here’s the IMDb link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048491/


And here’s the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi182978073/

P.S. For those of you of a “certain age” who just want to relive the Moonglow/Picnic dance scene, you will find it here: https://public.me.com/vdubkay



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DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS directed by Carl Franklin (1995 102 min.)


A teriffic neo-noir movie that was very sadly overlooked when it was released. Denzel Washington is Easy Rawlings a black “private eye” trying to pay the mortgage on his new home in late ’40’s LA. 


All the usual suspects; a mysterious beautiful woman, a cabal of bad guys, dark rainy streets, smoke and jazz, and it is done to a fair-thee-well. The amazing Don Cheedle plays a scary/funny killer named “Mouse.”


Please, please rent it and enjoy!!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112857/


And here is the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi966918425/


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FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL directed by Mike Newell (1994 116 min.)


This is a delightful movie about an extended group of friends. It’s kind of a Brit version of Saint Elmo’s Fire with a faint whiff of an old Cary Grant romantic comedy. Hugh Grant invents his persona as the shy, befuddled upper class Brit, and the Andie McDonald reprises her “Elmo’s Fire” role. This movie is a good deal better than “Elmo’s Fire.” and not as satisfying as a Cary Grant comedy, but as Will Shakespeare said, “T’will do, t’will serve,” and it is certainly worth another look.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109831/


And here is the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi665321753/


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Hi All -


We’re well into the the second decade of the the XXI Centerury, so I thought it worthwhile to change the format momentarily to consider what were the best movies of the first decade. Here’s my list of the indispensible movies of the first decade of this century. If you’ve not all of these movies, then put put the ones you’ve missed on your Netflix list. I absolutely guarantee all of the following films:


Million Dollar Baby


Atonement


An Education


The Hurt Locker


Brokeback Mountain


I Am Love (io sono l’amore)


Van -


+++++++++++++++++++


HERO (Ying xiong) directed by Yimou Zhang (2002 99 min.)


If you can recall the wonder of the first time you put a kaldescope to your eye, you will have some idea what this astonishingly beautiful film is like. 


This is a martial arts/action movie and the action strains credulity. But the point of this movie is the extraordinary visuals; the movement, the sweep, and the use of color very much like great Chinese paintings strung together and come to life. Check out the trailer link below to get some sense of the great beauty of this film.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0299977/


And here is the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1504510233/


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BRINGING UP BABY directed by Howard Hawks (1938 102min.)


This movie is perhaps the quintessential “screwball comedy.” (Mix matched couples who end up together at the final credits. or as a famous critic described the genre, “A sex comedy without the sex.”)


The casting is critically important. It requires that the principals be enormously attractive, otherwise the farce would be embarrassingly painful and awkward. So, in this film we’ve got the thirty-something Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, (It is hard to imagine a more beguilingly beautiful couple) both using their extraordinary comic skills.


The plot concerns shy paleontologist, a dinosaur bone, a flighty heiress, cross dressing, a small dog...and, oh yes, a pet leopard.


These diverse elements are deftly handled in the movie, and it is truly hilarious!


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/find?s=tt&q=Bringing+up+baby


And here’s the trailer link: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1018954009/



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EASY RIDER directed by Dennis Hopper (1969 95 min.)


This movie was a “game changer!” More than forty years later the story line  seems a bit quaint and clichéd because the culture has changed so much, but the film still remains a very powerful road movie, buddy movie, and a western - with bikes substituted for ponies - and the direction of the plot line changed from west to east


With the great cinematographer, Lazlo Kovacs behind the camera,

the visual sweep of this film across the lower half of this country is breathtaking - as is the brief appearance of Jack Nicholson joining Captain America and Billy wearing his varsity football helmet. 


It’s well worth another look after all these years; the era of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064276/


And the trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIfUD70yvz8


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THE CANDIDATE directed by Michael Ritchie (1972 110 min.)


This movie starring a young Robert Redford almost forty years ago, could have been made yesterday. An idealistic lawyer who speaks his mind runs for a U.S. Senate seat, against an incumbent that he seemingly cannot possibly win. But as his campaign progresses, his chances improve, as does the inevitable softening of positions. Political “operatives” remake his idealism, and he gets sucked into the media machine. 


His former idealism, starts to change to cynicism, and his policy statements become “sound bites.” “Bill McKay - A Better Way!” Sound familiar?


This film holds up wonderfully and has exceptional performances by Peter Boyle and Melvin Douglas.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068334/


And the trailer is here: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi308740121/


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THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD directed by Michael Curtiz (1938 102 min.)


This movie is perhaps the definitive “swashbuckler!” An improbably handsome Errol Flynn at the beginning of his career; joyfully cavorting about Sherwood Forest, and the castle of King John while wearing green tights; (who, but Errol could carry this off?) ably assisted by those great character actors from the Warner Bros. studio portraying those legendary denizens of Sherwood and Nottingham. Sword fights, romance, adventure, swinging from trees, archery contests...It is all such great fun!  


It is one of those movies you ought to watch every few years just for the sheer exuberance of it.


Heres the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0029843/


And here’s the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi324863001/


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THE NEW WORLD directed by Terrence Malick (2005 135 min.)


The film poet, Terrence Malick re-imagines the oft-told legend John Smith and Pocohontas without any history. A 17th Century British ship would appear as a spaceship to Native Americans; Indians as strange aliens to the Englishmen who come ashore. So this extraordinary movie progresses.

The early Jamestown settlers would not have survived without Pocohontas and the natives.


Alas, antiquity has another version, where the Indians made a genocidal error. This is an exceptional must see movie. 



Here’s the INDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402399/


And here’s the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1928790297/



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THE BAND WAGON directed by Vincente Minnelli (1953 112 min.)


Two of the truly great movie musicals appeared back-to-back. This film was made just a year after Singing in the Rain. One musical was about Hollywood, the other about Broadway. Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire respectively.


This film is not as cheerful as Singing, and is really just a series of fabulous set pieces strung together, but what set pieces they are; “Shine on Your Shoes,” “That’s Entertainment,” “Something to Remember You By,” “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan,” “Triplets,”  and the luminous “Dancing in the Dark.” performed by Fred Astaire and the lovely Cyd Charisse by moonlight in Central Park. The music is by Schwartz and Dietz, and is just wonderful...and so is the movie!

.

Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045537/


And the trailer is here: http://www.cinemagia.ro/trailer/the-band-wagon-orchestra-ambulanta-3126/


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BULL DURHAM directed by Ron Shelton (1988 108 min.)


This a wise, wry romantic comedy set amid a minor league baseball team that has acquired potential major leaguer in a young pitcher who can throw heat but has trouble finding the plate.  An experienced veteran catcher is brought in to mentor him, and a baseball groupie who hooks up with just one player a season, has to choose between the pitcher and the catcher for the upcoming season (A wonderful performances by Susan Sarandon!)


The film also happens to be one of the best baseball movies ever.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094812/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54-Xo96CAB8


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SHANE directed by George Stevens (1953 118 min.)


One of the few great westerns. Ostensibly about the conflict between  cattlemen and farmers in the mid XIX Century, and beautifully filmed on location in Wyoming, it is both clichéd and complex. A retelling of the mythic Arthurian legend with the title character in the Lancelot role. Shane is both medieval knight and samurai, and Jack Palance playing the hired gun with his black “killing glove” is a memorable badguy!


It’s well-worth another look, even if you profess to dislike “westerns.”


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047296/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWdPmapuOd4


(Trailers in this era were impossibly corny and pretentious!)


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ON THE WATERFRONT directed by Elia Kazan (1954 108 min.)


A young Marlon Brando playing a washed-up boxer, who because his brother is affiliated with the corrupt union now works in a fairly cushy job on as a errand boy for the union on the Hobocken docks. In return for the job, he’s required  not to tell what he knows about the murderous and corrupt union bosses.


This movie still holds up remarkably well. Gritty, with a taunt screenplay by Budd Schulberg and splendid actors in the principal roles. (And the young Brando was a feral force of nature particularly in those early Kazan movies!


The “Contender” scene between Rod Stieger and Brando in the back of a cab has long ago become a movie cliché, but if you watch it with fresh eyes; it is one of the saddest scenes put on film. Unrealized dreams, lost opportunities, and loving brothers who are now estranged.


(For those of you old enough to remember, this movie was sort of an apologia by both Schulberg and Kazan for “naming names” in the HUAC hearings in the late forties.)


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047296/


And the trailer link: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3081634073/

(One of those cheezy ’50’s trailers)


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DO THE RIGHT THING directed by Spike Lee (1989 120 min.)


Spike Lee’s fable on the prickly state of race relations still holds after all these years. Larger-than-life characters in a Bed-Stuy neighborhood saturated in primary colors. We meet an array of slightly caricatured participants, some better than others, but all treated with a degree of empathy. A superb cast; with extraordinary photography, and a memorable, still relevant film.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097216/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3282174233/


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LAWRENCE OF ARABIA directed by David Lean (1962 216 min.)


Peter O’Toole’s first leading role made him an international movie star playing the enigmatic and narcissistic T. E. Lawrence. This movie is spectacle, but the director, was a master at intelligent spectacle. (Bridge on Kwai, Dr. Zhivago, et. al.) 


Arabs, who were allies of the Brits, fighting the Turks during WWI on the sands of the Arabian peninsula. Beautifully filmed with a cast of extraordinary actors - and the amazing of shot of Omar Sharif’s character's first appearance in the movie.


This is a movie that is made for HD wide-screen TV.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056172/


And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1481310233/


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SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER directed by John Badham (1977 118 min.)


There are some movies that are memorable because they are timeless art. There are others that are memorable because they reflect a particular time. So it is with this film. It accurately conjures the “disco era” of the mid ‘70s replete with gold chains, feathered hair styles, and polyester. 


Much of this movie is sad and depressing. Twentish Brooklyn working class kids with few skills and little education imagining that success lies just over the bridge in storied Manhattan. Saturday night at the local disco is where their modest paychecks are spent and their youthful dreams revitalized.


Moviegoers have selective memories, and what we moviegoers remember most is the cocky Tony Manero in his white suit strutting on the dance floor under the lights of the mirrored disco ball to the thumping beat, and the falsetto voices of the brothers Gibb. Those scenes are superbly filmed.


The movie is well worth another look from our perspective of thirty odd years. You may get transported back in time.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076666/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq4ZMKqWk80


++++++++++++


THE SHINING directed by Stanley Kubrick (1980 142 min.)


This movie is often described as a “horror movie.” Do not believe it for one moment. It is rather a film which describes a descent into madness by family hired to be caretakers of a large resort hotel which will be snowbound during the winter, and while not exactly a horror movie, you will find it truly terrifying!


Stanley Kubrick was among of the greatest directors ever, and this is one his most notable movies. You will find Jack Nicholson absolutely frightening. I urge you to watch this movie again - but not alone!


Here’s  the IMDb linkhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081505/


And here is the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Cb3ik6zP2I

 

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PATTON  directed by Franklin Schaffner (1970 172 min.)


This ambivalent movie was released at the height of the Vietnam War. It was embraced by both peaceniks and war hawks because it considered the WWII exploits of the the controversial general, who apparently was both a megalomaniac and a brilliant tactician. A sublime performance by the great George C. Scott in the title role, and a terrific screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola.


The opening sequence is truly memorable, and for that scene alone, it is worth revisiting this movie. 


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/find?s=tt&q=Patton


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3499819289/


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SEVEN SAMURAI  directed by Akira Kurosawa (1954 207 min.)


The great Japanese director who was strongly influenced by American “Westerns” retreats back to XVII Century Japan to create this masterpiece.


A poor village threatened by annihilation by a small army of bandits, hire seven samurai warriors to afford them some protection. Thus is the genesis of one of the best action movies ever.  And it is that!


Six years later, John Sturges remade Kurosawa’s Japanese western as The Magnificent Seven. Many movies followed wherein a group is assembled for a particular purpose; The Dirty Dozen, Mission Impossible,The Sting, Star Wars, etc.


But this move remains the original. Non-stop action and gorgeous cinematography.


Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047478/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1612825/


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ALL ABOUT EVE  directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1950 138 min.)


This movie is another on a classic showbiz trope; the aging star usurped by an ambitious and unscrupulous up-and-comer. This film is the quintessential examination of that theme. 


Bette Davis’ best performance in long and distinguished career, with terrific supporting players, and a literate and prickly script. Watch it again, but “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042192/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3IONdE15vQ


****************


SWING TIME  directed by George Stevens (1934 101 min.)


Fred and Ginger. Need I say more? Gowns, tie and tails, art-deco nightclubs the size of the Coliseum with marble floors, and gorgeous black and white cinematography. Ravishing dance duets by the principals, and songs of Harold Arlen and Dorothy Fields which include the lovely “The Way You Look Tonight.” and the very amusing “Pick Yourself Up.”


Why am I telling you this? Watch it again. It’s wonderful!


Here’s the IMDb link: And the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNOMw2W-o8o


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PASSIONE directed by John Turturro (2010 90min)


We just saw this movie yesterday afternoon, and it is just terrific! But unfortunately its opening seems to be limited to Art House theaters, so it may not be available near you. Try to see it if you can.


Not exactly a movie nor a documentary, it is a tour of Naples that features the extraordinary music of that ancient city, performed by local musicians and amateurs. It’s a beautifully filmed labor of love by the actor/director John Turturro. Who early on explains to the audience that despite a life cycle war, invasion and volcanic eruptions, Naples has had a rich and unique culture of music.

 

Passione throbs with life, teems with sensuality, and passion  - and the local musicians are just amazing...and then there are those extraordinary Neapolitan faces!


Early on Mr. Turturro asserts, “There are places that you go to, and once is enough. And then there is Napoli.” 


I note that nearly everyone on this list is part Neapolitan by birth or by marriage, I hope that you’re able to see this movie, It will be gone in a heartbeat. 



Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1407085/


And the trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfZEEs-gWLc 


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WEST SIDE STORY  directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise (1961 151 min.)


This movie still sizzles unforgettably! A potent combination of music by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, choreography by Robbins and an updated story by Will Shakespeare. It’s worth well worth watching once again. The opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission. (Overhead shot of Manhattan closing in on the west side to the snapping fingers of the Jets gang leaning against a chain link fence...)


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055614/ 


And the trailer’s here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yA_aFprGzyc


**********


THE SET UP  directed by Robert Wise (1949 73 min.)


This is one of the Noir masterpieces. The crooked manager of an aging and washed-up boxer, accepts a bribe from gangsters for his fighter to throw the fight. Sure that his fighter cannot win, the manager pockets the bribe and does not tell his boxer. The fighter believes that he has one more good fight in him.


Robert Ryan (a college boxing champ) in one of his best performances, in this dark, beautifully crafted movie. A boxing film that makes a movie like “Rocky” an overblown embarrassment. 


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041859/


And here is a trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tOEkBC8b9U


***********


PATHS OF GLORY  directed by Stanley Kubrick (1957 88 min.)


With this movie, Stanley Kubrick moved into the ranks of truly great directors, never to leave.


Set in the trenches of WWI, this film is cynical, brutal, and brilliant! 

The French high command orders a company of French infantrymen to attack an impenetrable German position. The company’s Colonel (Kirk Douglas in his finest hour) knows the attack is doomed, but he is a good soldier; and tries mightily to prevent the attack. 


A harrowing film that is nearly perfect in its exposition. And then there are those extraordinary tracking shots...


The final two scenes are just devastating and heart breaking.  


Here’s the IMDb link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050825/



The trailer can be found here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050825/


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NORTH BY NORTHWEST  directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1957 131 min.)


Alfred the Great’s amusing and wonderful thriller, which after all these years still is the unsurpassed comedy action and adventure flick!


Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint on the Twentieth Century Limited, on Mount Rushmore, and Cary in an Iowa cornfield, chased by a crop dusting plane. This movie is both ridiculous and sublime! It’s well worth your while to check it out once again.


All the Hitchock tropes; the wrong man, the cool blonde, the smooth villain, the terror of falling, etc.


Here’s the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053125/

An the trailer is here with an intro by Hitch:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053125/


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Hi All -


Here’s this week’s recommendation for your Netflix queue.


AMADEAUS  directed by Milos Foreman (1984 160 min.)


A movie about great genius narrated by a near genius. Milos Foreman’s  beautiful and disturbing film concerning  Mozart. A compelling story, with that is visually beautiful. You cannot take your eyes off F. Murray Abraham’s performance, and the music on the soundtrack is Baroquely glorious! 


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086879/


The trailer:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIzhAKtEzY0


****************


ONCE  directed by John Carney (2006 85 min.)


A charming and poignant romance that takes place in contemporary Dublin between a Irish busker and a Czech immigrant, who’s a pianist. Music abounds, and the award winning song, “Falling Slowly” is from this film. 


This is nearly a perfect movie, and the two principals; Guy and Girl (Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglova) will enchant you with their burgeoning romance.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0907657/ 


And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6xIF92OUos


************


UNFORGIVEN  directed by Clint Eastwood (1992 131min.)


Clint Eastwood’s  great anti-western where it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad, and the color of the hats is no clue. An reformed and aging gunfighter is called back to the business. He’s a bit rusty at first, but not for long. 


Clint, Morgan Freeman, and Gene Hackman do their usual superb jobs.


Here’s the IMDb link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105695/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDAXGILEdro


***************


TOUCH OF EVIL  directed by Orson Welles (1992 131min.)


A dark, atmospheric story of  murder, kidnapping, and police corruption set on both sides of the Mexican border. One of the great noir films, by one of the great moviemakers.


The opening scene is notable and brilliant.


Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052311/


And the trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx125s0t6Gk


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THE NATURAL  directed by Barry Levinson (1984 134 min.)


A movie about a promising ball player, who disappears and returns in his mid-thirties for a phenomenal and magical season. 


Real fans of baseball dislike this movie because it contains many anachronisms. Students of literature dislike it because it changes the ending of the Bernard Malamud novella.


Not withstanding, this is a mythic, gallant fable and a well crafted, beautifully filmed movie that captures a fantastical and heroic tale. Well worth another viewing.


You will find the IMDb link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087781/


And here is the trailer: http://www.traileraddict.com/trailer/natural/trailer


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SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS  directed by Alexander Mackendrick (1957 96 min.)


A terrific noir movie concerning a powerful - and despicable - gossip columnist abetted by a hungry, amoral press agent lackey. Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis at the top of their game. The dialog crackles like a loose wire, and the mood is aided immeasurably by the extraordinary cinematography of the great James Wong Howe.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051036/


And here is representative scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR-xfj4npks&feature=related


Van -


*************


THE AGE OF INNOCENCE directed by Martin Scorsese (1993 139 min.)


This sumptuous movie is set in 1870 in New York City among the vastly wealthy privileged class who inhabited the great mansions along Fifth Avenue in that era.  A world where the unwritten rules of propriety consign the principals to conform to convention, but there is a powerful tension between and within the leading characters not to do the conventionally acceptable.


Extraordinary visual imagery characteristic of Scorsese’s direction and Michael Ballhaus’ cinematography is a treat for the senses.


 Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106226/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0bENHsyGPg


*******************


NIGHT MOVES directed by Arthur Penn (1975 100min,)


This is a twisty, noirish “Private Eye” movie with a host of homages to The Maltese Falcon. Harry Mosby (Gene Hackman) is the investigator, and he is hired to find a missing woman. Harry is smart and competent, but is over his head and clueless to the complexity of the subterfuge in which he finds himself embroiled. 


The supporting cast is excellent and the conclusion is startling and metaphorically poignant. This is one of the premier films in this genre.



Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073453/


And you’ll find the trailer here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojlsNs91Dfw


*********


MY DARLING CLEMENTINE directed by John Ford (1946 97 min,)


One of the truly exceptional westerns by the great John Ford and his stock company, and it is Henry Fonda’s turn at bat as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone Arizona. The Earp brothers and Doc Holiday against the Clanton gang at the OK Corral. Wonderful stuff! Check it out once again.


Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038762/


You will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MmCHHY62T4 


************


THE KILLING directed by Stanley Kubrick (1956 85 min,)


Besides being one of the monumentally great directors, the young Stanley Kubrick was a grand chess master, and a notable photo journalist (the principle still photographer for Look Magazine) This movie is his first full fledged film - made when he was only in his late twenties, and both his chess talents and photographic talents are apparent is this movie.


This is a cleverly conceived and executed “heist” movie. A hard-nosed and smart noir movie of a racetrack robbery gone wrong. The title is the gambler’s term rather than the synonym for a homicide. It was one of the first really good “heist” movies, and it has been subsequently much imitated, but Kubrick was a master, and the photography is superb. The conclusion will be familiar if you had to have read Chaucer in school - it’s from the “Pardoner’sTale.” 


Here is the IMDb link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049406/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQXokRldBUo


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THE PRODUCERS directed by Mel Brooks (1968 88 min,)


This movie was Mel Brooks’ directorial debut. Over the years we’ve gotten used to the sheer audacity of Brooks’ movies, but having been a member of the audience when this film opened, I can attest to the shock of the manic, hilarity that just came in waves and waves. Zero Mostel was a comic life-force as Max Bialystock, and Gene Wilder was the perfect foil as the timid, anxious accountant, Leo Bloom. 


Max and Leo conspire to oversubscribe the financing of a “sure-fire flop.” 

I’m sure by now you know the details of the plot so I won’t spoil the merriment. This is simply one of the funniest movies ever. And even when you know the gags, you cannot hold back the laughter. Just check out the trailer link below to test this thesis. 


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063462/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCNjOBzg8tc


And here is scene of Leo’s panic attack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y6ueYqVgXg&feature=related


**************


DON’T LOOK NOW directed by Nicholas Roeg (1973 110 min,)


This movie is a horror film for adults. Instead of the horror genre’s reliance on fright, this movie depends on an atmosphere of apprehension, menace, and dread.   


A married couple grieving the drowning of their young daughter, relocates to Venice in the hope that a change will relieve their grief, but alas it does not work. The omnipresence of the canals and water and the sinister aspects of an ancient city, seem to reinforce their loss. When a mysterious pair of psychic sister tell them that their daughter is attempting to contact them a series of ominous events spin off to a horrific conclusion. Donald Sutherland and the luminous Julie Christie are excellent as the couple in a consistently compelling scenario.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069995/


And the trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oi8sU8ub_4&feature=related


*****


DRIVE directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (2011 100min.)


This is a very recent movie that while it was playing I had absolutely no inclination to see. I just figured it was another of those testosterone driven car chase, automatic weapons, breaking glass...you know - a movie for 14 year old boys. I put it in the DVD drawer expecting to see just that, however, I know that Ryan Gosling is a very good young actor, and the wonderful Carey Mulligan is in it, so I thought it might be worth a look. It was surely that. 


A Hollywood stunt driver moonlights as getaway driver who wants no part in the crime, but offers his driving skills for just five minutes. The Driver is inscrutable, implacable, rarely talks, and quite possibly is mildly autistic. He becomes attracted to his neighbor, Irene, who has a young son, but she is married to a man in prison who shall be released soon. At this point I became aware that I was viewing an updated version of Shane, but no matter, this is a really good movie! (Albert Brooks, of all actors, plays a really scary gang boss, and Gosling is more and more impressive.)


Give it a try just as I did. I think you’ll be rewarded.


Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780504/


You’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWX34ShfcsE


*********


KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS directed by Robert Hammer (1949 106 min.)


The Duke of D’Ascone has passed away. Louis Mazzini who is a distant relative of the former duke, resolves to murder the eight relatives in line above him for the title in order that he will inherit the coronet. Set in Edwardian England this is a droll, wickedly funny comedy of manners as only the Brits are able to accomplish. A young Alec Guinness masterfully plays all eight of the surviving D’Ascone’s, and he is ably assisted by a stellar cast of great British actors of that era. Even Queen Elizabeth would be amused.


This is a real classic, and if you’ve not seen it, put this film at the top of you queue, and for those who have seen it before, you will put it at the top of your queue!


Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041546/


And, likewise the link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-4WnfqVvn8


*********


E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL directed by Steven Spielberg (1982 115 min.)


Okay! You all know the story. ET is left behind when his space ship departs and he has to return home. It is my favorite Spielberg film! It’s The Wizard of Oz for a younger generation (and thematically similar) A wonderful and magical movie that frightens and enchants. (And the bicycle into the sky is one of most delightful of all movie moments!)


Like The Wizard of Oz this is a movie that should be seen often, so why not watch it once again? 


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083866/


And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taMnCjzKgd8


***********


RED RIVER directed by Howard Hawks (1949 133 min.)


This is one of the quintessential westerns! A cowboy movie about cowboys. Drovers who embark on the first epic cattle drive with 9,000 cows, from Texas to Missouri along the Chisholm Trail. The cattle herd owner, has to sell his vast herd to the meat markets in the East, or loose everything. The driven and obsessive cattle baron is played by John Wayne, and his adopted son is a played by newcomer, Montgomery Clift. (A mythic pairing)


Often when Wayne was in a movie, he was just a force of nature, but he became a serious actor when he had to play conflicted characters, like in The Searchers. Such is the case here. A film that mirrors Mutiny on the Bounty with echoes of Oedipus.  


Westerns have long been out of style, with valid reasons, but here is one well worth your time because it’s a great American saga. (Alas, it is spoiled by a truly silly ending.)


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040724/


And the breathless, overhyped late 40’s trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7M9YdQ0QlQ


(John Ford who had directed John Wayne in so many movies is purported to have said on seeing Red River, “I didn’t know that that big sonafabitch could act!”)


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REAR WINDOW directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1954 112 min.)


This is one of the “master of suspense” best. Hitch maintained that by watching movies we become voyeurs sitting in the dark guiltily observing the scenario. 


A magazine photographer is wheelchair bound in his apartment with a broken leg, as a result of a dangerous photo shoot. The rear of his Greenwich Village apartment faces a courtyard with rear windows of other apartments in the complex. To while away his time the photographer puts a long lens on his camera and starts to spy on the activity he can observe through his neighbors’ windows. (So begins an arch Hitchcockian conceit: we movie watching voyeurs are observing a movie about a voyeur.) The photographer starts to become obsessed with the fragments of the lives of his neighbors that he can observe as they come into view through their rear windows.


He comes to suspect that one of his neighbors has murdered his wife, and so consumed by this notion that even when his fashion model girlfriend attempts to seduce him (especially hard when played by Grace Kelly at the height of her beauty and glamor!)


To tell more would ruin the suspense, and Hitch was eloquent at creating suspense, but this is a sleek and sexy movie.


Hitchcock had three actors whom he favored for leading roles, Cary Grant, Hank Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart. In this movie it is Stewart’s turn, and he doesn’t disappoint. 


Check it out again, and if you’ve never seen it - get thee hence!


Here’s the IMDb link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047396/


You will find the trailer here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kCcZCMYw38


***************


SINGING IN THE RAIN directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly (1952 103 min.)


There is little argument that this is the best ever movie musical. Like The Artist which is currently playing, the scenario is about the advent of “talkies” profoundly affecting the silent movie era, but the plot is merely a hook upon which this wonderful musical is hung. The story line is merely an excuse for one brilliant singing and dancing number one after another. Of course, everyone has seen the great Gene Kelly swing from lampposts, and stomping in puddles from the title number, but there’s also Donald O’Connor’s hilarious and witty number with the rag-doll, Gene and the leggy and lovely Cyd Charisse in two ballet numbers, and the wake up number “ “Good Mornin’” with a teen Debbie Reynolds in her first role, and much more...


So if you’ve not seen it for a while, rent it from Netflix, it’s been restored and looks great on a HD flat screen.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045152/


And if your memory is poor, the trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEKQwy13j_8


*****************


KING KONG directed by Merlian C. Cooper (1933 100 min.)


“Monster Movies” tend to be silly and banal, but not all of them. I can think of four which are not; Frankenstein, Jaws, Alien, and this movie which is the granddaddy of all monster films. Made on the cusp of talkies, this movie showcases actors shouting their lines and Fay Wray, the principal ingenue of that era, wildly screaming throughout the entire movie. 


Kong is easily the best actor. A three foot articulated doll who was painstakingly brought to life through time-lapse cinematography. He is both fearful and poignant, especially because he becomes “crushed” on Fay Wray. And, of course, there is the iconic scene with Kong climbing the Empire State building, fending of the fighter bi-planes. 


Sure. This film is both racist and sexist, but also just terrific entertainment in spite of those retro attitudes. If you’ve never seen it; it’s a must see.


Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024216/


And you will find the famous trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0WpKl2A_2


****************


STAGECOACH directed by John Ford (1939 96min.)


One of the truly great Westerns and the movie that made John Wayne as the Ringo Kid a star. A stagecoach with a diverse and motley group of passengers is making a perilous journey across the southwestern prairie as Geronimo and his Apaches are on the warpath. 


After all these years it is still a thrilling movie, with unforgettable characters. Beautifully shot with deep focus cinematography in Ford’s favorite locale for westerns - Monument Valley in Utah. It’s a must see if you’ve not already, and if you have, it’s well worth an encore viewing.


Heres the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031971/


The breathless and hyped ‘40ish trailer is here: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi4149215257/


*******************

THE WIZARD OF OZ directed by Victor Flemming (& others) (1939 101 min.)


This is the iconic American movie. It is hard to imagine anyone who has not seen it, and it dominates our movie imagination. A great film that is in turn, delightful, frightening, funny and entirely memorable.


All those unforgettable tropes; Toto, the ruby slippers, the yellow brick road, the Munchins, the very scary and green Wicked Witch of the West... And then there’s that amazing cast led by the transcendent Judy Garland. 


The score by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg is part of the soundtrack of all of our lives; Yellow Brick Road, Off to See the Wizard, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, If I Only Had a Brain, and, of course, Judy’s heart rendering version of Over The Rainbow.


The newly remastered HD version is now on my Netflix queue. It ought to be on yours too. (With the Kansas sequences restored to their original Sepiatone.)


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032138/


And you’ll find the new trailer link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2-5MPm4b5o

****************

RAN directed by Akira Kurosawa (1985 162 min.)


An aging warlord in feudal Japan watches as his sons, lusting for power, tear his empire apart. Kurosawa was a great admirer of Shakespeare, and this film mirrors the plot of King Lear, and like Shakespearean tragedy is bloody and violent - but quite powerful and magnificent. 


Kurosawa trained as a painter, and this great film is visually stunning. It cemented Kurosawa’s standing as one of the greats among film-makers.


Here is the IMdB link:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089881/


And click this link for the trailer and you will get a hint of the incredible visual beauty of this movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=Ra86GKFXbEw

***************

DINER directed by Barry Levinson (1982 110 min.)


A wonderful rites of passage movie about five childhood buddies in 1959 Baltimore painfully facing delayed adulthood and who hang out in the diner to discuss girls, sex, cars, sports, and rock ‘n roll.  As confused as these guys are about their place in the world, it is relationships with women that confuse them the most, but women are their path to maturity.


This movie is very nicely realized, with accurate details and the debut of a bunch of really good actors; Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin, Mickey Rourke and Daniel Stern. 


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083833/


And you can check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGZZ-CLphCI

*****************

BEFORE SUNRISE directed by Richard Linklater (1995 101 min.)


A young man and woman meet on a train traveling through Europe. He to Vienna to catch a flight back to the America; she to Paris to begin classes at the Sorbonne. There is an immediate sexual attraction, so they decide on a whim to get off in Vienna, and spend the day and evening evening wandering the streets of that lovely city until his flight in the morning.


This is an enchanting and magical movie. A one day romance on a perfect day full of sweetness and charm with a delightful couple who shall never again meet. 


Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy are nearly perfect as the couple.


Here’s the IMdB link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112471/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v6X-Dytlko


***************

ROMEO + JULIET directed by Baz Luhrman (1996 120 min.)


This is the Australian director’s very flamboyant version, set in a fictional contemporary Verona Beach, a feud between waring drug gangs. Make no mistake, it is not in the same league with Zeffirelli’s gorgeous 1968 version. However, with Will Shakespeare as your screenwriter, it is certainly worth a look. This is the bard for folks who hated high school Shakespeare. Fast cars, and Glocks replace horses and rapiers, and Leonard DiCaprio and Clare Danes are compelling as the star-crossed lovers


A quick check of the trailer should reveal whether this film belongs on your Netflix queue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjxHdNxvySU


And here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117509/ROMEO + JULIET directed by Baz Luhrman (1996 120 min.)


This is the Australian director’s very flamboyant version, set in a fictional contemporary Verona Beach, a feud between waring drug gangs. Make no mistake, it is not in the same league with Zeffirelli’s gorgeous 1968 version. However, with Will Shakespeare as your screenwriter, it is certainly worth a look. This is the bard for folks who hated high school Shakespeare. Fast cars, and Glocks replace horses and rapiers, and Leonard DiCaprio and Clare Danes are compelling as the star-crossed lovers


A quick check of the trailer should reveal whether this film belongs on your Netflix queue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjxHdNxvySU


And here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117509/


******************


THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS directed by Don Siegel (1956 80 min.)


This 50’s sic-fi horror gem is arguably the best B-movie ever made.  Alien beings arriving as “pods,” clone humans perfectly, and take over their consciousness making them emotionless duplicates. It is a great political metaphor for that era of the “red menace.” 


A local doctor discovers this duplication and tries warn the people of his small town. Truly chilling paranoia occurs because some of those he attempts to warn have already been cloned, and they are determined to silence him.


Here’s the IMdB link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049366/


And the overhyped, breathless 50‘s trailer may be viewed here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-jzblCbsuA


****************

LONELY ARE THE BRAVE directed by David Miller (1962 107 min.)


A lone cowboy on horseback, a man out of his time,  becomes a fugitive and is trying to escape over the mountains of New Mexico. He is being pursued by a sympathetic sheriff who has the advantage of XX Century technology; Jeeps and helicopters in his pursuit. At one point, the cowboy can easily escape if he abandons his horse and escapes on foot, but a cowboy is no longer a cowboy without a horse.


This is a powerful movie that pits rugged individualism against modernity Kirk Douglas and Walter Mathau shine as the unlikely antagonists in this elemental drama.


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056195/


You’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDKGx3lOXkQ

**************


THE ILLUSIONIST directed by Neil Burger (2006 110 min.)


Set in Vienna in 1900, this elegant film is a haunting mystery, and a compelling love story fraught with political intrigue.


A celebrated magician offends the crown prince, and competes with the prince in a romantic rivalry. The magician’s skills as an illusionist seem to border on the supernatural, and give him some leverage to challenge the royal’s autocratic power.


Powerful performances by Edward Norton as the title character, and Paul Giamatti as the prince’s Chief Inspector.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443543/


And the trailer may be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij9LWqwUdZY


*************

BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID directed by George Roy Hill (1969 110 min.)


This funny and poignant revisionist Western is very entertaining. It’s about the two infamous bank and train robbers who have outlived their day; particularly when the Union Pacific’s president hires Pinkerton detectives and the best lawmen and trackers in the West  to pursue them relentlessly. 


They escape to Bolivia where they continue their lawless ways, but the Twentieth Century has made them anachronisms.


Great chemistry between Paul Newman and Robert Redford who portray the title characters as wily charmers. This is an early action “buddy” flick, that’s not been surpassed. 


Here’ the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064115/


And you will find the trailer here which captures the movie’s flavor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXCC53ndwac


*****************

RAGTIME directed by Milos Foreman (1981 155 min.)


A sprawling, robust adaptation of the E. L. Doctorow novel. Set in the first decade of the XX Century in New York City, it wonderfully mixes fictional characters with historical personages; Harry Houdini, Sanford White, Teddy Roosevelt


The movie focuses on Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a black jazz pianist, who is seeking justice from some volunteer firemen who have viscously insulted him. The movie engages the many social changes of the era; racism, class warfare, the gap between rich and poor - all set to gorgeous rags of that era’s dominant popular composer, Scott Joplin.


Czech born director, Milos Forman, has an astute perspective on American culture, and the movie is nicely acted with a huge, diverse cast. Forman was able to persuade the great James Cagney out of retirement for his last movie performance. The film is certainly worth another viewing.


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082970/


And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTt7RL0PLbA


**************

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (2007  122 min.)


If you know anything about the brothers Coen, you know not to expect a conventional movie from them, and this movie is among their best.


In west Texas a drug deal goes bad, half a dozen men killed and 2 million dollars gone. An unemployed cowboy finds the money, hides it, and a ferocious, merciless killer is hired to murder the cowboy and retrieve the money. What follow is a cat and mouse pursuit involving the cowboy, the hired killer and the world weary local sheriff chasing them both. These three are wonderfully portrayed by Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Tommy Lee Jones respectively. Bardem’s compelling screen villain is even scarier than Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter - and that is saying a lot!


The ending of this movie will bother you; and it ought to. This film is

 not for the faint of heart. 


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0477348/


And check out the trailer for a taste of what to expect: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBqmKSAHc6w


************

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY directed by Fred Zinnemann (1953  118 min.)


Set in Scofield Army Barracks in Honolulu in 1941 in the weeks preceding the Japanese attack, this is one of 50‘s Hollywood’s prestige productions. It is an old school drama of a very high order describing life in the professional Army at a time when soldiers were held in fairly low regard.


“Eternity” is an acting bonanza featuring a slew of talented actors from that era; Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Earnest Borgnine, Donna Reed...and it contains many scenes which even today are quintessentially memorable. Lancaster and Kerr’s clinch in the surf, Prewitt playing “Taps,” and Sinatra’s riveting career reviving performance.


The movie has held up very well, and is worth another viewing, and if you’re too young to have seen it, it’s a must see!


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045793/


And here’s the trailer for the recently restored version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiTje59-yhk


**************


CHICAGO directed by Rob Marshall (2002  113 min.)


Roxie and Velma are in prison awaiting trial for murder in Jazz Age Chicago. The wicked, satirical Fosse Broadway musical about fame, notoriety, celebrity, and “razzle dazzle” becomes a brassy movie with fine cast who are neither dancers nor singers, but do both with affection and grace. This stylish, cynical, and sexy musical is well worth another viewing. Bob Fosse’s signature choreography is splendid. 


Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly are especially notable.


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0299658/


You’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IxcfbldgBY


*******************

MY BODYGUARD directed by Tony Bill (1980  96 min.)


This is a compelling treasure of a movie. A coming of age story set in a big city high school, and unlike most movies about teens, confronts the undramatic but the real strife and anxieties that going to high school entail.


The plot conflict is on bullies and being bullied, but this engaging movie is mostly about the pains and pleasures of coming of age.


A remarkable cast of young actors (who are the appropriate age and not twentysomethings acting younger) give this film verisimilitude and urgency, and touches memories which are shared by most of us.


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081207/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj8sZlSUI38

*****************

TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN directed by Woody Allen (1969  85 min.)


This is Woody’s first movie as a director, and it does not have the polish and sophistication of his latter movies - BUT it is flat-out hilarious!


Using the old-time newsreel style format, (as in Citizen Kane) the movie purports to document the life and miscreant career of Virgil Starkwell (Woody) who is a hopelessly inept criminal. Giving any more plot detail would spoil a whole bunch of delicious sight gags, so here is just one; as a youth, Virgil played cello in a marching band. Enough said. 


Check it out once again, and I defy you not to laugh.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065063/


And the trailer may be found here: http://www.matttrailer.com/take_the_money_and_run_1969


*********************

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER directed by Stephen Chbosky 

(2012  103min.)


Charlie is an incoming high school freshman who is shy, emotionally fragile, and friendless. At the movie’s outset Charlie’s ability to make it through his first year is questionable until he meets a pair of step-siblings who are seniors and happy misfits and take him under their wing into their social circle of fellow high school outcasts.


Stephan Chbosky who wrote the novel upon which the movie is based, wrote the screenplay and directs. He crafts a funny, honest, and poignant story of love, loss, fear, and hope and the friends that help us through the shoals of the teen years. This is a coming-of-age film that resonates profoundly. 


Hope you are able to catch this movie before it closes. You will not regret seeing it.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1659337/


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aog8680PVmU

*****************

YELLOW SUBMARINE directed by George Dunning (1968 90 min.) 


This is a brilliant animated film. In one of the mysteries of the movie industry, this wonderful movie has been largely unavailable on DVD. A frame by frame restoration with and an enhanced soundtrack was finally released last month - and it is beautiful! 


In the event that you’re so old as to have forgotten, or too young to remember, Yellow Submarine was an animated movie made when The Beatles were at the height of their enormous popularity shortly after the release of the “Sgt. Pepper” album. The movie continues the themes of that album and much of the soundtrack is taken from “Sgt Pepper.” 


The animation is glorious with breath-taking innovation. Color explodes all over the screen. Puns and deadpan understatements from the principals - and of course the dreaded “Blue Meanies,” “The Apple Bonkers,” and the terrible “Flying Glove” who all have to be overcome by our cartoon heroes. 


The movie is a delight from start to finish!


Here’s the IMdB link:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063823/


If you are able watch this trailer, and not watch this movie... I shall arrange to have you pursued by the terrible “Flying Glove!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBfy05hbBws


**********

DIAL M FOR MURDER directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1954 105 min.) 


This very stylish Hitchcock thriller, staring his favorite blonde of that era, Grace Kelly, was vastly overshadowed by Rear Window which was released only a few months later. There are very few Hitchcock movies not worth a second look, and “Dial M” is certainly that. The studio commissioned Hitch to make a “3D” film to take advantage of the the craze in the mid ‘50s, so Hitch used his considerable skills to make this a real “3D” thriller, only for the craze to die out and “Dial M” was released in conventional format. (The 3D version has been seen only a few times, but those few fortunate to have seen it say it is amazing! And when you watch it and imagine it stereoptically, you will understand.


A former tennis pro marries an heiress, blackmails a college chum to kill her, so he will inherit her fortune. In Hitchcock movies things never work out as planned, but you will enjoy the journey.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046912/ 


And the corny 50’s trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1oPtCA2PWg


*************


ANNA KARENINA directed by Joe Wright (2012  129 min.)


Leo Tolstoy’s magnificent novel has, over the years, seen more than twenty-five film adaptations, so how were the moviemakers to proceed to add a fresh reworking of a familiar classic.


Joe Wright and crew reimagined the narrative of a late XIX Century aristocrat who’s a wife and mother in an adulterous affair as a tragic romantic opera, and much of the film is set in a theater with the story unraveling on the stage which often opens up to a realistic setting. (It’s much easier to view the trailer than my trying to explain.)


Tolstoy who was a master of description, only describes his protagonist as being ‘a very beautiful woman‘ so the reader who gets to know her character intimately is left to imagine how Anna looks. Never would I have imagined Keira Knightley as Anna Karinina - but she pulls it off spectacularly - and is precisely the same age as Tolstoy’s heroine (28.) Mature enough to know better, but youthful enough to gamble her life for romantic love.


There are wildly mixed reviews of this movie because this a kind of sacred text, and many readers “own” this great story and do not wish to change. Check out the trailer and decide for yourself. Me - I loved it, and I think it's done artfully and beautifully!  


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.iImdb.com/title/tt1781769/


And here is the trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPGLRO3fZnQ


****************

MILLER’S CROSSING directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (1990 115 min.) 


Set in a unnamed midwestern city in the depression era of the late 20’s, this movie is a hybrid of a  1930’s gangster movie and a 1940’s film noir mixed deliciously by the brothers Coen. Ethnic mobsters, double crossings, mob wars with lots of Tommy gun shootings, all done with technical brilliance and style with a wonderfully polished “look.” 


Well worth another viewing especially for its bizarre, deadpan humor. (Also, there’s that wind-borne black hat!)


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100150/


And here’s the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJkIcFMN_pc


**************

RICHARD III directed by Richard Loncraine (1995 104 min)


We all love literary villains, and who in literature is more monstrous and magnetic than the title character in this Shakespearean History? In an enormous performance by Ian McKellen we have a portrayal of perhaps the most evil and despicable of all literary villains. McKellen’s suave reptilian performance of this poisonous spider of a man who murders his way to the English throne is a display of thrilling acting.


Shakespeare’s medieval England is relocated to the Fascist 1930s, but the words are still Will’s, and so universal are the themes that you’ll not even notice, and the change of setting is very effective. 


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114279/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qZd3eBfBxE


*****************

THE HOUSE OF GAMES directed by David Mamet (1987 102 min)


This is the directorial debut of prizewinning playwright Mamet, and it is a fascinating and cunning thriller.


A conceptual film about confidence men, but unlike most movies on this theme, it is not a comedy. An eminent psychologist becomes intrigued by the psychological drama of the con game, and the movie proceeds with devious twists and turns, and proceeds like a high stakes poker game with a startling but sensibly logical conclusion.


This is a perfectly plotted small masterpiece of a movie, and for those of you familiar with Mamet’s style will immediately recognize the odd, circular cadences of his dialogue. 


A top-notch psychological stunner about trust and betrayal.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093223/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0eFfE8oa98

******************

THE HOUSE OF GAMES directed by David Mamet (1987 102 min)


This is the directorial debut of prizewinning playwright Mamet, and it is a fascinating and cunning thriller.


A conceptual film about confidence men, but unlike most movies on this theme, it is not a comedy. An eminent psychologist becomes intrigued by the psychological drama of the con game, and the movie proceeds with devious twists and turns, and proceeds like a high stakes poker game with a startling but sensibly logical conclusion.


This is a perfectly plotted small masterpiece of a movie, and for those of you familiar with Mamet’s style will immediately recognize the odd, circular cadences of his dialogue. 


A top-notch psychological stunner about trust and betrayal.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093223/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0eFfE8oa98

********************

THE VERDICT directed by Sidney Lumet (1982  129 min)


This is a courtroom drama and one of the very best from this genre, 


Paul Newman plays a second rate ambulance chasing alcoholic attorney, who takes a medical malpractice to trial, and in doing so affords himself the opportunity to salvage himself and regain his self esteem


A stellar cast. A literate and intelligent script by David Mamet, and the sure hand of director Lumet provide Newman with the opportunity to give one his finest performances.


This film is well worth a second look.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084855/


And the trailer may be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7je8_a7chkg

*******************

ANNIE HALL directed by Woody Allen (1977  93 min.)


This is Woody’s magnum opus. Alvy Singer in one of fiction’s great narrators. Anxious and neurotic, and convinced that romantic love cannot last, that conviction becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Diane Keaton is splendid in the title role as a smart, neurotic and loopy foil.


A very clever funny movie with inspired dialog and schtick, but which is ultimately a bit sad.


Well, “la-di-dah, la-di-dah!


Here’s the IMdB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075686/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1


And the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M85gaKOtKVo


*************

THE HUSTLER directed by Robert Rossen (1961  134 min)


Before there were brightly lit designer “Billiard Parlors,” there were grubby and disreputable smoke-filled Pool Halls. Into one of these seedy joints comes “Fast Eddie” Felson, a very talented but arrogant player looking to play the legendary “Minnesota Fats” in a high-stakes game.


I’m sure most of you have seen this movie more than once, but it is a dazzling character driven movie. The four principals; Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Piper Laurie, and Jackie Gleason,  are superb, and soo... carefully drawn. and the direction and editing are top-drawer. (Who would imagine pool shots and the crack of balls splashing about a pool table could be so exciting.)  Gleason with his sad face and huge frame moves around the pool table with the grace of a ballerina. Scott is scarily menacing in this really fine movie which is ultimately not about winning but about “character.”


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054997/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1


The trailer you will find here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtnLUaGdXpI

**********************

THE CANDIDATE directed by Michael Ritchie (1972  110 min)


This movie is a really intelligent political satire, which cynically follows the Senate campaign of an idealistic lawyer (Robert Redford) who gets swept up the the media driven machinery of modern politics; slogans replace policy, artiface replace meaningfulness. The movie implies that it’s necessary to sell out good values and become morally corrupt if one is to succeed in politics.


This movie is well worth another viewing, particularly in light of the current political environment.


Actors Peter Boyle and Melvin Douglas are excellent.


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068334/?ref_=sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.reelz.com/trailer-clips/36784/the-candidate-trailer/

******************

VERTIGO directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1958  128 min)


Considered by many to be Hitch’s best movie. (Not by me. It is somewhat bizarre, and lacking in Hitchcock’s usual macabre humor.) That being said, the film is awfully good, and is set in America’s most beautiful city, San Francisco, and its environs. 


The movie is complex and very stylish. Scottie, the central character is a former police detective who’s had to retire on disability because his acrophobia causes him to have bouts of extreme vertigo. Now a private investigator, he is hired to tail a wife who is acting strangely. Scottie becomes obsessed by his target, who is, or course, a remote Hitchcockian blonde.  


Most of you have seen the movie. The theme of vertigo and fear of falling is  visually reinforced relentlessly; the hills of San..are only traveled downhill with right hand turns, in Muir Woods the concentric circles of a giant redwood are featured, even to the the twist in in Kim Novak’s coif - and the climatic scene, as everyone knows, takes place in the bell tower of Mission San Juan Bautista with its concentric staircase, giant bell, and looong way down to the ground.


Well worth another look. (But Jimmy Stewart is miscast. He was just too old an actor to play a obsessive romantic, but gives the role his best shot, and is almost believable.)


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052357/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


And the famous trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5jvQwwHQNYVERTIGO directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1958  128 min)


Considered by many to be Hitch’s best movie. (Not by me. It is somewhat bizarre, and lacking in Hitchcock’s usual macabre humor.) That being said, the film is awfully good, and is set in America’s most beautiful city, San Francisco, and its environs. 


The movie is complex and very stylish. Scottie, the central character is a former police detective who’s had to retire on disability because his acrophobia causes him to have bouts of extreme vertigo. Now a private investigator, he is hired to tail a wife who is acting strangely. Scottie becomes obsessed by his target, who is, or course, a remote Hitchcockian blonde.  


Most of you have seen the movie. The theme of vertigo and fear of falling is  visually reinforced relentlessly; the hills of San..are only traveled downhill with right hand turns, in Muir Woods the concentric circles of a giant redwood are featured, even to the the twist in in Kim Novak’s coif - and the climatic scene, as everyone knows, takes place in the bell tower of Mission San Juan Bautista with its concentric staircase, giant bell, and looong way down to the ground.


Well worth another look. (But Jimmy Stewart is miscast. He was just too old an actor to play a obsessive romantic, but gives the role his best shot, and is almost believable.)


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052357/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1


And the famous trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5jvQwwHQNY

********************

M*A*S*H directed by Robert Altman (1970  116 min)


Although I never saw it, I am aware that there was a very popular TV show based on this movie than ran on network television for years, and I am sure that the TV series was just a pale echo of this film. Indeed, I am certain that   TV audiences never heard the lyrics to the pleasant theme music which is entitled “Suicide Is Painless.” http://www.lyricsbox.com/mash-lyrics-suicide-is-painless-kdv9zd1.html


The movie M*A*S*H is a savage and cynical satire essentially about the fhe horror of war. Additionally both military and religious pomposity are ridiculed. The setting is the Korean War, but the audience in 1970 was not fooled about which war was being satirized. 


The leading characters are skilled Army surgeons, and employ cruel humor and hijinks just to keep their sanity as they saw and hack away at a parade of wounded bodies that the medevac helicopters keep delivering.


Robert Altman was a great director, and one of his innovations was to use realistic sounds, and in this movie you will hear a cacophony of sounds. Characters talk simultaneously, military truck engines, the “whop” of copter blades, and continual announcements over the camp PA - all add to the casual chaotic atmosphere of a military hospital 3 miles from the front lines. 


Oh, and in spite of the grim setting and cruelty, it is a very, very funny movie! 


Here is the IMdB link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066026/?ref_=sr_2


And you’ll find the trailer here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gNvuJ7IbTw 

****************

The Academy Awards show is tonight. I am not watching it.


The Oscar show is many things; a very, very long advertisement for the movie industry, a fashion show, a trade show, a celebrity gush, and seemingly most important - a contest! (where lowly accountants at Price Waterhouse have known for more than a week who the winners are) but participants await the opening of the envelopes, anxiously and jealously eyeing their competitors in a kind of sanitized version  of The Hunger Games. - What George C. Scott famously called a “meat show.” - There are some who choose not to partake in this humiliation. When you hear, “Accepting the award for...” that is frequently the case.


The Oscars are a “Show Biz” spectacular! 


What the show is NOT is a mechanism for legitimately honoring the craft or art in moviemaking. With more than 6,000 members, the Academy is voting in a Student Council popularity election, and many vote for movies that they’ve not even seen.


Most years the Academy gets the nominations right, because most years the choices are obvious. But in the years the Academy gets it wrong, they get it monumentally wrong! 


As a long-time film study teacher I’d assign the academy a grade of 65% - and that’s just on Best Film. Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock,...made the cut as directors!! 


So here’s a challenge. I will invite you to watch the Best Films of recent memory and I shall watch another movie made that same year!


1982 I challenge you to watch Gandhi while I watch E.T.


1990 You watch Dances With Wolves, and I’ll watch Goodfellas.


1994 Forrest Gump for you, me - either Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption.


1995 You have sit through The English Patient while I watch Fargo. (“You betcha”)


2005 You’ve got to watch Crash (a truly mediocre movie which won because everybody in Hollywood was in it.) I’m going to watch the sublime Brokeback Mountain.


I bet I enjoy my picks better than you do watching the best film (?)

***************

BREAKING AWAY directed by Peter Yates (1979 101 min.)


Four working class buddies are coasting between high school and the remainder of their lives. The setting is Bloomington, Indiana which lies in the shadow of the sprawling state university. 


Dave, a talented biker, is obsessed by the Italian cycling team to a point where he affects a pseudo accent, and renames the family pooch, Fellini.


This is a funny, intelligent, and insightful movie which just teems with unsentimental optimism. The movie is a real delight whose climax is an thrilling bicycle race.


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078902/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1


And here’s the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1jzs6dk4bs

***********

RAGTIME directed by Milos Foreman (1981 155 min.)


A sprawling, kaleidoscopic view of New York in the 1910s which examines the social changes, class warfare, and quickly changing mores of the early XX Century.


The scenario centers on a black piano player named Coalhouse Walker, and his quest for justice for an act of vandalism perpetrated on his brand-new automobile. A plot which allows most of the famous and infamous figures of that period to haphazardly appear in the story. 


This is a beautifully mounted period piece with some notable performances. (The great James Cagney in his final film appearance, for one.)


Here is the IMdB link:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082970/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1


And the trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTt7RL0PLbA

*************

LAURA directed by Otto Preminger (1944 88 min.)


A detective investigating a murder becomes romantically obsessed by the portrait of the victim which hangs over the fireplace at the scene of the crime. This is a slick, polished noir mystery enhanced by the haunting theme music by David Raskin.


Clifton Webb and Vincent Price gnaw up the scenery playing rivals for the affection the titled character, who is portrayed by the exquisitely beautiful Gene Tierney. 


The movie is richly produced and superbly photographed. The plot is densely complicated...and never makes much sense, but you’ll not notice.


One of the outstanding films noir from an era that specialized in that genre.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037008/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1


And you will find a trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJRp5C15PgE

**************

THE PRINCESS BRIDE directed by Rob Reiner (1987 88 min.)


This is a movie for everyone; kids and grandparents. A delightful modern fairy tale and a sly parody of “sword and sorcery” movies. A combination of sophistication and silliness.


Here are three short sentences that you ought to recognize. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!” It is “inconceivable” that you’ve not seen this movie.


Put it in your queue and again relive again the adventures of Princess Buttercup, the heroic Wesley, the evil Prince Humperdinck, the giant Fezzik, Inigo Montoya, and Vizzini...and many more.


It is wonderfully funny! 


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/?ref_=sr_1


And the trailer may be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njZBYfNpWoE

*************

AN EDUCATION directed by Lone Schefig (2009 100 min.)


This is a wonderful, edgy coming of age film which concerns a Jenny, a London teen  in the early ‘60‘s. She's the best and brightest student in her strict girls school, but she's aware there is more to life, even if it's not currently available to her. That changes when she meets, David, a wealthy playboy twice her age. He introduces her to art museums, jazz, theater, Paris, and the good life. The playboy is, or course, a cad intent on seducing her, but you cannot earn the title of cad without charm, and he is smoothly charming, but Jenny, is not quite a victim because she is willing to accept this dubious affair to get from David the advantages of the good life.


What makes this potentially sleazy plot work is the absolutely luminous performance of Carey Mulligan. It is amazing, and the director, Ms Schefig, really gets the fine details of the Zeitgeist of 1961. 


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1174732/?ref_=sr_1


And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUeYKwxTCGQ

************

RIFIFI directed by Jules Dassin (1955 122 min.)


This movie was the first “heist” movie, and still remains among the best of that genre.


The actual jewelry store robbery is filmed in utter silence. No dialog, no music, and takes a half hour of film time. It is spellbinding. 


The robbery is, of course, successful; it is the human element that spoils this “perfect” crime.


Since this movie is nearly 60 years old, I am probably the only person on this list to have seen it when it was released, but it’s available on DVD - and well worth checking out. (The trailer below does not do it justice, but I include it for verisimilitude.)


You’ll find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048021/?ref_=s_r1


And the awful 50‘s trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9bciTbt6l8

*************

THE OUTSIDERS directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1983  91 min.)


  1. E. Hinton wrote the novel “The Outsiders” at age 15 while was still in

school.The novel became hugely popular among the book-reading youth market. The book describes teen gang warfare in Tulsa in the ‘60s, and years later, it became a popular item on high school reading lists. Reportedly there was a high school English class so enthralled that they thought it should become a movie. Their teacher suggested that they agree on one director, and write letters persuading him to film the book. Apparently the letters worked.


The movie is still a teen melodrama, but Coppola's great craft, and a raft of young actors who would become notable stars doing their acting apprenticeship make the film more compelling than the oft-told scenario of rival teen gangs.


It is well worth an hour and a half of your time.


You will find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086066/?ref_=sr_1



Here’s the trailer. Note the the young actors in the cast. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tgJqnVMAtc

**************

VIVIA ZAPATA directed by Elia Kazan (1952  113 min)


The great actor, Anthony Quinn, whose filmography includes an amazing 167 movies, and was the leading man in more films than any other Hollywood actor. 


He was often saddled with the task of being Hollywood’s all purpose ethnic actor; the Italian strongman in La Strada, the Greek in Zorba, an Arab in Lawrence, and on and on and on... Even cast as an Inuit in Savage Innocents. (Surely the inspiration for Bob Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo”)


In Zapata, Mr Quinn got to claim his true identity - a Mexican. Teamed with Marlon Brando in the title role of the Mexican revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata, Quinn plays his brother Eufemio. Quinn and Brando were rivals; they both had been in acclaimed stage productions of “Streetcar Named Desire” Brando gives a tepid performance, Quinn nails his!


This fine movie just became available in DVD. It’s a stirring and beautifully filmed movie. Check it out.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045296/?ref_=sr_2

One of those overwrought, overhyped 50s trailers. It is a much better movie  than the trailer would have you believe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAc5p68U6oI

*************

ATLANTIC CITY directed by Louis Malle (1980 104 min)


The title city is like the mythical Phoenix. A very fashionable resort in the early XX Century that declined into decrepit seediness in mid-century and was again reborn as an opulent and garish Vegas east at the latter part of the century.


The setting of this movie takes place in the seedy late 70’s, and relates the odd mentoring relationship of an aging small time gangster and an uneducated but ambitious young woman who wants “to know stuff.” 

Burt Lancaster in the twilight of his career portrays the former, and very young Susan Sarandon the latter. 


Louis Malle directs one of his few American films. I’ve a theory that great foreign directors, when they make American movies, bring insights and nuances into their American movies because they are viewing the experience through a different cultural lens. (Roman Polanski - Chinatown, Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain, Milos Foreman - Cuckoo’s Nest are notable examples.)


Ostensibly, Atlantic City is a crime drama. A drug deal goes bad, but ultimately it’s film about dreams and exaggerated recollections. A really splendid film about human nature with first class performances by the principals.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080388/?ref_=sr_1


And here you’ll find the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080388/?ref_=sr_1

**************

ALIEN directed by Ridley Scott (1979 117 min)


From my perspective as a film teacher there are but four great “monster” movies; King Kong, Frankenstein, Jaws, and this movie Alien. What about Freddy Kruger and Hannibal Lecter, you might say? Well, they are monstrous characters within the “horror movie” category. 


Alien is a true monster movie. The crew of a deep space mining ship harvest an egg from a destroyed planet which hatches and evolves into evermore fearful forms while dispatching the members of the spaceship one by one. The last survivor is the ship’s co-pilot, Ripley, a very resourceful woman who uses her wits and considerable strength, to avoid being the last victim. 


Very likely, this is epitome of monster movies!


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078748/?ref_=sr_1


And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjLamj-b0I8


*************

A FEW GOOD MEN directed by Rob Reiner (1992 138 min.)


From the late 80s, and for about a dozen years, Rob Reiner was on an artistic tear; directing a string of memorable, well-crafted films that were notable because of the performances he was able to extract from his actors.


This movie is a formulaic Hollywood “courtroom” drama. The extra twist is that it involves the Marine Corps and its code of honor, and a courts martial where rank and military privilege add a level of ambivalence to the proceedings.


A really superior cast and a courtroom confrontation between a young Navy lieutenant defense attorney (Tom Cruise) and a crusty, snarling Marine colonel (Jack Nicholson ) “You can’t handle the truth!” make this movie well worth another viewing.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104257/


Here’s the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AC0wWxadvc

************

FIVE EASY PIECES directed by Bob Rafelson (1970 98 min.)


Bobby Duprea (Jack Nicholson) is a self-defined failure who works as a California oil-rig roustabout, drinks beers, and hangs out in bowling alleys with his hash-house waitress girlfriend. 


Things are not as they seem in this nuanced and complex movie with great depth and originality about why Bobby Duprea is a voluntary outcast.

Bobby Duprea, it turns out is a scion of an elite Northwestern family, who was a prodigy pianist.


To tell more would ruin seeing this excellent movie again, and this is the film that made Nicholson a real movie star. This is the movie with the famous “chicken salad scene” that any movie buff can recite verbatim, and the photography is by the great cinematographer, Lazlo Kovacs. The actors’ performances are simply superb.


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065724/?ref_=sr_1


The trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inIRtrZIvwU

*****************

Another departure from the usual format because we’ve just seen Before Midnight which is final installment of Richard Linklater’s “Jesse and Celine” trilogy. In the unlikely event that the folks on this list aren’t familiar with this, here’s a brief recap. 


In Before Sunrise (1994,) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v6X-Dytlko Jesse and Celine a pair of twenty-somethings meet on the “Orient Express” and are immediately attracted towards one another, so much so that they decide impetuously to get off in Vienna where they spend the entire evening walking and talking through the streets of that beautiful city. Both realize  that this romantic evening will be their last time together.


Celine is a Parisian who’s a political feminist, and Jesse is a successful American novelist who’s a bit self-absorbed. Both are fiercely intelligent and very articulate. She’s in a relationship, and he’s in a failing marriage. When the evening is over, and the possibility of falling in love is pregnant, Jesse and Celine have to rush to catch their respective trains, but agree to meet again in six months. 


Nine years later in Before Sunset, (2004)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvFosXeqmDg Jesse has written a very popular novel that reflects the Vienna conversations, and at book signing in Paris, Celine shows up for an autograph. Once again, they resume their conversational relationship, wandering through the streets of Paris. He in a failing marriage; she in a desultory relationship, and the powerful attraction between them deepens. Now in their thirties, they discuss their adult lives while walking and talking past gardens, shops and quaint streets of Paris.

All this walking and talking may sound dull, but the conversation is intelligent and affectionate, and so intimate that you are not watching a movie but eavesdropping on a beautiful and fascinating couple talking about themselves throughout the evening meandering the streets of Paris. 

The movie is a love story (or, to be precise, the continuation of a love story), but it's more about regrets than romance. 


BEFORE MIDNIGHT directed by Richard Linklater (2013  109 min.)


Nine years later in their early 40‘s Jesse and Celine are now a couple in a relationship with a adorable twin girls on vacation in Greece...and still walking and talking still feeling the deep attraction for one another. However, for a relationship to work, one must occasionally surrender their ego to the other. Neither is willing to do that. Therein lies the conflict in this concluding movie. 


Because this movie is still playing and I urge you to see it if you can. I won’t reveal more - but it’s likely to break your heart.


Each of these three films can stand on their own as extraordinarily strong and mature films. This trilogy considered as a whole is a miracle of filmmaking!


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2209418/?ref_=s_r1


You will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djbyv1AV588

***************

THE THIRD MAN directed by Carol Reed (1949 93 min.)


An American writer arrives in post-war Vienna still showing the ravages of WWII to visit his old friend Harry Lime. On arrival, he learns that his friend has been killed in a street accident, but also that Lime was a black marketeer wanted by the police.


So begins one of the premier films ever. As actors, Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles renew the collaboration begun in Citizen Kane in a truly memorable movie. One of those few films that remains vivid in your memory long after its been seen. 


A haunting scenario with superb photography and a movie classic. You’ll not forget the final shot.


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041959/?ref_=s_r1


You’ ll find the overripe 50’s trailer here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7d9VpSdGhA


Worth another look, and if you’ve never seen it, you ought to. The famous theme music played on a zither alone is worth the admission price.


************

HARD TIMES directed by Walter Hill (1975 114 min.)


This is an awfully good movie. Chaney, an aging bare-knuckle street fighter exits a boxcar in depression era New Orleans looking to eke out a living by knocking other men down. Chaney is played by Charles Bronson who was always convincing in “bad-ass” roles. James Coburn plays his fast talking unreliable manager, Speed.


This is a grim, brutal movie, a realistic and ferocious boxing film, but there is no glorification of the violence that boxing movies usually provoke. The boxers, who in a way are craftsmen, and respect one another. It is the spectators who are the animals. 


This was Walter Hill’s first movie as director, and the film has a great sense of the period of the early Depression, nor does Hill overwork the metaphor of the title. 

A small gem of a movie, most of you have likely not seen. Check it out.


You will find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073092/?ref_=s_r2


And here’s where you’ll find the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1N0s4n5blA

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HIS GIRL FRIDAY directed by Howard Hawks (1940 92 min.)


A reworking of the Hecht / MacArthur play “The Front Page” into one of the classic “screwball” movie comedies. Set in a dingy big city newsroom, and perfectly cast - the ace reporter is a woman (Rosalind Russell) and the editor (Cary Grant - in one his especially virtuosi performances) is trying to keep her from joining a rival paper.


The viewer is caught in confetti blizzard of one-liners, and if it is not the funniest screwball comedy ever made, it certainly is the fastest talking. Brilliant!


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032599/?ref_=s_r1


And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHVvnEWez1M

****************

PRZZI’S HONOR directed by John Houston (1985 130 min.)


This is a wry view of the the Sicilian mafia by the quintessential Irish director, John Huston. Charlie Partanna (Jack Nicholson) the hit-man for the Prizzi mob, falls in love with a free-lancer in the same profession, Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner) Try to imagine The Godfather with laughs. It is wonderfully acted by a exceptionally fine cast, and Huston crafts a this film with both humor and pathos. It is well worth another look.


Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089841/?ref_=s_r1


And here is the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zR0npzKVRmQ

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HAYWIRE directed by Stephen Sonderbergh (2011 93 min.)


On page 44 of today’s (8/17) New York Times Magazine is an article entitled “No More Strained Pulp,” it's a panel in which three movies are exemplars; The American, Drive and this movie Haywire are discussed. These particular movies are “action and adventure movies,” and A.O. Scott who is the NYT movie critic claims that these three films “...offer strained pulp, neither as dumb as we want them to be nor as smart as they think they are not in the end, all that much fun.” 


Well, I think Tony Scott is wrong, these particular movies are cleverly done, and are good fun. 


Regarding this movie Haywire, a CIA assassin (yet again?) is betrayed and must struggle just to stay alive and redeem her reputation. (A rather lame theme that Hitchcock milked masterfully!) And, yes, all the usual stuff rampant in testosterone fueled movies for boys in their mid teens, however, Soderbergh is a skilled director and he does these scenes with fluid skill especially, because the principle character is not an actress but played by Gena Carano, who is a mixed martial champion - and is charismatic and compelling  in the few scenes where she’s not required to kick ass, but actually act - She’s an American version of Lisbeth Salander of “Dragon Tattoo.” very scary - and sexy, buff, and beautiful.


Check out the trailer below to see if this is worth queuing on Netflix. I was delighted by this pulp movie, artfully done. 


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1506999/?ref_=s_r1


And check out the trailer here to see if this is worth an hour and a half of your time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFV0Uvzpz0o

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HOMBRE directed by Martin Ritt (1967 111 min.)


Elmore Leonard, the prolific and excellent crime novelist passed this week, and although crime novels were what made him notable, he started his writing career with westerns. He wrote the novel upon which this movie was based. 


This movie’s scenario is very similar to John Huston’s epic Stagecoach and deliberately so. A cross section of travelers are set upon by an outlaw band determined to obtain the fortune that a corrupt Indian Agent has stolen from the Apaches. 


John Russell, (Paul Newman) one of the passengers is a white man raised by the Apaches, and is disdained by most of the passengers. When the stagecoach is attacked by the outlaws, most escape to a miner’s shack on a hill, but they are surrounded by the outlaw gang. John Russell is now the only person who has the survival skills to keep the remaining passengers alive. 


Elmore's skills as a storyteller and his realistic dialog, lift this movie way past the routine Western. The great cinematographer James Wong Howe, uses his color palate to suggest heat, dust and discomfort.


This is one of Paul Newman’s “H” movies. (Hud, Harper, Hustler, etc.) All of them worth a second viewing.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061770/?ref_=sr_1


You will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24ZKMRSutuM

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IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT directed by Frank Capra (1934 105 min.)


Do not be put off by the age of this movie. Frank Capra invented the “screwball comedy” and this movie is the standard upon which the genre is based. It is wonderfully funny with two of the best actors imaginable for this kind of fare. Clark Gable remains the ultimate movie star, and he is ably assisted by Claudet Colbert. Really wonderful chemistry between the principals. A runaway heiress, and a reporter


Rob Reiner reimagined this film in 1985 as The Sure Thing which was delightful, but this is the original and is the real deal!


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025316/?ref_=s_r1


As always, check out the trailer for an inkling as to its worth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALmnUBqbhuo

******************

SUNSET BOULEVARD directed by Billy Wilder (1950 110 min.)


This is the quintessential move about Hollywood - made in Hollywood. 


A hack writer becomes the boy toy of a forgotten movie star. Dark comedy, tragic romance, and a decadent and satiric film noir. Memorable performances by Gloria Swanson, William Holden, and Erich von Stroheim.

This film displays a sad, obsessive beauty that few movies achieve.


You’ll find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043014/?ref_=s_r2


And the trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzYqUpV_B-A

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THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL directed by John Madden (2012 110 min.)


This movie deservedly garnered good reviews when it opened. It throws together seven aging retired Brits who opt to go to India to this rather shabby hotel because they cannot afford to live in England. 


I’ve found that some English movies set in India often tend towards condescension (A vestige of the British Raj perhaps?) Not so in this movie. This film is a delight. Charming, wistful, and beautifully written and filmed. Helped mightily by a cast that includes many of the best actors in the English speaking world; Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Nighy who function as a well oiled ensemble company whose skills are abetted by the colors and teeming intensity of India.  


Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) adroitly juggles story lines and subplots.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1412386/?ref_=s_r2


And check out the the trailer here to sample this charming movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDY89LYxK0w


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BARRY LYNDON directed by Stanley Kubrick (1975 184 min.)


Kubrick became a Chess Master when he was in his early teens. In his 20’s he was the principal photojournalist  for Look Magazine. This information is, I think, important to understand the “look” of a Stanley Kubrick film. All of his movies are meticulously and beautifully photographed. Think; the reverse tracking shots in the trenches of Paths of Glory, the horrific bright “whiteness” in Clockwork Orange, the extraordinary opening sequence of 2001, the bizarre and surrealistic “war room” in Strangelove. However, in Barry Lyndon he photographically recreates the 18th Century, perhaps not as it was, but the way we imagine it through the vast and beautiful paintings of that era. 


The title character of this movie is a likable Irish scoundrel, who in the picaresque tradition travels from one adventure to the next. But it is not the plot that intrigues us as much as the absolutely gorgeous recreation of the the 18th century. The actors do not so much wear costumes, but the actual clothing of that era that look and move like real clothes - smudges, and sweat stains included.


It is not the scenario that intrigues us as much as the beauty of the dazzling cinematography. Kubrick’s meticulous eye realized that in that era the dark was lightened by candlelight. He eschewed photographic filters. He modified his cameras and borrowed a lens from NASA so the evening scenes are are actually filmed in beautiful - and real - candlelight. 


This movie is more than three hours, so if you’re interested, wait for a long rainy day or a day in late winter. You will be rewarded.


Here is the IMdB link:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072684/?ref_=s_r1 


The trailer you will find here, but it does not do this beautifully filmed mociw justice: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi247005465/

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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING directed by Kenneth Branagh (1993 111 min.)


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107616/?ref_=nv_sr_2


MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING directed by Joss Whedon (2012 109 min.)


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2094064/?ref_=nv_sr_1


Two versions of Shakespeare’s wonderful comedy, and both are excellent. Neither is set in the the Jacobean era that Shakespeare envisioned, but no matter. “The play’s the thing!”


The Branagh version is a sunny, rollicking spectacle set in the early 19th century with lovely vistas and Beatrice and Benedick, Claudio and Hero in period costume. It’s wonderful, and a visual delight.


The Whedon version is set in the present and filmed in black and white with  the same scenario and dialog but presented as a “screwball comedy.” Think  Hepburn and Tracy speaking in iambic pentameter, and it is very cleverly done.


Check out the competing trailers to find your preference, but better still watch both, it is well worth your time. 


Branagh  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGlmhwa0zjw


Whedon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUWlPjXvFZU

******************

FARGO directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (1996 98 min)

A Minnesotan car salesman hires two men to kidnap his wife so that he can get his hands on some of his father-in-law’s ransom money for an scheme he’s got working. Things go from bad to worse as the kidnapping goes wrong, There is bloodshed and a crafty, very pregnant police officer gets on their trail.


The brothers Coen are among the planet’s best filmmakers. The actors in their movies seem to inhabit the characters that they portray, and there is always an odd, loopy sensibility that is hard to describe. Should you decide to add this movie to your queue, you will recognize it immediately - you betcha!!


Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116282/?ref_=nv_sr_1


And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?

v=EB4PmbfG4bw

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"Big" directed by Penny Marshall (1988) (104 min.)


This was one of those "body swap" movies that we're popular in the late '80's and the only one likely to endure. it's a charming dramatic fantasy wherein 13 year old Josh Baskin wishes he were older, so he could win the heart of the pretty teen who's a bit older than he. At a traveling carnival, this wish is fulfilled by one of those fortune telling booths with a manican


The next morning, Josh finds that he is inhabiting an adult body with the same adolescent mind set and attitudes. 


In an delightful and cynical way this movie explores the perversity of the human condition; wishing to be older when young, and the opposite when old.


In addition, you get to rewatch the wonderful giant keyboard scene at FAO Schwartz (which was choreographed by Paula Abdul of all people!)


You'll find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094737/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_1


And the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J62jciQ1PbY

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THE STING directed by George Roy Hill (1973 129 min.)


Among the best of the confidence game movies. Robert Redford and Paul Newman reprise their pairing in “Butch Cassidy,” having more fun playing off one another. The plot entails a hugely elaborate con of a big time gangster in 1930’s Chicago.


Colorful, stylish, and highly amusing. Under Hill’s clever direction, the movie runs like a freight train for more than two hours. It is also pleasant, for a change, to watch a crime movie that is bereft of gunfire, car chases, blood, and 


Well worth another look.



Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070735/?ref_=nv_sr_1


The trailer can be found here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070735/?ref_=nv_sr_1

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NOTORIOUS directed Alfred Hitchcock (1946) (101 min.)


One of Hitch’s very best films which pairs Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. (Bergman was his go to “cool blonde” in that era.) This is a deliciously wicked espionage drama where the promiscuous Bergman character is recruited by Grant,  a cynical FBI agent, to seduce and marry the principal Nazi spy in South America. She achieves this goal, but she and Grant realize that they  were falling in love with one another. The Nazi spy (wonderfully played by Claude Rains) is revealed to be devoted and loving husband to his treacherous new bride. The Nazi overlords discover that she is an American plant and order Rains to murder her. 


The usual Hitchcockian tropes appear; staircases,”doubles,” the flawed hero, the ice princess blonde, the charming villain,  and these motifs are executed with exquisite precision, and the three principals are superb.


Curiously, the “maguffin” in this movie is a cache of Uranium ore. This movie was in production before Hiroshima. Hitch and screenwriter Ben Hecht were questioned by the FBI about how they knew about Uranium. (As if the Periodic Chart were a secret!) Sheesh!!


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038787/?ref_=nv_sr_3


You will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G8HY1UDe7Q

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BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN directed Ang Lee (2005) (134 min.)


The astonishing Ang Lee has filmed a beautiful and haunting film about a tragic romance between two buttoned-up cowboys. It is beautifully crafted and strongly acted. It is a sweeping chronicle of their relationship over several decades, and of nearly palatable regret.


The movie remains one of the very best films of this XXI Century, and if you’ve not seen it; you ought to.


You will find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0388795/?ref_=nv_sr_3


And the trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xuugq7fito

**************

GOSFORD PARK directed by Robert Altman (2001 137 min.)


Robert Altman was among the finest of American moviemakers; “M*A*S*H” and “Nashville” are his most famous, but he made scores of lesser known films that the premier actors on both continents were willing to accept union “scale” just for the privilege of having worked with him. 


This movie concerns a vast estate in the aftermath of WWI. In many respects it resembles the current BBC series Downton Abby with an Agatha Christie type murder mystery. However, with Altman it was never about just the plot. He was a master of character and situation. This is an elegant movie about class distinctions wherein neither the “upstairs” class or the “downstairs” class are spared his sharp satiric eye. It is sly and delightful, and a very American “British” movie with an incredibly stellar cast.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0280707/?ref_=nv_sr_1


You will find the trailer at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjXdmXhwIQk


Happy New Year to all.


Van -

Some weeks it is hard to come up with a worthwhile movie to suggest for your Netflix queue. A few of you do really read this blog, so I have the added pressure of not recommending a clunker. The movie which I had tentatively picked I really could not wholeheartedly endorse. However, as luck would have it, I received an e-mail feedback from an addressee on this list about last week’s, movie and in the e-mail she casually mentioned the “Andy Griffith Show.” Not a TV watcher, so that is a show that I never saw but was vaguely aware that in it Griffith played a likable small town sheriff. It did not dawn on me until later last evening that the only time I had ever seen Griffith perform was as the star in one of the best films of the 50’s and Griffith’s performance was absolutely riveting, and the story by Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg about the nexus of media and politics is still very contemporary. (This is the team that presented On the Waterfront a few years earlier.) You will be amazed by Griffith’s performance and he is ably assisted by a really first class cast.


So here is this week's suggestion for your Netflix queue.


A FACE IN THE CROWD directed Elia Kazan (1957) (126 min.)


A radio talent scout discovers a philosophical “aw shucks” country singer named “Lonesome” Rhodes who ultimately becomes a huge star.

Beloved by his audience, Rhodes reveals himself to his intimates as a scheming, power-hungry manipulator with political ambitions. 


A searing, breakout performance by the principle with a great cast.


Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050371/?ref_=nv_sr_1


Here is the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJGUm9e_BLU


And… check out this clip to see how little things have changed politically after a half-century. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edpz9f5LVaY

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THE LAST AMERICAN HERO directed Lamont Johnson (1973) (95 min.)


The car racing film has been one of the least rewarding genres, as screenplays have traditionally dragged in every cliché possible to enliven the monotonous exercise of autos going in circles on a race course. Drivers are alcoholics, or obsessed with women, revenge or competition. 


Not so with this uncluttered and unpretentious movie. Junior Jackson delivers the goods from his moonshiner pappy, and becomes so competent at eluding federal agents trying to close down his dad’s illegal business along the back roads of the rural South that frustrated agents jail his dad. 


With the family income terminated, Junior enters stock car competitions to support his mom. He eventually becomes a NASCAR champion. The auto racing sequences are filmed with restraint, are realistic, and do not go on endlessly as they often do in this genre.


What makes this rather banal plot work is the casting and sure direction. A very young Jeff Bridges plays the title role and he is determined and shows his innate star sense, and we find ourselves caring for Junior and wanting him to win. This is likable and well crafted movie even if, like me, you care not a wit for stock car racing. 


Here you’ll find the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070287/?ref_=nv_sr_2


And the trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s2XzZ4HiLg

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SHADOW OF A DOUBT directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1943) (108 min.)


A young woman living in a homey small town yearns for a visit from her beloved uncle Charlie. Her wish comes true when her charming uncle steps off the train at the local station silhouetted by a puff of black smoke released by the locomotive.


Hitchcock generates suspense in this movie by allowing us in the audience to be aware that uncle Charlie is likely a serial killer, while his niece (also named Charlie) only gradually begins to realize her beloved uncle is truly sinister, and that sense of menace builds as Hitch works his directorial magic.


Hithchock loved trains, and appropriately the climax of this movie takes place aboard a train. 


Well worth another look, and if you’ve not seen it, it belongs in your Netflix queue.


You’ll find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036342/?ref_=nv_sr_2


And the hyperventilated 40’s trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ83eNpGaKQ

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movie blog sooner or later has to confront the elephant in the room - aka Citizen Kane written and directed more than 50 years ago by a 25 year old Orson Wells using well seasoned actors from his famous theatrical company, the Mercury Theater. Often proclaimed the finest movie ever made, it is a tale of ambition, power, corruption, and loss, filmed exquisitely in deep-focus black and white by the great cinematographer  Gregg Toland. The movie is a visual masterpiece, a kaleidoscope of daring angles and breathtaking images that had never been attempted before, and has never been equaled since. 

You are reading this blog presumably because you are fond of movies, and so I am sure most of you have seen “Kane” on several occasions. I’ve probably watched it a dozen times, yet each time I do I find a new aspect;

“Rosebud” is a cinematic memory of the past, very much like Fitzgerald’s “green light on Daisy’s dock” is novelist’s metaphor for the same emotion.

It’s a movie, that’s worth endless viewings. Is it the best ever? Watch it yet again, and decide for yourself.

CITIZEN KANE directed by Orson Wells (1941) (119 min)

Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033467/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Here is the official RKO trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTQXFMDpBtw

But check out this trailer made by Wells himself: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi568630553/

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THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION directed by Frank Darabont  (1994) (142 min.)

Most of this film is set in a prison, but this is an atypical prison story.  The protagonists are two convicts serving life sentences and the themes which are patiently explored are personal worth and the importance of community. The movie is deliberately constructed, beautifully performed, and quite uplifting.

This is an awfully good movie that improves with another viewing, a simple, elegant story expertly acted by the two principals; Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111161/?ref_=nv_sr_1

You’ll find the trailer at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hB3S9bIaco

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DOG DAY AFTERNOON directed by Sidney Lumet (1975) (125 min.)

Bank robbers become celebrities and  become part of a media circus following a failed robbery and hostage crisis. This is a quirky, satiric film with a powerhouse performance by Al Pacino. 

The themes even are more relevant today when it is hard to find the line between news and entertainment, and where everyone wants his 15 minutes of fame regardless of consequence. There is lots of New York city juice in this movie, and it’s a roller coaster ride! Check it out once again.

You’ll find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072890/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you can find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPwBfZHozQ8

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THE BIG LEBOWSKI directed by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (1998) (118min.)

This is a typical Coen brothers movie, which means, of course it’s like no movie you’ve ever seen before. Slacker Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski is mistaken for another man named Lebowski whose wife has been kidnapped. 

The plot, such as it is, loosely follows Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, but it is hard to imagine Phillip Marlowe unkempt;  dressed in bathrobe and wearing ill fitting bermuda shorts, and being obsessed by a ruined rug… and nightly bowling.

It’s a strange, wacky classic cult comedy that is enormously entertaining, and peopled with some notable actors; Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore and John Turturro. 

Trust me.“The Dude abides.”

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118715/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

And you will find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd-go0oBF4Y

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THE HURT LOCKER directed by Katherine Bigelow (2008) (131min.)

Staff Sgt. William James who disarms roadside bombs in Iraq is asked by a General, “How many bombs have you disarmed?” “873.” is James’ reply.

James has a terrifyingly dangerous job, which he seemingly executes recklessly, almost nonchalantly - until the actual defusing - which he performs with the care and skill of a eye surgeon. James is a psychologically fascinating character.

This is a great and intelligent film, told without phony suspense or embellishments. The nature of the task of disarming bombs is self evidently suspenseful. Sure handed direction by Ms. Bigelow, and a towering performance by Jeremy Renner as the principal.

Here you’ll find the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0887912/?ref_=nv_sr_1

The trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GxSDZc8etg

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ACE IN THE HOLE directed by Billy Wilder (1951) (118min.)

The great director Billy Wilder, was a refugee from Hitler’s Austria, so it is perhaps not surprising that he eschewed sentimentality and tended towards cynicism even in his comedies. 

This is a movie way ahead of its time. A man has been trapped in an abandoned silver mine, and his rescue becomes a magnet for corrupt politicians and fame seeking journalists which becomes a media circus focusing on the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for “live” tragedy.

Kirk Douglas is fascinatingly repulsive as a reporter who sees an opportunity to advance his career by prolonging the rescue attempt for as long as possible.

This is powerful, gripping movie economically shot without a wasted shot nor a single moment of sentimentality. It is well worth your viewing time.

You’ll find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043338/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Here’s the hyperventilated 50’s trailer. (The movie is much better than the trailer would indicate.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8hDUnmrkcw

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THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG directed by Jacques Demy (1964) (91min.)

This movie is a lollipop hued musical, but very unlike the Hollywood product with production numbers performed on sound stages, “Umbrellas” is a “pop” opera with all the dialog sung and actually filmed in the titled French city, with a lovely score composed by a young Michel Legrand. His tune “I Will Wait Forever” is the thematic trope. 

This is a completely original film that is darkened by a war (Algeria) and the loss of idealism.

It was the first staring role for the elegant and always radiant, Catherine Deneuve, and this movie is a lovely bittersweet tale of love and loss  that is filmed exquisitely. This is movie musical that is unique and beautiful, and well worth another look, or perhaps a first look.

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058450/?ref_=nv_sr_1

You will get the unique flavor of this movie from just a viewing of the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfIY0fNIJ3c

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ON GOLDEN POND directed by Mark Rydell (1981) (109 min.)

An elderly couple, Norman and Ethel Thayer, return to their summer home on the lake yet for another year and are joined briefly by their daughter, her fiancé, and the boyfriend’s 13 year old sun. The engaged couple is headed for Europe and wish to have Norman and Ethel mind the boy while  they spend an intimate vacation alone.

Norman and his daughter have an estranged relationship due in part to Norman’s disappointment that she was not a son. 

Thirty minutes into this film, you can predict the outcome, but what makes this movie extraordinary is the wonderful performances of the three principals; Kate Hepburn, and Henry and Jane Fonda. 

Despite their long and distinguished careers in Hollywood, Kate and Henry had never been cast in a film together, and in fact had never met. On the first day of shooting, Kate presented Henry with Spencer Tracy’s “lucky hat” which he wore throughout the movie

In spite of the sentimentality and predictability, this is an outstanding movie, beautifully acted by the principals, and gracefully directed by Rydell with a strong screenplay by Ernest Thomson based on his play.

Certainly worth revisiting.

Here you will find the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082846/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 The trailer which is nicely done, and a good representation of the movie can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWjBM48YP0s

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I AM LOVE (Io sono l’amore) directed by Luca Guadagnino (2009) (120 min.)

A sprawling and lavish drama which concerns an an Milanese family of industrialists whose enormous wealth has propelled them into the haute bourgeoisie autocracy and this fascinating family is intent on forming a dynasty. 

While on trip to Russia, the heir to this dynasty falls in love an marries a Russian woman, who because she is not Italian, is not really accepted into her husband’s family. This subtle estrangement leads to her having an affair with the family chef, which in turn, sets off a series of events which ultimately lead to tragedy. 

There are many elements in this film that intentionally echo Visconti’s The Leopard, and like that film masterpiece style takes precedence over substance.

The cinematography in this movie is ravishing, and centerpiece of the whole production is the amazing performance of Tilda Swinton who plays the foreign wife. 

This is a complex but lovely movie that is worth another look.

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1226236/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And here you find the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZBrWVvn9xA

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ABOUT TIME directed by Richard Curtis (2013) (123 min.)

This is a very recent movie - quirky, but quite delightful. It is one of those well crafted understated romantic comedies of the type that Hugh Grant was able to toss off a just few years ago.

Tim is a lovelorn 21 year old without a girlfriend, when his father informs him that the males in their clan are able to travel back in time and revisit and correct past mistakes. This sounds like a tired and banal plot point, but it’s done with grace and poignancy by a fine cast. The estimable Bill Nighy and the charming Rachel McAdams are standouts.

The trailer is an accurate representation of the movie; if you like the trailer, then put the film in your queue.

Here is its IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2194499/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OIFdWk83no

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MATCH POINT directed by Woody Allen(2005) (124 min.)

Woody is one of our preeminent filmmakers and this film ranks among his best. However, this movie departs from his usual wry comedies filled with wit and angst. Woody summons up his inner Hitchcock and serves up this disturbing and complex movie peopled by thoroughly rotten characters who have to make choices between greed and lust and fear. As unpleasant as this sounds, it makes for a fascinating movie with a clockwork plot. The trailer will give you precis of the the plot of this excellent Allen movie which I would rank among his best. This was the first of Woody’s London movies.

Here you will find the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0416320/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fLgkyR4nZg

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HUGO directed by Martin Scorsese (2011) (126 min.)

In this beautifully filmed movie, Scorsese eschews the gritty realism for which he justly renowned, and presents a charming and poignant fantasy of an orphan boy who lives within the walls and the clock  tower of the cavernous Paris Monparmasse train station in the early 1930s. 

Hugo has taken on his late father’s task of keeping all the clocks in the station running and on time. He meets a kindred spirit in a preteen girl who loves adventures and secrets. She helps him avoid the station master and his dog who are determined to catch Hugo and send him off to an orphanage. 

Eventually, Scorsese gets to his theme, which is a homage to pioneer moviemakers. Indeed Georges Melius (A Trip to the Moon) is an important character in this movie. 

This is a smart movie with heart, and the cinematography of Robert Richardson is breathtaking.

Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0970179/?ref_=nv_sr_2

And here you will find the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hR-kP-olcpM

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TOP HAT directed by Mark Sandrich (1935) (101 min.)

Because we are human, we are bound by the limitations of gravity. This limitation was not the case for Fred and Ginger in the mid 30’s It seemed that they were infused with Helium and floated effortlessly above the polished marble floors that were found in cavernous sound stages which pretended to be hotel suites in London or piazzas in Venice. 

This is one of the great Astaire Rogers movies. Sure, it has an idiot plot of “mistaken identity” and all those goofy stereotyped characters - who cares? It’s got Fred and Ginger and 11 tunes written by Irving Berlin with two spectacular dance duets; “Cheek to Cheek” and “Isn’t It a Lovely Day.”

Check it out once again.

Here you’ll find the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0027125/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

And the trailer can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbMpecOKoDY

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A BIRDERS GUIDE TO EVERYTHING directed by Rob Meyer (2013) (86 min.)

David Portnoy is young teen grieving the loss of his mother, and very resentful that his dad is remarrying - especially since his fiancee was his mother’s nurse in her final months of illness.

David is an avid birder, and on the eve of his father’s wedding he spies what he thinks may be a duck who’s species was thought to be extinct, so he and the two other members of his school’s Birdwatching Club head out to see if they can photograph this mysterious duck.

This is a rites of passage movie which is poignant and sweet and manages to avoid most of the cliches of this genre. Very nicely done and not easily forgotten.

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1582465/?ref_=nv_sr_1

You’ll find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cup5DCy3cP0&feature=kp

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A bit of a change in format this week. Instead of a particular movie suggestion let me recommend a genre. I struck me last week as I was writing the blog on “A Birders Guide to Everything,” that the Coming of Age genre has produced more than its fair share of really excellent films. Therefore let me just list a bunch of movies that I’ve enjoyed over the years which fit into this category, and just perhaps you may find some of your favorites which are worth another viewing.

You’re A Big Boy Now (1966)

The Graduate (1967)

Breaking Away (1979)

Say Anything (1989)

Sixteen Candles (1984)

500 Days of Summer (2009)

The Spectacular Now (2013)

The Flamingo Kid (1984)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Easy “A” (2010)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

The Dead Poets Society (1989)

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Boyz ’n the Hood (1991)

Juno (2007)

Bend It Like Beckam (2002)

An Education (2009)

I’ve found that the actual artistic merit of this category of movie counts less than how a particular movie resonates with your singular experience. “The Graduate” is a manifestly superior movie to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” but if a pizza delivered to your class is more adventurous than the seductive Mrs. Robinson - then bite into the pizza!

I am sure you will  find a few movies on this list worth renting.

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BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM  (2002) (112 min.)15/14

Jess is the British-born daughter of Sikh parents. She is also a fairly typical teenager, and, as is true of nearly every teenager across the globe, feels the need to rebel. Her source of rebellion is to play soccer, and she dreams of one day being on the field with her hero, David Beckham, and kicking the ball in for the winning goal. She is an awfully good soccer player. Her traditional Indian parents believe now that Jess is older she should spend her time spare time cooking and learning to be a good Indian wife and studying to get into a first rate university.

This is a feel-good comedy and you know long before the final credits roll, how it will end. But it is skillfully executed, with bright performances by the principals one of whom is Kiera Knightley. Check it out.

Here’s the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0286499/?ref_=nv_sr_1

You’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvcVQYKgtnc

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DAYS OF HEAVEN directed by Terence Malik (1978) (94 min.)

Early in the XX Century a Chicago steelworker accidentally kills his supervisor, so he and his girlfriend flee to the Texas panhandle where they find work as laborers on a wheat farm. The owner of the wheat farm is attracted to the woman, and thus begins a very complex and tragic love triangle. 

Additionally, Malik presents a riveting portrait of the rigors of itinerant manual labor in that era. It is a visually stunning film - beautiful photographed by legendary cinematographer Nestor Almendros, with solid performances by the then up-and-coming actors Richard Gere and Sam Shepard.

Here you will find the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077405/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And the trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVbg9xc7tGc

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RADIO DAYS directed by Woody Allen (1987) (88min.)

Woody Allen and I are the same age, so I have an especial fondness for his films that reminisce, and since we are children of the 40’s the radio was our magic carpet of our imagination. It is hard to imagine a family sitting around the kitchen table. listening intently to the radio - but that’s what millions of American families did. All the major stars had radio programs; Bob Hope, Fred Allen, Red Skelton, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby and on and on…And then there were the 30 minute adventure series - who in my cohort cannot remember The Lone Ranger on radio? (Brace Beemer the radio actor who played the Lone Ranger made personal appearances as such, but he was a bit overweight, had jowls, and wore a Halloween mask that didn’t fit. What a disappointment when I saw a photo of him in the newspaper!

However. Woody in this movie lovingly deals with these dichotomies. It’s one of Woody’s best. It is a movie that was inspired by these long ago “radio days.”

Roger Ebert encapsulated the romance of this movie when he reviewed it; “Radio Days" is so ambitious and so audacious that it almost defies description. It's a kaleidoscope of dozens of characters, settings and scenes - the most elaborate production Allen has ever made - and it's inexhaustible, spinning out one delight after another.”

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093818/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCb6-Nz0Nkg

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12 ANGRY MEN directed by Sidney Lumet (1957) (96 min.)

This movie was esteemed director Lumet’s first movie, and still is among his very best. Almost the entire movie takes place in a cramped jury room on a very hot day. An all male jury has to decide the fate of a Puerto Rican youth who has been tried for killing his father with a knife, and these jurors must decide his guilt or innocence. 

Eleven jurors quickly decide that the defendant is guilty. Juror #8 refuses to vote for that verdict unless it fully deliberated

The movie is riveting. A cast of splendid actors and Lumet’s skill as a director make this a powerful drama about human nature and the effects of peer pressure. As the deliberations proceed each juror character and motivations are examined and the dramatic tention is sustained through personal conflict and argumentation. In spite of that seeming banality, this is a thrilling movie because of its very humanness.

You will find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050083/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And the trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzZ6UftfOWY

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BACK TO THE FUTURE directed by Robert Zemeckis (1985) (116 min.)

This is a charming, and a bit goofy movie, but great fun. One of the better “popcorn” movies made. Marty McFly accidentally travels 30 years back into the past with the help of his only friend, an eccentric inventor who invents a nuclear powered automobile. (Christopher Lloyd portrays the inventor wearing a fright wig and glowing eyes. He’s a hoot!)

Once he is in the past, Marty must arrange the romance between his nerdy dad and ditzy mom in order to insure his own existence in the future. So begins a joyous voyage into a teen fantasy with the caveat that someday you may grow up to be your parents. 

It’s hard to believe that this movie is now almost 30 years old.

The IMdB link is here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088763/?ref_=nv_sr_1

You’ll find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvsgGtivCgs

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THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY directed by Arthur Hiller (1964) (115 min.)

The recent passing of James Garner reminded me what a fine comic actor he was. He made relatively few movies because he found his niche in TV fare, but he was the movie actor who came closest to inhabiting the persona developed by the great Cary Grant. 

This is a witty, savage, satiric comedy, the screenplay written by the famed writer Paddy Chayefsky. The Garner character is a navel officer during WWII who freely admits he is a dedicated coward, and is crafty enough to use his position as an Admiral’s aide to avoid the unpleasantries of actually fighting. He is in a romantic relationship with a British war widow who cannot abide his cowardliness. (She is portrayed by Julie Andrews in her second movie and in a non-singing role. She is excellent.)

The movie is set just prior to the D-Day invasion, and Garner’s loopy Admiral decides that the first American killed on Omaha Beach should be a sailor, and Garner’s navel officer ends up as the Admiral’s choice. He survives allowing the audience to ponder the concept of what constitutes  wartime heroism.

This is a gem of a film with a superb cast. It is well worth seeing.

You’ll find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057840/?ref_=nv_sr_1

The trailer can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9IYZx3GjBU

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THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY directed by William Wellman (1954) (147 min.)

John Wayne climbs off his horse to don the uniform of a commercial airline pilot in this the first of a long string of “disaster movies.” However, this movie began the genre, and who better than the “Duke” to save an airliner and its passengers on a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. The passengers are of course, a diverse bunch all with enough emotional "baggage that you may wonder how the plane ever got into the air.

The entire enterprise is overwrought melodrama, but it is great fun, and entertaining summer fare, and you will probably notice that it unintentionally resembles the hilarious spoof, Airplane made a quarter century later.

You may observe that in the days of propeller airliners, that air travel was the elite form of travel. One would not think of going to an airport unless you were dressed elegantly. (And flight attendants had to be attractive women forced to retire before they became 30. Oops! “Stewardesses” not flight attendants!)

You’ll find the IMdB link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047086/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And here you’ll find the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64BarFD6Mso

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BREATHLESS (A bout de souffle) directed by Jean-Luc Godard (1960) (90 min.)

In the early 60’s this movie burst upon the scene, and behind it tumbled the “French New Wave” style of filmmaking. It was likely the most important film since Citizen Kane

Godard loved American crime movies, so he fashions a self-aware marvel of improvisation and great mischief which pays homage to these American noir movies as well as satirizing them.

Jean-Paul Belmondo portrays a two-bit hood who imagines that he channels Humphrey Bogart (replete with an ever present cigarette dangling from his lips.) He picks up very young American ex-pat who is selling the Euro Herald Tribune on the Champs d’Elyeés. Together they go on a crime spree and romantic adventure obsessed with themselves and oblivious to the norms of society. Jean Seberg plays his gamin paramour and is very scary.

This was the film that introduced “jump cuts” into the moviemaking lexicon which at the time was truly startling, and now is a common technique.

The version of Breathless that is now available has been pristinely restored, and is the movie is still as fresh and exciting as when I first saw it in in 1961. Think of this movie as a Gaulic Badlands, or Bonnie and Clyde. But neither of those movies would exist without the pioneering example of Breathless

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053472/?ref_=nv_sr_3

And here is the trailer which is very clever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCDEAu4R8hA

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PLACES IN THE HEART directed by Robert Benton (1984) (111 min.)

Famed writer and director Robert Benton has both written and directed this movie which chronicles his boyhood memories of dustbowl Texas in the 1930’s. 

This is an emotionally gripping story of a woman and her two children struggling against extraordinary hardships in 

Texas during the Great Depression.

The widow will lose her farm and her kids unless she can harvest her cotton crop in time to make a mortgage payment. She gets unexpected help from a black hobo whom she hires, and a blind boarder she has taken in. As banal as the plot sounds it becomes a powerful movie due to Benton’s skills and a really excellent cast; Sally Fields, Danny Glover, John Malcovich, and Ed Harris.

Throughout the film, director Robert Benton stresses the importance of solidarity in facing down disaster, underlining this point with a remarkable surrealistic finale, in which the "live" and “deceased” members of the cast are seen together singing a hymn.

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087921/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer on You Tube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3IO5WB0SmM

•••••••••••••••••••••

GOLDFINGER directed by Guy Hamilton (1964) (110 min.)

This week’s recommendation is unadulterated, entertaining. fluff - but great fun. This was the third Bond film and sets the quality control standards that would appear again and again; the tricked-out cool cars (an Aston Martin in this one,) the clever credits with Shirley Bassey’ operatic voice singing the theme, all those silly gadgets, the sexy babes with sexual innuendoes flying all over the place, but with very PG boudoir scenes, the ridiculous names (the title character, the Korean thug with the steel bowler, “Odd Job,” and the Bond girl is this one is “Pussy Galore.”) 

However, pity the plight of the actors who had to follow Sean Connery as 007. He was the gold standard James Bond - nobody else has even come close. He could say, “Bond, James Bond.” in precise British English with a slight Scottish burr. - Now what other Bond actor could accomplish this?

So first fix yourself a martini - “shaken, not stirred,” find a comfortable chair, then sit back and revel in the the amusing silliness of a James Bond thriller.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058150/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And a classic trailer you’ll find here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdQoSK9wibU  

P.S. Here’s a compendium of James Bond quips: Caution: some are woefully sexist, but here they are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t1_usmB30s

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THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI directed by David Lean (1957) (161 min.)

This story takes place in WWII in Japanese occupied Siam (now Thailand,) and although it is in a wartime setting it is not really a war story but a conflict of wills between the two principal characters.

The Japanese are building a railroad through the dense juggles of Burma from Rangoon to Malaysia to supply their armies with arms and munitions. The Japanese Colonel in charge of a POW camp is ordered to have the British prisoners build a railroad bridge over the river. The British Colonel who heads the British POWs insists on conditions before he will allow his men to willingly comply. This become the central relationship in this film. These two disciplined antagonist who out of pride and a sense of duty become obsessed with idea of completing this bridge on schedule. The British Colonel (Alec Guinness) because he knows his men can build a better bridge than their enemy; the Japanese Colonel (Sessue Hayakawa) is humiliated because this is true, but he will at least complete the bridge on schedule

So the work on the bridge continues apace, and the obsession for the Guinness character is so strong that does not realize that the completed bridge will significantly aid the enemy. 

A case of honor and sacrifice gone haywire into madness, but this is an awfully good movie which still holds up very well.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050212/?ref_=nv_sr_1

The trailer link is here: https://www.google.com/search?q=the%20bridge%20on%20the%20river%20kwai+trailer&gws_rd=ssl

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JAWS directed by Steven Spielberg (1975) (124 min.)

I find “monster” movies, for the most part are silly and banal - not particularly frightening, but often grossly and gratuitously violent. However, there are four of them that as a film fancier I greatly admire. They are; King Kong, Frankenstein, Alien, and this movie.

I cannot imagine anyone on this list who has not seen Jaws, so I shall forgo even a very brief summary and simply jog your memory of a few movie moments

You do not see the huge shark until halfway into the movie, but you’re aware of his presence from the beginning. Spielberg uses Alfred Hitchcock’s “Bomb theory” to create unbearable suspense - letting the audience know what the characters on the screen do not know. The characters cannot hear the ominous strings on the soundtrack which clues the shark’s presence. 

The great line by the police chief when he sees shark swimming just below the surface beside the boat. "You're going to need a bigger boat.”

And, of course,

“da da

da da

dada 

dadada

da da da da

dadadada

nom nom”


This is a skillfully made movie, and a great adventure film nicely acted and with a memorable and elemental monster. Catch it again. - But wait until the swimming season is over!


Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073195/?ref_=nv_sr_1

You’ll find the excellent trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hIvvho2T1k 

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GONE WITH THE WIND directed by Victor Flemming (1939)  (238 min.)

This is still the quintessential “Hollywood” movie. A vast and spectacular soap opera about a place that exist only in myth; “The Old South” with plantations full of happy slaves, majestic mansions, and elaborate formal balls for the gentry to enjoy. No matter - it is still a great movie! which is peopled by movie stars not actors. Clark Gable was not a particularly good actor, but I defy you to take your eyes off him when he appears in a scene. Likewise, Vivian Leigh’s dazzling beauty belies the fact that she was a fine actress. Her character, Scarlett, is central to the entire story, which boiled down to its basics is a conflict between her lust and her vanity.

This was a Technicolor movie. A very expensive process which provided brilliant color reproduction. So expensive that it was discarded in the late 1950’s by the much less expensive Eastman Color. However the former does not fade, Eastman Color is almost unwatchable nowadays. So if this blog post piques your interest, GWTW looks mighty good on a HD flat screen. It’s well worth another look.

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031381/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And here you will find the Technicolor trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlTsGr1TQyE

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THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING directed by John Houston (1975) (129 min.)

John Houston whose favorite movie locale was Monument Valley in Utah moves his location halfway around the world to the mountains of Afghanistan to tell the lusty adventure tale of two former British soldiers discharged from India who are rouges and con men who come up with a scheme to use their military skills to take over an entire country. 

Sean Connery and Michael Caine portray the two soldiers and both have a rip-roaring good time chewing the scenery (which is magnificent.) This is a movie based on an obscure Rudyard Kipling short story, so you get all that British “Raj” stuff, but who cares. This movie is both thrilling and funny. Funny epic films are a rarity, and besides I think Huston chose this project because its got echoes of his masterpiece The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. 

When in the mood for a movie that is both exciting and just great fun, this film is an excellent choice.

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073341/?ref_=nv_sr_1

The trailer which is introduced by Houston himself can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNb6SxXcD7g

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SCHOOL DAZE directed by Spike Lee (1988) (121 min.)

This is essentially a daffy comedy about the college experience at an Historically black college. Spike Lee channels his own middle class undergraduate days at Morehouse and aims this movie towards a black audience with little concern how it might play to a white audience. It is mostly a raucous college comedy, but Spike adds a dash of spice by confronting topics that previously had been taboo for a black filmmaker; skin tone, hair texture, and the sexist treatment by some males towards women. (How dare a Brother expose an obvious secret!) Actually the “secret” exposed is the wonderful tradition of “steppin’’” that is a part of the Greek Letter black college experience.

This is a broad, satiric comedy with social overtones, but anyone familiar with Lee’s work as a filmmaker would expect less. The cast is excellent, and the wonderful cinematographer Earnest Dickerson is behind the camera for and extravanga of color.  It’s well worth another look.

Here is the IMdB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096054/?ref_=nv_sr_2

And check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLT3Qu76-b

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Hi lLA DOLCE VITA directed by Federico Fellini (1960) (174 min.)

A huge concrete statue of Jesus carried above the streets of Rome by a helicopter is the opening scene in Fellini’s phantasmagorical film about Rome in the middle of the XX Century. The central character Marcello, who is a gossip columnist, functions as the chorus leading the viewers through a series of stories many of which are tales of the decadence of the nightlife along the Via Veneto. 

Those of you familiar with the works of Fellini probably know that the Circus was the dominant metaphor in his films, so this movie has a bizarre larger than life quality in the visual imagery used. Besides the opening scene with the statue of Jesus, there is the famous scene with the impossibly voluptuous Anita Ekberg cavorting in the Fontana deTrevi wearing a strapless evening gown. 

 It’s difficult to give a brief review of this extraordinary and visually complex movie, so I’ll not try, but it is one of more compelling movies of the last century and worth another look - particularly to watch the great actor Marcello Mastroianni work his magic.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053779/?ref_=nv_sr_1

You’ll find the strange trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHpCgL4jZZU

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THEY ALL LAUGHED directed by Peter Bogdanovich (1981) (115 min.)

A trio of private detectives is hired to trail two women suspected of having affairs. The men are ineffectual sleuths smitten with the married women whose supposed infidelity they were hired to document. Bogdanovich uses his cameras much like Hitchcock does in Rear Window, except in this case the purpose is not voyeurism, but the mysterious thrall of romance, and the plot has echoes of the classic LaRonde. The movie is set in Reagan era Manhattan and it has a sunnier vibe than Woody Allen’s NYC movies of the same epoch. 

This is both a madcap and a screwball comedy that is infused with a hint of bittersweet humanity. The women in this film are exceptionally beautiful, most especially an elegant and mature Audrey Hepburn. I found this movie clever, witty and quite enjoyable. I hope that you too. 

You’ll find the IMDb link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083189/combined

Unable to find a trailer, but here’s a scene photo collage that serves almost as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoqpknCWKWU

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O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (2000) (106min.)

The Coen brothers’ rollicking and quirky take on The Odyssey with George Clooney in the Ulysses role, heading a trio of escaped convicts and a meandering storyline to wend their way through Depression Era Mississippi to rescue a cache of ill gotten money before the new dam floods the hiding place. And, of course, Ulysses wants to be reunited with his wife Penny (Penelope).  Along the way this threesome encounters a one-eyed Bible salesman (The Cyclops) and three seductive women bathers (The Sirens)  Additionally, there are car chases, narrow escapes, and some wonderful Bluegrass banjo picking’! 

This movie is great fun, but not top drawer Coen brothers, but then, even second rate movies by the unconventional Joel and Ethan are quite enjoyable. See for yourself.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0190590/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_30

And you’ll find the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1C2gCXo4Gs

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BEDAZZLED directed by Stanley Donen (1967) (103 min.)

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were sort of the British equivalent to Abbot and Costello, but less jokey and much wittier. This movie is their version of the Faust legend told with a hilarious spin through the “Seven Deadly Sins.”

Moore plays burger chef Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore) who sells his soul to the devil, named George Spiggott (Cook), in hopes of possessing waitress Margaret Spencer. Spiggott gives Stanley seven "wishes" to re-arrange his new life surrounding Margaret, but each time something goes wrong. As an example; Stanley wishes to be close to Margaret, so Spigot transforms both into nuns in a cloistered convent. And when Spigott is not “bedeviling” Stanley he is removing “wet paint” signs from park benches, and causing the bottoms of grocery bags to tear open. Oh, and a young and very voluptuous Raquel Welsh is wonderfully cast as “Lust.”

This movie is terribly British and terribly amusing. 

You will find the IMDb link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061391/?ref_=nv_sr_3

And here is the link to the YouTube trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8tA1wH3cck

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BRIGADOON directed by Vincente Minnelli (1954) (108 min.)

A pair of American tourist who are out hunting in the Scottish Highlands happen upon a quaint village not on their maps. It is the titled village which appears for a day once every hundred years an then disappears into the mists of time awaiting its next resurrection a hundred years hence.

When the movie opened it was savaged by movie critics who felt it did not measure up to the vaulted Agnes DeMille Broadway production, but the movie is charming.   It has Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse dancing together and those wonderful Lerner and Loewe tunes. For those reasons alone, this movie is worth revisiting.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046807/?ref_=ttmd_md_nm

You’ll find the CinemaScope trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZik-nwwvdw

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YANKEE DOODLE DANDY directed by Michael Curtiz (1942) (126 min.)

The biopic of singer, dancer, songwriter, George M. Cohan as portrayed by the great Jimmy Cagney. Cagney was, of course, was famous for his gangster roles where his charismatic intensity was truly scary. It was a casting surprise when he was picked for the title role, (Fred Astaire turned it down) and although Cagney had done some hoofing on Broadway, no one imagined him in a Hollywood musical. 

Cagney was not an especially good dancer and even less so a singer, but neither mattered because Cagney’s coiled-spring energy in the role is palpable. The movie itself is a production laden trifle about success and patriotism that borders on jingoism, but WWII was on the near horizon, and Cagney delivers the goods. No wonder that when the aging George M. Cohan himself was shown the movie, he liked it. (According to historian Jay Robert Nash, his response was right in character: “Cohan grinned, shook his head, and paid the inimitable Cagney his highest compliment: `My God, what an act to follow!' “)

I am sure most of you have watched this movie innumerable times on the Late Show, but it’s still well worth another look.

Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035575/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9hW0Evk2jA

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Since the end of the year is “list making” season, I thought that I’d share the movies that I watched this year which I thought were especially memorable. Some were made in 2013, but I did not get around to viewing them until this year. So herewith is my list in no particular order, and in my judgement are rather wonderful.

Also notable are a bunch of splendid young actors who were able to strut their stuff; Jennifer Lawrence, Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, and Ansel Elgort are just remarkable, and Bradley Cooper who is neither young nor new had a breakout year. 

So here is my list of notable flicks which I saw and very much liked this year. I have included the official trailers of my movie selections so you can cut to the chase if you think you might want to watch the entire film.

Before Midnight

The third installment of Richard Linklater’s Jesse and Celine”s Euro love story. Now married with twins and vacationing in Greece.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euOJkb0U8vE

The Fault in Our Stars

A pair of teens, both afflicted with cancer fall in love. The principals are wonderful, and the movie for the most part avoids the sentimental clichés which bedevil this genre. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ItBvH5J6ss

Fading Gigolo

John Turturro stars and directs as a gigolo with Woody Allen as his pimp. In spite of the vulgar plot, this is a amusing and rather sweet movie. Turturro and Allen are quite good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuKoub-Sy9k

The Grand Budapest Hotel

A stylish and visually stunning recounting of the adventures of a concierge at a famous hotel and a lobby boy who becomes his friend and apprentice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fg5iWmQjwk

A Birders Guide to Everthing

Four geeky teens who as bird watchers think they have discovered a duck who is thought to be extinct. A lovely coming of age movie with Ben Kingsley as the adult mentor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cup5DCy3cP0

About Time

A young man has the special ability to time travel and tries to change his past to improve his life.The wonderful Bill Nighy is the boy’s dad, and Rachel McAdams is the love interest. Wonderful!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7A810duHvw


Silver Linings Playbook

After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own. De Niro plays the dad and is terrific.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj5_FhLaaQQ


The Spectacular Now

Two of the best young actors extant, Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller are teen lovers. Intense and wryly humorous.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDTBLSkUmYk


Magic in the Moonlight

This year’s Woody Allen movie. Colin Firth is an illusionist, bent on uncovering the tricks of clairvoyant  Emma Stone. Not first rank Allen, but nevertheless delightful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAwbwKURvm0


Begin Again

A soul-stirring comedy by the director of Once. Keira Knightley as a lovelorn cabaret singer and Mark Ruffalo is a disgraced record company exec, who begins a mutually transformative collaboration. A charming movie with well matched leads.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTRCxOE7Xzc&spfreload=10


American Hustle

Riotously funny and impeccably cast, this is a fictional account of the “Abscam” con of the ’70’s”Great ensemble acting, and a colorful recreation of that polyester era. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST7a1aK_lG0

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SAY ANYTHING directed by Cameron Crowe (1989) (100 min.)

At first blush, this appears to be a typical teen crush comedy, but charming performances coupled with Crowe’s deft direction and his screenplay which treats the two kids as human beings and not stereotypes transcend the usual teen story limitations.

Ione Skye and John Cusack are the principals; she is the class valedictorian living with her dad, he an “army brat” living with his sister. She has been awarded a fellowship to study in England after the summer is over. He has no particular ambition, but confident he has yet time to sort out his young life. Their breakup occasioned by her dad’s tax problems is poignant. He is absolutely determined to win her back. In one of the most iconic scenes in movies of the 80s, he appears early in the morning under her window (like Cyrano or Romeo) holding over his head a boombox playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” This movie is worth a revisit for this scene alone, so why not do it!

You’ll find the IMDb like here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098258/?ref_=nv_sr_2

And the trailer can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFV7FnbhBRY

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RASHOMON directed by Akira Kurosawa (1950) (88min.)

This was the movie that almost singlehandedly opened Japanese cinema to the West.

It takes place in XII Century Japan and relates in flashback a crime to which there are four eyewitnesses to a murder and a possible rape. Each of the witnesses tell an entirely different story. So we have here Kurosawa’s exploration of the confoundingly, elusive nature of truth. 

Kurosawa went on to become one of the world’s great filmmakers and this is one of his great films. It is beautifully filmed in black and white mostly in the dappled shadows of a forest which enhances the elusive nature of human truth telling. Treat yourself. Watch it once again. 

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042876/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCZ9TguVOIA

Van -

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THE USUAL SUSPECTS  directed by Bryan Singer (1995) (106min.)

The “usual suspects" are five hardened criminals who are put into a line-up which the cops are hoping may help crack a hijacking of a truckload of stolen guns. This movie is a noir thriller with an extremely serpentine plot. The cop who leads the investigation singles out a gimpy con man, Verbal Klint (a wonderful Kevin Spacey) who seems to be the suspect most likely to provide evidence, but the crippled con man proves to be an unreliable narrator, and the plot eventually turns to a police hunt for Keyser Sozé - a legendary Hungarian master criminal of unparalleled viciousness. 

This is a stylish thriller with an excellent cast which concludes with a “surprise” ending. If you’ve seen this film, a second viewing will perhaps make more sense - but then,  perhaps not, but still well worth another viewing.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114814/?ref_=chttp_tt_24

And you’ll find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiXdPolca5w

………………………..

WARRIOR directed by Gavin O’Connor (2011) (140min.)

This is a fight movie which focuses on two estranged brothers who end up glove to glove in a MMA (mixed martial arts) cage fighting for big bucks, and if that is not improbable enough, their father, a recovering alcoholic, becomes the trainer for the older brother. Most fight films are ultimately about winning, and in this movie the fight scenes are intense, but it is ultimately a movie about family, reconciliation, redemption, and the power of the human spirit. Writer, director O’Conner manages to wring a heartwarming, crowd-cheering out of a supposed sports movie. I urge you all to give it a fair viewing.  I don’t think that you’ll regret it.  

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1291584/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer here: https://www.google.com/search?q=Warrior+trailer&gws_rd=ssl

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD directed by Robert Mulligan (’62) (129 min.)

I cannot imagine anyone on this list who has not seen this film. A movie exquisitely presented and beautifully acted; told from the viewpoint of the children of the widowed Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem, about just growing up in the Depression era south, and a terrible racial injustice which takes place in their home town in the early ‘30s.

I am suggesting a re-watching because as most of you know, this summer Harper Lee the author of the novel and the screenwriter of this film is releasing her second novel “Go Set a Watchman” which was apparently written before “Mockingbird,” and is an account of Scout Finch’s recollections of the events in “Mockingbird” as mature woman twenty years hence. You may as well be up to speed when the “Watchman” is published.

You will find the IMDb link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056592/?ref_=nm_knf_i1

Here’s the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi88P7KfaMA

And here is a memorable scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7CX_5D6y6E&spfreload=10

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MCCABE & MRS. MILLER directed by Robert Altman (1971) (120min.)

Robert Altman was a great American filmmaker, and this is one of his great films. McCabe is a card shark who rides into the bleak and forlorn frontier town of Presbyterian Church intent on winning enough to establish a saloon with a bordello. Mrs. Miller, a Cockney prostitute also new to the town, convinces McCabe to take her in as a partner in the enterprise to manage the brothel. She will import some “fancy” ladies from San Fransisco to improve profits. Thus the film’s title; with the ampersand suggesting a corporation, and not a couple. The operation is so successful, that wealthy mining interests offer to buy him out. McCabe refuses the offer, and realizes afterward that his refusal might be a death sentence.

One of Altman’s great gifts was his ability to eavesdrop right into real life circumstances with no elaborate exposition. The viewer feels that he is part of the movie. This movie is like a sad, elegiac poem about love, death, and capitalism, and very much worth another look. Warren Beaty is McCabe in one of his finest performances, and Julie Christie as Mrs. Miller is - as always - magical

 Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067411/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2BSHp9oYD0

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BABAROSA directed by Fred Shepesi (1922) (90 min.)

 This is a quirky Western by Aussie director Fred Schepisi who recreates Nineteenth Century south Texas peopled by Mexican rancheros and Swedish farmers. "Barbarosa" is whispered with the same kind of awe and fear that the dusty residents of the Texas backcountry reserve for the Holy Trinity Indeed, Barbarosa comes pretty close to the mythologically divine, appearing to rise from the dead at one point in the movie. 

Actually, Barbarosa (Willie Nelson) like the actor who plays him, is just a plain fellow who got caught up in some nasty family business years ago with his father-in-law, a disagreeable Spanish landowner. Barbarosa is forced to leave his wife and daughter, roaming the hillsides as an avenging marauder and building a reputation as a man who never misses when he shoots and who never flinches, even when a bullet grazes his cheek. 

The movie begins, however, with the story of Karl Westover (Gary Busey), a big, goofy farm boy who's also running from some nasty family business. He accidentally killed his brother-in-law and now a gang of angry Swedish relatives is on his trail, seeking vengeance. Karl meets up with Barbarosa and the two hesitantly team up as they elude their pursuers through the sagebrush. 

An eccentric movie, but great fun and well worth another viewing

Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083619/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you will find the trailer here: http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/220671/Barbarosa-Original-Trailer-.html

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THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN directed by Sydney Pollack (’79) (121 min.)

This is a film full of messages, but is not a “message movie.” It is an amalgum of old fashioned “screwball comedies’ from It Happened One Night to The African Queen. It features Robert Redford and Jane Fonda at the zenith of their respective popularity and the third time they were cast together. In addition director Pollack had worked with both Fonda and Redford earlier. 

Redford portrays Sonny Steele a five time rodeo champion who is on an alcohol infused downward spiral because he has become the spokesman for a breakfast cereal company and appears in shows with an electrically lighted cowboy costume rinding a champion racehorse to hawk the breakfast cereal. At a show in Las Vegas, after he has found out that the stallion that he rides has been overly medicated, he rides out of the show still lighted, and down the Sunset Strip and into the desert. His stealing of the very valuable horse becomes a media event, and Fonda as a TV reporter follows him for the story. You can predict the rest. However, it is worth another look. With Fonda and Redford and Pollack directing, how can you resist?

Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079100/?ref_=nv_sr_2

You’ll find the movie’s trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj4g1c9tgTI&spfreload=10

And here is a telling scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwNJYyVvCm8&spfreload=10

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KEY LARGO directed by John Houston (1948) (100 min.)

Huston was a master of noir films, and this is one of the his darker efforts.

The plot is a bit creaky. Gangsters have taken over a small hotel and hold the owners and guests hostage with a plan to escape to nearby Cuba by boat in the face of an impending hurricane, and the Bogart character is a sailor who’s the only one present that can get the gangsters to their intended destination.  What makes this movie work is a splendid cast. Bogart and Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore, and Claire Trevor who mix it up with hostile confrontations and scenery chewing.

However, it is all worth-while. With Bogart and Bacall, and Huston in the director’s chair, you’re in safe hands for a noir rollercoaster.

Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040506/?ref_=nv_sr_1

The trailer you’ll find here. It’s one of those ridiculous, over-hyped 40’s previews: https://www.google.com/search?q=key%20largo+trailer&gws_rd=ssl

And here is a key scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7e_A9onlpw&spfreload=10

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AN AMERICAN IN PARIS directed by Vincente Minnelli (1951) (113min.)

This film is a colorful musical confection and a ground breaking musical comedy that features the great Gene Kelly near the top of his dancing prowess, and his discovery the gamin Leslie Caron in her film debut.

The plot is a bit problematical, Kelly plays an ex GI who is now a “starving” artist in Paris with two buddies, a sour American, and a French music hall star. But all of this matters very little when you have Kelly and Caron and eleven George Gershwin songs the final being his symphonic tone poem that is also the movie’s title with the two principals engaged in a 17 minute ballet that concludes the movie with lavish painted backdrops that suggest famous French painters. It is a gorgeous, awesome finale. 

If you’ve not seen it recently, you ought to. I’m told the Technicolor original has been restored. If you’ve never seen it - please do. You won’t be disappointed. It is opulently beautiful, and the dancing is extraordinary.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043278/?ref_=nv_sr_1

You’ll find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2WAMZRCbpU

Note - the following year Gene starred in perhaps the best movie musical ever - “Singing in the Rain”

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GOODFELLAS directed by Martin Scorsese (1990) (146 min.)

The gangster movie is one of the more enduring genres in film. Ranging all the way from Little Caesar to The Godfather, and this movie belongs on the shelf one of the very best of this genre. It is narrated by Henry Hill and Irish- Sicilian kid whose boyhood ambition was to become a mafiosi He works his way up the mob latter as a minor hood and we in the audience get a fly on the wall view of organized crime. 

In addition to Ray Liotta who portrays Henry, there are Robert DiNero, Lorraine Bracco and Joe Pesci who turn in splendid performances. (and the Pesci character is one of the scariest in in that annals of moviedom!)

Well worth another viewing, and if you’ve not seen, you ought to.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099685/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer here: https://www.google.com/search?q=Goodfellas+trailer&gws_rd=ssl

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THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI directed by Orson Wells (1947) (87 min.)

This is a fascinating mess of a movie - a noir thriller with murder plots and counter murder plots. Orson Wells directs and stars, and wanted his spouse at the time, Rita Hayworth, to costar. Harry Cohn the studio head reluctantly agreed, and was furious when he discovered that Wells had his biggest star cut her long red hair and dye it blond for the role. Cohn took his revenge by having the studio and not Wells make the final cut. 

The plot is tangled, a rich wife falls for a merchant seaman and a scheme evolves for murder to collect insurance. However, the storyline is almost incidental to the disorientating inventiveness of this film. The visuals are arresting - this is, after all, an Orson Wells’ movie - so you’re not likely to notice the gaping holes in the plot. This movie is a mesmerizing visual treat. 

You’ll find the IMDb link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040525/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3lW5UKsbP4

Here is a key scene which is extraordinary! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RdPVtcDeEI

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CAPTAIN BLOOD directed by Michael Curtiz (1935) (119 min.)

This was the first starring role for Errol Flynn - before he grew his trademark pencil thin mustache -  who was to become the preeminent swashbuckler for the Warner Bros. studio. He plays Dr. Peter Blood who turns buccaneer after an unjust persecution. This movie is pure escapist entertainment, but it sure is entertaining. Flynn is teamed for the first time with Olivia de Havilland who was to become his co-star in 7 more movies.

The same team was to make a similar epic, Robin Hood, a couple of years later, but to my mind, pirates swinging from ropes from the rigging of square masted men-of-war is much more thrilling than outlaws swinging from vines in Sherwood Forest. Then there are those fearful cannon bellowing smoke with sword fighting masses on the deck with rigging falling all about, and a long duel with the arch villain played by Basil Rathbone. It is all great fun. Just go with it, and enjoy the voyage.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0026174/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And you’ll find the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXb1QqmrRNc

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CARMEN JONES directed by Otto Preminger (1954) (105 min.)

This movie is an intermittently successful modern updating of Bizet's "Carmen" with an all-black cast. Preminger's heavy-handed adaptation of a Broadway hit combines gorgeous music with vernacular lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; the project is saved by a terrific cast. Most notably an electrifying performance by Dorothy Dandridge as the title character, and a young Harry Belafonte as Joe (José) both leads are as one critic wrote, “mesmerizingly beautiful.” 

However, the movie is colorful and quaint, well worth another viewing if you’ve not seen it for a while, and certainly worth seeing if you never have. It is hard not to like the stirring romance of “Carmen” - and the libretto is in English.

 You’ll find the IMDb link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046828/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBlWEB9BVGE

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BANANAS directed by Woody Allen (1971) (82 min.)

Here is one of Woody’s earlier and zanier movies. All you need do is skip down to the trailer’s hyperlink, and you’ll know all you need to know about another viewing of this very funny movie. 

You’ll find the IMDb link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066808/?ref_=nv_sr_3

Just clink on the hyperlink and allow Woody to describe his movie. He does a far better funnier job in an “interview” explaining what the movie is about than I ever could. His trailer is hilarious.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xyqm-wWnX0A

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THE GREAT SANTINI directed by Lewis John Carlino (1979) (115min.)

Lt. Col. Bull Meecham, portrayed by Robert Duvall, is a top gun Marine fighter pilot. He is so expert at his lethal trade that he is called “the great Santini." Unfortunately for him, he is a finely tuned warrior without a war. Set in the early 60’s when there was relative peace, Meecham is adrift and compensates by treating his family as if it were a Marine platoon. His wife is a wise and gentle Southerner and understands his frustration, but his 19 year old son bears the brunt of his malaise. Bull is so competitive that he cannot conceive of losing a backyard basketball game against his son.

The performances in this movie are amazing. Duvall hones the crazy character Col. Kilgore whom he had recently played in Apocalypse Now (“Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that.”) and gives this angry character some nuance and some humanity. 

This is a really fine film that has been largely overlooked. Check out the trailer below to get the sense of this good movie.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079239/?ref_=nv_sr_1

The trailer can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAZHa2zVLQ0

The entire movie can be seen on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HK4YwrVdVg&spfreload=10

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ARTHUR directed by Lewis Steve Gordon (1981) (99min.)

This is essentially an updated 30’s screwball comedy, and like those comedies of yore is wonderfully funny. The title character is an endearing and eternally drunk millionaire on the threshold of an arranged marriage to a boring socialite whom he does not love. Arthur is a sweet, somewhat pathetic character who has no motivation in life and his income will be cut off if he fails to marry his chosen bride.

Arthur, however, meets a shoplifter/waitress with whom he falls in love - and you know, of course, his rehabilitation will soon occur. What really makes this movie work are the sparkling performance by the principals. Dudley Moore as Arthur and one of Liza Minnelli’s best performances as his true love. But John Gielgud steals the movie with his portrayal of Hobson, Arthur’s haughty and disapproving manservant who functions more like a nanny to the childlike title character. 

Worth another viewing. You will be charmed once again.

You’ll find the IMDb link here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082031/?ref_=fn_al_tt_3

The trailer may be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH3tG5t9cN0

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CHOCOLAT directed by Lasse Hallstörm (2000) (121min.)

This movie is a fairy tale/fable, and the movie is as delicious as its title.

A mysterious woman named Vianne (Juliette Binoche) moves with her young daughter into a small French village, where much of the community's activities are dominated by the local Catholic church. A few days after settling into town, Vianne opens up a confectionery shop across the street from the house of worship - shortly after the beginning of Lent. While the townspeople are supposed to be abstaining from worldly pleasures, Vianne tempts them with unusual and delicious chocolate creations, using her expert touch to create just the right candy to break down each customer's resistance. With every passing day, more and more of Vianne's neighbors are succumbing to her sinfully delicious treats, but the Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), the town's mayor, is not the least bit amused. He is eager to see Vianne run out of town before she leads the town into a deeper level of temptation. Vianne, however, is not to be swayed, and with the help of another new arrival in town, a handsome Irish Gypsy named Roux (Johnny Depp), she plans a "Grand Festival of Chocolate," to be held on Easter Sunday. 

A wonderful supporting cast; Judy Dench, Lena Olin and Leslie Caron help to keep this magical movie glowing.

Here’s the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0241303/?ref_=nv_sr_2

And the trailer is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32x33l2sLe8

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TO CATCH A THIEF directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1955) (106min.)

This is an effervescent, albeit minor, comedy thriller by Hitch, which has its setting on the French Riviera with two incomparable leads; Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. It is mostly the star power of these two actors that propel the movie, but it is lavishly shot against the beautiful backdrop of the Côte d’Azur.

The plot - such as it is - Hitch’s tried and true “wrong man” trope. The Grant character who is a reformed jewel thief must find the real jewel thief who is mimicking his former modus operandi. But it is the gorgeous spectacle of the movie and its stars that really matter.

Here is the IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048728/?ref_=nv_sr_1

And here you will find the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6JVaUHS0Ow

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I am going to depart briefly from the usual format of a capsule review of a worthwhile movie to watch again. Instead I am going to focus for a while on what I consider to be great scenes. With the advent of YouTube, we no longer have to rely on memory, but can review the actual scene. We now know that Ingrid Bergman never said, “Play it again, Sam.” in Casablanca because we can Google that specific scene.

So, herewith, is my first foray into what I consider to be great movie moments.

NASHVILLE directed by Robert Altman (1975) 

The “I’m Easy” sequence

The scene set up: Tom Frank (Keith Carradine) is a folk musician and a manipulative womanizer, and although just new into Nashville he has already lined up four women as present and future sexual conquests.

Tom arranges that these four be present for his opening in a Nashville club.

Linnea Reese, a gospel singer (Lilly Tomlin) is one of them, and she is trapped in a loveless marriage with an uncaring spouse and two children who are both profoundly deaf. Ms. Tomlin in an extraordinary silent, still performance encapsulates these frustrations and desires. When the final note is sung we’ve learned so much. Every longing desire, every hope, every secret lustful thought climaxes here without her hardly moving. It is all in the nuances of her face.

Here is that great scene, masterfully directed: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KZ8PRWChb8

© Van Wyck Keely 2012