Directed by James Ivory
Screenplay by Ruth Prawar Jhabvala, from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, James Fox, Christopher Reeve and Hugh Grant
Let’s be honest: Anthony Hopkins is only ever going to be defined by one thing. No matter what else he does in life – or did – he’s only ever going to be Hannibal Lecter first, and everything else second. What is a bit curious here is while he might have made his take on the character, he was not the first actor to play the part. It was Brian Cox who had first crack at it, in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, and while Cox was charming, he lacked the specific menace Hopkins brought to the role. Which is why one man’s take on it is iconic (Hopkins), while the other’s is merely mentioned in passing as a thing that happened (Cox). Continue reading
Directed by George W. Hill
Screenplay by Frances Marion, additional dialog by Joe Farnham and Martin Flavin
Starring Chester Morris, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, Robert Montgomery, Leila Hyams, George F. Marion and J.C. Nugent
Old movies are just different. That’s a fact. They come from a different time, they come from a different era, they came from a different sensibility.
They are products of their environment.
And yet, too often people forget that. Instead, they get too stuck in their own love of the present – or the near-present – and everything from it, and everything it does, to be able to look through the world they’re used to in order to see something of value in what come before them. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard somebody complain about a movie being in black and white, or the old garish Technicolor, and therefore not being worth their time, I wouldn’t have money to retire on, but I could at least get a cup of coffee. Continue reading
Directed by Jan Troell
Screenplay by Jan Troell and Bengt Forslund, based upon the novels “The Emigrants” and “Unto A Good Land” by Vilhelm Moberg
Starring Max Von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Eddie Axberg, Pierre Lindstedt, Allan Edwall and Monica Zetterlund
There is no way I would have ever seen The Emigrants if not for this project. Partially that’s because I’m not super-into Swedish film in general – I do enjoy a handful of Bergman films, including The Virgin Spring, but by no means am I ‘into’ Swedish films. But also it’s because The Emigrants just happens to be a Swedish film that’s 190 minutes long.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against long films. After all, Gone With The Wind is almost 240 minutes long and it’s a top-10 for me. Plus, I’m down for foreign films. Another top-10 of mine? Aguirre, The Wrath of God. It’s just that when those two things intersect – extreme length and reading – it makes even the best movie a bit of a tough sit. Continue reading
Directed by Robert Benton
Written by Robert Benton
Starring Sally Field, Lindsey Crouse, John Malkovich, Danny Glover, Ed Harris and Amy Madigan
I wouldn’t call Sally Field an unlikely Oscar winner – I wouldn’t call anybody an unlikely Oscar winner. After all, lot’s of people manage to capture lightening in a bottle, or just happen to be in the right place at the right time, and wind up with an Oscar. It could happen to anybody. It happened to Broderick Crawford, it happened to Roberto Benigni, it happened to Paul Haggis. It’s what happens when a cultural moment coincides with the Oscars, or when some dumb schmuck gets the role tailored perfectly to their skills.
Sally Field, though, might be the most unlikely two-time Oscar winner. I mean, if I were to ask you to name a two-time Oscar winning actor, Field’s would likely be pretty far down the list – she’s just not a person you expect to have two Oscars. After all, she started her career in the silly sitcom, Gidget, followed it up with the equally-silly The Flying Nun, then spent several years trying to break out of that ghetto before finally having her biggest box-office success playing the second-fiddle love-interest to Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit. Continue reading
If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you are aware of my years-long series, The Best Picture Project. You’re also probably aware that in late-2016 I compiled that series together, edited the entries, and put it out in both paperback and ebook formats. It was called The Best Picture Project. Like this blog, I didn’t put the book out with any hope it would sell or make me money — and it hasn’t. I put it out because I like to write, and like it when people read my stuff. Continue reading
Directed by Robert Rossen
Screenplay by Robert Rossen and Sidney Carroll, based upon the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis
Starring Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Piper Laurie and Jackie Gleason
There’s a pretty phenomenal performance in The Hustler and it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of. In the grand story of movie history – or at least the history of film I created in my own head – it’s assumed the Academy shafted Paul Newman out of his rightful Oscar in 1961 by giving it to Maximillian Schell for what is essentially a supporting performance in Judgment at Nuremberg. This is not to say Schell was not Oscar-worthy, because I recall him being very good in an otherwise painfully-earnest film, it’s just he was not the Leading Actor in that film. That was actually Spencer Tracy, followed by Burt Lancaster and Richard Widmark. Continue reading
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Gerard Brach, John Blowjohn and Roman Polanski, based upon the novel of the same name by Thomas Hardy
Starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth and Leigh Lawson
There’s one thing I want to make absolutely clear right from the start: Though Tess was directed by Roman Polanski, I will not be discussing Roman Polanski’s guilty plea in 1977 to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse, in the course of this post. I will not take sides on that issue, nor will I make moral judgments about it. Continue reading
Directed by Louis Malle
Written by John Guare
Starring Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon and Michel Piccoli
Dateline – Atlantic City. An aging mob-adjacent man (Lancaster) finds himself embroiled with a thief trying to make a drug sale, and the thief’s estranged wife (Sarandon). When the wife’s life is threatened, the complacent man must take action.
In one sense, the movie is just a simple story about people from the lower classes trying to make good, in any way they can. In another, it’s about the transition between the old Atlantic City and the new, the metaphorical changing of the guard, and the expected growing pains everybody feels. Continue reading
Directed by Paul Mazursky
Written by Paul Mazursky and Josh Greenfeld
Starring Art Carney, Ellen Burstyn, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Melanie Mayron, Josh Mostel, Larry Hagman and Chief Dan George
Art Carney was basically a television actor – that was his career and he made a good one out of it. He did something like 76 episodes of The Morey Amsterdam Show in the late 1940s, 39 episodes of The Honeymooners, 180ish episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show spread across it’s two incarnations in the late-50s and the late-60s, not to mention a ton of TV movies. He was so clearly a TV actor that when he starred in Harry and Tonto he was making just his third movie, after a cameo in A Guide For The Married Man (1967) and a small part The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964). Imagine that – a well-traveled actor of 55 being a movie novice.
I used to think it was a big deal that a television actor won an Oscar because in the past, those two mediums just did not mix – you could be a success in one, or the other, but there was little crossover between them. And where there was, it didn’t seem to matter in terms of the box office, or ratings, because one did not reflect the other. After all, a big star like Jimmy Stewart could transition to TV, only to see his projects fail for low ratings, while TV stars like Jackie Gleason could hardly gain traction on the big-screen. Continue reading
Directed by Federico Fellini
Written by Federico Fellini and Tonino Guerra
Starring Bruno Zanin, Magali Noel, Pupella Maggio and Armando Brancia
I don’t ‘get’ Fellini. As others might struggle to ‘get’ Kubrick, or Bergman, or some other director who you’ve been told is important, I don’t ‘get’ Fellini. I don’t relate to him at all and his films fail to connect with me on any level: emotional, visceral, or as pure filmmaking. Others might see him as god-like, while I see him as a head-scratcher.
To be fair, I’ve only see one other Fellini film in it’s entirety – that being La Dolce Vita – so it’s not like I’ve done a deep dive on his oeuvre and decided he’s not the filmmaker for me. That said, I only made it to the end of La Dolce Vita because I felt like I had to. That because it was a ‘historical’ and ‘important’ film I was required to finish what I started and, if I didn’t like it, or get it, that was on me for being a philistine. Continue reading