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Like most people I have a list of movies and plays which I have a particular
fondness for. I wasn't much of a movie person and my love for theater hadn't
developed until later in life. I starred in multiple theater productions
through school and camp. I could all but be assured of a leading role for
anything I tried out for in these typical amateur productions, and maybe I
should have pursued this. But the best drama to star in was my personal life,
which far exceeded anything a playwright could come up with.
In some ways I was luck with regard to movies. We didn't know it as kids,
but we were growing up at the peak time for movies and television. Many of the
greatest movies had been produced in the afterglow of the cultural revolution of
the 1960's and into the 1970's creativity seemed to be brewing with the new
balance of independent studios and the traditional studios. In addition, the
movie business seemed to learn how to leverage the new TV medium to its
advantage and the age of the blockbuster was upon us. Disaster movies became
vague with the Towering Inferno, Earthquake in Senssurround, and the The
Poseidon Adventure made millions for a while. There was the trend for ensemble
casts with a dozen superstar actors in multiple formats, not just disaster
films, but comedies like the Airplane series. The summer blockbuster became a
big industry for Hollywood. Horror films and SciFi made memoriable advanced
with films like Logans' Run, Planet of the Apes and Jaws. But through the commercialism extraordinary works
came to huge audiences and nearly anyone could find a movie to their tastes.
Among these break through films included the The Warriors, The Lords of
Flatbush, The Sting, The Natural, 2001, American Graffiti, MASH, The Godfather,
Rosemary's Baby, Annie Hall, One flew of the Cuckoo's Nest, Network, Taxi
Driver, Blazing Saddles, and Saturday Night Fever. By the end of the 1970's
the movie industry had in place a new generation of superstar producers, and
directors, which put out the most suffused cinematic works in Western culture.
Aside from the Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola, Star Wars, by George Lucus,
embedded itself into the very lexicon of conventional English. With the
development of Steven Speilberg with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the
1970's closed to set up the 1980's and 1990's with the richest vein special
movies in history (cont).
Post Star Wars brings on a stream of special movies, as CGI effects and great
acting drive the media forward. A quick run down of movies from the 1980s
include ET, Poltergeist, The Blues Brothers, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The
Breakfast Club, The Purple Rose of Cario, Ghostbuster, Back to the Future, The Emmpire Strikes Back,
The Princess Bride, Rain Man, Top Gun, Batman, St Elmo's Fire, Dirty Dancing,
Caddy Shack, Dead Poets Society, Hello Vietnam, Tootsie, When Harry Met Sally,
Broadcast News, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Batman, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
And that was just the 1980's. The 1990's continued with this rich vein and
brought us Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, The Shawshank
Redemption, Total Recall, Dancing with Wolves, Terminator, Beauty and the
Beast, Silence of the Lambs, Aladdin, Toy Story, Apollo 13, and Pulp Fiction.
It was a deep vein of classic movies that seeped into the current century.
But, when one goes to the movies today, this being 2019 as I write this, one is
at a lost to understand were all the movie makers went. You look at the marque
now and all you see is big monster movies with cgi smashing and animation ...
1,2,3. Superhero movies are rolling out, one after the next. There is nothing
to see. I've been a long fan of independent films, seeing them at the Brooklyn
Academy of Music and at the Angelika, and even this stream of talent seems to
have died up. Politics has spoiled much of those films. It leaves us with not
much to see.
Count Down Top Twenty Movies
- Lost in Translation - Sophia Coppola
The movie that introduced Scarlet Johanson to the world as an adult, but it is
Bill Murphy's greatest work. It is so subtle, and emotionally charged, like a
fine painting. As it opens, you can painfully feel the jet lag that Bill Murph
portrays, and it does so with minimal movement or action. Just Bill taking a
cab ride with background music. And from there, you are hooked into the
whirlwind emotion haze of this old time action hero actor, and his existential
search for meaning in his life. There is no adequate description in words for this movie. It
could never be done today, and nothing quite like it will be ever seen again.
I takes the time to tell a story. And the story perhaps has no plot. It is a
Romance that is impossible. It is a movie that breaks your heart, and still
leaves you feeling positive about life. I love every part of this movie. It
is unique and perfect.
- The Sting - with Robert Redford and Paul Newman
The Sting is a movie that just has to be experienced. In theory it is a
movie about a big con. But it is far more. It is a social commentary
on racism in the US, and the brotherhood of the urban street. It is about
crime and its fabled place in American culture and American literature.
All this is perfectly painted on the canvas of the big silver screen.
It has comedy, mystery, and drama. It is probably the greatest movie
script ever written and it is acted and directed to perfection. This is Redford
and Newman at their Movie Star greatest to produce a movie so shocking,
and so entertaining, that nothing compares to it. One can
say that all the cinema prior to the Sting tried to do what the Sting
did, but missed at various levels. The Sting was not a book adaptation,
nor any other form of media, but from its inception was designed as a
full feature motion picture, maybe the best one ever done.
- Pan's Labyrinth - Guillermo del Toro
Pan's Labyrinth is a Spanish speaking film with English subtitles, but once it
starts you will
never notice. To watch it in anything other than the Spanish it was written in
would be butchering it. It is a fairy tail built into a nightmare. It feels almost like
it came from the pages of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. It has a fantastic sound
track, as do most great movies and a sophisticated integration of CGI with live
action. It is based on mythological beings, drawn from the
archives of western paganism. Two intertwined tales are being told and at the
end, one is left with the question of which is the reality (at least as defined
in the movie) and which is the myth. It would seem, at least, that the
reality is even more brutal that the fairy tail, despite the fairy tails best
efforts. Does Offelia yet live? We will never know. How much do you believe
in the power of a young girls imagination?
- Star Wars - George Lucus
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away ...
What can one possible add to the discussions on this film other than that it
was the single most important movie ever created... Period. But you haven't
seen Star Wars until you have seen it in its original ASCII:
telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl or
in a java ascii window?
Technical Consultant on Star Wars - "George you can't hear sound in space"
George - "Too bad man".
It is sad to know that Star Wars has fallen to Disney.
- Pulp Fiction - Quentin Tarantino
All the great movies have great quotes, and this one is packed
with memorable lines from beginning to end. This is the movie, that among other
things, showed us that John Travalta is really a fine actors and a big screen
giant. One of the weird things about Pulp Fiction is that it has at least 4
huge movie stars who tend to overshadow the screen in Travalta, Jackson,
Thurman, and Willis, and they even work together. Yet Tarantino manages to
pull them all together into a coherent whole and nobody, regardless of thier
screen presence, overshadows the others. They work together to tell this
circular story in perfect rhythm. Violent, this movie is for sure. But it
works in a way that adds to the story. It is not randomly violent, for the
sake of blood letting. It is amazingly well thought out and told out of
sequence, which was novel at the time, if not totally inventive. My favorite
quote from the film: "Only thing Antoine ever touched of mine was my hand when
he shook it … at my wedding. … Truth is, nobody knows why Marsellus threw Tony
out of that fourth-story window except Marsellus and Tony. When you little
scamps get together, you're worse than a sewing circle."
- Breakfast at Tiffany's
This nearly became Robert Redford's 3rd movie on this list but
instead the role of Paul was given to George Peppard, which worked out fine
because this adaptation of Truman Capotes novel truly is all about the wonders
of Audrey Hepbrun. Since her youth, Audrey Hepbrun was the dutch treat to
American cinema, especially for returning GI's from WWII who had experienced
Europe. Vaguely international in all her roles, she had break out movies
playing European women of grace such as in Roman Holiday in which she was 24
years old. Tiffany's was a different role for Hepburn... more mature and not
about her appeal as a European women, but as an American, Midwestern at that,
call girl trying to marry big in the big City of New York.
I once saw this movie on the big screen in Manhattan and despite seeing it
multiple times, I was amazed to see that the movie was in color. New York is
such a gray city, that it dominates the color for this film. I remembered it
as being in black and white. And there I was, watching Mickey Rooney shouting
in full color. Watching movies on the big screen is a different experience.
Breakfast with Tiffany's is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which
that it handles the fact that Holly Golightly is a call girl and friendly with
mobsters in such a way that one is barely offended. It handles overt sexual
topics gracefully, and allows one to connect with the characters beyond their
obvious sexuality. It is a movie about style, and this is a central theme of
the film, which in 1961 was in the middle of what might be one of the great
cultural moments in the fashion and design industry. But the most memorable
part of this movie is the "not to be missed" party scene. It is one of the
greatest moments captured in film.
- Bridget Jones
This might seem to be an odd choice for the twenty best movies of all time,
but the truth is that Renée Zellweger, with help from Colin Firth, Hugh Grant,
put together one of the greatest character movies of all time. I have watched
this movie, likely more than any other in my collection. Renée Zellweger
completely immersed herself and becomes one with Bridget Jones. Her acting is
among the best ever. Her comical timing among the best ever. Her heartstrings
acting, among the best ever. Renée Zellweger is one of the few actresses which
I will seek out and see anything she ever does. Even flops that she does, end
up worth seeing, because Zellweger is such a fine actress. The biggest problem
for her is to find roles that are big enough for her. The original Bridget
movie fit the bill. The other squeals suffer bad writing and a lack of
originality. This film also contains one of the great scenes in cinematic
history. The fight scene alone is worth the price of admission. James Callis
is quite a ham but it works so well.
- Before Sunrise: Before Sunset :Before Midnight - Listed in this order so that you might watch them in correct order
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke team up for the most romantic
film ever produced with the production of Before Sunrise in 1995 made when Deply
was about 25 years old and Hawke about 10 months older. Normally the specific
age of the actors wouldn't
be so important accept that Before Sunrise was ended on an enormous cliff
hanger... would Céline and Jesse ever meet again?
Well, they did quite unexpectedlyi, 9 years later, when the actors are about 34
years old, in a movie one would think not
even possible. A follow up movie is released, even more seductive, more romantic, and more
intense than even the first. While the first movie is about young lovers
learning about romance, and themselves, this second film is a tour de force
with characters who reignite there romance with maturity and experience at the
art of seduction. They nearly torture each other in a juicy real life portrayal
of the mid-life crisis.
Both of these films have almost no plot. They are hours of dialogue. They are
the all about that moment when a man and a women fall into intense infatuation.
All the potent emotion exploration of the possibilities of that moment come
forward in these two films, and percolate. People of both genders spend a
lifetime dreaming of this kind of love affair, and never acquire it. In this
regard, these films reinforce a fantasy about our intimate lives, and
marriages. Oh, but what a fantasy this is! This is a film that takes one
where Star Wars fears to ever go! One has to root for Jesse and
Céline because if they can not bare the fruit of romantic infatuation into
mature love, then nobody can, and we are all lost. But at the end, we are
completely uncertain if these two lovers can bridge the grind of there lives to
live to their potential
And then 9 years later, the third movie comes out, again without fanfare or
press. It is just sprung upon us unexpectedly, released at the Tribeca Film
Festival in New York City. I don't even want to engage in the experience of
the third film, because I believe that one needs to experience it fresh. At
this point Céline and Jesse are 43 years old, mature adults. See this movie
for yourself, but not until you see the first two.
- The Natural - Robert Redford and Glenn Close based on a novel by Bernard Malamud
This is the second Robert Redford movie on this list, after the Sting. This
film is a heart breaker every time I see it with an ending that is so cheesy
that you wonder how in the world you can be in tears after watching this film
for the 30th plus time.... but there you are, with the ending swing of the bat,
eyes full of tears.
This is the greatest sports movie ever done; there is really nothing close.
The cast is full of character actors doing their best work with Wilford Brimley
playing the warm and comical Pops Fisher, the manager of the Gotham Knights,
Robert Duvall playing the arrogant and ambitious newsman, Max Mercy. Kim
Basinger plays the femme fatale as Memo. Glenn Close plays Iris, the literary
device for motherhood and all things good that is half this films morality
play and the counter force to Basinger's Memo. Darren McGavin plays the
extraordinary and complex Gus Sands, professional gambler and enabler for Memo,
and the Judge who conspires to take the team from Pops. The overall
production is as good as any movie you will ever see.. from end to end. The
only thing I will say is that the original book ends very differently than the
movie and to read it after seeing the film makes for an interesting contrast.
You get to see the same body of work from two different angles, like seeing
brothers who are close, but very different.
The only other thing I think I would like to mention about this film is that I
find it ironic and sad that Glenn Close, who plays Iris, the character that is
the embodiment of motherhood, and the supportive role of womanhood in society
in real life despises that role for women and made some very difficult to hear
negative statements about her mothers life. Evidently, Glenn
Close didn't believe that a lifetime spent raising a child such as Glenn Close
amounts to anything significant and that was a wasted life.
- Good Morning Vietnam - Robin Willaims
Coming out of Mork and Mindy, Robin Williams found it difficult to find his
footing in the movie business. Hello Vietnam was the movie that launched Robin
into a successful movie career. I remember being so bummed with Popeye, and
exciting at the previews for Hello Vietnam. Williams was brilliant. The film
was brilliant. Laugh until you pass out and then cry over the pain. The
scenes with the radio broadcast made this movie historic.
I miss Robin Williams and his passing makes my life that much harder every day.
- Network - I'm mad as Hell - and I am not going to take it anymore
A positively iconic film that might be slipping from public
consciousness, which is too bad because we need Network more now than ever. The message of Network, its comedy, its political satire,
its foreshadowing for some of the deepest societal issues that we face as a
civilization are more prescient now than even when the film was created. We
are all living in a Post-Network world.
We are living in a world where we are sitting on the edge of our seats with
heightened sensitivity waiting for the latest tidbit of urgent news from a
media and technology that we barely understand. What can possibly go wrong?
Watch Network and find out!
Diana Christensen: Hi. I'm Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the
imperialist ruling circles.
Laureen Hobbs: I'm Laureen Hobbs, a badass commie nigger.
Diana Christensen: Sounds like the basis of a firm friendship.
- Manchester By The Sea - 2016 Kenneth Lonergan
Manchester by the Sea is as intense sideways romantic drama that
stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges. This is a story
about the aftermath of a personal tragedy for a couple who loses their children
in a house fire after a party. It is about guilt, and loss. But most of all
it is about the love between the two main characters, Randi and Lee Chandler,
the parents that suffered the loss of their two children. Randi, the mother, is
able to move on with her life, through the pain. Lee simply can't. Their
meeting on the top of the hill, where they both spit out dialogue, seemingly
meaningless words, full of tears, is among the greatest scenes ever filmed. If
you can't feel the love and trauma that these two people share in this scene,
you need to question your core humanity. No film I know of has ever even
remotely captured the emotional spectrum that this one scene does in
- The Empire Strikes Back
The consensus best of the Star Wars franchise, this is the movie that
introduced Yoda and gave the franchise a mysticism slant.
- The Green Mile - Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks made several films that could easily be on this list, but
I've limited this to twenty films, and already cheated. But it is worth noting
that Hanks, one of my favorite actors (along with Robin Williams, Robert
Redford, Paul Newman, and Harrison Ford) also acted in Apollo 13, Big, Saving
Private Ryan, the Terminal (which very nearly made this list), Forrest Gump
(which would have made many peoples list), Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,
You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, A League of Their Own, Bonfires, and
Charlie Wilson's War. And that is just the top of the list. His B films are
better than most peoples A films.
What separates out the Green Mile is not just Hanks incredible acting, which
you almost have to take for granted, with his usual sensitivity and ear he brings to
this movie about death row in a southern prison, but that his costar, Michael Clarke
Duncan, who plays an idiot with the superpower of healing through empathy,
pulls off his role as well, making one believe that indeed, a 300 pound
blackman with an IQ of 60 can indeed perform miracles. This film feeds off of
so many stereotypes and yet handles them gracefully and in a believable
fashion. Once you get into it, you can not stop watching. This film is a
serious piece of Americana and delves deeply into the cultural realities of the
US during the depression. It handles all issues, head on, and without
commentary. The story is allowed to speak for itself with fanfare.
- The Devil Wears Prada - Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway
There was a time in recent history where when one rode the New York City
subway in the morning and that you could observe a great number of people,
particularly women, reading books on the ride in and out of work. This was
often the bread and butter of the New York Times best sellers list in its book
review section. Three particular books stood out on the trains longer and more
obvious than the hundreds of others. These three were Bridget Jones, 50 Shades
of Gray and the biggest one of all, The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.
Something about the Devil Wears Prada spoke specifically to the up and coming
women in NYC at the turn of the millennium. The movie gets a bit of the
Hollywood treatment. Andie, instead of being fired as she is in the book,
leaves on her own terms and gains admiration of the protagonist, Miranda
I've watched this movie dozens of time. Anne Hathaway is the modern version of
Audrey Hepburn. She is elegant and witty and commands presence on the screen.
But it is Meryl Streep that truly makes in a top 20 movie of history. Meryl
Streep might be the greatest actress of this generation, and this, in my
opinion, is her greatest role.
- Ruby Sparks - Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano 2012
If Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano never do anything significant again, their work in
Ruby Sparks will testify for them for eternity. This is a relatively unknown
film which brilliantly explores the dark side of emotional development and
relationship building. Oddly familiar although patently impossible, this film
speaks to the universal experience of many couples. In the end, this is about
a relationship that spins into a spiral of abuse and control. In the climatic
finish, the male protagonist has to finally decide what he wants more, control,
or to risk the relationship and allow his romantic interest to be a free women.
In most cases, these things don't work out well, but in the end, in this fantasy,
Calvin Weirs, the movies male protagonist, get a do over, a chance to apply his
learned lessons to a fresh start. Ruby Sparks is a compelling modern comedy
that explores depression and relationships openly and without judgement. It
give the hope that romance can outlive the difficulties of real relationships.
- The Silver Linings Playbook - Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradly Cooper, Jacki Weaver
This is one of the great romantic comedies ever done, with an entertaining and
enlightening twist and look at mental illness and obsessive compulsive
disorder. The movie put Jennifer Lawrence into the public eye for
mainstream roles. She had already been famous for the Hunger Games,
and I had seen her in a great independent film called Winter's Bone,
a biting look at poverty in the Orzarks which Lawrence filmed at age
twenty. Lawrence might now be the biggest women movie star in America.
And Silver Linings Playbook was the vehicle that made her the world beater.
The film has more great lines than any other than perhaps Pulp Fiction. And
like most great films, it has scenes that are historically important in cinema.
In this case, the scene where Tiffany Maxwell is trolling Pat Sr and Ronnie into
betting everything on a dance contest parlayed with an Eagles football game lights
of the big screen leaving everyone in the theater ready to by into one of the
great sleigh rides in theatrical history. Entertaining... for sure. More than
that, it is one of the great emotional roller coasters ever put on film.
- Ironman and Ironman II - Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow
This is a great Romantic Comedy disguised as a superhero flick.
- Spiderman II - Doc Oc - Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina
This is the best of all superhero flicks. The Dr Oc battle sequences are the best
comic action scenes ever done. Before this movie, cinema was not capable of doing
comics realistically. Spider-man II was the movie to prove this wrong.
- Tombstone -Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Dana Delany`
This is movie that takes a page from the Drama's of the 1930s and 1940s but is modernized.
The casting for this movie was exception and this is by far the greatest performance
by Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, who both put on great theatrical performances in this
character driven retelling of the shoot out at the OK Coral.
This story is subtly one of the great films. It's pacing is pitch perfect,
as is the sets, customs and directing. At the end of the day, the film is stolen
by Doc Holiday. But you will believe in each of these characters, and they feel
as real as your neighbors and friends. They are all imperfect, and morally ambiguit.
But you want Wyatt at at your cook out this summer. And the love of these brothers
for each others is romantic and genuine. Great great movie..
- Dead Poets Society - My Captain, My Captain