Levinson. Barry Levinson is here because of the impressive filmography- I can’t call him a style-plus director. However, both his debut (Diner– one that never gets mentioned among the best debuts of all-time and should) and second film (The Natural) are highly ambitious. He never hit those artistic highs again in his career. Still, not many directors left with two films that land in their respective decades top 100.

Best film: Diner. It is remembered for the talented ensemble cast (in the mid-90’s this felt like a who’s who but that has faded a little), the quotable dialogue, hilarious vignettes (something close to American Graffiti or Amarcord)—all extremely praiseworthy—but in his debut, Levinson starts the film with a jaw-dropper of a tracking shot through a party. In 1982 this to feel like the beginning of something remarkable.

Fellini feels like an influence—Diner is like half town-based memory piece vignette like Amarcord and half coming of age male group of friends story like I Vitelloni

total archiveable films: 6

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  1 (Diner)

top 100 films of the decade:  2 (Diner, The Natural)

most overrated: Nothing for Levinson—the only two films listed on the TSPDT consensus top 2000 list are both underrated.

most underrated :  Diner and The Natural are on there— but way too low. Neither fall in the TSPDT top 1500!

gem I want to spotlight :  The Natural. It is a triumph of sight and sound. Caleb Deschanel is the DP, Randy Newman does the score— genius work from both—probably their best work (and look at their credits sometime-wow). The slow-motion photography ties in throughout, detailed period production sign and certainly Levinson gets credit for tying it all together.

The Natural is absolutely stunning to look at

stylistic innovations/traits:                             

  • The Baltimore trilogy- Levinson is from Baltimore and made a trio of films (both Diner and Tin Men in the archives) set there
  • 20th century production period detail. Bugsy has that in spades- a gorgeous production. Levinson nails early 20th century baseball nostalgia in The Natural and a coming of age story in 1959 Baltimore in Diner
  • Fellini feels like an influence—Diner is like half town-based memory piece vignette like Amarcord and half coming of age male group of friends story like I Vitelloni

production period detail–Baltimore in 1959

top 10

  1. Diner
  2. The Natural
  3. Bugsy
  4. Rain Man
  5. Wag the Dog
  6. Tin Men

a beautiful shot from 1988’s Rain Man

By year and grades

1982- Diner MS/MP
1984- The Natural HR
1987- Tin Men R
1988- Rain Man R
1991- Bugsy R/HR
1997- Wag The Dog R

 

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives