Michael Mann. Fact, all eight of Mann’s archiveable films below would show up on their respective years’ top 10 if I had to update all my yearly top ten’s today. That’s remarkable. Now with another look at Blackhat, Ali (neither in the archives) or his earlier work that’ll change with his perfect top 10 record (these aren’t his only 8 films of course) but still. He also has a big “M” Masterpiece in Heat (top 100 all-time) and is an auteur with a distinct worldview and aesthetic. His films are bleak, serious, dark films (often shot at night). He’s an auteur with visual consistency and a fairly deep filmography (not many auteurs this far down from #1 on the list have a 6th best film like Thief).
Best film: Heat I don’t think there’s a realistic challenger here to one of the best films of the 1990’s. It’s a modern crime epic told with a controlled yet ambitious scrupulous style and polish. It’s as much Mann’s take on the genre as say Leone’s on the western.
total archiveable films: 8
top 100 films: 1 (Heat)
top 500 films: 3 (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, The Insider)
top 100 films of the decade: 7 (Thief, Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, Collateral, Public Enemies)
most overrated: Absolutely nothing here. Michael Mann isn’t in the TSPDT top 150 directors, and, shockingly, he has only 1 film in the TSPDT top 1000 (Heat but even that isn’t in the top 300). It’s one of the largest gulfs between the consensus and myself. I think the evidence shows (films themselves) pretty clearly that I have the correct reading on Mann.
most underrated: Public Enemies is #722 on TSPDT… OF THE 21ST CENTURY… haha. That’s absurd. It’s one highlight after another starting with the opening prison break. I don’t think it’s on the level of Last of the Mohicans but I think it’s an even more personalized period piece (Mann is so modern) with a patented aesthetic.
gem I want to spotlight: Thief. The urban neon florescent motif so magnificently achieved here. James Caan is great in the lead here as well. It’s not just the lighting here- he uses natural lighting and the magic hour to turn the sky pink. Some of the best shots in Heat or The Insider 15-20 years later are set up here initially.
stylistic innovations/traits: Mann shares certain urban-art shadowy auteur sensibilities with WKW and David Fincher. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with more traditionally (nature) appreciated filmmakers known for great cinematography like Malick, Lean or Leone. Mann has a penchant for neon and florescent lighting, the use of deep blue day for night (which is Nicholas Ray). Mann’s films are serious and bleak in tone—meticulous illumination and often pushed aside by some critics as genre exercises or style exercises (sign me up). Mann has been on the cusp of the digital camera expansion in the 21st century. Many of his subjects pit two men against each other. There are reoccurring shots of the water, just after the dusk, and night city skylines.
- The Last of the Mohicans
- The Insider
- Public Enemies
- Miami Vice
By year and grades
|1992- The Last of the Mohicans||MS|
|1999- The Insider||MS|
|2006- Miami Vice||R/HR|
|2009- Public Enemies||HR|
*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
Why do you think his films dont get enough award attention?De Niro in Heat,Pacino in Heat and the Insider,Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans,James Caan in Thief,Tom Cruise in Collateral all got snubbed at the oscars.
My ranking of his films :
1. Heat – MP.
2. Collateral – MS.
3.The Insider – MS.
4. Thief – MS.
5. The Last of the Mohicans – HR.
6. Public Enemies – HR
7. Miami Vice – HR.
8. Manhunter – HR.
9. Ali – R.
10. Blackhat – R.
11. The Keep – Not in the Archives.
@KidCharlemagne – thanks for sharing- really good stuff here.
Since Ali isn’t in the archives as well is there a single archivable film from Will Smith?
@Malith- at least one- Six Degrees of Separation from 1993 http://thecinemaarchives.com/2017/11/06/1993/
I just saw Collateral today. What a phenomenal film. Cruise’s psychopath character was acted out so well. The character development for Jamie Foxx’s character was incredible as well; he went from a timid taxi driver to brave and bold. The nighttime cinematography, the music, the direction etc, everything was brilliant.
@Azman- Agreed here. I’m doing a Michael Mann study this summer.
@Drake – Just curious if you’ve started the Michael Mann study, I’m planning on watching Manhunter (1986) this weekend, it’s on Criterion in the Neo-Noir collection.
@James Trapp- I have started. I’m up through The Insider now. It has been a great study, and yes, I caught Manhunter on Criterion. Post coming for it and the others soon.
@Drake – Did you watch Heat and Thief for the study? And are you going to watch Collateral?
@RK- yes, going to see everything I can find. I have already seen Thief, Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans, Heat, and The Insider… next will be Ali, Collateral, Miami Vice, Public Enemies and then Blackhat,
@Drake – awesome, look forward to it
You absolutely are more accurate in your assessment of Mann. Well done.
@Kent Crosier- appreciate it- thanks
I just got to Heat in my Michael Mann study, and, while I think it is a wonderful film, I’m starting to think Thief is slightly better. Heat is gigantic in scope, but there’s quite a bit of quiet time, whereas in Thief pretty much every shot is visually impressive. Does anybody else have the same opinion? Or a reason to disagree? I’d love to hear it.
@Pedro – I still need to see Thief so I cannot weigh in there but I am curious what do you mean there is quite a bit of quiet time?
@James-Trapp – What I mean by quiet time is scenes in which there isn’t a lot (or anything) stylistically significant going on. You should check out Thief, it’s a great film!
@Pedro – Definitely going to get to Thief soon.
As for Heat (1995) I found I posted this on the 1995 page:
“the film is more than just a heist plot it is a character study of criminal and a look at the co-
dependence between the criminal and crime fighter so the various storylines have purpose
beyond plot. I thought De Niro gives a great performance, I’ll give you that Pacino goes a little
overboard at times though I still enjoyed his performance.
the opening scene and 2nd robbery scene a little more than 1/2 way through are incredible
on a technical level and just absolutely breathtaking
De Niro’s performance is much more internalized, for instance the scene where him and his crew is out with the wives/girlfriends and De Niro is clearly feeling alone (calls the Amy Brenneman character right after). He is always thinking/calculating and he conveys it largely without words, incredibly impressive stuff plus he has his fair share of great lines/speeches.”
The overall point I was getting at is that I don’t think there are really any wasted or unnecessary scenes even if there are scenes that are not essential to the plot. An exception would probably be the side plot of Waingro being a serial killer, we already see that he’s a monster when he unnecessarily kills the hapless security guard in the opening scene so I don’t think we need to learn Waingro just happens to be a serial killer in his spare time, seems like overkill to me (no pun intended)
@James-Trapp – Oh, sure, I don’t think there are wasted or unnecessary scenes, but I think there are scenes that are shot rather blandly, at least more than Thief. And you could say that’s because the film is almost three hours long, and that’s true, but then you could say something along those lines about any movie. It’s like: oh, well.
Going by the rankings on this page I assume this was prior to your Mann study.
If you ranked Mann’s films now what would your list look like?
Just finally got to The Insider, very impressive, but still need to see The Last of the Mohicans, Public Enemies, and Miami Vice.
I’ve been on a mini Mann binge the past couple weeks and just finished Mohicans for the first time. (Was a nice to surprise to see Drake’s mind also went immediately to Barry Lyndon during several compositions (he said this on the Mohicans page)
My ratings so far:
Heat – MP
The Last of the Mohicans – MS/MP
Collateral – HR
Thief – HR
Not really sure which I would give the edge to between Collateral and Thief-it’s close. Curious to see if Drake reveals his updated rankings post-his Mann study
When I’ve finished his entire filmography I might put together an performance ranking too
@Matthew – sounds good so far
1. Heat – easy choice, MP
2. Manhunter, MS
3. Collateral, MS
4. The Insider, MS
5. Thief, HR
Going to check out Public Enemies next
@James here’s mine
1. Heat – MP
2. The Last of the Mohicans – MP
3. The Insider – MS
4. Thief – HR
5. Manhunter – HR
6. Blackhat – HR
7. Collateral – R
8. Miami Vice – R
9. Public Enemies – Fringe R
Finally got to Public Enemies and Miami Vice
1. Heat – easy choice, MP
2. Manhunter, MS
3. Collateral, MS
4. The Insider, MS
5. Thief, HR
6. Public Enemies, HR
7. Miami Vice, Not Recommend
Public Enemies was a pleasant surprise as it exceeded my expectations from critic reviews, the consistent low angle shots were effective along with the score and the performances. It certainly is not at the level of The Assassination of Jesse James… but it does successfully use the mythology of a legend effectively in a similar manner. I have always been a fan of Depp and I think he does some great work here. But more importantly I think this is well directed and suspenseful.
Miami Vice is another story, there are some impressive shots including create close up face shots. However… the story/plot was so incredibly generic that it could have been created by a computer. I love Colin Farrell in many films (The New World, Widows, Minority Report, In Bruge) but here I just could not get into this character I don’t know if it was the long hair or some of the terrible dialogue but it just did not work. Foxx was better but still a generic character himself. And yes I realize that some of this is due to adapting from a well known work but after watching Collateral which was such a fascinating 1-2 punch of such interesting and original characters with Vincent (Cruise) and Max (Foxx) this just cannot measure up
In fact I did not find any characters remotely interesting, it’s a film I have no interest in every revisiting (I don’t say that often)
@James Trapp https://www.theringer.com/2018/2/7/16984482/miami-vice-jamie-foxx-colin-farrell
This is so funny I love Bill Simmons! I am a big NBA fan from age 9. Lakers are my favorite team so Simmons of course trashes them a lot as he is a die hard Celtics fan but I love his writing. He is master of mixing sports, movies, and pop culture. Chris Ryan is great too, the Ringer has a lot of great movie podcasts. I don’t know if you listen to them regularly but they don’t focus much on the technical aspects of filmmaking like this site but it is great as entertainment. I would recommend the hilarious podcast they do on Fatal Attraction and of course:
@James Trapp- haha yeah I’m a big fan of the rewatchables and have listened to just about every episode. I had to jab back a little with it being an official “rewatchable” (which I agree- it is) with this geting the rare “I wouldn’t rewatch this” designation from you
@Drake – that is funny, but yeah I don’t throw that one out very often but it just did not click for me at all despite the strong cast and it being a Michael Mann film; it had all the necessary pieces but just fell flat for me. It lacked the intricate cop/criminal dynamic of Heat, the fascinating and original lead characters of Collateral, the high stakes for Caan in Thief. I suppose it had some elements of these things but they were not done nearly as well.
@James Trapp – Well I would encourage you to see it again at some point. I say this as someone who has seen it 6 times- but I was very disappointed in 2006 when I saw it for the first time in theater.
Love Simmons and co. If you understand the sport reference it makes it 100% funnier as well.
Oddly enough I was watching the Collateral rewatchable last night (didn’t finish it but got about half way) and there was an insane story about Cruise. https://imgur.com/a/UUOxKmz Here’s the link to the clip. This is DDL levels of method haha.
Hello Drake. Hope you are doing well.
Heat 2 came out recently. If it is made into a film, who would you like to see as Neil and Vincent?
Are you sure that Neil and Vincent are apart of the Heat 2 story? I heard otherwise.
@AP- Doing well here thanks- hope the same for you. I saw this- haha. Tough question. I stumbled upon this and sort of like these (or most of these) https://www.slashfilm.com/968791/actors-wed-love-to-see-in-the-heat-2-movie/
@ Matthew. Both of them are there. The book goes into much detail about their lives before the film’s events.