Beatty. Beatty is on the all-time actor list (like others including Eastwood, Chaplin and Keaton) but also directed a total of five films (he didn’t direct Bugsy– Levinson did—people always think it was Beatty), four of them in the archives and two of them (Reds, Dick Tracy) land very easily on the top 100 of their respective decade. Beatty’s strengths for the purposes of this list are those two films—two gorgeous films- that land on the top 100 of their decade—there aren’t many directors with a resume like that left. I can’t call him a style-plus director but the images here speak for themselves. Both Reds and Dick Tracy are absolutely beautiful—tying them together is a little tougher or I would’ve got to Beatty long ago on this list.

Best film: Dick Tracy. I’ll die on this hill if I have to!- haha. I had to stop myself with 5-6 images on the page here. Gorgeous work (justifiable wins for production design). The coloring and world-building goes even farther than Tim Burton’s Batman the year before—close to Blade Runner or Metropolis (yep, I said Blade Runner and Metropolis). Beatty and DP Vittorio Storaro (simply one of the greatest of all-time) weave the split diopter usage in as a reoccurring motif, the color design (wild), the lighting is extraordinary. In front of the camera is an intelligent narrative, some of the world’s best actors (Pacino in particular is extraordinary).

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Dick Tracy weaves the split diopter usage in as a reoccurring motif
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both Ozu and De Palma would have to be impressed with this shot

total archiveable films: 4

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  1 (Dick Tracy)

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magnificent landscape from Dick Tracy

top 100 films of the decade:   2 (Reds, Dick Tracy)

one of those all-time stand-alone shots in Beatty’s Reds

most overrated: Not a thing. He only has five films a director- a much more illustrious and famous career as an actor. Reds is the only film of the five on the TSPDT top 2000 actually and even that is underrated at #924. I’m higher on it but several hundred slots.

most underrated It is without a doubt Dick Tracy. It’s in my top 500 and it isn’t on the TSPDT top 2000. Frustratingly wrong.

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the use of coloring and frame within the frame in Dick Tracy

gem I want to spotlight : Reds. It’s a big prestige epic period biography film that made a lot of money in 1981 and 1982, was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, Beatty won for director—and now nobody talks about it because it’s long (just under 200 minutes). It isn’t Lawrence of Arabia but it isn’t some stale old biopic either– it is sumptuously photographed by Vittorio Storaro (Oscar win for him), Beatty weaves in these interviews as part of the form and structure of the film (taken from this and used years later in When Harry Met Sally) and Diane Keaton and Beatty have rarely been better as actors. Nicholson absolutely slays in a smaller role playing Eugene O’Neill as well.

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sumptuously photographed by Vittorio Storaro (Oscar win for him)

stylistic innovations/traits:

  • Loners, idiosyncratic and monomaniacal characters
  • All five films star Beatty- never a bad thing—and it’s no doubt that because of his friendships and connections he managed to get a great cast in nearly every film—the cast for Dick Tracy never gets mentioned as one of the all-time greats but it should
  • worked with the great Vittorio Storaro as DP, Richard Sylbert as production design (did Chinatown, too), Stephen Sondheim with the music—murders row of talent behind the camera
  • the use of lighting in Reds and Dick Tracy is just something special  
avant-garde use of color to design an expressionistic world — like a melding of 1989’s Batman from Tim Burton and Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
a stunner– painterly– from Dick Tracy

top 10

  1. Dick Tracy
  2. Reds
  3. Heaven Can Wait
  4. Bulworth
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almost no transition or composition is shot by Beatty in an uncreative way

By year and grades

1978- Heaven Can Wait R
1981- Reds MS
1990- Dick Tracy MS
1998- Bulworth 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