Sideways – 2004 Payne

Alexander Payne’s Sideways blends a poignant character study (really, it is three-headed character study) with perceptive comedy. Paul Giamatti plays Miles- and he is at the center of Payne’s (and writing partner Jim Taylor’s) sublime screenplay. Miles is (in his eyes at least) a failed writer and a failed husband. He is also a hilariously smug wine enthusiast “Quaffable, but far from transcendent” (haha!) and as his best friend Jack (a marvelous Thomas Haden Church) describes him “a negative guy”. Told in a largely invisible visual style by Payne. There are days of the week titles as we approach

Sideways – 2004 Payne2021-11-26T13:52:28+00:00

Shadow – 2018 Yimou Zhang

After the disastrous The Great Wall (also known as the Matt Damon ponytail movie) in 2016, it would have been tempting to write off legendary auteur Yimou Zhang as past his prime or washed up. Shadow is certainly a return to form even if it never hits the highs of 2002’s Hero. There are three rival kingdoms divided in ancient China. This is the Wuxia genre even if much of it plays out like a chamber drama (The Lion in Winter, The Man in the Iron Mask, and yes, Shakespeare) until we get to the action in the second

Shadow – 2018 Yimou Zhang2021-09-02T03:19:29+00:00

Smart Money – 1931 Green

In the same year as Little Caesar and The Public Enemy Warner Brothers also made Smart Money which pairs Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney. This is the only time these two massive stars would work together. They make of two of the three heads of the early 1930s gangster genre movement (the third being Paul Muni in 1932’s Scarface). The chronology of these films is important. Little Caesar came out, then this movie was shot (Edward G. was a big star). Cagney was not yet- but he would be by the time the movie was released so though

Smart Money – 1931 Green2021-09-28T18:17:24+00:00

The Gift – 2000 Raimi

Between the Bruce Campbell movies and Spider Man movies, Sam Raimi made A Simple Plan (1998) starring Billy Bob Thornton and The Gift here written by him. Billy Bob was very hot in 2000 and the cast assembled here is quite a collection. Cate Blanchett leads the way, but she is supported by Hilary Swank (both won Oscars in 2004), JK Simmons (another Oscar winner) as the hilarious local sheriff, Gary Cole, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves (playing a real piece of work character) and Greg Kinnear. Katie Holmes, right smack dab in the middle of Dawson’s Creek, may have

The Gift – 2000 Raimi2021-09-29T14:57:57+00:00

Hero – 2002 Yimou Zhang

Hero is a significant artistic achievement. Yimou Zhang’s film is simultaneously one of the great Wuxia films (martial arts films set in ancient China) and one of the most considerable visual achievements in 21st century cinema. It was one of the most expensive Chinese films made to date in 2002. The prologue introduces the scenario. There are seven warring nations in China. “In any war there are heroes on both sides.” Jet Li plays “Nameless”- with a complex strategy to assassinate the king. To get close enough to the king (Daoming Chen) he has to kill Sky (Donnie Yen),

Hero – 2002 Yimou Zhang2021-09-26T14:14:31+00:00

The Rain People – 1969 Francis Ford Coppola

For Francis Ford Coppola this is still not a great film, (the earliest in the archives)- but he is no longer working with Roger Corman and Finian’s Rainbow (1968) is in his rearview so this is his most personal film to date. The bulk of Roger Ebert’s four-star praise for it in 1969 is about the freshness of Coppola’s voice. Coppola, cast and crew (including Walter Murch and a young George Lucas a production associate) traveled around the country to make the film. There is a clear care for composition and eye for visuals in the first shot

The Rain People – 1969 Francis Ford Coppola2021-08-29T12:42:02+00:00

Minari – 2020 Chung

Lee Isaac Chung tells the story of a Korean family moving to rural Arkansas in the 1980s. Chung tells the story with such remarkable specificity (he grew up in rural Arkansas in the 1980s himself). The couple (played by Yeri Han and Steven Yeun) often fight and their children (Noel Cho and Alan Kim) send them paper airplanes with “Don’t fight” written on them in crayons. Again, nothing here is told in a generic, broad way. Their house is on wheels, their profession is identifying the sex of baby chicks, Mountain Dew is called “water from the mountains” -hilarious.

Minari – 2020 Chung2021-08-30T13:11:29+00:00


best film:  Breaking the Waves from Lars von Trier Breaking the Waves is a monumental cinematic achievement and even with some very stiff competition, the pinnacle of Lars von Trier’s career thus far. It sets the tone for the Dogme 95 movement as well. Emily Watson’s debut (she had a tv credit two years prior) is on the same tier as Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc as one of the best performances all-time. Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese did a top 10 of the 1990s show together and they both named Breaking the Waves on their


A Quiet Place – 2018 Krasinski

When M. Night Shyamalan was a one-man phenomenon making The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000) and Signs (2002) many called him a Spielberg clone or acolyte. Twenty years later, it is hard to get through a review of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place without mentioning Shyamalan. This is a horror/sci-fi with an ingenious twist. The Abbott family (played by Emily Blunt, Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward) live in a post apocalyptic world where the alien monsters have very sensitive hearing. There are two time periods covered, a prologue (day 89) and the rest of the action

A Quiet Place – 2018 Krasinski2021-09-26T13:26:01+00:00

City of Women – 1980 Fellini

City of Women is an admirable cocktail blend of La Dolce Vita, 8 ½, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. The first two make sense- this is twenty years after the first (of two up to this point) pairing of Federico Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni. The two men took world cinema by storm with their masterpiece collaborations in the early 1960s. In City of Women Marcello plays Snaporaz. He is riding on the train and starts stalking and lusting after a desirable woman (played by Bernice Stegers). He follows his manhood right off the train (Alice chasing

City of Women – 1980 Fellini2021-08-27T11:08:56+00:00

Witness for the Prosecution – 1957 Wilder

Billy Wilder adapts Agatha Christie to great success in Witness for the Prosecution. Witness for the Prosecution appears often on lists of the best court room films. Wilder’s achievement is muted, this is a greater accomplishment for Charles Laughton as Sir Wilfrid Roberts and Marlene Dietrich as Christine. Laughton plays this Jabba the Hutt-looking lizard of a cantankerous old man. He is insulting everything and everyone for the entire running time of the film. But, he is hell bent on the truth- and he is so damn likeable despite the description here. “I’m a mean, ill-tempered old man who

Witness for the Prosecution – 1957 Wilder2021-09-21T13:22:13+00:00

Peeping Tom – 1960 Powell

Peeping Tom killed the career of the great auteur Michael Powell. The film was rediscovered, and its reputation was largely saved (or at least revived) by Martin Scorsese in the 1980s. But, I have enough pages dedicated to Scorsese here so I’ll stick to the text here- that’s how Scorsese would want it anyways. I forgot it actually begins with The Archers (Powell and (former at this time) partner Pressburger) logo before saying “A Michael Powell production”. There is a closeup of an eye for the first frame. The second frame is a stunning cinematic painting here below. This

Peeping Tom – 1960 Powell2021-09-20T17:57:32+00:00
Go to Top