Westworld – 1973 Crichton

Michael Crichton is best remembered as the juggernaut author of popular books like “Jurassic Park”, “The Andromeda Strain”, “Congo”, “Rising Sun”- but he had a solid career as film director as well, and Westworld is his debut. Crichton was just 31-years old at the time. Crichton is an important science fiction figure- and even at a young age in 1973 he already had his work on The Andromeda Strain (a superior work- directed by Robert Wise in 1971) under his belt. Westworld is an adult-themed amusement park. It serves as a futuristic escape for vacationers. At the park there

Westworld – 1973 Crichton2022-03-26T13:02:30+00:00

Chariots of Fire – 1981 Hudson

Chariots of Fire is best known for the brilliant Vangelis synthesizer musical score- and for being the film that upset Warren Beatty’s epic juggernaut Reds for best picture in 1981. The film centers on two British track athletes as they converge upon the 1924 Olympics. Ben Cross plays Harold Abrahams- a Jewish man with a monomaniacal focus. Ian Charleson plays Eric Liddell- a devout Christian. Charleson and Cross were unknown actors, but Chariots of Fire shrewdly casts veteran talents like John Gielgud and Ian Holm (marvelous here) in support. There is a very small role Richard Griffiths (Withnail &

Chariots of Fire – 1981 Hudson2022-03-25T17:49:04+00:00

Dreams – 1955 Bergman

Ingmar Bergman’s Dreams opens with a bold formal choice- there is a five-minute shot that is without dialogue- it is just silence and sound design. One can almost see Bergman sketching here for his later work, the superior 1963 The Silence - which on top of being about God's silence, is, largely without dialogue. In Dreams, Susanne (Eva Dahlbeck) is a photographer and Doris (Harriet Andersson) is a model. Dreams is the story of these two women over the period of just one day. Susanne has a lover (he is married) and she daydreams and follows him. There is

Dreams – 1955 Bergman2023-01-29T13:33:24+00:00

Avalon – 1990 Levinson

Avalon is the third film in Barry Levinson’s Baltimore trilogy (which became more than a trilogy when he added 1999’s Liberty Heights). Levinson was coming off of Rain Man in 1988 and had the juice to make just about whatever he wanted. The name of the film is their family home in Baltimore. Armin Mueller-Stahl plays Sam Krichinsky- the family patriarch- “I came to America in 1914” in voiceover. The story has the detailed specificity of good autofiction. This is a family of immigrants who are wallpaper hangers. There is a fair amount of family drama and bickering in

Avalon – 1990 Levinson2022-03-22T14:11:38+00:00

Tin Men – 1987 Levinson

Tin Men is the second of four Baltimore films from that area’s native son Barry Levinson. This is Levinson’s fourth film. The 1987 film features a wow of a cast- Richard Dreyfuss (in the best role he had in the 1980s) and Danny DeVito star. But the supporting cast includes Barbara Hershey at her zenith (in the middle of a terrific stretch that included The Natural­- also from Levinson- in 1984, Hannah and Her Sisters and Hoosiers in 1986 and The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988), John Mahoney, JT Walsh, and Seymour Cassel. The film is set in

Tin Men – 1987 Levinson2022-03-21T15:45:22+00:00

Patterns – 1956 Cook

Patterns probably does not exist without Robert Wise’s 1954 film Executive Suite. All told in the history of film, there are still very few quality films that deal with so-called white collar corporate business. There is Margin Call and a few dozen others- but nothing as far as sheer volume in comparison to westerns or gangster films of course. Fielder Cook (his debut after decades work in television) may be the director but this is Rod Serling’s baby. He is the writer here and the direction is mostly non-descript. This is years before The Twilight Zone for Serling. Van

Patterns – 1956 Cook2022-03-20T12:54:49+00:00

A Lesson in Love – 1954 Bergman

Ingmar Bergman’s 1954 film A Lesson in Love seems like a direct answer to his intensely bleak 1953 efforts: Summer with Monika and Sawdust and Tinsel. Bergman would do this again with 1964’s All These Women- try to show off his range with some lighter fare. This is a self-proclaimed “comedy for grownups”. Though the tone is drastically different than Bergman’s strengths as an auteur- the themes are consistent. This is a story of marriage and fidelity. This is the director of many battles of the sexes- including 1973’s Scenes From a Marriage. Eva Dahlbeck plays Marianne and Gunnar

A Lesson in Love – 1954 Bergman2022-03-19T12:38:58+00:00

Ryan’s Daughter – 1970 Lean

Time has been kind for David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter. It is no longer burdened by coming out during the changing of eras in the early 1970s with The New Hollywood taking over and a new type of British film as well (think about this film coming out the same year as Nicolas Roeg’s Performance). This is Lean’s follow-up to 1965’s Doctor Zhivago. Lean made only sixteen (16) films total. These are lengthy running times, careful large-scale productions and justifiably extended gestation periods. This is 200 minutes long and features a ridiculously handsome production (David Kehr calls it “overproduced” which

Ryan’s Daughter – 1970 Lean2022-03-17T13:24:28+00:00

The Last Gangster – 1937 Ludwig

It is Edward G. Robinson who was the big star in MGM’s (hard to believe this is not from Warner Brothers) film The Last Gangster. In fact, Robinson was loaned from Warner Brothers to MGM. Robinson plays Joe Krozac and he is leaning into his star-making Little Caesar role that started it all in 1931. Krozac is a racketeer who goes to prison (to Alcatraz) for income tax evasion. Lionel Stander was in many of these gangster films and he plays Krozac’s second in command Curly. John Carradine is in the cast as well. Second billing after Robinson though

The Last Gangster – 1937 Ludwig2022-03-16T13:09:00+00:00

Gladiator – 2000 Ridley Scott

Gladiator was Ridley Scott’s comeback film in 2000. It had been a long nine years since 1991’s Thelma & Louise. 1492: Conquest of Paradise, White Squall, and G.I. Jane all failed to fully land. Russell Crowe on the other hand was on the rise and Gladiator was yet another notch on his belt after 1997’s L.A. Confidential and 1999’s The Insider. The film was Oliver Reed’s last (he passed away before its completion) and is an important film for Hans Zimmer as well. The film opens in Germania in the second century.  The in medias res action

Gladiator – 2000 Ridley Scott2022-03-15T12:52:58+00:00

Mysteries of Lisbon – 2010 Ruiz

Raúl Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon is 272-minutes of cinematic force. If Three Crowns of the Sailor is Ruiz’s The Lady from Shanghai then Mysteries of Lisbon is his Barry Lyndon. An epic story- the length of the running time and use of voiceover give it a novelistic feel. The orphanage setting makes it feel a little like Dickens. Ruiz remains a master of both camera movement and screen composition. His untethered camera will often gracefully swing around a room, capture a frame, move again, and reframe. This framing and reframing within the same shot is Renoir. Early role for

Mysteries of Lisbon – 2010 Ruiz2022-06-13T02:57:04+00:00

Sawdust and Tinsel – 1953 Bergman

Sawdust and Tinsel is Ingmar Bergman’s second release of 1953 (Summer with Monika) and has the brief distinction of being the great Swedish master’s best film through this point in his career (an honor that will only last a few short years until 1957). Like Monika, it stars Harriet Andersson (certainly Bergman’s main muse through this stretch). Åke Grönberg (playing Albert here) is the other major lead and there is a smaller role for Bergman trope regular Gunnar Björnstrand as well. To open the film Bergman captures this traveling circus (Albert is the circus master) wagon caravan in

Sawdust and Tinsel – 1953 Bergman2022-03-13T12:54:03+00:00
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