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Favorite Lists — Movies
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Movie titles (in no particular order) link to plot summaries, reviews, and other information at (the terrific All Movie Guide).

  • On the Beach — For many years, I've maintained that the great Robert Mitchum was my favorite all-time actor. But, finally, I think his antagonist in 1962's Cape Fear has inched ahead. And that is Gregory Peck, playing counselor Sam Bowden to Mitchum's sociopathic Max Cady. Gregory Peck's integrity, dignity, style, strength, compassion...all come to every role he took on. His turn here as U.S. submarine commander Dwight Towers is no exception. Even the characters name elevates the character so that we gradually see, as does he, the horror that has finally occurred—the annihilation of everything; the slow death of all life. Poignant, wrenching, self-examining, and brutally tragic in its finality. Stanley Kramer's film is one of the finest fallouts of the Cold War era.
  • Last of the Mohicans — Sweeping. Romantic. Stirring. One of those movies I never tire of. Wes Studi is twisted and magnificent as the Huron warrior Magua. Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role does what Daniel Day-Lewis always does; he becomes the character. Russell Means as Chingachgook, Eric Schweig as his son Uncas, and Day-Lewis are a family united in blood, spirit, and purpose. Memerizing and relentless score carries the action throughout.
  • Take the Money and Run — No movie, before or since, has made me laugh harder than this, Woody Allen's fourth film. 85 minutes of sight gags and jokes in a documentary of the life of career criminal Virgil Starkwell.
  • Koyaanisqatsi — "Life out of balance." Phillip Glass and a hypnotic, mesmerizing swirl and blur of stunning images. Birth, re-birth, and decay. There is nothing else like it.
  • Leon: The Professional — Sweet. Endearing. Also violent. Jean Reno and Natalie Portman, in her screen debut.
  • Double Indemnity — Definitive film noir. Fred MacMurray's Walter Neff calls Barbara Stanwyck's Phyllis Dietrichson 'baby' more than he calls her Phyllis. In fact, I'm not sure he ever calls her Phyllis. Who would have thought an insurance salesman could be so hard-boiled?
  • Gods and Monsters — A very different Brendan Fraser from Encino Man's 'Stoney.' Ian McKellen is the aging and mentally fading director James Whale, noted for his direction of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. A homosexual, Whale reaches out to his young gardener, Mr. (Clayton) Boone, not only for talk, companionship, and friendship...but also as a life preserver — to rescue Whale from a failing mind and his own receding and beloved past...his memories, and particularly his loves. An intricate, emotional, and wrenching look at not just the end of life, but also at the judgments, nuances, fears, capriciousness, and distortions we bring to it.
  • A Christmas Carol — Forget Henry Winkler and George C. Scott. This is the version to watch.
  • Blue Velvet — Candy-colored clowns, good neighbors, Frank Booth. What a ride.
  • A Night to Remember — Before there was Titanic, there was this. No great love story, just a great story.
  • Play It Again Sam — Woody channels Humphrey Bogart. Early Woody with Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts. Lots of neuroses, lots of laughs.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — It comes on television, I watch. It's all about the chemistry. Newman and Redford.
  • The Lion in Winter — Peter O'Toole as Henry II and Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine try to make it work. Their three sons played by Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry, and John Castle spend the film scheming, squabbling, and competing for their parents favor.
  • Fail-Safe — The tensions of a cold war that no longer exists. A crisis and catastrophe resolved only by an agonizing and unthinkable choice.
  • Dances with Wolves — Kicking Bird, Wind in his Hair, and yes...Dances with Wolves draw me in every time. I'm a sucker for the visuals and the politics. I think it's stunning movie making.
  • L.A. Confidential — Stylish and intricate. Cool and menacing. Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce are great together.
  • The Bear — The lovely story of a young bear cub surviving on his own.
  • Kill Bill — Visually and musically ravishing. Nearly every frame could stand on its own as art suitable for framing. And the violence? It's so over the top it's like a cartoon ballet. Unbelievable. And to think David Carradine only got the part of Bill when Kevin Costner turned it down. Oh, and don't be confused; volumes I and II are just two halves of one movie.
  • Sunset Boulevard — William Holden, floating face down in a swimming pool. Dead, and narrating as the film begins. How's that for a start.
  • Frequency — My father died when I was young. This probably would not be on my list if that yearning to reconnect was not in me.
  • Blade Runner — What it is to be alive. Unforgettable characters. Great dialogue.
  • 12 Angry Men — A jury led by Henry Fonda. Lots of arguing in black and white. That description, while accurate, doesn't begin to do this film justice.
  • The Big Country — Great William Wyler-directed western. Big-country cinematography is just sweeping enough to contain the Oscar-winning performance of Burl Ives as Rufus Hannassey. Gregory Peck recalled in an interview toward the end of his life that Charleton Heston and he did not see on eye to eye on very much. And that conflict manifested itself in their big fistfight scene. "Neither of us could hardly stand when it was over. We beat the hell out of each other." (Quote paraphrased here from memory.)
  • Cape Fear — 1962. Robert Mitchum is the sadistic ex-con Max Cady. Gregory Peck is counselor Sam Bowden, blamed by Cady for his incarceration. Martin Balsam, Telly Savalas, Polly Bergen. What a cast! What was Martin Scorcese thinking when he re-made it as more overtly violent, more blatantly psycholgical, and way way less fascinating, watchable, and terrific than the original.
  • Open Range — I am not a big western fan, but this worked for me. I looked at Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall and thought to myself, "those fellas is some real cowpokes."
  • The Remains of the Day — An utterly heartbreaking film of duty, honor, and an insular class-driven world view that delivers only emptiness and unrequited longing. All that remains are regret and loniness. Indeed, they are the remains of the day. So powerfully sad.
  • American Beauty — It just works. Sad, funny, pathetic, and tragic in and out of turn.
  • The Misfits — John Houston, Arthur Miller, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift. The story of the making of this movie is as compelling as the movie itself. The last screen appearances for both Gable and Monroe.
  • Days of Heaven — Poetic and beautiful storytelling.
  • Far From Heaven — Terrific powerful film about intolerance beneath the veneer of suburban normalcy.
  • The Man Who Would Be King — John Huston tells the story of Peachy Carnehan and Daniel Dravot in a never-found land. Magnificent.
  • Gladiator — Some friends dissed this for its computer animation and hackneyed script and cardboard characters. I saw it simply as the story of a loyal soldier, weary of battle who longed to go home. Whether in this life or the next. Great movie making.
  • Night of the Hunter — Charles Laughton's first and only directorial effort is unforgettable. So is Robert Mitchum's psychotic preacher Harry Powell.
  • Annie Hall — Funny and charming. Woody and Diane Keaton.
  • Pillow Talk — Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Their love for one another as friends in real life comes right off the screen. Dated, but a lot of laughs.
  • Sling Blade — Some people call it a sling blade. I call it a great movie. Billy Bob has said that he wrote the screenplay in nine days.
  • Heat — Dinero and Pacino. The bank robber and the cop. Two professionals. And a great turn by Val Kilmer. A masterpiece.
  • Bell, Book, and Candle — Kim Novak as a witch. I can't take my eyes off her. Enjoyable, even if love interest Jimmy Stewart looks more like her father.
  • Road to Perdition — I never expect to like a Tom Hanks movie. Not that I dislike him, it's just that I have a hard time not thinking, "hey, that's Tom Hanks", no matter who the character is. I didn't experience that here. Credit goes to his against-type casting as a hit man I think.
  • A Bronx Tale — Robert DeNiro's first directorial turn. Based on an autobiographical one-man show written and performed by the great Chazz Palminteri, the movie also stars Chazz in the role of neighborhood mob boss Sonny. The tug-of-war between Sonny and DeNiro's bus driver Lorenzo for the affection of Lorenzo's son Calogero (called simply 'C' by Sonny) provides the story's tension and focus. Watch for an uncredited Rob Schneider as a rough biker in a panning shot inside Sonny's bar.
  • Reservoir Dogs — Way violent, way stylish, and way funny. Great colorful characters, including Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde, and Mr. Orange.
  • The Bridges of Madison County — If you've ever wondered what might have been. Or, lost someone you love.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird — A favorite movies list without this one?
  • The Man Who Wasn't There — Grim. Existential. Ironic. Funny. Film noir from the Coen brothers.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark — Despite my natural aversion to big blockbusters, I couldn't help myself. It defines 'the movie' as entertainment.
  • Bugsy — I'm not even sure why I like this movie so much. I think it's because I so genuinely buy into the romance between Warren Beatty's Bugsy Siegel and Annette Bening's Virginia Hill. That relationship makes the whole story of Bugsy's vision of Las Vegas as gambling mecca come to life for me.
  • Point Break — My one 'guilty pleasure.' I wish it wasn't here, but I can't leave it off. Despite a cast fronted by Keeanu Reeves (as FBI agent Johnny Utah!) and Patrick Swayze, I watch whenever it's on. Go figure.
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors — The perfect weaving of comedic and tragic story lines from Woody Allen.
  • The Professionals — Caught this late one night in February, 2007. I was completely unaware of it. Directed by Elmer Gantry's Richard Brooks. Another great machismo piece, with Lee Marvin leading Burt Lancaster, Woody Strode, and Robert Ryan in a dangerous journey through Mexico to bring Ralph Bellamy's allegedly kidnapped wife Claudia Cardinale back from the ruthless bandit and revolutionary Jack Palance. Another film that seals the deal on my opinions of Lee and Burt as great actors of their generation.
  • The Deer Hunter — I saw this with my best friends when I was 22. None of us talked as we left the theater.
  • The Swimmer — Burt Lancaster swims from one pool to the next in his wealthy suburb in an attempt to discover who he is, where's he's been, and where he's going. Not for everyone, but it worked for me.
  • Ronin — Dinero. The IRA. The cold war. Jean Reno. Just when you think you know what's going on, you don't.
  • The Night of the Iguana — Ava Gardner and the mariachi boys. Toss in Richard Burton as a failed priest, traveling artist Deborah Kerr, and a Lolita-like Sue Lyon and you have a fun, wry, sad, sweaty triumph.
  • Bound — Corky and Violet. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilley. Oh, and the mob.
  • The First Great Train Robbery — Sean Connery and Donald Southerland team with a ravishing Lesley-Anne Down to steal gold bars from a train. That really is Sean Connery running along the roofs of moving train cars going over 50mph!
  • Jackie Brown — Very unviolent Tarantino. The scam is good, the cast is great, Pam Greir is foxy, Samuel L. Jackson's Ordell has some seriously cool hair. Great.
  • The Dirty Dozen — Almost a guilty pleasure. But I think it's better than that.
  • Badlands — So you think Martin Sheen is just that President guy on TV? Check this out, a polite young Sheene with a problem or two and a young Sissy Spacek. Powerful and beautiful. The directorial debut film of Terrence Malick.
  • Three Days of the Condor — Robert Redford is a reader. I can't tell you anymore.
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