please make me into a film

please make me into a film

When I was still working at Borders, I once said “I own almost every Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on CD.” My co-worker Paul replied, “You might be the only straight male who could possibly say that.” I have always enjoyed musicals, both Broadway and on film. The strange thing is that my lists don’t overlap particularly well. I am a big fan of ALW musicals, but only Evita made a worthwhile film (I was so livid at what Joel Schumacher did with Phantom of the Opera that I actually screamed coming out of the theater). I love the Boublil-Schonberg musicals (Les Miserables, Miss Saigon), but no one has filmed them. One of the most enjoyable musicals is Return to the Forbidden Planet, but it requires audience participation and wouldn’t translate well to film. I love A Little Night Music, but the film is one of the worst ever made (though not as bad as Grease 2, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Back to the Beach or Human Highway, the worst of all Musicals). (more…)

the slogan says it all

the slogan says it all

AFI did a much better job with Science Fiction than with other genres (in their 50 choices on the ballot, most of them either being actual Sci-Fi films, with a few Horror films). The odd omissions were the fact that the only Star Wars film was A New Hope, the complete absence of Dark City or Fifth Element and considering Brazil a Fantasy film rather than Sci-Fi.

The film that is going to be missing here is A Clockwork Orange. It would probably rank second on my list if I considered it Science Fiction, but I don’t. I consider it a Horror film more than anything else, but it’s also Social Drama (or very Black Comedy).

It’s a little weird to do this list this week. Clone Wars opens on Friday and I really can’t make myself care very much. But I’m wearing my Darth Vader “Revenge” shirt. I own hundreds of figures (including all the original figures released from 77-83). I have 17 boxes of Star Wars stuff. But an animated movie in a style I don’t much care for about a story which can’t be that compelling when it comes between two stories we’ve already been told just doesn’t interest me that much. And for the record, if this list was expanded to 20, it would include Revenge of the Sith, so don’t go thinking I’m one of those prequel trilogy haters, because I’m not. (more…)

The Wild Bunch (1969)

The Wild Bunch (1969) - the best Western ever made

I can’t quite figure out the AFI. Their ballot for the Westerns included Blazing Saddles, The Last Picture Show and Lone Star (none of which appear here, because I consider them a comedy, a drama and a mystery), yet none of those made their top 10. If I were to rank all 116 Westerns I have seen (43 on their ballot, a low number for me), only 3 of my top 17 were not on their ballot (2 were spaghetti westerns, which aren’t American films, but neither are David Lean’s, but they tend to be on the ballots and the other was last year’s 3:10 to Yuma, which might have been too late). However, numbers 18 to 24 are completely absent from their ballot. While the AFI included such overrated films as Shane (which actually made their top 10) and How the West Was Won, and films I hate like Cat Ballou (which also made their 10) and True Grit, somehow none of the following films were even on the ballot: The Professionals, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, The Bravados, Winchester ’73, Tin Star, A Fistful of Dollars or The Proposition, all extremely good (and even though I dislike it, I find it odd that the original Cimarron, which won Best Picture in 1931, was not on the ballot.) With the additional absence of The Naked Spur, I would think they don’t like Anthony Mann films, and the fact that the only two post 1985 films on the ballot were the two best picture winners seems to indicate they don’t get films like Open Range and The Three Burials of Melquaides Estrada. Anyway, I ignored their ballot and went with my own list. Six of the films are the same and one other from their list was my number 11. (more…)

Akira Kurosawa directing Toshiro Mifune on The Bad Sleep Well

Akira Kurosawa directing Toshiro Mifune on The Bad Sleep Well

You always hear the names linked together: John Ford and John Wayne, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese, Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder. But who really are the best combinations in film history. What are the DVD box sets that really should be released? I’m glad you asked. I have the answers.

The first thing that may surprise you (because it surprised me) is which combinations get left off the top 10 list. My list depends only partially on the number of films they made together, and much more on the quality of acting that came out of the films. Robert Redford made a lot of films with Sydney Pollack, but wasn’t all that great in several of them (not on the list). Diane Keaton was great in Annie Hall, but not as memorable in the other Woody Allen films she’s in (not on the list). Hitchcock had a lot of great actors, but none who stuck around long enough. Jimmy Stewart is always thought of with Frank Capra, but he did two great performances (Life and Mr. Smith) and that was pretty much it. And the Ford/Wayne combo doesn’t make the list, because as I said, it’s the strength of the acting. Make your own conclusions.

Now, here’s the list: (more…)

Reading Kenneth Turan’s Never Coming to a Theater Near You, I noticed that a lot of the films he writes about were acclaimed, but not big hits. They include critics winners and Best Picture nominees. The following 13 films (yes, my list of dozen has 13) are much more neglected. They are not just films ignored by the Academy Awards. There are plenty of great films that failed to garner a single Oscar nomination but are widely considered classics and written up on lists of great films (Modern Times, Paths of Glory and Touch of Evil being the prime examples). The are also other great films like Oh What a Lovely War! and The Ice Storm, that even though they were also ignored by the Oscars, received other awards and critical acclaim. Likewise, there are great cult films on the no Oscar nomination list (Reservoir Dogs, Big Lebowski). What I’m trying to do here is throw a spotlight on great films that I don’t feel have been given their due. Collectively, these 13 films received 1 BAFTA nomination and 2 Golden Satellite nominations and nothing else. None of them are commonly found on lists of the best movies of all time. Few of them are even considered the best work by their respective director. None of them have been listed on Roger Ebert’s Great Films series. And though two of them have been given Criterion Collection releases, some of them aren’t even available on DVD. But I invite you to discover them. I give every one of these films four stars and some of them are among my favorite films of all time.


So, before I dive into the next batch of the 100 Greatest English Language Novels of the 20th Century according to me, I want to let anyone who reads this know that 10 July (tomorrow, as I write this) is my mother’s birthday. Since the mid-90’s, when my oldest nephew, Kevin, was born, she has been mostly known as Grandmartha (since Kevin lived with his Grandma and my maternal grandmother was already Nana), except when I refer to her, in exasperated tones as “Mother!”

She’s had a rough couple of years between us moving to the East Coast, her mother dying, the divorce and hip surgery (and upcoming hip surgery).

Anyway, her e-mail is, so feel free to drop her a line and wish her a happy birthday or send her a virtual card. The picture on the left is her with Thomas in December of 04. The picture on the right is her with me in December of 76.


Jack Nicholson as Jake Gittes in Chinatown (1974)

So at the end of a long weekend, we have the final Top 10 Acting Post: The 10 Best Performances by an Actor in a Leading Role.

It’s been a surprising weekend, as our blog has had far more hits this week than ever before, so we appreciate everyone who comes by to read this. We hope you find it interesting.

I will continue the 100 Best Novels list later this week, but here, for now, is Best Actor: (more…)

Five miles, with the last mile all up hill, with a 12 pound child seat and a 39 pound child. But Thomas and I went for our first bike ride together yesterday. There will be pictures later.

For the moment, I’m interrupting my top 100 novels to break in with another film list, continuing the acting lists with the Top 10 Performances by an Actress in a Leading Role. The fascinating thing about this, is that even though it is “common knowledge” that women don’t get good roles as they age and men do, the average age on this list is a good five years older than the forthcoming Best Actor list. While the Actors have three on the list who are 30 or younger and only one over the age of 48, the Actress list has three who are over 50 and the youngest is 32. Anyway, here’s the list, once again in chronological order. (more…)

it doesn't get any better than thisThe problem with AFI’s lists isn’t the final lists. It’s with the ballots they send out. Their recent top 10 genre lists had ballots of 50 films each from which to select their top 10. And for some reason, those ballots included mediocre recent Disney films like Pocahontas and Mulan rather than Lilo and Stitch, the best Disney film since Aladdin. They also, for some reason, even though it was eligible, didn’t include Ratatouille. Or Watership Down, a film I have always loved.


After heading into town to watch the Rolling Victory Parade of the World Champion Boston Celtics (17 titles – eat it Lakers fans! – that means you, family members), Thomas and I stopped to get something to eat at a little market / deli. After we had eaten and left, we got about twenty feet before I realized that Thomas had stolen an avocado. I walked him back in and had him put it back. Luckily, no one even noticed.

On to Best Supporting Actor – my top 10, once again, of alltime, listed chronologically.

1942 – Claude Rains as Captain Renault in Casablanca

“Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.”

1948 – Walter Huston as Howard in Treasure of the Sierra Madre

“I know what gold does to men’s souls.”

1951 – Karl Malden as Harold “Mitch” Mitchell in A Streetcar Named Desire


Malden with Vivian Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Malden with Vivian Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire.

“No, you’re not clean enough to bring into the house with my mother.”


1972 – Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather

“My father assured him either his signature or his brains would be on the release.”

1988 – Kevin Kline as Otto in A Fish Called Wanda

“Apes don’t read philosophy.”

1989 – Denzel Washington as Trip in Glory

“I ain’t fightin this war for you, sir.”

1993 – Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List

“I forgive you.” (possibly the most disturbing line in film history)

1994 – Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood

Ed: Why are you buying a coffin, Mr Lugosi?”

Bela: Because I’m planning on dying soon.

1996 – William H Macy as Jerry Lundergaard in Fargo

“Right now! Darn tootin!”

2001 – Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

“I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Arnor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You shall not pass!”

Huston, Malden, Kline, Washington and Landau all won the Oscar. The other five were all nominated. This was a harder one to do. I spent five minutes staring at the screen before I could bring myself to delete Gene Hackman in Unforgiven.

Streetcar will probably end up on all four acting lists. It truly is the pinnacle of film acting. But these 10 are all so diverse. We have cynicism (Rains), wisdom (Huston), naivety (Malden), not the mention the purest example of evil on screen (Fiennes). We also have the ultimate stupid person (Kline). And McKellen’s performance is the most brilliant when he doesn’t speak. He has several phenomenal reaction scenes (when Bilbo reaches for the Ring, when Frodo mentions there is writing, when he touches the Palantir, when Elrond refuses to let the Ring stay in Rivendell, when Frodo agrees to the take the Ring).