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Everything posted by JackLechner

  1. JackLechner


    I'm so surprised to read the comments above. When Amy and Paul expressed their ambivalence about whether Cabaret should be on the AFI list, I was equally surprised. I think it belongs in the top 50. There had never been a movie musical like this one before -- and without it, something like Rob Marshall's Chicago is unthinkable. And there's never been a movie musical since that was this adult, this multi-layered, this respectful of the audience's intelligence, this politically savvy. It's a movie for grownups, and it makes most of the movies of the last 30 years feel like the expensive children's movies they are. Even now, I think it's underrated, because it happened to come out the same year as The Godfather, another one of the all-time greats -- without which, it certainly would have won Best Picture as well.
  2. JackLechner

    Sullivan's Travels

    I like Sullivan's Travels -- but I love The Lady Eve and Hail the Conquering Hero. I'd like to see one or both of them on the AFI list instead. The other thing holding me back on Sullivan's Travels is a slight note of self-congratulatory smugness in the climax. I don't think the film reads as a critique of Hollywood; instead, it's an affirmation that making crap that sells is a worthwhile use of everyone's time and talents, which is exactly what the people at the heart of the studio system (or the network system) want to hear. What I miss is the complexity that Albert Brooks packed into the climax of the brilliant Lost in America -- where the happy ending is the hero returning to his soulless corporate existence, but with the grim knowledge that it really is soulless. There's a middle ground between "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" and "Hey Hey in the Hayloft," and that middle ground is where Preston Sturges' own great films live.
  3. JackLechner

    2020 Oscars Preview

    Paul asks why Once Upon a Time in Hollywood didn't get any traction at the WGA Awards. The answer is that it was ineligible, because Tarantino isn't a member of the Writers Guild. https://www.indiewire.com/2019/12/writers-guild-awards-nominate-quentin-tarantino-1202196655/
  4. JackLechner

    Best Of The Decade Pt. 1

    I like THE SOCIAL NETWORK a lot, not to mention WINTER'S BONE and TOY STORY 3. But my top movie for 2010 has to be BLUE VALENTINE -- and NOT just because I'm one of the executive producers of the film. The fact is, I genuinely believe it's a great movie, even though it's unanimously agreed to be the worst date movie of all time. And I can testify that it's had a real impact on the zeitgeist. I teach in the graduate film school at Columbia, where I'm now used to the fact that my students haven't even heard of most of the movies I've worked on, including films like THE CRYING GAME that did very well at the time. But they've ALL seen BLUE VALENTINE. It's just become one of those seminal films that keeps bobbing to the top of the cultural current, while other movies sink. For 2011, my pick is a movie that neither Paul nor Amy mentioned: Richard Linklater's BERNIE. It's a unique hybrid of drama and documentary, with career-best performances by Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine, and a wonderful turn by Matthew McConaughey. Unlike most hybrid films, it's also really funny. I'm a big fan of BOYHOOD and other Linklater movies, but this one might be my favorite. My 2011 runner-up would be J.C. Chandor's MARGIN CALL, which nailed the US financial crisis four years before THE BIG SHORT came out. In 2012, I'm with Amy on DJANGO UNCHAINED -- but I have to echo AlmostAGhost in his celebration of MOONRISE KINGDOM. Not only is it Wes Anderson's single strongest film, but it's also my daughter Maude's favorite movie of all time. She's seen it well upwards of 10 times, and it just keeps getting better. 2012 is also the year of Benh Zeitlin's astonishing BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, which is unlike any other movie ever made. Moving forward in the decade, 2013 was an epic year for movies -- probably the best single year since 1999. Four of those films actually tell versions of the same story, at least metaphorically. I think 12 YEARS A SLAVE, ALL IS LOST, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, and GRAVITY are all really about the dilemma of the filmmaker as an artist, cast adrift and/or imprisoned by the unfeeling system of commerce. (I asked J.C. Chandor directly if that was in the back of his mind while making ALL IS LOST, and he readily agreed that it was. I wonder if Steve McQueen, Paul Greengrass, and Alfonso Cuaron would say the same.) They're all great movies, but this is one year that the Academy Awards really got it right. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a flat-out masterpiece, and my Movie of the Decade. Much as I love DJANGO UNCHAINED, I think McQueen's movie is the most incisive and uncompromising film ever made about slavery in America. My runner-up for 2013 (over such formidable contenders as the other three isolated-artist films, AMERICAN HUSTLE, and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) has to be Spike Jonze's HER, which truly captured our doomed romance with technology in a way that feels more prescient with every year that passes. 2014 wasn't a cornucopia like 2013, but it still had some worthy films, including WHIPLASH, WILD, a little-seen gem by Eliza Hittman called IT FELT LIKE LOVE, and an even littler-seen gem by Shannon Plumb called TOWHEADS. My film of the year would be Richard Linklater's recklessly brilliant BOYHOOD ... if Amy and Paul didn't frown on double-dipping directors. But since I've already picked a Linklater, I'll have to go with Ana Lily Amirpour's feminist Muslim noir vampire flick, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT. Set in Iran, but entirely shot in California (in lustrous black-and-white), Amirpour's debut crashes through genre boundaries as if they had never existed. For 2015, I'll jump on the Paul Scheer bandwagon, and pay tribute to a great American comedy: Paul Feig's SPY. There is simply nothing wrong with this movie; it has big laughs, a beautifully constructed story, deft action sequences, and a peerless central performance by the great Melissa McCarthy. My runners-up would be INSIDE OUT (the best Pixar movie to date), ROOM, the underseen BEASTS OF NO NATION, and the criminally underseen ANOMALISA -- but I hope Paul joins me in honoring SPY. 2016 is a toss-up between two remarkable films: Barry Jenkins' MOONLIGHT, which deservedly won the Oscar; and Denis Villeneuve's ARRIVAL, the single smartest science fiction movie since 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. I love both of these movies without reservation, and can't choose between them. By contrast, 2017 is a slam dunk. Jordan Peele's GET OUT is the movie of that year, and it's certainly in my top five for Movie of the Decade. Most films have a hard time getting even one genre right. By contrast, GET OUT is simultaneously a great horror movie, a great satirical comedy, and a great movie about race in America. I teach the film every year at Columbia, and every time I see it I'm knocked out all over again by its savage intelligence and formal control. 2017 also brought us LADY BIRD, the bizarre gem A GHOST STORY, and two Marvel movies that are unquestionably works of cinema, whatever Martin Scorsese thinks: LOGAN and THOR: RAGNAROK. But GET OUT so dominates the year for me that I actually had to look up which movie won Best Picture instead. (It was THE SHAPE OF WATER. Simply not in the same league.) 2018 was NOT a great year for movies, sad to say. I did love Josephine Decker's remarkable MADELINE'S MADELINE, as well as the film I was rooting for at last year's Oscars, Alfonso Cuaron's ROMA. (For our purposes, ROMA might count as a Mexican movie, even though the money came from US companies Netflix and Participant; similarly, Yorgos Lanthimos' THE FAVOURITE just doesn't count as an American film.) But the movie of the year was another exploder of categories -- an animated movie, a Marvel movie, and part of a long-running franchise. I'm talking, of course, about SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. If you haven't watched it, stop what you're doing and watch it right now. If you have watched it, I bet you're already thinking about watching it again. Movie of the year, hands down. As for 2019, things are looking up. I'm curious to hear Amy and Paul's picks, not to mention yours!
  5. JackLechner

    Bringing Up Baby

    I am CRAZY about this movie -- forget the 100, it's in my own personal Top 10. And it's not just me; I showed it to my daughter when she was nine years old, and she laughed so hard she literally fell off the couch. Meanwhile, I can't believe that Amy and Paul didn't mention the single most charming thing about the backstory of "Bringing Up Baby," which is that Hagar Wilde and Dudley Nichols actually fell in love while writing the screenplay together. She had written the original short story, which ran in Collier's magazine. Howard Hawks brought her to LA to collaborate with Nichols, a very experienced screenwriter (with one other movie on the AFI 100, "Stagecoach"). The team wrote several other movies together -- including "Carefree," for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers -- before breaking up. But I think you can feel that giddy new-romance energy pulsing through the movie.
  6. JackLechner

    Saving Private Ryan

    I can't believe nobody brought up the epic takedown of "Saving Private Ryan" by none other than William Goldman, which originally ran in Premiere magazine and is collected in his book "The Big Picture." Goldman loved most of the first two-thirds of the movie (with a few important exceptions), but goes into terrific detail on why the third act is "phony manipulative shit." Here's a blog post that reprinted it: https://achtenblog.blogspot.com/2007/08/saving-private-ryan-goldman-essay.html
  7. JackLechner

    Episode 158 - The Talented Mr. Ripley (w/ Tom Bissell)

    I'm voting yes, for completely personal reasons. I got to read the script before the movie was made, and as a huge fan of the book I was excited to do so. But I was taken aback at first by the major changes Minghella made to the story, some of which Tom Bissell mentioned (inventing the characters of Meredith and Peter, making Tom less of an experienced grifter). "You can't DO that!" I thought. But then, when I saw the movie, I realized that Minghella's changes worked spectacularly well, and gave the film a tragic emotional payoff that the book doesn't have. Ever since then, the boldness of Minghella's choices has informed the way I view film adaptations. The question shouldn't be "Is it faithful?" The question to ask is, "Does it work?" (Another example: Adapting Michael Ondaatje's novel "The English Patient," Minghella removed Willem Dafoe's character from the heroine's backstory and reassigned him to the hero's backstory -- a change that even Ondaatje ended up admiring.) And note that Minghella's changes make the story much more overt in considering Tom as (at least) bisexual, at a time when that wasn't anything we would expect in a major film with movie stars. I would be happy to see "The Talented Mr. Ripley" in The Canon.
  8. JackLechner

    Episode 188 - Body Rock: LIVE!

    I don't know what "Body Rock" is supposed to look like, but I suspect the YouTube upload isn't doing it any favors. When the guy in the audience said the DP's name was "Robert Muller," I did a mental double take, and looked up the movie on IMDb. Actually, the DP is Robby Müller -- one of the great cinematographers of all time. He shot "Body Rock" the same year he shot two stone classics, "Paris, Texas" and "Repo Man." His other credits include "Breaking the Waves," "To Live and Die in L.A.," and a lot of movies for Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch. So if "Body Rock" doesn't look good on YouTube, it's probably not Müller's fault!
  9. JackLechner

    Episode 148 - Point Break (w/ Andrew Barker)

    I was working at Columbia Pictures when we bought the original screenplay for what was then called "Johnny Utah." As Andrew recounts, Ridley Scott was going to direct it, with Charlie Sheen (!) as Johnny, Dennis Quaid as Bodhi, and James Garner as Pappas. Nevertheless, I'm with Amy -- and with sycasey 2.0 -- on this one. Despite Andrew's impassioned case for "Point Break," it's just a fun, dumb popcorn movie with a way-above-average director. This isn't Bigelow's masterpiece; so far, the film closest to deserving that status is "The Hurt Locker," which really should have made the Canon. And as for Keanu Reeves action movies, "Speed" -- which has all the wit and smarts this film only wishes it had -- is your Canon-worthy entry, not "Point Break."
  10. JackLechner

    Episode 147 - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (w/ Jen Yamato)

    I'm not going to go on at length, because Jen Yamato said just about everything I wanted to say about The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and beautifully. What's funny is that the French movie musical I love with a fierce passion is actually Demy's next film, The Young Girls of Rochefort -- but I would never nominate that film for the Canon, whereas Umbrellas is a no-brainer for the Canon. The Young Girls of Rochefort is a messy, flawed, sprawling movie with ambitions that often exceed its grasp, and I love it for that. However, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is pretty perfect for what it is and what it wants to be. There's no other movie musical like it, except for movie musicals that are directly inspired by it (like La La Land, and -- yes, Amy -- Pennies From Heaven). And the ending destroys me, just as it does for Jen.
  11. JackLechner

    Episode 145 - The Lost Boys (w/ Dallas Sonnier)

    When I was 10, my favorite movie was "Camelot." Later, in my teens, I found myself a complete outlier because I loved Sylvester Stallone's directorial debut, "Paradise Alley." What we like when we're young is powerful for us, because of how impressionable we were, and what it meant to us at the time. But that doesn't mean it's actually good, or that it belongs in the Canon. I completely understand Dallas' love for "The Lost Boys" ... and there are certainly worse movies he could have imprinted on. Like "Camelot" or "Paradise Alley." But I'm with Amy on this one. It's a fun trashy movie, but not remotely a movie for the Canon.
  12. I love both movies, but I think Amy and Russ called this one exactly right. Midnight Cowboy is intensely moving in its portrayal of two damaged men at the fringes of society who come to love each other. I like Butch and Sundance, and I'm sad at their death; but I'm not devastated the way I am when Ratso dies.
  13. JackLechner

    Episode 140 - My Fair Lady vs. Mary Poppins (w/ Russ Fischer)

    It's not even a question for me. Unlike Amy and Russ, I love the score for "My Fair Lady" -- but the movie is ponderous. "Mary Poppins," on the other hand, is truly magical, not just in its subject matter but in its cinematic wizardry and quirky spirit. I don't mind the vignettes, because they all add up to a satisfying and surprisingly moving whole, reflected in the performance of David Tomlinson as he rediscovers joy and love. I don't even mind Dick Van Dyke's ridiculous accent, because it's one-of-a-kind, like Peter Sellers' ridiculous accent in the "Pink Panther" movies. Honestly, my only real problem with "Mary Poppins" is the sash/kite-tail moment, which is indefensible. But this movie clearly belongs in the Canon, despite that one lapse.
  14. JackLechner

    The Big Wedding

    2013's "The Big Wedding" is MADE for "How Did This Get Made?" Imagine four Oscar-winning actors -- Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, and Robin Williams -- trapped in an ensemble comedy so lazy and contrived, so obviously dispiriting for the cast, that the film's best performance is given by KATHERINE HEIGL. Check this out with all deliberate speed -- but don't say I didn't warn you!
  15. JackLechner

    Leonard Part 6

    I worked at Columbia Pictures in 1987, and had to watch the dailies. If all you've seen is the finished movie, your suffering is not remotely comparable to mine.