IF you want to know what films I’m watching and find one special to you,

SEE my DVD Trove for comments on a film you’ve seen – or one you haven’t — and some you’ve never heard of,

BECAUSE I’d like to lift your viewing pleasure with a shift in perspective and connect you more deeply with a film.   

(Pick a film, click on its title and my capsule of IF, SEE and BECAUSE will unfold like a window shade with poster, credits and comments aimed to inform and inspire.)

12 Angry Men (1957)

Director: Sidney Lumet
Writer: Reginald Rose
Stars: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam


IF you’ve ever wondered whether justice matters when faced with heavy opposition and pressured for a quick decision,

SEE the characters in 12 Angry Men argue, sweat and regard one another with increasing respect as they’re forced to introspect,

BECAUSE there’s no greater crime than to choose prejudice over thoughtful reflection when consequences affect everyone.

(To watch certainty of judgment turn into a close examination of prejudices and projections is a thing of beauty in the hands of these excellent actors.  And just so we don’t miss it, the film is in black and white with Henry Fonda in a white suit!)

3 Idiots (2009)

Director: Rajkumar Hirani
Writers: Rajkumar Hirani, Abhijat Joshi
Stars: Aamir Khan, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor


IF you’d like to see the smartest dumbest movie ever made,

SEE the Bollywood film, 3 Idiots, upend well-meaning constrictions of India’s society with playful romp, deadly consequences and deeply felt love of country,

BECAUSE hope for the future truly lies in the creative hands of the newly born, the curiously young and the budding potential for change in the most rigid of individuals and systems.

(Yes, there are musical numbers with singing and dancing. Yes, the lyrics tell a fairy tale. Yes, the young men are charming and the women bright. Yes, the bad guy gets it in the end. Yes, the guy gets the girl – with a little help from his friends. And the scenery is fabulous – a never seen India.)

About Time (2013)

Director: Richard Curtis
Writer: Richard Curtis
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy


IF having a second chance instead of piling up one bad choice after another appeals to you,

SEE About Time show a father leaving a significant legacy to his son, one that lets him learn the hard lessons of life from experience and do better next time,

BECAUSE fixing what we can fix is a chance not to be missed and what must be left to others to fix is a life lesson in giving fate a chance to be on your side.

(Lovely film and splendid performance by Bill Nighy, even if there are a few too many endings and a few too many story threads. Feeling good while so many things go wrong without being terrified for two hours is definitely worth your time.)

After Dark, My Sweet (1990)

Director: James Foley
Writers: Jim Thompson (novel), Robert Redlin (screenplay)
Stars: Jason Patric, Rachel Ward, Bruce Dern


IF you want to see why a fierce man with a soft soul needs a deadly right hand,

SEE a washed up fighter drift into a couple’s steel trap in After Dark, My Sweet with only his morals and his snap judgment of another person’s ill will to guide him,

BECAUSE it’s often the gentle ones who possess the sixth sense, the second sight to seek purpose instead of goals in life.

(This Jim Thompson novel is brought to the big screen with a ferocity that inflames simplicity, making its significance last long after the film ends. The performances of Jason Patric and Bruce Dern illuminate the fine line between sanity and madness.)

Kevin ‘kid’ Collins: [voiceover] “There’s something inside of every man that keeps him going long after he has any reason to. For years I kept going when going didn’t seem to make any sense. And now I just had to keep going. I had to have the end come. “

Albert Nobbs (2011)

Director: Rodrigo García
Writers: Gabriella PrekopJohn BanvilleGlenn Close
Stars: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Taylor-Johnson


IF you be a fan of close-to-the-vest portrayals so sad you might cry

SEE Albert Nobbs thread a delicate needle through dire Irish times

BECAUSE to be an outsider demands duplicity for slightest survival.

All That Jazz (1979)

Director: Bob Fosse
Writers: Bob FosseRobert Alan Aurthur
Stars: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer







IF a celebratory feast of life’s pleasures without food excites your imagination,

SEE   All That Jazz for a buzz of lifting, spinning dance and touching emotion, all the while telling a story of a great man dying to transcend himself,

BECAUSE  a reminder to live like there’s no tomorrow as long as we’re alive today is a good reason, a very good reason to see long-legged sexuality in motion. 

(A key blessing of film is the preservation of Bob Fosse and the dancers he choreographed for any time you have difficulty getting through that dark night and for all time, any time in the future for all ages.)

Anonymous (2011)

Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: John Orloff
Stars: Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis


IF you’re intrigued by conjecture, open to new configurations

SEE Anonymous cast Shakespeare in Olde England’s politics

BECAUSE “truth is truth, to the end of reckoning.”

Another Earth (2011)

Director: Mike Cahill
Writers: Mike Cahill, Brit Marling
Stars: Brit Marling, William Mapother, Matthew-Lee Erlbach


IF you’re a believer in second chances

SEE Another Earth to get past stereotypes of wasted life

BECAUSE no one – I mean no one – knows what’s around the corner.

The Artist (2011)

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Writer: Michel Hazanavicius
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman


IF you’re looking for a movie as memorable as it is fresh

SEE The Artist pan old-fashioned silence for gold when times change

BECAUSE hope is in the air, around the next corner, in your shoes.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Director: John Sturges
Writer: Millard Kaufman
Stars: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis


IF you are a film buff and like a film that’s aching to make you think,

SEE Spencer Tracy make a bad day a good one for a small western town in Bad Day at Black Rock coming back as a wounded, one-armed WWII soldier who knows that an American who looks Japanese does not an enemy make,

BECAUSE heroism that comes in the late years of life changes society even more than the man…

(Spencer Tracy as an iconic lone ranger in plain clothes is worth the whole film but many of the usual western suspects plus a colorful train, spandex scenery and Andre Previn sweeping the west with music melds with the serious significance of a story about men who did and didn’t fight in WWII.) 

Beginners (2011)

Director: Mike Mills
Writer: Mike Mills
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent


IF you’re ready for true love, tired of the old taboos and bugaboos

SEE Beginners; a film that couldn’t be made even ten years ago

BECAUSE endings, like periods at the end of sentences, beg beginnings.

Bill Cunningham New York (2011)

Director: Richard Press
Stars: Bill Cunningham, Anna Wintour, Michael Kors


IF you’re looking for the pleasure of age at any age

SEE Bill Cunningham capture NYC streets live, camera in hand

BECAUSE esprit de vie is catchy, catching and catch-able!

Black Narcissus (1946)

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Writers: Michael Powell (screenplay), Emeric Pressburger (screenplay), Rumer Godden (novel)
Stars: Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Flora Robson


IF the idea of repressed nuns with sexually aroused psyches high atop an Himalayan mountain cliff weakens your knees,

SEE Black Narcissus turn painterly Technicolor techniques into an empathic invitation, begging you to join in on encounters of sly desire,

BECAUSE the power of Michael Powell’s mythic filmmaking drags religious order to the edge of the earth, literally, and drops it over, leaving no doubt that believable transcendence lives in rare air indeed.

BTW watch the filmmaking feature AFTER watching the film for a great surprise! And it’s not that Deborah Kerr is only 26, Jean Simmons 15. What you’ve been sure you’ve been experiencing is more imagination than you could guess.

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Director: Mel Brooks
Writers: Mel BrooksNorman SteinbergAndrew BergmanRichard PryorAlan Uger
Stars: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens


IF you’re a wild thinker who believes the Wild West is still breaking ground for the future,

SEE Mel Brooks play a forerunner election of a black president in Blazing Saddles where he turns spoof into truth…

BECAUSE what’s funny is that what once was funny is no longer funny.  Why not a black president.

BTW: How is anyone this smart, so far ahead and down-to-earth hilarious?  By the time you catch on to the human need to live illusion, you’re back on the ground laughing out loud.

Born Yesterday (1950)

Director: George Cukor
Writers: Garson Kanin (play), Albert Mannheimer (screenplay)
Stars: Judy Holliday, William Holden, Broderick Crawford


IF you want to see how smart dumb blondes were in 1950,

SEE Judy Holiday bust the stereotype in Born Yesterday when she won an Academy Award before Marilyn even turned hot in Some Like It Hot – the surprising, politically correct film in 1959

BECAUSE any woman who can sort cards like Dolly clicks her fingernails is going to win a lot more than gin rummy…and we have. 

(Based on Garson Kanin’s hit Broadway play, the dialog is excellent, the portrayal of Judy as a girl who grows up fast when she gets a little education is timeless and the story is way ahead of its time nailing the effort of big money to make even bigger money by buying politicians.)

The Butterfly (2002)

Director: Philippe Muyl
Writer: Philippe Muyl
Stars: Michel Serrault, Claire Bouanich, Nade Dieu


IF you are my friend, Gina, or like her, a poetic realist,

SEE The Butterfly transform a relationship between a bright but snippy nine-year old girl and an old curmudgeon into a thing of beauty,

BECAUSE ordinary kindness trekking mountains of wildflowers in search of a rare butterfly proves to be a path to the miracle of life; birth, a gift even when its origin is ugly; a story, a way to move forward even when much has been lost.

(Wonder is the only thing that these two obstinate souls have in common and it turns out to be more than enough to tell a truth we need to heed.)

Casablanca (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz
Writers: Julius J. Epstein (screenplay), Philip G. Epstein (screenplay), Howard Koch (screenplay), Murray Burnett (play), Joan Alison (play)
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid


IF you want to stir up a conversation with your friends

SEE Casablanca (one more time) and ask, “Could they play that ending today?”.  Would two people walk away from each other for a future far less certain than love?

BECAUSE Casablanca is all about the beauty of darkness, the mystery of what might have been and the character of men and women that doesn’t bend in the wind. 

(After all my years of remembering Casablanca as a magnificent love affair between Bogart and Bergman, I had to laugh when I thought about the tight bond between Sam and Rick…and who was it who walked off into the night for the Hollywood ending – Bogart and Rains!) 

Catch 22 (1970)

Director: Mike Nichols
Writers: Buck Henry (screenplay), Joseph Heller (novel)
Stars: Alan Arkin, Martin Balsam, Richard Benjamin

IF an eerie, scarier than hell sensation rising with the dawn over an airfield of muscular B-25’s piloted by dozens of America’s most notable actors calls out to you,

SEE Catch 22 capture the hard hitting satire that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert reprise to ask audiences – just who’s telling the jokes?

BECAUSE it’s not an original thought that crazy can be sane, sane crazy but, as the only one who knows the difference, Yosarian says — best to keep one eye on who’s putting hands where and the other on escape!

BTW the book was not even considered good, the movie a fantasy farce and sheer lunacy that “will not be forgotten by those who can take it”. (NYTimes book review, Orville Prescott, 1961)

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)

Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: Werner Herzog
Stars: Werner Herzog, Jean Clottes, Julien Monney


IF you’re an old soul yearning for today’s “aha!”

SEE proof of 32,000-year-old human spiritus in Cave of Forgotten Dreams

BECAUSE consciousness was always magic, still is and will be tomorrow.

Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)

Director: Robert Altman
Writer: Ed Graczyk
Stars: Cher, Karen Black, Sandy Dennis







IF ever a doubt we’ve come a long way, baby, since the 1950’s in America,

SEE 1975 in “5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean” with women disclosing secrets held in by shame that will transform female façades for survival into truths for the future,

BECAUSE  the consequences of societal oppression of a woman’s reality make a her- story to be remembered, still taking its toll on the actuality of human sexuality.

(Cher is great.  She pretends to pretend she’s not pretending to be a self-made woman, proud and fine, imagined as larger than life for all to see and celebrate.)

Coming Home (1978)

Director: Hal Ashby
Writers: Waldo Salt, Robert C. Jones
Stars: Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Bruce Dern


IF the complexities of emotion stirred up in people by war and the realities of pitting spirit against adversity makes you draw a deep breath,

SEE (again) a 50’s woman awaken, two 50’s men break backbones that can’t be replaced in Coming Home from the Vietnam war,

BECAUSE revival of the spirit after physical devastation is a task for all, not just for the men and women who go to war.

(Soulful performances not to be missed by three of the best actors of their generation. Groundbreaking insight is given into the sexual vitality of the greatly injured. And Jane Fonda is the fearless, loving woman 40 years ago that she continues to be.)

The Company You Keep (2012)

Director: Robert Redford
Writers: Lem Dobbs (screenplay), Neil Gordon (novel)
Stars: Robert Redford, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci


IF you missed it, fix that.

SEE The Company You Keep as a reminder that life is long; decisions made with the best of intentions can go awry and secrets discovered…,

BECAUSE idealism is no protection from grief and children inspire truth, be prepared to grab the joyful moments and pause often for humility.

BTW: I lived the protest years of the 60’s, took risks of my own to make things right and agreed with peers who wanted peace, not war.  Sadness welled up as I watched this film and realized why I’ve felt a grief I could never explain. Losing ideals is like losing a best friend.

The Conformist (1971)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Writers: Bernardo Bertolucci (screenplay), Alberto Moravia (novel)
Stars: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin


IF you’re a sleuth and like to look beneath the surface of the obvious for the truth

SEE The Conformist cover-up the wrong lie, blind to his true nature, dying before he’s dead.

BECAUSE outer crime pales by comparison to soul murder.

(Breakthrough, beautiful filmmaking in the hands of a master, watch the interviews first.)

Corpse Bride (2005)

Directors: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
Writers: John AugustCaroline ThompsonPamela Pettler
Stars: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson


IF you like Tim Burton, no more needs to be said but if you ever wanted to be charmed by devilish good characters in live action,

SEE Corpse Bride take an old story, make it new and make you marvel at the magic of technology in a day and age when it can be a bit ho-hum,

BECAUSE it’s rare to think of death as freedom from constriction – extremely charming and extremely entertaining.

(It’s a short film, 77 minutes, but that leaves time for the Special Features which are SPECIAL indeed – don’t miss them.)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Du Lu Wang (book), Hui-Ling Wang (screenplay)
Stars: Yun-Fat Chow, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang


IF I were a theater, I’d host a young woman who could fly, an older woman who could love unconditionally and an old woman shapeshifter who needs to be taught a lesson – and I’d match each with a man their equal and withhold their destiny from the audience.

SEE Ang Lee’s imagination cut loose in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and cut through reality with flickering swords of life and death, sweeping leaps of gravity defying fancy and one miracle of bathing in the Gobi Desert.

BECAUSE the future needs revision and the present needs inspiration, giving over to Ang Lee can’t be beat when limits appear. Just yield and go with the flow.

(Women get the attention of heroic characterization that is often reserved for men and, with it, the dark side of grand ambition. Flaws accompany bravado. Perfection, important to seek, holds no guarantee. Ordinary is off stage, not flamboyant enough for drama.)

Days of Heaven (1978)

Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Stars: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard

IF you’re ready to be swept away to Oz in slow motion

SEE Days of Heaven ask, “Rich man, poor man, woman on the run, does it matter?”

BECAUSE mythic twists of fate and time blow strong through every life.

(The girl who inherits America at the end – a beautiful thing, indeed.)

Dear Mom, Love Cher (2013)

Director: P. David Ebersole
Writer: P. David Ebersole
Stars: Cher, Georgia Holt, Georganne LaPiere


IF revamping the image of the octogenarian to sexy, smart and adventurous is on your mind

SEE Dear Mom, Love Cher showcase the talents of Cher’s mom who’s a singer in her own right, reviving songs from her own album made in 1980,

BECAUSE we need fresh stories for the late years of life – and Cher is still beautiful, still fun and loves her mother…

BTW if you gave Sonny Bono a lot of credit for lifting Cher to stardom, think again. Behind every great woman is another great woman!

The Descendants (2011)

Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne (screenplay), Nat Faxon (screenplay), Jim Rash (screenplay), Kaui Hart Hemmings (novel)
Stars: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller


IF you’re a sucker for superlative film blurbs in advertisements

SEE The Descendants leave rare inherited land to a dysfunctional family

BECAUSE this land is their land, it’s not our land, not yours, not mine.

The Earrings of Mademe de... (1953)

Director: Max Ophüls
Writers: Max Ophüls (screenplay), Marcel Achard (screenplay), Louise de Vilmorin (novel)
Stars: Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, Vittorio De Sica


IF you’re hunting for a fine film known best by cognoscenti, rarely viewed

SEE Earrings of Madame de…showcase master class acting, directing and filmmaking

BECAUSE audience emotion is not spared in Ophuls’ close game of cat and mouse.

(And wow! to 19th century glamour by Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio De Sica)

The End of the Affair (1999)

Director: Neil Jordan
Writers: Graham Greene (novel), Neil Jordan (screenplay)
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore, Stephen Rea


IF believable performances of three lives driven more by emotion than good sense rouses your curiosity,

SEE a romance in The End of the Affair unfold like a murder mystery, finally revealing the secret to why she left him,

BECAUSE it’s true.  Neil Jordan makes us realize secrets depend on us not wanting to know the truth. What you discover will change your life.

(Before Ralph Fiennes personified lost love in The English Patient, he did it in The End of the Affair.  What a cast, what a writer-director, what a novelist! Delectable ensemble.)

Ex Machina (2015)

Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac


IF  you’re intrigued with the prospect of a computerized robot evolving into an independent, sentient being,

SEE Ex Machina, a modern sci fi adventure that asks big philosophical questions only to come up with a familiar fairy tale answer; the woman, she’s walking. 

BECAUSE the creator, deluded with control, misses the significance of feelings and will lose his life; the lover, deluded by image, stands to lose his way if not his life; the woman, deluded by freedom, becomes invisible.

(Is it a Frankenstein reversal with a woman as monster, a Bluebeard fairy tale with a bride who discovers her husband to be a soul murderer or a Pygmalion myth with a sculpture who comes alive?)      

Facing Windows (2003)

Director: Ferzan Ozpetek
Writers: Ferzan Ozpetek, Gianni Romoli
Stars: Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Massimo Girotti, Raoul Bova


IF you’re not feeling love, you’re not feeling life and need the touch of encouragement to be smart about your choices…

SEE Facing Windows probe the soul of ambivalence, a passion submerged for lack of single direction but still stirring the heart,

BECAUSE the sweet sadness in the eyes, the ayes of recognition between lovers, friends and like spirits of love feel quite savory.

(A full on beautiful film about life in the ‘as is’ condition.)

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Director: François Truffaut
Writers: François Truffaut (screenplay), Jean-Louis Richard (screenplay), Ray Bradbury (novel)
Stars: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack


IF you thought you knew how you felt about books being burned,

SEE Fahrenheit 451 fill you with an horrific vision of literary sterility when society forgets a book is a beloved person, a friend who stirs the deepest emotions

BECAUSE the fires of imagination deserve tending, passed through generations and kept burning. 

(I cried as I watched fire curl covers and pages of books I love into crumpled black foil never to be read again by anyone.  I was heartened by Julie Christie’s intuitive knowing of a kindred spirit on sight, in transit, hidden beneath a book-killer’s coat.)

Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: Werner Herzog
Stars: Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale


IF the mythic power of opera to move mountains rings true,

SEE the voice of Enrico Caruso in Fitzcarraldo seduce the natives of the Amazon into a monumental task to appease a deadly river god and keep an eccentric visionary on track to bring opera to the jungle,

BECAUSE honoring the spirits wherever they reside – in a river, in a man’s heart or a woman’s dream– is going to have an ending worth waiting for.

(What a sight is the ending of this film! The documented tragedies in the making of Fitzcarraldo are, interestingly enough, wrapped into this compelling journey about the ups that accompany the downs of life, and vice versa.)

The Fire Within (1963)

Director: Louis Malle
Writers: Louis Malle (screenplay), Pierre Drieu La Rochelle (novel)
Stars: Maurice Ronet, Léna Skerla, Yvonne Clech


IF  you’ve been wondering about the “lost generation”, the survivors of WWI who delved into their souls, thrived on fleeting pleasures and found little to live for after the flame of youth faded…

SEE The Fire Within consume a man who, like Fitzgerald or Hemingway, flirts with being the darling of literary circles but falls in love with booze…and yields to grief.

BECAUSE when the fire goes out, the search for a match to light another day is a gripping tale of desperation more philosophical than inspirational.

BTW a wise man once said that the key to surviving the dark night of the soul is not to kill the body. Also, a bit of trivia, a young Jeanne Moreau plays a bit part.

The Flowers of War (2011)

Director: Yimou Zhang
Writers: Heng Liu (screenplay), Geling Yan (novel)
Stars: Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Xinyi Zhang


IF you’re taken with archetypal imagery, open to fables of war

SEE The Flowers of War celebrate fantasy, sacrifice beauty

BECAUSE terrors of war by any enemy shatter real people.

The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

Director: Karel Reisz
Writers: Harold Pinter (screenplay), John Fowles (novel)
Stars: Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Hilton McRae

IF you’ve forgotten how good this film is, how mysterious obsession can be and how, once upon a time, woman meant whore,

SEE The French Lieutenant’s Woman turn a single shot of eye contact into a full blown drama between good sense and passion,

BECAUSE yielding to the underworld of dark emotional currents enlivens the psyche but, as C.G. Jung so cautioned, it’s not a choice without risk.

(Great screenplay by Harold Pinter, Nobel Prize-winning English playwright, screenwriter, director and actor who also wrote the film Betrayal.)

Gloomy Sunday (1999)

Director: Rolf Schübel
Writers: Rolf Schübel (screenplay), Ruth Toma (screenplay), Nick Barkow (novel)
Stars: Joachim Król, Erika Marozsán, Stefano Dionisi


IF you’re intrigued by a true love triangle spiced with angelic beauty, soulful honesty and sparkling humor,

SEE Gloomy Sunday, a film with a song of dreaded fate that you may think you anticipate but, in the end, you’ll be re-running the opening scene for clues,

BECAUSE the great rift opened in a heart by an unconscionable request causes a crack so deep it goes down forever* – and best not to forget it.

BTW: *I garnered this insight from Louise Erdrich, The Round House, page 213, who writes about the relevance of the American Indian to the lives we live today in a manner as beautiful as this film brings forward an historical legacy from Budapest.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Director: Sergio Leone

Writers: Sergio Leone, Luciano Vincenzoni

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef


IF the true meaning of spaghetti – stringy, slurpy, delicious – means anything to you,

SEE The Good, The Bad and The Ugly again – or for the first time – bring all the elements of good movie making and hard truths of living by wit and a fast gun together in a saga as compelling as life itself,

BECAUSE the truth of humankind is so kind and unkind that a sense of humor, a good music score and an eye on the gold may be the secret to feeling okay about a life that is short and very, very long. 

(Did Clint invent cool in this film?  I’m sure Eli was never the same after playing Tuco.  And we know Lee never let us down as the guy in the black hat ever again. And that other character – the theme music by Ennio Marricone – is implanted forever in our heads.)

To Have and Have Not (1944)

Director: Howard Hawks
Writers: Ernest Hemingway (novel), Jules Furthman (screen play), 3 more credits »
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan


IF  “play it again, Sam” is never enough Bogart for you and “just whistle” always brings Lauren Bacall and a smile to your face,

SEE what it takes To Have and Have Not legendary status in movies and real life when a light-fingered woman and a daring boat captain add love to a French intrigue in 1940s Mozambique.

BECAUSE  young, now old, is vital once again and like vintage wine brings forth unexpected pleasure in what’s to be found with passing time.

(Bogart and Bacall lit a fire for all time for the first time in this film.  Many of the characters feel familiar, the dilemmas seen before and again.  Hawks trumped Hemingway, making one of Papa’s least books into one of his best films.)     

Herb and Dorothy (2008)

Director: Megumi Sasaki
Stars: Paula Antebi, Will Barnet, Robert Barry


IF the lives of ordinary people living extraordinary lives lifts your spirits,

SEE Herb and Dorothy follow their bliss and amass a stunning art collection from little more than good taste, a keen eye and an abiding love of artists at work,

BECAUSE packrats who stash the vision of artists for the future are treasures beyond measure.

(Herb and Dorothy Vogle were deal makers – with each other and with artists. One salary to live on, one to buy art.  Together, they supported artists finding their vision and bringing a new way of looking into the 20th century. How did they live with 4,000 works of art – 5 truckloads – in a tiny NYC apartment?)

The Homesman (2014)

Director: Tommy Lee Jones
Writers: Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank


IF a thinking person’s movie is your kind of movie (and you like Tommy Lee Jones)

SEE a single woman be a Homesman, a successful settler in a barren western town, who’s more pious than a preacher and open-hearted to a fault, drive three neighboring wives crazed by the wild west back east where they came from,

BECAUSE the dilemma she faces as an attractive woman with a mind but no man of her own is as modern as it is ancient — though, fortunately, modern women no longer cross their conscience when they honor their bodies with sexual desire.

(Not The Crucible but close. Old-fashioned principles that made Mary Bee Cuddy good and made her bad did her in, but also turned around a jaded man’s head. And what a hoot to see Tommy Lee Jones dance.)



Hugo (2011)

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: John Logan (screenplay), Brian Selznick (book)
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee


IF you’re someone who likes things to run like clockwork

SEE Hugo repurpose images from the past for new inspiration

BECAUSE imagination is more than fun, it’s the fifth dimension.

The Humbling (2014)

Director: Barry Levinson
Writers: Buck Henry (screenplay), Michal Zebede, (screenplay), Philip Roth (novel)
Stars: Al Pacino, Dianne Wiest, Greta Gerwig








IF the loss of mind, body and soul wrapped in Shakespearean tragicomedy with underpinnings of incest and madness holds an irresistible appeal,

SEE Al Pacino in The Humbling spiral down into shifts of illusion so challenging, viewers must guess who’s in whose reality and still not be sure; players all of us, on a stage, sorting shadows from visitors upon our doorstep best we can. 

BECAUSE  old age is not yet a road much traveled, dying not much sorted from dead and endings like Lear’s, perhaps out of date; we have things to contemplate.

(There’s a noteworthy resemblance in All That Jazz, Birdman and The Humbling. Mid-life crisis meets end-of-life crisis and, like a cactus blooming before death, count on Al Pacino to reach a pinnacle performance in the act of dying.)

The Ides of March (2011)

Director: George Clooney
Writers: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Stars: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti


IF you’re reluctantly fascinated by twists of fate in power politics

SEE The Ides of March throw innocence and idealism in the dirt

BECAUSE betrayal is no game — it’s a tragedy.

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Jeffrey Boam
Stars: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody


IF you truly want to escape the here and now, suspend disbelief and fling yourself into laughing out loud,

SEE Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade turn the Star Wars quest of a son for his father into a romp from Italy to Jordan, rescuing the Holy Grail from the bad guys and the world from bad guy domination.

BECAUSE it’s just such damn good fun to not have to worry about a good ending for the good guys – for a change!

(Harrison Ford and Sean Connery are so fabulous being the fabulous characters they’ve built for the big screen and there are so many references to iconic heroes, you might think Tarantino had a hand in this film.)

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Director: Paul Haggis
Writers: Paul Haggis (screenplay), Mark Boal (story)
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Jonathan Tucker


IF the return of the war in Iraq finds you indecisive about America putting boots on the ground,

SEE Paul Haggis plumb the depths of a father’s grief In The Valley of Elah as he searches for the cause of his soldier son’s death after coming home,

BECAUSE the price of war doesn’t stay on the battlefield and stories of heroes for children at bedtime may inspire bravery but war is hell, not fiction.

(If “Father Knows Best” once inspired a popular comedy series, it’s now an iconic image of wisdom under siege as fathers come to grips with sending sons onto a battlefield that undermines their sanity.  We’re lucky to have actors – Jones and Sarandon – who can impress us with the seriousness of the decision to send boys to war.)

J. Edgar (2011)

Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Dustin Lance Black
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts


IF you’re a student of character, a close observer of ambition in high places

SEE J. Edgar forge a federal backbone from secret files and coded fingerprints

BECAUSE force of personality bestows a lasting legacy better known than ignored.

The Killers (1946)

Director: Robert Siodmak
Writers: Anthony Veiller (screenplay), Ernest Hemingway (story)
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien

IF fast-paced film-noir flicks from the forties filled with ham-fisted flim-flam fit into your free-time,

SEE Burt Lancaster be both beauty and beast in The Killers; fallen fighter in the ring falls madly in love at first sight of Ava Gardner and fails so miserably at crime that he dies in the opening scene and goes on to steal every scene thereafter,

BECAUSE  the palooka never wins but the guy who plays him becomes one of the greatest stars ever? (Good enough for Robert DeNiro – the palooka in Raging Bull took him to the top!)

BTW How do we forget? Film noir IS gorgeous and black and white glamour IS sultry.)

The Last American Hero (1973)

Director: Lamont Johnson
Writer: William Roberts
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Valerie Perrine, Geraldine Fitzgerald


IF you’re a true believer in a hero who stands tall, infuses a name with fame

SEE The Last American Hero race ahead of bootlegging, choose a winner’s circle over jail

BECAUSE individual’s dignify success, not the corporate money behind them.

(And Jim Croce’s “I’ve Got A Name” is a wonderful song for us all.)

Le Havre (2011)

Director: Aki Kaurismäki

Writer: Aki Kaurismäki

Stars: André Wilms, Blondin Miguel, Jean-Pierre Darroussin


IF you want to get your faith in humankind back on track…

SEE Le Havre turn one bleak certainty of doom into yet another reasonable probability of triumph

BECAUSE a good heart may ring as often as a bad one but good heartedness in action – well illustrated against personal and social odds – is truly welcome.

(I loved this film for all its unlikely but highly credible characters.)

The Lion in Winter (1968)

Director: Anthony Harvey
Writers: James Goldman (screenplay), James Goldman (play)
Stars: Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins


IF  you like great actors playing large upon a stage,

SEE  king, queen and sons try to control the spoils of a kingdom after the king’s death, each offering their worst to counter the best in the other,

BECAUSE  the question of what becomes of our beloved desires beyond the grave plagues us all; full well we know, we will never know what becomes of what we’ve cared so much about.

(Katharine Hepburn is magnificent, worthy of the complexity asked of her as mother, wife and exiled queen. We believe Peter O’Toole as a man who knows too well he’s dying and will live forever as someone he never was.  Can you see Hannibal Lector in this very young Anthony Hopkins?)  

Locke (2014)

Director: Steven Knight
Writer: Steven Knight
Stars: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson


IF excellent writing, symbolic filmmaking and metaphoric images turn you on,

SEE Locke dramatize one man’s determination to act with integrity while faced with losing his job, his family and his belief in himself,

BECAUSE re-birthing oneself is, of course, as harrowing and miraculous as birth itself. 

(I could not imagine being mesmerized by a man driving for an hour and a half on a freeway bound for London while negotiating his life on the phone until after I’d experienced Locke!! Writer and actor turn a man’s psyche inside out for all to see.)

Love and Anger (1969)

Directors: Marco Bellocchio (We Discuss, We Discuss), Bernardo Bertolucci (Agony), Jean-Luc Godard (The Love), Carlo Lizzani (Indifference), Pier Paolo Pasolini (Sequence of the Paper Flower)
Writers: Marco Bellocchio (We Discuss, We Discuss), Bernardo Bertolucci (Agony), Jean-Luc Godard (The Love), Carlo Lizzani (Indifference), Pier Paolo Pasolini (Sequence of the Paper Flower)
Stars: Tom Baker, Julian Beck, Jim Anderson


IF sampling the finest filmmakers capturing raw emotion – invisibly yours – appeals to you,

SEE Love and Anger gaze upon societal indifference, gape like a fascinated tourist while a man dies and gawk at enactments of impassioned, impotent fury,

BECAUSE when film does what film does best, bring emotion alive simultaneous with observation, it’s a laser beam right into the heart of humanity’s being.

(Bertolucci documents the end of life, Lizzani lambastes indifference, Pasolini literalizes a flower child, Godard blurs cinematic lines of love and war, and Bellocchio satirizes patterns of discord as civilization collapses. Not only for art cinema fans.)

The Man From London (2007)

Directors: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky
Writers: Béla Tarr (screenplay), László Krasznahorkai (screenplay), Georges Simenon (novel)
Stars: Miroslav Krobot, Tilda Swinton, Ági Szirtes


IF you ever longed to float deeply, musically in the grey shadows of mystery

SEE The Man From London cast you spellbound as first hand observer to murder, then as second hand murderer and, lastly, astute investigator

BECAUSE hypnotic images moving ritually and deliberately haunt the senses until finally, a resolution without blame brings satisfaction.

(Georges Simenon offers the base upon which this engrossing visualization of the dark side of murder without a stroke of violence takes place on screen.  He is the creator of Maigret, the French Sherlock Holmes, and the source of a wonderful film, Monsieur Hire.)

Man of Aran (1934)

Director: Robert J. Flaherty
Writer: Robert J. Flaherty
Stars: Colman ‘Tiger’ King, Maggie Dirrane, Michael Dirrane

IF you, like me, are wowed by visions a film poet who conjures up the genius of William Butler Yeats with black and white imagery,

SEE Man of Aran lift documentary to the level of myth, capturing the essence of an isolated Irish Islander’s struggle with primeval elements to make a home in hostile but magnificent environs.

BECAUSE the film shows one stunning scene after another that makes you gasp with awe.  No wonder thousands of people walk the surface of this Irish island Spring and Summer.  The magic of human resilience hides here.

(Man of Aran is a documentary of the human spirit.  Real woman carrying bundles of seaweed on her back.  Real men catching a shark the length of their boat. Real, not simulated waves looming and crashing against craggy cliffs.)

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Stars: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates

midnight in paris

IF you’re looking for the romance and glamour of a bygone age

SEE Woody Allen make dreams come true with Midnight in Paris

BECAUSE the mind is more than a cross-town taxi — it’s a time machine.

Mirage (1965)

Director: Edward Dmytryk
Writers: Peter Stone (screenplay), Howard Fast (novel)
Stars: Gregory Peck, Diane Baker, Walter Matthau


IF you like your psycho thrillers well done, exciting and suspenseful but buttoned up in metaphor — and are tired of being terrified through a whole movie just to kill off a few bad guys…,

SEE Mirage make amnesia into a captivating premise for suspense before Freud became a thing of the past and billboard psychology took over,

BECAUSE Gregory Peck is an excellent actor, human mystery is always satisfying and following one’s instincts is a motive to be encouraged.

BTW:  This film is as close to a Hitchcock film as one can get without his signature.  When the power in NYC goes out, Peck’s lost his memory and a CEO falls out of a skyscraper in the first ten minutes, the end is worth waiting for.

Moneyball (2011)

Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
Stars: Brad Pitt,  Jonah HillPhilip Seymour HoffmanRobin Wright


IF you’re tired of glamour and glitz (and love baseball)

SEE Moneyball put a geek up to bat, back faith with smarts

BECAUSE extraordinary is only a few numbers from ordinary.

Mr. Holmes (2015)

Director: Bill Condon
Writers: Mitch Cullin (original story), Mitch Cullin (novel) 
Stars: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Milo Parker


IF you’ve ever wondered if an old dog can learn new tricks or what might happen when memory fails a master detective,

SEE Mr. Holmes discover what lies beyond the intellect when he turns to spectrums of emotion and imagination he never thought to study,

BECAUSE late life gifts, more astounding than interpreting clues and solving whodunit’s with masterful skill, lie waiting just on the other side of a closed heart.

(I felt an unexpected pleasure seeing Ian McKellen play 43 and 93 with ease.  He’s actually 76.  And Laura Linney is not eclipsed by the notable Sir; she’s starlight to his moon. Do you know the difference between a bee and a wasp?  You will.) 

The Mystery of Picasso (1956)

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Stars: Pablo Picasso, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Claude Renoir


IF you’re an artist or art lover, secrets of creativity no doubt amaze you

SEE The Mystery of Picasso immerse you in the magic of a genius at work

BECAUSE to know is to  go — on the risky journey of creative expression.

(Picasso under Clouzot’s strict direction is a winning combo of spirit and discipline.)

Network (1976)

Director: Sidney Lumet
Writer: Paddy Chayefsky
Stars: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall

IF you remember, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more”– and for anyone who’s not hip to a loss worthy of such outrage,

SEE Network predict the conversion of actual news coverage into hours of entertainment driven by popularity ratings and hailed by corporate profit.

BECAUSE news isn’t meant to relieve boredom; it’s meant to inform the public for an active role in democracy.

BTW Network won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay but not Best Picture.

A New Leaf (1971)

Director: Elaine May
Writer: Elaine May
Stars: Walter Matthau, Elaine May, Jack Weston





IF high brow comedy with low brow laughs delights your fancy,

SEE  A New Leaf turn over an insufferable bankrupt dandy and a quirky rich botanist to find a rare species of love

BECAUSE  hope is a priceless commodity that most of us fall back on when life gets too odd or too tumultuous to get a good night’s sleep.

(With Walter Matthau, Elaine May uses her brilliant wit to remind us that comedy once transcended dumb rather than making dumb even dumber.  We all remember her astonishing comedic accomplishments with Mike Nichols!)

The Night of the Iguana (1964)

Director: John Huston
Writers: John Huston (screenplay), Anthony Veiller (screenplay), Tennessee Williams (play)
Stars: Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr


IF you remember the ‘60s when sexuality was threatening to bring down respectability, leave religion in tatters and death was a viable option to living with shame,

SEE The Night of the Iguana for John Huston’s take on Tennessee William’s exploration of sexuality on the loose like an iguana who’s slipped its noose…

BECAUSE feeling dark, ravaging passions without letting them unhinge the mind is, perhaps, the greatest human dilemma of all.

BTW: Each actor carries his or her persona into this film – the hot Ava Gardner, the cool Deborah Kerr and the nubile Sue Lyon (she was Lolita) all orbit the tormented Richard Burton, ever the restrained Shakespearian with his own Elizabeth Taylor at his side!

Not One Less (1999)

Director: Yimou Zhang
Writer: Xiangsheng Shi
Stars: Minzhi Wei, Huike Zhang, Zhenda Tian


IF you wonder about the roots of the great Zhang Yimou before he filmed epics and orchestrated the world renowned Beijing Olympics,

SEE Not One Less show the essence of Chinese determination in the personhood of a 13-year-old girl thrown into the job of teaching children,

BECAUSE learning comes naturally to children when the teacher is teaching herself and priding herself on keeping all children in school.

(Zhang Yimou is a favorite of mine from Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles. He tells a small story as if it were grand — as if our personal transformation is what we’re living for and what others are waiting for.)

Opening Night (1977)

Director: John Cassavetes
Writer: John Cassavetes
Stars: Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Ben Gazzara, Joan Blondell


IF you like films that take you deeper into psychological insight instead of re-running what you already know,

SEE Opening Night spotlight the life crisis of an actress defining her loss of youth as a greatly misunderstood mid-life spectacle of madness,

BECAUSE to think of a girl inside a woman who’s fighting to preserve her identity when a woman ages is unique and provocative.

(A ‘writer, director, actor’ masterpiece for John Cassavetes and his wife, Gena Rowlands, who never let him down as actress extraordinaire while they reached for the stark truth of emotional realities in ten films; two won Oscar nominations.)

Paper Moon (1973)

Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Writers: Alvin Sargent (screenplay), Joe David Brown (novel)
Stars: Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Kahn


IF children wise beyond their years hold a special fascination for you…

SEE an orphan and a conman in Paper Moon vie for honors at who’s getting the best of who – and laugh when they do, in fact, get the best of each other!

BECAUSE a girl who’s made up her mind and a grown up man who hasn’t construct a road of hope to the future on a whim and a prayer in 1930’s.

(Tatum would have surely gotten Best Actress nomination in our kid friendly Oscar nominations today.)

Persona (1966)

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Writer: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann


IF film sometimes feels more poem than prose, arousing more feeling between lines of words than in the words themselves,

SEE Persona split a woman’s psyche in two, letting each be the mirror of the other while not quite telling the secret to whom they make a whole,

BECAUSE Ingmar Bergman’s love of two women has produced emotional insight into the psychology of a woman’s two faces – one to herself, one to others.

(Ingmar Bergman, recovering in a hospital from a breakdown, created this screen poem as he left Bibi Andersson for Liv Ullman, dividing them in real life and drawing them together in film.)

Pickpocket (1959)

Director: Robert Bresson
Writer: Robert Bresson
Stars: Martin LaSalle, Marika Green, Jean Pélégri


IF you’re intrigued by a man’s shadow, how he steps on himself as he walks

SEE Pickpocket finger a mark at close range; you’re only a few feet away

BECAUSE intimate violation penetrates the soul, revealing the dark hold of perversity.

(Bresson at his best if you’re a fan; he’s a master at evoking projections.)

Pina (2011)

Director: Wim Wenders
Writer: Wim Wenders
Stars: Pina Bausch, Regina Advento, Malou Airaudo

IF you’re a true believer in soul

SEE Pina set the body free to dance life, love and longing

BECAUSE full immersion in emotion has never been finer.

Poetry (2011)

Director: Chang-dong Lee
Writer: Chang-dong Lee
Stars: Jeong-hie Yun, Da-wit Lee, Hira Kim


IF you’re wondering how to make sense of the senseless

SEE Poetry, where a quiet older woman reforms ugliness

BECAUSE you’ll find the poet within

Revanche (2008)

Director: Götz Spielmann
Writer: Götz Spielmann
Stars: Johannes Krisch, Irina Potapenko, Andreas Lust


IF you’re looking for a lusty psychological drama with striking, symbolic cinematography,

SEE Revanche delve into a man’s crisis of loss that turns him back on himself for salvation.

BECAUSE revenge is a snare, a gun can’t settle a score and women can dispel cobwebs of grief as surely as they spin webs of desire.

BTW:  Probably good to know the story going in.  An ex-con attempts to liberate himself and his prostitute girlfriend from poverty with a bank robbery in Vienna that goes terribly wrong and leaves him stranded in a forest of emotions seemingly only resolvable by revenge.

The River (1951)

Director: Jean Renoir
Writer: Jean RenoirRumer Godden
Stars: Patricia Walters, Nora Swinburne, Esmond Knight


IF you’re ready for a tasty visual treat of early 20th century India in technicolor

SEE The River lift everyday family events onto a spiritual level of meaning

BECAUSE love of life relies on the mystery of digesting the flow, the way things are.

(Extra feature interviews with Renoir and Scorsese are well worth the time.)

Rosetta (1999)

Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writers: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Stars: Émilie Dequenne, Fabrizio Rongione, Anne Yernaux


IF good filmmakers intrigue you, the Dardenne Brothers tell a story so true it could be documentary but it’s fiction,

SEE Rosetta make getting a job a raison d’etre, a reason for living for a sixteen year old who’s determined not to fall by the wayside,

BECAUSE a job may be a way of belonging to society but a friend presents the chance of feeling loved and keeps hope for living a normal life alive.

(This 16-year-old who had never acted in a film won the hearts of Cannes audiences who voted her Best Actress and the film won the Palme D’Or.)

(Don’t skip the Special Feature interview with the Dardenne Brothers. As compelling as the movie to listen to them talk!)

The Rum Diary (2011)

Director: Bruce Robinson
Writers: Bruce Robinson (screenplay), Hunter S. Thompson (novel)
Stars: Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, Aaron Eckhart

IF you’re wondering what path to take in a world made by others

SEE The Rum Diary for a rowdy walk with a freelancer

BECAUSE you’ll find yourself loving who you are when it’s over.

The Salt of the Earth (2014)

Directors: Juliano Salgado, Wim Wenders
Writers: Wim Wenders, Juliano Salgado, David Rosier
Stars: Sebastião Salgado, Juliano Salgado, Lélia Wanick Salgado, Wim Wenders


IF being born is a continual awakening to the wonder of human survival on the planet,

SEE The Salt of the Earth weave Sebastiao Salgado’s calling to photograph despairing scenes of human destruction with his soulful reflections on human ferocity and endurance over time,

SEE The Salt of the Earth give us a bridge of vision, pictures drawn with light to illuminate the dark we can barely stand,

BECAUSE one brief viewing of this film makes the powerful point that, without the earth as a reminder of regeneration, the burden of grief felt round the globe could hardly be borne.

(Juliano Salgado, Sebastiao’s son, comments on the parallel between his father’s life and the story of the farm in Brazil from which he’d come. Man and land felt a dying and a rebirth in a single lifetime. Lelia Salgado, wife and mother and business partner, is an amazing woman who served as rudder for Salgado’s photographic ship of revelation.)

The Sea of Grass (1947)

Director: Elia Kazan
Writers: Marguerite Roberts (screenplay), Marguerite Roberts (screenplay), Conrad Richter (novel)
Stars: Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Robert Walker


IF you are Hepburn/Tracy fans:

SEE The Sea of Grass, a so-so western shows a smart rancher anticipate the disaster of the dustbowl of the 1930’s as farmers pushed into late 19th century cattle land,

BECAUSE Hepburn makes a case for men to honor mothers even when the judgment goes against them – in the end, Hollywood style, Tracy takes her back, but…

BTW: Once pristine grassland as well a prized son dies at the hands of two-fisted justice, let’s applaud young men and women who step away from a ‘sins of the father’ legacy and create a freshened metaphor for future generations.

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)

Director: Juan José Campanella
Writers: Eduardo Sacheri, Juan José Campanella
Stars: Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago


IF being held rapt in a drama created more by gaze than plot intrigues you,

SEE The Secret in Their Eyes for much more than what constitutes retribution for the grand theft of life,

BECAUSE a love winding past barriers of society to right wrongs to the soul and restore vitality to deadened lives is a find indeed.

(The acting is superb, the story compelling, the watching weighty. And, in the end, you’re left with the question. What was the secret in their eyes? Would you let me know what your eyes saw?)


A Separation (2011)

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Writer: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat


IF you’re a searcher, wondering how to escape horns of a dilemma

SEE A Separation probe depths of despair for tendrils of strength

BECAUSE relieving suffering is not ending it, only key to enduring.

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Billy WilderI.A.L. Diamond
Stars: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon


IF you are one of the ones who like soup and sex hot,

SEE Some Like It Hot make a totally ‘politically correct’ comedic film in 1959,

BECAUSE Hot is Hot, especially when it’s Cool. The millionaire marries the woman he loves even when he discovers she’s a he!

BTW Amazing to see Marilyn turn IT on; she was the real deal.

The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Director: Víctor Erice
Writer: Víctor Erice
Stars: Fernando Fernán Gómez, Teresa Gimpera, Ana Torrent

IF you like allegorical tales that take you deep into soulful emotions difficult to capture in words…

SEE a curious little girl in The Spirit of the Beehive try to understand killing as her family suffers the aftermath of Spain’s civil war

BECAUSE why we kill, why we endure and why we care so much for one life, so little for another are essential questions that puzzle us from cradle to grave.

(It was the 1931 Frankenstein film that set this little girl’s search for answers to profound questions into motion, affirming my own belief in the power of film.)

The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003)

Directors: Byambasuren Davaa, Luigi Falorni
Writers: Byambasuren DavaaLuigi FalorniBatbayar Davgadorj
Stars: Janchiv Ayurzana, Chimed Ohin, Amgaabazar Gonson


IF you want to be transported to Mongolia, visit its native culture of goat and camel herders and change your sense of time…

SEE The Story of The Weeping Camel create a compelling family drama as they help a camel mother bond with her unwanted calf…

BECAUSE ‘Believe It of Not’ doesn’t do unbelievable realities any better than a mother camel who vibes to a violin!  You will be moved.

(Right up there in significance with the 1922 Nanook of the North, the first full length ethnographic film in such an odd corner of earth.)

A Summer's Tale (1996)

Director: Eric Rohmer
Writer: Eric Rohmer
Stars: Melvil Poupaud, Amanda Langlet, Gwenaëlle Simon, Aurelia Nolin


IF you’ve forgotten – or are now experiencing the keen open seas of the twenty-something mind where a singing sailor’s ballad can, and does, a summer make,

SEE one young man, waiting and longing for his life to begin in A Summer’s Tale, wander the wide, beautiful beaches of Brittany choosing between three ripening young women,

BECAUSE the limbo desert of choice is ever with us, casting day dreams of ‘what if’ and delaying preparation for the future just a little bit longer.

(For once, a reflection of the frontier of youth where a close encounter with too much choice requires real learning about yourself. No hype to flirtation, no terror to tension, no revenge to drive plot…just exaggeration of possibility.)

Sunrise (1927)

Director: F.W. Murnau
Writer: Carl Mayer
Stars: George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston


IF you’re spellbound by cinematography, this is IT for you.

SEE Sunrise capture a silent drama of the power of love en vivo

BECAUSE gestures of grim and grand speak louder than words across the ages.

(Subtitled A Song of Two Humans, it’s a universal story of love, temptation and redemption.)

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Writers: Clifford Odets (screenplay), Ernest Lehman (novella)
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison


IF you would like to feel the power of big screen magic without nerve wracking   violent acts and eye smashing special effects,

SEE Sweet Smell of Success lift drive and scheming to epic proportions with performances by Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster ripping a page from an unforgettable chapter in New York City history,

BECAUSE this black and white film noir is tantamount to a torrid Greek drama with the gods of the heavens heightening human emotion.

(Riveting, eternally relevant and revelatory, you’ll shake your fist at the skies demanding Hollywood bring back filmmaking that stirs the soul and insists on respect for the role of visionary insight into everyday concerns – like the conflict between greed and self-respect.)

Thomas Pynchon: A Journey Into the Mind of P (2002)

Directors: Donatello Dubini, Fosco Dubini
Writers: Donatello Dubini, Fosco Dubini


IF you haven’t read Thomas Pynchon, don’t know him as an author of mid-20th century American counter-cultural imaginings,

SEE A Journey Into the Mind of P first so the world of an author more reclusive than J.D. Salinger but just as provocative comes alive,

BECAUSE once upon a time in America, when explorations of the psyche were deeply meaningful, not fodder for billboards, Pynchon channeled his curiosity in books worth reading. 

(Pynchon’s three major books  – V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity’s Rainbow – put him in the company of Don DeLillo, Philip Roth and Cormac McCarthy.  Go for it.)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writers: Bridget O’Connor (screenplay), Peter Straughan (screenplay), John le Carré (novel)
Stars: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy


IF you’re a strategist of fine moves by fine minds

SEE Tinker Tailor a Soldier’s game of round robin Spy maneuvers

BECAUSE what’s unified still has sides inside the sidelines.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Director: John Huston
Writers: John Huston (screenplay), B. Traven (novel)
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt

IF you like film classics with fine performances of actors from another era and can be forgiving of a portrayal of Mexicans more literary device than reflection,

SEE The Treasure of the Sierra Madre reverse the alchemical process and turn gold into madness. Spoiler alert: this is an all male, very male, male to bitter end film.

BECAUSE philosophy, a rare theme for movies, makes for insight into human beings that forms a cautionary tale for today as well as the gold rush days.

BTW: Walter Huston, in his mid-60’s was an old man by Hollywood standards, stole the show from Humphrey Bogart who plays one of the best roles of his career in this film.

The Tree of Life (2011)

Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Stars: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain


IF you’re ready to join a visionary experimenting with vision

SEE Tree of Life cast family life into an evolutionary framework

BECAUSE we’re in desperate need of farsighted escape from hubris.

Wait Until Dark (1967)

Director: Terence Young
Writers: Frederick Knott (play), Robert Carrington (screenplay)
Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

IF you didn’t know Audrey Hepburn, blind as a bat, more lithe than an eel and smart as a whip, thwarted three killers in 1967 (long before feminism took hold),

SEE Wait Until Dark to find out how she drew upon her feminine smarts to do it and then (yeah, it was the 60’s) still had to gain the approval of her husband by finding him while he waited on the other side of their living room floor!

BECAUSE, if for a moment, you don’t think we’ve come a long way baby, Audrey was way out ahead of us and we still have left plenty to do.

(Watching Audrey outwit her enemies reminded me of Clarice Starling, another feminine hero who still had to prove herself to her boss even after she’d triumphed over evil incarnate in Hannibal Lecter.)

Walk on Water (2004)

Director: Eytan Fox
Writer: Gal Uchovsky
Stars: Lior Ashkenazi, Knut Berger, Caroline Peters


IF you like your films well done, grown up and personally provocative

SEE Walk on Water reject the Exodus edict in which sins of the father dictate generations of hatred for sons and daughters who refuse the ways of the father.

BECAUSE to break with traditions of revenge and live for the living picks up the task of evolving; a real man’s challenge.

(Great travel film. Visit Tel Aviv and Berlin as if you were there.  Experience the contrast and differences for the one who visits, the one who lives as a resident.)

Winter's Bone (2010)

Director: Debra Granik
Writers: Debra Granik (screenplay), Anne Rosellini (screenplay), Daniel Woodrell (novel)
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt






IF the title alone sends a shiver up your spine,

SEE the heart of a feminine hero beat strong in Winter’s Bone and give her family the future that her kin and her community determined to steal,

BECAUSE  a mere girl holding the line against evil when evil appears to have the upper hand is a sight to see – and remember.  (Clarice Starling’s last line in The Silence of the Lambs when Lector tries to bargain for his freedom!)

(Jennifer Lawrence brings a certain something special to female characters in movies and to the effort to make feminine values more prominent in society.  You “go girl”, I say.)

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

Director: John Cassavetes
Writer: John Cassavetes
Stars: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk


IF madness as a survival skill never occurred to you,

SEE A Woman Under the Influence of a maddening family, a hot tempered husband and three kids under six manage, somehow, to get them all tucked in by the end of a movie that starts crazy, is crazy in the middle and aims to end crazy,

BECAUSE  emotional survival, strangely crafted by a people with no power, is to be admired and certainly not judged harshly by others.

(John Cassavetes may have genius for seeing the dynamics of destruction in a dysfunctional family but Gena Rowlands is the rose above the thorns.  Thank all gods for feminism putting an end to blaming women for being sexy.)     

You Laugh (1998)

Directors: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Writers: Paolo Taviani (screenplay), Vittorio Taviani (screenplay), Luigi Pirandello (stories)
Stars: Antonio Albanese, Giuseppe Cederna, Luca Zingaretti


IF you love Luigi Pirandello and love the Taviani Brothers even more…

SEE You Laugh to contemplate why life isn’t worth living without being able to fulfill your dreams and why, in its second feature about kidnappings, life in the moment is worth more than life as it should be…

BECAUSE big questions are the only ones Pirandello and the Taviani Brothers bother with and they will, I promise, keep conversation going long into the night…

(Spoiler alert. These are disturbing films about matters of great importance exquisitely filmed and drawn from profound stories.)