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Movies

My favorite movies, which may or may not include some guilty pleasures. (Top 10 Index)
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All That Jazz
Bob Fosse's influential (to the MTV crowd) movie that just works. It's showtime!

Amadeus
First: It's just a movie. Based on facts, but stretching the truth like rubber bands. Get over this.

That said, it's a great tale of court politics, music and creativity set in 18th Century Europe (Prague standing in for Vienna). Mozart has always been my favortie composer, and this helps understand the man and the music a little better - again, understanding that this is wide swatch of fiction stretched over a thin skeleton of truth.

The movie is worth watching if only to introduce those unfamiliar with Mozart's music to the tunes that they've probably already heard.

Casablanca
Play it again Sam...and again...

Fantasia
Before MTV, before there were routine releases of movie soundtracks, Disney released this classic collection of animation set to capture the flavor of - or play off - the classical music that accompanies it.

Thankfully, I first saw this in the theater; even before Dolby/surround sound and all that, this was breathtaking. Who can forget Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice? Or the ballet of hippos and ostriches?

For many people, this served as a painless introduction to some of the finest classical music around (The Nutcracker, Beethoven's 6th Symphony, Toccata and Fugue); for that alone it's noteworthy.

But it's just so damn enjoyable, for - as they say - kids of all ages. If you get the CDs or DVD, be sure to get the original soundtrack (Leopold Stokowski).

Godfather - Part II
One of those rare movies where the sequel exceeds the original.

It's almost two movies (both length and what happens); the story of Vito and how he got to be feared and respected (the "Don"), and how his son - Micheal (Al Pacino, at his best) took over the family and, basically, lost the family.

It's a great story/movie on a number of levels, and Pacino's performance was nominated (1974), but lost to Art Carney ("Harry and Tonto") - which is really why he won for "Scent of a Woman" in 1992, as a sort of "oops, our bad!" award. (Carney's 1974 award was really a "lifetime achievement" award, as well).

Other brilliant performances by too many to mention here, including Talia Shire and Robert Duvall.

Good Will Hunting
Maybe it's the frustrated non-genius in me, but this story of two punks (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) from South Boston is one of the better films of the last couple decades.

The entire cast works, especially Robin Williams as Damon's (court-ordered) shrink (Williams got a best supporting Oscar for his performance).

Manhattan
Woody Allen's homage to that island in the Hudson.

From the opening scene, with the Steichen-ish black & white city images and the beautiful use of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, the viewer has an understanding that this is something different - Allen is not just making a movie, he is filming a city and his life with that city.

After Allen's real-life marriage to his former foster daugher, his movie's main plot - a nebbish 50ish man sleeping with high school girl - is a little creepy (foreshadowing?), but there is so much to recommend.

I'm an Allen fan, and while Annie Hall is generally considered his best, this is my favorite, by a longshot.

Network
This blistering indictment of television - and its viewers - is notable for many reasons: There is the classic Peter Finch "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" performance; the brilliant, Oscar-winning role of Beatrice Straight (she played William Holden's wife) who graced the screen for only a total of about 5 minutes - her soliloquy when Holden leaves her for Faye Dunaway is one of the finest minute(s) ever filmed; and the "there are no nations, just corporations" speech delivered by Ned Beatty to a thoroughly flummoxed Peter Finch.

Yet one of the best - and never really mentioned - moments was when the network brass got together and plotted to kill Peter Finch (his ratings were slipping). The network president - a lap dog for the corporate owners - says, with real concern, "What we are talking about is a capital crime..." And you think, hey, he's getting a spine! But then he finishes with "...the network cannot be implicated."

Over the top? Yes. Accurate? Sadly, yes, also.

Out of Africa
A wonderful book that is translated to the screen in a different form but one that works.

The Candidate
As I write this (01/31/2004), we are in the midst of the presidential-primary season.

Which makes The Candidate all the more compelling. And frightening...

This is a movie - starring Robert Redford - about an idealistic young lawyer in California who is convinced to run for the U.S. Senate with one simple promise: You lose.

So he has nothing to lose, a forum to speak his mind, say what he really means...

And then something horrible happens.

He appears to have a chance to win.

And the machine kicks in...

Watch on any election night as a bitter refreshment.

Wonder Boys
I guess this can best be described as Micheal Douglas - a famous but now blocked writer - having a really bad couple of days.

Great cast, including Douglas, Frances McDormand, Toby McGuire and more. This is a quirky little movie with no real social relavance or deep message. It's entertainment, and it's done well.

The movie also contains a nice subtle twist at the end that makes you reconsider all you've seen up to that point.

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