Thursday, July 16, 2020


In determining what films will make the updated edition of the 1001 Movie Book, it's a good idea to look at the Best Picture Nominees from the previous year. Usually at least half of them make the cut.
I'm assuming of course that there will be an updated edition this year. I've listed these movies in what I think is likely to make the updated book.

1. Parasite-Boon Joon-ho's film of the have and have nots took home the Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Oscar and even motivated people who don't normally watch Foreign language films to check it out. This is a sure thing to make the book. (Best Picture Winner, International Film Winner)


2. Jojo Rabbit-This offbeat film of a kid in Nazi Germany coping with a Jewish girl hiding in his house while being shadowed by his imaginary friend named Adolph has enough laughs, drama and critical acclimation to make the book (Best Picture Nominee)

 Jojo Rabbit

3.1917-This one long shot story of two soldiers racing to the front during WW1 has a chance to make it for the technical achievement alone. It's also important that you care about the people in the story that he makes it and we (at least I) do. This one should get in. (Best Picture Nominee)


4.Joker-The retelling of the Joker origin story through a different lens than we are used to seems to be broken down into camps of loving it and hating it. I do think most agree on the emotionally powerfull performance of Joqauin Phoenix. I think this one gets in. (Best Picture Nominee)


5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood-Quentin Tarantino's tale of Hollywood during the time of the Tate/Labianca murders has everything but Charles Manson's kitchen sink in it. I think this one gets in. though Tarantino's The Hateful Eight did not. (Best Picture Nominee)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

6.Marriage Story-Story about the breakup of a bi-coastal marriage is a strong family drama with stellar performances. I'm on the fence whether this one gets in the book. (Best Picture Nominee)

 Marriage Story

7. The Irishman-Long film about teamster Jimmy Hoffa has been criticized for being too long and not quite to the level of some of other Scorsese films. I liked it, but still don't think it gets in.

8. Ford v. Ferrari-60's racing biography of Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby is an fine film and I learned about a story I knew little about. I still don't see this one getting in the book. (Best Picture Nominee)
Ford v. Ferrari

9. Little Women-Nice, well-acted update of the classic even has sort of a meta-twist between the character of Jo and Louisa May Alcott. I still don't think it gets in the book. (Best Picture Nominee)

Little Women

10. Toy Story 4-The first two Toy Story movies have been in different versions of the book and you really should see all four. I'm pretty sure Part 4 won't make the book, but you've gone this far with the toys, so you might as well see it to the end! (Best Animated Feature winner)

Toy Story 4

11. American Factory-Fascinating story of a Detroit motor plant being taken over by Chinese management is definitely worth a watch. Documentaries have been slighted by the book in recent years and don't think this one gets in either. (Best Documentary winner)

American Factory

12. Judy-Renee Zellweger's great star turn as the older Judy Garland is work a look-especially fans on Hollywood bio's.Still very unlikely this makes the book. (Best Actress Winner)


Thursday, July 9, 2020


 Journalist  John Horton (James Whitmore) gets some 
"how to be black" advice from shoeshine man Burt Wilson
(Richard Ward) in Black Like Me

"With James Whitmore blackened to look like and end man in a minstrel show-Black Like Me shows the abuse and mental torment to which this man is exposed when he makes a knowledge-seeking tour through the South."-Bosley Crowther, New York Times, May 23, 1964

White Man's Burden...

Texas journalist John Howard Griffin went into the deep south and posed as a black man in 1959. He wrote about his experiences in the book Black Like Me and the subsequent film. The movie features James Whitmore as Griffin (Horton in the film). Horton comes across as an articulate educated guy when he is white and plays it exactly the same when he goes undercover...just with a darker complexion. He seems to meet an awful lot of bad white people who talk to him like he's garbage and constantly make crass comments about black women folk. Horton becomes despondent about his situation very quickly and wants to quit this experiment. He acts like he's been dropped into a war zone...and maybe he has...Lessons are learned.

Jeff Gerber (Godfrey Cambridgediscovers a change 
one morning in Watermelon Man

Black Man's Burden...

I first caught Watermelon Man on late night TV back when I was in high school. It's about a loud-mouthed white bigoted insurance salesman named Jeff Gerber (Godfrey Cambridge) who wakes up one morning to find out he has turned into a black man. I thought it was funny then and watching the whole thing now, I still think so, with Cambridge landing most of his lines most effectively. I do think at times Herman Raucher's story teeters close to the edge between comedy and drama, but I don't mind that at all. I like the surprisingly serious ending as well, which was a conscious choice by director Melvin Van Peebles and differed from the original concept.

The movie didn't get great reviews, even getting mercilessly panned in The New York Times and seems to be largely forgotten. That is until I recently saw it pop up on Amazon Prime. I say give it a go. 

Monday, July 6, 2020


Juliet of the Spirits

"Mr. Fellini is not trying to resolve a mystery. he is trying primarily to give you an exciting experience on the screen, generated by a bold conglomeration of visual an aural stimuli. And that he does, with becoming accretions of humor and poignancy."-Bosley Crowther, New York Times, November 4, 1965.

Ah, Fellini. He's either brilliant and awe inspiring or confusing and mind numbing. Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits has a simple basic plot of a middle-aged married woman's (frequent Fellini muse Guilietta Masina) suspicion that her husband might be having an affair. She experiences a search for incriminating facts and embraces new dimensions of self-awareness through dreams, mediums, psychics, witchcraft, mysticism and a more traditional private detective. I really have to be in the right mood to watch a Fellini film and maybe my mind wasn't totally engaged. However, I did appreciate the "bold conglomeration of visual and aural stimuli" upon reflection.

Spirits of the Dead

"Toby Dammit" the first Fellini film to be seen since Juliet of the Spirits is marvelous: a short movie but a major one. I would have never thought Fellini and Poe had much in common, but the Italian director has assimilated his source material in such a way that it has become a kind of postscript to "La Dolce Vita," the picture of an exhausted once beautiful person handing his soul over to the devil."-Vincent Canby, New York Times, September 4, 1969,

Spirits of the Dead features three short films loosely based on stories by Edgar Allen Poe. The first two films, from Roger Vadim and Louis Malle, set a pretty ethereal mood for the storytelling with differing degrees of success. Then we come to the Fellini portion (Toby Dammit) and it is nothing in tone like the other two. The film reminds me a bit of 8 1/2, with an actor replacing the director as the main character.. We also get the smorgasbord of Fellini characters that we have become accustomed to in the just mentioned Juliet of the Spirits and his subsequent Satyricon.

I don't know if I'll ever visit Mr. Fellini again, but I appreciate his original way of telling a story and his creativity. I can't say I get where he's going all the time, but I don't think I'm supposed to.

Federico Fellini (1920-1993)
Guilietta Masina (1921-1994)
Married from 1943-1993 (his death)

Saturday, February 29, 2020


Given me a child when he is seven and I will give you the man.-Jesuit proverb

The featured players of the Up series
at different life stages

In 1964, Granada television in Britain chose fourteen seven-year-old subjects for a television special about what it was like to be that age. This original film was directed by Paul Diamond and was originally supposed to be a one and off special. The subjects of the film were chosen by a young researcher named Michael Apted, who saw the potential for something really special here. Apted took over as director of the project and filmed the children again at age fourteen in 1970. He then filmed all the subjects in the film every seven years (all that would participate) all the way until 63 Up in 2019.

I had heard about this series over the years, but never watched it. We got the 56 Up! DVD at the library a couple of years ago, but really wanted to see the films from the beginning. In recent weeks, I noticed Britbox had all the episodes and my wife and I decided to plunge in and watch them.

I don't binge watch shows often, but The Up Series is definitely one I'd recommend going that route with. I feel like I just met these seven-year-old kids a couple of weeks ago and watching a show a night, they quickly are all reaching retirement age. It acts like an only slightly less speedy Picture of Dorian Gray with the featured kids.

We see the participants make schooling decisions, marriage decisions, career decisions and family decisions. Through the episodes, the extended family of the participants become players in this drama as well. Other participants keep their family out of it entirely. We also see past shows cleverly edited into each new show to give the viewer perspective.

One of the elements in the choosing of the original subjects is class. You have the prep school boys, seemingly born with silver spoons in their mouth and poorer East End kids that have to struggle for everything. The truth is of course much more complicated than that.

Here are the subjects for the film:

John, Andrew and Charles on the couch
in 14 Up

The Three Prep School Boys on the Couch
John Brisby, one of the upper class kids, was seemingly on the path to being a barrister from age seven. He likes to point out in later episodes that he had to struggle a lot more than what is portrayed in the earlier films.

Andrew Brackfield was one of the funniest of the seven year old kids, going on about he read The Financial Times on a daily basis. He later became a solicitor, but seems to spend a lot of time in his garden as the years go on. He appears to have one of the happier marriages and families in the film.

Charles Furneaux is the third of the Prep School boys. Charles didn't participate in any films after 21 Up, despite later becoming a documentary filmmaker himself!

Jackie, Lynn and Sue on the slide at age seven

The Three Working Class Girls on the Couch
Jackie Bassett is one of the three girls in the film that are usually filmed together. Her life has had her ups and downs with marriages, kids, work and health. She often seems to have a love/hate relationship with director Apted. I find her one of the most interesting subjects in the film.

Lynn Johnson was one of Jackie's friends who definitely had her ups and downs. She married young and had a family early, but kept her marriage together throughout her life. I certainly like the fact that she worked at libraries and a bookmobile for many years. She had many health issues over the years which she talks about in many episodes. She died in 2013 at the age of 57.

Sue Davis is the third of the three girls filmed together in episode one. She had her ups and downs with marriage and divorce over the years. She also had a potential singing career that she points out she was never able to follow through with. In later years, she is seen as being happily engaged to the same man for 21 years!

The Charity Boarding School Classmates
Symon Basterfield was the only participant of mixed race in this film. He worked at various jobs over the years which the viewer gets to experience vicariously (There's Symon on the fork lift again!). He married and had five kids only to divorce. His second wife was a strong presence in 49 Up and 56 Up.

Paul Kliegerman was also one of the funniest of the kids at seven. The clip that they show about his fear of marriage because his wife might serve him greens makes me laugh every time they show it. In actuality, Paul has had the same wife since 21 Up, and we see many of their travels through the outback and raising of their family over the years. One of the most likable participants in the film, we see Paul reunited with his classmate Symon in 49 Up (or was that 42 Up?)

The entire group together at 21 Up

The Academics
Bruce Balden may be the person I identify the most with in the film. Always concerned about social issues and injustice early on, he becomes a teacher in the inner city and in Bangla Desh for awhile. It didn't seem like he would ever get married, but did in 35 Up in a ceremony conducted by fellow Up participant Neil Hughes.

Nick Hitchon started out on a farm and went to boarding school before going to Oxford and eventually becoming a professor specializing in Nuclear Fusion at the University of Wisconsin. Nick's first marriage is documented in 28 Up, but that didn't last and seems happy with his second wife in later episodes. 

I just want to promote me band!
Peter Davies was a Liverpudlian youth who in 21 Up said some negative things about the Thatcher Administration which he got some criticism for and decided not to participate in the series again until 56 Up to promote his folk band!

This is pointless and silly!
Suzy Lusk had a most interesting evolution on the show. She went from being one of the rich kids in the beginning to being from a broken home and deciding the project was "pointless and silly" by the age of 14. At 21, she was an angry chain-smoking young lady who would never want to have kids and was mad at the world. By 28, she married someone who seemed to change her worldview for the better and has appeared to have a happy life (with kids!).

Tony Walker at 7 Up and 56 Up
The breakout stars
Tony Walker-"I want to be a jockey when I grow up. I want to be a jockey when I grow up!" I always quote Tony's seven-year-old aspirations to my wife before we start a new episode. Tony is one of the lower East Side kids who did indeed become a jockey for awhile before becoming a taxi driver among other things. The fast talking Tony seems to be one of those people who can probably get away with a lot just by talking his way out of things. Married at 28, his wife was featured in all the subsequent episodes and they are not afraid to speak openly about the highs and lows of their relationship.

Neil Hughes at 56 Up and 7 Up

Neil Hughes was the Liverpool youth who had aspirations, yet never seemed to find his way. He was often depicted throughout the run of the show as homeless or suffering from a form of mental illness-yet always finding a way to survive. He later became a local councilman and even a preacher (performing the marriage ceremony for Bruce Balden).

I think for the most part the participants haven been shown in a positive light. I mean there aren't any villains in this piece (Maybe Charles, only because he wouldn't participate after 21 Up) and I hope the lives of all of them continue to improve through 63 Up, 70 Up, 77 Up...