A legal thriller from 2007, brilliantly directed by Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton chiefly revolves around the relationship between the title character, a “fixer”, and Arthur Edens, a brilliant attorney who is suffering a breakdown but also grasps more of the truth than is perhaps good for him. George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson star, along with Tilda Swinton, who portrays a ruthless general counsel and chief antagonist. All provide memorable performances, with Wilkinson at the height of his powers as the bipolar Edens.
Léon, the Professional, is a brilliantly twisted and complex film focusing on the relationship between a good-hearted yet ruthless hitman, the young girl who comes under his guidance after her family is massacred, and the sociopathic DEA agent Stansfield, who performed said massacring. A certain houseplant also plays a significant role. Jean Reno and Natalie Portman are both exceptional, and Gary Oldman renders forth a truly iconic performance as the depraved, mercurial, cunning, pill-popping Stansfield. Each character has their own internally consistent moral code. Luc Besson directed this fascinating, haunting, offbeat, darkly comical film.
Directed by a 28 year old Steven Spielberg, Jaws is a gripping, multi-faceted masterwork. This thriller/cult classic features resonant, memorable work by Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, and a mesmerizing, iconic performance by Robert Shaw. Also involved is a 20+ (25!) foot-long shark. One of the most perfectly realized films of the 20th century.
The 1996 film Fargo, a Coen Brothers masterwork, presents the story and precipitous moral/psychological decline of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), the misadventures of the bungling kidnappers (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) whose “help” he enlists, and the dogged attempts of Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) to make sense of it all. Macy’s performance is mind-boggling, Buscemi and Stormare are brilliant, and McDormand carried away an Oscar for her finely-nuanced portrayal. Carter Burwell composed the memorable theme.
This offbeat, rather twisted Western presents the intertwined stories of Tom Logan (Jack Nicholson) and his good-hearted, somewhat hapless rustling gang, and Lee Clayton (Marlon Brando), a so-called “regulator” (hired killer) whose job it is to identify and curtail the activities of Logan, et al. As the film progresses, an ever-increasing sense of dread and disquiet permeate the proceedings, as it becomes clearer all the time that the eccentric Clayton is a ruthless, sadistic sociopath, who relishes his deadly machinations and depraved exploits. The bounty hunter’s bewildering array of accents and disguises also merits mentioning.
Arthur Penn directed this cult masterpiece, and allowed the actors, especially Brando, to find their own way with the characters, including improvising much of the dialogue. Idiosyncratically paced, this oddball absurdist comedy/western thriller deconstructs the genre to beautiful effect, and Marlon Brando’s incomprehensibly stunning performance ultimately defines and lifts the film to the very heights.
The serial predator and killer Martin Vanger appears in both the American and Swedish iterations of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. He is equally disquieting in both. Peter Haber portrays Vanger in the 2009 Swedish release, and Stellan Skarsgård does the honors for the 2011 American film. Both performances are brilliant, and chilling. Haber’s portrayal is more earnest and volatile, while Skarsgård is more haughty, detached. Both work perfectly.
The 1987 film Withnail and I, written and directed by Bruce Robinson, and starring Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, and Richard Griffiths, has come to be recognized as one of the great achievements of British film-making. Originally considered a “cult” movie, this poignant and amazingly humorous film is so very memorable. This happened to be Grant’s first film, as well, putting him firmly on the map of such things.
A select gathering of film composers, and their compositions. Bernard Herrmann, Eric Serra, Daniel Licht, David Shire, Carter Burwell, and Ennio Morricone.
A tour de force by titans of the silver screen: Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart, and Bette Davis. Mr. Howard insisted that a relatively unknown Bogart be cast for the role of iconic outlaw Duke Mantee; it became the actor’s first big breakthrough.