An attempt in progress to compile the most universal movies of all time, the creamiest of the crop, the most rewarding and eternal.
Sharing your assent or dissent, as well as any pertinent info, will be greatly appreciated and cited. The goal is not to make you admire this list. It's to get more people making this kind of list for themselves.
Written by Harry Birckmayer, Sheila Gaffney,
and Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Produced by Harry Birckmayer and Stephanie Koules
Music by Anton Sanko and Bill Coleman
Cinematography by Michael Slovis
Editing by Cara Silverman
Production design by Kevin Thompson
Set decor by Jennifer Baime
Costume design by Michael Clancy
Make-up by Angela Johnson
Hair-styles by Barri Scinto
Starring Parker Posey, Guillermo Díaz,
Omar Townsend, and Sasha von Scherler
A simple story told in such a novel way that it cannot be ignored. The lead actor is extremely magnetic because of her range, her unpredictability, and charm. The editing, sets, costumes, and photography create a dizzying whirlpool of sex, music, and drugs to convey the rush of the party-lifestyle. In the end, it's about a young woman's search for self-sufficiency and for her true self, a ride which is uniquely and humorously enjoyable. A liberated production, and one proud of its liberty.
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples
Produced by Charles Roven
Music by Paul Buckmaster
Cinematography by Roger Pratt
Editing by Mick Audsley
Production design by Jeffrey Beecroft
Art direction by William Ladd Skinner
Set decor by Crispian Sallis
Costume design by Julie Weiss
Make-up by Allen Weisinger, Christina Bartolucci,
and Christine Beveridge ... hair designer / makeup designer
Hair-styles by Peggy Nicholson, William A. Kohout,
and Christine Beveridge
Starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe,
and Brad Pitt
It's a new shift in screen-writing. It knocks us off-track from the usual patterns, and introduces us to a new type of movie experience, one where there is no wrong to right, and no goal to reach. The goal is simply to know, as in: to live and to experience. And the visuals and performances add 100% to the production, direction, and writing. They create a feeling sharply direct and visceral.
The fact that time is fluid in this story makes it possible for the viewer to turn on any scene and get a sense of the whole. It's action-packed, funny, suspenseful, and often makes us doubt our own readings. And through it all, there is a deep mourning about time, mortality, and the irretrievable past.
The attention to detail just adds to this masterpiece's deliciousness.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Produced by Glenn Jordan
Music by David Mansfield
Cinematography by Ralf D. Bode
Editing by David A. Simmons
Production design by Fred Harpman
Art direction by Janet Stokes
Set decor by Tom Pedigo
Costume design by Theoni V. Aldredge
Makeup by Alan Friedman
Hair styles by Susan Mills and Linda De Andrea
Starring Jessica Lange, Alec Baldwin,
Diane Lane, and John Goodman
At this time of this writing, the most famous version of this Tennessee Williams play is the 1951 movie with Marlon Brando. But after seeing this more recent version, I ask why the former is so well-regarded. Is it because it's older, because it's in black & white, because Marlon Brando is in it, or because so many people have seen it? None of these reasons is a fit justification for art. This 1995 version, on the other hand, has a more realistic Blanche. It's more realistic all-around. When the lines are spoken, I feel like this is the right way they should be spoken. I never really understood Vivien Leigh's Blanche. But Jessica Lange is amazing to watch, so is Diane Lane, John Goodman. And Alec Baldwin seems so new and fresh and real, and yet somehow a little Brando sneaks in so that we won't miss his performance. Best of all, it feels unbearably painful to watch because of the emotions and reality of the situation. The other looked so good, I just liked the look and sounds. It was like a pop song, but this is the true symphony. There is no reason to look elsewhere in cinema, this is the definitive version of this play about men and women, sisters and bros, fantasy versus realism, art versus matter, and elite versus common. It's tragic the way it should be, meaning it leaves you feeling like something is all wrong. It's not cute and beautiful. It's messy, real, and an accurate depiction of society's cruel rape and murder of beauty and imagination.
Written, directed, and produced by Vin Diesel
Cinematography by Ted Sappington
Editing by Kenna Doeringer
Art direction by Amber Alliger
Starring Vin Diesel
Yes, Vin Diesel has more range than we might have thought, but this movie offers us a lot more than that awareness. It trains us not to assume that the actors in a movie are the same as the characters they portray. There is humor and there is pathos as we realize how hard the business is, and we begin to wonder whether Diesel made this movie as the ultimate audition tape.
But then, we are falling into the same trap. We have to remember that this is a movie and we are not here to judge the actors, but rather to figure out who this character truly is. Is he Italian? Is he black? Is he Latin American? Is he white? Is he any of the characters he portrays? Is he all of them? We begin to yearn for permission to believe in one of the characters, and that is a huge gift, to feel intensely the desire to believe in cinema, and yet to be faced by a strict teacher saying "No, that is not worthwhile. That is not the appropriate aim of a cinema audience. That path leads nowhere."
At 20 minutes, the movie is complete, and it is potent.