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Cinema: Classic and Contemporary

As feature story writers and filmmakers, we naturally appreciate cinema productions of all kinds. Perhaps our favorite genre is “dramedy” which combines serious drama with comedy—very difficult to effectively pull off. In any case, we share just a very few of our favorite productions with hopes we’ll learn about some of your top picks! (NOTE: Dates of TV series are the first year released. We don’t mention the movie platforms for each film since they can change and be looked up on-line)

TV Series

Lupin (2022)— This exciting French language crime drama (with subtitles) on Netflix, set in present-day Paris, is a heart pounding thriller with many plot twists and turns. It’s a limited series that you won’t be able to stop watching it!

1883 (2022)This prequel (which stands on its own) to the Yellowstone TV series is a straightforward, period western that combines stunning visuals with gritty drama and violence. It’s made obvious that the western frontier in the late 19thcentury was very beautiful and alluring but that a high price was paid by the early pioneers to tame the wild lands.

Hacks (2021)— A relatively new multi-Emmy nominated comedy series about the hilarious, sometimes bitter-sweet relationship between a legendary Las Vegas comedy diva struggling to maintain her relevance (starring Jean Smart) and a mid-twenties, sometimes impulsive, comedy writer seeking  work (starring Hannah Einbinder in her first film role). The two somewhat reluctantly team up and gradually learn to respect each other. Smart won a 2021 Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy Series and Einbinder was nominated as a Best Supporting Actress. A second season will follow in 2022.

Mare of Easttown (2021)—In this crime drama limited series starring Kate Winslet and Jean Smart among others, Winslet plays a detective investigating a murder in a small town near Philadephia. With many personal family problems as well as professional challenges, Winslet investigates a murder and a kidnapping as she navigates a treacherous situation. For her performance, she won an Emmy in 2021 as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The series has been praised by critics for its screenplay, characters, acting and presentation of women.

Underground Railroad (2021)- a beautifully produced and photographed period piece covering the violent and seamier aspects of 19th-century, slavery in America’s south.

Exterminate All the Brutes (2021)- A highly original mini-series documentary, by Raoul Peck, on the origins of white supremacy and slavery from a world perspective.

Ted Lasso (2020)— A sports comedy drama about an American college football coach hired to coach an English soccer team in an attempt by its owner to spite her ex-husband. Its uplifting tone is great therapy. The series became in 2020 the most Emmy-nominated freshman comedy series in Emmy Award history.

Tehran (2020)—A white knuckle, political thriller, beautifully produced, about tensions in the Middle East with a focus on Iran and Israel. New season to start in summer, 2022.

The Morning Show (2020)—Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Caroll, Marcia Gay Harden, and Billy Crudup star as TV journalists in a  chaotic, competitive male-dominated corporate environment during the “me-too” era. The series received multiple Emmy Awards in 2020.  Second season started in October, 2021. Third season likely to be released in fall, 2022.

The Queen’s Gambit (2020)—A troubled, young orphan played by Anya Taylor-Joy discovers she’s a chess prodigy and must confront her demons to achieve her dreams. The limited series won multiple Emmy awards.

All Creatures Great and Small (2020). A wholesome, feel-good series about the trials and tribulations of a Yorkshire veterinarian, his family and friends during idyllic, pre-World War II England. A third season is expected to be released in fall, 2022.

Clickbait (2018)— A white-knuckle, who-done-it thriller that is beautifully acted. Very entertaining if you can accept some implausible twists in the narrative.

The Marvelous Ms. Maisel (2017)—Rachel Brosnahan stars as a beautiful woman in 1950s New York who establishes herself as a stand-up comedian. A multiple Emmy award-winning series. New season started in early 2022.

Godless (2017) — a riveting, western drama about a ruthless gang of outlaws and residents of a small town seeking justice. Outstanding performances by Jeff Daniels, Michelle Dockery and Merritt Wever. Won several Emmys for acting and and for cinematography.

The Crown (2016)—Multiple Emmy award-winning biopic of England’s royal family. New season to begin in late 2022.

Schitt’s Creek (2015)— the hilarious multi award-winning series about a previously well-to-do family trying to make a comeback.  The approximately 20-minute episodes, as addictive as popcorn, offer positive messages about self-reliance, the importance of family, and social inclusiveness. The series “cleaned up” at the 2020 Emmys.

Grace and Frankie (2015)—hilarious comedy starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. Two competitive female friends face the music when their husbands disclose their gay relationship .

Better Call Saul (2015)— Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn star  in this series about a lawyer (and his partner) who can’t avoid trouble (a prequel to the hit series Breaking Bad). The final season will be released sometime in late spring, 2022.

Longmire (2012)—A modern western set in Wyoming.  Robert Taylor stars as an honest, upright Wyoming sheriff who faithfully preserves law and order while dealing with multiple professional and personal issues

Breaking Bad (2008)— Bryan Cranston struggles as a troubled schoolteacher in this mega-hit. Also stars Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks and Giancarlo Esposito.

 

Recent Movies

Belfast (2021)- Directed by Kenneth Branagh and nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director for the Academy Awards, the movie is a poignant, semi-autobiographical film which chronicles the life of a working class family and their son’s childhood during the political tensions of the late 1960s in northern Ireland. The screenplay, acting and gorgeous black and white cinematography are especially wonderful. The film’s narrative unfolds spontaneously, rather like a documentary film captured in real time.

Don’t Look Up (2021)—Written and directed by Adam Mckay and featuring an all-star cast (Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Leonardo de Caprio and others), this social satire with sci-fi overtones is simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. The movie’s disturbing messages are delivered with comedic packaging and is wildly entertaining. In fact, it has been one of the most widely screened, recent movies on Netflix and was nominated for multiple Golden Globe and Academy Awards.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It (2021)— Discover in this fabulous documentary how Moreno overcame a humble upbringing and incredible odds as a woman from Puerto Rico in Hollywood and became one of a select group of Emmy, Grammy Oscar, and Tony winners. In fact, she’s one of the most incredible talents in showbiz history!

West Side Story (2021)Steven Spielberg’s version of this classic musical starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose and Rita Moreno. Streaming on Disney Plus.

The Last Duel (2021)- Based on a true story in medieval Europe, this drama thriller is about a love triangle, women’s rights, and, ultimately, a duel to the death.  Stars Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver and British actress Jodie Comer. The movie represents a reunion of the Damon-Affleck writing, producing, and directing team.

Passing (2021)- Set in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance, this dramatic, beautifully filmed black and white drama explores U.S. racism and black identity issues in the Jim Crow era.

Munich, The Edge of War (2021)- Set in the fall of 1938, this gripping drama is about a failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Nightmare Alley (2021)- An Academy Award-nominated psychological thriller with a circus of eccentric characters starring Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchette.

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)— This drama, based on true events, tells of an FBI informant who infiltrates the Black Panthers and aids the capture and death of Chicago Panthers leader Fred Hampton

I Care A Lot (2021)—an entertaining thriller based loosely on real life scams of senior citizens. Stars Rosamund Pike as an opportunist taking advantage of assisted living seniors She won a Golden Globe Best Actress for this one.

Breaking Boundaries, The Science of the Earth (2021)-David Attenborough’s latest documentary about the perilous challenges of climate change.

A Life on our Planet (2020) —Ninety-four-year-old David Attenborough’s latest documentary. The renowned English filmmaker and naturalist calls this his final statement about the world’s environments. The film offers gorgeous cinematography and a wake-up call for mankind to protect the planet.

My Octopus Teacher (2020)—A father re-connects with Nature and affirms what’s important in life in this beautiful, award-winning documentary.

Wild Mountain Thyme (2020)—Emily Blunt stars in this compelling, beautifully-acted Irish love story

News of the World (2020)—Tom Hanks stars as an aging civil war veteran who returns a young girl to her relatives after she was was taken in by Kiowa Indians and raised as one of them.

The Trial of the Chicago Seven (2020)— This Oscar and Golden Globe nominated film is based on the infamous 1969 trial of seven defendant scharged by the Federal government with conspiracy and more, all arising from the countercultural protests in Chicago at the Democratic Nationla Convention

Burden (2020)—A true story about love and redemption in Laurens, South Carolina.—a young man makes the difficult decision to leave the Klu Klux Klan and start a new life. Forest Whitaker as the black reverend is wonderful as is the rest of the cast. This film won the Sundance audience award.

Minari (2020)— A Korean family tries to adapt to life in Arkansas and learns the value of resilience and family in this Oscar and Golden Globe winning production

The Mauritanian (2020)—A true story Starring Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbach. She plays a lawyer determined to seek justice for a Guantanamo prisoner.

Promising Young Woman (2020)– Carey Mulligan stars in this very original female, revenge story.

The Good Liar (2019)— Ian McGregor and Helen Mirren star in this sophisticated cat and mouse drama about revenge after troublesome WW2 events.

The Best of Enemies (2019)—Based on a true story in Durham, North Carolina about the unlikely relationship between a civil rights activist and a Klu Klux Klan leader.

Just Mercy (2019)—A true story about a young, Harvard Law School lawyer determined to get justice for an African American death row inmate wrongly accused of murdering an 18-year-old woman. Great cast including jamie Foxx and Michael Jordan.

Ride Like a Girl (2019)— An Australian biographical sports drama based on the true story of the first female to win the coveted Melbourne Cup competition in 2015.

Ford v. Ferrari (2019)— Matt Damon, Christian Bale, and Tracy Letts star in this true, exciting story about a legendary race at Le Mans in 1966.

Green Book (2018)— This heartwarming dramedy is a the true story about the relationship between a black concert pianist and his white chauffeur (played by Viggo Mortensen) as they tour the early 1960s South.

Red Joan (2018 )‑ A drama thriller starring Judi Dench, based on a true story, about a retired widow unexpectedly charged with treason by the British Secret Service on suspicion that she provided classified information to Russia, including details about the building of the atomic bomb.

Morning Glory (2017) a young journalist played by a dynamic Rachel McAdams tries to turn around  a TV news show.  Also starring Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton.

Genius (2016)— A compelling Aretha Franklin biopic tells a story never fully related before

Cafe Society (2016) and Midnight in Paris (2011). Our two favorite Woody Allen films.

Spotlight (2015)— A biographical drama directed by Tom McCarthy, it tells the true story of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe who uncovered the Boston area sex scandals within the Catholic Church. This film is created so realistically, it’s like viewing a documentary in real time. Great performances by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber and Stanley Tucci. It won an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Hot Pursuit (2015) — An action comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Sophia Vergara who both shine in this hilarious relationship between a Latin drug lord’s wife and a straight, play-it-by- the-rules female cop.

The Railway Man (2013)—Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star in this true story of redemption in the aftermath of WW2

Hemingway and Gellhorn (2012)— Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman play Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, respectively. From their meeting in Key West to high adventures in various war zones in Europe and Asia and, finally, to Gellhorn’s divorce from him, the narrative covers the ups and downs of this tumultuous relationship.

Great Expectations (2012)— The most recent, wonderful movie adaptation of our favorite Dickens novel, starring Helen Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Holly Grainger and Jeremy Irvine (as Pip). Precursors include the 1946 classic movie by David Lean and the 1998 modern take on the story starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Ethan Hawke and Robert DeNiro.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert de Niro, this very poignant romantic conedy was well-received and was nominated or won multiple Academy Awards and Golden Globe awards. Lawrence won an Academy Award for Best Actress.

City Island (2009) A hilarious dramedy, this one about a dysfunctional family in which everyone has dark secrets not revealed until an unforgettable, life-changing event near the end of the narrative. Directed by Raymond De Felitta, the film stars Andy Garcia (in an atypical role), Alan Arkin, Emily Mortimer and Julianna Margulies.

Up (2009) A 3-D computer-animated comedy/drama adventure film from Pixar. This is essentially a poignant love story with many uplifting life lessons. Directed by Pete Docter, the film received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, making it the second animated film in history to receive such nominations.

Valkyrie (2008)— A thriller starring Tom Cruise based on an actual attempt by German officers to assassinate Hitler in the waning days of WW2.

Cadillac Records (2008)— a dramatic, biographical drama about the rise of Chicago-based Chess Records  and its role in promoting the careers of the early blues and rock and roll music greats, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Little Walters, Etta James and others.

 

Classics

De-Lovely (2004) A poignant biopic about composer Cole Porter directed by Irwin Winkler and starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. Beautifully designed and filmed. And, of course, the music is magical.

Road to Perdition (2002)— A successful and compelling American  period crime drama starring Paul Newman (in his last great role), Tom Hanks, Jude Law, Stanley Tucci, and Daniel Craig.

Best In Show (2000) A hilarious mockumentary comedy written and directed by Christopher Guest. Much of the dialogue was improvised during filming. A lot of the comedy relates to the personalities of some overly serious dog owners at a prestigious show that match those of their animals!

Gladiator (2000)—Russell Crowe stars as a gladiator seeking revenge against the Roman emperor played by Joaquin Phoenix in this epic loosely based on historical characters.

The Winslow Boy (1999) In early 20th-century England, a father dramatically risks everything to defend his young son who was wrongly accused of stealing a small sum of money and faces being expelled from the Royal Navy Academy. Based on an actual event that set legal precedents, it’s all about standing up for one’s principles and beliefs. Various subplots add depth to the main narrative. Directed by David Mamet with great performances by British actor Jeremy Northam and others.

A Simple Plan (1998)— Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Brigitte Fonda star in this riveting crime thriller

 As Good As It Gets (1997)—Jack Nicholson at his outrageous best! Directed by James Brooks and also starring Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear and Cuba Gooding Jr. A wonderful dramedy with unforgettable characters. Received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Both Nicholson and Hunt won simultaneous Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively…as they say, as good as it gets!

Good Will Hunting (1997) Stars Robins Williams, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck about the redemption of a young man who is discovered to have “genius” level talents.

Liar, Liar (1997)— Jim Carrey and Jennifer Tilley star in this classic comedy in what is perhaps Carrey’s most hilarious performance. He was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor in a Comedy.

Legends of the Fall (1994) — Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Julia Ormond star in this early 20th century western saga. Nominated for three Academy Awards and won for Best Cinematography.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman star in this story about a man who is imprisoned wrongly for two consecutive life terms. Received multiple Academy Award nominations and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Forrest Gump (1994) Tom Hanks and Robin Wright star in this multi-Academy Award winning movie about a retarded man who becomes successful in spite of his handicaps. The importance of love, loyalty, courage, serendipity and doing what you love are inspiring themes that are poignantly conveyed.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) — A classic, love story with a great sound track  starring Tom Hanks, and Melanie Griffith.

Dead Poets Society (1989) Robin Williams stars as an inspiring, unorthodox teacher at an elite and very conservative Vermont boarding school. The movie received various Oscar nominations and the BAFTA award for Best Film, among other accolades

Moonstruck (1987) —This wonderful, romantic dramedy stars Cher and Nicholas Cage. Cher won an Oscar for Best Actress and Cage should have also won.

Broadcast News (1987)— a riveting drama about intrigue among strong personalities in the television industry starring Holly Hunter and William Hurt.

George Stevens: A Filmmakers Journey (1984)— A wonderful biopic of this legendary film director. His credits include Shane, A Place in the Sun, Giant, Alice Adams and The Diary of Anne Frank, among others.

Sudden Impact (1983)— Clint Eastwood is Dirty Harry in this classic with more memorable one-liners than any other film.

The Verdict (1982)-This riveting courtroom drama stars Paul Newman as a lawyer down on his luck who seeks redemption. Also features actress Charlotte Rampling.

Network (1976)— High drama in the television industry starring Faye Dunaway, William Holden and Robert Duvall.

Cabaret (1972)— This raucous musical set in 1930s Berlin stars Liza Minnelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey.

Wait Until Dark (1967) A riveting, nail biting crime thriller with Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)— Academy Award-winning story about race relations in the South starring Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)— An American biographical crime thriller starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. It’s a landmark film that broke many cinematic taboos related to showing sex and violence. It won two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)— An award-winner movie about racism and interracial marriage in the South. The themes remain relevant 50 years later. Katherine Hepburn won an Oscar for Best Actress and Spencer Tracey and Sidney Poitier were excellent. Sadly, Tracey passed away just 17 days after the film wrapped.

How the West Was Won (1962)— a true western epic with an all-star cast including Jimmy Stewart, Karl Malden, Carol Baker, Debbie Reynolds and others. The narrative follows the fortunes of  a family as they deal with the challenges of life on the western frontier in the 19th century.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)—classic Manhattan love story starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard and adapted from a Truman Capote novella.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)— With Stanley Kramer directing and an all-star cast—Spencer Tracey, Maximilian Schell, Montgomery Clift, Richard Widmark, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, and many more—this film won multiple awards too numerous to list here. It’s an excellent, nuanced conveyance of the perpetrators of evil by those who should have known better.

Spartacus (1960)—Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov and Jean Simmons star in this epic, historical drama about the leader of a slave revolt in the Roman Empire. Great sound track. The movie earned multiple Academy Awards.

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)— Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, the movie is based on Frank’s WW2 diary. This Oscar-winning movie stars Millie Perkins and includes a stunning performance by Shelley Winters.

East of Eden (1955) — Compelling drama and love story set in early 20th century California. Based on the John Steinbeck novel, the movie  stars James Dean and Julie Harris.

Shane (1953)— The classic western about a lone gunslinger facing the end of an era at the close of the 19thcentury. This epic transcends the western genre and covers much more: how a strong character can become a transformative influence; the coming of age of a young boy; a love story; and the major issues related to settlement of the 19th-century American wilderness.  Directed by George Stevens (a master) and starring Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance and Brandon deWilde . Woody Allen has called it “the greatest film ever made.”

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)— The story of man struggling with his past and trying to find meaning in his life. Ultimately an upbeat movie that calls for looking on the bright side. Another Frank Capra classic starring Jimmy Stewart.

Casablanca (1942)—Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman star in this classic WW2 romantic drama

You Can’t Take It With You (1938)—An early Frank Capra classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Jean Howard with a positive challenge to make the most of one’s life by focusing on your passion.

Musicals: Carousel (1956) Sound of Music (1960) My Fair Lady (1964), Mary Poppins (1966), Mary Poppins Returns (2018), and Showboat(1936)—all classics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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