Saturday, June 24, 2017

The 50 Best Film Ensembles with Adam Spector: Part I of IV


What makes a great ensemble? A small slice of awards season is focused on a best ensemble award (which is gravely misunderstood) but there’s not a lot of actual discussion on ensembles which is why after mulling over a few ideas to explore this topic (there’s a poll I’ve been running as well), and settling on a cross-blogging project with my friend Adam Spector of Adam’s Rib. We each independently listed our fifty favorite film ensembles and will have four rounds of discussion as we reveal our lists from bottom to top. Over the course of the series, the hope is to point out surreptitious strokes in casting; explore the way films are enhanced by actors on the bench; appreciate how certain groups of actors bounce off each other in a way to be more than the sum of their parts; and remember how certain actors in the background enhance our favorite films. In other words, we'll discover what a great ensemble is as we go along:

Adam's list 31-50
31.   Juno 32.   Day for Night 33.   Citizen Kane 34.   Grand Hotel 35.   Hannah and Her Sisters 36.   Murder on the Orient Express 37.   Bonnie and Clyde 38.   Love Actually 39.   Prairie Home Companion 40.   Slacker 41.   Breaking Away 42.   Stand by Me 43.   The Princess Bride 44.   City of God 45.   LA Confidential 46.   Big Lebowski 47.   Office Space 48.   Crimes and Misdemeanors 49.   One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 50. Saving Private Ryan

Orrin's Reaction:


I know Citizen Kane is a masterpiece, but I feel like Magneficient Ambersons is the better ensemble. While Citizen Kane pretty much highlights a  single great performance, Magnificent Ambersons is a much more even-keeled piece and brings stars such as Anne Baxter and Tim Holt on board. It also allows Agnes Moorehead and Joseph Cotten more screen time and those guys are both kind of wasted in Citizen Kane. For me, Cotten (a native Virginian! 804 represent!) is the man who symbolized his era more than Welles as an actor. 



If I had to choose a Coen Brothers film, I would probably choose Fargo which a lot of film critics thought was their best film before sun-dried West Coast pot aficionados (and wannabes alike) made this film not just a cult classic but a cult in its own right. In terms of the ensemble, the oddball criminal roles of Jerry Lundegaard and Carl Showalter feel like roles that Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy (neither conventionally good looking guys) are born to play and Frances McDormand is simply enormous in this Oscar-winning role (deservedly so). It's nice to see Philip Seymour Hoffman pop up during that period in his filmography where he could do no wrong with his script choices and if you like seeing John Goodman go over the top, it will never get better than this. I concede that these performances all work and if the comedy is as sweet for you as it is for the Lebowski heads, then this film works based on the performances, but I wonder if you're not being too caught up in the cult status of the film when comparing this to other Coen brothers films.


It's been too long since I've seen The Princess Bride (age 11) but I agree it's a good comic choice: There are a lot of different textures of comic actors with different stylings and the way they cast for size (If I'm not mistaken there's a giant character in there as well as some very scrawny characters) is pretty smart. That Cary Elwes didn't have much of a career after this sort of makes his performances here more iconic as he's so well cast as an Errol Flynn type. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one that I have on my list as well. How can you not? The leads both won well-deserved Oscars so it's hard to argue against them, and the supporting class includes Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd in roles that really seem very un-DeVito and un-Christopher-Lloyd which takes on more meaning because I don't think audiences in 1975 had a way of knowing that DeVito and Lloyd would both establish strong screen personas: the former as a seedy (sometimes curmudgeonly) lowlife, and the latter as a wide-eyed crazy guy. And then Brad Dourif is really something else here.

Juno might be there if I expanded the list. I have trouble getting behind Michael Cera personally despite the rest of the cast. Did you view him as a handicap or a plus?


Vanity Fair

LA Confidential is one I blanked out on but it's certainly worthy of inclusion. Guy Pierce, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Spacey play the three leads which is a pretty solid get (on two of those three fronts). Russell Crowe was on the verge of becoming the next big thing and Kevin Spacey was already at that stage. Character actor James Cromwell really is an extremely unlikely villain. And DeVito again! Ironically, I can barely remember what Oscar winner Kim Basinger did in this movie.



I never really thought abut Office Space until you bought it up but it certainly does have a multi-faceted and diverse  (if you count the Indian guy) in the ensemble and David Hermann, who was a pretty solid sketch actor on the oft-maligned sketch series "Mad TV" has one of his few visible roles as "Michael Bolton" there. Do you think Ron Liviginston deserves much of the credit? His history  since has shown he's not exactly star material.I was also not particularly impressed with Jen Aniston. Sure she's a great actress, but considering she showed even more depth and really could act in The Good Girl three years later. Retroactively, it makes her performance here look like Jen Aniston in her period of untapped potential. 
 
City of God is a good choice because casting child actors and unknowns is always impressive (although I can't speak to how well-known these actors were to the Brazilian film industry when director Fernando Meirelles cast them). It's similar to Mel Gibson's commendable way of assembling the cast of Apocalypto,


Orrin's List 31-50:
31. American Graffiti 32. Almost Famous 33. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 34. The Wild Bunch 35. Little Miss Sunshine 36. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 37. Django Unchained 38. The Player 39. Five Easy Pieces 40. Road to Perdition 41. Ball of Fire 42. Manchurian Candidate 43. 12 Years a Slave 44. Anchorman 45. The Station Agent 46. 12 Angry Men 47. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf 48. The Birdcage 49. Salt of the Earth 50. Dreamgirls
Adam's Response:
First I had to define what a great ensemble was.  For me it’s a group of actors where many of them make an impression, from the leads, to the supporting players to the ones that you might only have for one scene. 

Comparing our lists, it’s clear that Robert Altman immediately jumps to mind.  I had Prairie Home Companion and you had The Player.  I have a couple of his other films higher on my list, and could have had more if we expanded. That’s fitting for a man known for his ensemble casting.  In the 70s, that’s because he cultivated a cast stock company of actors he discovered.   In the 90s it was also because stars would take well below their usual salary to work with him.   I highly recommend Robert Altman: The Oral Biography by MitchellZuckoff.  The book quotes actors describing why they were drawn to Altman and his projects.  It also describes how Altman created a collaborative environment on the set where everyone felt valued.  It’s fitting that the Independent Spirit Awards named their cast award (that includes the cast, director, and casting director) after Altman. 




If you blanked on LA Confidential I did the same with 12 Angry Men.  It was Sidney Lumet’s first film and the only one Henry Fonda produced.  Going in Lee J. Cobb was the only other known star in the film besides Fonda.  But Lumet had worked in live television, and surrounded Fonda with talent.  Some of them were veteran character actors like Martin Balsam and Ed Begley, who later won an Oscar for Sweet Bird of Youth.  Others were up-and-coming younger actors, who went on to have impressive careers, such as Jack Warden and Jack Klugman.   The actors gelled together, and with Lumet’s increasingly claustrophobic shooting, made the film just as riveting now as it was 60 years ago.  The Wild Bunch is another I should have included.  Holden and Borgnine were the stars, but it also helped propel supporting players Warren Oates and Ben Johnson to starring roles in the 70s. 

Ball of Fire is too often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be with Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, a young Dana Andrews and a fine supporting cast.  Road to Perdition is a bit uneven as a film, but it does have Paul Newman in his last great film role along with Tom Hanks, Jude Law, the always dependable Stanley Tucci, and of course Daniel Craig, showing his range four years before he became Bond.   

We both included comedies in our picks, and you’ll continue to see them in my selections.  As we have discussed in the Cinema Lounge, comedy skill often isn’t considered “serious acting” but actors themselves will tell you how hard it is.  Anchorman is an excellent choice.  Will Ferrell is always good at picking projects he doesn’t have to get all of the laughs.  The fight scene alone makes this one deserving, with Tim Robbins as the PBS anchor (“No commercials,no mercy.”) Luke Wilson, and Ben Stiller.   

Fargo, No Country for Old Men, O Brother Where Art Thou? or countless other Coen Brothers films are also terrific choices, but that does not take away from the stellar ensemble work in Lebowski.  Jeff Bridges and John Goodman are the standouts, but the film gives so many other fun performances for them to play off of, from Peter Stomare and his nihilists, Julianne Moore in her Viking outfit, David Huddleston as the other Lebowski, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the slimy yes man, and of course John Turturro as “The Jesus.”  The more you go back to rewatch the films the more these other actors stand out.  Speaking of the late, great Hoffman kudos for including Almost Famous.  You’ll see that on my list later, 

Regarding Juno, I view Cera as a plus for this particular type of role, just as he was for Superbad.  Plus Juno, besides Page in the lead role, had Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner and the two of my favorites, Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons. 
Citizen Kane is much more than Orson Welles, cast-wise.  See it again, and watch how many of the other players stand out, even those that have limited screen time.   Everett Sloane, playing Bernstein, has a poignant scene as he describes a woman he never saw again but whose image is burned in his memory.  Cotten did not have as large a part as he did in Ambersons but he effectively serves as an audience surrogate as his character gradually grows disillusioned with Kane.  Dorothy Comingore is heartbreaking as the tragically untalented opera singer, while George Coulouris is hilarious as the textbook definition of an uptight banker. 

I never saw Salt of the Earth, but will look for it now. The only one on your list that I question is Five Easy Pieces. Nicholson had one of his iconic turns, but no one else really stood out.


Getty Images

Aside from its groundbreaking role in film history, Bonnie and Clyde boasts an abundance of talent.  Beatty and Dunaway (now also linked due to the Oscars mishap 50 year later) both give you the charisma and depth you expect from your stars.  Estelle Parsons deservedly won an Oscar for her turn as Clyde’s sister-in-law.  The film put Gene Hackman on the map and brought notice to a then little-known stage actor named Gene Wilder.   Michael J. Pollard also garnered an Oscar nomination as CW Moss, another member of the Barrow gang, and Dub Taylor is equally good as Moss’s father.   This brings me back to how I define an ensemble in the first place, where many actors play their part in making a great movie.  It’s the big names we notice at first, but one of the joys in going back and seeing these films again is experiencing the smaller, but no less crucial performances. 


Orrin: How to define a great ensemble is coming to me as I mill through this exercise.

There's a film with a deep bench supporting its stars like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or films by the Coen Brothers or Frank Capra which tend to surround stars with great talent. Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Alfre Woodward and Benedict Cumberbatch are all so memorable in "12 Years a Slave" you forget Brad Pitt is there. The flipside of that is a film like "Road to Perdition" where Daniel Craig, Stanley Tucci and Jude Law blend so seemlessly with such great performances that you hardly notice they're there. I only discovered the cast had such great actors in it retroactively, and of course this is (with the exception of "Captiain Phillips") the only time in the past 15 years or so that Tom Hanks has done something exciting.  





There are films which tend to deflect star power into something where a lot of people have a chance to shine like a Robert Altman film ("The Player" wouldn't fall into this as Tim Robbins gives such an enormous performances, but the rest of his films do), Grand Hotel  or Little Miss Sunshine. 12 Angry Men technically has Fonda as a lead but it's really everyone's film in a way. It's also a film in which one could argue that Ed Begley gives the most commanding performance.  

There's also great chemistry and the way certain stars bounce off each other.  "Juno" has a lot of great ways in which people bounce off each other. The uber-hip Ellen Page character contrasts extremely well against the famously gruff J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney (and by the way, thank you for spelling out that name so I don't have to look it up) fits perfectly as a pragmatic middle ground in an understated role. Similarly, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner are roughly the same age and have generally played hippish yuppie types but there's a tension between them and their ultimate mismatch grows evident.They are a parallel to the Janney-Simmons pairing on the surface but a relationship isn't just about a surface-level match.

It's in this spirit that I selected "Five Easy Pieces": To me the most striking contrast is between Susan Anspach and Karen Black, two beautiful women of different classes who represent entirely different things to Bobby and his struggle over which class he belongs in. I also like that many of the characters outside the two female leads seem to effortlessly fall into lower class or upper crust.




I also tried to highlight casting choices that are innovative or bold.  My pick Dreamgirls featured three big gambles among its five main principles: Beyoncee, Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy and they were all extraordinarily successful. I agree that the three leads of "Ball of Fire" are great but I particularly like how they managed to cast seven actors of the older generation that meshed so well as the seven professors (which Hawks intended to be an allegory of the Seven Dwarves).

As for Salt of the Earth, the film was directed by Hollywood 10 blacklisted director Herbert Beiberman and a blacklisted screenwriter in 1953 which naturally meant it had no chance of getting distributed or funded by the studios it only played in 13 theaters despite great reviews. The film, about a mining strike, was co-produced with the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers and had only two union actors, Will Geer and Mexican Rusaura Revueltas who was deported mid-production. The rest of the cast was miners and locals (all of whom are surprisingly competent) and some of them were invited to review the dailies for accuracy and help out with production in other ways.



To close out this round, let me ask you one last question about a film I've never even heard of before. "Slackers": I see muiltiple titles on it for IMDB and have never heard of such a film, so please fill me in.

Adam: I will need to find Salt of the Earth That had to have taken courage to make that film during the height of McCarthyism.   Since you enjoyed that, please see Matewan which I could have easily included on my list.  Directed by indie stalwart John Sayles, it’s also about a mining strike, this one in 1920s West Virginia.  

You asked about Slacker It’s the film that put writer-director Richard Linklater (whose work you will see again on my list) on the map.  He follows a series of strange people in Austin, going from one person to another.  It’s different from an Altman type of piece because there’s no larger story, and the film, for the most part, does not go back to characters it leaves.   These include an anarchist, a conspiracy theorist and a young woman trying to sell what she claims is Madonna’s pap smear.  The actors were unknown then and remain so 26 years later.  But each one of them present a vivid, fleshed out person who you enjoy spending a few minutes with.  You get a brief glimpse into their world and then move on to the next one.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

What was all the fuss about with "Sense 8" a S1 review

Sense8 was cancelled this past month in a blow to many fans who loved the show's entirely unique take on the superhero genre, its global reach and its inclusive cast of characters. The show was a little sappy and not as strong in Season 2 but it was a very novel show. While I'm glad the show got to two seasons and I don't blame Netflix for what must have been a difficult financial project to bring to fruition, but it is unfortunate that the Wachowski siblings (most notably of "Matrix" fame) often aren't appreciated for their grandiose scale of film making. Here is my Season 1 review that was originally published at Hidden Remote:

Netflix has been releasing series at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace which is why many will likely have missed Sense8 but the ambitious series from the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) and J. Michael Stracynski (Babylon 5) has a lot of ambition and would surely gain notice in a less crowded television landscape.

 Sense8 isn’t doing itself any favors with a tagline as grandiose (from Netflix’s press release) as “a gripping global tale of minds linked and souls hunted.” There’s no denying though, that its a show of high ambitions both in production value and theme.

While there are occasional moments of self-indulgence, the episodic structure and the slow creep of serialized storytelling in Golden Age TV allow Sense8 to deliver on the Wachowskis’ grandiose sensibilities in a way that a film version of this material might not be able to pull off. In other words, this is a serialized series with about as slow of a burn as your average TV drama in this day and age.

It takes some time to get invested in the eight principal characters and an even longer time to understand what these eight disparate stories have to do with each other. At the start, all we have to go on is a dying woman (Daryl Hannah, a lot less chirpy than her Splash role) and a phenomenon of eight unrelated people across the world appearing in each other’s visions and in some cases inhabiting each other’s bodies. Why these people don’t try flying to each other’s countries or even contacting them through facebook/email/skype to double check if they’re just hallucinating is beyond me.

It’s also been noted that these all happen to coincidentally be very good-looking people but that’s how TV goes and there is a tremendous amount of diversity to celebrate here aside from the ugliness demographic: We have a widowed Icelandic DJ (Tuppence Middleton as Riley) living in London whose boyfriend gets her in trouble with a drug purchase gone awry; a closeted Mexican soap opera star (Miguel Angel Silvestre as Lito) who is in love but can’t come out for professional reasons; a diamond thief in Berlin (Max Riemelt as Wolfgang) going after an ambitious heist that will put him in the crosshairs of family politics; a pharmacist in India (Tina Desai as Kala) sentenced to marry someone she doesn’t love; a Korean businesswoman moonlighting as an ultimate fighter (Doona Bae as Sun) in the midst of a family scandal; a transsexual blogger and hacker (Jamie Clayton as Nomi) living in San Francisco; and a bus driver in Nairobi with an affinity for Jean Claude Van Damme (Ami Ameen as Capheus) whose bus route goes through gang territory.

The eighth sensate, Chicago cop Will Gorski (Brian J Smith), has a storyline that puts him more in contact with the big grand mystery. While things are being revealed, the sensates are mostly content to accept their pseudo-teleportation powers and put them to full use by lending one another their fighting moves (Sun), hacking ability (Nomi), wisdom (Capheus), or in the most extraneous example, simply plopping down on the couch and watch a Van Damme film (Seriously, we did not need that scene, Kala and Capheus).

To call this a conventional superhero story would be misleading as no one’s trying to save the world. It’s more comparable to the 1990’s computer game Mist (If I may date myself) where you’re plopped down on an island without even knowing the game objective (and, yes, that was frustrating to 7th grade me. I wanted bad guys to shoot, damnit!).

Each of these stories offer something although there are varying degrees to which they transcend the standard genre conventions of comic-book-inspired superhero storytelling. In the case of Kala, the storyline seems to be borrowed form a Bollywood musical without the song-and-dance numbers, while Capheus’s storyline is reminiscent of the 2002 film City of God which depicts the inevitability of gang violence in Brazilian favelas.

While I’m often suspicious of a film or TV series with “global ambitious,” there is a lot to be said for how thoroughly Sense8 incorporates place into its storylines right down to the genre elements. Each of the characters, whether it’s the culture in Mexico that would make Lito’s coming out difficult or the need to save face that’s prevalent in East Asian business culture (Sun), is defined by their place and time. By and large, these stories all have staying power (Kala’s doomed marriage as a stand-alone story and Will minus the Sense8 investigation might be the exceptions) with varying degrees of success based on the acting and chemistry. The moments between Riley and her widowed father, for example, have much more staying power than what was likely written for those scenes on paper. 

Similarly, I was very hesitant about shipping any of the sensates partially because of the ickyness and partially because I was hoping to see a show about relationships larger than simple “Will they or won’t they” questions but the romantic pairings were satisfying because they were so wonderfully abstract and unconventional.  As a number of reviews have also noted, the Lito and Nomi storylines offer a highly progressive and eye-opening tale on gay and transgender characters whether the stories are the most well-written on television or not. This is all in keeping with the humanist tone of the series as the characters are generally good guys (Perhaps the most daring storyline belongs to Wolfram in the sense that he’s not a “good guy” by his own acknowledgement) and have interactions with each other that are all beneficial.

This is all enhanced with photography that can be described as gorgeous. A minor complaint, however, is that some of the violence is jarring. The show is admittedly enhanced by storylines that lead to action scenes but some of the characters get very, very violent in a way that literally denies the humanity of others.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Man in the High Castle: Season 1



“Man in High Castle” examines the ins and outs of a hypothetical 1960’s world in which the Axis Powers won the war and U.S. is partitioned between Japan and Nazi Germany with the Rockies acting as a lawless neutral zone of sorts. It’s filled with the kinds of hypotheticals and conjecture that history buffs will eat up with a lot of intrigue for the rest of us.

At the center of it all is a couple in San Francisco trying to keep their noses down in this Orwellian world. Frank Fink works in what looks (from our American middle-class 20th century perspective audience) like a dreary job at a factory for souvenir relics which contrasts well with girlfriend Juliana Crain who doesn’t yet have a job but seems like a woman who’s destined for great things. Perhaps it’s the male gaze of the camera but Crain has the poise and glamor that looks like she owns the screen. This is fitting because the re-appearance of Juliana’s sister moments before being gunned down puts her on a Hithcockian journey (complete with her own MaGuffin in the form of a film from the titular Man in The High Castle) in the mold of Cary Grant (“North by Northwest), Robert Cummings (“Sabetour”) or Robert Donat (“39 Steps”).

It’s a welcome inversion to see a female heroine in the ordinary-man-called-to-be-a-hero mold but it’s hard to ignore that she seems to have a knack for making the wrong decisions. On no less than three occasions, she makes an impulsive decision and leaves trusted comrades out to dry for an enigmatic character, Joe Blake, who functions as the film’s third protagonist but takes too long to develop into something interesting enough to warrant his screen time. Blake is allied with the resistance but also secretly reports to the Third Reich and the actor plays him as too much of a blank slate to really care. There's supposedly supposed to be sexual tension but there are too many reasons that a Bluniana Union would never be remotely feasible and the lack of chemistry between the two leaves us little reason to believe otherwise.
For his part, Frank Fink is a trusty peon of the Japanese Pacific States until three of his family members get murdered. In some ways, his actions in the heat of the moment mirror the impulsive Juliana but his erring on the side of caution posits him as a character defined by a passivity that's repressed inside him until he occasionally explodes. Frank's loyalty to his friends and gradual turning to the side of the good guys makes him a pretty noble figure. His passivity is also a form of thoughtfulness, which is kind of ironic (and even darkly humorous in its over-the-topness) that he has no qualms whatsoever about repeatedly blackmailing and doing whatever the hell he wants to an antiques dealer named Mr Childan who identifies as a "man of culture." Aside from Childan's effeminate manner (it's possible he's supposed to read as closeted gay) that contrasts with Frank's gruff masculinity, there's also the issue of Childan displaying an exaggerated form of Frank's subservience that must get under his skin and add to a hypocrisy of sorts.
Like Childan, the series revolves around a number of characters connected to the three protagonists at various levels of power. It’s pretty rare to find a serialized story so deep that nearly every character on screen has back story that gets interesting the more they’re on. For example, Obengrubberfuhrer (if I lived in this world, I’d be shot pretty quickly for giggling at these German titles) John Smith (Joe Blake’s contact) is an American family man with a strong allegiance to the Third Reich that’s pretty much played straight: He’s a man of his circumstances. It’s interesting, on the surface that he has a general sense of through-the-looking-glass decency in a Nazi uniform, but it’s also interesting that he generally embodies the type of 50’s family patriarch who’s commanding, unilateral, and a little emotionally distant from his kids even as he’s doing things in his best interest. His bad guy status highlights both worlds.

Similarly, a lot of the Japanese characters are even more fascinating for someone who has seen very few on-screen portrayals of Japanese power structures (does “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” count?) whether in an official or underworld capacity. It’s hard to find anyone to admire more than Nokosube Tagomi.




Because it’s such a complex world it takes at least five or six episodes to unwind and its only towards the very end of the season that it starts to get addictive. The plus is that there’s a wide world to delve into but the downside is that it’s a slow burn. When a particularly menacing character, Inspector Kiddo (it seems like many of the Japanese characters were cast on ability to menacing scowl and this guy takes the case) started making an impression on me late in the season, it took me a minute to remember that this man was a guy I should have hated and feared all along since he was responsible for locking up Frank and killing his family.

I’m not sure the degree of Ridley Scott’s involvement but there is a lot of dystopic beauty here that’s similar to “Blade Runner.” This is a world filled with a lot of greys. It's a world of bleak situations, secrets and traces of honor and hope. It's worth sticking around for. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

My 65 favorite film quotes Part II

This is a continuation of Part I of my 60 favorite movie quotes.

33.   Miles Raymond: I was saving this for a special occasion
Maya: You know, the day you open a '61 Cheval Blanc... that's the special occasion.
-Sideways (2004)

The essence here is that there's nothing like doing that one thing you love and if you truly love it, does it matter if you have company for it?
34.   Michael O’Hara: I never make up my mind until it’s over and done with
-The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

This was one of the few quotes that wasn’t on IMDB so I’m not sure if I have it right, but the basic idea is that O’Hara is a man who doesn’t actually make conscious decisions about his plans. Life just happens and whichever way the current takes him is often where he ends up. His only agency, therefore, is allowing himself to be swept up in wherever life takes him.  I often find this sentiment comforting as so much of my stress comes from having to make a decision and I can view this as a worst-case scenario.
  

35.    Henry Drummond: Can't you understand? That if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools? And tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it. And soon you may ban books and newspapers. And then you may turn Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man. If you can do one, you can do the other. Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we'll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!
Judge: I hope counsel does not mean to imply that this court is bigoted.
Henry Drummond: Well, your honor has the right to hope.
-Inherit the Wind (1960)

I was torn between this and the breakdown between the alliance of Drummond (Spencer Tracy) and E.M. Hornbeck (a brilliant Gene Kelly) that left me feeling bittersweet at film’s end since it’s how the film chooses to close out. The two are both sides of the same coin. Drummond pushes for justice here and delivers another big “the reason you suck” speech, but there’s a danger that he’s in love with the principle of justice more than whether what he’s doing is good or bad.


36.  Woody Allen: I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs.
-Annie Hall (1977)

I’m not a humongous fan of Woody Allen relative to the average cinemaphile and, even then, find “Annie Hall” to be one of his less interesting films, but this line is profoundly true about relationships.


37.     Albert: Look, let me tell you something. We live in a terrible place and time. The American West is a disgusting, awful, dirty, dangerous place. Look around you. Everything out here that's not you wants to kill you. Outlaws, angry drunk people, scorned hookers, hungry animals,diseases, major and minor injuries, Indians, the weather. You can get killed just going to the bathroom.
I take my life in my hands every time I walk out to my outhouse. There's fucking rattlesnakes
all in the grass out there. And even if I make it, you know what can kill me? Cholera. You know cholera?
Edward and Ruth: The black shit
Albert: Yeah, the black shit. The latest offering in the frontier's disease-of-the-month club. And even if you survive all those things, you know what else can kill you? The fucking doctor. The doctor can kill you. I had a cold a couple of years ago. I went in there. You know what he said to me? He goes, "Oh, you need an ear nail." A nail in my fucking ear. That is modern medicine for you. "Yeah, Doc, I have a fever of 102." "Oh, you need a donkey kickin'." You know our pastor has shot two people? Our pastor.Honest to God. Shot a guy in a duel and then went back and
killed the guy's teenage son because he was afraid he would kill him out of revenge.
Edward: Wait, how do you know that?
Albert: Because he did a whole fucking sermon about it …..
Albert:: That is our Mayor, he is dead. He has been lying there dead for three days, no one has done a thing. Not moved him, not looked into his death, not even replaced him with a temporary appointee. For the last three days, the highest ranking official in our town, has been a dead guy.  [wolves drag the body away] Oh, look at that, look at that. Wolves are dragging the body away, as to illustrate my point. Bye! Bye, Mr. Mayor. Bye, have fun becoming wolve's shit, Bye. God! That, my friends is the American West
-A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

This monologue from this unfairly maligned film is a complete detachment from any attempt at acting as a character in the Old West and more a stand-up routine as told from a guy living in the 19th Cenutry. 

38.   Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something...
 we Italians, we got our families, and we got the church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the niggers, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have?
Edward Wilson: The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.
-The Good Shepherd (2006)

Matt Damon stars here as the enigmatic Ed Wilson who is a Forrest Gump of sorts for the CIA and the U.S.’s dark underbelly. Wilson is a blank slate of upper class white privilege: a man recruited straight out of Yale into the Skull and Crossbones Society and goes on to do bad things (torture, betrayal, a shotgun marriage, etc.) without ever really questioning his orders. We never get that much of a sense for what makes him tick but this is the closest we get to his views is in this exchange. Joe Pesci plays Palmi in a rare departure from retirement here.


39.    Loki: Easy for you to say. You get off light in razing. You got to stand there and read at Sodom and Gomorrah, I had to do all the work.
Bartleby: What work did you do? You lit a few fires.
Loki: I rained down sulphur, man, there's a subtle difference.
Bartleby: Oh, yeah, I'm sure.
Loki: Hey, you know, fuck you, man. Any moron with a pack of matches can set a fire. Raining down sulphur is like an endurance trial man. Mass genocide is the most exhausting activity one can engage in, next to soccer.
-Dogma (1999)

Kevin Smith’s extremely clever religious satire features two angels of death arguing with each other over who’s done more in service to God outside an arms store. All of this is being said as a befuddled store clerk is watching. I love the kicker “next to soccer”



40.   Todd Anderson: [stands up on his desk] O Captain! My Captain!




Mr. Nolan: Sit down, Mr. Anderson! Do you hear me? Sit down! Sit down! This is your final warning, Anderson. How dare you? Do you hear me?

Knox Overstreet: [climbs up onto his desk] O Captain! My Captain!
Mr. Nolan: Mr. Overstreet, I warn you! Sit down!
 
[Pitts climbs onto his desk, followed by Meeks, then over half the class, one by one]
Mr. Nolan: Sit down! Sit down. All of you. I want you seated. Sit down. Leave, Mr. Keating. All of you, down. I want you seated. Do you hear me? Sit down!
 
John Keating: Thank you, boys. Thank you. -Dead Poets Society (1989)
 

-Dead Poets Society (1989)

“Dead Poets Society” felt like a downer of a film to me when I watched it as a kid but as I grew up and realized the sometimes-cruel logistics of keeping the adult world afloat, I realized how unlikely it would be that Mr. Keating would get invited back to school. In that context, to have the students defy their principal with his biggest lesson is sadly probably the best this innocent man can get. And the way he accepts it with humility and absolves his students of guilt is quite beautiful.


41.  Sugarpuss O'Shea: [about Potts] Yes, I love him. I love those hick shirts he wears with the boiled cuffs and the way he always has his vest buttoned wrong. Looks like a giraffe, and I love him. I love him because he's the kind of a guy that gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk, and I love the way he blushes right up over his ears. I love him because he doesn't know how to kiss, the jerk!
-Ball of Fire (1941)

Sugarpuss O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck) is deeply entrenched in 1930's slang and her jargon is even a plot point of this film. Naturally, every bit dialogue she utters is a lot of fun.

42.  Lorraine Running Water: Do you understand what Bronco Billy and the wild west show are all about? You can be anything you want. All you have to do is go out and become it!
-Bronco Billy (1980)

Bronco Billy is about a stranded heiress (Sondra Locke) who is forced to tag along with a Wild West Show run by Clint Eastwood. The line I also wanted to use from this underrated film was Locke’s character trying to convince Bronco Billy not to go stop a train robbery on account of him not being an actual cowboy. Bronco Billy tells her it’s even worse than that: He was actually a show sales men most of his life. This line is in the same spirit.

 
43.  Elwood P. Dowd: Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.
-Harvey (1950)


44.   Griffin Mill: So, what's the story?
Walter Stuckel: Twenty-five words or less? Okay. Movie exec calls writer. Writer's girlfriend says he's at the movies. Exec goes to the movies, meets writer, drinks with writer. Writer gets conked and dies in four inches of dirty water. Movie exec is in deep shit. What do you think?
Griffin Mill: That's more than 25 words and it's bullshit.
-The Player (1992)


45.  Whip Whitaker: Katarina Marquez did not drink the vodka because I drank the vodka bottles on the plane. I drank the three bottles on the plane.
Ellen Block: Captain Whitaker, on the three nights before the accident, October 11th---
Whip Whitaker: October 11th, October 12th, October 13th and 14th, I was intoxicated, I drank all of those days, I drank in excess.
Ellen Block: On the morning of the accident?
Whip Whitaker: I was drunk….I’m drunk now. I’m drunk right now, Mrs Block…because I’m an alcoholic
-Flight (2012)

This breakdown occurs during a hearing after Whitaker has been deceiving himself and others in a court of law. Shame on you IMDB for not having this up and making me have to transcribe this on YouTube.


46.  Harvey Milk: I ask for the movement to continue. Because it's not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power... it's about the "us's" out there. Not only gays, but the Blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us's. Without hope, the us's give up - I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. So you, and you, and you... You gotta give em' hope... you gotta give em' hope.
-Milk (2008)

I find myself thinking this all the time when it comes to politics or causes. Hope is an underlooked ingredient when it comes to keeping people sane in a world beyond their control. Conversely, hope can be used negatively but I prefer the way the late Harvey Milk spoke about it with nothing but optimism.


47.  Woody Grant: Have a drink with your old man. Be somebody!
AND
David Grant: Well, why did you have kids, then?
Woody Grant: I like to screw, and your mother's a Catholic, so you figure it out.
-Nebraska (2013)

Woody Grant is not an easy character to like and that’s the whole point. This is a story about a son’s evolving question to bond with and serve his father on his father’s own terms. The second line is indicative of Alexander Payne’s rare bits of punchline-based humor.


48.  Dick Goodwin: 21 is rigged and I can prove it... I have Enright cold and that means I have you.
Kitner: Really?
Dick Goodwin: Really.
Kitner: Then how come you're the one who's sweating?
-Quiz Show (1994)

Robert Redford’s underrated “Quiz Show” is memorable (at least for me) because it’s a Moby Dick story of sorts with the proverbial white whale being a McGuffin. Who really cares if a quiz show isn’t on the level? I certainly didn’t, but this was an obsessed man.

 
49.  Katsumoto: And who was your general?
Algren: Don't you have a rebellion to lead?
Katsumoto: People in your country do not like conversation?
Algren: He was a lieutenant colonel. His name was Custer.
Katsumoto: I know this name. He killed many warriors
Algren: Oh, yes. Many warriors.
Katsumoto: So he was a good general.
Algren: No. No, he wasn't a good general. He was arrogant and foolhardy. And he got massacred because he took a single battalion against two thousand angry Indians.
Katsumoto: Two thousand Indians? How many men for Custer?
Algren: Two hundred and eleven.
Katsumoto: I like this General Custer.
Algren: He was a murderer who fell in love with his own legend. And his troopers died for it.
Katsumoto: I think this is a very good death.
Algren: Well, maybe you can have one just like it someday.
-Last Samurai (2003)

This is a film with great dialogue and this snippet displays pretty well Katsumoto’s tendency to talk circuitously through the cultural looking glass while also showing that Algren’s a very dynamic character. This conversation happens early in his development and foreshadows the way the two will go into battle together .


50.  M. Gustave: Get your hands off my lobby boy!
-Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)


51.  Brick Tamland: I love... carpet.
[pause]
Brick Tamland: I love... desk.
Ron Burgundy: Brick, are you just looking at things in the office and saying that you love them?
Brick Tamland: I love lamp.
Ron Burgundy: Do you really love the lamp, or are you just saying it because you saw it?
Brick Tamland: I love lamp. I love lamp.
-Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)


52.  Mr. Memory: Am I right sir?
-The 39 Steps (1935)

SPOILERS AHEAD:
In arguably Hitchcock’s best film from his British period, Mr. Memory is a genius who turns his memorization skills into a sideshow act by  answering esoteric audience questions. After each answer, he follows it with the phrase “Am I right sir?” But he’s more than that: He is used by saboteurs to transmit a secret message. The hero (Robert Donat) exposes the secret  simply by asking for the mysterious secret in front of an open crowd, causing Mr. Memory to get shot. As he’s dying, Mr. Memory asks “Am I right sir?” which is a deliciously macabre bit of irony.



53.  Kathleen Kelly: Last night I went to meet you, and you weren't there. I wish I knew why. I felt so foolish. And as I waited, someone else showed up: a man who has made my professional life a misery. And an amazing thing happened. I was able, for the first time in my life to say the exact thing I wanted to say at the exact moment I wanted to say it. And, of course, afterwards, I felt terrible, just as you said I would. I was cruel, and I'm never cruel.
-You’ve Got Mail (1998)

Even in a film that wasn’t particularly strong, the late Nora Ephron was extremely gifted at observational humor (it’s no surprise she was a best-selling author outside of the standard celebrity memoir genre) that she translated into very personal characters. This line is so relatable for two reasons: My life is filled with moments that I wish I could have redone ten minutes after the fact, and secondly, getting a moment right, often leads to rushing those words out in such a way that your morals or tact might not arrive in time.

54.  Verbal Kint: The Biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist
-The Usual Suspects (1995)

55.  Raymond Shaw: Are we friends, Ben? I wanna believe we were friends.
Ben Marco: We are connected and that's something nobody can take from us. You coulda had me locked up, but you didn't. That's proof that there's something deep inside. There's a part that they can't get to. And it's deep inside of us. And that's where the truth is.
-The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Yes, I’m referring to the remake, don’t laugh. I have plenty of fondness for this version even if it’s nowhere near the late Jonothan Demme’s high-water mark. The gravity of Denzel Washington’s performance makes this a very powerful moment upon which the third act hinges. 

56.  Jimmy Dugan: Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!
-League of their Own (1992)

What most people might miss who view this line out of context is that this moment represents a lot of growth for Dugan who started out being completely apathetic to his lady baseball players.

 
57.  Major Clipton: Madness! Madness!
-Bridge on the River Kwai (1958)

Without giving away the ending, let’s just say Major Clipton perfectly summarizes my baffled reaction at the end of this film’s climax.

58.  Carl Hanraty: Then why are you calling me?
Frank Abagnale Jr: I just wanted to say Merry Christmas
-Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Catch Me If You Can is a historical fallacy (Carl Hanraty didn’t really exist in real life) but a rather touching one at that. Hanraty is a Javert-like-figure for Abergnale Jr. but this exchange of dialogue shows that he might be the closest thing he has to a father in a messed-up way.


59.  Principal: Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
-Billy Madison (1995)
 
Make no mistake, this is a terrible film but even bad films can have a flash of comic intelligence here or there.

60.  Jerry Maguire: Help me…help you. Help me. help you. Help me help you!
-Jerry MaGuire (1996)

 
61.   Sir Charles Litton: No question about it. He was a fool, but he epitomized the eleventh commandment.
Marie Jouvet: The eleventh commandment?
Sir Charles Litton: "Thou shalt not give up".
-The Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)

 
62.   Mia and friends: Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know. The one to finally lift you off the ground. Someone in the crowd could take you where you want to go. If you’re that someone willing to be found.
-La La Land (2016)

63.   Mr. Glenn Holland: Let me ask you a question. When you look in the mirror, what do you like best about yourself?
Gertrude Lang: My hair.
Mr. Glenn Holland: Why?
Gertrude Lang: Well, my father always says that it reminds him of the sunset.
Mr. Glenn Holland: Play the sunset. Close your eyes. 1, 2, 3, 4 [motions her to play]
-Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)

What I love about this advice is very little could be inserted here that doesn't sound cliched and somehow the script finds a piece of advice that's pretty true to the apotheosis of a great educator. It is often said that musical perfection is achieved not just by rehearsing over and over again but through emotionally getting in touch with a song and while I've never conceptually grasped that (I would guess that a Julliard grad could play a line of music without knowing what it's about and it would sound just fine), it feels right in a setting like this.
 
64.  Vivian: Speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them workout a little first, see if they're front runners or come from behind, find out what their hole card is, what makes them run.
Marlowe: Find out mine?
Vivian: I think so.
Marlowe: Go ahead.
Vivian: I'd say you don't like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a little lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free.
Marlowe: You don't like to be rated yourself.
Vivian: I haven't met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?
Marlowe: Well, I can't tell till I've seen you over a distance of ground. You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how, how far you can go.
Vivian: A lot depends on who's in the saddle.
-The Big Sleep (1946)

Exhibit B for why old movies can surprise you lest you think it was all “Leave it to Beaver” and “I Love Lucy.” When I first saw this film, my mouth was gaping open at what I had just witnessed. It helps, of course, that these lines are spoken by Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall who became one of cinema’s enduring couples on and off screen.


65.   Charles W. Kingsfield Jr.: Mr. Hart, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer.
James T. Hart: [pause, as he is leaving the room] You... are a son of a bitch, Kingfield!
Charles W. Kingsfield Jr.: Mr. Hart! That is the most intelligent thing you've said today. You may take your seat.
-Paper Chase (1973)

This line of dialogue masterfully navigates the tension between the two characters as Hart is living in Kingsfield's shadow throughout the movie. The conversation between the two figures is extremely limited before this moment causing this to come off as an explosion of sorts.