“Bull Durham” (1988) starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, & Tim Robbins

A Major League Love Story in a Minor League Town. -Tag line for the movie

It’s the start of the baseball season, and Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), for whom baseball is a “religion,” is in the process of choosing one player on the Durham Bulls (her home team in the Carolina League) who she’ll take under her wing. This player has always gone on to have the best year of his career. She has narrowed her choices to Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins)- the young/undisciplined pitcher- and veteran catcher- Crash Davis (Kevin Costner)- brought in to improve Ebby’s game. Ebby is V eager to “hook-up” w/ Annie when she offers, BUT Crash takes himself out of the running (b/c he doesn’t see “matters of the heart” as a game). It’s obvious that Annie and Crash are attracted to each other. First thing, Annie gives Ebby a nickname- Nuke- which helps boost his confidence. Thus begins Annie, Crash and Nuke’s complicated relationship!

Annie: Right, honey, let’s get down to it. How was Ebby Calvin LaLoosh?

Millie [younger friend/fellow baseball groupie]: Well, he f***s like he pitches – sorta all over the place.

The writer/director, Ron Shelton, was a former minor league baseball player; he played 5 seasons in the Baltimore Orioles farm system. The highest level Shelton reached was w/ the Rochester Red Wings in the Triple-A International League. Kurt Russell helped Shelton develop the script and was slated for to play Crash. After the film was made, Russell was so impressed, he wrote fan letters to Costner and Shelton! Orion Pictures gave Shelton a mere $9M budget (w/ cast members accepting lower salaries than usual b/c of the strong material), an 8-wk shooting schedule, and creative freedom. The film’s box-office success caused Hollywood to produce several more baseball-centered movies over the next few yrs. Though it is meant to be set over a hot/humid Summer, Bull Durham was actually filmed on location in North Carolina in October and November of 1987. The grass had to be touched up w/ green paint and the breath of the actors can be seen in many night scenes.

Crash [giving advice to Nuke during a game]: Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls – it’s more democratic.

Producer Thom Mount (part owner of the real Durham Bulls) hired Pete Bock (former semi-pro baseball player) as a consultant. Bock recruited minor-league players, ran a tryout camp (to recruit an additional 40-50 players), hired several minor-league umpires and conducted two-a-day workouts/practice games w/ Robbins pitching and Costner catching. Bock made sure the actors looked/acted like ballplayers and that the real players acted convincingly in front of the cameras. Shelton decided to cast Costner b/c of the actor’s natural athleticism. The actor was a former HS baseball player and hit 2 home runs (while the cameras were rolling). According to Shelton, Costner insisted “on throwing runners out even when they [the cameras] weren’t rolling.” The actor is also “a switch hitter” (Crash is shown hitting both left and right-handed).

Annie [in voiceover re: Nuke]: The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self awareness.

There are many LOL (or V amusing) moments in this movie. The cute/funny dance scene w/ Nuke and several actresses in the bar was choreographed by Paula Abdul. On my re-watch, I noticed that Annie’s first dress (black top, wide red belt, & black/white checkered skirt) is V similar to the one worn by dancer/actress Vera Allen in White Christmas. As Karina Longworth explained, the R-rating comes more from the profane language rather than the love scenes (NOT daring by today’s standards). These elements are rare for a mainstream/Hollywood film: Annie and Millie are never “slut-shamed” (as they go after what they want); the ballplayers (young/fit) are objectified perhaps more than the women.

This near pitch perfect movie (pun intended) has great dialogue and sparkling chemistry btwn its 3 co-leads. Now, you don’t have to be a fan of baseball or even Costner (who I don’t think has much range) to enjoy this movie. After I saw Costner opposite Sean Young in No Way Out (1987), I thought maybe he has some appeal. The role of Crash suits Costner (33 y.o.) V well; I’m assuming his acting is improved b/c he gets so many great lines. Jeff Bridges turned down the lead, BUT I think he’d have done a fine job. Costner plays well off both Sarandon (confident/mature at 42 y.o.) and Robbins (enthusiastic/boyish at just 30 y.o.) In their different ways, Annie and Crash both serve as mentors to Nuke (who has potential to go to “the big show”- major league). This is where Sarandon and Robbins first met and fell in love. I was surprised that I got a bit emotional in a scene (near the end)!

[1] This film is not only a great sports film, but it is one of the great all around films I have ever seen. This film has it all from romance to comedy to witty dialogue. Susan Sarandon, Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins all brought Ron Shelton’s script to life and the three of them displayed some of the greatest chemistry ever captured on film. This film is a timeless classic.

[2] It is nice to see a movie that attracts more than one kind of audience. This is a comedy, then again a love story. This can be placed in the baseball genre, as well as a coming of age drama. Most movies claim to be one or the other and sometimes fail to be. Then again, when a good movie hits a home run it can not only become a money maker and a box office smash, it can also become timeless. Before they became giants of Hollywood, Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins stars in this great movie as some of the most interesting, yet simple characters. […] Together, the three introduce three different worlds upon the audience. Each are believable characters even though they are in a way, fantasy like. A great story with a perfect ending, Bull Durham is one of those hard to find movies that is a crowd pleaser with just about every audience out there.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (1988) starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, & Lena Olin

Tereza: I know I’m supposed to help you, but I can’t. Instead of being your support I’m your weight. Life is very heavy to me, but it is so light to you. I can’t bear this lightness, this freedom… I’m not strong enough.

Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a young/apolitical/doctor in 1960s Czechoslovakia; he lives the life of a Casanova, working his charm on many women. He is involved w/ a sophisticated artist (“friends w/ benefits” would be the term today), Sabina (Lena Olin). On a trip to operate on a patient in a rural town, he meets/falls hard for a shy waitress, Tereza (Juliette Binoche). In time, Tomas asks Sabina to help find a job for Tereza. The two women (opposites in many ways) meet, share an interest in photography, and become close friends. These three characters are are caught up in the events of the Prague Spring of 1968, until Soviet tanks crush the (non-violent) rebels, and change their lives forever.

Tomas: Some people never change. Some people are always scoundrels.

This is the type of film to recommend to anyone who thinks they can’t be “wowed” by movies anymore! DDL was just 30 y.o. when this film was shot- wow! This is his 1st big movie; he played a quirky/supporting role in A Room with a View (1985). DDL at first turned down the role, feeling the script made Tomas too nice. The script was revised and things from the book (by Milan Kundera) were added, making the character less “perfect.” Speaking of perfection… Roger Ebert wrote that Binoche was “almost ethereal in her beauty and innocence” after watching 23 y.o. French woman’s performance. As the French say: Vive La Binoche! Swedish-born Olin (32 y.o.) has her American film debut; some of today’s single/childfree/independent-minded women may relate to her character. Speaking of Swedes… Stellan Skarsgard (mid-30s) has a small, BUT pivotal role in the 3rd act.

To me, thoughts are fun and art is fun. The strength of our society should not be idle entertainments, but the joy of pursuing ideas. -Philip Kaufman, director

If you want fame, and a beautiful statue made of yourself, don’t be a screenwriter. The writer disappears. He works in the shade. -Jean-Claude Carriere, screenwriter

I was surprised to learn that the director, Philip Kaufman, is an American (NOT European, as I’d assumed). The cinematographer (a respected veteran in his field) is Swedish; Sven Nykvist was know for giving the films he worked on the simplest and most natural look imaginable. Milos Forman personally offered Kaufman the opportunity to direct the movie. Forman had to pass the chance to direct b/c he still had family in Czechoslovakia; he feared for them in case of a negative reaction from the Soviet government (occupying the country at the time). The sequence depicting the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia incorporates real documentary footage of the era shot by students of Prague Film School.

[1] Romanticism originally doesn’t mean romance. The 19th century romantic hero was always a doomed one. The romantic characters long for something larger than life. The frailness, lightness of things is unbearable to those sensitive beings. This is why romantic stories typically end with the death of their heroes. Romanticism is the opposite of Hollywood, as there is no happy end. The epitome of a romantic story is for example “Romeo and Juliet”, where death is preferred to an impossible love story.

Because such intense feelings are a threat, some people try to escape them by taking nothing seriously.

[2] There has been many threesomes in cinematic history. The acting power in these three is one of best. Daniel is able to make the charismatic cad likable. Lena is sexual dynamite. Juliette is pure magic in this one. It is a great threesome against the backdrop of compelling political turmoil.

[3] Highlighting this impeccable picture are three sensational performances, a masterfully adapted screenplay full of beautiful and intriguing dialogue and quite possible the finest cinematography of the ’80s. Day-Lewis perfectly encompasses the charm of Tomas with a subtle charisma that keeps my eyes glued to him every time he appears on screen. The young Juliette Binoche is adorable, shy and emotionally powerful, but also plays it off very subtly. Lena Olin is overwhelmingly seductive and crafts a sense of freedom unlike any I’ve ever seen. These characters are all very human which means they have their fair share of flaws and the performances capture every essence of them so perfectly.

[4] …the film itself has stayed in my mind like few others. Yes, it’s very long, but the characters are so memorable that the length didn’t bother me at all – I loved the time spent in their company. In particular, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin are each astonishing in their own way. Olin is ferociously sensual and mesmerizing, while Binoche is superlatively sympathetic and sensitive. Two of the best female performances I can remember. By the end of the film I was totally wrapped up in these people’s lives. This film is deeply erotic but in an intelligent and adult way…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984)

[first lines]

[Spock’s dying words, repeated from the previous film]

Capt. Spock: Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh…

Kirk: …the needs of the few.

Capt. Spock: Or the one. I have been and always shall be your friend. Live long and prosper.

Spock died (in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). We cried- hey, it was really emotional. Then we learned that Spock could be alive- whoa! In the opening credits, there is an extra long pause between Shatner and Kelley’s names, where Nimoy’s name would normally be. Nimoy takes on the role of director; Nicholas Meyer (who directed the previous 2 films) refused b/c he thought that Spock’s death should’ve remained final. (Meyer would return to direct Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

[their first look at the USS Excelsior]

Uhura: Would you look at that.

Kirk: My friends, the great experiment: The Excelsior. Ready for trial runs.

Sulu: She’s supposed to have transwarp drive.

Scotty: Aye. And if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.

Kirk: Come, come, Mr. Scott. Young minds, fresh ideas. Be tolerant.

Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and the Enterprise crew return to Earth for some essential repairs to their ship. When they arrive at space dock, they’re shocked to discover that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned. Dr. McCoy (DeForrest Kelley) begins acting strangely. Scotty (James Doohan) is re-assigned to another ship. Suddenly, Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard) comes to visit Kirk to see if he holds Spock’s spirit (katra). Once Kirk realizes that McCoy hold the katra, he decides to steal back the Enterprise and travel to the Genesis planet to retrieve the body of Spock. The body must be taken to Mt. Seleyah on Vulcan so it can be joined w/ its katra. Meanwhile, some Klingons are planning to steal the secrets of the Genesis device for their own deadly purpose!

Kirk: You’re suffering from a Vulcan mind-meld, doctor.

McCoy: That green-blooded son of a bitch! It’s his revenge for all the arguments he lost.

The film’s villains were intended to be Romulans, but the studio wanted Klingons to be used (as they were better-known aliens). The Romulan warship was already built and they didn’t want the expense of replacing it. Since TOS had established that Klingons and Romulans had shared tech/ships (for real-world cost-cutting reasons), the idea of Klingons using a Romulan warbird wasn’t a problem. Edward James Olmos was Nimoy’s first choice for the role of Kruge; producer Harve Bennett preferred Christopher Lloyd. Nimoy cast Lloyd b/c he came across as more operatic and physically intimidating. Of course, this could be funny to those who know Lloyd as Doc Brown in the Back to the Future movies. We also see John Larroquette as Maltz, the quiet/thoughtful Klingon.

Kruge: I’ve come a long way for the power of Genesis, and what do I find? A weakling human, a Vulcan boy, and a woman!

Saavik: My lord, we are survivors of a doomed expedition. This planet will destroy itself in hours. The Genesis experiment is a failure.

Kruge: A failure? The most destructive force ever created? You will tell me the secret of the Genesis torpedo.

Saavik: I have no knowledge.

Kruge: Then I hope pain’s something you enjoy.

Production was endangered by the large fire at Paramount Studios. Shatner helped fight the fire and rescue a crew member before firefighters arrived- wow! Shatner said he was concerned re: staying on schedule, as he also had to shoot his TV show- T.J. Hooker. The quiet (yet powerful) scene in where Kirk stumbles back into his captain’s chair after hearing of the death of David was an improvisation by the actor. Shatner was told by Nimoy to do whatever reaction he wanted to do. It’s too bad that Kirk (and we) didn’t get to know David much.

[Kirk and party have commandeered Kruge’s Bird-of-Prey]

Kirk: [to Maltz] You! Help us or die!

Maltz: I do not deserve to live!

Kirk: Fine, I’ll kill you later!

[later, once safely in warp speed]

Kirk: Take care of the prisoner.

Maltz: Wait! You said you would kill me!

Kirk: I lied!

There are some light/humorous scenes in this movie. We learn that Scotty always exaggerated how long it’d take to repair something on the ship. And who didn’t laugh when McCoy tried to do the Vulcan nerve pinch at the alien bar? Scotty told off the talking transporter on the Excelsior. Sulu (George Takei) gets to beat up a (big) security guy. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) pulled a phaser on the young lieutenant who’d made ageist comments (Mr. Adventure), then she transported her crewmates away.

Sarek: Kirk, I thank you. What you have done is…

Kirk: What I have done, I had to do.

Sarek: But at what cost? Your ship. Your son.

Kirk: If I hadn’t tried, the cost would have been my soul.

The dramatic finale on Vulcan really makes this movie! Judith Anderson was 87 y.o. when she appeared as the Vulcan High Priestess; she was encouraged to take this role by her nephew (who was a big fan of TOS). The scenes on the Genesis Planet were shot on the same soundstages used by Cecil B. DeMille in  The Ten Commandments (1956); Anderson played the slave who knew the secret re: Moses’ heritage.

[1] Leonard Nimoy takes the director’s helm and while he does a competent job it is somewhat workmanlike and his experience in TV and not-so-much-experience in feature films shows, loved the focus on the characters and their relationships but it could have been more expansive.

The music by James Horner… It is bombastic and rousing at times but also swelling in romance and sensitivity and beautiful orchestration, the heavy representation of the percussive and dissonant theme for the Klingons was also effective.

‘The Search for Spock’ does have an intelligent script that develops the characters very well indeed…

[2] It seems a lot of people are split on Lloyd but I thought he was pretty good here. I liked seeing him under all the make-up and thought he did a good job even if the role itself wasn’t the greatest. The special effects here are certainly a step up from the previous movie and I’d also say that battle sequences are much better directed.

[3] …I put “The Search for Spock” on a par with my favorite episode of the original Star Trek TV series. That would be ‘Amok Time’ which examined Vulcan rituals and customs, and interestingly, pitted Spock (Leonard Nimoy) against his captain and best friend, James T. Kirk (William Shatner) in a battle to the death. The return to Spock’s home planet in this film was a cool way to bring the story back around to his Vulcan roots and add to the mythology of Star Trek by introducing such concepts as the Fal-tor-pan (the refusion of Vulcan legend), and the soul essence of Vulcans called the ‘katra’.

The battle of wits between Kirk and Kruge brought to mind another favorite TV episode, ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’, a story in which Captain Kirk seemingly made up all that business about a destruct sequence to thwart an overpowering enemy. Apparently it was a good enough idea to incorporate into Star Trek lore as a legitimate way of dealing with an enemy who got the upper hand.

-Excerpts from IMDB comments

“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982)

In the 23rd century, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is an instructor at Starfleet Academy. Kirk is feeling old; he now needs reading glasses, which are given to him by Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley). The prospect of going on his ship (USS Enterprise) on a 2-week training mission doesn’t make Kirk feel any younger. Soon, the ship faces possible danger, when the genetically engineered Khan (Ricardo Montalban) appears after years of exile on a secluded planet. Khan wants to capture Project Genesis (a top secret device holding the power of creation itself) and kill Kirk!

[On whether Kirk should assume command from Spock]

Spock: If I may be so bold, it was a mistake for you to accept promotion. Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material.

Kirk: I would not presume to debate you.

Spock: That is wise. Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Kirk: Or the one.

Spock: You are my superior officer. You are also my friend. I have been and always shall be yours.

This the Trek film that will appeal to BOTH long-time/newbie fans and casual viewers alike! So far, I’ve watched this 3x in the last 6 yrs. The acting is good from all involved, the directing is not flashy (yet tells the story effectively), and it has a few very emotional moments as well. Do you have to be middle-aged to appreciate it fully? Hmm… I’d say no, but it does help!

Executive Producer Harve Bennett was known for being able to make films w/ low budgets; Paramount Studios wanted him to make this film for under $45M. He’d never seen any of TOS; he viewed all the eps and chose Space Seed as the best candidate for a sequel. Bennett realized that one of the problems w/ the Star Trek: The Motion Picture (ST:TMP) was the lack of a strong villain. Gene Roddenberry stayed on as “creative consultant” position. On ST:TMP, Paramount blamed the constant production delays and budget overruns on Roddenberry’s constant meddling and slow script rewrites. This is the first time a feature film was made as a sequel to a specific TV ep.

My intention with Khan was to express the fact that they had been marooned on that planet with no technical infrastructure, so they had to cannibalize from the spaceship whatever they used or wore. Therefore, I tried to make it look as if they had dressed themselves out of pieces of upholstery and electrical equipment that composed the ship. -Robert Fletcher (costume designer)

Director Nicholas Meyer (just 36 y.o.) hadn’t seen any of TOS either; this was only his 2nd movie! Meyer, Bennett, Jack B. Sowards, and Samuel A. Peeples all worked on the screenplay. For the musical score, Bennett chose James Horner (only 28 y.o.) He adapted the opening fanfare of Alexander Courage’s TOS theme; he created several themes and motifs (shorter pieces) which have become iconic. Although Gene Roddenberry TOS w/ a military structure, he avoided “excessive militarism” (his words). However, Meyer decided to further expand on this, making the uniforms/insignias more military in style. He also added a ship’s bell and boatswain’s whistle; he wrote the dialogue to reflect naval protocol. Such details greatly influenced the later films and spin-off TV series, as long-time fans will note!

I’m sure that I was influenced by Goldsmith’s large orchestral scores when I started out, and that was because the people who employed me wanted that kind of sound. I wasn’t in a position to say “Go to hell!” -James Horner (composer)

Some TOS fans and media critics have often wondered re: Marla McGivers (the Starfleet officer who fell in love w/ Khan). On the Star Trek: The Pod Directive podcast, I learned that actress Madlyn Rhue was to reprise her role. However, she had suffered w/ multiple sclerosis, so was using wheelchair. Marla was written out, explaining she’d been killed by the vicious eel creatures. Montalban said in interviews that “Khan loved his wife passionately, and blames Kirk for her death.” The actor realized early on in his career that a good villain doesn’t see himself as villainous; he’s the hero of his own story. In the mid-1980s, James Doohan (Scotty) stated that he felt that Montalban should’ve been nominated for an Academy Award for his role.

She was getting advice from all sides, and the studio kept trying to make it more of a ‘tits and ass’ performance. I said, “No, no, no. That’s real. You’re in the Navy. You’re a pro. Just do your job. You’re good. You’re at the top of your class there.” -Meyer re: Kirstie Alley’s character (Lt. Saavik)

A woman who was beautiful and looked like she could think. A woman who was attractive enough, that you could see why Kirk would fall for her, and at the same time somebody who could keep up with him. -Meyer re: Bibi Besch’s character (Dr. Carol Marcus)

This is the film debut of Kirstie Alley (who loved TOS), who plays Spock’s young/ambitious protegee- Lt. Saavik. When Syfy aired this film on TV, Leonard Nimoy appeared during commercial breaks, sharing various memories/trivia. One of the items was the character backstory of Lt. Saavik, who was supposed to have Romulan/Vulcan heritage, which was why she was more emotional than a pure-blooded Vulcan. There are hints re: this all through the film: she once exclaims “damn” after failing the Kobayashi Maru test, she gasps in shock seeing the dead body of Midshipman Preston, and gets teary-eyed during Spock’s funeral. When they speak to each other in Vulcan, Nimoy and Alley actually spoke in English, and then the sound people (w/ feedback from linguist Marc Okrand) created the Vulcan words to match the movements of their mouths, which they later overdubbed.

Joachim: We’re all with you, sir. But, consider this. We are free. We have a ship, and the means to go where we will. We have escaped permanent exile on Ceti Alpha V. You have defeated the plans of Admiral Kirk. You do not need to defeat him again.

Khan: [from Melville’s Moby Dick] He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I’ll chase him ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round perdition’s flames before I give him up!

As fans are bound to expect from the world of Trek, there are several literary references here. Kirk gets the novel A Take of Two Cities from Spock as a birthday gift. Khan’s bookshelf contains a few books, incl. Paradise Lost, Moby DIck, and King Lear. The phrase “to the last I grapple with thee; from Hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” is taken from Capt. Ahab’s speech in Moby Dick. Kirk’s apt. in San Fran was filled w/ antique collectibles, revealing his attachment to the past.

The battle of wits between Kirk and Khan inside the Mutara Nebula was inspired by the one between destroyer captain Robert Mitchum and U-boat commander Curd Jürgens in The Enemy Below, which was also the inspiration for (much-loved) TOS ep Balance of Terror. Another movie connection is Run Silent, Run Deep, where rival U.S. and Japanese submarine commanders both went to full stop in their underwater duel, in very close proximity, to avoid giving away their positions and to try to figure out what the other sub was doing.

The model of the USS Reliant (a Miranda class starship) was designed so that the warp nacelles hung below the fuselage, so audiences wouldn’t confuse it w/ the Enterprise (particularly in the action sequences). The computer simulation of Genesis transforming a dead planet is the 1st complete computer-generated sequence ever used in a feature film- wow! The graphics divisions of Lucasfilm worked on the visual effects for this movie; they also worked on Star Wars.

[1] Not only is this movie loaded with the original characters from the series, it also touches on such subjects as revenge, family, duty, age and, of course, sacrifice. That was the best thing about the series – that it touched on topics that were (pardon the expression) universal, no matter the species.

[2] The Wrath of Khan isn’t a science fiction film as much as it’s an old-fashioned adventure story dressed up in vintage science fiction tropes.

This tension, between life and death, immortality and mortality, success and failure, is epitomised by the Genesis device, a super weapon in the film which has to power to both create and destroy.

[3] William Shatner, after the stinging reviews of his stilted performance in ST:TMP, needed a strong script to provide ‘damage control’, and he got it. In perhaps his finest performance, he dominates the screen… Both decisive and likable, Shatner’s Kirk is the glue that holds ST:TWOK together, and he is brilliant.

Leonard Nimoy, getting every actor’s dream, a chance to die onscreen, gives Spock a poignancy that is, ultimately, heartbreaking; DeForest Kelley, excellent as Dr. McCoy, not only offers righteous indignation over the implications of the Genesis Project, but projects such an obvious affection for both Kirk and his “sparring partner,” Spock, that, far more than in the first film, you can see the nearly symbiotic link between the three leads. The rest of the original cast, despite small roles, still have far more to do than in the first film…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Modern Film Noir: The Dark Side of Life (In Color)

Body Heat (1981)

This film is considered to be an erotic thriller; it is (obviously) inspired by classic noir. So, maybe we can consider this to be neo-noir? Matty (Kathleen Turner) is the femme fatale; she has a secrets in her past. Ned (William Hurt) is the not-so-smart/playboy/lawyer who gets caught in her web.

Read my review.

Blade Runner (1982)

Many critics consider this to be the first sci-fi noir. It is a deep film that makes us wonder re: the nature of humanity. Many have wondered if Deckard (a young-ish Harrison Ford) was a human or a replicant. If you find this interesting, you may also like the sequel- Blade Runner 2049 (starring Ryan Gosling).

Dir. Ridley Scott and D.P. Jordan Cronenweth achieved the “shining eyes” effect by using a technique invented by Fritz Lang (“Schüfftan Process”) where light is bounced into the actors’ eyes off of a piece of half mirrored glass mounted at a 45 degree angle to the camera. Lang is known as a titan of the noir genre.

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

This is a lesser-known Coen bros film w/ young-ish Gabriel Byrne and Marcia Gay Harden (who I saw on the NYC subway years ago) that I really enjoyed. You see fine character actors in a world of their own which is very engaging (as expected from the Coens).

Read my review.

Cape Fear (1991)

This is the remake of the classic film dir. by Scorsese; the stars are Nick Nolte, Robert De Niro (sporting long-ish hair and fake tattoos), Jessica Lange, and a teenaged Juliette Lewis. You will also see cameos from Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum (I got a kick out of that). It’s NOT as good as the original, but still worth a look.

Heat (1995)

This film is loved by many who like action films, but also want strong character development. Fans of De Niro and Pacino will definitely want to check it out!

Read my review here.

The Usual Suspects (1995)

I haven’t seen this movie in a long time- think will give it a re-watch soon! It’s been on “modern noir” lists I looked up.

Fargo (1996)

Perhaps the Coens’ most well-known/loved film; we find quirky characters, dark humor, crime, moments of lightness, etc. Frances McDormand is the pregnant cop who you just can’t help but admire and root for, as she works to investigate some shady events in her small/snowy/usually safe community.

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Three young cops w/ different approaches to their work: Russell Crowe (looking hot), Guy Pearce (also looking hot), and Kevin Spacey investigate a series murders in 1950s LA. Kim Basinger revives her career w/ a strong (supporting) role. I will re-watch this soon.

Se7en (1997)

I’ve only seen this film once; I didn’t like it that much (aside from Morgan Freeman’s role). You get to see a young/lonely wife (Gwenyth Paltrow) and her hubby/rookie detective (Brad Pitt); they are newlyweds starting their lives in the big city (Chicago). Of course, the baddie (Spacey) steals the show, as many of you know. We know dir. David Fincher made a big splash w/ this controversial/bloody/creepy film.

Training Day (2001)

You all probably know I’m a big fan of Denzel Washington; I also really like Ethan Hawke. They make a great/unlikely duo in this film, which has good supporting actors, action, dark humor, crime, etc. Denzel is really good as a baddie, though he’s NOT a one-note villain!

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Wow, the Coens really hit it out of the park here! I recall many/diverse viewers commenting that they enjoyed this film; they were also scared (or at least, on edge). I became a fan of Javier Bardem (who they ugly-fied for his baddie role). I also enjoyed seeing Tommy Lee Jones; also, I think Kelly Macdonald should’ve gotten even bigger roles (as she’s good in everything).

Gone Girl (2014)

I saw this film w/ a group of (mostly) single gal pals in one of our local theaters; we were NOT expecting what we saw (LOL)! Is this a farce (as some critics have noted)? Is the depiction of dysfunctional marriage meant to be taken (mostly) seriously? You can hate exurban life in the Midwest (BUT not as much as the wife played by Rosamund Pike)! Ben Affleck had his Batman physique then; I found that somewhat distracting (he’s supposed to be a underemployed teacher/writer). I liked the detective (Kim Dickens) and the defense lawyer (Tyler Perry); they were the ONLY characters that seemed somewhat normal/relatable. Maybe I’m just NOT a fan of Fincher’s cold/slick style? Thank goodness for my single life!

Hell or High Water (2016)

This is a Western neo-noir set in the Southwest starring the (always great) Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine (in a rare non-glam/anti-hero role), and Ben Foster (a fine character actor I’ve admired since he was a teen). The two working-class bros at the center of the story can’t seem to get ahead, so they take a (criminal) turn. A must-see for fans of smart films!

Read my review.