Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ANGEL HEART


(March 1987, U.S.)

If anyone had ever asked me what film maker could successfully combine a 1950's-style film noir detective story with supernatural voodoo-style horror, I would have likely only come up with David Lynch. As it turns out, director Alan Parker (MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, FAME, PINK FLOYD THE WALL) managed to pull off one of the most frightening films I've ever seen without being officially labeled as a horror film.

It seems to me that ever since THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), many thrillers have attempted to pull off the ultimate "Holy shit!"-surprise-shocker-twist-ending, and often it ends up with a person (or persons) turning out to have been dead the whole time (even the TV show LOST ended that way!). These endings, in my opinion, have also become easier to spot early in the film. I mean, I don't know about you, but I was able to guess that Leonardo DiCapprio WAS a patient at that hospital in SHUTTER ISLAND inside the first 20 minutes!

ANGEL HEART, however, offers a resolution that I don't think is easy to spot, despite the frequent clues, and that's a good thing for the viewer. How can you truly enjoy the surprise you're going to get at the end of a film if it's easy to spot before it's over? At the time of the film's release, Mickey Rourke was considered a successful box office draw. As Harry Angel, he gives his best perfomance I've seen since DINER (1982). Robert DeNiro is effectively creepy as the Devil himself. And as for Lisa Bonet...well, just watch her in this film and it's easy to see why The Cosby Show was probably too embarrassed or disgraced to keep her on the show after that.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Louis Cyphre: "They say there's enough religion in the world to make men hate each other, but not enough to make them love."

Friday, June 25, 2010

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE


(October 1944, U.S.)

You know what I miss? I miss Agatha Christie theatrical films. I miss an all-star cast with Peter Ustinov playing Detective Hercule Poirot. Well, he's dead now and they haven't had a Christie film in the theater since EVIL UNDER THE SUN in 1982. Thankfully, we have DVD and the classics can live on.

This original British film adaptation of the classic novel is far from perfect, mind you. It's flaw, in my opinion, lies in it's rather lame attempt to have humor where humor doesn't necessarily belong. After all, this is a grim tale of ten strangers gathered in a strange house on a strange island by a strange and unknown host who are systematically getting murdered one-by-one (just like ten little indians). On the other hand, though, it's not nearly as campy and silly as one of it's terrible remakes, TEN LITTLE INDIANS (1965). On the very positive side, the film uses elements of film making like light, darkness and shadow that has made film noir legendary. If you've ever read the book (as I did back in high school English class), you'll know the end resolution of "who done it" and why is quite astounding.

There have been numerous film version of the original story. The first one is usually the best, as is the case here.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Judge Francis Quinncannon: "Mr. Owen could only come to the island in one way. It's perfectly clear. Mr. Owen is one of us!"

Monday, June 21, 2010

AND JUSTICE FOR ALL


(June 1979, U.S.)

So, let's talk about Al Pacino! This man has been my favorite actor since I was a kid. This man is responsible for some of the best films of the '70's. He has a true passion for his craft that I don't believe many of today's young (so-called) actors can claim. Oh, and by the way, the man can yell like you wouldn't believe! His on-screen performances seem to take on a whole new perspective when he starts to scream at the top of his lungs. Anyone remember, "Attica! Attica! Attica!" from DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)?

AND JUSTICE FOR ALL is a black comedy/courtroom drama that not only converys the obvious message about our legal system that we're alreay known for the longest time (that it SUCKS! It really, really SUCKS!), but it also turns the irony and insanity of the system into situations so outragous, you can't help but find them funny. In a system so corrupt, Pacino's character Arthur Kirkland appears to be the only lawyer in town with any sense of regard for truth and justice, and he ends up becoming more-or-less ostracized by the entire Baltimore legal community. By the end of the film, his partner who has previously had a complete nervous and violent breakdown is somehow permitted to return to the law, while Kirkland ends up being disbarred as a result of his moral integrity.

I have to say, in all honesty, despite Pacino's historical portrayals of Michael Corleone, Frank Serpico, Sonny Wortzik and Lt. Frank Slade, it is his outrageous performace in AND JUSTICE FOR ALL that has stuck with me above and beyond the other characters. His inevitable verbal courtroom explosion is a sequence I will never get tired of watching.

By the way, AND JUSTICE FOR ALL is the second R-rated film I ever saw. I was twelve years-old.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Arthur Kirkland: "The one thing that bothered me, the one thing that stayed in my mind and I couldn't get rid of it, that haunted me, was why. Why would she lie? What was her motive for lying? If my client is innocent, she lying. Why? Was it blackmail? No. Was it jealousy? No. Yesterday I found out why. She doesn't have a motive. You know why? Because she's not lying...and ladies and gentlemen of the jury...the prosecution is NOT gonna get that man today, no, because I'M GONNA GET 'EM! My client, the honorable Henry T. Flemming should go right to fucking jail! The son of a bitch is guilty! That man is guilty! That man there, that man is a slime! He is a slime! If he's allowed to go free then something really wrong is goin' on here!
Judge Rayford: "Mr. Kirkland, you are out of order!"
Arthur: "YOU'RE out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order! That man, that sick, crazy, depraved man, raped and beat that woman there, and he'd like to do it again! He told me so! It's a show! It's a show! Let's make a deal! Let's make a deal! Hey Frank, you wanna make a deal? I got an insane judge who likes to beat the shit outta women! Whaddy wanna gimmie Frank, three weeks probation?
Frank Bowers: "Dammit!"
Arthur: (to Judge Flemming) "You, you sonofabitch, you! You're supposed to stand for something! You're supposed to protect people! But instead you fuck and murder them! You killed McCullough! You killed him! Hold it! Hold it! I just completed my opening statement!"

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

ANALYZE THIS


(March 1999, U.S.)

Short of watching one of those Zucker-directed spoof comedies, ANALYZE THIS is a comedy where the laughs never let up, even when it tries to be a little serious or emotional. I mean, how can you possibly take the concept of Robert DeNiro playing a crime boss who needs psychiatric treatment from a guy like Billy Crystal seriously even for one minute? Everytime the two of them speak to each other, you find a new reason to laugh. And with a track record like CADDYSHACK (1980), VACATION (1983) and GROUNDHOG DAY (1993), you know you're bound to laugh at almost any Harold Ramis film.

Actually, take note of the word SPEAK in my previous sentence. I have always enjoyed comedy that relies on dialogue and wit as opposed to physical comedy and slapstick. One is likely to rememeber something a guy like Groucho Marx SAID in a film instead of cliche pitfall or something. Unfortunately, having to hear someone like Lisa Kudrow speak in anything she does on film requires a great deal of patience. Frankly, I don't care how smart she is or how many degrees she supposedly has, she'll always sound like ditzy Phoebe Buffay to me.

And now, with your patience, a more personal story related to this film...in August 2000, I attended a two-day Hollywood pitch seminar in Los Angeles. What this means, basically, is that you spend two days standing on long lines waiting to pitch your screenplay ideas in just five minutes to someone in the film industry who will pretend to be interested in what you're telling him and give you the kind of encouragement that sounds good at the table - when in reality, you're never going to hear from this son-of-a-bitch as long as either of you live.

(Wow, that was deep!)

Anyway, the best part of the seminar for me was meeting a group of guys like me waiting on the long lines. It wasn't long before we were laughing and bullshiting with each other like it was summer camp. It also wasn't long before we found ourselves quoting lines from ANALYZE THIS and constantly pointing fingers at each other and saying, "You, you, you're good, you!" When it was all over, I didn't exactly have Hollywood scrambling to option my screenplays. What I did walk away with was an idea for a screen story and an email friendship that I have kept up for the last ten years with a fellow screenwriter and novelist I'll call John (because that's actually his name).

And so, it is to John that I dedicate this post. Thank you for ten years of friendship and support in our writing endeavors. Here's to the next ten, buddy!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Paul Vitti: "Oh, just one more thing - if I talk to you and you turn me into a fag, I'm gonna kill you, you understand?"
Ben Sobel: "Could we define fag? Because some feelings may come up..."
Paul: "I go fag, you die. Got it?"
Ben: "Got it."
Paul: "Simple. Heh?"

Monday, June 14, 2010

AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE (1979)




(July 1979, U.S.)

My post for this film is interestly timed because the actual, infamous house located at 108 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island was recently put on the real estate market for a mere $1.15 million dollars (anyone interested?).

Keeping in mind that the purpose of this blog is movie memories and not necessarily house memories, I can still claim that the original 1979 version of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR is an entertaining haunted house horror film that manages to effectively use the ideas of suggestion and psychological human breakdown to deliver creepiness and fear without an excessive use of violence or blood. Because it’s a horror film, one must be willing to accept a certain degree of performance that may fall below the par of the full potential one might expect from talented people like James Brolin and Margot Kidder. Their performances are as solid as you can expect for actors who must play the role of a husband and wife living in fear and whose marriage is deteriorating in the face of a supernatural phenomenon. It’s veteran actor Rod Steiger as Father Delaney who honestly carries the performance level of the film, despite a role that is not too large, as a man of religious faith struggling with the reality (the film’s reality, anyway) of what evil truly is and what it can do to good people. It is, however, a film of fiction and nothing more. And even in fiction, there's nothing wrong with entertaining yourself by getting a glimpse of Margot Kidder's tits and ass! Sure puts a new spin on previously seeing her play Lois Lane...



Despite whatever childlike and adolescent curiousities I previously had toward the infamous house in Amityville, Long Island in the past, it’s more than clear as a thinking and logical adult today that the only true event that ever took place at the house on Ocean Avenue was the inexplicable slaughter of a family by a son who was clearly insane. Whatever controversies exist about that house exist only because of the crime that took place on November 13, 1974. But even those controversies and what eventually led up to The Amityville Horror hoax (yes, I said hoax!) are fascinating and intriguing, nonetheless, if you have a taste (even a mild one) for tales of true crime. In 2002, I read a book written by Ric Osuna called THE NIGHT THE DeFEOS DIED: REINVESTIGATING THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS, which documented not only the murders themselves, but the DeFeo family and all of their disfunctions, as well. Without going into too much detail about the book, it basically details how DeFeo killed his family with the help of his sister Dawn and two of his friends. It’s a well-written account of a true-life crime and what may or may not had lead up to it. But even a seriously written account such as this is open to controversy and discrepancy because apparently Ronald DeFeo has changed his story of what happened so many times over the years, it’s become virtually impossible to determine what’s accurate and what’s not. One issue the book does explain is how the 1974 murders were the origin of what lead to George and Kathleen Lutz allegedly purchasing the house with the deliberate intent of not only creating fictional accounts of their experience there, but also deliberately fleeing the house twenty-eight days later in order to create the illusion of what they would try to sell to the public as the truth, when in fact, it was nothing more than a well-crafted and very detailed hoax (there’s that word again!) that the American people, if not the world, was stupid enough to entertain as possible truth (as a kid, I was practically guilty of that myelf). Honestly, however the Lutz’ might have ended up (George and Kathleen are today deceased), I have to give them their due credit for selling a prize fable and managing to reap the endless rewards that came with it. More power to them!

By the way, I've never driven by the actual house. I'd like to. I suppose after all of it's history, it would be like wanting to actually cross the street at London's Abbey Road. Here's what it looks like today...


Favorite line or dialogue:

Kathy Lutz: "I just wish that...all those people hadn't died here. I mean...ugh...a guy kills his whole family. Doesn't that bother you?"
George Lutz: "Well, sure, but...houses don't have memories."

AMISTAD


(December 1997, U.S.)

I don't know if you've noticed or not, but I'm not even out of the 'A' category of my film collection and I'm already on my third Steven Spielberg film. You just gotta love the guy, right?

One of the first things you have to understand about watching a film like AMISTAD (or JFK, MUNICH, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS or any other so-called "historical" film) is that it's bound to be laced with issues that many would consider historically inacurate. The point, though, is to simply sit back and try to enjoy the film as entertainment from a very reputable artist. That being the case, AMISTAD is a truly underated Spielberg film and very likely to be the best documentation of the history of African slavery in America since the 1977 ABC-TV mini-series, ROOTS. Here, though, our protaganist, known by his Spanish slave name, "Cinque" (unforgettably played by Djimon Hounsou) is a true hero who breaks free of his slave chains on board the slave ship, La Amistad, and slaughters his captors. Once on American soil, he and his brothers never give up their struggle to obtain their freedom and return to their native soil of Africa.

Anthony Hopkins give as brilliant a performace as he ever has as former President John Quincy Adams. His long and passionate courtroom speech in defense of the Africans is truly moving; one to rival even the likes of such dramas as INHERIT THE WIND, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD or JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG. One watches, one listens and it's hard to believe that this entire story is actually taking place AFTER a document like the United States Constitution was ever written; a document whose ideals and principles may as well be considered worthless during these times of 19th Century slavery.

Favorite line or dialogue:

John Quincy Adams: "Well, gentlemen, I must say I differ with the keen minds of the South and with our President, who apparently shares their views, offering that the natural state of mankind is instead, and I know this is a controversial idea - is freedom...is freedom. And the proof is the length to which a man, woman or child will go to regain it once it is taken. He will break loose his chains. He will decimate his enemies. He will try and try and try, against all odds, against all prejudices, to get home."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, AN


(August 1981, U.S.)

During the 1980's, the thing that made the FRIDAY THE 13TH and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequel franchise films so bad (and believe me, they were really fucking bad!) was that these so called "horror" movies tried to hard to be funny instead. It didn't work and it never does work...except for this one film, in my opinion.

Director John Landis already knew how to be funny, with movies like ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) and THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980), and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is funny in all the right places. But it doesn't go so overboard as to deter from what needs to be scary about a werewolf story. There are many scary moments that make even a hard-ass son-of-a-bitch like me cringe with fear. The entire sequence when we see David Naughton's character (David) change for the first time into a werewolf is done with excellent craftsmanship, thanks to legendary make-up artist Rick Baker. In his werewolf form, David commits some very frightening and ghastly murders in just his first night out and causes a horrible series of deaths in London's Piccadily Circus on his second.

The story of a wolfman has been done-to-death throughout cinema history, from Lon Chaney Jr. to Jack Nicholson. Landis' film version makes us laugh in the process, without sacrificing the fear and the folklore of the werewolf that we've come to know and enjoy over the years.

Favorite line or dialogue:

David Kessler: "I'm a werewolf."
Alex Price: "A werewolf? Are you alright now?"
David: "I don't know. I'll let you know the next full moon."

AMERICAN PRESIDENT, THE


(November 1995, U.S.)

There are several interesting things to note about THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT. The first that comes to mind is that, in my opinion, it's the last great film from director Rob Reiner which began in 1984 with THIS IS SPINAL TAP and continued with a string of hits that included WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (1989) and A FEW GOOD MEN (1992). The second is that it began a small trend of films in the late 1990's that portrayed the President of the United States as not only an everyday man, but a man who was capable of battling space aliens in INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996) and fighting off Russian terrorists in AIR FORCE ONE (1997). The third is that (and I may be stretching things a bit here), it may have been an interesting prelude to the whole Monica Lewinski scandal of 1998. Although looking back at THAT now, and having had to go through eight miserable years of the likes of George W. Bush, I can fondly look back on the great days of this country when our biggest concern in the White House was BLOWJOBS!

But in this wonderful Frank Capra-esque film, however, Michael Douglas' President Andrew Shepherd merely wants to go out on a date with a female lobbyist played by Annette Bening, whom he finds very attractive (OMG!!! HOW DARE HE!!!). I mean, really, why the hell not? Because when the widowed President is not busy being President, he's still just a man who's capable of dating, sleeping with, and loving a woman. Of course, American public opinion on the President's character has a way of shifting back and forth like a very bad mood swing over his dating debacle. In the end, though, the viewer simply wants the guy to get the girl and live happily ever after. He does, and they do.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Lewis Rothchild: "Who're we calling, sir?"
President Shepherd: "I'm calling the organization of the United Brotherhood of It's None of Your Damn Business, Lewis. I'll be with you in a second."
Lewis: "Yes, sir."

Friday, June 4, 2010

AMERICAN POP


(February 1981, U.S.)

There are some films like AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973), SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977) and FORREST GUMP (1994) where music of the era plays such a major part in telling the story, it in itself becomes a character in the film. AMERICAN POP is an adult-animated film that also falls into that category, but it's one you may not remember or maybe haven't heard of at all.

During a period of about ten years, Ralph Bakshi was considered one of the (if not THE) top animator in films, with titles like FRITZ THE CAT (1972) and LORD OF THE RINGS (1978). AMERICAN POP uses mixed animation styles that include computer graphics, live action shots, archival footage, watercolors and a technique called rotoscoping (look it up). This was considered pretty advanced stuff for its time, but today could probably never hold its own against anything you'd see on screen by Pixar (pity!).

In this film, though, it's truly the music that tells the story of four generations of a Russian-Jewish immigrant family of musicians whose lives and careers are paralleled with the history of popular music in America from the turn of the century right up to the present day of 1980. Through the music, we also catch glimpses of pivotal moments in American history and pop culture, including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, two World Wars, the '60's youth movement, Vietnam, the Kent State murders and the modern-day punk rock movement of the time.

While I cannot claim that AMERICAN POP is one of the finest films of its kind I've ever seen, it's musical and social context are undeniable.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Zalmie: "Hey, Louie, I just seen the most beautiful thing I ever seen in the world."
Louie: "Some pre-Prohibition booze, huh?"
Zalmie: "No. I seen the stripper gettin' dressed."
Louie: "A stripper gettin' dressed ain't beautiful unless she's ugly to begin with."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

AMERICAN GRAFFITI


(August 1973, U.S.)

Before I get into this, I invite you all to take a trip back in time with me; to a time when director George Lucas was still a young, original, visionary filmmaker and NOT the man who has (in my opinion) become so overly-corrupted by his own STAR WARS empire, it's sickening! Well, give it a try, anyway...

I was in high school during the mid 1980's, which means I was partially raised by the films of John Hughes and the "Generation X" youth culture they represented. I was also raised by a father who worshipped (and still does!) the golden age of Doo-Wop music, so I wasn't too unfamiliar with its place in music history. Despite the former and, perhaps, partially due to the latter, AMERICAN GRAFFITI remains my favorite film about the coming-of-age of youth.

The film takes place over the course of just about 12 hours. It's the summer of 1962; before the Beatles invade America, before JFK is assassinated, before the Vietnam invasion and before America's innocence is lost forever and all Hell breaks loose all over the country. Cruising in your hot rod, burgers at Mel's Drive-In, high school sock hops and AM rock 'n' roll radio are all the rage of the era - basically, it's a great time to be young! For Ron Howard's and Richard Dreyfuss' characters, Steve and Curt, it's also the last night in their old California town before they head east the next morning to begin their college life. It's a time for saying goodbye and starting over, yes, but as the film progresses, it raises some questions - do we need to be in such a hurry to start a new life simply to conform to society's demands? Do we need to leave a place we've called home for 18 years and the friends we love just to find a new home and new friends?

The rock 'n' roll music of the era serves not just as a background score here, but really, as another character; even the star of the film itself. The kids we see are defined by their love of rock 'n' roll and how it not only takes them on the journey of this night, but also how it has raised them up until now. During the last sequence of the film, there is an unforgettable shot of Curt sitting on the plane that is taking him eastbound. He looks nervous and tense about his new beginning, but there is some comfort in the portable radio he has on his lap, playing The Spaniels "Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight". It's a little bit of his former youth that he takes with him as his plane soars higher and highter toward his future and his inevitable manhood.

As much as I loved THE STING, AMERICAN GRAFFITTI is the film I thought should have won the Oscar for best picture of 1973.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Terry Fields: "Let me have a Three Musketeers, and a ball point pen, and one of those combs there, a pint of Old Harper, a couple of flash light batteries and some beef jerky."
Barman: "Okay, you got an I.D. for the liquor?"
Terry: "Umm, yeah. Oh, nuts, I left it in the car."
Barman: "Sorry. You'll have to get it before."
Terry: "Well, I...I also...I forgot the car."

AMERICAN GANGSTER


(November 2007, U.S.)

The tale of AMERICAN GANGSTER is not exactly new to the screen. It's part SERPICO (1973), part NEW JACK CITY (1991) and a lot of THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971). It is, however, based on the true story of Harlem drug gangster Frank Lucas. There are three other reasons to enjoy this film - their names are Denzel, Russell and Ridley.

Over the last ten years, the team of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe has become synonomous with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro. The results have usually been pretty positive. The image of New York City in this film is perhaps the grittiest and most intense I've seen since THE FRENCH CONNECTION; one is literally transported back to the early 1970's.

There is a particular sequence I find quite intruiging - Frank Lucas has persistently made it a point to keep a low profile and live his life quietly and unobtrusively. This includes not wearing anything too loud or flashy to call attention to himself. Then one night, just to please his wife, he attends the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier championship fight wearing a horribly gaudy chinchilla fur coat and hat, along with a ringside seat to the fight that surpasses his rival Italian mafia's seats. By chance, Crowes character, Detective Richie Roberts happens to be at the fight, too - with a camera, I might add. This is all it takes to start the investigation against Lucas and bring down his entire organization. Just goes to show you what one little slip up can inevitably lead to (anyone remember Watergate?).

Favorite line or dialogue:

Detective Trupo: "What are we gonna do about THIS?"
Frank Lucas: "We ain't gon' do shit about it. Close it up. Throw it back in the trunk. Everybody go home. Have some pumpkin pie, warm apple cider..."
Trupo: "I got a better idea, or would you rather me throw you and your brother in the fuckin' river?"
Lucas: "Or would you rather your house blows up next time?"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

AMERICAN BEAUTY


(September 1999, U.S.)

About thirty years ago, there were two films, KRAMER VS. KRAMER (1979) and ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980) that challanged viewers to take a closer look at the typical American family. Subjects like divorce, legal custody, maternal disconnection and teenage suicide made us laugh, made us cry and made us think. These films, by the way, also won the Oscar for best picture of each year.

Watching AMERICAN BEAUTY, we're asked (again) to take a closer look at the typical American family. This time, however, we're hit in the face and gut with a sledgehammer and told, "This is what it's like. Fuck you if you can't handle it!" Seriously, you think YOU'RE family is disfunctional? Experience this story of social conformity, family imprisonment, sexual repression, illegal drug use, homosexuality, child abuse - oh, and throw in Kevin Spacey, one of the greatest actors of the last two decades, as a would-be pedifile, and you'll definitely be stamping your own family with the name BRADY!

This kind of family disfunction is not without irresistable humor, though. Watching Spacey's and Bening's marriage deteriorate into an almost farcical situation seems so beyond what one might consider suburban family "reality", one can't help but laugh with joy. Spacey's character, Lester Burnham, is so utterly trapped and miserable in his joyless marriage, you feel compelled to cheer for the guy (I dare you not to crack up when you watch him driving his car and rocking out to the words of the Guess Who's "American Woman"!), even if he is going all out to try and fuck his high school daughter's best friend. I said, "try", though. In the end, he happily redeems himself of that temptation - this just before getting shot in the head in his own kitchen.

AMERICAN BEAUTY won the Oscar for best picture of 1999. It's also one of my top ten favorite films of the 1990's.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Carolyn Burnham: "Uh, whose car is that out front?"
Lester Burnham: "Mine. 1970 Pontiac Firebird. The car I've always wanted and now I have it. I RULE!"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

AMADEUS


(September 1984, U.S.)

Even if you're not a fan of Mozart, classical music or opera (and I'm NOT!), there are many reasons to enjoy AMADEUS. Maybe you're a fan of some of director Milos Forman's previous films like ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975), HAIR (1979) and RAGTIME (1981). Maybe you just can't resist Tom Hulce's nervous, childish, high-pitched laugh. Or maybe it's ultimately because F. Murray Abraham steals the entire film with a powerful, unforgettable performance as Antonio Salieri.

For myself, it's the fascination of learning (presuming it was, indeed, accurate) what a vulgar buffoon Wolfgang Amadues Mozart actually was when he wasn't sweating bullets to maintain his reputation and history as a musical genius. That being the case, somehow I can't picture anyone else but Tom Hulce (remember what a dork his character was in ANIMAL HOUSE?) playing such a man. And even for someone such as myself, who doesn't like classical music, I can't deny how well and how powerful the music of Mozart is worked into the story and the cinematography.

AMADEUS won the Oscar for best picture of 1984.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Mozart: "Why must I submit samples of my work to some stupid committee just to teach a thirteen year-old girl?"
Count Von Strack: "Because His Majesty wishes it."
Mozart: "Is the emperor angry with me?"
Von Strack: "Quite the contrary."
Mozart: "Then why doesn't he simply appoint me to the post?"
Von Strack: "Mozart, you are not the only composer in Vienna."
Mozart: "No. But I'm the BEST!"