11 Great Filmmakers Who Have Never Won the Academy Award for Best Director

Photo via the Criterion Collection

With the 87th Academy Awards commencing this Sunday, we’re reminded that artistic merit does not always mean taking home a gold statue. Simply because a film wins the award of Hollywood’s elite, does not be that it creatively surpasses its contemporaries. And just because a film goes unrecognized by the Academy, the lack of appreciation in that regard says little to what it deserves. This year, director Ava DuVernay went sans nomination for Selma, but over the course of cinematic history, few categories have caused as much of a stir as Best Director. From Stanley Kubrick and Wim Wenders to Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch, some of the last century’s most brilliant artists have failed to move past a nomination, if even given that—which, of course, speaks namely to the politics of Hollywood and not to their respective genius. So, to get you thinking about who will find themselves with arms full of gold on Sunday, here are some of film’s most beloved and talented directors who’ve never garnered the coveted Academy Award for Best Director.


Cinematic Obsessions: Casual Voyeurism,  Everyday Detectives, Seedy Underbelly’s Lurking Behind Pleasant Facades, What’s Hiding Behind the Red Curtains, Flesh on Flesh, 1950s Music and Ephemera, Psycho-Erotic Discomfort, Multiple Personalities, Saccharine Indulgences, Trout, Coffee, The Mysteries of Love, The Secret of Night
Best Director Nominations: Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, Elephant Man
Best Films: Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart


Cinematic Obsessions: Man versus Technology, Man versus Himself, The Theatrics of Violence, Psychological Journeys Through the Use of Color, Meticulous Planning and Shooting, Psychosexual Aggression
Best Director: Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove or: How Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Best Films: A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove or: How Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Eyes Wide Shut, The Shining


Cinematic Obsessions: Dramatic Musical Cues, Languid and Beauitful Slow-Motion Shots, Wresting Weary Heads on Shoulders in the Back of Taxis, Endless Romantic Yearning, Food, Lonesome Cigarette Smoking, Deep and Impressionist Use of Color, The Torture of Love, Heartbreaking Matters of Timing
Best Director Nominations: None
Best Films: In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, 2046


Cinematic Obsessions: The Great American West, Existential Romantic Longing, The Barriers of Human Connection, Transient Spaces, Child/Parent Dynamics, The Psycholoigcal Effects of Neon, Spirituality and a Nostalgic Longing for an Absent Something, Emotional Isolation
Best Director Nominations: None
Best Films: Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire, Alice in the Cities, Pina


Cinematic Obsessions: Exposed Realism, Psycho-Dramatic Character Studies, New York City Streets, Manicly Delivered Male Monologues, Exposure of Social/Societial Injustice/Disorder
Best Director Nominations: The Verdict, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men
Best Films: Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Serpico, 12 Angry Men


Cinematic Obsessions: Existential Questioning of Faith and Mortality, Female Sexuality and Desire, Looming Presence of Death, Moral Quandries and Crisis, Psychological Horror
Best Director Nominations: Fanny and Alexander, Autumn Sonata, Face to Face, Cries & Whispers, Through a Glass Darkly, Wild Strawberries
Best Films: Persona, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Cries & Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage, Winter Light


Cinematic obsessions: Wheat fields Gently Blowing in the Wind at Magic Hour, Sweeping Philosophical Voiceovers, The Confounding Nature of Existence, The Evils of Man, The Divine Presence in Everyday Life, Examining Humility and Grace Through Love, Man’s Existence with Nature Through Time, Redemption and Forgiveness
Best Director Nominations: The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line
Best Films: Days of Heaven, Badlands, The Tree of Life


Cinematic Obsessions: Rotating Character Studies, Emphasis of Atmosphere and Personalities Over Narrative Structure, Improvisation of Script, Multiple Plotlines, Intersection of Worlds, Music as a Driving Force
Best Director Nominations: Gosford Park, Short Cuts, Nashville, MASH, The Player
Best Films: 3 Women, The Long Goodbye, Nashville, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, MASH, Gosford Park


Cinematic Obsessions: The Psyche of Men, Matters of the Heart, The Struggle and Pain of Human Relationships, Alcohol, Volatility of Emotion, Expression of the Artistic Self, Characterization, Raw Performance, Love
Best Director Nominations: A Woman Under the Influence
Best Films: A Woman Under the Influence, Opening Night, Faces, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie


Cinematic Obsessions: Surrealist Imagery, Exposure of Cinematic Experimentation, Bourgeois Dinner Parties That Never Go As Planned, Satiristic Comedies of Fantasy, Criticism of Morals and Religion, Mocking of the Church, Nonsynchronous Music
Nominations for Best Director: The Obscure Object of Desire, The Discreet Charm of the Boregeoisie
Best Films: The Exterminating Angel, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeois, Un Chien Andalou, Belle Du Jour


Cinematic obsessions: The Audience as a Voyeur, The Charms of Sociopathy, A Little Murder After Supper, Mommy Complexes, The Relationship Between Sex and Death
Nominations for Best Director: Psycho, Rear Window, Spellbound, Lifeboat, Rebecca
Best Films: Spellbound, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Rebecca, Psycho

There’s a Criterion Collection Flash Sale Going On! Here’s What You Should Be Buying

To save this dreadful Tuesday, the good folks over at The Criterion Collection have graced us with a special treat this afternoon. After announcing their spring releases a few weeks back, now they have graced us with a Flash Sale. Cue: cinephiles everywhere stopping whatever they’re doing, desparately scouring their dwindling bank statements and proclaiming, “But I will literally die without that Rohmer box set!”

So, from now until noon on Wednesday, all in-stock Blu-rays and DVDs are 50% off, and all you have to do is enter their code and voilà! I certainly understand that remembering what you wanted in the first place—let alone making a decision—is hard enough, so I’ve compiled the best Collectors Sets available on the site that you otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to shell out the money for. From American New Wave classics to German melodramas and everything in between, here’s a helpful reminder of what you should be purchasing today.

Eclipse Series 19: Chantal Ackerman in the Seventies

 Over the past four decades, Belgian director Chantal Akerman (Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles) has created one of cinema’s most distinctive bodies of work—formally daring, often autobiographical films about people and places, time and space. In this collection, we present the early films that put her on the map: intensely personal, modernist investigations of cities, history, family, and sexuality, made in the 1970s in the United States and Europe and strongly influenced by the New York experimental film scene. Bold and iconoclastic, these five films pushed boundaries in their day and continue to have a profound influence on filmmakers all over the world.

Three Colors Trilogy

This boldly cinematic trio of stories about love and loss, from Krzysztof Kieślowski was a defining event of the art-house boom of the 1990s. The films are named for the colors of the French flag and stand for the tenets of the French Revolution—liberty, equality, and fraternity—but that hardly begins to explain their enigmatic beauty and rich humanity. Set in Paris, Warsaw, and Geneva, and ranging from tragedy to comedy, Blue, White, and Red(Kieślowski’s final film) examine with artistic clarity a group of ambiguously interconnected people experiencing profound personal disruptions. Marked by intoxicating cinematography and stirring performances by such actors as Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Irène Jacob, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Kieślowski’s Three Colors is a benchmark of contemporary cinema.

Eclipse Series 12: Aki Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy

 The poignant, deadpan films of Aki Kaurismäki are pitched somewhere in the wintry nether lands between comedy and tragedy. And rarely in his body of work has the line separating those genres seemed thinner than in what is often identified as his “Proletariat Trilogy,” Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, andThe Match Factory Girl. In these three films, something like social-realist farces, Kaurismäki surveys the working-class outcasts of his native Finland with detached yet disarming amusement. Featuring commanding, off-key visual compositions and delightfully dour performances, the films in this triptych exemplify the talents of a unique and highly influential film artist.

David Lean Directs Noel Coward

 In the 1940s, the wit of playwright Noël Coward and the craft of filmmaker David Lean melded harmoniously in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations. With the wartime military drama sensation In Which We Serve,Coward and Lean (along with producing partners Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan) embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged, and enormously entertaining pictures that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter). These films created a lasting testament to Coward’s artistic legacy and introduced Lean’s visionary talents to the world.

Eclipse Series 2: The Documentaries of Louis Malle

 Over the course of a nearly forty-year career, Louis Malle forged a reputation as one of the world’s most versatile cinematic storytellers, with such widely acclaimed, and wide-ranging, masterpieces as Elevator to the Gallows, My Dinner with Andre, and Au revoir les enfants. At the same time, however, with less fanfare, Malle was creating a parallel, even more personal body of work as a documentary filmmaker. With the discerning eye of a true artist and the investigatory skills of a great journalist, Malle takes us from a street corner in Paris to America’s heartland to the expanses of India in his astonishing epicPhantom India. These are some of the most engaging and fascinating nonfiction films ever made.

The BDR Trilogy

 By the age of thirty-four, German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder had directed already twenty-two feature films. In 1978, he embarked upon a project to trace the history of postwar Germany in a series of films told through the eyes of three remarkable women. Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lola, and Veronika Voss—the BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) Trilogy—would garner him the international acclaim he had always yearned for and place his name foremost in the canon of New German Cinema.

Eclipse Seires 3: Late Ozu

 Master filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu directed fifty-three feature films over the course of his long career. Yet it was in the final decade of his life, his “old master” phase, that he entered his artistic prime. Centered more than ever on the modern sensibilities of the younger generation, these delicate family dramas are marked by an exquisite formal elegance and emotional sensitivity about birth and death, love and marriage, and all the accompanying joys and loneliness. Along with such better-known films as Floating Weeds and An Autumn Afternoon, these five works illustrate the worldly wisdom of one of cinema’s great artists at the height of his powers.

3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

 Vienna-born, New York–raised Josef von Sternberg directed some of the most influential, stylish dramas ever to come out of Hollywood. Though best known for his star-making collaborations with Marlene Dietrich, von Sternberg began his career during the final years of the silent era, dazzling audiences and critics with his films’ dark visions and innovative cinematography. The titles in this collection, made on the cusp of the sound age, are three of von Sternberg’s greatest works, gritty evocations of gangster life (Underworld), the Russian Revolution (The Last Command), and working-class desperation (The Docks of New York) made into shadowy movie spectacle. Criterion is proud to present these long unavailable classics of American cinema, each with two musical scores.

Frances Ha

Greta Gerwig is radiant as Frances, a woman in her late twenties in contemporary New York trying to sort out her ambitions, her finances, and, above all, her intimate but shifting bond with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Meticulously directed by Noah Baumbach with a free-and-easy vibe reminiscent of the French New Wave’s most spirited films, and written by Baumbach and Gerwig with an effortless combination of sweetness and wit,Frances Ha gets at both the frustrations and the joys of being young and unsure of where to go next. This wry and sparkling city romance is a testament to the ongoing vitality of independent American cinema.

Eclipse Series 8: Lubitsch Musicals

Renowned as a silent film pioneer and the man who refined Hollywood comedy with such masterpieces as Trouble in Paradise, The Shop Around the Corner, and To Be or Not to Be, Ernst Lubitsch also had another claim to fame: he helped invent the modern movie musical. With the advent of sound and audiences clamoring for “talkies,” Lubitsch combined his love of European operettas and his mastery of film to create this entirely new genre. These elegant, bawdy films, made before strict enforcement of the Hays morality code, feature some of the greatest stars of early Hollywood (Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Claudette Colbert, Miriam Hopkins), as well as that elusive style of comedy that would thereafter be known as “the Lubitsch touch.”

Pierre Etaix

 A French comedy master whose films went unseen for decades as a result of legal tangles, director-actor Pierre Etaix is a treasure the cinematic world has rediscovered and embraced with relish. His work can be placed on the spectrum of classic physical comedy with that of Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis, but it also stands alone in its good- natured delicacy. These films, influenced by Etaix’s experiences as a circus acrobat and clown and by the silent film comedies he adored, are elegantly deadpan, but as an on-screen presence, Etaix radiates warmth. This collection includes all of his films, five features, The Suitor,Yoyo, As Long as You’ve Got Your Health, Le grand amour, and Land of Milk and Honey—most of them collaborations with the great screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière—and three shorts, Rupture, the Oscar-winning Happy Anniversary, and Feeling Good. Not one of these is anything less than a bracing and witty delight.

Eclipse Series 17: Nikkatsu Noir

From the late 1950s through the sixties, wild, idiosyncratic crime movies were the brutal and boisterous business of Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan. In an effort to attract youthful audiences growing increasingly accustomed to American and French big-screen imports, Nikkatsu began producing action potboilers (mukokuseki akushun, or “borderless action”) that incorporated elements of the western, comedy, gangster, and teen-rebel genres. This bruised and bloody collection represents a standout cross section of what Nikkatsu had to offer, from such prominent, stylistically daring directors as Seijun Suzuki, Toshio Masuda, and Takashi Nomura.

The Orphic Trilogy

 Decadent, subversive, and bristling with artistic invention, the myth-born cinema of Jean Cocteau disturbs as much as it charms. Cocteau was the most versatile of artists in prewar Paris. Poet, novelist, playwright, painter, celebrity, and maker of cinema—his many talents converged in bold, dreamlike films that continue to enthrall audiences around the world. In The Blood of a Poet, Orpheus, and Testament of Orpheus, Cocteau utilizes the Orphic myth to explore the complex relationships between the artist and his creations, reality and the imagination. The Criterion Collection is proud to present the DVD premiere of the Orphic Trilogy in a special limited-edition three-disc box set.

Eclipse Series 20: George Bernard Shaw on Film

 The hugely influential, Nobel Prize–winning critic and playwright George Bernard Shaw was notoriously reluctant to allow his writing to be adapted for the cinema. Yet thanks to the persistence of Hungarian producer Gabriel Pascal, Shaw finally agreed to collaborate on a series of screen versions of his witty, socially minded plays, starting with the Oscar-winning Pygmalion.The three other films that resulted from this famed alliance, Major Barbara, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Androcles and the Lion, long overshadowed by the sensation of Pygmalion, are gathered here for the first time on DVD. These clever, handsomely mounted entertainments star such luminaries of the big screen as Vivien Leigh, Claude Rains, Wendy Hiller, and Rex Harrison.

John Cassavetes: Five Films

John Cassavetes was a genius, a visionary, and the progenitor of American independent film, but that doesn’t begin to get at the generosity of his art. A former theater actor fascinated by the power of improvisation, Cassavetes brought his search for truth in performance to the screen. The five films in this collection—all of which the director maintained total control over by financing them himself and making them outside the studio system—are electrifying and compassionate creations, populated by all manner of humanity: beatniks, hippies, businessmen, actors, housewives, strippers, club owners, gangsters, children. Cassavetes has often been called an actor’s director, but this body of work—even greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts—shows him to be an audience’s director.

Six Moral Tales

The multifaceted, deeply personal dramatic universe of Eric Rohmer has had an effect on cinema unlike any other. One of the founding critics of the history-making Cahiers du cinéma, Rohmer began translating his written manifestos to film in the sixties, standing apart from his New Wave contemporaries, like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, with his patented brand of gently existential, hyperarticulate character studies set against vivid seasonal landscapes. This near genre unto itself was established with his audacious and wildly influential series “Six Moral Tales.” A succession of jousts between fragile men and the women who tempt them, the “Six Moral Tales” unleashed onto the film world a new voice, one that was at once sexy, philosophical, modern, daring, nonjudgmental, and liberating.

Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa came into his own as a filmmaker directly following World War II, delving into the state of his devastated nation with a series of pensive, topical dramas. Amid Japan’s economic collapse and U.S. occupation, Kurosawa managed to find humor and redemption existing alongside despair and anxiety. In these five early films, which range from political epic to Capraesque whimsy to courtroom potboiler, Kurosawa revealed the artistic range and social acuity that would mark his career and make him the most popular Japanese director in the world.

La Jetée/ Sans Soleil

One of the most influential, radical science-fiction films ever made and a mind-bending free-form travelogue: La Jetée and Sans Soleil couldn’t seem more different—but they’re the twin pillars of an unparalleled and uncompromising career in cinema. A filmmaker, poet, novelist, photographer, editor, and now videographer and digital multimedia artist, Chris Marker has been challenging moviegoers, philosophers, and himself for years with his investigations of time, memory, and the rapid advancement of life on this planet. These two films—a tale of time travel told in still images and a journey to Africa and Japan—remain his best-loved and most widely seen.

By Brakgae: An Anthology, Volumes One and Two

Working outside the mainstream, the wildly prolific, visionary Stan Brakhage made more than 350 films over a half century. Challenging all taboos in his exploration of “birth, sex, death, and the search for God,” he turned his camera on explicit lovemaking, childbirth, even autopsy. Many of his most famous works pursue the nature of vision itself and transcend the act of filming. Some, including the legendary Mothlight, were created without using a camera at all, as he pioneered the art of making images directly on film, by drawing, painting, and scratching. With these two volumes, we present the definitive Brakhage collection—fifty-six of his works, from across his career, in high-definition digital transfers.


This cornerstone of 1970s American moviemaking from Robert Altman is a panoramic view of the country’s political and cultural landscapes, set in the nation’s music capital. Nashville weaves the stories of twenty-four characters—from country star to wannabe to reporter to waitress—into a cinematic tapestry that is equal parts comedy, tragedy, and musical. Many members of the astonishing cast wrote their own songs and performed them live on location, which lends another layer to the film’s quirky authenticity. Altman’s ability to get to the heart of American life via its eccentric byways was never put to better use than in this grand, rollicking triumph, which barrels forward to an unforgettable conclusion.

Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project

Established by Martin Scorsese in 2007, the World Cinema Project expands the horizons of moviegoers everywhere. The mission of the WCP is to preserve and present marginalized and infrequently screened films from regions generally ill equipped to preserve their own cinema history. This collector’s set brings together six superb films from countries around the globe, including Senegal (Touki bouki), Mexico (Redes), India and Bangladesh (A River Called Titas), Turkey (Dry Summer), Morocco (Trances), and South Korea (The Housemaid). Each is a cinematic revelation, depicting a culture not often seen by outsiders on-screen.

American Lost and Found: The BBS Story

Like the rest of America, Hollywood was ripe for revolution in the late sixties. Cinema attendance was down; what had once worked seemed broken. Enter Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner, who knew that what Hollywood needed was new audiences—namely, young people—and that meant cultivating new talent and new ideas. Fueled by money from their invention of the superstar TV pop group the Monkees, they set off on a film-industry journey that would lead them to form BBS Productions, a company that was also a community. The innovative films produced by this team between 1968 and 1972 are collected in this box set—works that now range from the iconic (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show) to the acclaimed (The King of Marvin Gardens) to the obscure (Head; Drive, He Said; A Safe Place), all created within the studio system but lifted right out of the countercultural id.

Personal Faves: The Best of the Early ’70s on Film

This past year, I have seen roughly 200 films. As my job requires me to see a plethora of movies, a good chunk of them were new releases. But as I am a hermit on the weekends, many were older films I always meant to see but for some reason or another let slip between the cracks. For me, watching a film is always experiential; I love nothing more than the physical response to viewing a great film you’ve never seen and the cinematic high that follows. But I always look at my constant film watching as an education, leaving the theater or shutting off my computer as if I’ve just done a close reading of an important text, feeling as if I’ve gained insight into a time and a place in the world that I ever knew existed. And when it comes to Hollywood in the 1970s, that for me has always been the most enthralling and the most informative.

1. Zabriskie Point, Michaelangelo Antonioni (1970)

What lacks in dialogue is completely made up for in cinematography and sound thanks to Pink Floyd’s disjointed psychedlic meets ethereal soundtrack. The beginning scenes in Los Angeles with all the 1960s aggressive advertising juxtaposed with the bare desert and the final blowup/breakdown just killed me. Of course, Antonioni plus Sam Shepard would only naturally equal the dustiest choreographed orgy scene of bodies and sounds.

2. Alice in the Cities, Wim Wenders (1974)

I love everything about this movie, from the pacing to the polaroids and exterior driving shots (that reminded me of Dennis Hopper’s early photographs). Wenders’s films are filled with so much yearning and so much restlessness; people aching so badly to find that thing or feeling they’ve never even been able to name. They’re all so hungry for love and connection and something to make them feel alive, and what could be more universal?

3. The Landlord, Hal Ashby (1970)

Here’s a really great 1970s New York race-relations film. It was endearing and funny while also being insightful and guttural. Hal had a really bizarre tone to all of his films and this one takes a little bit to get situated but when it does, it feels like how his others end up—living in this weird world between the absolutely ridiculous and extreme reality. Beau Bridges boyish face was the perfect canvas to project against this urban world.

4. Five Easy Pieces, Bob Rafelson (1970)

If I could be reincarnated as anything it would be Jack Nicholson’s left eyebrow in 1970. His performance in really established his maniacal acting style that is just so good it makes me wonder if modern actors of this callibar even exist anymore. The film is brilliantly written and directed, showing a tragically ambivalent man’s existential crisis that leads down a road to nowhere in the style of New Wave art film.

5. Shampoo, Hal Ashby (1975)

A hazy satire of late ’60s sexual politics and great hair. It’s interesting to set a film as a period piece—seven years earlier—with a political backdrop that only keeps the mood light. If the script had fallen into another director’s hands with lesser actors, I’m sure a good deal of magic would have been lost, but this was wonderful. Warren Beatty’s haircut and Julie Christie’s backless sequined dress are really the other leads of the film.

6. Husbands, John Cassavetes (1970)

Troubled men, troubled world. This one is wonderfully shot, of course; Cassvetes is the master of holding the camera close to bodies and faces to expose interiors in a way that’s as haunting as it is aesthetically beautiful. The dynamic between Cassavetes, Falk, and Gazzara cannot be beat. Cassavetes’s maniacal laugh will be playing on repeat in my head for days. The film displays the immature idocy of men but also the knowledge that they recognize their ways and attempt to change—but is it only out of shame or guilt?

7. Sunday Blood Sunday, John Schlesinger (1971)

What the film does best is speak to the sentiment that we’re drawn to that which will never be fully attainable despite all our efforts. It’s not a film about what it is like to be a gay man in love or the struggles that coincide, but a film about what it’s like to be a person in love—male, female, whatever. If the film is still progressive to this day, it’s for the way in which it does not treat the homosexuality of the characters as something different or subversive. Both Daniel and Alex’s stories feel ultimately tragic because perhaps their desire for him was merely a projection.

8. The Parallax View, Alan J. Pakula (1974)

Every film in his political paranoia trilogy is perfect. Gordon Willis’s cinematography kills me and is at its best when in these kinds of stories. So much inching tension and unrest. So psycholoigcally stimulating and well-acted. Sidenote: Is it a requirement for all the leads in this trilogy to have the same brunette haircut?

9. Performance, Donald Cammell, Nicolas Roeg (1970)

No one does out-of-focus, sparkling-chandelier-light haze reminiscent of fantastical winter nights of intoxication better than Roeg. Jesus, this movie is a fucking brilliant depiction of indentity and the power to transform oneself. As usual, sexuality and violence go hand in hand that seduces you with it’s lustful danger. And obviously, the music is half the pleasure.

10. The Long Goodbye, Robert Altman (1973)

Elliott Gould is perfect as the wisecracking and fumblingly adorable Marlowe. Altman’s version captures an essence of ’70s easy cool LA that’s breezy and charismatic yet haunted by it’s darkness lurking beneath the surface. Takes noir and makes it natural. Great sounds.

Looking Back on Robert Altman’s ‘Nashville’ With Its Star Ronee Blakley

It was once said of Robert Altman’s 1975 film Nashville, that the film, “registers not private paranoia or public alarm, but rather a broad complacency,” that it, “transports the divine decadence of Cabaret to American soil. We are offered no crusading hero, no opposition to the conspiratorial menace,” but instead, “we see the lack of affirmative moral action with a benumbed populace.” And as Robert Altman’s swirling Americana tapestry of fame, politics, apathy, and twanging country tunes, Nashville takes place in the frenzied days leading up to a political rally for a Replacement Party candidate and was born of a post-Watergate mentality. It was also the the film that established Altman’s innovative and iconic filmmaking style—with his affinity for vast casts of actors playing against type, casual dialogue and overlapping improvisational style—that would go on to inform the rest of his directorial career.

With an on-set style like no one else, journalist Chris Hodenfield who visited the filming of Nashville, likened Altman’s troupe of actors to “an encounter group meeting during the days of Pompeii.” With over 20 roles in the cast, populated by such essential actors of the day—from Lily Tomlin and Keith Carradine to Karen Black and Shelley Duvall to Scott Glenn and Henry Gibson—the film also features its wonderful and essential cameos from stars like Julie Christie and Elliot Gould. Staying at the same motels, viewing dailies together with Altman, reveling in the chaos and immediacy of the time, to hear about the ongoings behind the scenes of picture is almost as thrilling as the onscreen world itself. But when it comes to the heart of Nashville, there was one woman who stands at the center and brings the curtain down, and that is Ronee Blakley.

Previously known for her musical prowess, whether was in electronic music, film scoring, or the folk rock crowd, Blakley was virtually unknown as an actress when she stepped into Nashville in its most pivotal role of Barbara Jean—the princess of Nashville’s country music scene whose beloved status and massive fame end up being her ultimate demise. But when Blakely originally agreed to be a part of Altman’s world, she was hired to work behind the camera, incorporating songs she has previously written into the film and consulting on a number of musical matters. As a Juilliard graduate who had performed at Carnegie Hall, released a studio album, and scored films, this was certainly a world she knew—but when Altman found himself needing a new star for the feature, there was no one more perfect and qualified to play the role than Blakley. Not only was she nominated for an Academy Award in 1976, but Pauline Kael—who famously championed Nashville right out of the gate—wrote of Blakley’s performance:

This is Ronee Blakley’s first movie, and she puts most movie hysteria to shame. She achieves her gifts so simply, I wasn’t surprised when somebody sitting beside me started to cry. Perhaps, for the first time on the screen, one gets the sense of an artist being destroyed by her gifts.

And since, Blakley has worked with everyone from Wim Wenders and Walter Hill to Bob Dylan, using her collaborations to absorb a tremendous amount of knowledge about the entertainment industry, while impressing her myriad skills as an actress and musician upon their creative spheres. In addition, Blakley has also moved behind the camera, stepping into the directorial seat herself, while managing to become an acclaimed poet (with upcoming live shows in Los Angeles). So in celebration of the Criterion Collection’s stunning DVD/ Blu-Ray release of Nashville today, I had the chance to call Blakley last week to chat about a bit of everything—from stuffing money in her dress at Carnegie Hall to arriving on the set of Nashville and the artistic nirvana that defined Robert Altman’s American masterpiece.

It’s been 38 years since Nashville was released. How does it feel to look back on the film now and your experience with it? I was recently speaking with Bruce Weber and he mentioned  that when you make a film and go through all the trials and tribulations with it, you think well okay, it’s on its own, it’s standing on its own two feet but it’s never really over. Is it the same for you now too?
It’s almost completely come alive for me again, having talked about it so much now. And then I just recently watched the documentary over the weekend. Did you see it?

I did!
Yeah, that got my blood up.

Watching the documentary and reading about the making of the film, it just seems like such an amazing world to have been a part of. Can you still feel that sense of excitement and recall those emotions when you look back on that time?
It feels great in many way because it’s such a beautiful piece of work that everyone did—and everyone can say that and know that now from a safe distance, because we’re not right on top of it anymore and not right on top of each other. We were so together then, it was really wonderful. I guess for me now, it seems like the things that we’re talking about are somewhat for posterity because the film has achieved a classic status. So you feel like, well, I sure wish I still looked like that! I thought I did! I thought I was a brunette!

You talk about the cast and crew being like an organism, all a part of this grand collaboration towards something. How was it working so closely intwined with your fellow actors and with Robert Altman?
You know, I was the only one who had produced a soundtrack for a movie before this; I had actually produced the songs for a movie called Welcome Home Solider Boys. I was the only one who had put our an album and toured—which is how Richard Baskin really knew me in the first place, from songs from that record, and that I had met him at my boyfriend’s house when we’d played music together and got along very well. So when I was put on to Nashville originally, I was put on as a writer to write with Susan Anspach, and help her and work with her—she was going to play Barbara Jean.But she ended up not doing it and they had me do it. So I was kind of looked at as the professional music person, and yet I was not seen as an actor even though I had acted all my life, they didn’t know it. I had also made movies; I had a small part in a feature and I had done summer stock. I even belonged to Equity and I had been on stage at Carnegie Hall with moog synthesizers!

Yes, I knew about the Moog synthesizers. Would you actually mind telling me about that a bit, because that sounds amazing.
Synthesizers are ubiquitous today, but at the time there weren’t many—I think there were four. The Beatles had one, Paul Simon had one, Gershon had one, and Robert Moog was lovely guy. He built these things in his studio upstate and he had one assistant, a young college guy named Tony, and they would come down to Gershon’s studio where a synthesizer occupied a whole room. If you imagine the old-fashioned operator chords in and out like patch chords going in and out for every key, for every input there was an output, so the room had to be huge. I remember when he developed the first sequencer, oh that was so exciting! And it was exciting, I don’t mean to make fun of it, it was truly exciting and there were four moogs in Carnegie Hall and several of us vocalists .

I remember improvising in Carnegie Hall, I had five thousand dollars in cash in my underwear to take to David Crosby down in Nassau in the Bahamas because his engine had broken, and it had to be in 50 dollar bills so it wouldn’t be too hard to exchange down there. So then the money stuck out of my stomach because I was thin then and had on a slinky little satin gown, and I could not turn sideways because I had no place to put the money and I didn’t want to lose it. Anyway, so there was that and I was improvising and it was heady and fantastic and beautiful. That was in January of 1970 and that was what I did then.

Then I moved to LA and began my rock and roll or folk rock career and my song writing career—not for electronic music but into folk music and scoring for movies. But when I came to LA at that time after sailing around on David’s boat through the Panama Canal,  then I got a job doing that movie for Fox, Welcome Home. And from there I got my first album deal with Elektra and those songs are what attracted Richard Baskin to me doing Nashville. So I had him choose from my hundred, hundred fifty songs what he thought would work, and then I also contributed and other people did my songs. The girls who did a duet that are so cute in their pinafores, they sang one of my songs and the high school band played my song—so it was just fantastic. But when I watched the documentary, I didn’t get the sense of any of that. I got the sense that they picked me up on the street somewhere [laughs] Like I fell from the sky! [Laughs] Or arrived on a clam shell. Every person can’t have their bio in the documentary, but it sounds like I landed from a space ship. Well now, that was a roundabout answer, wasn’t it?

How did you go about approaching the character of Barbara Jean? You’ve always been a very active and political person in your personal life and Nashville is, of course, heavily imbued with the political landscape of the time, and yet Barbara Jean isn’t a political figure.
I tried to go to the role, I tried to let the role dictate to me what she was. I looked for her in the faces in the people that I saw and looked for her in the clubs and in the performers I saw. I looked for her in my grandparents and my grandparents ancestors who were pioneers coming from Missouri to Kansas and then Idaho. My dad became a civil engineer, but back in the past they were all country people. I tried to go to that and use that, and then I became that as best I could so that I could see that it was working. I maybe went too far with it—I don’t like to talk about it too much, but I kind of adopted that because I feel that if people believe you on the street they’ll believe you on the screen. So you go to your heart and you search and you seek, like any seeker, the one who is searching, and then you hope for inspiration and give it your best.

You speak in the documentary about the first scene you shot, when Barbara Jean faints and how you gave your own suggestion to Altman’s direction. Was it really freeing as a performer to be in such a heavily improvisational and collaboration set?
It was artistic nirvana. Like when I said no to Bob it wasn’t in an argument, it was just talking very close with someone, your heads are close and they’re muttering something to you and it’s taking place in an intimate fashion. It’s an intimate thing and someone whispers in your ear, and it’s all instinct and all nerve endings because it’s all happening right at that moment and it takes on importance that it would not have otherwise. The fact there’s a set and there are cameras and there are people spending all that money while you are diddle daddling about. If Bob had wanted me to do it, he would have said so. But that’s what he did as a director. It’s like being a puppeteer and coercing and cornering and inviting all your darling children to do this performance and make a play and make something out of nothing—which is what happened.


And I think that’s what makes the film feel so alive and swirling and constantly in motion. It’s thrilling.
It didn’t just feel like that, it wasn’t pretend i that way, it was real and the energy was real—even the extras, even the people that are just Nashville folk, even the man that cleaned my clothes, you see people. The people that go to greet Barbara Jean when she gets off the plane, those are just neighborhood people but they’re all into it and all excited, and it just has that feeling to it. I don’t know how you work up that kind of thing, but it becomes very real. Bob had a lot of good people around him, like Alan Rudolph as an assistant—who is also a fine director—and Tommy Thompson, may he rest in peace, who Bob could not have done it without. Tommy was like having another director on set but who is completely subservient to the director. And then Alan was out shooting second unit. But it was only in the documentary that I learned that Alan shot the Philip Walker Van as it went through town. You know, second unit goes out and shoots stuff but still, the next day he’d be back in writing up call sheets and telling actors it’s time to get to the set. So he’s got these really talented people working under him, and that broads your scope and gives you a wider swathe. You can really cut a wide swathe when you have people like Tommy and Alan as your right hand and left hand taking care of business.

That seems to echo the general sense that everyone had an equal part in contributing to the film. Staying at the same motel and watched dailies together, was there a real sense of intimacy and symbiosis between Altman and the cast?
Yes, we were in two motels. But of course you never knew because everyone had their own private relationship with Bob. It wasn’t like everyone rushed up together and then got together to discuss their parts in a group, that never happened. Whatever happened with Bob was private with that person and Bob. So I can’t speak for the other people because I wouldn’t have been present for that, you see what I mean? But we all gathered together and had parties and dinner and Bob would set up drinks for the dailies, so it was like a a party every night. It really was, a very nice little party, just lovely, really, with just the finest people. Our complex was called the Haystack Apartments, and it was just very real and people’s lives went on and there were personal traumas and dramas and family stuff and breakups, and everything you can imagine went on. And what’s most touching of all ,is those that are gone. It’s hard to take.

You were keeping a journal while filming—was that to help channel your own creative energy and something you always do or was it more in the voice of Barbara Jean?
Deeply for my character, but I’m a writer so I often keep a journal and write, and often times that’s also how y songs will happen. And they’re really invaluable now that I go back to prepare to write a book of my memoirs, and maybe a compilation of anecdotes and some poetry and some photographs and paintings and some new writing, It’s so fantastic to be able to go back to them and find, for example, something that Bob Dylan actually said, rather than to just try and remember. I have a little drawing of Bob at the Speedway and my scene that I wrote for Barbara Jean’s breakdown was in there.

Was it strange and frightening being thrust into the spotlight, having little prior acting experience and playing this character who is at the central of the Nashville universe and the epitome of a star.
Well of course it was daunting and exciting, but I was anxious to do it and I thought I could do it. If I had felt I couldn’t do it, that would have been terrifying and petrifying and walking on oil, but I felt that I could and Altman felt that I could, and everybody seemed to think that I could—nobody seemed to think twice about it. Because I had had experience in music, everyone kind of looked at me as the experienced one, so even though I was a beginner in movies and here I was given an important role, it just seemed to fit in somehow. If I were asked to play something that was further from me, for example, if I were asked to play a girl with an Irish accent who is a juggler, that would be real hard because I don’t know how to juggle and I’d have to study a Irish accent. I studied this accent and got it and practiced it, but you have to feel it. If you don’t close enough, you better get so you do. When you see Sean Penn play the guitar in the movie he did, or when you see people gain and lose massive amounts of weight and learn how to do things they never knew how to do, those kinds of performances are thrilling. It’s got to be real! It’s just got to be real. I was good to people and everyone was good to me, we all helped each other. I gave Gwen Welles singing lessons and I helped Bob find people for the movie, and I’m sure other people did other things. I even bought things for my room, my set, and they were all used.

And being on the set of a film like Nashville is an experience that I’m sure could not be replicated anywhere else. So as your first major role, I’m bet this set the bar pretty high and changed your view of the directorial process.
Yes, because nobody else works like that. So for that to be my first big role in a big movie. and then go on to other movies, and then to think they’re all going to be like that—well they’re not and they weren’t. Each was great in its own way, and some were not as great, but that was the greatest of all.

Now that you’re behind the camera…
I do the same thing! I say go out there and do it! No, no I write and sometimes it’s poetry. I give them stuff ahead of time and ask what they want to hear about such and such a topic and then I’ll write and they’re all reading. And then I like to shoot faux doc stuff and I like to break down the fourth wall sometimes. Sometimes I have to shoot stuff myself, but of course I’d prefer to have a professional camera person, but I do shoot if I have to. And my work with this this recent film that I’m doing is ultra, ultra low budget.

Is that the film starring your daughter?
Yes, but the production value is so low I don’t know what its future will be. I may just release it straight onto the internet. My first feature had enough oomph that it opened at the Venice Film Festival and went to about ten festivals worldwide, but it had a budget probably five, ten times as much. With this I just had to work with a little skeleton crew and work fast. So my movie is a small movie, a tiny movie about a very big thing, a small movie about a big subject.

Having collaborated with so many legendary people in both film and music, as an artist, do you feel like absorb certain traits and learn something new from each person you work with?
I do. I kind of go by osmosis and learn by osmosis—by watching and hearing and looking and feeling, whether or not its Wim Wenders or Andy Warhol or Bob Dylan or Walter Hill or Robert Altman. I just pick up as I go along and the things I love I would like to be able to do. I wish I could make movies like Francis Coppola! I’d like to have 100 million dollars and run around setting up things everywhere. But 100 million still doesn’t guarantee anything, and even if you’d like to be Francis Coppola, it doesn’t mean that you can be! There can only be one Francis. Although Sofia is doing great. She’s so great, with Lost in Translation—that’s such a fine movie.

You also have some live shows coming up, can you tell me a little bit about those?
Oh yes I do! I’ll be at the poetry headquarters here in Los Angeles. It will be my first headline here as a poet. I will be doing some songs, but it will be mostly spoken word, some prose poems and some which you might just call poetry. I have three albums of poetry out. It’s occupied a bit of my time over the past several years and I’ll be having some new stuff in the show.

Will we get a chance to see you in New York at all?
Don’t have anything booked right now, but I’d like to. I’d also like to get going on my book and I’d like to get my movie out. It also had a soundtrack album that I’ll be putting out. It’s called Of One Blood, and then I have a new album called Songs of Love. I’ve got to get cracking on this book! I have thirteen chapters but they need to be better.

And finally, do you have any favorite memories from the set of Nashville—whether it’s a moment with Altman behind the scenes or with the cast while shooting?
Well I guess it would have to be the moment when he came to read what I had written for my breakdown scene. There was no breakdown scene initially, she was just supposed to go down to the Opry and sing. But I asked Bob to come down and I left the makeup chair and stood on the sidewalk with him and I gave it to him to read. I didn’t say it to him, he just read it in my journal. And he said, “Do you know it?” And I said yes and then he said. “We’ll shoot it.” So that was an electric kind of a moment, and that explains who Bob is and explains what kind of director he is and the ability he had to make those kinds of judgements. I mean a lot of people could read something and say, “Oh that’s nice,” or read it and say, “I don’t think it’s very good,” but he could not only read it, take it in, split second judge it, but then he also had the power to make it happen. Then you go out there and you shoot it with a thousand people in the audience and all the cameras—and of course all that stuff was already set to happen—but when you have that kind of synergy between us, we could make some magic. It was very, very exciting.



Photos Courtesy of The Criterion Collection 

The December Criterion Lineup Has Arrived

Ah yes, it’s yet again the time of month when The Criterion Collection announces their upcoming set of releases. We all flock to check our funds and make sure we’ll have enough for our most desire and start savoring for those on our wish list. With films like Slacker, La Notte, Frances Ha, and Tokyo Story being released in October and November, we now have Criterion’s picks for December. Here’s what they’ll be releasing on Blu-Ray and DVD. Get excited.


Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
"The provocative Italian filmmaker Elio Petri’s most internationally acclaimed work is this remarkable, visceral, Oscar-winning thriller. Petri maintains a tricky balance between absurdity and realism in telling the Kafkaesque tale of a Roman police inspector (Gian Maria Volonté, in a commanding performance) investigating a heinous crime—which he committed himself. Both a penetrating character study and a disturbing commentary on the draconian crackdowns by the Italian government in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Petri’s kinetic portrait of surreal bureaucracy is a perversely pleasurable rendering of controlled chaos."


Robert Altman’s Nashville
"This cornerstone of 1970s American moviemaking from Robert Altman is a panoramic view of the country’s political and entertainment landscapes, set in the nation’s music capital. Nashville weaves the stories of twenty-four characters—from country star to wannabe to reporter to waitress—into a cinematic tapestry that is equal parts comedy, tragedy, and musical. Many members of the astonishing cast wrote and performed their own songs live on location, which lends another layer to the film’s quirky authenticity. Altman’s ability to get to the heart of American life via its eccentric byways was never put to better use than in this grand, rollicking triumph, which barrels forward to an unforgettable conclusion."



Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project
Established by Martin Scorsese in 2007, the World Cinema Project expands the horizons of moviegoers everywhere. The mission of the WCP is to preserve and present marginalized and infrequently screened films from regions of the world ill equipped to provide funding for major restorations. This collector’s set brings together six superb films from various countries, including Bangladesh/India (A River Called Titas), Mexico (Redes), Morocco (Trances), Senegal (Touki bouki), South Korea (The Housemaid), and Turkey (Dry Summer); each is a cinematic revelation, depicting a culture not often seen by outsiders.


Albert and David Maysles’ Grey Gardens
Meet Big and Little Edie Beale: mother and daughter, high-society dropouts, and reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis. The two manage to thrive together amid the decay and disorder of their East Hampton, New York, mansion, making for an eerily ramshackle echo of the American Camelot. An impossibly intimate portrait, this 1976 documentary by Albert and David Maysles, codirected by Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, quickly became a cult classic and established Little Edie as a fashion icon and philosopher queen. The Blu-ray edition features the 2006 follow-up to the film, The Beales of Grey Gardens, constructed from hours of extra footage in the filmmakers’ vaults.

The Best Films to Watch Without Ever Leaving Your Bed: Warner Archive Edition

Let’s face it. When it comes to Monday mornings, we’re all Melancholia’s Justine—walking to work in slow motion, ankles wrapped in muddy vines dragging us down as we crawl into what feels like the great demise. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, it’s the beginning of another week and whether you spent your weekend trading in the concrete of the city for some late summer greenery, or perhaps used your time wisely to hide away in a darkened movie theater, I’m sure you’re already looking forward to diving into bed tonight with a good film. 

But with myriad sites and thousands of films to choose from, making a decision that properly suits the existential dilemma you’ve transferred onto your viewing selection, proves daunting. So to help, I’ve rounded up the best of what’s streaming online this week from the Warner Archive Instant library. From Martin Scorsese’s absurdly brilliant After Hours and Who’s That Knocking at My Door to Robert Altman’s dark and smokey McCabe & Mrs. Miller and a bit of everything in between, here’s what you should be watching from beneath the sheets this week. Enjoy.  

Day for Night

The drama on screen is nothing compared to the drama behind the camera! During production of the film "Je Vous Presente Pamela" (May I Introduce Pamela), the actresses are drunk and emotionally unstable. The male lead’s affair with the script girl is getting rocky. And the shoot is beset by endless technical problems in director François Trauffaut’s loving and humorous homage to the cinema.

After Hours

Paul Hackett’s (Griffin Dunne) terrible night happens in the SoHo area of downtown Manhattan when he goes to keep a date with Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). Nothing in his humdrum life as a word processor has prepared him for his surreal encounters with Marcy; her far-out artist roommate Kiki (Linda Fiorentino); cocktail waitress Julie (Teri Garr); ice cream vendor Gail (Catherine O’Hara); June (Verna Bloom), who lives in the basement of a nightclub; and Mark (Robert Plunket) who is ripe for his first gay experience. Now, Paul longs only for the safety of his upper-East Side apartment … but will he ever make it home?


Fashion photographer Thomas (David Hemmings) casually takes a somewhat voyeuristic shot of a man and a young woman in each other’s arms on a park bench. The young woman (Vanessa Redgrave) follows Thomas home and makes love to him in exchange for the photograph. But Thomas keeps the negative, and when he enlarges it, what had seemed a carnal moment, appears to be murder. Thomas returns to the park, and discovers that the man in the photograph is dead. Yet when Thomas enlarges the photo again, he notices a shadow in the bushes that could be barrel of the gun. Is the woman with whom Thomas made love a murderer? Reality seems to change with each blow-up he makes.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

 Martin Scorcese directs Ellen Burstyn delivers an Academy Award-winning performance, in the feature that inspired the long-running sitcom "Alice". At 32, Alice Hyatt (Burstyn) watches her dreams slipping away. Instead of a career as a singer, she has an abusive husband, an ill-mannered 12-year-old son and a life in small-town Oklahoma. But when her husband dies in a traffic accident, Alice heads west to pursue her dreams, working as a lounge singer along the way. Life, however, never seems to go according to plan, and Alice must again face a choice between love and the career that seems as elusive as ever.




"Gooble-gobble…we accept her…one of us," goes the haunting chant of Freaks. Yet it would be decades before this widely banned morality play gained acceptance as a cult masterpiece. Tod Browning (1931’s Dracula) directs this landmark movie in which the true freaks are not the story’s sideshow performers, but "normals" who mock and abuse them. Browning, a former circus contortionist, cast real-life sideshow professionals. A living torso who nimbly lights his own cigarette despite having no arms or legs, microcephalics (whom the film calls "pinheads") – they and others play the big-top troupers who inflict a terrible revenge on a trapeze artist who treats them as subhumans. In 1994, Freaks was selected for the National Film Registry’s archive of cinematic treasures.

The Hunger

Centuries-old Egyptian vampire Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and her centuries-old lover, John (David Bowie), feed on urban nightclub goers. But while Miriam can bestow a very long life on her lovers, she cannot grant them her immortality. When John starts to rapidly age, Miriam seduces Sarah (Susan Sarandon), a doctor researching premature aging.



Helter Skelter

Based on the best-selling Vincent Bugliosi book of the same name, Helter Skelter is a made-for-TV account of the investigation and prosecution of Charles Manson (Steve Railsback), who was convicted of leading a group of followers (known as "The Family") to murder seven people in California, including actress Sharon Tate. The film takes a Law & Order-like approach, starting with the discovery of the murders, which leads to the police gathering snippets of evidence that they eventually connect to the bigger picture. The second half of the movie concentrates on how District Attorney Bugliosi (George DiCenzo) attains a conviction despite the enormous amount of press coverage the case received. Nancy Wolfe, Christina Hart, and Cathey Paine portray the three loyal Manson Family members who were the co-defendants at his trial.

Who’s That Knocking At my Door

American legend Martin Scorsese ("GoodFellas," "Taxi Driver") made his feature directorial debut with this autobiographical drama starring frequent Scorsese collaborator Harvey Keitel, who makes his film debut. J.R. (Keitel) is a typical Italian-American on the streets of New York. When he gets involved with a local girl, he decides to get married and settle down, but when he learns that she was once raped, he cannot handle it. More explicitly linked with Catholic guilt that Scorsese’s later work, we see what happens to J.R. when his religious guilt catches up with him. Full of Scorsese touches, in both embryonic and fully-fleshed form.

The Illustrated Man

Three classic tales by great American fabulist Ray Bradbury from his storied Illustrated Man collection, The Veldt, The Long Rain, The Last Night of the World get the big screen treatment, linked by a pair of extraordinary performers (Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom) and the anthology’s central conceit. Jack Smight’s film has benefited from the passage of time, which has seen SF’s place as the literature of ideas become supplanted by the spectacle of cinema Sci-Fi. Also stars Robert Drivas.


The first part of his "paranoia trilogy," Alan J. Pakula’s 1971 thriller details the troubled life of a Manhattan prostitute stalked by one of her tricks. Investigating the disappearance of his friend Tom Gruneman (Robert Milli), rural Pennsylvania private eye John Klute (Donald Sutherland) follows a lead provided by Gruneman’s associate Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi) to seek out a call girl who Gruneman knew in New York City. The call girl is Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda), an aspiring actress who turns tricks for the cash and to be free of emotional bondage. Klute follows Bree’s every move, observing the city’s decadence and her isolation, eventually contacting her about Gruneman. Bree claims not to know Gruneman, but she does reveal that she has received threats from a john. As Bree becomes involved in Klute’s search and realizes that she is in danger, she reluctantly falls in love with Klute, despite her wish to remain unattached to any man. When she finally comes face to face with the killer, however, she is forced to reconsider her detached urban life.

Ziegfeld Follies

Producer Arthur Freed gathered together a bevy of MGM musical luminaries including Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Gene Kelly for this all-star Technicolor spectacular revue produced in the style of the great Florenz Ziegfeld. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, and introduced by William Powell re-creating his 1936 screen role as Ziegfeld.

Love in the Afternoon

In his first pairing with co-writer I.A.L. Diamond, Billy Wilder plays tribute to the effervescent romantic comedies of Ernst Lubitsch with this May-December romance starring Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper. Hepburn plays Ariane Chavasse, a coltish young conservatory cellist who yearns for a more mature understanding of life. Overhearing a client of her private detective father (frequent Lubitsch collaborator Maurice Chevalier) threatening to murder American playboy Frank Flannagan (Cooper), Ariane decides to warn Frank of the danger herself. Sparks fly when the two meet up, and the worldly Frank finds he is no match for ‘innocent’ Ariane. But Ariane’s gumshoe pop is still on the case… I.A.L. Diamond was not the only future-frequent player for team Wilder to work on the film, production designer Alexandre Trauner delivers the first of his six Wilder collaborations in stunning fashion. Trauner’s sets weave the city of Paris in and out of the mise-en-scene, magically blending the real and the romantic. Franz Waxmen’s score, in turn, sends the romance soaring.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller

A gambler and a prostitute go into business together in a grimy Western mining town as they cater to the vices of the morally bankrupt residents. But their success attracts notice by corporate interests that are too big and too ruthless for the pair to fight. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie star in this altered take on the American Western from famed director Robert Altman. Based on the novel McCabe by Edmund Naughton.

The Yakuza

From famed director Sidney Pollack comes this suspenseful adventure about Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum), an American determined to rescue his employer’s kidnapped daughter from the Japanese mafia in Kyoto. Written by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne .

Night Moves

Private eye Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) is dedicated to his job, but his dedication does not make him happy or powerful in his personal life, and his wife (Susan Clark) is cheating on him. Aging actress Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward) hires Harry to find her trust-funded daughter Delly (Melanie Griffith), distracting Harry from his marital problems as he tracks the lascivious runaway teen to Florida. In the Keys, Harry has an affair of his own with Paula (Jennifer Warren), and he succeeds in locating Delly, even as he learns that finding her is only the beginning of a much larger case. As the "accidental" deaths multiply, Harry discovers that everyone has his or her own motives and that he cannot do much to stem the tide of deep-seated depravity. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

Of Human Bondage

Laurence Harvey and the legendary Kim Novak star in this adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham classic of sexual obssession. Philip Carey (Harvey), a club-footed artist who decides to pursue a medical career after two unsuccessful years in Paris, meets waitress Mildred Rogers (Novak) and falls in love. However, Rogers takes advantage of Carey’s affections time and again as he finds himself unable or unwilling to resist her mercenary advances on his heart and spirit.

Wait Until Dark

A photographer’s blind wife, trapped in her New York apartment by an evil trio who are ready to murder to retrieve a heroin-filled doll hidden in her apartment, cleverly outwits them. Music by Henry Mancini. Based on the long running Broadway play by Frederick Knott. 


Straight Time

Paroled criminal Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman) is compelled to withstand the calculated cruelties of slimy parole officer Earl Frank (M. Emmet Walsh). The more Max tries to go straight, the more he is defeated by circumstance or hectored by the sadistic Frank. It becomes clear after a while that neither Max nor his fellow ex-cons will be able to survive looking for legitimate work. Max is too "far gone" as a human being to succeed at anything other than crime. He goes back to his old thieving ways, inveigling reformed crook Jerry Schue (Harry Dean Stanton) into helping him. A climactic "big caper" goes tragically awry, thanks in great part to the tragic flaws in Max’s personality. Based on a novel by Edward Bunker, Straight Time is possibly the most realistic cinematic probe into the sociopathic psyche of the career criminal. Famed theatrical director and instructor Ulu Grosbard directed, with an uncredited assist from star Hoffman; it was their second film together, after Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

Until the End of the World

Shot in fifteen cities, seven countries and across four continents, famed director Wim Wenders film is part love story, part dream quest, part Sci-Fi apocalypse, and, in the words of Wenders himself “the ultimate road movie.” From the palazzos of Venice to the wilds of the Australian outback, the film challenges and delights, thanks to its wondrous vision and equally wondrous ensemble, including William Hurt, Sam Neill and Max Von Sydow. The year is 1991 and it is a time of great sophistication in personal communications, travel and lifestyle. Video telephones, monitors and hand-held tracking machines make it possible to observe the movements of people anywhere on the globe, yet the hearts and minds of Earth’s inhabitants are more isolated than ever (sound familiar?). But a nuclear satellite has spun out of control and now the world waits in terror to see if, and where!, it will land.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Bob Rafelson’s remake of 1946’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, with a screenplay by the award-winning playwright David Mamet, stars Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers, a depression-era drifter who ends up at a diner run by Nick Papadakis (John Colicos), who offers Frank a job. Frank takes him up on the offer, but quickly begins a torrid affair with Nick’s wife Cora (Jessica Lange). The adulterous lovers soon hatch a plan to kill Nick and share in the insurance payout. The second big-screen adaptation of the James M. Cain novel, the film garnered a certain degree of notoriety for the explicit sex scenes between Lange and Nicholson. 

Gun Crazy

Meeting in a sexually charged carny shooting contest, young lovers Bart (John Dall) and Annie (Peggy Cummins) are driven by impulses of violence and arousal they don’t fully understand. As their passions grows, the cordite barks and the two become bank robbers on the run, eluding roadblocks and roaring into movie history as one of the benchmark Film Noir works. Joseph H. Lewis directs this ferocious thriller that set the blueprint of killer couple flicks for years to come, buoyed by the electrifying performances of its two leads. Screenplay co-written by winner Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, The Brave One) working during the Hollywood blacklist as Millard Kaufman.

Watch Robert Altman’s Two-Part Harold Pinter Adaptation, the 1987 ABC TV Special ‘Basements’

What’s that sound, you say? Oh nothing, just my brain exploding. Yes, well unbeknown to me, great American director Robert Altman—who gave us 3 Women, Nashville, Gosford Park, The Long Goodbye, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, etc.—directed a television special in 1987 for ABC entitled Basements. Made up of two programs, the halves were both adaptations of plays The Room and The Dumb Waiter by Noble Prize-winning, beloved English playwright and poet Harold Pinter. And after hiding for two decades, The Room recently surfaced online via a ripped VHS recording of the special.

As the first play by Pinter, The Room was written and produced in 1957. Establishing his "comedy of menace" signature brand of theatrical brilliance, the play is filled with biting dialogue that feels at once familiar and absurd. Always surprising, bitter, and deliciously written, The Room is filled with a dire sense of unease that walks the line between tragic and hilarious.

In Altman’s adaptation, the unsettling chamber drama centers around a woman (played by Linda Hunt) living in her apartment with her close-mouth and cold husband. She becomes consumed by paranoia, fearful of the fellow tenants in the building. A young couple (Julian Sands and Annie Lennox) stop in and that’s when things take a turn for the bizarre and dark, culminating in the woman meeting the man who has been occupying the basement. 

Back in November, I got the chance to see Julian Sands’ A Celebration of Harold Pinter—which was, by far, one of the more interesting and attractive things I have ever witnessed. Directed by John Malkovich and performed by Sands, we watch as he speaks of Pinter’s work, reenacting stories from his life, and dramatically reading his poetry and short works. 

Check out the 48-minute Altman special below, watch an interview with Sands on his work with Pinter, and let your heart melt as you watch Colin Firth read Pinter’s "Poems for A."

Listen to Jonny Greenwood’s Complete Score for ‘The Master’

Over the past decade, Paul Thomas Anderson’s films have seemed to change from a Robert Altman-esque tangled web of intersecting personal dramas to intimate character studies set against a Kubrickian level of largeness and detail. There’s no denying his 2007 epic, There Will Be Blood, was one of the best films of the last decade, although his latest, The Master, seemed to have even the most devout P.T. fans on the fence. Personally, I loved the film for its performances, which exhausted me as an audience member just sitting in my seat, feeling as if I was carrying Freddie’s weight along with me. But regardless of your critique, it’s undoubtable that his film’s always feature incredible scores—and with master of arresting musical scores, guitarist and composer Jonny Greenwood’s stab at scoring the sense of post-war anxiety, ill-ease, desperation, and manipulation of this world, the film is enhanced to an mystical level that has won him a shot at an Oscar and praise for his musical brilliance.

And now, thanks to The Weinstein Company, you can revisit the haunting experience you first had watching The Master with the release of the full score online. The complete musical addition features what appeared on the original soundtrack but with many more gems—including a second versions of numbers such as “Able Bodied Seaman,” and six “Overtones,” so you can reawaken your psyche to the film all over again. Go make yourself a drink with whatever’s hiding under the kitchen sink, close your eyes, and take a listen.

The Master Complete Jonny Greenwood Score

1. Baton Sparks
2. Able Bodied Seamen v1
3. Time Hole v1
4. Time Hole v2
5. The Split Sabre Combined
6. Overtones v1
7. Alethia
8. Overtones v2
9. Able Bodied Seamen v2
10. His Masters Voice
11. Application 45 v1
12. Overtones v3
13. Overtones v4 and v5
14. Back Beyond
15. Sweetness Of Freddie
16. Overtones v6
17. Back Beyond Credits