Top Ten Films of the 60s — Number Four

#4 — Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) “We rob banks.” It’s a beautiful line of dialogue: so simple, so direct and yet so revealing. When delivered by Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker, there’s a disarming pride to it, a hint of boastfulness and a charming, even sexy certainty to the words, as if they weren’t a report of criminality. Warren Beatty brings just a slight sheepishness to the words, a testing out of a shift from outlaw to folk hero when he speaks those words to a man whose been forced out of his home by one of the … Continue reading Top Ten Films of the 60s — Number Four

Top Fifty Films of the 60s — Number Thirty-Eight

#38 — The Miracle Worker (Arthur Penn, 1962) Much as I can exult in films that are edgy and daring, bending the very parameters of cinematic narrative–and these were in no short supply in the nineteen-sixties, thanks largely to the French New Wave and all that in influenced–I also admire it when a work effectively employs tried and true methods to resonant impact. Indeed, there’s almost something more impressive about a film that engenders a strong emotional response through familiar means. It’s not stirring the viewer through technique trickery, dazzling with sheer audacity. Instead, it’s setting hearts aquiver or tugging … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 60s — Number Thirty-Eight

Buñuel, Meehl, Penn, Minnelli, Rohmer

Buck (Cindy Meehl, 2011). Cindy Meehl’s measured, steadfast documentary focuses on Buck Brannaman, a renowned horseman who primarily makes his living traveling around the country and delivering ranch seminars intended to help people develop better relationships with their problem animals. Meehl was actually inspired to make the film after her own positive experience in one of those group training sessions. Her film, understandably then, comes across like the work a true believer, which is both its strength and weakness. It’s an intimate, compelling portrait of a man who’s found his way through significant personal hardship to create a professional life … Continue reading Buñuel, Meehl, Penn, Minnelli, Rohmer

Ficarra and Requa, Friedkin, Gillespie, Penn, Rafelson

Night Moves (Arthur Penn, 1975). Gene Hackman plays a seedy private detective named Harry Moseby who gets drawn into a case that involves tracking down a missing teenage girl, played by Melanie Griffith in one of her first real film roles. The film is entirely of its era, in good and bad ways. It’s nicely gritty and dark, but it also gets completely mired in a sense of existential dread until it become subsumed by its own fatalism. Nothing good can even come of this world, which the film labors to proves across its overly calculated third act. The film … Continue reading Ficarra and Requa, Friedkin, Gillespie, Penn, Rafelson

Epstein, Greno and Howard, Nichols, Penn, Rush

Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols, 1971). Working from a script by by the great cartoonist Jules Feiffer, Mike Nichols explores the fraught, shifting dynamics of sexual relationship by following a few characters over the course of several years, putting special focus on a randy, rambunctious, sharp-edged man played by Jack Nicholson. The movie may have been most noted for it’s frankness about sexual matters, still remarkable for the time, but it remains engaging because of an even bolder willingness to plumb the emotional rigors of the various characters. Nicholson is especially strong, shrewdly carrying his character from an impetuous, greedy youth … Continue reading Epstein, Greno and Howard, Nichols, Penn, Rush

Howard and Williams, Kazan, Mamet, Penn, Weber

The Missouri Breaks (Arthur Penn, 1976). The film has Marlon Brando at the very beginning of his anything goes, deliberate insanity phase, and Jack Nicholson still wrapped in the energy of his wild genius phase (this film arrived in theaters almost exactly six months after One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and just a couple months after he won his first Oscar). It’s a revisionist western, a style and genre that Arthur Penn had done quite well with a few years earlier. All this makes it equal parts surprising and sad to report that the resulting film is drab. The … Continue reading Howard and Williams, Kazan, Mamet, Penn, Weber