The Godfather (1972, Directed by Francis Ford Coppola) English 10

Starring Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, Abe Vigoda, John Cazale, Richard Conte, Talia Shire

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Iconic. Peerless. Timeless.

A familial epic about the Corleone crime family led by its patriarch Vito (Brando), and his four, very different sons: the volatile Sonny (Caan), adopted son Tom (Duvall), slow Fredo (Cazale), and war hero Michael (Pacino) who stays out of the family business. Their individual lives, and the outsider entanglements that come with a life of crime spark this masterful saga that would continue for another two films. Used by many cinephiles as a model of perfection in filmmaking. Every aspect of it is flawless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Godfather Part II (1974, Directed by Francis Ford Coppola) English/Italian 10

Starring Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Robert De Niro, Bruno Kirby, Michael V. Gazzo, Lee Strasburg

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Stunning. Powerful. Epic.

The Corleone saga continues, this time interweaving the rise of young Vito Corleone (immortalized by Marlon Brando in the first part, here portrayed by De Niro) in turn of the century New York with the continued exploits of a, now, powerful and influential Michael Corleone (Pacino). After Michael’s home gets shot up, he makes maneuver after maneuver to ferret out the traitor who set it up. Longer, more intricate, deeper than the first part, part II manages to be even greater than one of the greatest films of all-time in its predecessor. Pacino in his prime was a force of nature, bottled up in the all-too calculating character of Michael, which makes him a threat to implode at any moment. The slow-developing familial betrayals are devastating, and there are at least a dozen unforgettable characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Toy Story (1995, Directed by John Lasseter) English 10

Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Jim Varney, Annie Potts, Laurie Metcalf

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Classic. Nostalgic. Wonderful.

What if when kids aren’t looking, their toys come alive? That’s the central idea behind the adventures of Woody the cowboy and Buzz Lightyear. Woody (Hanks), his owner Andy’s favorite toy, feels insecure and jealous when the newest, coolest toy on the block, Buzz Lightyear (Allen), arrives on the scene to steal most of the attention. What could easily have been a one-note conceit, thanks to superior writing, spirited voice acting, and imagination, has become a perennial classic. You relate to Woody’s anxiety, and his contentious friendship with Buzz is one of the most endearing in film history. The Randy Newman songs are unforgettable. If the visuals show some wear, we overlook them, because the story is as engrossing as ever, and it is still one of the funniest animated films.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Miller’s Crossing (1990, Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen) English 10

Starring Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, Albert Finney, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Jon Polito

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Superb. Skilled. Under-rated.

Italian mobsters want Bernie Bernbaum (Turturro) dead. Irish mobster Liam O’Bannon (Finney) says he won’t let it happen. O’Bannon’s closest confidant Tom Reagan (Byrne) tells him that’s not the smart move. O’Bannon doesn’t listen. The ensuing drama plays out in true Coen brothers fashion, balancing scenes of extreme violence with humor and colorful characters. The whole cast is great, but Polito and Turturro stand out in key supporting roles. Miller’s Crossing is overflowing with style, wit, and intelligence. Adapted from Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Django Unchained (2012, Directed by Quentin Tarantino) English 10

Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Don Johnson, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson

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Funny. Violent. Epic.

My second favorite Tarantino flick coming off the heels of Inglourious Basterds, my favorite. Django is a wild picture. A kooky bounty hunter, named King Schultz (Waltz), strikes a deal with the formerly enslaved Django (Foxx) which ultimately leads to a strange friendship between the two and a mission to save the latter’s wife from the insanely evil Candyland plantation. So many flourishes and indulgences, and although not all of them work (Tarantino’s cameo as an Aussie for one), the film as a whole is incredible. Waltz and Foxx make a memorable odd couple, Jackson is diabolical as the loyal slave, Stephen, and the soundtrack, as we’ve come to expect from the director, is surprising and perfect.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Thing (1982, Directed by John Carpenter) English 10

Starring Kurt Russell, T.K Carter, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Peter Maloney, David Clennon, A. Wilford Brimley

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Thrilling. Suspenseful. Masterful.

A group of scientists camped out and cut off from civilization in Antarctica discover an alien life form that’s able to multiply, duplicate, and replace human life forms. The men turn on each other as the alien monster picks them off one at a time (just how we horror fans like it). Heavily indebted to films like Alien (1979), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956/1978), and obviously The Thing From Another World (1951), I, nevertheless, believe that John Carpenter’s The Thing surpasses its influences. Pacing, payoff, special effects, atmosphere, are all in exceptional form here. All the lovely little gory details are inspired, and the soundtrack by Ennio Morricone (which somehow was nominated for a Razzie?) is terrifying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, Directed by Frank Capra) English 10

Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Lionel Barrymore, Beulah Bondi, Gloria Grahame, Ward Bond

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Classic. Immortal. Moving.

Clarence (Travers), an angel 2nd class, is given an awfully tough assignment: selfless, devoted family man, George Bailey (Stewart) of Bedford Falls, wonders if the world would be a better place if he was never born. Clarence gives George a glimpse of what that would look like. The quintessential Christmas standard, It’s a Wonderful Life is the best of Christmas movies for any lover of classic Hollywoood. James Stewart and Frank Capra were an awesome pair, and I’m not sure any one has looked more beautiful in a film than Donna Reed when she and Stewart huddle around a phone, trying to stay angry at one another. I’ve mentioned before people’s tendency to forgive overt sentimentality in older films. In fact, it’s what people love most about films like It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey’s life isn’t easy, or what he dreamed for himself, but in the end, he’s given the gift of seeing that he has a purpose. Aside: Like any true traditionalist, I prefer this film in black and white.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-