Quiz Show (1994, Directed by Robert Redford) English 10

Starring Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, Rob Morrow, Paul Scofield, Mira Sorvino, Martin Scorsese, David Paymer, Hank Azaria, Christopher McDonald

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Sharp, engaging, affecting.

In the 1950s, television was a new sensation, and I Love Lucy was the biggest show on it. Then the handsome, Charles Van Doren (Fiennes), an Ivy league professor from an influential family, hit it big on a quiz show called 21 and made it the most watched show in America. What happened? It was all a lie. The producers gave him the answers to ensure he never left the show. Soon it was a front-page scandal, and t.v producers were brought to trial like some communist spy. Actor turned director, Robert Redford, captures the drama of all this flawlessly. All the actors and I mean even the ones with limited roles, are perfectly cast, the dialogue is scintillating, and the inevitable (albeit minor in the grand scheme of things) tragedy is incredibly poignant.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Inglourious Basterds (2009, Directed by Quentin Tarantino) English 10

Starring Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, B.J Novak, Diane Kruger, Michael Myers, Eli Roth

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Bold. Brilliant. Suspenseful.

Unfolded in a lengthy episodic style, a renegade (or clandestine) group of Jewish soldiers led by Aldo “The Apache” Raine wreak havoc and vengeance on the Nazis during World War II. Meanwhile, pure evil masquerades as a mischievous rogue in the form of Colonel Hans Landa (played brilliantly by Waltz in a star-making turn). He’s coined the Jew hunter and makes it his mission to track the Basterds down. With only a handful of scenes, the film’s 2 and a half hour running time blows by. Each scene is a tour de force of verbal suspense and the finest example of Tarantino’s unique gift. A fantastic cast fills out even the bit parts making every character memorable; Til Schweiger as Hugo Stiglitz for example. At the end, when Pitt’s character says, “I think this might just be my masterpiece,” I feel that it applies to Tarantino and this incredible film he wrote and directed.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Pride and Prejudice (2005, Directed by Joe Wright) English 10

Starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Carey Mulligan, Tom Hollander

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Romantic. Lovely. Expert.

Glorious adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel about Elizabeth Bennett (Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Macfadyen) falling in love in 19th century England. The two, of different circumstances and certain that they detest each other, find themselves continually drawn to one another. Some may quibble with the liberties taken-much of Austen’s biting satire is gone and every character in the film is beautiful-but the end result is wonderfully romantic. Keira Knightley, while not what Austen had in mind, is perfect for this film’s version of Elizabeth.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The Manchurian Candidate (1962, Directed by John Frankenheimer) English 10

Starring Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Henry Silva

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Raw. Gripping. Brilliant.

Political thriller about a group of soldiers returning to the States after a harrowing campaign in the Korea War. But Captain Marco (Sinatra) starts to doubt his own memories and understanding of what took place overseas, and all signs point to brainwashing. Soon Captain Marco finds a major Government conspiracy that involves turning soldiers into helpless killing machines, and Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Harvey), son of Svengali-like Senator’s wife Eleanor Iselin (Lansbury), is at the heart of it. Communist paranoia at its finest, as well as a razor-sharp satire of the McCarthy era, this is such a fine film. Gripping, odd, suspenseful, layered. A masterpiece of its genre.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


Gosford Park (2000, Directed by Robert Altman) English 10

Starring Clive Owen, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Richard E. Grant, Kristen Scott Thomas, Charles Dance, Kelly Macdonald, Emily Watson, Stephen Fry, Derek Jacobi

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Intricate. Masterful. Witty.

It’s 1930’s England. Sir William McCordle is throwing together a hunting party and the list of invitees include friends and enemies alike, though there’s little distinction between the two in his case. Soon he is dead, and we’re left with a good old fashioned whodunit, but this is a Robert Altman film, so it’s a little bit more. Full of amusing characters (Maggie Smith’s subtly insulting dame, chief among them). Filled to the brim with secrets. This is an odd whodunit where none of the characters in the film actually care who killed the victim, and a murder mystery film that invites multiple viewings and improves with time. Written by Julian Fellowes who went on to great heights with Downton Abbey, another take on the upstairs-downstairs dynamic of Old English life.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


The 39 Steps (1935, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 10

Starring Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Peggy Ashcroft, John Laurie

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Stylish. Thrilling. Fast-paced.

Classic Hitchcock thriller about a man (Donat), a victim of chance, who gets wrapped up in international espionage and a conspiracy plot. A couple of romantic subplots spice up the proceedings. One with Margaret (Ashcroft), a bereaved Scottish wife who helps him elude police, and the second with Pamela (Carroll), an uptight, unhelpful British blonde who, of course, turns out to be the love of his life. Stylish and efficient (the film’s only about 80 minutes or so), this is one of Hitchcock’s most entertaining movies, which is to say one of the most entertaining movies period.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


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-