Paths of Glory
Before Full Metal Jacket, before Dr. Strangelove, there was Paths of Glory. Kubrick’s fluid camera choices in the battle scenes really show his evolution toward the incredible Steadicam work he would later originate on The Shining.
Frankenheimer and DP James Wong Howe’s aggressive camera work put me right into the paranoia of the “reborns.” Fifteen years after this was made, I worked on a Frankenheimer production and would literally hide in the shadows watching how he directed actors and blocked a scene—he was remarkable.
Drama John Cassavetes style—aggressive and docu-cool. Handheld and shot in black and white (by Haskell Wexler), it had a great impact on the audience, and on me and my windup Bolex as I tried to figure out how to shoot a scene. Great storytelling.
Kurosawa and film history. After seeing The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges’s U.S. remake), I was introduced to this, and it became my first awareness of world cinema. A must-see for film lovers, Kurosawa at his best.
This Is Spinal Tap
This film is hilarious. One of the best comedies ever made. Works on so many levels of story, improv, farce and using film style to set-up a joke. Rob Reiner put together a comedy dream team.
The Bank Dick
The Bank Dick doesn’t have much of a plot but is packed with great comic scenes, like a prewar sketch show. Before Jackie Gleason and John Belushi, there was W. C. Fields.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Milton Berle! I don’t think I have ever used the term madcap, but it’s suitable here. Stanley Kramer’s crazy comedy/adventure has great action and standout performances from many of the top comics of the ’60s. A groovy ride, and in 70 mm, yet.
Steven Soderbergh’s film inspired by the UK miniseries. One of my favorite filmmakers, and this is one of many of his that I just love. From his big-budget studio films to the smaller art films, he always finds such a unique way to tell a story. And he knows how to hold a camera!
I grew up in L.A. in the ’80s, and drove a Chevy Malibu—so this film spoke to me. Emilio as Otto and Harry Dean Stanton as Bud in the best kind of supernatural buddy comedy whodunit—in an Alex Cox rock-and-roll world!