Jacknife: Playing House

Martha works as a schoolteacher and takes care of her Vietnam veteran brother. She functions as both his housewife and mother: cooking and cleaning, waking him from drunken stupors, fretting over his late-night bar crawls and morning drinking habits. Her alcoholic and unemployed brother David is psychologically disturbed by the death of his friend and fellow solider Bobby. Megs’ arrival functions as the catalyst to remove both from their passive states. Jacknife stages the siblings’ cyclical post-Vietnam existence and within the oppressive space of the childhood home.

Jones employs claustrophobic framings to emphasize the home’s suffocating power. Kitschy trinkets and antiques fill rooms enveloped in elaborately painted wallpapers of intricate florals, mountain landscapes, or 1960s psychedelic circles. These styles harshly juxtapose other patterns found on props such as couches or blankets. David and Martha live amongst their parents’ possessions and décor while attempting to fill the roles they’ve left behind. David romanticizes the site of his prewar innocence, “I love this place. Every good memory I have.” With their mother living in Florida and father long since passed away, it is too late for the siblings to both regain the gratification of prewar familial bonds.

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David’s paternal relationship embodies both the irreversibility of time lost and the larger national ideals found in Vietnam representation. David learned of his father’s death immediately after arriving home on the plane from Vietnam. He had anticipated a vengeful reunion with his father. “It was my dad’s gung-ho vet shit that got me to enlist in the first place. I’d been fantasizing for months that the first thing I was gonna do when I got home was deck that son of a bitch. These veterans had experienced youthful ideas of male adulthood through the lives of their fathers; fathers invoked the ideal of manliness for their sons.” Vietnam shattered the innocent ideals of World War II patriotism instilled by his father and it was too late to confront him.

 David attempts to recover the honor, integrity, and manhood that Vietnam combat was supposed to bestow on him by performing roles of masculine superiority and that construct Martha as both virginal housewife and daughter figure.  However, he simultaneously maintains the oppositional desire to be cared for as a child by positioning Martha as his mother figure. Also, David’s desire for a stable household and the restitution of paternal authority is acted out in a scene where he visits Bobby’s parents and virtually begs them to let him do chores around their house.Whether it be his sister or the parents of his dead friend, David is looking for anyone to parent him.

 The character of Megs unexpectedly arrives to coax David into joining him on a fishing trip. Martha is intrigued by this new visitor and proposes that she join them. “You’d think you’d enjoy a woman’s company for a change,” she tells David. This line indicates Jeffords’ theory of feminine exclusion. Veterans privilege the camaraderie of other veterans and forcibly extract a woman’s presence from their daily lives. “A woman we could use; a sister we don’t need,” David replies. We read this remark as David’s failure to construct Martha as a lover figure for his sister she cannot offer him sexual gratification. Martha disparages David’s choice in women, claiming that they are too simple to hold an engaging conversation. David replies, “If I wanted a point of view, I’d listen to the news.” This statement perpetuates Susan Jeffords’ discourse on the veterans’ appropriation of women’s bodies as “entrances to a place out of war.”  David does not bother to engage with women beyond a sexual relationship because they cannot ‘understand’ the war, for ultimately it is a ‘man’s story.’

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Megs offers Martha a beer but David speaks for her to say that she doesn’t drink. Martha defiantly takes the beer and asserts that she will join the fishing trip, signaling her newfound agency and future alliance with Megs. Martha’s agency violates David’s need to reconstitute a household of patriarchal order. David confronts this disruption after spotting Martha and Megs on a restaurant date. Martha returns home to a darkened room and turns on the light to reveal David sitting in the chair like an angry father waiting for his daughter who missed curfew. “Becoming quite the social butterfly, aren’t we, sis?” he says, vehemently opposing Martha’s newfound independent discovery of a world beyond the confines of their home and complex relationship.

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Martha’s emerging sexual agency threatens David’s construction of her as both virginal mother figure and daughter. David continues to enact the role of protective father by lecturing that Megs is dangerous, crazy and has assault charges. David walks into Martha’s bedroom after their fight, pleading like a petulant and punished little boy, “Is it really so bad around here?” Martha indicates his failure to fulfill her sexual desires, “The things I want, you can’t give me.” David quietly asks if she is going to leave. She replies, “someday.”  Martha threatens her agency just as her mother employed hers by moving to Florida. In this exchange, Martha establishes her ultimate goal to remove herself from these infantilized performances to become an independent woman in a romantic relationship away from the childhood home. Megs has sparked a change in her to take control of her life again. Jones reinforces Martha’s objective during one of the few scenes of her outside of Megs and David’s orbit. After teaching class, she observes students in the hall during a romantic embrace. Jones focuses on Martha’s reaction shot, indicating her discomfort that teenagers have pursued a relationship while she, an adult woman, has not.

In another scene, Martha rushes downstairs to proudly display her newly sewn dress. She announces that Megs is taking her to chaperone the school’s prom. David replies with a cruel and mocking laugh. He exhibits virile force by slamming the freezer door shut on Martha and screaming at her, performing once again as the protective father disciplining his daughter. He insists that Martha cancel the date. Martha threatens to leave “just like mama.” Jones frames this line on David’s facial reaction to signal the power and anxieties this event holds on him. After the argument, Martha sits on her bed and glances into her triptych mirror, indicating the variety of roles she playacts: the pretty prom date she longs to be and the roles of mother, daughter and wife she performs for David.

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As this analysis indicates, the lack of parental guidance in Vietnam’s wake has left them both unstable. They are two adults playing a life-size game of house, pretending to be father and daughter or mother and son. But why does Martha willingly perform these roles?  She does not want to disrupt David’s world any further for Vietnam has taken enough from him. Just as David felt bound by familial duty to enlist in the war, Martha is bound to her responsibility to take care of her brother. Jacknife reinforces Martha’s strong bond and tender feelings towards her brother. One scene depicts Martha lovingly glancing down at the sleeping David while she gently rubs her hand on his cheek. Martha later admits that she only stays for him and she worries every single night that David is out there killing himself. Jacknife therefore defines Martha’s loving devotion for her brother as the impetus for her gendered performance and static existence.

What’s Up With That Ending?: Taxi Driver

The ending of Taxi Driver starts off with an intense shootout, and is followed by an aftermath that many interpret as Travis Bickle’s dying dream. Should we take it as reality or is this what Travis wishes was his ending?

The ending sequence begins with a violent shootout, where Travis swings in like the John Wayne hero he’s modeled himself to be. After failing to assasinate the Senator, Travis goes to save Iris (the young prostitute he befriended) by killing her pimp and client. Travis gets shot in the neck and the arm. The shootout ends with Travis bloodied on the couch  next to a crying Iris. A cop enters and Travis mimes shooting himself in the head. Travis leans his headback and stares up at the ceiling as the camera changes to a birds-eye view of the leftover carnage. It seems like Travis is dying right there and then on the couch.

Then we find that instead of dying in the shootout, Travis survives and becomes a local hero. “Taxi driver…” the headline reads on the newspaper clippings hung on Travis’ apartment wall.  We hear a thankful letter written by Iris’ parents. Iris has returned home thanks to Travis’ intervention.

This all feels quite implausible, that Travis was able to come out a hero despite having murdered several people in cold blood. It is possible  First of all, with the crazy mohawk and interaction with the cops, Travis looked like anything but a hero. Also, the easily spotted mohawked Travis was just seen approaching the Senator in a manner of attempted assassination. His wounds shown in the shootout, especially the one in his neck, seemed quite severe as well. And lastly, his gun was unregistered, which he mentions in the film after killing the store robber.

The next sequence and final scene we see Travis with his hair grown back as it used to be. We see Travis get into his taxi cab. As he is driving, we see Betsy in the rear view mirror. We only see her in the mirror, so he could easily be talking to himself and imagining all this, but then we see her get out of the car.

Betsy seems smitten and impressed with Travis, she mentions having read about his heroism in the papers. This I find the most difficult to believe. After that horribly awkward date, and that Travis continually stalked her afterwards, I don’t see how Betsy could have wanted to reconnect with Travis again.

But while several elements of these scenes seem to be very dream-like, it becomes clear from interviews with the writer Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese that they were not writing or filming it with the idea of a “dreamscape” in mind.Scorsese comments on the DVD commentary saying that the odd shot of Travis glancing at an unseen object in the mirror shows that he is like a “ticking time bomb” and will easily fall into rage and recklessness again. Or, as Paul Schrader puts it, that Travis is “not cured by the movie’s end. He’s not going to be a hero next time”.

The scenes after the shootout do seem too good to be true, as if it is Travis’ imagination running wild with the public reaction to him saving the day. But, keeping the filmmaker’s intention in mind, we put the facts and logistics aside and see what the film wants to get across by having these sequences be reality.

1976, New York, New York, USA --- Overhead view of the bloody aftermath of Travis Bickle's killing spree from Martin Scorsese's . --- Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis

All throughout the film, Travis has been looking for an outlet for his violent thoughts, a way to escape the loneliness that’s been plaguing him. And only by acting out violently is he able to escape it. When everything with Betsy fell through, Travis turned to the next best thing, Iris. By killing her pimp and her seedy client, he is able to live out and fulfill the hero fantasy. And right there to help him is the American media.

It is ironic that Travis, the perpetual outsider becomes celebrated in society by violating its laws. The law-abiding Travis was invisible, but the murderous Travis is a hero. This validates Travis’ criticisms of New York society (especially wrought in the tensions of post-Vietnam), which tolerates and praises violent behavior. But how society perceives him is entirely based on who’s at the end of the gun. Had Travis assassinated the politician, his fate would have been much different. But by killing grimy pimps and mobsters, Travis is a hero. And the media is right there to perpetuate it, to blow  up Travis’ heroism even further.

I do believe it is easy to see all the scenes after the shootout as Travis’ dream of wish fulfillment. The filmmakers filmed those scenes as the truth, that Travis got away with the murders but will end up murdering again. Of course the ending is still open to interpretation, but having the ending be truth shows how easily media and society feeds off of violence,  and those that are isolated from others can easily fall into it.

Top 10: Robert De Niro Performances

 For those who knew of Robert De Niro only from the late 90s on, you know him as the funny old guy from Analyze This, or the father-in-law from Meet the Parents. During the 70s and 80s, De Niro was considered one of the greatest and best actors of his peers. He used the Method for many of his roles, physically and emotionally transforming himself to become some of the greatest characters in film history. From his start in early Brian DePalma comedies to becoming Scorsese’s first protege before Leo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro has a long career spanning the decades, starring in some of the greatest films in movie history. It’s really impossible to choose just 10 great performances, many of them are going to be unmentioned, but here’s what I consider to be his Top 10 performances.

1. Jake LaMotta – Raging Bull

Robert De Niro won the Oscar for his emotionally intense performance as the brutal boxer Jake LaMotta. There is so much that I could say about this performance. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest film performances of all time. This scene below (which I analyzed here) reveals the tenderness inside of LaMotta, revealing his broken humanity for all the outside chaos and destruction he causes.

2. Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver

The isolated and delusional psychopath is one of De Niro’s most famous and memorable roles. . His infamous “You talkin’ to me” scene was completely ad-libbed, which proves just how much De Niro absorbed himself into this role of rage-fueled loner.

3. Leonard Lowe – Awakenings

It’s often looked upon as a cliche that when an actor plays a character with a disability they are baiting for an Oscar. But what many people don’t understand is just how difficult it is for an actor to effectively pull off a physical or vocal disability. When I first saw Awakenings, De Niro’s performance blew me away. Leonard Lowe has a disability, almost a “locked in” syndrome, losing all movement and speech patterns. A drug is developed that nearly cures him, but it slowly starts losing it’s power and Leonard regresses back. De Niro received a well-deserved Oscar nomination (and should’ve won, in my opinion) for his heartbreaking and inspiring performance. It takes a lot of talent to pull something like that off.

4. Michael Vronsky – The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter is an intesnse portrayal of the Vietnam War. The famous Russian Roulette scene shown below shows just what high stakes and tensions De Niro had to portray. (As well as the amazing Christopher Walken) The rest of the performance is a quiet but devestation study of trauma. De Niro described it as the most draining film he ever performed in. Watching it, you can easily see why. De Niro effectively portrays the uneasy act of assimilation after returning back home from seeing such horrors of war.

5. Rupert Pupkin – The King of Comedy

De Niro and Scorsese teamed up in a change of pace from dark gangster pictures with The King of Comedy, a social satire on the obsession with fame and celebrity. De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, a wannabee comic who goes so far to kidnap and hold his idol hostage to be on his show. De Niro gives Pupkin over the top mannerisms and speech, a performance that perfectly balances the desperation and tenacity of the character. This role can be seen a sister role to Travis Bickle, for Pupkin is just as delusional and unhinged.

6. David “Noodles” Aaronson Once Upon a Time in America

Noodles is a complicated role in Sergio Leone’s near four-hour epic. It is a mostly somber and quiet performance, Noodles spends most of the film as a sad and heartbroken wanderer, or an introspective outsider of his gang. But Noodles is not entirely likeable. There are two, one especially shocking, rape scenes in the film. Noodles can be equally savage as he is subdued. De Niro manages to brilliantly pull it off. (You can see more of my thoughts on his performance here)

7. Max Cady – Cape Fear

This is a deliciously over-the-top but equally terrifying performance. De Niro is a released convict that terrorizes the family of the lawyer who ineptly defended him. De Niro dons a thick Southern drawl, body builds for tight muscles which are decorated with religious tattoos. His eerily accurate portrayal of a sexual predator is in the scene below. (I analyzed that scene and his performance here)

8. Vito Corleone – The Godfather Part II

De Niro had a difficult job to do when being cast as the young Vito Corleone. Not only did he have to learn and perfect Sicilian dialogue (his lines were mostly in that language, with only sprinkles of English) but he had to fill the shoes of the great Marlon Brando. Brando made his role of Don Vito Corleone infamous in film history. De Niro had to evoke his performance while making it his own. De Niro achieves this and more. He tactfully echos familiar gestures and expressions that Brando used as Vito. He won Best Supporting Actor for this performance.

9. Father Bobby – Sleepers

Sleepers is rather underrated, but De Niro gives a great performance. He plays a priest who is a mentor to a group of boys in the city. The boys end up in prison where they are terrorized and raped by one of the guards. There’s a scene that is just a slow close-up on De Niro, a reaction shot to him hearing what happened to his young friends. De Niro encompasses a huge array of emotions with just one look.

10 Jack Walsh – Midnight Run

De Niro is well-known nowadays for making fun of his tough guy image with Analyze This, Meet the Parents, and the shameful The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. But one of his lighter roles in the hilarious Midnight Run is a great performance. De Niro has a clear flair for comedy as the fast-talking curmudgeon Jack Walsh. If you want to see more of his better comedic roles, watch We’re No Angels and Jackie Brown.
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Top 10: Al Pacino Performances

In honor of the current book I’m reading Al Pacino: In Conversation with Lawrence Grobel (which is a great look into the actor’s mind, life and acting process) here is what I personally consider to be Al Pacino’s best performances. Al Pacino is regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time, his leap from the stage to the screen led him to a blazing start, appearing in some of history’s most famous films.

Although many like to poke fun that Al’s work gets gradually bigger and louder as time goes on. That he has now mastered the art of screaming and yelling on the top of his lungs, until it has become redundant. But nonetheless, Al Pacino’s performances are varied and vibrant.

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1. Michael Corleone – The Godfather

How can there be any other choice for #1? Francis Ford Coppola campaigned for Pacino against the studio’s wishes, refuting that there was no one else more perfect for the role. When he read the book, someone like Al Pacino was who he pictured in his head. Pacino would’ve preferred to play James Caan’s role as the hothead Sonny, (and Al eventually gets his wish and plays yelling hotheads many times throughout his career) but Pacino is masterful as the quiet, calculating Corleone. His still and subdued performance is much more powerful in the unspoken than any shouting could ever emote.

In this scene below, watch how he struggles to hold himself together despite the utter shock and contempt he feels for hearing what Kay has done. (And for a devout traditional Catholic, it is even more horrible) Note the wave of anger as he lashes out and slaps her, but you can see he regrets it as he quickly steps back.

There are far too many clips I could show from the first two films that demonstrate his fine work in this infamous role.

2. Sonny Wortzick – Dog Day Afternoon 

For all the stillness and subtly Pacino conveys in Corleone, he shows the complete opposite in his portrayal of Sonny Wortzick, a zany bounciness fueled by nervousness and hysteria. The role of Sonny was slightly controversial, a high-profile actor taking on the role of a gay man robbing a bank to pay for his lover’s sex change operation. This was one of the first main gay characters to ever appear in a mainstream film.

But Pacino doesn’t play him flamboyantly or override him with stereotypes, instead he is filled with passion and love for his partner. Overall, there is such a beloved earnestness in Sonny. The combination of that earnestness and naiveté is wholly endearing, as the not-so-well planned heist ends up becoming a media circus. (Foreshadowing the days of reality TV and the allure of fifteen-second fame.) His rallying cry of “Attica! Attica!” was completely improvised, earning the status of becoming one of the most famous film lines of all time. You can’t get a better example of Pacino’s energy and passion as an actor with this role.

3. Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade – Scent of a Woman 

This is the film that finally gave Al Pacino an Oscar. After being a seven-time nominee, most feel that this was given to Pacino more of as a consolation prize, making up for all his losses, rather than the part actually being deserving of one. Some feel the film is too long and overly schmaltzy. However, I view it as a heartwarming, moving, and triumphant drama with a lot of merit. Although it’s undeniable that the film would be nothing without Al Pacino’s performance. Al Pacino a Lieutenant Colonel Slade is a tortured soul, underneath all of his sarcasm and bravado, he is a lonely man. Blinded by an act of his own making, he is in the dark, both literally and figuratively.

Others feel that this role is very over-the-top and Oscar bait. But I think Pacino’s theatrical tendencies suit this character. Slade has got a lot of anger, a lot stirring up inside of him. And when it comes out, it over-bubbles.

That famous hoo-ha was Completely improvised by Pacino during his own private character work. If there’s anything I’ve learned by reading his interviews, is that despite a decades long career he still manages to take the time out to do private work for his characters. That’s someone who’s truly dedicated to their craft. Also, the closing speech is inspiring and audience-rousing.

4. Arthur Kirkland – …And Justice for All 

The film is a bit unbalanced, shifting between emotional drama and sitcom-like humor. (There’s really cheesy 70s sitcom music and close-ups) But Pacino’s performance certainly holds it together. Kirkland is an honest lawyer, he cares about the people and wants to obey the law and help as many as he can. This scene, below, I feel demonstrates some of his finest acting work, Especially when Kirkland admits that his client ended up hanging himself. The emotion in his voice and eventual breakdown is very well-crafted. You can really sense the other actor trying to keep up with Pacino’s skills.

…And Justice for All also features another famous ‘Pacino yelling speech’, one of the most famous. In his earlier days, before Pacino yelling became more of a joke and token staple in his films, you can see that when he nailed it he really did nail it. Similar to Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon, Pacino portrays Arthur Kirkland’s earnestness and passion as endearing and commendable.

5. Frank Serpico – Serpico

Al Pacino as Serpico is a famous and big role for him, between this and the recent release of The Godfather, he catapulted into becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. It is also a transformative role We see him go from a clean-cut fresh faced rookie cop to a grizzled hippie police outcast, the only one standing alone for what he knows is right. Watching it, it is undeniable that Pacino carries the film. Both gracefully and explosively portraying the struggles and convictions of the real-life cop.

6. Lt. Vincent Hanna – Heat

Pacino sizzles in Heat, he has a lot of fun playing Vincent Hanna and you can see it. Pacino is able to run wild with his character, a wild-eyed hothead workaholic who struggles to keep together his crumbling marriage. But in the end, work is more important as he engages in a cat-and-mouse chase for the criminal Neil, played by Robert De Niro. Heat is famously the first film to bring the acting greats De Niro and Pacino together. Pacino brings his well-known bravado and theatrics to create a fun and truly memorable character.

7. Tony Montana – Scarface

Al Pacino’s role in this is iconic, so permeated in pop culture (“Say hello to my little friend” is perhaps one of the most infamous and widely quoted movie lines) that it’s hard to believe the film was poorly received when it first came out. Many felt that the film and performance was overly flamboyant, far too over-the-top. But Pacino, aligned with what he felt was Brian De Palma’s vision, wanted to make his performance operatic. And indeed, it is. Operatic as well as wildly entertaining. For all the extravagance that Cuban immigrant-turned-cocaine drug kingpin Tony luxuriates in, how can he be anything but over-the-top? There is no gray area or reeling in with this character, and Pacino goes all for it.

8. Lowell Bergman – The Insider

A lot of Pacino’s characters seem to be passionate, dedicated individuals who fight for a cause against the odds. In line with that narrative, Pacino plays Lowell Bergman, a reporter trying to take on the corrupt tobacco industry. However, for all of his passion this is much more of a quiet intensity. Rather than relying on his past theatrics, which work for other performances, this character brings a different kind of earnestness that we don’t usually see in Pacino’s other work.

9. Carlito – Carlito’s Way 

Also directed by Scarface‘s Brian De Palma, Pacino plays a character completely opposite Tony Montana. Carlito Puerto-Rican ex-convict who tries his hardest to stay on the straight and narrow path. It is a very quiet and understated performance, he tells a lot more through the eyes. Another thing that sticks out about the performance is that you want Carlito to succeed so much, you want him to be able to stay on the right path as much as he can, despite all the temptations along the way.

His character also brings a lot of humor, like in this scene.

10. Johnny – Frankie and Johnny

Frankie and Johnny is a rather underrated romantic comedy, featuring Pacino in a performance that we rarely see from him. Instead of his tough guy characters, we get to see his lighter side, an emotional and vulnerable man with a lot of humor and a heart of gold. It’s a sweet movie with Al Pacino yet again playing another earnest character. There is nothing deceitful about him for he lays all of his emotions out on the table. Michelle Pfeiffer is also exceptional opposite him.

Honorable mention to Two Bits, where Pacino gives a heartwarming and moving performance as a sickly and dying grandfather, a sweet and touching side we rarely see in his roles.

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In celebration of Al Pacino’s great work on film, I leave you with this fun remix.

Top 10: Favorite Movies

It’s really hard to narrow down my exact favorite movies, there are so many I love that it’s hard to choose from. Sometimes these picks change throughout the years, but most of these have remained constant.

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1. The Lord of the Rings

I was in 4th grade when the trilogy began, but I wanted nothing to do with them. I wasn’t a fan of Harry Potter (I know, blasphemy…) so I didn’t think anything fantasy would be up my alley. But one day I borrowed them from a neighbor’s house, and now nearly ten years later they still remain my absolute favorite films of all time. (I count them as one, because after all, that’s what Tolkien intended with the books!) As a whole, I really am not a big fan of the fantasy genre. But something about this good vs. evil story absolutely captivates me. I can’t put into words how much Frodo’s journey means to me.

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2. King Kong

A lot of people don’t like Peter Jackson’s remake of the classic monster movie. Perhaps I am a bit biased, with him being one of my favorite directors, but I absolutely love what he does with the story. Jackson creates a deeper relationship between Kong and Ann.The classic monster movie is turned into a beautiful love story. The CGI technology is absolutely breathtaking, Andy Serkis’ incredible motion capture work as Kong allows for an infinite range of emotions for the character. I can’t help but cry at the ending every single time.

Tom Hulce in Amadeus.

3. Amadeus

I first saw parts of this in high school, on a whim during a vocal class. When I rented it at home I was floored by the story of Salieri’s jealousy and Mozart’s incredible music. I had never really explored his music before, and it is quite a marvel to hear it in this film, along with Milos Forman’s exceptional directing.

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4. Raging Bull 

Something about Raging Bull really captivates me. Not only is the directing so artistic, nearly operatic at times , but Robert De Niro’s performance is nothing short of stunning. I’ve written about it before here, but that scene where Jake LaMotta is in jail touched me for so many reasons. Robert De Niro does an incredible job of portraying the lonely boxer that spirals into his own self-destruction.

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5. When Harry Met Sally

It’s one of the most charming and funniest romantic comedies of all-time, what’s not to love? And Billy Crystal is absolutely adorable as Harry Burns. I think everyone wants a relationship like theirs.

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6. Big Fish

I think this is one of Tim Burton’s best work, perhaps because it is so un-Tim Burton-y. I saw it when I was younger, but loved it upon rewatch. The scene where Billy Crudup tells a story to his dying father, after hating his dad’s stories for so long, will always touch me. Big Fish is fantastical fun but also an emotional story of family mortality.

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7. Jaws 

As I wrote in my childhood movies post, Jaws was one of the first movies that really got me into the movies. The perfect summer movie, I watch it every 4th of July. This classic never fails to thrill, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

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8. Paper Moon

Paper Moon is a mix of an old-fashioned caper, funny road-trip movie, and a heartwarming family drama. It is the perfect mix of all those different genres. Ryan O’Neal is a charming thief, and has such sweet chemistry with it’s daughter. It’s actually quite heartbreaking to watch if you know their real life relationship.

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9. The Godfather

I had put off watching The Godfather for a really long time, and I don’t know why. I obviously knew about it from the hundreds of pop culture references in other films or television shows. I knew it was highly regarded, (It was #1 on the IMDb Top 250 for years, has 100% on rottentomatoes.) But I just never got around to seeing it until I  was in college. I quickly grew a great appreciation for Al Pacino’s work and the film itself. With incredible filmmaking, and a powerful story on a captivating Mafia family, it’s a cinema classic for a reason.

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10. An American Werewolf in London 

For as many of the scary moments this film has, it has an equal amount of hilarious moments. Making this not just a horror film but a black comedy was a perfect choice, because the film does both so well. You can also appreciate Rick Baker’s incredible makeup work and practical effects. That ending nails the perfect genre mix – a tragic death cut to The Marcel’s bopping “Blue Moon”.