FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Norman Jewison |||
Norman Jewison

Yes, he directed “Moonstruck” and two unforgettable musicals, but Jewison is also responsible for a trilogy of films focusing on racial-injustice, a whacky Cold War comedy and a signature film of Steve McQueen’s showing that he is one of the most versatile directors since Robert Wise.

This blueprint for good investigation dramas tells the story of a black Philadelphia detective investigating a murder in Mississippi who matches wits with a redneck sheriff. Groundbreaking for it’s time, this Oscar winning film is still relevant today and offers a gripping mystery with terrific dramatic performances by a complete cast of fully realized characters.

This is an amazingly funny and entertaining irreverent "Cold War" comedy about a Russian submarine stranded outside an isolated New England town, which throws the locals into a panic. Jewison does a delightful job of utilizing his all-star cast to their fullest, deftly mixing Capra-esq characters with Mel Brooks’s type situations (and vise-versa).

A bored millionaire (Steve McQueen in his prime) masterminds a flawless bank job as Faye Dunaway (an insurance investigator out to get him) identifies him as the mastermind and falls in love along the way. This is the original and the best, with all the arch stylized movie techniques of the ‘60s (including split-screen and fuzzy shallow focus) and the most erotic chess game ever captured on screen.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Gilda Live

By EdwardHavens

November 21st, 2009

It's hard to believe Gilda Radner passed away twenty years ago, and it's sad to see her star has faded over time. A more proper DVD release of Mike Nichols' film of her 1979 Broadway show "Gilda Live" could have been a good start to getting that resurgence going, but alas, it's only being put out as part of Warner Brothers' print-on-demand Warner Archive project.

Gilda Live

For those unaware, the Warner Archive project releases a few dozen older television shows and movies each month on a simple DVD-R with no extra features that is burned, imprinted with a full-color title artwork on the front of the disc and shipped to the customer within a week. At least “Gilda Live” is being offered in a proper widescreen presentation.

”Gilda Live” is a not just a powerful reminder of just how versatile and talented she was, but how big “Saturday Night Live” used to be. Thirty years ago, without any major credits outside the show, Gilda was able to sell out Broadway’s venerable 1526 seat Winter Garden Theatre, which has also been the home to such shows as the original “West Side Story,” “Funny Girl,” “Beatlemania,” “Cats” and “Mamma Mia!” For two months, Gilda and her troupe, which also included Paul Schaffer, Father Guido Sarducci, future SNL band leader G.E. Smith and future Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore, reprised many of her best-loved characters and skits from the show, albeit with a few choice words that still cannot be said on broadcast television today.

That’s really all there is to “Gilda Live”: a series of television skits expanded and slightly raised on the risqué scale for the live stage. And to everyone’s credit, that’s all it needed to be. Nichols and his cameras focus on the show at hand, with very few choice visits backstage or audience reaction shots. No confessionals, rehearsal footage and no behind-the-scenes struggles. Just show this beautiful, talented woman do her thing. Seriously, who could ask for anything more?

Many modern comedic actresses could learn a thing or so from watching Gilda and her show. She kept her craft, her setups and resolutions simple, and those bits remains just as funny today. Outside of the clothes and hairstyles of the audiences, the only thing that truly dates “Gilda Live” are a couple drug references and extended bit about President Carter throughout Father Sarducci’s frequent visits to the stage (to stretch time while Gilda changed backstage).

If you’re a fan of the original “Saturday Night Live,” Gilda Live” is required owning alongside the first five season box sets and “The Blues Brothers.” To have another ninety minutes of Lisa Loopner and Emily Litella, with Judy Miller and Roseanne Roseannadanna and Candy Slice is a joy. But don’t go looking for “Gilda Live” at Wal-Mart or Best Buy. The DVD is only available through the Warner Archive website.

My rating: A