Staring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman
Written and Directed by: Michael Mann
Heat (aka Michael Mann’s masterpiece) is a story of intense crime and personal life. Vincent Hanna (played by Al Pacino) is a cop who’s home life is falling apart because he is so dedicated to his job. He shuts down around his wife Justine (played by Diane Venora) and stepdaughter (played by Natalie Portman) because he feels he can’t talk about his work. Hanna then feels guilty that he can’t have a consistent relationship because of how graphic his job is which clearly takes an emotional and mental toll on him. Neil Mccauly (played by Robert De Niro) is a criminal on the run from Hanna who only craves love. He wants to feel important to someone but is so caught up in the crime life that he can’t let go.
Mann did an amazing job of incorporating space into the atmosphere between the characters. This made the dynamic between them that much mote intense and personal. The audience was able to get a clear view of how the relationship of the character’s develop throughout the film.
The Conversation (1974)
Staring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale
Written and Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Harry Caul (played by Gene Hackman), is a man who is nervous and isolated. He is constantly looking over his shoulder in fear of being caught. He never opens up to people. When he does it’s brief and quiet. He has a tough hard exterior as the audience watches his body language crack slowly throughout the film. The only time he feels needed is during sexual activity. He consumes himself through loneliness. His partner Stan (played by John Cazale), is similar yet different. The audience never hear’s about Stan’s personal life. All we know is that he works with Caul. Stan often senses the discomfort and sadness within Caul. Coppola wrote, directed, and produced this slow moving powerhouse of a film. The internal fears and emotions are captured with such depth.
The Godfather Trilogy (1972-1990)
Staring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzzo
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
What makes The Godfather a classic is the intensity and dynamic between the characters. Each member of the cast relates to one another differently making this dynamic very diverse. The discipline, dedication, and raw emotion come out so naturally making the movie that much more realistic. Coppola gives us a glimpse into the atmosphere of these impulsive selfish people that make us angry at times but also leave us to be heartbroken and more insightful.
Raging Bull (1980)
Staring: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci
Written By: Paul Schrader, Mardik Martin
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Raging Bull is a story of self destruction. Robert De Niro plays Jake Lamotta who goes through a downward spiral. After being told he can’t box anymore he becomes selfish, demanding, and destructive. He ends up taking his anger out on his family who end up being caught in the middle of his outbursts. They feel trapped and held hostage by Jake who has seemed to have lost all faith in himself and the people he loves.
I’m so happy Robert De Niro won the Oscar for best actor because he truly deserved the award. He became the character in the sense that there was this new type of vunerability about him. Schrader and Martin made the script very raw and honest causing Scorsese’s directing to be very intimate and real.
Sophie’s Choice (1982)
Staring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter Macnicol
Written and Directed by: Alan J. Pakula
Sophie’s Choice is the story of risk taking and relationships that have everlasting affects. Sophie (played by Meryl Streep), is bound by a past she can’t let go of. Her significant other Nathan (played by Kevin Kline), is a self rightous dictator who is purely intolerable of other’s views. Author Stingo (played by Peter Macnicol), befriends these two uniquely divided indivisuals. Stingo is a purely genuine being who suddenly finds himself stepping into Sophie’s private elusive world. Against Nathan’s wishes, Stingo begins to feel a sense of intamacy and understanding for Sophie.
Pakula gives us a vast insight on the importance of respect and understanding. Knowing when to cross or overstep certain boundries can lead to an uncertain life with an uncertain future. Sophie’s Choice shows this aspect of life as an in perfect solution to the decisions and consequences we face.
Kramer v.s. Kramer (1979)
Staring: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander, Justin Henry
Written and Directed by: Robert Benton
Kramer v.s. Kramer is a story of independence and realization. Ted Kramer (played by Dustin Hoffman), cares only for himself and his job. This self centered arrogant behavior causes his wife Joanna (played by Meryl Streep), to take on the role of wife and mother. Unhappy with her life, she ends up leaving her husband and eight year old son Billy (played by Justin Henry).
Ted now has to take on the role as caregiver but has no prior experience or knowledge of how to care for his son. Still reeling with resentment at Joanna, Ted lashes his anger out at Billy. This type of unhealthy outlet causes Billy to become confused, sad, and angry. Throughout the film, the audience gets to see Ted and Billy’s relationship develop through anger. Through this anger and sadness, Joanna is still trying to rediscover herself. She often felt controlled by Ted, leaving her to feel the loss of self identity.
The only time she really knows who she is and what she is meant to do, is when she’s mothering Billy. She does love and care for her son but not in the way Ted cares for him. Ted is more realistic while Joanna is more maternal. This maternal instinct is the only sense of control Joanna feels she has.
By the end of the movie, the audience gets to see Joanna give up that sense if control showing us that she is capable of giving Ted a chance. What makes this movie great is how well Benton broke the sterotypical mold of stay at home mom and hard working dad. The movie shows these controlling, vunerable, and fragile characters placed in uncomfortable atmospheres which help them gain a new sense of respect for each other.
De Niro is one of the most diverse actors of our generation. He has a clear focus and understanding of who the characters are and what situations they are put in. Being able to capture specific mentalities help De Niro guide the physicallity aspect of a character. Being present and in the moment help him bring the atmosphere to life.
What makes Al Pacino a legendary actor is his dedication and determination. He has a sense of honesty and intellect through his inner rage and intensity as a performer. Through his serious roles, he is able to bring out a range of anxiety and impulse. His emotional roles bring out a sense of compassion and empathy. Pacino is determined to know more about his characters and what triggers them, leaving his audiences feeling a depth of many emotions.
What makes Meryl Streep a 20th Oscar nominee is her ability to make her audiences feel. Based on her more serious roles, Streep takes on challenging and diverse characters. These characters often open up a universal theme of empathy and compassion. Streep is able to take a character trait and relate that back to her own personal life. These personal experiences enhance the character’s personality in a more open atmosphere. As diverse as her acting style is, the one thing these characters have in common is their integrity. This integrity is based off of the moral principles of a film and how this affects society. Streep is able to incorporate her own integrity and personal experiences as she becomes the character, making these characters more relatable. Streep is sublime her deliverance and I can’t wait for more to come.
Sofia writes and directs pieces of film that are entirely her own. She focuses on the characters faults and how they progress into more confident people towards the end of the movie. These characters go through transitions that help them discover more about themselves and who they are. Her writing and directing is from her personal point of view while the audience has an outside perspective which makes her films that much more authentic.