Escape from Alcatraz
The last film in a five-film collaboration between Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel, Escape from Alcatraz tends to go through phases, one minute it’s a well-loved classic and then the next everyone seems to have forgotten about it all over again. Same can be said for its director. With films like Dirty Harry, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the John Cassavetes/Lee Marvin version of The Killers, he’s more than earnt his place among the greats.
Alright, more than a little bit of a left-turn from Escape for Alcatraz, Cinema Paradiso is about a man who finds purpose in life after discovering the magic of cinema, and cinema doesn’t get much more magical than this film. With a score by Ennio Morricone and one of the most beautiful montages ever put to celluloid, this film is a must see. It’s guaranteed to stick to you like glue.
The Battle of Midway
Can’t say I’ve seen the list of directors awarded a Purple Heart military medal of honour, but I can’t imagine it’s very long. John Ford, the man behind virtually every great John Wayne Western, as part of the same initiative that led to John Huston’s Let There Be Light directed the grainy, vibrantly coloured, patriotically scored documentary of the Battle of Midway, a turning point in the Pacific Theatre.
Along with Police Story, Drunken Master both introduced Jackie Chan to his what-would-become-rabid Western fanbase as well as establish many of the martial arts film clichés we know and parody today. As always, Jackie Chan is effortlessly charming, a seemingly natural comedian and one hell of a martial artist. There’s perhaps some relief to be had in that Drunken Master stands before the time when each Jackie Chan film seemed to always be trying to one-up the stunts from the previous film. It’s exactly what it should be, it knows what it is and it’s brilliant.
The Civil War by Ken Burns
As far as anyone’s concerned, Ken Burns might as well have invented the television documentary. His style, whether or not he really was the originator of it, is so widely mimicked and parodied that someone might have experienced the parody before the original. The Civil War, along with Jazz and Baseball, is a must-watch from the Ken Burns library. It’s a rich, blink-and-you’ll-miss-twenty-details, seemingly minute-by-minute account of the darkest chapter in American history.