Friday, August 29, 2014


Started this list a few days ago with the help of Google etc. to note the movies that impacted me most in each year of my life, (not "favorites" or "best" in my opinion, etc. but which had the biggest impact on me in that year)'s the next ten:

1993—GROUNDHOG DAY (as slight as it seemed on first viewing, it still had an enormous impact on me as I'd just entered my fifties and life definitely seemed to be recycling some things, as in many ways it seemed like I was back where I started, my Hollywood "career"(s) reduced to almost nonexistent (outside of voiceovers), hadn't published a book of poems in a decade and continually had old poet friends act as if I'd sold out by moving to LA and getting involved in movies and TV, despite the fact that I'd started a weekly poetry reading series that generated publicity around the world and contributed to the resurgence of poetry readings (and not just in LA), of which there had been none in '86 when my partner, Eve Brandstein and I began the weekly venture, still going in '93, but by then often mocked by the press because of what one magazine called "The Whitman Wannabes"—"brat pack" poets like Ally Sheedy, who was actually very good etc. etc.—so the idea of waking up to the same problems every day and eventually figuring out how to use them to improve yourself and your life was actually profound, and became more so with every viewing...)

1994—THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH (John Sayles' take on an old Irish myth was exactly what I needed, the soundtrack music, the exceptional acting (including my Irish namesake Mick Lally playing the grandfather—when I visited Ireland I'd be teased by shopowners when I handed them my credit card and they'd shout to their spouse "It's the famous Mick Lally then" etc....knowing full well I wasn't the famous Irish actor since we looked so different (but one of the rewards of Ireland, especially in the West was the familiarity everyone had with my last name, which was common and on one ubiquitous bus line so it seemed like every time I looked out the car window there was my last name...) and all this when I was rediscovering my Irish roots in a new way from my visits there including taking my now grown kids to see the by then almost completely gone thatched roof "cottage" (more like "hut") my grandfather grew up in and discover they were as moved as I was when I saw it years before still intact...(and a few years later after my first operation and hospital stay as an adult, just after my youngest son was born, his mother put on the soundtrack CD to lift my spirits and it did...))

1995—TWELVE MONKEYS (this film surprisingly hit me deeply, feeling from it a sense of the possibilities of redemption I was experiencing once again in my own life....and the acting of Brad Pitt in a secondary role I found impressive, as well as Bruce Willis, an old acquaintance from NYC, and Madeleine Stowe who I'd dug since her performance a few years before in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS with Daniel Day Lewis, another one of those movies I can watch anytime...)

1996—FLIRTING WITH DISASTER (yet another seemingly light flick, yet one that showed me how far we'd come, making fun of old '60s hippie/leftists like me but in fact illustrating how the causes we fought for had been in many ways achieved, like the depiction of two gay men in love as humanly normal, or normally human, etc...and just excellent writing and directing and acting and editing...)

1997—GROSSE POINTE BLANK (and yet another seemingly light film that I find impeccably written, acted, edited, and directed, as well as always watchable and serving the original purpose of the art form, i.e. entertainment...bringing me back to the reason I loved to go to the movies as a kid for that momentary escape from the realities of life while at the same time helping me to view life with a lighter perspective...despite all its the movie's theme was once again redemption...and Jon Cusack and Mimi Driver had classic movie star chemistry in this...)

1998—BULWORTH (for everything that's wrong about this flick, and there's actually a lot, it still had an enormous impact on me as it seemed to me to be the first time an established movie star and serious industry power, in this case Warren Beatty, tried to directly address the basic problems of "American" culture and politics and inequality of power and income when especially it comes to "race" etc...crudely done, but sincerely committed...with a cameo from Amira Baraka...but even Beatty didn't seem happy with it when I was introduced to him at a party and tried to praise him for making the flick (which by then had been dumped on by the critics and abandoned by audiences) and how brave I thought it was for him to...)

1999—THREE KINGS (an interestingly prescient movie in some ways, though in most just an entertaining caper film set in Iraq during the first war we fought there, which also convinced me of the diverse talents of the always rewarding to watch George Clooney and Mark Walburg...)

2000—O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (like BLACK ORPHEUS, a very loose rendition of a Greek myth, in this case the story of the Odyssey, with Clooney proving his comic chops and the Coen brothers finally living up to their potential, to my mind, with one of the most original and entertaining and even in some ways enlightening films of the decade for my taste...and that soundtrack...made me appreciate the possibilities...)

2001—DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS (I had an operation to remove some cancer in 2001 so didn't get to see this documentary until my oldest boy shared it with me on DVD while explaining the reasons it was so monumental and convincing me of not only had shots of the street in Santa Monica where my youngest boy was born in '97 (he moved with his mother and me to the part of Jersey I grew up in, coming full circle, in '99), it documented the birth of not just a sport but an art form as it followed the lives of young Santa Monica surfers from the wrong side of town who created what became the kind of skateboarding we know today (prompted by an earlier California drought to take advantage of empty swimming pools, they used them to developed tricks like "getting air" above the poolsides etc....a fascinating film because these kids had their growing arsenal of moves and tricks documented by creative souls who admired what they were accomplishing at the time...the birth of something entirely new in the world has never been as stylistically and thoroughly recorded for posterity...and a fascinating human interest story as well...)

2002—GANGS OF NEW YORK (though there are plenty of reasons to denigrate this film, particularly the dumb casting of the leads (what, no Irish actors could be found for the starring roles?—though they were for the smaller roles, including Liam Neeson) with the exception of Daniel Day Lewis as "Butcher Bill" who gives a performance that is so powerful it almost dwarfs everyone else's, but despite its flaws when I first saw it in a theater it had a huge impact on me, the opening scenes seemingly so fantastical but adhering to actual realities of the time, as most of the movie does, even actual historical characters, evoking my Irish roots on my mother's side (my father's parents having come over long after the Civil War setting of the film, but my mother's Irish progenitors having come over before and been drafted into the Union Army during the Civil War)...I felt actually speechless after seeing it in a theater the first time, literally stunned...I've seen it since on the small screen and it's not quite as powerful (especially because the dolby sound effects and the terrific soundtrack, the camera angles and full screen vistas were such a big part of its impact...))

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