Wednesday, August 27, 2014


So I started a list and posted it yesterday of movies that impacted me most in each year of my life and got through the first thirty. Here's the next ten:

1973—MEAN STREETS (I was living with my wife, the poet and more, Lee Lally, and two little kids in DC in a commune that had become dominated by lesbian feminist politics when I saw this flick, which evoked all my street experiences from the past, and I was knocked out by the realistic portrayal of things I either knew about first hand or through others, like pulling a handkerchief from your pocket to lay on where you are going to sit to keep your slacks clean (the graveyard scene) and the religiosity of Keitel's character etc. [PS: also first time I saw my friend the poet/actor Harry E. Northup's great film acting chops as the soldier in the bar scene]...)

1974—HEARTS AND MINDS (This award-winning documentary about The Viet Nam War and its impact at home was blocked from regular theaters for supposed legal reasons—but it seemed obvious to me it was for political reasons—so I saw it in a screening in a DC building run by leftists (a free school? I remember my little kids being there) and was startled to see George Coker on screen, a guy who was a year behind me, and on the football team with me, in our Catholic boy's school in Newark, New Jersey, as a returning hero being feted with a parade and pro-war rally in his Jersey hometown (different than mine) (and proof that Viet Nam vets were honored and cheered despite the revisionist rightwing propaganda that they were spit on and called "baby killers" etc.) and felt overwhelmed with how far I'd evolved politically since we were in school, but also could understand where he was coming from which always felt like it differentiated me from many of my fellow anti-war activists...)

1975—SHAMPOO (another film I identified with as my marriage had dissolved and I was discovering, later than most, the "free love" aspects of "the sixties" "revolution" and had moved to New York with my Costa Rican love who was pressuring me to finalize a divorce with my first wife and marry her and have a child...which didn't happen, at least not in time to save that relationship...SHAMPOO somehow caught the exhilaration as well as confusion and challenges, and at times unacknowledged despair, of trying to have it all when it came to sexual relationships...I also remember being impressed with the acting of the teenage Carrie Fisher who less than a decade later I would be good friends with for a number of years...)

1976—THE MISSOURI BREAKS (ultimately not a successful film, partly—some would say primarily—because Brando sabotaged it with his relentless originality, imposing his unique take on the character in every scene he's in, in his attempt to personify the deceptions of the government, especially spy agencies, in his character, a hired "enforcer" in the old West, blowing the supposed challenger to Brando's crown as king of movie acting innovation, Jack Nicholson, off the screen, and still worth watching, even if just for Brando's numerous outrageous scene stealing gambits, like dressing in pioneer woman drag or squatting on a saddle in a way no one on a horse would ever do and hadn't ever done before on film etc...his performance seemed to me at the time, and since, to put a period on the end of an era, usually called "the sixties" but only over after the end of the Viet Nam war and the ensuing exhaustion of most with politics and activism and "revolution"...)

1977—FUN WITH DICK AND JANE (the beginning of the "Boomer" generation's justification for material acquisitions as some sort of rebellious act, and the first time a movie star allowed herself to be shot sitting on a toilet, among other firsts...ERASERHEAD was more innovative and startling and impacted me more than I expected, somehow evoking my childhood in ways that weren't obvious except for the North Jersey industrial landscape that was so familiar, and marked the beginning of another trend in the generation behind mine, the "Boomers" attempt to change directions after the Viet Nam era, not to mention SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER which opened with an Italian-American version of the James T. Farrell fictional character STUDS LONIGAN's getting dressed up to go out novel opening I always identified with...)

1978—COMING HOME (the first post-Viet Nam film to deal realistically with the home front challenges and results of it, in which I particularly noted an actress playing what I took for a Jersey working girl so realistically I remarked on it to my date, the woman I was living with at the time, saying something like "It's about time a Jersey working girl made it to Hollywood" only to find out a few years later when I married her that the actress was anything but...)

1979—THE WANDERERS (I hated Richard Price's novel this flick was based on for its nasty depiction of a Bronx Irish gang—"The Danny Boys"—as brutally vicious midgets, but one of my best friends and loves Karen Allen was the lead female in the movie version, and I'd been with her and Bobby Miller, the person who'd introduced us back in DC in '72, at the opening of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE the year before and actually witnessed the birth of a star as on our way in nobody noticed any of us much at all but when the lights came up after the screening people pushed me and Bobby out of the way to get to Karen...and in THE WANDERERS she proved that wasn't a fluke by, to my mind, stealing the movie...and she encouraged me to get into movies, not knowing that in 1969 I'd co-starred in WHITEY!—the first, and for all I know only, feature-length fiction film funded by the AFI—so I decided to do just that and gave myself six months to prove I could, and did...)

1980—THE STUNT MAN (knocked me out as the most unique work out there that year and expressed the awe I felt at having first hand experiences in the craft of Hollywood filmmaking...but it was DRACULA'S LAST RITES that more or less changed my life (a not great low, low, low budget horror film set in South Jersey (Vineland and environs) in which I starred as the hero, but during which I discovered how much I really didn't know about movie "acting"...))

1981—RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (I saw it at a screening in which I think I was the only audience, maybe there was one other, in a tiny screening room in NYC and though I thought Karen Allen was super in it I didn't know what to think of the riffing on B adventure movies from my childhood, like the map with a little airplane icon making a line from one exotic location to another, until I saw it with a packed house NYC audience days later who I thought wouldn't get it because they were too young and they actually cheered at that...THE NESTING was another starring low budget hero role for me, but the night before they put the credits in I was told my name was already taken in the Screen Actors Guild, so I briefly thought of changing it to Michael Monroe or Marlon Lally, but opted for adding my real middle name, and from then on in any professional acting I did on screen I was "Michael David Lally"...and I got to do scenes with the aging John Carradine, who told me he was impressed with my work, which made me happy, especially when the director told me just before calling "Action" he wanted me to cry in one scene and I had no idea how to make that happen except to cry in frustration at my fear of not being able to!...and I also had a scene with Gloria Graham, the great Hollywood actress in what turned out to be her last film...the movie, and especially me, weren't that great, but it was a great experience...)

1982—TOOTSIE (I married the actress from COMING HOME and we moved with my two kids who I'd been raising mostly on my own in NYC to LA where there was supposedly more work for both of us but that didn't turn out to be so main concern was learning how to be a better actor, and seeing Dustin Hoffman in TOOTSIE I took it as a lesson in movie acting to the nth degree, though I might have been fooling myself and misunderstanding whatever talent I might have had, trying to emulate Hoffman's acting chops instead of who might have been a better role model for my style and talent, the uncredited (in TOOTSIE) Bill Murray, (not that my style was like his I just mean it was and is always HIS) who I'd met on the set of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE when my composer love, who I lived with in late 1970s NYC, Rain Worthington, was working for that show as photographer Edie Baskin's substitute when Edie was out of town...but no matter what, TOOTSIE was the kind of movie I wanted to make, whether as actor or writer (I had begun writing screenplays for hire too) because it was so perfectly done...)

(to be continued...)


JenW said...

I think you should run a film festival- "Lally's List" . I know & love most of these but a few I haven't seen yet. It's great the lists have returned even with some cueing and visuals....

Lally said...

Thanks Jen, as's been a challenge that I'm happy for...

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Michael for mentioning me in "Mean Streets." I love that movie. Thanks, also, for your eloquent movie list. You are an
astonishing writer.

Harry E. Northup

Lally said...

as are you Harry, and an astonishing actor as well...