Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list
Dog Day Afternoon
dir. Sidney Lumet scr. Frank Pierson cin. Victor J. Kemper with Al Pacino, John Cazale, James Broderick, Charles Durning, Lance Henriksen, Chris Sarandon, Penelope Allen, Susan Peretz, Carol Kane
In 100 words: On a hot summer day in New York, Sonny Wortzik walks in to rob a bank. What seems like a dubious plan turns into a nightmare scenario with the whole world watching. Dog Day is an unconventional story that weaves so many details that broaden its thematic scope and constantly shapeshifts its tone to maximize surprises and impact. The script and the direction richly plumbs the depth of all these characters—and what characters! They are all so well-drawn and vigorously performed. Lumet created a movie that manages to speak to many things at once, without feeling overstuffed. That’s brilliance.
Other Movies for Context: Sidney Lumet is such a great director, and he’s made some of the most amazing American films ever. On top of that fine list, apart from this, is his adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962), a film that I would have loved to have on this Top 100 list. Also impressive are Network (1977), one of my favorite movies ever, which has influenced my life in many ways, and 12 Angry Men (1957), an important American film that everyone needs to watch.
Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.
dir. Francis Ford Coppola (1972) scr. Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola based on Puzo’s novel of the same name cin. Gordon Willis with Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Diane Keaton
In 100 words: Few films are as iconic or influential as this towering accomplishment of the American New Wave. Coppola’s richly detailed film is beautifully coated by Willis in golden hues and blanketed with shadows that threaten to swallow characters whole. His characters are all deeply sketched and specific, that despite the sprawl, they hardly feel anonymous. Ace editing, scene construction, and score help build a menacing atmosphere, even without the constant eruption of violence. But at its heart is a layered father and son film: lessons pass on from the elder to the younger, just as a new world replaces the old.
Other Movies for Context: Coppola’s film is so influential, that it’s often imitated but never duplicated. Such is the fate of his two sequels: The Godfather Pt II (1974) and The Godfather III (1991). But the series also spawned similar pictures, like Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), a stellar film that captures some of the danger of the series, but infused with Scorsese’s sensibilities. Obviously, The Sopranos, the HBO TV series that basically gave rise to the peak-TV era we live in now, pays homage to The Godfather in many way than the obvious Italian mafia commonality.