E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

“E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,” Steven Spielberg’s magical, compassionate film, is now 35 years old. We open on an alien space craft landing in a forest, as small extra terrestrials work mysteriously, taking samples and exploring the woods. A car pulls up, faceless men chase an alien away from his companions and the ship takes off.… Continue reading E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

Star Wars

What were movies like before George Lucas’ “Star Wars” opened forty years ago on May 25th, 1977? On the one hand, I know the answer to this question. In the months before “Star Wars,” filmgoers had to sift through junk like “Airport ’77” and “Billy Jack Goes to Washington,” as well as eventual summer movies… Continue reading Star Wars

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

My father taught a class on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” and his notes, handouts and worksheets provided me with my initial education on the novel. So did the terrifying and gorgeous illustrations by Greg Hildebrandt, whose work for the 1985 The Unicorn Publishing House edition is forever etched into my imagination. On film, my first Dracula… Continue reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula

The Mission

My fifth grade history class was an odd place to first discover Robert De Niro but that’s exactly what happened. My teacher, Mr. Estes, thought the best way to explain colonialism, bring context to what happens when tribes are eliminated by settlers and make us understand some of the more painful chapters of world history,… Continue reading The Mission

Fried Green Tomatoes

Jon Avnet’s film adaptation of Fannie Flagg’s novel “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” is a surprising, quirky comedy with real bite. Flagg’s screenplay (which she co-wrote with Carol Sobieski) portrays the amusingly off-balance life of a middle age Southern woman named Evelyn Couch (played by Kathy Bates). Couch attends odd women’s groups… Continue reading Fried Green Tomatoes

The Secret of NIMH

Mrs. Brisby is one of my favorite movie characters, a fiercely devoted mother who watches over her four children. One of them is terribly ill with pneumonia, while the others are a wily handful. Brisby is a widow, terrified of the staggering obstacles in front of her but remarkably brave. Few mothers on film are… Continue reading The Secret of NIMH

Until the End of the World

What are the possibilities of the human experience? Is it our ability to feel and the varied experiences of pleasure? Is it the joy that comes with being empathetic, our need for kindness, altruism and compassion driving our better impulses? Is it the struggle for self-improvement, an aim that can either be inclusive or involve… Continue reading Until the End of the World

Superman- The Movie

To understand how important “Superman- The Movie” is as a comic book adaptation and how creatively successful it is, all one needs to do is observe the opening scene. We open on panels of a “Superman” comic book, read by a young child, who recites the words that define the character of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman. The… Continue reading Superman- The Movie

The Grifters

“The Grifters” takes place in a neo-film noir world in which the sins of many have caused the paint to peel and the floors to turn grimy. Everything seems tainted. I’m talking about the kind of places where your arm sticks to the surface of a greasy table at a tired diner. Or a bus… Continue reading The Grifters


My favorite movies are the ones I grew up with and know as well as an old friend, or a place I never get tired of visiting. Whereas many of my acquaintances would easily cite “The Godfather,” “Star Wars,” “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Shawshank Redemption” as one of their essential movies and,… Continue reading Psycho