And now, a list.

Since I was a kid, I have often kept a list of movies I want to see. This started when I cut out the first American Film Institute’s “100 Years, 100 Movies” list in our local newspaper. I taped it to my bookcase and set a goal to watch all 100 films by the end of the summer. That was 1998. I was 15.

Being in a small town, I couldn’t get my hands on some of the older titles. The rental shop wasn’t a Blockbuster, it was a trailer with a drive-thru window. Yes, a trailer converted into a video rental store. I have vivid memories of the floor creaking as I walked up and down the “aisles”. Kat’s Video in small town Louisiana was never going to carry a copy of The Jazz Singer or Modern Times. I was SOL on that front.

The older titles can still be hard to find for most people. If you’re lucky to live near Los Angeles in New York (or another film-friendly city), then maybe you can catch something at your local arthouse theater. I encourage you to see them on a big screen. It is a truly magical experience. I finally saw Lawrence of Arabia two years ago on the big screen. Some things are worth the wait. Check!

For other nights, there is the internet. While finding films is often easier to view, many films are still not digitized. Popularity makes certain films a priority when it comes to updating and preserving.

AFI’s marketing leaders knew a good thing when they saw it. They spent the next ten years creating more lists (Stars!, Laughs!, Thrills!) and then reranking the top 100 again in 2007. Several titles fell off the list completely. It’s interesting to look at this list after some time away and think about what films would be on it now.

I still haven’t finished the original AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list. I enjoy coming back to it every few years to see my progress. I’m ok with knowing I may never mark all of them off. The list was merely a step in a process, an education and an inspiration that led me to where I am today. For that I’m grateful.

Do you have a “movies to watch” list? Do you track what films you’ve seen? What movies on this list have you not seen yet?  What films are missing from this list (granted, you’ve traveled through time and it’s still 1998, so There Will Be Blood can’t be added!)

# Title Watched it?
1 Citizen Kane (1941)
2 Casablanca (1942)
3 The Godfather (1972)
4 Gone with the Wind (1939)
5 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
6 The Wizard of Oz (1939)
7 The Graduate (1967)
8 On the Waterfront (1954)
9 Schindler’s List (1993)
10 Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
11 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
12 Sunset Blvd. (1950)
13 The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
14 Some Like It Hot (1959)
15 Star Wars (1977)
16 All About Eve (1950)
17 The African Queen (1951)
18 Psycho (1960)
19 Chinatown (1974)
20 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
21 The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
22 2001: A Spae Odyssey (1968)
23 The Maltese Falcon (1941)
24 Raging Bull (1980)
25 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
26 Dr. Strangelove (1964)
27 Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
28 Apocalypse Now (1979)
29 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
30 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
31 Annie Hall (1977)
32 The Godfather Part II (1974)
33 High Noon (1952)
34 To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
35 It Happened One Night (1934)
36 Midnight Cowboy (1969)
37 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
38 Double Indemnity (1944)
39 Doctor Zhivago (1965)
40 North By Northwest (1959)
41 West Side Story (1961)
42 Rear Window (1954)
43 King Kong (1933)
44 The Birth of a Nation (1915)
45 A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
46 A Clockwork Orange (1971)
47 Taxi Driver (1976)
48 Jaws (1975)
49 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
50 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
51 The Philadelphia Story (1940)
52 From Here to Eternity (1953)
53 Amadeus (1984)
54 All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
55 The Sound of Music (1965)
56 M*A*S*H (1970)
57 The Third Man (1949)
58 Fantasia (1940)
59 Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
60 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
61 Vertigo (1958)
62 Tootsie (1982)
63 Stagecoach (1939)
64 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
65 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
66 Network (1976)
67 The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
68 An American in Paris (1951)
69 Shane (1953)
70 The French Connection (1971)
71 Forrest Gump (1994)
72 Ben-Hur (1959)
73 Wuthering Heights (1939)
74 The Gold Rush (1925)
75 Dances with Wolves (1990)
76 City Lights (1931)
77 Americna Graffiti (1973)
78 Rocky (1976)
79 The Deer Hunter (1978)
80 The Wild Bunch (1969)
81 Modern Times (1936)
82 Giant (1956)
83 Platoon (1986)
84 Fargo (1996)
85 Duck Soup (1933)
86 Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
87 Frankenstein (1931)
88 Easy Rider (1969)
89 Patton (1970)
90 The Jazz Singer (1927)
91 My Fair Lady (1964)
92 A Place in the Sun (1951)
93 The Apartment (1960)
94 Goodfellas (1990)
95 Pulp Fiction (1994)
96 The Searchers (1956)
97 Bringing Up Baby (1938)
98 Unforgiven (1992)
99 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
100 Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Film & Food: Denver Film Festival

Y’all, tomorrow is November.
That’s crazy right? I don’t know where October went, but here we are.

Tomorrow I am off to spend two weeks in the Rockies with my lovely colleagues at the Denver Film Society. The 39th Denver Film Festival opens Wednesday night, November 2, with a highly anticipated screening of La La Land. Lead actress Emma Stone and director Damien Chazelle will be hanging out with Denver audiences at the beautiful Ellie Caulkins Opera House in downtown Denver.

La La Land (2016)

As Shorts Curator of the Denver Film Festival, I spent most of my summer watching over 500 short film submissions for this festival. I narrowed it down to a group of 44 shorts from 16 countries, screening in blocks and in front of features. I’m so excited for the Denver audiences to discover these shorts. Watching audiences watch the films I’ve curated is one of the most satisfying parts of the job. It’s always fun to meet the filmmakers you’ve been emailing with for weeks and reuniting with those you’ve worked with before too. If you’re curious what shorts made the cut, take a look at the Shorts program here.

Once again, Denver’s program lineup is eclectic and unique. There are several films I want to see while I’m not on call with programmer duties (like the Closing Night film Jackie). Of the films I have seen though, this festival pair showcases a couple of peculiar occupations:

  • Obit – This doc focuses on the small group of The New York Times obituary writers.  Imagine trying to research and summarize, under a tight deadline and with great tact, a life lived so fully that it is chosen to have space in The New York Times. One of my favorite scenes reveals the clippings room. Rows and rows and towers of file cabinets all full of news clippings and photos of people. The talented writers share their knowledge and experience and the beauty in writing about death.
  • Actors of Sound – Another charming documentary that shows a behind-the-scenes look at foley artists. All those little sound effects in films are typically created in a post-production studio by talented experts. After seeing this film, I now know what makes up the noise for E.T.’s “voice” and I’ll never watch the film in the same way! I’m looking forward to hosting one of the Q&A sessions with director Lalo Molina and a foley artist from the film! I’m sure it will be a fun and memorable time.

This will be my third time in Denver and I’m still exploring the city with each visit. The trick with working festivals is knowing when you have a window to escape for meals. Often those breaks end up being short, so food is limited to what is nearby. I enjoy escaping into the Tattered Cover Book Store next door to the SIE FilmCenter. It’s my go-to for a warm chai latte and quiet moments spent walking the aisles of books. The Three Lions is a cozy nearby pub with tasty curry. One of my favorite meals in Denver last year was a solo brunch at Snooze an A.M. Eatery. I’m looking forward to another brisk walk downtown followed by a filling and flavorful benedict.

I’ll post again with a festival update soon. If you have any suggestions on restaurants, bakeries or bars to check out in Denver, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Happy Halloween!

Films that feel like October, Part II

On Monday, I wrote about a few films that make me feel the shift in seasons and the cooler weather. With Halloween approaching, many would consider horror classics that should be in the mix of film viewing this time of year. While I enjoy a good scare, those films don’t necessarily feel like autumn to me. Around Halloween I gravitate towards Tim Burton’s Ed Wood or the classic animation special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown brings back a sense of childhood and wonderment for me. I don’t remember watching it every fall, but there is something so feel-good and traditional about it. It makes me long for those evenings of innocent treat-or-treating, before girls suddenly dress in costumes that are suppose to be sexy. I’d be happy to eat some candy corn and watch it any day.

For something a little different though, there’s Ed Wood. I discovered this film while in college and became slightly obsessed with it at the time. Johnny Depp plays the overly ambitious, but troubled 1950s film director Ed Wood. The film is based in truth: Ed Wood was a Hollywood outcast and is often called the worst film director ever. (Perhaps you’ve heard of Plan 9 From Outer Space? That was him.) Wood befriends an eclectic group of friends including an aging Bela Leguosi -Hollywood’s original Dracula- to create his next “masterpiece” despite the consistent lack of support from the studio system.

Ed Wood is one of Burton’s less talked about films, but it’s one of my favorites. Depp transforms into Wood and it is a joy to watch. The film hosts another wonderful ensemble cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette and Martin Landau, who one an Oscar for his portrayal of Lugosi. I’m drawn to comedies and this is partly why I love this film. There is a bit of insider film humor included, but there’s also Wood’s drive. The determination to make his dreams come true resonates with everyone. How you get there is half the fun. (Plus, there’s angora sweaters! #SweaterWeather.)

To add to the mood of this Halloween weekend picks, make some hot apple cider (and spike if you like!) Whether or not you’re handing out Halloween candy or eating it on the couch while watching either of these titles, the cider will make a nice pairing.

What’s your favorite Halloween candy? What film puts you in the spirit of tricks and treats? Let me know in the comments!

Hot Apple Cider
from Southern Living

2 quarts apple cider
1/2 cup molasses
4 lemon slices, cut in half
12 whole cloves
2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup lemon juice
Garnishes: cinnamon sticks, lemon wedges, whole cloves

Bring cider and next 4 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves with a slotted spoon; stir in lemon juice. Garnish, if desired.

Watch the films mentioned in this post:
– It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on Amazon, iTunes or add to Netflix queue.
Ed Wood on Amazon, iTunes or add to Netflix queue.
– Or even better, support your local rental store!

Films that feel like October, Part I

October has always been one of my favorite months. As a kid, I loved getting into the Halloween spirit and thinking of creative costumes. In my 20s, October seemed like the month when a routine for the season finally set in. I love that changes in temperature and maybe discovering a golden leaf. In the South, the break in the heat was a much-needed relief. In Los Angeles, the land of no-seasons, the change isn’t as clear. There are moments when the breeze comes through the window and we wake up to our apartment being chilly. Suddenly, autumn has arrived.

There are some films I revisit every October. They give me a sense of the autumn spirit and remind me of the passage of time no matter what the weather is outside. This is part one of two posts this week about films that set the autumn mood for me.

Good Will Hunting not only has the “back to school” vibe, but I feel the cool Boston air as the camera moves through the Harvard and MIT campuses. Robin William’s cozy sweater wardrobe can’t be ignored either. They are on point.

The story of When Harry Met Sally covers all the seasons, but the shots of Harry and Sally walking amongst those bright red and orange trees in New York City are saved like a screen shot in my brain. Watching that comedy is like preparing yourself for the oncoming holiday madness, no matter your dating or marriage status. As Sally mentions, you just have to get through Thanksgiving to New Years.

Days of Heaven‘s stunning cinematography reminds me of how the days are getting shorter. Set in the early 1900s on the panhandle of Texas, this Terrance Malick film was shot mostly during “magic hour”. The sky glows beautifully during the harvesting scenes and its easy to get lost in this love triangle story. (I may have to curl up in a blanket and write a longer post about this one.)

As soon as the weather turns slightly cooler here, I start baking. Because we don’t have central air/heat, we are particular about when we use the oven. The moment I realize I can turn it on and it wouldn’t make the house too hot, my mind and stomach immediately goes to baking. I’ve been on a low FODMAP diet for the last several months for health reasons and including gluten is still a little tricky at times. While deep in the recipe-rabbit-hole, I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Granola Bars. I’ve made it each week for the past month (despite a short heat wave last week). So yes, we’re now a little obsessed with them. It’s perfect as a snack or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. And it “feels” healthy because OATS, so that’s good, right?

What are some of your autumn favorites? Any non-horror films put you in the October mood for tricks-or-treats? Do you find yourself craving pumpkin (or do you hate the non-stop marketing and vow to eat all things non-pumpkin)?

Stay tuned for more autumn picks on Thursday!

Pumpkin Granola Bars
from The Well Balanced FODMAPer
*I have experimented a little with the amounts for this, using a little more pumpkin or adding ginger spice at times. It’s always turned out amazing, so go for it.

Should make about 10 smaller size granola bars. Serving size: 1 bar

2 cups oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon all spice

Preheat oven to 325°.
Blend all ingredients together. Press very firmly into lightly greased 8 x 8 square pan.
Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting.
Refrigerating will keep the bars firmer.

Watch the films mentioned in this post:
– Good Will Hunting – watch on Amazon, iTunes, add to Netflix queue
– When Harry Met Sally – watch on Amazon, iTunes, add to Netflix queue
– Days of Heaven – watch on Amazon, iTunes, add to Netflix queue (make sure you get the Blu-ray!)
– Or support your local rental store!


Sunday Mornings

I love autumn. I’m spending a few days in the beautiful Appalachians of North Carolina. Colored leaves. NorthFace layers. Cozy time sitting in a rocking chair by a fireplace. Cathead-sized biscuits. I’m in heaven.

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful autumn Sunday.
Here’s a slice of the internet for coffee time.

    • Margaret Brown (whose short The Black Belt I’ll be posting about next week) released a new short with the New York Times and it’s fantastic. Glenn Beck humanized. Well done, Margaret. Watch “Never Trump. But Then What?”
    • The man behind Twitter’s @ArthouseTrump reveals himself.
      This sounds familiar: “I noticed early on in high school that there is definitely a very ugly and petty part of the film community, especially online. It seemed like a lot of people use their knowledge of movies as a starting point to belittle others and brag about how much smarter they are than everyone else. It became a kind of boring contest to see who had seen the most obscure films, who could word the most persuasive argument, who could nitpick every word of someone with a different opinion who might not be as articulate.”
    • I’ve always loved Pete Souza’s behind-the-scene photos of the Obama administration on Instagram. With less than 100 days in office for the Obamas, Souza has been posting some of his favorite throwback photos.
    • I have a soft spot for ceramic mugs. Love the texture and shape of this one.
    • I would not be surprised if Chris Kelly’s past year on the festival circuit influenced the creation of this piece on SNL, but this skit nails it. Been there, both as moderator AND audience member. So good.
    • A beautiful tea towel with an important message.

Movie & Menu: Gosford Park (2001)

First, I must confess something.

It’s possible that the first time I watched Gosford Park, I fell asleep on the couch halfway through it. And it’s also possible that the last time I watched this great film, I also fell asleep. They were typically nights where I already had spent about 60% of my day watching films. It happens. But I’ve watched the entire film – which one of E’s favorites – without snoozing at least once. It’s a favorite in our household and he picks it often on his night.

Ok, now that my secret is out, let’s talk about Gosford Park.

Before “Downton Abbey”, there was Gosford Park. This 131 minute drama takes place in a lavish 1930s English country house. The McCordle family is hosting a weekend shooting party and their wealthy guests arrive with their servants in tow. Everyone has something to hide. Everyone is reminded of their “place”. At some point during the weekend, a murder occurs, startling the guests and servants. This upstairs/downstairs story transforms into a murder mystery as secrets are revealed and suspects are considered.

Robert Altman, who was in his mid-70s when he directed Gosford Park, was a remarkable filmmaker. His work is filled with amazing ensemble casting and performances (Nashville and M.A.S.H. are two that come to mind) and complex scenes. He was known to have natural dialogue in his films and when you watch these scenes unfold it’s like peeling back onion layers. Characters speak over each other, layering and weaving together context, clues and feelings. It’s amazing to watch as you realize how challenging this type of filmmaking can be to achieve.

This style plays out again in Gosford Park. To start, the cast is insane and far too talented: Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas, Bob Balaban, Michael Gambon, Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Ryan Phillippe and Stephen Fry. Our favorite, however, is Maggie Smith as Constance Trentham. Her sass and one liner delivery are the BEST. This ensemble perfectly crafts party conversations and gossip. The movement from both actor and camera are carefully staged revealing details and clues. Every time E and I watch this film, we find ourselves following a different character in a scene and (more so for me) catching something I missed before.

The actions leading to murder are methodical and humor is sprinkled throughout, making this film elaborate both on screen and on the page. Gosford Park was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards in 2002, winning for Best Writing (Written Directly for the Screen). Screenwriter Julian Fellowes went on to write and create “Downton Abbey”.

As you may expect with a weekend long party, various scenes in the film involve food. One of my favorite moments is the Bloody Mary that drops during the post-hunt brunch: a great visual hint of the looming murder to come.

As I was thinking about what meal would pair nicely with this film, it seemed fitting to pick something as creative (and possibly complex) as the film: roasting a small quail (or dove or other small game bird). But if you’re like me and you’re stuck in a city like Los Angeles, where game hunting is not exactly the norm, AND you don’t have a slew of downstair servants, go pick up a rotisserie chicken at Vons or Whole Foods and make it easy on yourself. After all, you must make sure you don’t exhaust yourself beforehand. Otherwise you may not find out who dun’ it!

Roasted Small Game Bird
From Joy of Cooking

All small birds, except coots, should be dry plucked. To use the entrails after cooking, sieve or chop the intestines and flambé them briefly in brandy.
Small birds should be barded or you may wrap them first in fig or grape leaves. All lend themselves to roasting and skewering or broiling from 3 to 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°
Bard, 6 small game birds
It is not necessary to stuff them, although a few peeled grapes or bits of celery or parsley may be tucked inside and discarded later. Place in the pan with the birds:
1 Tablespoon butter
Bake the birds about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 350° and bake them 5 to 15 minutes longer, according to their size.
Timing in general varies from woodcock, 8 to 10 minute, to quail, unstuffed, 10 to 15 minutes; to stuffed, 15 to 18 minutes.

Have you seen Gosford Park? What movies do you ALWAYS fall asleep in? Did you try roasting a bird?

-Watch Gosford Park on Amazon, iTunes or add to your Netflix queue. (Support your local rental store if you can!)-

Shorts & Snacks: Bacon & God’s Wrath (2015)

Bacon is on the list of my favorite foods. A no-brainer. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a bacon snack. If I can include bacon in a meal I will certainly try. The how-much-bacon-is-too-much-bacon struggle is real.

So when filmmaker Sol Friedman created his last short film Bacon & God’s Wrath, I was immediately intrigued by the title. I’ve been a fan of Sol’s work for sometime now, sharing some of his unique blend of live-action and animation shorts at festivals over the years. Bacon is a turning point for his work however. It takes a personal story of faith, throws in some creative animation and becomes an exciting piece of documentary art. The Sundance jury that year thought so too, awarding it with the jury award for non-fiction.

Take a few minutes, take out a bacon snack and enjoy this short. I guarantee you’ll never think of bacon the same way again. Feel free to share you thoughts in the comments!

Bacon & God’s Wrath
Directed by Sol Friedman
2015 / 9 minutes / Canada
A 90-year-old Jewish woman reflects on her life’s experience as she prepares to try bacon for the first time.