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NEW!!!
FAVORITE SONGS

Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Ph.D.

About The Author

MY FAVORITE THINGS

Version 2.0

Raindrops on roses... so goes the song.  Actually the song is one of my favorites too... from one of my favorite musicals.  Below is a list of "my favorite things" with over 600 links---double the number of Version 1.0!!!

[NOTE:  The following list includes neither "favorite books" (fiction or nonfiction) nor "favorite albums" nor "favorite symphonic works" (except in isolated instances of illustration) since all of these categories merit lists of their own.  Someday, maybe... In the meanwhile, I've begun a new "favorite songs" list... watch it progress ...]

DISCLAIMER:  The links herein are meant for entertainment purposes only.  I do not necessarily endorse or approve every item within every link.  And I do not have complete knowledge of all the subsidiary links---navigate at your own risk.  And enjoy!

ALL (MOST?) LINKS ACCURATE & UPDATED AS OF 19 JULY 2004

ACTIVITIES

Among my favorite activities:  Eating (I love Italian, Greek, Chinese, and American foods---with pizza getting a special mention, especially pizza from the L&B Spumoni Gardens); Cooking (I grew up in a Greek-Sicilian household); Living in Brooklyn (at the crossroads of Gravesend and Bensonhurst)---the most populous borough in the greatest city in the world---even when I'm complaining about it on occasion (but I wouldn't be a New Yawker if I didn't complain!); Feeding the Ducks (yes, we have ducks in Brooklyn---and I also like the AFLAC Duck---and the many other birds who have made homes from Times Square to Flatbush, where our very own South American-immigrant Green Monk Parrots live near Brooklyn College!); Going to Coney Island; Playing with Blondie (my dog, who is a big fan of Wishbone); DJ'ing (I used to mix dance music for private parties in my college days... and I still like to spin the turntables); Biking; The Beach (especially the East End and North Fork of Long Island, famous for its vineyards, especially Pindar, and its restaurants, especially Claudio's---and its great clam chowder!), and Dan's Papers; Hanging with Friends; Writing.

SPORTS

I have been known to fancy the New Jersey Nets in basketball, David Beckham in soccer, Chad Pennington and the New York Jets and Eli Manning and the New York Giants in football, Andy Roddick in tennis, and some thoroughbred racing.  In 2003, I was hoping that "Funny Cide," the New York-bred gelding, would win the Belmont Stakes, after winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.  The next year, Smarty Jones had the chance to remain undefeated and to become the first Triple Crown winner in 26 years.  No can do.  My favorite Triple Crown winner remains Secretariat---who won the Triple Crown in grand style in 1973, also after a 25-year drought. Oh, and I also like the Olympics (Summer and Winter), and even a little hockey---though I'd like it a lot more if it were a lot less like Roller Derby...

In the final analysis, however, nothing compares to my love for . . .

Click Here for the Official Yankees Website!

BASEBALL

Click Here for the Official Mets Website!

I am a fan of the New York Yankees.  Need I say more?  The StadiumThe Cathedral of Baseball. A team, playing in The House that Ruth Built, synonymous with baseball, with a tradition for professionalism and excellence.   I have been a die-hard Yankees fanatic since childhood.  My fanaticism reached fever-pitch in the 1970s with Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles, and the like, especially in 1978, when the Bronx Bombers came back from a 14-game deficit to beat the Boston Red Sox in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park (till this day, Beantown fans call the shortstop who hit the home-run off the Green Monster:  Bucky F------- Dent.  They then went on to beat the Kansas City Royals for the ALCS and, after falling behind the Los Angeles Dodgers two games to none, they went on to their 22nd World Championship.

Of course, being a Yankees fan over the last 30 or so years, I have seen more defeat than victory (in contrast to those who were fans of the Yanks in the days of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Phil Rizzuto---who was also a hilarious sportscaster for the team---and so forth).  But my passion is no less feverish today, with the likes of Derek Jeter (Jeter is my favorite current Yankee), Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, still part of the Core Four (Posada is now retired) that brought them four World Championships from 1996 through 2000 and another in 2009.  

GO YANKS!!!

Check out the sportspages to keep up with your favorite team!  And check out the YES NETWORK (The Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network).

MUSIC

I'm a real music lover and my tastes are so diverse, I'd have a hard time coming up with five discs to bring with me to a desert island.  Here are some music-related sites:

AMG, Ice Magazine, SonicNet, Rocksbackpages

COMPOSERS

Michel Legrand:  You're thinking:  Movie Music.  Fuhgeddabowdit... this guy is one of the great composers of our time, from classical to jazz idioms, a true genius.  And one of my favorite songs remains:  "What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?," with great lyrics by the Bergmans.

Miklós Rózsa:  You're thinking:  Movie Music Again!  Yep.  And great classical pieces from a great Hungarian composer.  His compositions are both muscular and moving, filled with the sounds of struggle and redemption.  I am a proud member of the Mikós Rózsa Society.

George and Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter:   Classic American Song.

Antonio Carlos Jobim:   Brazil's answer to Gershwin.

Joáquin Rodrigo:   Truly outstanding composer; the "Concierto de Aranjez" is among my favorites (especially as played by Julian Bream, the Segovia of his generation---though it has been interpreted by jazz artists as well, such as Miles Davis and Jim Hall, and even Chick Corea, who used it as the introduction to "Spain").

JAZZ, JAZZ, JAZZ

Carl and Joanne Barry:  Carl is a great jazz guitarist, and Joanne is a magnificent jazz singer.  And they happen to be related to me:  Carl is my brother, Joanne is my sister-in-law.  And nepotism aside, the music is out of this world.  Their newest CD, "Embraceable You," features my late dog, Blondie, on the cover!

Jazz pianoBill Evans:   A master.  The perfect integration of thought and feeling.  Chick Corea:   From Return to Forever till today---what a talented player and composer.  Honorable mention to Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner too.

Jazz reeds and horns:  Stan Getz:   Not just beautiful, melodic Bossa Nova and Jobim and Gilberto.  Check out his album "Focus" for one of the greatest orchestral jazz works ever recorded.  Phil Woods:  Not just Bop.  Check out his album, with Michel Legrand, "Images" for one of the greatest single jazz symphonies in three movements ever written. Among clarinet players:  Benny Goodman and Buddy DeFranco.  Among horn players:  Chet Baker (trumpet), Harry James (trumpet, especially when he was with Goodman), Louis Armstrong (trumpet), Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Bill Watrous (trombone), and my friend, Roger Bissell (trombone).  And Toots Thielmans---who plays a harmonica like a saxophone.

Jazz Guitar:  In addition to my Bro, I love Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, the original---Django Reinhardt, among others.

Jazz Violin:  I saw them both when they were alive---they set the standards by which all others will be judged:  Joe Venuti and Stephane Grappelli.  But also Stuff Smith, Eddie South and Jean-Luc Ponty.

Jazz Singers:  In addition to my sister-in-law---Sarah Vaughan---Divine is an understatement; Ella Fitzgerald---First Lady is an understatement; Anita O'Day---from Stan Kenton's band and after; Mel Torme---Neither Velvet nor Fog... just pure swing; Nat King Cole (great musician and expressive singer); Jack Jones---jazz-inspired swing; Carmen McRae---Lyric Interpretation at its Best; Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson.

Jazz Bands:  Benny Goodman in his heydey (the one and only King of Swing); Stan Kenton; Maynard Ferguson; Gerald Wilson.

POP MUSIC

I have always liked stuff in the R&B tradition especially... but my tastes run the gamut from classic disco (especially 1978-79 disco!) to rock to classical to jazz to even a little country and Bluegrass.  I also love to dance.   Here are some of the reasons why:

Michael Jackson:  Forget the scandals and the gossip.   I've enjoyed him since the Jackson Five, and seen him live---with and without his brothers, and nobody gives a concert like him.  He is a man possessed on stage.  And "Thriller" is still one of my favorite dance albums.  (And his sister Janet is entertaining too... with or without bra cup.)

Stevie Wonder:  I've seen him in concert several times... he can sing for three hours, and he'd still be missing a few from his hit parade.  What a writer.  What a performer.

Sting:  The jazzy years after the Police especially. 

Madonna:  Forget the hype ... good music to dance to. And she gives a great concert (as does Prince).

Justin Timberlake:  He's got all the right influences and his first solo album shows promise.  (And to hell with the Taliban critics of his Super Bowl stunt with Janet Jackson.)  I've liked him from his days with 'N Sync. In fact, yes, as "Boy Bands" go, I even liked the melodic hooks of Backstreet Boys.

Deborah Cox:  More good music to dance to.

Chicago:  Classic jazz-rock band in its day.

Blood, Sweat and Tears:   Classic fusion band.

Earth, Wind, and Fire:   Classic R&B band.

Beatles:  Classic rock band.

Chaka Khan:  Ain't Nobody jams like Chaka.

The Solar (Sound-of-Los-Angeles-Records) Sound:  From Shalamar to the Whispers... great melodic tracks from the 70s and 80s.

Barbra Streisand:  Forget the politics.  What an instrument.

Tony Bennett:  I know its cool to love him today---but I "wanna be around" his music no matter what they say (I rhyme!)

Francis Albert SinatraOl' Blue Eyes---The Chairman of the Board.

SOUNDTRACKS

It is difficult picking favorite albums from the above favorite artists... and I like so many different styles of music that it is virtually impossible to pick ONE favorite.  But I am an avid fan of movie music.   Among my very favorite film scores I count virtually anything by Miklos Rozsa, including "Ben-Hur," "King of Kings," "El Cid," and "Quo Vadis."  I also love James Horner's "Titanic," Maurice Jarre's "Lawrence of Arabia," John Williams' "Jurassic Park" and so much more, anything by Henry Mancini, the lush Johnny Mandel score for "The Sandpiper," the Wojciech Kilar score for "Bram Stoker's Dracula," John Barry's poignant "Somewhere in Time," and Rachel Portman's score for "The Cider House Rules."

RADIO STATIONS

WKTU (103.5 FM) in New York City.   Music you can dance to.

WINS (1010 AM).  You give them 22 minutes, they'll give you the world of news.

WCBS (880 AM).  The station of the New York Yankees.

Let's Go Yankees!!!

WFAN (660 AM).  The sports station that also features my Yankees' crosstown rivals:  the New York Mets.

Let's Go Mets!!!

TELEVISION

Here are some TV-related websites:

TV Guide, Hollywood Reporter

I have enjoyed watching TV since I was a kid, when I was fascinated by such classic kid's shows as Captain Kangaroo, Chuck McCann, Sandy Becker, Zacherly the Vampire, Officer Joe Bolton (who regularly played "The Three Stooges" and Jack McCarthy, Chiller Theater (see the original WPIX-TV opening sequence here and its later incarnation here; WPIX also had a wonderful Christmas Yule Log), and, yes, endless classic cartoons--from Snagglepuss (of "Exit Stage Left" and "Heaven's to Mergatroid" fame) to Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Flintstones, Bugs Bunny & Looney Tunes Company, Yogi Bear, Speed Racer, Jonny Quest, Davey and Goliath, Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, Top Cat, and the list goes on and on.  Here are some of my favorite TV shows of all time:

The Fugitive:   Great action-packed movie with Harrison Ford.  But on TV, the original series was a morality play stressing the triumph of integrity.  David Janssen is mesmerizing as Dr. Richard Kimble.  (I also liked the updated Fugitive with Tim Daly, before it was canceled, but the original is still the best!)

The Practice:   At its best, when the characters weren't screaming at each other, a riveting courtroom drama.

The Twilight Zone:  A morality play in the next dimension.  Rod Serling was never better.

The HoneymoonersJackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden is a singular sensation.  As is Art Carney's Ed Norton and Audrey Meadows' Alice Kramden.  Bensonhurst, Brooklyn has never been funnier.

The X-Files:  Paranoia at its best.   The truth is out there.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII:  Tudors have always been good film subjects.  Classic Masterpiece Theater miniseries and documentary.

Elizabeth R:  Another Classic Masterpiece Theater miniseries; Glenda Jackson is superb [though I did enjoy Bette Davis's versions of Elizabeth I in "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" (1939) with Errol Flynn and "The Virgin Queen" (1955) with Richard Todd].

I, ClaudiusDerek Jacobi as Claudius---a period of history that fascinates me.  Roman intrigue at its most treacherous.

Jesus of Nazereth:  The most intelligent "Life of Christ" film project I've ever seen.

War and Remembrance:  Pre-"Schindler's List," this miniseries -- the sequel to "The Winds of War"---has its riveting moments.  John Gielgud is magnificent.  One of the best of TV's network productions.  (And for TV documentary series, "The World at War.")

Shoah:  Not a minute of this 1985 nine-hour documentary is wasted.  The Holocaust made real.  More chilling than fiction.

The Life of Birds:  David Attenborough's remarkable 10-hour documentary on the life of our feathered friends is stunning and, literally, unbelievable.

From the Earth to the Moon:  And you thought going to the moon was easy?!  Emmy-award winning miniseries.

One Step Beyond:  The theme music was haunting; so was the show.

Nightline:   I've been watching Ted Koppel since the Iranian hostage crisis.  I also enjoy WABC's Eyewitness News and lots of stuff on The History Channel.

One Life to Live:   Guilty pleasure... one soap opera I watch.  Other soaps I've had the guilty pleasure of watching through the years:  Dawson's Creek, Beverly Hills 90210, Felicity, The O.C., and, in days of yore, Dynasty.

Brideshead Revisited:   Absorbing miniseries.

Beauty and the Beast:   Romantic, at times tragic, and very moving.

Cable Series:  Six Feet Under and Queer as Folk---yeah, I know, the British say theirs is better.  But the Showtime version is still a really entertaining soap opera with a twist---or two. (And while we're on the subject, check out the hilarious ensemble cast of "Will and Grace.")

Saturday Night Live:   Long-time fan; the show has had its peaks and valleys, but, at its best, it is still biting, satirical, and funny.

24:  My current fave; the absolute best---nail-biting suspense, great performances, complex characterizations... and even a few characters with integrity.  Wow.

The West Wing:  I'm a late-comer to this TV drama; didn't watch it when it premiered, and resisted it because of its politics... but, after having caught up in syndication, I'm now watching the new season. Excellent writing, thoughtful and provocative.

Jack & Bobby:   Another political drama; this one is a morality tale about the building of character. Poignant, funny, well acted, well written.

NYPD Blue:  From the beginning, a New York tale, with universal themes.

American Idol:  Believe it or not... it's just a good ol' fashioned talent show---a concept that's been around since long before Arthur Godfrey, and a lot of fun.

Holiday Classics:  "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

THEATER

Living in the Cultural Capitol of the World, I've seen some pretty fine Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, including some major Tony Award Winners over the years.  And I love the Theater!   But I find it impossible to rank my favorites.  So here's an alphabetical list of some fine productions, past and present, that have impressed me:  Amy's View (1999 Oscar AND Tony Winner Dame Judi Dench is superb); Beautiful Thing (at the Cherry Lane Theatre, comic and poignant, a beautiful play); Blood Brothers (at the Music Box, with Petula Clark and two real brothers:   David and Shaun Cassidy); Cabaret (revival with Alan Cumming; entertaining and decadent, but also powerful and shattering); Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (revival with Elizabeth Ashley, Keir Dullea, and Fred Gwynne; at the Anta Theatre---great acting); A Chorus Line (the One original at the Shubert); Cloud 9 (for years, a staple at the Lucille Lortel Theatre); The Constant Wife (just seeing Ingrid Bergman on stage at the Shubert was mesmerizing); Electra (Zoe Wanamaker, Claire Bloom and Pat Carroll---they don't write 'em like they used to, just ask Sophocles!); Cobb (a brilliant character study of the pained and angry Ty Cobb; intense performances and a keen eye on the role of racism in baseball and society); Contact (fantasy segments in dance and dialogue---with interpretations of diverse pieces from Puccini and Greig to magnificent tracks by Stephane Grappelli and Benny Goodman---including Louis Prima's Swing-era defining, "Sing, Sing, Sing"---and 1990's pop), Fosse (a magnificent and entertaining 1999 Tony winner for Best Musical; revue of the choreographer's triumphs); The Full Monty (wonderfully entertaining, memorable songs, great ensemble cast, and good raunchy fun!!); Jackie (Margaret Colin was Jackie Kennedy); Jeffrey (over the top);  The Laramie Project (talented actors in a humane treatment of the town of Laramie and the Matthew Shepard tragedy); The Lion King (the production is the star); Naked Boys Singing! (irreverent, hysterical, poignant... and, yes, all nude!); Not About Nightingales (a previously unproduced 1930's Tennessee Williams prison drama---intense is an understatement); Over the River and Through the Woods (for those who have never lived in an Italian household---this one is priceless); The Producers (classic Mel Brooks comedic musical with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick); Ragtime (a musical odyssey of early 20th century America, with all its promise and its struggles); The Red Shoes (at the Gershwin Theatre, briefly... the dance sequence was nice, but the play was nowhere near the movie); Rent (a season of love---don't miss it); The Sound of Music (revival, with Richard Chamberlain... do, re, Me?  I loved it!); A Streetcar Named Desire (revival with Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange---I was exhausted at the end of this play); Swing (a lot of fun... and, like "Contact," and "Fosse," this one, too, features a "Sing, Sing, Sing" finale!); Take Me Out (Best Play, 2003 Tony's; comedic, poignant, powerful exploration of "coming out" in the world of baseball); Thoroughly Modern Millie (pure unadulterated classic musical entertainment); Tony n' Tina's Wedding (for those who have not been to an Italian wedding, this one is priceless too!); Torch Song Trilogy (Fierstein's play of his movie);The Waverly Gallery (for an absolutely shattering performance by 80+ year old, Oscar and Emmy-winning grande dame, the now late Eileen Heckart, portrayed a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease: Heckart took us on a sad voyage, poignant and at times, bittersweet, exploring the splattering of the human mind.  I've loved her work for years; winner of the Drama Desk and other awards for this performance---even her work with in three classic episodes of The Fugitive was exemplary); W;t (as shattering as Waverly, about a cancer-sufferer, with great use of symbolism and lighting and superb with Judith Light); You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (revival, with two Tony winners in the cast: Kristin Chenoweth, and Roger Bart---who plays a magnificent Snoopy); and let's not forget the Radio City Christmas Spectacular (especially now that the Music Hall has been restored to its glory, and refitted for the 21st century).

FILM

I am a real film buff.  Here are a few links to film-related sites:

Upcoming Movies, Variety, Filmsite, Moviemags, Script-O-Rama, Ain't It Cool News, Cinemedia

Since it is impossible for me to list my favorite movies in order, I've decided to list them by genre.   [As for a list of actors, that is almost impossible... my tastes are too varied---they range from Charlton Heston, Cary Grant, Richard Burton, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis to Leonardo DiCaprio (even before "Titanic"), Brad Pitt, Jodie Foster, Glenda Jackson, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford, and Dustin Hoffman.] Here it goes (not in any particular order, except the first one mentioned):

EPICS

Ben-Hur (1959):  This AFI Top 100 film, the most honored in the history of the Academy Awards---winner of 11 Oscars---is probably my favorite of all time.  It is not simply a religious film; it centers on the spiritual meaning of friendship, love, loyalty, struggle, and salvation.  It combines romance and action, and features one of the most riveting scenes in film history:  the chariot race.  Charlton Heston got a much-deserved Oscar, as did the director of the film, William Wyler, and Miklos Rozsa, the composer of the film's score. For an analysis of the film, see my essay first published in The Daily Objectivist.  I also posted a Thumbs Up on IMDb here and here and at the NY Times  too.

Titanic (1996):  Tied with "Ben-Hur" for most Oscars.  Forget the hype.  It really is a fascinating piece of celluloid, with great cinematography, fine editing, and superior special effects.  DiCaprio has his star turn (also see such films as "Total Eclipse," "The Basketball Diaries," etc.).  And even if you've grown tired of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," listen to James Horner's two soundtracks for this movie, studies in counterpoint between love found and life lost.

The Lord of the RingsPeter Jackson's triumphant trilogy---"The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), "The Two Towers" (2002), and "The Return of the King" (2003)---constitutes one of the great cinematic achievements of all time.  Storytelling at its best, movie-making supreme:  I've seen the first two only in their extended cuts, and loved the theatrical finale, and its extended cut, as well.  Bravo!

Spartacus (1960):  Kirk Douglas is great as he leads a slave revolt against the Roman Empire.  Intelligent epic with Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis, Peter Ustinov, and Jean Simmons.  What a cast.  And a fine score by Alex North, with a haunting, heart-breaking love theme (one that many jazz musicians have explored as well).

Lawrence of Arabia (1962):  Peter O'Toole is fabulous in this fabulous looking David Lean production.   (One critic said that if O'Toole were any more beautiful, they would have had to re-name this movie "Florence of Arabia.")  Great too is the memorable Maurice Jarre theme music.

The Ten Commandments (1956):  It may be hokey and corny.  It may feature Edward G. Robinson as a gangsta collaborator with the Egyptians.   And lots of silly dialogue:  Moses, Moses, Moses, So it shall be written, so it shall be done.  But Cecil B. DeMille never made a grander film in Hollywood.  The parting of the Red Sea still holds water... ahem... after all these years.

The Robe (1953)---and its sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)---retains its splendor and reverence.  Richard Burton, Victor Mature, Michael Rennie---and Jay Robinson as the crazed Caligula.  Magnificent Alfred Newman score & love theme.

Quo Vadis (1951):  Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr in another ancient Roman costume drama; this one features another magnificent Miklos Rozsa score.  And Peter Ustinov as Nero(Yes, I have a fascination for ancient Rome; if reincarnation existed---I'd say that I lived back then . . .)

HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL

A Man for All Seasons (1966):  Oscar winner, Paul Scofield, in the story of a man of integrity in the court of King Henry VIII.   Smart and meaningful.

Becket (1964):  Switch to Henry II---Peter O'Toole---in his homoerotically-charged bout against Thomas Becket--- Richard Burton.  Good dialogue, and fine staging.

The Lion in Winter (1968):  O'Toole reprises his Henry II---this time in a bout against a great Kate,  Katherine Hepburn.   Hepburn tied with Barbra Streisand for the Best Actress Oscar; this movie shows why she is the legend she is.

Malcolm X (1992):  Spike Lee's best film... it takes us from Harlem to Mecca.  Denzel Washington is truly outstanding in the role.

The Pride of the Yankees (1942):   Probably the best "sports" movie I've ever seen (though I also liked 61*); Gary Cooper is the great Lou Gehrig.  Even Babe Ruth stars in the movie.

The Song of Bernadette (1943)-- and Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952):  Both very inspiring stories, even for nonbelievers.  There is a simple integrity in the characters that transcends the religious theme, as they attempt to stand as individuals against a mob of naysayers.

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969):  Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold in the rousing historical confrontation between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. 

Schindler's List (1993):  Spielberg triumphs.  Not the most explicit of the Holocaust movies, but one of the most shattering.

The Benny Goodman Story (1955):   Highly inaccuate---but what great music!

Inherit the Wind (1960):  The philosophical fireworks between Frederic March and Spencer Tracy bring life to this drama based on the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Judgment at Nuremburg (1961):  Spencer Tracy is superb again, as is this movie---and everyone in it (including Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift).

The Agony and the Ecstacy:   The Pope and Michelangelo face-off in the Sistine Chape.  Brought to life by Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison.

Apollo 13 (1995):  The acting ensemble led by Tom Hanks is splendid.  A testament to the power of the human mind.

Gandhi (1982):   Sprawling drama---despite some historical inaccuracies.

Seabiscuit (2003):  Moving, rousing, poignant story.  Wonderful performances---even from the horse(s)---life-affirming values, and a terrific score by Randy NewmanTobey Maguire makes a great jockey and a great Spider-Man too (and I loved Spider-Man II too).

WAR AND PEACE

The Deer Hunter (1978):  Shattering portrait of the War in Vietnam.

Saving Private Ryan (1998):   Shattering portrait of World War II.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930):  Early talkie; still effective---right up to its last frames.

The Big Parade (1925):  Silent film---and among the finest war films ever made.

Bataan (1943):  Robert Taylor in fine form---you can see his mouth utter cursewords thru the gun blasts in the final scene.

Hell to Eternity (1960):   Jeffrey Hunter (who was probably the most beautiful Christ ever to adorn the screen---in "King of Kings"), plays World War II hero Guy Gabaldon.   Also stars David Janssen.   Movie highlights the wartime plight of Japanese-Americans.

The Sand Pebbles (1966):   Steve McQueen in great form.

Patton (1970):  George C. Scott is brilliant.

Prisoner of War Films:  The David Lean masterpiece, "Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957); The Frank Sinatra vehicle, "Von Ryan's Express" (1965); The unforgettable Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape" (1963); and The Oscar-winning William Holden in "Stalag 17" (1953)---all among the best of the genre.

Thirteen Days (2000):  A riveting drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis; I also loved the TV-movie, "The Missiles of October" (1974)

GANGSTERS

The Godfather, The Complete Epic:   I loved "The Godfather" (1972)---especially that Corleone baptism scene---and "The Godfather, Part II" (1974), but nothing beats the saga edited together chronologically.   Francis Ford Coppola's masterful portrait of the American dream turned into an American family nightmare.    Great score by Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola.

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938):   Jimmy Cagney is still the best punk on screen.

Donnie Brasco (1996):  Al Pacino and Johnny Depp are made for each other.  Worth it just to hear the various meanings of "fuhgeddabowdit."

Traffic (2000):  Not a gangster film really; but a superb semi-documentary dramatic rendering of the absurd and futile war on drugs.

COMEDIES

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944):  Cary Grant was never funnier... well... maybe he was... but this is classic Brooklyn comedy...

Mr. Blanding's Builds His Dream House (1948):  Cary Grant was never funnier... Ok, Ok.  Maybe he was.  What a riot.

Gunga Din (1944):   Classic Grant vehicle equal parts comedy and action.

Heaven Can Wait (1978):  Warren Beatty's remake of "Here Comes Mr. Jordon" is a hoot.

Not just for the sexual- and gender-bending crowd:  The Billy Wilder classic, "Some Like it Hot" (1959); The Dustin Hoffman classic, "Tootsie" (1982); Julie Andrews and Robert Preston in "Victor/Victoria" (1982); The original "La Cage aux Folles" (1979); and its English-language cousin, "The birdcage" (1996); Harvey Fierstein is over the top in "Torch Song Trilogy" (1988); Kevin Kline in "In and Out" (1997)---each offers some great laughs, and even a few tears along the way.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948):  The crossroads of comedy and horror---and a good time for all.

March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934):   The crossroads of comedy and music---with Laurel and Hardy making trouble for the Babes in Toyland.

Arthur (1981):  This film with Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud cracks me up everytime I see it.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969):  Paul Newman and Robert Redford in grand style.

Pocketful of Miracles (1961):  Classic Frank Capra comedy... Peter Falk is hilarious.

HITCHCOCK

This guy gets his own category---and here are some of my Hitchcock favorites:

North By Northwest (1959):  Funny, thrilling... and Cary Grant never looked better getting chased by a plane.   Probably my favorite all-around Hitchcock film.  Scintillating Bernard Herrmann score.

Rear Window (1954): Jimmy Stewart in a claustrophobic nightmare...

Psycho (1960):  Shower anyone?   And Bernard Herrmann does it again.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956):   Second version especially with Jimmy Stewart and Doris "Que Sera" Day.

Suspicion (1941):  Cary Grant again in a tense and twisted thriller.  I also liked Charade, which was the best Cary Grant-Hitchcock film that Hitchcock never made.

Notorious (1946):  Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains (apparently, still hunting poor Ingrid from "Casablanca"... but that's another story...)

To Catch a Thief (1955):  Grant and Grace Kelly in fine form.

007

This character gets its own category---and my favorite actor in the role (surprise! surprise!) is Sean Connery.  Great music throughout the series, especially the John Barry theme.  Among my favorites: 

Goldfinger (1964):  From Odd Job to Pussy Galore to the Astin Martin---never better, and my favorite of all the Bond flicks.

Thunderball (1965):  Under water or on land, Sean does it better.

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

The Original Star Wars Trilogy:  While I was always a fan of Star Trek, I very much enjoyed the "Star Wars" films:  "Star Wars" (1977), "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), and "Return of the Jedi" (1983)---and I can't wait to see how the second (prequel) trilogy pans out (so far, the best scene in the first two prequel films was Yoda vs. Christopher Lee in Star Wars, Episode II:  Attack of the Clones.   Kudos also to John Williams for some triumphant theme music.

"Alien" (1979) and "Aliens" (1986):  Always imitated, never duplicated.

The War of the Worlds (1953):  The paradigm George Pal "Invasion from Mars" movie, my absolute all-time favorite alien invasion film ... copied by ...

Independence Day (1996):  A lot of fun.

The Thief of Baghdad:  I liked the Douglas Fairbanks version (1924), the Sabu version (1940), and even the Steve Reeves version (1961).

Planet of the Apes (1968):  The best of the "Ape" movies---far superior to the new version---with a still-shocking ending.  I also liked "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (1970), which gives a post-apocalyptic glimpse at the New York City Subways. 

E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (1982):   Phone home.  An intergalactic "Wizard of Oz."  Still a sentimental favorite.

Testament (1983):  Not really Science Fiction... but thank goodness... not historical fact.

WarGames (1983):  Some more 80's nuclear paranoia; entertaining---with Matthew Broderick in the lead role.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956):  Even without its McCarthy-era subtext, this is scary stuff.  Teaches us not to play with pods.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951):  Utterly classic Robert Wise-directed flick.  Klaatu Barada Nikto.

The Harry Potter Franchise (2001-2011):  A truly spectacular epic fantasy series and morality tale, stretching across eight terrific films, increasingly remarkable in their use of iconic symbolism.

MONSTER MADNESS AND HOUSES OF HORRORS

Might be science fiction for some... but a good monster movie is a good monster movie:

King Kong (1933):  I'm from New York, and this gets my vote---from the Top of the Empire State Building.   Precedent-setting from Fay Wray's classic screaming to Max Steiner's classic score and Willis O'Brien's classic special effects in the form of a classic gorilla.  Other gorilla favorites:  "Son of Kong" (1933) and "Mighty Joe Young" (1949).

Jurassic Park (1993):  In many ways, the film tributes Kong---and sets a few standards of its own (and it's still the best of the Jurassic movies).  And John Williams does a great job on the score.

Gorgo (1961):  The monsters live.   On that basis alone, this gets two thumbs up.

"The Giant Behemoth" (1959), with its Willis O'Brien special effects---and "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" (1953), with its Ray Harryhausen special effects:  Essentially the same movies, except one takes place in London, the other in Coney Island.  And a special mention for the original Godzilla; the new one had its funny moments, but the original is still the reigning champ.  I grew up on this stuff!

Universal Monsters:   Karloff's "Frankenstein" (1931), "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), and "The Mummy" (1932), Lugosi's "Dracula" (1931), Lon Chaney Jr.'s "The Wolf Man" (1941),  and Claude Rains as "The Invisible Man" (1933).  I even had the plastic models as a kid.

Hammer Film Masterpieces:   "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957) and "Horror of Dracula" (1958), both with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992):  Some of the best Coppola cinematography since "The Godfather"---romantic, sensual, frightening, and powerful in its imagery.  The Wojciech Kilar soundtrack is haunting.

Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973):  The best of the devil movies.  A 2000 re-release of a re-edited version of "The Exorcist" is also worth seeing.

Horror Hotel (also known as "City of the Dead"; 1960):  A rare Christopher Lee devil delight with witches and warlocks; atmospheric.

Night of the Living Dead (1968):   The original Black and White George Romero production is still scary; watch it with the lights off.

Re-Animator (1985):  Gore galore, but I love that Lovecraft.

Halloween (1978):  The original---better than Friday the 13th, 14th, etc. -- and Freddy (though one other good one in this genre is:  "When a Strange Calls" (1979).

The Cyclops (1957):  I used to watch this on "Chiller Theater" when I was growing up.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958):   Campy and classic.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962):   Part comedic, part thriller... Were Bette and Joan REALLY fighting? :)

Night Gallery (1969):  It became a TV series, but the original trilogy is Rod Serling supreme.  With Roddy McDowall, Joan Crawford, and Richard Kiley.  (On the TV show, the most memorable episodes were Episode #3, "Certain Shadows on the Wall," and  Episode #5, "The Lone Survivor".)

Vincent Price in "House on Haunted Hill" (1958), "The Fly" (1958) and "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1961)---and just about anything else.

Two Spielberg films:  Jaws (1975) and Poltergeist (1982; Spielberg was actually producer and co-writer)

The Blair Witch Project (1999):  This multimedia extravaganza was done on a shoestring budget, and promises to be one of the most profitable films of any year.   Truth is, though, that it is bizarre, strange, suggestive, and subtle---no blood, gore, and guts, just some old fashioned weirdness.  A breakthrough indie film that is sure to go down in horror history, much like the "amateurish" Night of the Living Dead did in its day.

The Omen (1976):  Intelligent and still the best of "The Omen" films.

The Sixth Sense (1999):   Just for its ending, this one deserves kudos for having one of the most ingenious "twists" in cinema history.  Almost as much spooky fun:  "The Others" (2001).

SILENT CLASSICS

In addition to "The Big Parade," and too many Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., films to mention, here are a few of my other silent faves:

Ben-Hur (1926):  This version with Ramon Novarro and Francis X. Bushman didn't skimp on production values.  Truly spectacular.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925):  One of the reasons Lon Chaney, Sr. was a man of a thousand faces.

Intolerance (1916):  Ok, Ok... "Birth of a Nation" may get a nod as the genuine landmark, but this D. W. Griffith production is epic in scale in its critical treatment of prejudice throughout history.

CLASSIC CINEMA AND MORE

It's a Wonderful Life (1946):  Mixed messages philosophically, but you'd have to be a regular Mr. Potter not to be moved by this one.  The web is filled with tributes and more tributes to this heart-warming film . . . one that depicts how a single individual's actions can have ever-widening effects on the people around him.   Classic plot technique that has been copied, but never really duplicated.

A Christmas Carol (1951):  Alastair Sim's version of the Dickens classic is the best.

All About Eve (1950):  It still holds the record for 14 Oscar nominations, and is a classic screenplay put into action by some terrific performances---with Bette "bumpy night" Davis leading the charge.

Love Letters (1945):  Screenplay by Ayn Rand, and it is very romantic.  Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten star.

Portrait of Jennie (1948):  Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten together again---eerie and romantic.

Shane (1953):  My Favorite Western.

"Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936)  and "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938):  Errol Flynn at his swashbuckling best.

The Man in the Iron Mask (1939):  "The pendulum swings far to the left and far to the right... and this time, my brother, it swings for you."  Louis Hayward in the classic tale of justice.

The Three Musketeers (1948):  Gene Kelly?  A musketeer?  You bet.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975):   Jack Nicholson at his peak---

Chinatown (1974):  And peaking too with Faye Dunaway.  Film noir at its best.  And the jazz-influenced soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith (who learned the film score craft under the tutelage of Miklos Rozsa) is among the best.  Goldsmith also did the soundtrack to another great film noir experience:  L.A. Confidential.

The Verdict (1982):  For me, Paul Newman's finest performance.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966):  These are people you'd rather not know, but the film features fine acting by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Maurice (1987):  A beautifully filmed version of the romantic E. M. Forster novel of forbidden love.

Saturday Night Fever (1977):   The Disco Revolution with classic dance music, and a strutting John Travolta dancing at 2001 Odyssey in Brooklyn---I knew people like this!  The club and its lighted floor still exists---only now its called Spectrum and its a gay disco!

The Red Shoes (1948):   Speaking of dance... an influential, stylized, and profoundly tragic ballet tale.

The Bishop's Wife (1947):   Heart-warming and hilarious.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947):  Makes you want to believe in Santa Claus.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947):  Romantic fantasy at its best.

An Affair to Remember (1957):  Best version of this affair.

The American President (1995):  Okay, so the politics in this film is not perfectly in sync with my own, but I think it's a wonderful romantic comedy of sorts, with a sweet sense of life.

Far From Heaven (2002):  A Todd Haynes romantic paean to the work of Douglas Sirk.  Beautifully acted, scored, and filmed. 

The Notebook (2004):  A poignant, old-fashioned tearjerker.  For all unreconstructed romantics.

FOREIGN

We the Living (1942):  Forget the over-the-top "Fountainhead" adaptation---this is the best of the Rand adaptations.  An Italian film, re-edited by Duncan Scott, with English subtitles; grand-scale drama.

MUSICALS

West Side Story (1961):  Ten Oscars went to this film, and it is among the best of its genre.  Bernstein-Sondheim score is a benchmark for musical theater.

Funny Girl (1968):  William Wyler directing, Bob Merrill-Jule Styne score, and the Definitive Streisand.  Don't rain on my parade.

The Wizard of Oz (1939):  Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!  We're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.  And don't forget Toto too.   Part of the American psyche.

The King and I (1956):  I liked "Anna and the King of Siam" (1946), but I loved Yul "Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera" Brynner in this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.

Disney Classics:  They are as much musicals as they are children's animated classics.  Among my favorites:   "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937); "Pinocchio" (1940); "Fantasia" (1940); "Dumbo" (1941); "Bambi" (1942); "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1949); "Peter Pan" (1953); and "101 Dalmations" (1961).  And one non-Disney cartoon classic:  "Gulliver's Travels" (1939).

The Sound of Music (1965):  I went to this film as a child expecting to hate it.  I loved it.  And that's why it's still one of ... My Favorite Things.


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