Favorite Movies of All Time: 80-71

Over the past few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch lots of movies considered to be among the best of all time.  Now, for the first time, I’ve made my own list of favorite movies of all time.  Every other Wednesday throughout 2022, I will be revealing ten movies in my list of 250 Favorite Movies of All Time.

250-241 200-190 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101



TitleThe Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, and Andy Serkis
Year: 2001
When did I first watch this movie?: 2001, at the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: The Fellowship of the Ring is the best adaptation of Tolkien’s work, but consider this entry a stand-in for the whole trilogy.  It’s an exciting modern mythology brought to life!


Title: Rashomon 
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyō, Masayuki Mori, and Takashi Shimura
When did I first watch this movie?: Summer 2019
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: It’s an art film about medieval Japan based on a Japanese short story from the 1920s, but also somehow a pillar of modern film-making.


Title: The Lion King 
Director: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
Cast: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella
Year: 1994
When did I first watch this movie?: 1994, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: From the awe-inspiring opening sequence to the catchy African-inspired music, there’s a lot about this film that’s irresistible.


Title: The Battle of Algiers 
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Cast: Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef, Brahim Haggiag, and Tommaso Neri
Year: 1966
When did I first watch this movie?: February 2021
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: Film in a documentary realist style, this film depicts the grim realities of guerilla warfare in an escalating series of reprisals.


Title: Real Genius
Director: Martha Coolidge
Cast:  Val Kilmer, Gabe Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, and William Atherton
Year: 1985
When did I first watch this movie?: 1985, in the theaters
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: An 80s college comedy with brains, this movie is full of great dialogue and hilarious setpieces with an anti-authoritarian undercurrent.


Title: Party Girl 
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Cast: Parker Posey, Anthony DeSando, Guillermo Díaz, Donna Mitchell, Liev Schreiber, Omar Townsend, and Sasha von Scherler
When did I first watch this movie?: circa 1997
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: This may be the most 1990s indie comedy ever made and also the movie that convinced me to go to library school.


Title: Rear Window
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, and Raymond Burr
Year: 1954
When did I first watch this movie?: 1980s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: I think this is the best work ever for Hitchcock and Kelly, and among Stewart’s best.  The tense thriller takes advantage of a limited location where an entire city block was created on a soundstage.


Title: Make Way for Tomorrow
Director: Leo McCarey
Cast: Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi
When did I first watch this movie?: September 2019
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A sweet love story of an older couple is the heart of this heartbreaking drama about the disposability of the elderly in a capitalist society.


Title: Bicycle Thieves
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Cast: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, and Lianella Carell
Year: 1949
When did I first watch this movie?: Early 2000s
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: It’s interesting that this slots in ahead of Make Way for Tomorrow since the two films deal with similar issues. In this case, a father’s love for his son is central to a story of how the theft of a bicycle is the breaking point for an impoverished family.


Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, and Forest Whitaker
Year: 2017
When did I first watch this movie?: October 2017
Why is this one of my all time favorites?: A movie based on a few words in the opening crawl of Star War: A New Hope turns out to be an unexpected masterpiece.  A strong ensemble cast and the quiet leadership of Jyn Erso (Jones) shows a “working class” perspective on the Galactic Rebellion.


Movie Review: Lightyear (2022)

Title: Lightyear
Release Date: June 17, 2022
Director: Angus MacLane
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures | Pixar Animation Studios

Lightyear is a spinoff that likely didn’t need to exist, but as a fan of Pixar animation and the Toy Story movies in particular, I feel duty-bound to watch it.  Personally, I’d rather see a movie about the lives of the puppets on the 1950s Sheriff Woody TV show.  At any rate, Lightyear offers nods to what we know about the toy Buzz Lightyear, but the action-movie character Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) has a story that’s largely unique.  In fact, the movie Buzz Lightyear’s story is so unique it’s hard to believe the premise that this was the movie that Andy watched in 1995.  This is a small thing though, because the movie with 2022 sensibilities is more interesting than if they tried to make it a retro-1995 type of media.

The story focuses on Lightyear serving as a Space Ranger on a exploration vehicle that due to his own error gets stranded on an inhospitable planet.  Lightyear serves as a test pilot for a new hyperdrive but due to time dilation when he returns from every one of his four minute flights, four years have passed for his companions on the planet.  Buzz sees his commander and close friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) age, marry, have children and grandchildren, and ultimately die.  Upon returning from his final, successful test flight he finds the planet under attack by robots, and must team up with a ragtag crew including Alisha’s granddaughter Izze (Keke Palmer), the cowardly Mo (Taika Waititi), the elderly convict Darby (Dale Soules), and his delightful robotic cat companion Sox (Peter Sohn) to defeat the evil robots.

Lightyear is charming, funny, action-filled, and has a certain weirdness that justifies its existence as a movie.  On the other hand, it suffers in comparison to the Toy Story series.  It feels like a cash grab and yet it probably would’ve done better artistically and commercially as its own original story as opposed to being a spinoff to something else.  All that being said, this is a fine film and I’m sure many families and children will enjoy it.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Author: Kira Jane Buxton
Title: Hollow Kingdom
Narrator: Robert Petkoff
Publication Info:New York ; Boston : Grand Central Publishing, 2019

This novel depicts a zombie apocalypse in the greater Seattle region of Washington as narrated by S.T., a domesticated American crow kept as a pet by a loutish man named Big Jim. When Big Jim and the other humans turn feral, S.T. must flee with his best friend, a dim but loyal hound dog named Dennis.  Thus begins a journey of discovery for S.T., raised since hatching to be human, to get in touch with his crow identity.  S.T. learns that his mission in life is to ally with wild birds to help rescue domestic animals who are at risk from both zombie humans and larger predators (including animals escaped from the zoo).

The crude humor of Hollow Kingdom reminds me a lot of the writing of Christopher Moore.  I felt the metaphor of humanity addicted to the internet and screens was heavy handed, and my interest started to lag in the last part of the book.  Nevertheless though it is a creative work of fiction with a unique perspective.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2

TV Review:  Stranger Things (2022)

TitleStranger Things
Release Dates: 2022
Season: 4
Number of Episodes: 9

The supernatural/horror/thriller/drama Stranger Things returns after a three-year (pandemic-delayed) gap with new adventures for a growing team of residents of the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.  After diminishing returns in seasons 2 and 3, season 4 feels like a return to form that comes close to greatness of the debut season.  With a large cast of characters, the season is longer in both the number of episodes and the length of individual episodes to tell all their stories, so it can feel sprawling and uneven at times, but I personally feel the more the merrier.

The show reflects a bigger budget and more ambitious scope than previous series lending it a more cinematic feel. It also has more intense gore and horror elements than previous seasons. New cast member Joseph Quinn stars as the season’s breakout character Eddie Munson, leader of the Hellfire Club at Hawkins High School where the nerdy outsiders bond over Dungeons and Dragons’ campaigns.  Sadie Sink returns for her third season as Max Mayfield getting a chance to really develop her character and show off her acting chops.

My review continues below with spoilers, so beware!

Previous posts:

Continue reading “TV Review:  Stranger Things (2022)”

Song of the Week: “Good Times” by Jungle

As the summer approaches the end, it’s time to party with the retro-soul sound of “Good Times” by England’s Jungle.

Song of the Week 2022









Movie Review: Gandhi (1982)

Title: Gandhi
Release Date: 30 November 1982
Director: Richard Attenborough
Production Company: Goldcrest Films | International Film Investors | National Film Development Corporation of India | Indo-British Films

I saw Gandhi in its first run in the  movie theaters which means I must’ve been 9-years-old at the time.  That seems young to watch an epic historical drama, and it may be the only movie I ever went to with an intermission.  But Gandhi resonated with me perhaps due to some combination of being a history geek inclined towards social justice and a budding cinephile.  I saw the movie a few more times on tv but it has been more than 35 years since my last viewing.

I wondered if the movie would hold up since a lot of movies that received lots of awards in the 1980s are less well-regarded.  There’s also the fact that the movie about a seminal figure in Indian history is directed and produced by British and American filmmakers.  I did get the sense that throughout the movie the perspective is coming through white characters – a priest, journalists, politicians, and a pilgrim – which tends to keep Gandhi at a remove. Also the biggest criticism I’ve seen about this movie, with which I agree, is that it makes Gandhi too perfect.  This has the unfortunate effect of making the characters around him look bad, even villainous, especially Muslim leader and founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Alyque Padamsee).

Despite these failures in cultural competence, I feel that Attenborough and co. were really trying their best to make a film that does justice to the life and movements of Mohandas K. Gandhi (Ben Kingsley).  Kingsley performance is excellent and the cast features many top-notch Indian, British, and American actors, even in small roles. Compressing six decades of Gandhi’s life and the larger Indian independence movement into 3 hours is hard but the film has several  memorable set pieces that I’ve remembered over the years, from the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre to Gandhi and his wife Kasturba (Rohini Hattangadi) sweetly recreating their wedding ceremony for a couple of reporters.  The movie is also impressively filmed with beautiful cinematography framing intimate moments between a couple of characters ranging to massive crowd scenes.

So I’d say that Gandhi has held up and is a worthwhile introduction to his life and the history of India and Pakistan with issues that still reverberate to this day.

Rating: ****1/2

Favorite Albums of All Time: 90-81

Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101



Artist: The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
Title: A Spontaneous Performance Recording 
Year: 1961
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Moonshiner
  • The Whistling Gypsy
  • Brennan on the Moor
  • Tim Finnegan’s Wake
  • Haul Away Joe
  • Young Roddy McCorley

The First Time I Heard This Album …: childhood

Thoughts: The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem were the icons of the Irish folk music revival and part of the soundtrack of my youth.  This album captures an unadorned concert performance with the energy of an audience singing along.

Bonus Sounds: I saw the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem in various permutations as a group or a duo as a kid with my parents (as well as seeing Liam Clancy solo as an adult) so the concert recordings resonate with me best.  Recorded Live in Ireland (1965) is an excellent companion to A Spontaneous Performance Recording and includes the ultimate pub singalong tune “The Wild Rover.” 


Artist: Debo Band
Title: Debo Band
Year: 2012
Favorite Tracks:

  • Akale Wube
  • Ney Ney Weleba
  • Asha Gedawo
  • And Lay

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2012

Thoughts: The Boston-based band plays jazz-inflected contemporary Ethiopian music.  I remember the Debo Band being the hit of many local dance parties about a decade ago.

Bonus Sounds: I wasn’t aware of this but the Debo Band released a second album in 2016 called Ere Gobez. Otherwise they do not appear to have been active since then.


Title: Lemonade
Year: 2016
Favorite Tracks:

  • 6 INCH

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: I was certainly aware of Beyoncé before 2016, but Lemonade made stand up and take notice.  The musically eclectic album is a statement on Black feminism in the era of Black Lives Matter and a tribute to Black history and culture.

Bonus Sounds: It’s hard to believe that Beyoncé didn’t follow up Lemonade until just a few weeks.  Renaissance is an exuberant party album.


Artist: Parliament
Title: Mothership Connection
Year:  1975
Favorite Tracks:

  • P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)
  • Mothership Connection (Star Child)
  • Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: The Mothership, an icon of George Clinton’s P-Funk collaborative, debuted with this album. The album is the pinnacle of Afro-Futurist funk with a collection of party tunes that celebrate the Black community and funk itself.

Bonus Sounds: Parliament’s discography is not as strong as Funkadelic’s but I do love Chocolate City (1975).


Artist: Paul Simon
Title: The Rhythm of the Saints
Year: 1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Obvious Child
  • Can’t Run But
  • The Coast
  • She Moves On
  • Born at the Right Time
  • Spirit Voices

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: This was Simon’s long-awaited follow-up to Graceland.  Whereas the previous album incorporated South African styles of music, The Rhythm of the Saints draws upon musical Afro-Brazilian and West African musical traditions. The album particularly emphasizes percussion which is what made me fall in love with it as a kid, and why I still love it now.

Bonus Sounds:  There’s another solo album from Paul Simon coming up on the list (I bet you can guess which one!) but Simon continues to create interesting new music.  As recently as 2016 he released Stranger to Stranger which included the great track “The Werewolf.”


Artist: Courtney Barnett 
Title: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Year: 2015
Favorite Tracks:

  • Pedestrian at Best
  • Small Poppies
  • Depreston
  • Kim’s Caravan

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2015

Thoughts: Australian singer/songwriter/musician delivers witty lyrics with a deadpan voice and a punk rock rage.

Bonus Sounds: Barnett’s follow-up albums Tell Me How You Really Feel and Things Take Time, Take Time are also worth a listen.


Artist: Stevie Wonder
Title: Innervisions
Year: 1973
Favorite Tracks:

  • Living for the City
  • Higher Ground
  • All In Love Is Fair
  • He’s Misstra Know-It-All

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Late 80s

Thoughts:A jazzier sound for Stevie Wonder with some funk sound as well.  “Living for the City” and “Higher Ground” are examples of Wonder at his best, and “He’s Misstra Know-It-All” is a critique of a corrupt President that became all-too-relevant again in recent years.

Bonus Sounds: There’s so much Stevie Wonder to love as in my music discovery of his peak years.


Artist: Beck 
Title: Odelay
Year: 1996
Favorite Tracks:

  • Devil’s Haircut
  • Hotwax
  • The New Pollution
  • Novacane
  • Jack-Ass
  • Where It’s At
  • Minus
  • High 5 (Rock the Catskills)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1996

Thoughts: Not content to be a one-hit wonder with the quirky “Loser,” Beck made a statement with his first of many great albums in the late 90s/early 00s.

Bonus Sounds:  All of Beck’s albums from Odelay to Guero (which appeared earlier in this countdown) are excellent but I’m particularly fond of Mutations (1998), which shows more of Beck’s folk rock side.


Artist: Peter Mulvey 
Title: Ten Thousand Mornings
Year: 2002
Favorite Tracks:

  • Stranded in a Limousine
  • Inner City Blues
  • Comes Love
  • Running Up the Stairs
  • Oliver’s Army
  • Rain and Snow
  • The Ocean

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2002

Thoughts: A lot of Boston-area musicians practice new songs by busking in the MBTA subway system.  Among them was Peter Mulvey a folk singer/songwriter who got his start in the biz in Boston back in the 90s.  In tribute, Mulvey recorded this album of cover songs live at various subway stations. This may be the only album I was present for the creation of since I saw Mulvey at Davis Square station in Somerville and he told me he was recording an album.

Bonus Sounds: Mulvey has released great albums from 1992 to earlier this month, but my favorites include Glencree (1998), The Trouble with Poets (2000), Kitchen Radio (2004), and The Knuckleball Suite (2006).


Artist: The Pogues 
Title: If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Year: 1988
Favorite Tracks:

  • If I Should Fall From Grace With God
  • Turkish Song of the Damned
  • Fairytale of New York
  • Thousands Are Sailing
  • Fiesta
  • Medley: The Recruiting Sergeant/The Rocky Road to Dublin/The Galway Races
  • Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six
  • The Broad Majestic Shannon

The First Time I Heard This Album …:  1988 or 89?

Thoughts: Remember Columbia House?  The catalog description for this album said “The Clancy Brothers meet Sex Pistols” and that was something I had to hear.  In the ensuing decades, Celtic Rock has become so ubiquitous it’s hard to recall how groundbreaking it was to hear fiddles and flutes with electric guitars and punk rock attitude.  But The Pogues have always done it the best.

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Pogues to come, but in the meantime you may want to watch the documentary Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan.

Movie Reviews: The Sea Beast (2022)

Title: The Sea Beast
Release Date: June 24, 2022
Director: Chris Williams
Production Company: Netflix Animation

“But you can be a hero and still be wrong.”

In a world where the oceans are filled with giant sea monsters, the heroes of the age are The Hunters.  Salty crews of sailors on ships like The Inevitable under Captain James Crow (Jared Harris) and his adopted son Jacob Holland (Karl Urban) hunt down and kill sea monsters for rewards from the King and Queen of Three Bridges.  An orphan Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) stow away on The Inevitable and soon ends up separated from the ship with Jacob.  They soon discover that the stories they’ve been told about the sea beasts may not be true and that there is alternative to endless war.

For a visually-compelling animated feature it’s disappointing that this movie’s primary viewing platform is Netflix, because I think it deserves the big screen experience.  Nevertheless, I think it’s an enjoyable family film with good voice work and great feel for seafaring adventure in the Age of Sail.  It touches upon a lot of topics such as political corruption, generational trauma, and reconciliation but in a way that is not too heavy-handed for younger viewers.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner

Author: Michelle Zauner
Title: Crying in H-Mart
Publication Info: Knopf (2021) 
Summary/Review: Michelle Zauner, a musician who records under the name Japanese Breakfast,  writes this memoir of her life growing up mixed race in Oregon and her tempestuous relationship with her mother.  Zauner’s mother was an immigrant from South Korea while her father was a white American.  She discusses how she felt like an outsider in both communities.

The core of the book relates to her mother’s cancer diagnosis, slow decline, and death.  Zauner reflects on how this period drew her closer to her mother and see her in a different way.  Food is central to the narrative as Zauner finds learning how to cook traditional Korean recipes as a way to connect to her Korean identity. It’s a beautifully written and heartbreaking book that I recommend highly.

Recommended books:

Rating: ****

Movie Review: The Second Mother (2015)

Title: Que Horas Ela Volta?
Release Date:  27 August 2015
Director: Anna Muylaert
Production Company: Africa Filmes | Globo Filmes | Gullane Filmes

Val (Regina Casé) is a live-in housekeeper for a wealthy family in São Paulo who dotes on their teenage son Fabinho (Michel Joelsas) whom she has raised since he was a toddler. During the time she’s been working in São Paulo, Val has been separated and estranged from her own daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila), who is the same age as Fabinho.  When Jessica comes to São Paulo to prepare to enter the university, Val gets permission to have Jessica live with her.  Tension arises when Jessica, unfamiliar and indifferent to the expectations of social class, acts like a houseguest rather than the child of a servant.

The premise of this movie feels very similar to The Maid, although it goes in a different direction. Casé and Márdila are very strong in their roles and the movie does a good job of artfully exposing the dehumanizing aspects of capitalism.  Anna Muylaert’s direction is strong, creating a naturalistic feel to the movie and moving the camera through spaces in the home to build the tension and show the divides.

Rating: ***1/2