Best Screenplay

[7] A pair of New York city narcotics cops try to bust a big heroin deal being brokered between suspected mobsters and a French connection. But one of the cops, ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Gene Hackman), has a history of recklessness and threatens to lead his partner (Roy Scheider) down another dangerous rabbit hole in his obsessive pursuit of the drug dealers. Based on a true story …

[6] Maestro Billy Wilder directs Ray Milland as a drunk writer circling the drain in the multi-Oscar-winning The Lost Weekend. Milland’s character is supposed to begin recovery on a long holiday weekend with his brother (Phillip Terry) and gal pal (Jane Wyman), but after he steals money to spend at his favorite bar, he gets drunk and misses their departure time. Things get progressively worse …

[7] Writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) won his first two Academy Awards for writing and directing this drama about three wives who reflect on their marriages when they learn a fourth woman has just left town with one of their husbands. Mankiewicz can always be relied upon for great dialogue and pitch-perfect casting. All six principles (the fourth …

[6] A young boy in Hitler’s youth army (Roman Griffin Davis) finds himself in a moral dilemma after discovering a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in a secret space behind his bedroom wall. This film written for the screen and directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok) has an off-beat, surreal sense of humor that wears thin over time. It’s …

[7] Mickey Rooney headlines this slice-of-life picture about a New York town maintaining the home front during WWII. Rooney plays a highschooler working as a telegram delivery boy to help provide for his family while his older brother is in service. James Craig (The Devil and Daniel Webster) plays Rooney’s employer, who is also a surrogate father to Rooney’s character. (Rooney’s deceased father actually narrates …

[6] Janet Gaynor and Fredric March star in a love story so good, they’ve made it four times now — most recently with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the roles. Gaynor plays a small-town girl with dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress. With encouragement from her grandmother, she arrives in Tinseltown bright-eyed and bushy-tailed only to discover what everyone discovers — that opportunity is …

[7] Spike Lee directs the stranger-than-fiction true story of a black Colorado police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, who struck up a relationship with local KKK members over the phone and acted through a white surrogate for face-to-face encounters. Adam Driver plays Stallworth’s partner in the investigation. Just how much is truth and …

[7] Colin Firth plays the stuttering King George VI, who never wanted to be king for fear of his speech impediment bringing shame to him and his family. The King’s Speech focuses on the antagonistic relationship between the king and his therapist, Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, and culminates in a live radio speech the King gives on the eve of Britain’s declaration of …

[8] Harrison Ford must hide among the Amish after he discovers corruption within his police department. Witness was an opportunity for Ford to show his acting chops, and it remains one of his best performances. This was the first American film made by Australian director Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Fearless). Weir is probably my favorite director. He balances poetic license with elegant restraint …

[7] Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, Near Dark) won the Oscar for directing this suspense thriller about three soldiers who disarm bombs in Iraq. The movie also won Best Picture, maybe just because nothing better came out during the year (except the REAL best picture, District 9, but I digress). It’s far from groundbreaking and surprisingly predictable — but it’s a brisk, entertaining flick that hits …

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