Apr 4, 2009
Peter Sollett's short film FIVE FEET HIGH AND RISING (2000) took top honors at both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals, and served as the basis for his first feature, RAISING VICTOR VARGAS (2002), which is firmly situated among the upper crust of modern independent films. Sollett followed up VARGAS last year with his first commercial feature, the sweet and surprising NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST (2008), starring Michael Cera. He is currently developing an adaptation of Dave Eggers' novel YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY.

8 1/2 (dir. Fellini, 1963)
I think this is the best film ever made about filmmaking -- although it's genius allows it to transcend that label. Masterful visual story telling. Virtuoso shotmaking. And perhaps the greatest film score of all time.

Il Posto (dir. Olmi, 1961)
Minimal, precise and devastating. If you haven't seen this do it now. Now, I tell you. [Ed. Note -- Criterion has made this film available to view online for $5.00]

The Bicycle Thief (dir. DeSica, 1948)
So simple. So concise. So moving. Sure, other people have said it... but can you really say it enough?

Saturday Night Fever (dir. Badham, 1977)
This film is a masterpiece. Stuck in the unfortunate shadow of it's connection to disco music people seem to forget how dark, powerful and rich it truly is. A more accurate and unflinching portrait of a subculture has rarely been filmed.

The 400 Blows (dir. Truffaut, 1959)
I've never have I seen it without crying. If you don't connect to Antoine as a protagonist... well, disregard this whole list. You're obviously a lost soul.
Mar 19, 2009
Katherine Dieckmann is the writer and director of the feature films A GOOD BABY and MOTHERHOOD, which stars Uma Thurman and made its debut at this year’s Sundance film festival, and the director of DIGGERS, starring Paul Rudd. She has directed music videos for R.E.M., Aimee Mann and Wilco.

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Tomorrow (dir. Joseph Anthony, 1972)
Based on a Faulker short story with a script by Horton Foote and shot in b&w as scratchy and authentic-feeling as an old vinyl record. But this astringent drama’s greatest virtue is an AMAZING performance by young Robert Duvall, sporting a down south accent so deep you’ll be tempted to go around imitating it for weeks (and in fact Billy Bob Thornton did just that in “Slingblade”). This was a huge inspiration for my first feature, “A Good Baby.” We even put a safety pin-as-button in Henry Thomas’s shirt in homage to Duvall’s wardrobe. Be forewarned: the ending in particular is a soul-crusher.

High Tide (dir. Gillian Armstrong, 1987)
Currently available only on VHS from Amazon, this movie made my year-end Top Ten list back when I was a regular film critic for The Village Voice in the mid-’80s, and contains what is arguably Judy Davis’s greatest performance, as a washed-up back-up singer in an Elvis impersonator’s band who gets stranded in a beachside town & comes face to face with the most complicated parts of her past. All the actors are incredible, and despite the stray mawkish moment, this is a haunting drama with a prickly, dimensional female performance at its core.

A Face in the Crowd (dir. Elia Kazan, 1959)
The best movie ever made about the rise of celebrity culture. Andy Griffiths starts as a good ole boy plucked out of prison by Patricia Neal to sing and provide down-home banter on her radio show. Together they rise (and fall) into the relatively new arena of personality-driven television. Pair it with Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” for a double dose of b&w media-lambasting acid.

Midnight (dir. Mitchell Leison, 1939)
A favorite under-the-radar b&w screwball comedy starring Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche, with a zippy script from Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Every frame of John Barrymore’s highly-sauced but unfailingly brilliant performance is a tutorial in the art of scene-stealing. Pair it with Easy Living (1937) with a script by a pre-directorial Preston Sturges: both comedies prove how a great script always trumps the auteur theory.

Be Here To Love Me (dir. Margaret Brown, 2007)
More recently known for her Indie Spirit Award-winning doc on Mobile, Alabama’s original Mardi Gras, this first feature doc by Margaret Brown is a hyper-lyrical lament for the life of singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, who blazed a trail with his beautiful ballads and often wrecklessly heartbreaking ways. A great primer on Van Zandt’s music, but also a cautionary tale on certain paths perhaps best not taken.