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.
* * * * * * *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.