I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale (Richard Shepard, Director, HBO). His was one of the great cinema faces of all time. His eyes were key though, registering menace and melancholy, while hinting at unfathomable depths. All was anchored to a towering, unsung talent: in this documentary Cazale’s family, colleagues and fans–some of whom who don’t know his name but rhapsodize his work nonetheless–step up to bow down. The experience of these 40 elegant minutes feels both celebratory and mournful: the horrible irony of his short, illustrious film output, and the ignominy of his never having received a single Oscar nomination, though the 5 films in which he appeared were all tapped for Best Picture (3 won). The fact of his early death will leave the viewer with palpable regret for the roles, and the films, he never undertook.
ATT Rethink Possible Campaign Commercial (all networks). By the time 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory opened I’d outgrown the genre, but its impact remains undiluted for a generation judging from a spellbinding Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley/Walter Scharf tune called “Pure Imagination.” How do I know this? Whenever this commercial comes on my partner turns into a swooning Popsicle, proof that ATT’s tapped into a certain demographic’s primal side. Maybe too primal, for the song totally eclipses the product—after a few viewings I still couldn’t tell you what, exactly, they were selling, and neither could my spouse, though I bet he could still recount every moment of Willy Wonka.
Please Give (Nicole Holofcener, writer and director, in theaters). Where to begin? In such films as Walking and Talking, Lovely and Amazing and Friends with Money, Holofcener is an astute observer of the folly of women’s lives. Please Give is something else, a deep probe into a particular urban dweller’s (the matchless Catherine Keener) neuroses and fear. Holofcener exposes the anxiety of an age where the haves regret the gain of good fortune on the backs of others, and the have-nots continue to chase dreams that can’t be quantified in dollars and cents. Hilarious, heartrending and my favorite film of the year so far.