Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

By most accounts, the set of Alan J. Pakula’s sixteenth and final film as a director was not a happy set. The Devil’s Own began life when the up-and-coming new movie star Brad Pitt attached himself to a screenplay about an IRA terrorist who journeys to New York City in 1993 to complete an arms […]

In a certain sense, we should be grateful for The Pelican Brief, because of the very particular case study it offers in the changing face of filmmaking: not just in the context of Alan J. Pakula’s career, but in the difference between the 1970s and the 1990s more generally. For The Pelican Brief recalls Pakula’s […]

We return at last to the steady and certain decline of Alan J. Pakula, who went from intelligent producer of prestige dramas for adults in the 1960s, to director of fascinating character studies and brilliant thrillers in the 1970s, and one of the defining American filmmakers of that period, a privilege that he is never […]

And y’all thought I had given up on the Pakulathon. To greet the 1990s, Alan J. Pakula directed and co-wrote (with Frank Pierson) an adaptation of Scott Turow’s legal thriller Presumed Innocent, a film that works not unlike a grab-bag of narrative tropes from earlier successes – and failures – in the director’s career. There’s […]

And now we at last come to the long-awaited “let’s just get this Pakula retrospective the fuck over” part of our program. In 1973, Alan Pakula married for the second time, following his divorce from Hope Lange in 1971. This second marriage was apparently a much happier one, for he and Hannah Cohn Boorstin remained […]

The blithering waste of celluloid that was Dream Lover at least had the effect of putting a little juice back into Alan Pakula’s career: at the very least, he’d never make such an ossified mediocrity as Sophie’s Choice ever again, though mediocrity was certainly part of his career until the end. That said, his 1987 […]

After Sophie’s Choice won piles of undeserved acclaim from critics who, one assumes, were too chickenshit to criticise a movie about the Holocaust, Alan J. Pakula lay silent for a long time. Three years and some months passed until his next movie came out, the longest gap in his career as either director or producer […]

If I have dragged my feet in this Alan J. Pakula retrospective, it is because I knew what lay in wait, and I wanted to stave off my fate as long as I possibly could. For even if the director managed to delay his arrival in the 1980s by the length of one film when […]

A number of different factors all contributed to the massive collapse of the New Hollywood Cinema almost exactly at the moment that the 1970s became the 1980s, and the last completely vital epoch in American filmmaking came to its crashing end. Not a very happy state of affairs for the historically-minded cinephile to contemplate, but […]

This is, I think, a nice opportunity to take stock. Alan J. Pakula directed three of the most significant films of the 1970s New Hollywood Cinema in his loosely-defined “paranoia trilogy”: Klute, The Parallax View, All the President’s Men. I have argued that Klute in particular is not just significant, but is one of the […]

With his brace of mid-’70s paranoia epics out of his system, Alan J. Pakula’s career settled back into a much more characteristic mode when he made his fifth feature two years after the critical and commercial triumph of All the President’s Men. 1978’s Comes a Horseman would prove to be a fairly intimate, domestic story […]

I think that it is possible that no film in history before The Passion of the Christ could have been as theoretically unsuspenseful as All the President’s Men. President Richard M. Nixon was tied to the conspiracy to cover-up the White House connections to the attempted bugging of the Democratic National Committee headquarters, and resigned […]