Movie ABC’s :: The Letter “A”
My Top 20
Looking for a comprehensive list of movies? How about an alphabetical weekly list of Movie ABC’s starting with The Letter “A”? The following list crossed genres and decades, with a notable leaning towards independent films, or movies with solid storytelling. Movies with a good soundtrack and/or music theme are prevalent, as well.
So, pop some popcorn, or pick-up a bag (white cheddar is pretty tasty) and queue up a movie from the list below.
For more information on each film, click on the title.
Movie ABC’s :: The Letter “A”:
- Almost Famous (2000) Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical tale of sixteen-year-old William, an avid rock fan who lands an assignment from Rolling Stone to accompany a fledgling band from Michigan, Stillwater, on their first tour. As he becomes more involved with the band members and “band aids”, he loses his objectivity and is soon entangled in the infamous 70’s rock scene.
- Amélie (2001) Bursting with imagination and having seen her share of tragedy and fantasy, Amélie is not like the other girls. When she grows up she becomes a waitress in a Montmartre bar run by a former dancer. Amélie enjoys simple pleasures until she discovers that her goal in life is to help others.
- The Anniversary Party (2001)
Written, directed and produced by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming, this primarily improvisational film chronicles an anniversary party for a troubled Hollywood couple. The night turns as ecstasy, and personal confessions are shared between friends, coworkers, lovers, and feuding neighbors.
- Away We Go (2009)
Written by husband and wife, Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, and directed by Sam Mendes, the film tells the story of a couple travelling cross the country in search of a place to call home for the two of them, and their on-the-way first child.
- All About Eve (1950)
From the moment she glimpses her idol on Broadway, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) strives to upstage Margo Channing (Bette Davis). After cunningly stealing Margo’s role, Eve disrupts the lives of anyone close to the actress in this timeless cinematic masterpiece. This is one of the first movies I remember watching with my Mother in the middle of the night, when I was a very young girl, and neither of us could sleep.
- American Beauty (1999)
The American Dream turned on its head when protagonist Lester Burnham, full of midlife crisis, sexual frustration and angst, starts questioning his seemingly contrived, and predictable, existence.
- Adam’s Rib (1949)
Written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, Adam’s Rib is a peerless comedy predicated on the double standard. Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn play Adam and Amanda Bonner, a husband-and-wife attorney team, both drawn to a case of attempted murder. This one my Grandmother introduced me to. She was always taken by, and kind of obsessed, with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy – especially of their off-screen, doomed love story.
- Amadeus (1984) Film adaptation of the Broadway hit, the film takes us through the incredible story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, told by his peer and secret rival Antonio Salieri – now confined to an insane asylum. The movie is humorous, bawdy, musical and ultimately tragic.
- Across the Universe (2007)
The movie plays as an British-American jukebox musical romantic drama film. Surreal storytelling at times, rock opera styled at others, the film perfectly brings to life the songs of the Beatles.
- Adult World (2013)
A favorite of my younger daughter and mine, the film tells the story of a struggling writer who is struggling more with growing up. Amy’s coming-of-age in the post-college years is at times funny, at times heartbreaking, sometimes cringe-inducing, and ultimately heart tugging.
- All Over Me (1997)
This film is so 90’s. Claude and Ellen are best friends who live in a not-so-nice area of New York. They’re involved in the subculture of 90s youth, complete with drugs, live music, and homophobia.
- All That Jazz (1979)
In this part film à clef, part musical phantasmagoria, director/choreographer Bob Fosse takes a Felliniesque look at the life of a driven entertainer. Very surreal. Very late 70’s. The screenplay is a semi-autobiographical fantasy based on real aspects of Bob Fosse’s life and career as a dancer, choreographer and director.
- The Apartment (1960)
An early 60’s romantic comedy that tells the story of a man who is trying to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue when he meets “elevator girl” Fran Kubelik.
- August Rush (2007)
A drama told with fairy tale elements (see quote: “But I believe in music… The way that some people believe in fairy tales”) about an orphaned orphaned musical prodigy tries to us his gift as a clue to finding his birth parents. Homage to Oliver Twist with one of the storylines featuring Robin Williams as a Fagan-esque character, the films young star, Frddie Highmore, steals every scene as the film’s namesake, August. This film always makes me cry.
- Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Another late night film I remember watching with my Mother. Also, one of the cinematic reasons I’ve always loved Cary Grant. The film is director Frank Capra’s spin on the classic Joseph Kesselring stage comedy, which concerns the sweet old Brewster sisters (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), beloved in their genteel Brooklyn neighborhood for their many charitable acts. One charity which the ladies don’t advertise is their ongoing effort to permit lonely bachelors to die with smiles on their faces–by serving said bachelors elderberry wine spiked with arsenic.
- Arizona Dream (1993)
Axel (Johnny Depp) gets caught up into the family car business when his cousin, Paul (Vincent Gallo), coaxes him to come to Arizona to attend the wedding of their Uncle Leo (Jerry Lewis). As Axel makes the decision to try selling Cadillacs with his family, he meets an eccentric woman named Elaine (Faye Dunaway) and her equally quirky stepdaughter, Grace (Lili Taylor). Their lives become inextricably intertwined through romance, dreams — and death.
- The African Queen (1951)
I saw this film for the first time in the early 2000’s, on the big screen, during a classic film series at a local, independently owned Anaheim movie theater. It was my favorite of all the films from the series. Adapted from a novel by C.S. Forester, The African Queen stars Humphrey Bogart in his Oscar-winning portrayal of Charlie Allnut, the slovenly, gin-swilling captain of a tramp steamer called the African Queen, which ships supplies to small East African villages during World War I.
- The Accidental Tourist (1988)
Ignoring the absolute worst first date ever when I first saw this movie in 1988, The Accidental Tourist is a quirky story about family and love. Though the premise is a heavy one (an emotionally distant writer of travel guides must carry on with his life after his son is killed and his marriage crumbles), the story lightens up when Macon meets Murial, the outgoing, and rather oddball woman he meets, who helps him to get his life back.
- Adventureland (2009)
This movie perfectly captures the early 80’s to me. As well as capturing that nowhere time between high school and college, where nothing and everything seems to happen.
- About a Boy (2002)
Based on Nick Horby’s novel by the same name, the movie tells the story of seemingly narcissistic Will who accidentally becomes a role model for an awkward neighbor boy who is struggling with finding himself, and surviving with a troubled single mother, and a school full of bullies.
Blue Valentine (2010) :: Monday Movies
Written by Cami Delavigne, Joey Curtis and Derek Cianfrance
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
“What’s your name?” ~ Dean
“Go away.” ~ Cindy
“Go away? That’s a weird name.” ~ Dean
About the movie:
Blue Valentine is a 2010 film, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance. The film was co-written with Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis. The film originally premiered in competition at the 26th Sundance Film Festival. Michelle Williams (Cindy) and Ryan Gosling (Dean) played the lead roles, and also served as co-executive producers for the film. The band Grizzly Bear scored the movie.
The film focuses on married couple, Dean and Cindy Heller, shifting back-and-forth in time between their meeting, dating, marrying and the dissolution of said marriage several years later.
Michelle Williams received an Academy Award for Best Actress nomination for her performance in the film. Michelle was twenty-one when she first received the script. Ryan committed to the film four years later, but filming did not begin until 2009, when Michelle was 29. Originally the filmmaker had wanted to film the “young” and “older” scenes several years apart, but lack of funds put constrictions and delays on the project.
The film was to be shot in California but production was moved to Brooklyn, New York and Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Michelle had wanted to stay close to her Brooklyn home to take care of her daughter, Matilda, so the director chose Honesdale due to its proximity to Brooklyn.
Ryan and Michelle improvised dialogue during the film. For instance, the scene where there characters wander through New York, was improvised. Also, before filming the marriage dissolution, Ryan and Michelle prepared by renting a home, bringing in their own clothing and belongings, buying groceries with a budget based on their characters’ incomes, filming home movies and taking a family portrait at a local Sears with the actor who played their daughter, and staging arguments between them.
The film was shot in Super 16mm and Red One. The former was used for the pre-marriage scenes and the latter was used for the post-marriage scenes. Andrij Parekh used only one professional light in the filming of the outside scenes, otherwise using only practical lights for the inside scenes.
“You & Me” :: Penny & The Quarters
This movie crushed me when I first watched it. I felt so much for these two characters that I was shaken up when it was obvious there would be no resolution in the end for them. I kept wanting there to be a glimmer of hope, a moment’s pause, a small gleam of light in the distance. There was none though, and in more ways than I can articulate, that was the more realistic ending, and it is why the movie crushed me so hard.
After watching it for the first time I had trouble shaking the characters off of me. They stayed with me for days and days, and I kept going back and forth on deciding if it was one of the saddest movie I’d ever seen, or one of the best movies. Looking back, and revisiting now, I’d say it is very much both.
The story of Cindy and Dean is heartbreaking to me, and also very familiar. I have been there, been in that magic of first meeting and falling in love, and I have been on the flip side when it all falls apart, and I know exactly what that kind of decimation of love feels like. Scenes in this film felt ripped from moments of my own life and it hurt badly to watch. That dreamer in me kept holding her breath for a happy ending, even though deep inside I knew that there just isn’t one. Just like in life.
“I got us a song. You know, like our song that will just be for you and me.” ~ Dean
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Written by Charlie Kaufman & Pierre Bismuth & Michel Gondry
Directed by Michel Gondry
“You know me, I’m impulsive.” ~ Clementine
“That’s what I love about you.” ~ Joel
About the movie:
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind follows an estranged couple who have erased each other from their memories. Pierre Bismuth created the story with Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry. The ensemble cast includes Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson.
The title of the film is a quotation from Eloisa to Abelard, by Alexander Pope.
Featuring psychological thriller elements and using a nonlinear narrative to explore the nature of memory and romantic love, the film opened in North America to wide acclaim on March 19, 2004, and grossed over $70 million worldwide.
The movie won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and Kate Winslet received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Since its release, and initial recognition, the movie has developed a cult following.
“Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” :: Beck
This movie, my forever favorite film, touches something in me that is impossible to articulate, something beyond words, and typed out explanations. Since the first time I watched the movie I felt a deep kinship with the character of Clementine, so much so that watching her hurts sometimes.
Other times, though, it gives me a strange comfort in not being alone in my own flavor of fucked up girl-ness. I get her. I get Joel. I get what they have, what they lose, and what they fight so damn hard to hold on to.
This is a love story to me, the most real kind of love story, so perfect in all its glaring, fucked up imperfectness.
“I’m not a concept, Joel. I’m just a fucked up girl whose looking for my own peace of mind. I’m not perfect.” ~ Clementine
Blue Jay (2016)
Written by Mark Duplass
Directed by Alex Lehmann
About the movie:
Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts reflect on their shared past. The film marked the Duplass Brothers’ first film under their four-picture deal with Netflix. Netflix financed the film without seeing a script, but just reading a 10-page outline of the story. This allowed for a true independent film experience.
The film had no script. The actors were given a summary of the movie and their characters and the rest was improvisation.
Blue Jay was the first feature film for director Alex Lehmann. He also served as the director of photography and cinematographer of the film.
The film was shot over the course of seven days in and around Crestline, California. It was filmed on a canon camera without built-in recording or built-in power source.
The film’s score was composed by Julian Wass.
Nostalgia has plot holes, but oh how I have such a soft spot for it. How many times have I thought about what it would be like to run into a past love, to have a day to spend together, to talk and re-connect, and share a moment again. Not just any past love, but one that mattered, one that had real significance. But, given that opportunity, is it not potentially loaded with emotional landmines that can, or most likely will, go off unexpectedly?
This movie hit very hard. I had a nostalgia reuniting situation recently, and it was full of wonder and magic and passion, and a hell of a lot of landmines that all went off eventually. Would I do it again? Yes. Would these two characters do it again? Yes, I think they would.
This film reminded me at times of the second installment in Richard Linklater/Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy’s “Before” series, as well as Graham Greene’s book, “The End of the Affair”. The former because of the reconnecting of past lovers, and the day spent together, though to me “Blue Jay” had more hope and joy to it, even in the sad moments, than “Before Sunset” did. The latter (“The End of the Affair”) in the reveal that what you assume, and what you decide to say, is not always what you want, or mean. I do not want to spoil anything, but there is a moment where you see that things that happened, and things said, were not as true as they seemed at the time.
Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass are two favorite actors of mine, and they were brilliant in this. They had chemistry and ease and emotional deft that brought these characters immediately to life for me, and also pulled my heart around for the entirety of their day/night together. I felt so much watching this film. I laughed, I cheered, I sang-a-long, I hurt, I cried — a lot, and I felt — a lot, too.
I think what hit me the most was how lost Amanda seemed to be, in her life, and in herself. Jim is lost, too, but he seemed more cognizant of it, more recently aware. But, I felt like it was all hitting Amanda. Maybe seeing Jim joggled some of that in her; the experience of hearing her voice on the tape, coming head on with her younger self, as well as her first love. That resonated with me as I find myself wrestling with my own lost self, and traversing my way through it.
I loved the way these two connected to music in this, and how music played a part in their relationship, and their meeting up again moments. I love the black-and-white filming of it, the way it added to the starkness of winter in this small town, and the bleakness of being lost and being back home again. And, I loved both of these characters so much. When the movie ended I wanted so much more, but at the same time was good with where they left it.
This is definitely a movie to be added to my all-time favorites list.
“No More I Love You’s” scene
My 5 Music Obsessions of the Day
1. The ’59 Sound :: The Gaslight Anthem
“Well, I wonder,
they’re gonna play when we go.
I hope it’s something quiet,
2. Angeles :: Elliott Smith
“No one’s gonna fool around with us.”
3. Fish :: Throwing Muses
“Lonely is as lonely does.
Lonely is an eyesore.”
4. In a Black Out :: Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
“Many friends have said goodbye,
paraded out in one proud line;
I say they all just lost their minds.”
5. Made of Stone :: Daughter
it’s just face painting.
it’s just easing,
“Someone has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, fly boy.” ~ Princess Leia Organa
Sometimes I forget that I was lucky growing up in the decade I did, that despite some things that had not evolved yet, or progressed, I was still a young girl coming of age in an era where feminism was prevalent in the popular culture. Maybe not in everything, but in spaces that impacted me at what they like to call an impressionable age. Though the fairy tale princesses were around, and Barbie and her ridiculous plastic body was in every toy aisle, we had Wonder Woman and Nancy Drew and Charlie’s Angels (yes, one could argue the title, and some of what it meant, but come on, they kicked ass). And, most of all, we had Princess Leia Organa.
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” ~ Carrie Fisher
Leia was not the kind of princess that waited dead, or in a sleep of death, for some anonymous prince to come kiss her awake. She did not sing about someday a prince coming for her. She wasn’t waiting around to be saved. She did not really need rescuing. She was a leader, a fighter, a rebel, and she also loved big. She rescued others and fought beside her friends, and those fighting for the cause she believed in. She loved others. She fell in love. But, she never lost who she was. She became a general. She became a mother. She became a hero. She definitely helped write the blueprint of my life and what I believed to be possible.
As a young girl who was scared and shy and dealing with a lot of painful things in her life, Leia was my go-to to help imagine myself stronger, to help pretend that I was a rebel, a leader, a fighter, a hero. Oh, and on a superficial note, she had dark hair and eyes, like me. She was who I looked up to, who I aspired to be like, and along with music, the character of Leia helped me survive my life.
“I always thought that I wanted to form an alliance rather than have a relationship – find someone who you fancy as your counterpart. But a counterpart you go to war with, a complement you live with. So this is my new theory.” ~ Carrie Fisher
Later on, in the late 80’s, I discovered her writing. “Postcards from the Edge” hit me on a personal level, and I reread it multiple times. As a theater student in college I used part of the book for a monologue for an audition because the book meant so much to me. As years went by, and Carrie became more and more outspoken about her life, her addictions, her struggles with mental illness, I felt more impacted by her, and not just this character she once played. Her honesty, her humor, her persistence, and the way she seemed to be so unapologetically herself, was inspiring. She seemed to push back if the world didn’t accept her, she challenged beauty standards and spoke out about her life in a way that made so many of us not feel so alone.
“We treat beauty like an accomplishment, and that is insane. Everyone in LA says, “Oh you look good,” and you listen for them to say you’ve lost weight. It’s never “How are you?” or “You seem happy!”’ ~ Carrie Fisher
She was my hero as a little girl, and remained my hero as a grown up girl. She taught me to tell the world to fuck off if I needed to, to be myself and no one else, and to persist despite challenges, to not hide my flaws as if ashamed or embarrassed by them, and to love big. She was outspoken about body image and beauty, and beauty standards, and how even when we want to buck against them, they are in us, and we struggle (especially living here in Los Angeles). And, she was one of a few inspiring people who made me want to write, and be a writer, and helped to remind me to keep writing.
“I don’t want to be thought of as a survivor because you have to continue getting involved in difficult situations to show off that particular gift, and I’m not interested in doing that anymore.” ~ Carrie Fisher
I am beyond sad that she has left this world, but I am beyond grateful that she gifted us her presence, her roles, her writing, her wit and her outspoken nature. It helped me to become who I am today, and I will always look back at her words she spoke and wrote, and that iconic character she played, when I need to feel stronger, to keep going, to be inspired, and to remember to be exactly who I am.
“I am a spy in the house of me. I report back from the front lines of the battle that is me. I am somewhat nonplused by the event that is my life.” ~ Carrie Fisher
Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for being in the universe, for being you, for existing in my lifetime.
My 5 Music Obsessions of the Day
1. Dancing on the Sun :: Bahari
“People all over the world,
let’s agree to disagree.
You do you,
let me do me.”
2. Heaven :: The Psychedelic Furs
is the whole of the heart.
don’t tear you apart.”
3. Landed :: Ben Folds
“We’d hit the bottom,
I thought it was my fault,
and in a way,
I guess it was.”
4. So in Love :: Orchesteral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD)
“Talk to me,
don’t lie to me –
save your breath.
Don’t look at me,
don’t smile at me –
just close your eyes.”
5. London Girls :: Tori Amos
“They’ve always got a pound,
to buy their round,
when it’s their turn at the bar.”
Written and Directed by Mike Mills
“You’ve lost so much. What if I can’t make up for that?” ~ Anna
My 5 Music Obsessions of the Day
1. Dear Chicago :: Ryan Adams
“She picked me up on Friday,
asked me if she reminded me of you?
I just laughed and lit a cigarette,
said that’s impossible to do.”
2. Stronger Than :: Pete Yorn
“Love is stronger,
stronger than fear.”
3. The Indie Queens are Waiting :: Dan Mangan
“Bus down to the local record store,
buy something to make you like me more.”
4. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours :: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
“Then that time I went and said goodbye,
now I’m back and not ashamed to cry.
here I am,
signed, sealed delivered,
5. Polyester Bride :: Liz Phair
“‘You’re lucky to even know me,
you’re lucky to be alive.
You’re lucky to be drinking here for free,
’cause I’m a sucker for your lucky, pretty eyes.'”