The Best of Jane Fonda

It has been far too long since I've left a dent on this page, intended to serve as a look back at the finest work of actors and filmmakers but inevitably neglected as I sway my attention to the awards season hooplah. When I saw whose birthday it is today - and a remarkable 80th at that - I knew I simply had to put a list together of my favorite performances from that incomparable living legend, one of my very favorite actresses to ever grace the screen, the sublime Jane Fonda.

Growing up, I absolutely adored Fonda...even though, for years, I'd only really known her from 9 to 5, one of my all-time favorite comedies but admittedly a picture that doesn't quite allow her to shine as bright as it does fellow leading ladies Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin. It was in high school that I finally came across the incredible likes of Klute and Coming Home, plus less satisfying vehicles like California Suite and Agnes of God, and by college, when I (at last!) saw Julia, I was pretty much head over heels.

At the moment, I'm reading Fonda's riveting and poignant 2005 memoir My Life So Far, which is leaving me all the more in awe of her, as an actress, activist and all-around amazing human being. I sure hope she writes a second memoir, if only to discuss what must be the most fabulous behind-the-scenes hijinks with her Grace and Frankie co-star!

Reflecting on Fonda's filmography, I'm reminded of how intriguing yet underseen so many of her earlier efforts are - a picture like Walk on the Wild Side in particular is long overdue for rediscovery. It's painful to leave a few turns off this list (like her terrific work in Paolo Sorrentino's Youth and George Roy Hill's Period of Adjustment) but here's my take on Fonda's 10 greatest performances to date...

(And please fellow Fonda fans, feel free to comment with your own thoughts too!)

Jane 10.jpg

10. Tall Story (as June Ryder)

Jane 8.jpg

9. Barefoot in the Park (as Corie Bratter)

Jane 1.jpg

8. 9 to 5 (as Judy Bernly)

Jane 2.png

7. The China Syndrome (as Kimberly Wells)

Jane 9.JPG

6. Walk on the Wild Side (as Kitty Twist)

Jane 3.jpg

5. Comes a Horseman (as Ella Connors)

Jane 7.jpg

4. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (as Gloria Beatty)

Jane 4.jpg

3. Coming Home (as Sally Hyde)

Jane 5.jpg

2. Klute (as Bree Daniels)

Jane 6.jpeg

1. Julia (as Lillian Hellman)

The Best of Brian De Palma

Growing up, I think even prior to adolescence, I had seen a handful of Brian De Palma pictures, the likes of The Untouchables, Scarface and Mission: Impossible - you know, the ones that actually made a box office profit for him. I was a De Palma admirer for sure but it wasn't until high school, when I first came across Dressed to Kill (I believe it was on the Flix network), that I completely fell head over heels for the filmmaker.

My jaw was nearly on the floor throughout most of that 1980 picture, in particular during the museum scene, which remains one of my all-time favorite sequences captured on film. The combo of De Palma's mastery of the Steadicam, Pino Donaggio's incredible score and of course Angie Dickinson's pitch-prfect performance, left me shaken. Not long after seeing Dressed to Kill, I quickly tracked down Blow Out, Body Double and Raising Cain, all of which I adored, and then the likes of Femme Fatale, Obsession and Sisters, among others. While not every De Palma picture left me floored, I was certainly never bored for a second.

De Palma remains one of my very favorite filmmakers - and I shall never give up hope that he lands that big screen comeback hit that catapults him back on to the industry's A-list of directors. So, in honor of his birthday today, here's a rundown of my top 10 favorite De Palma films (so sorry, Femme Fatale and Sisters)...

Brian 1.jpg

10. Body Double (1984)

Brian 3.jpg

9. The Fury (1978)

Brian 2.jpg

8. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Brian 4.jpg

7. Scarface (1983)

Brian 6.jpg

6. Raising Cain (1992)

Brian 8.jpg

5. Carlito's Way (1993)

Brian 7.png

4. Dressed to Kill (1980)

Brian 10.JPG

3. Obsession (1976)

Brian 5.jpg

2. Carrie (1976)

Brian 9.jpg

1. Blow Out (1981)

The Best of Woody Allen

It was not until sometime in high school that I sat down and finally watched a Woody Allen picture. (Turner Classic Movies had for years already been a staple of my TV-watching schedule but never, for whatever inexplicable reason, did I happen to catch an Allen film there.) That first Allen film happened to be his 1993 release, Manhattan Murder Mystery, which brilliantly paired him back with Diane Keaton - for the first time since 1979's Manhattan. I did not expect to laugh myself so silly and I still, having since then seen nearly every single Allen film, consider Manhattan Murder Mystery among his funniest and most underappreciated pictures.

Over the years, I did play a ton of catch-up on the Allen filmography and, at this point, three of his films grace my list of the top 50 films of all-time - Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors. It's a trio of pictures I absolutely must watch at least once a year.

So, in honor of his birthday today, I am delighted to present this list of my 10 favorite films of one of my all-time favorite filmmakers...

10. Annie Hall (1977)

9. Another Woman (1988)

Woody 3.jpg

8. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

7. Husbands and Wives (1992)

6. Interiors (1978)

Woody 11.jpg

5. September (1987)

4. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

3. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Woody 12.jpg

2. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

1. Manhattan (1979)

The Best of Martin Scorsese

From the moment I first sat down and watched Goodfellas, sometime in my early teens, I was completely mesmerized by the filmmaking of Martin Scorsese. Sure, I had seen Cape Fear beforehand, and that was heaps of fun, but his 1990 picture captivated my attention in a way few films had ever done. For some time, in fact, I considered Goodfellas my favorite picture ever. Then, a few years down the road, I saw Casino, which somehow managed to leave me even more awe-struck.

Over the years to follow, I would catch up on every Scorsese film, from the supremely underrated (After Hours and New York, New York) to the slightly overpraised (sorry, Raging Bull) and, sans the rare exception (like the sleep-inducing The Color of Money), not a moment left me underwhelmed. Scorsese is one of the finest, most compelling directors of not only the past half-century but truly all-time.

So, in honor of his birthday today, I am delighted to present this list of my 10 favorite Scorsese pictures, from the very, very good to the spectacularly awesome. And boy does it pain me to leave The King of Comedy off...

10. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

9. The Departed (2006)

8. Shutter Island (2010)

7. Cape Fear (1991)

6. After Hours (1985)

5. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)

4. Taxi Driver (1976)

3. New York, New York (1977)

2. Goodfellas (1990)

1. Casino (1995)

The Best of Tom Hanks

As a child of the '90s, it always seemed to me that the three most dominating forces of the big screen were Julia Roberts and the two Toms - Cruise and Hanks. I remember my parents owned at least a dozen VHS copies of their collective films - Pretty Woman, A Few Good Men, Big and so on. Whenever my mom had Entertainment Tonight on, it was all but a forgone conclusion that at least one of the three would make an appearance.

The thing is, I had never much cared for Roberts or Cruise, though I have these days come around to quite admiring the latter. I absolutely loved Hanks, however - I wore the hell out of that Big video, and very much enjoyed the likes of A League of Their Own, The Money Pit, Bachelor Party and his Meg Ryan films. Later, I of course got around to Philadelphia, Saving Private Ryan and I thought he was flat-out fantastic in the recent Captain Phillips.

So, in honor of Hanks' 60th birthday today, here is my list of what I consider the Oscar-winner's 10 greatest performances (to date)...

10. The Bonfire of the Vanities (as Sherman McCoy)

9. The Green Mile (as Paul Edgecomb)

8. Cast Away (as Chuck Noland)

7. Forrest Gump (as Forrest Gump)

6. A League of Their Own (as Jimmy Dugan)

5. Road to Perdition (as Michael Sullivan)

4. Saving Private Ryan (as Captain John H. Miller)

3. Philadelphia (as Andrew Beckett)

2. Captain Phillips (as Captain Richard Phillips)

1. Big (as Josh Baskin)