Honor roll: Biography films

Each of these Biography films has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Film:Goodfellas

Goodfellas

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece GoodFellas immortalizes the hilarious, horrifying life of actual gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), from his teen years on the streets of New York to his anonymous exile under the Witness Protection Program. The director’s kinetic style is perfect for recounting Hill’s ruthless rise to power in the 1950s as well as his drugged-out fall in the late 1970s; in fact, no one has ever rendered the mental dislocation of cocaine better than Scorsese. Scorsese uses period music perfectly, not just to summon a particular time but to…

Film:Bugsy

Bugsy

Barry Levinson

Bugsy represents an almost miraculous combination of director, writer, and star on a project that represents a career highlight for everyone involved. It’s one of the best American gangster movies ever made—as good in its own way as any of the Godfather films—and it’s impossible to imagine anyone better than Beatty in the movie’s flashy title role. As notorious mobster and Las Vegas visionary “Bugsy” Siegel, Beatty is perfectly cast as a man whose dreams are greater than his ability to realize them—or at least, greater than his ability to stay alive…

Film:Born on the Fourth of July

Born on the Fourth of July

Oliver Stone

The second film in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam trilogy moves from the brutality of war in Platoon to its equally traumatic aftermath. Based on the memoir of combat veteran Ron Kovic, the film stars Tom Cruise as Kovic, whose gunshot wound in Vietnam left him paralyzed from the chest down. He is deeply embittered by neglect in a veteran’s hospital and by the shattering of his patriotic idealism because of the horror and futility of the Vietnam conflict. While painfully and awkwardly adjusting to his disability and a changing definition of masculinity, Kovic…

Film:Ed Wood

Ed Wood

Tim Burton

Edward D. Wood Jr. was an actor writer-director-producer, occasionally in drag, who combined meager bursts of talent with an undying optimism to create some of the most bizarrely memorable “B” movies to ever come out of Tinseltown. Though Wood died in obscurity as an alcoholic in 1978, his films have been considered cult classics for years. He is consistently voted the worst director who ever lived. You would think this an odd subject, but director Tim Burton harnesses the undying hopefulness that made Wood such a character. Shot in black and white, just like…

Film:My Left Foot

My Left Foot

Jim Sheridan

Daniel Day-Lewis won a much-deserved Oscar for his wily, passionate performance as Irish artist and writer Christy Brown, whose cerebral palsy kept him confined to a wheelchair. Filmmaker Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father) adapts Brown’s own autobiography for this spirited piece, focusing on the sometimes-difficult fellow’s formative years in his large family and in love with sundry women. Day-Lewis is inspired, and Brenda Fricker (also a recipient of an Oscar for her part in this movie) is almost luminous as Christy’s dedicated mother. So, too, are…

Film:Evita

Evita

Alan Parker

After more than a decade of false starts and several potential directors, the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical finally made it to the big screen with Alan Parker (The Commitments) at the helm and Madonna in the coveted title role of Argentina’s first lady, Eva Perón. A triumph of production design, costuming, cinematography, and epic-scale pageantry, the film follows the rise of Eva Perón to the level of supreme social and political celebrity in the 1940s. Like Madonna, Perón was a material girl (she was only 33 when she died); she was…

Film:The Best Intentions

The Best Intentions: (Den goda viljan)

Bille August

Film:Gods and Monsters

Gods and Monsters

Bill Condon

One of the most critically acclaimed films of 1998 and winner of several awards including the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, Gods and Monsters is a compassionate speculation about the final days of James Whale (1889-1957), the director of Frankenstein and 20 other films of the 1930s and ‘40s, who was openly gay at a time when homosexuality in Hollywood was discreetly concealed. Adapted and directed by Bill Condon from Christopher Bram’s novel Father of Frankenstein, the film stars Ian McKellen in a sublime performance as the white-haired…

Film:Donnie Brasco

Donnie Brasco

Mike Newell

Based on a memoir by former undercover cop Joe Pistone (whose daring and unprecedented infiltration of the New York Mob scene earned him a place in the federal witness protection program), Donnie Brasco is like a de- romanticized, de-mythologized version of The Godfather. It offers an uncommonly detailed, privileged glimpse inside the world of organized crime from the perspective of the little guys at the bottom of Mafia hierarchy rather than from the kingpins at the top. Donnie Brasco is not only one of the great modern-day gangster movies…

Film:The People vs. Larry Flynt

The People vs. Larry Flynt

Milos Forman

If the title sounds a bit dry and grim, don’t worry—this movie is anything but. How could it be, with a cast that includes Woody Harrelson as Larry Flynt, Courtney Love as his bisexual junkie wife Althea, and Edward Norton as a composite of their lawyers? Director Milos Forman brings his trademark offbeat humor and affection for vividly defined, marginal characters to a biography of the notorious founder of the Hustler magazine empire. Unlike Hugh Hefner at Playboy, or even Bob Guccione at Penthouse, Flynt had no upscale pretensions. He made…

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