MODERN ROMANCE (Albert Brooks)
To some, Albert Brooks is an acquired taste. To me, if you don’t acquire it, there’s something wrong with you. He doesn’t make movies all that often. Unlike Woody Allen (with whom he’s sometimes compared), he doesn’t make a film until the concept is complete. All of his films are well thought through. And none is better than this hilarious take on the romantic travails of our hapless hero, played by Brooks himself. The quaalude scene alone is worth the price of admission.
THIEF (Michael Mann)
Michael Mann came to make his first theatrical feature film with a lot of ideas in his head. Chief among them was how the film was going to look. Bright colors, clear contrasts, striking compositions. In other words, everything we’ve come to expect a Michael Mann film to look like. Chicago, L.A. day or night. It’s a visual seduction. What is even more stunning about THIEF is how well he accomplished everything else. As much of a stylist as Mann unquestionably is, nothing is allowed to get in the way of the truth-telling. Mann’s screenplay is absolutely character-driven; surprising, coming from a guy who likes to blow things up. James Caan was born to play the high-stakes loner thief with a master plan and the smarts and the guts to pull it off. Like Scorsese, Mann uses first-time actors, unknown faces (an even ex-cons) not only to add color, but to bolster believability. It all works.