Bugsy Malone

The film actually makes the fictional landscape of the gangster film more real, by taking its troublesome boys and distant, unknowable broads and making them children at an age when that’s just the way things are. The mysterious sexual tension is made strangely innocent, though the archetypes haven’t changed from when Bogart and Cagney inhabited them. Bugsy Malone is a gangster film that took a good look at itself and wondered if it could do better. It’s really close.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

A Christmas Carol is such a tired tale by now that the first task of this new film should have been to make old hat seem tailored for the first time. But as Dickens picks up well-known artifices of his story off the street, you become infected by that terribly un-jolly feeling that this is one of those movies – one in which random people will speak full Dickensian quotes for the good author to overhear and jot down, in which everyone he meets has a name that will go into one of his stories.

Raging Bull

Thelma Schoonmaker took home the Oscar for editing and the fights testify to it: there is no method to these matches, no information on boxing, only adrenal pounding and desperate fear. Schoonmaker dredges the matches in momentary flashes of primeval instinct. When LaMotta feels suspicious of his wife, his opponents become dramatically-lit monstrosities shrouded in smoke and slow motion and shadow. His fights are pictures of his psyche. 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is special because it’s a comedy of errors that understands how that’s basically just a comedy of human nature. Neal Page (Steve Martin) doesn’t do anything stupid to bring down this storm of shit, and snow, and mean flight attendants, and car fires, and three hundred pounds of John Candy. His negative energy follows him around like a bad shadow.