In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, Take 60: Blue Velvet

David Lynch is a director who leaves big vivid fingerprints all over his work. I haven’t seen Eraserhead and it’s been a very long time since I watched The Elephant Man, but I am a fan of the (original) Twin Peaks and expressed my adoration for Mulholland Drive early in this series. He is the type of creator who must be discussed when his work is under review because of how inextricable his unique aesthetic is from his films. Lynch gives me the sense that he is a born desert artist that seems to have learned to survive with less…


In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, in honor of the 40th anniversary, Take 82: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark is at once timeless and transient. Directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1981, there is something specific to the styling of the film that makes it inextricable from the time period in which it was produced. …


In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, Take 88: West Side Story

I doubt it will come as a revelation to anyone reading this blog that West Side Story is a 1950’s musical rendition of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet set in New York City. The largest plot points of the stories are identical: feuding gangs, star crossed lovers, a series of tragic deaths. If you have talked to me over the last few years, I’ve probably mentioned my recent obsession with The Affair and I think that Noah Solloway sums up the heart of both West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet poignantly and succinctly in this short clip:

“Pure…


In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, because it’s summer baby! — Take 38: Jaws (not sure how or why I wrote four pages on this so buckle up)

I am not someone who was raised on Jaws. I saw it for the first time two summers ago, and beyond the vintage theme music, and “we’re gonna need a bigger boat” I was slightly more than totally ignorant. I was raised on other Spielberg though, E.T. was my first favorite movie, and I would watch Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones at every opportunity.

Is there any evidence that it’s possible for another human being to produce an action adventure movie with such cross generational appeal as well as Spielberg? The rugged leading men who trotted across his sets are…


In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, in honor of my current obsession “For All Mankind” — Take 65: The Right Stuff

I was excited to see The Right Stuff on this list, even though I had never heard of it. It had been awhile since I had a chance to watch and write about a movie made at least within a decade of my birth, so seeing the 1983 release date was a bit of a relief. But when I saw that I had never heard of the director, Phillip Kaufman, I was a bit concerned. When I saw that the run time was 3.25 hours, my stomach plummeted. When I saw that Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, and Jeff Goldblum were…


In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, Take 21: Mulholland Drive

David Lynch is the type of director that is nearly impossible to separate from his movies. His presence is infused in all his art, of which the varieties range from collage, sculpture, and painting to film, television and furniture design. His public persona embraces his Montana hucksterism to such an extreme degree it can be difficult to determine if it’s genuine or if the real Lynch is peeking out at us from between cracks. The gee-whiz quality he depicts can feel like an alternate representation of the grinning elderly couple in Mulholland Drive that Betty meets on the plane —…


In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, Take 24: The Apartment. As always there will be spoilers.

It’s interesting when a film can transcend the time period in which it was released by exhibiting timeless truths. From the opening scene of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, we listen to CC Baxter introduce himself as he blends in amongst his colleagues pouring into the New York city high rise office building, and we immediately understand that this man is one of many identical voices and faces in the mix. We hear his voice before we see him, shouting at us above the din of employees running for elevators and shuffling papers. This feeling of drowning in masses of people…


In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, Take 73: Network. As always there will be spoilers.

It is (was when I wrote this**)October 28th, 2020 and I am down to the top twelve remaining films on this list. I am a human being who responds to tradition, whether I want to or not, and thus am feeling the Halloween spirit. Having spent all my Hitchcock cash I have reserved what appears to be an early horror classic, The Night of the Hunter for Halloween night and picked what felt like the remaining movie that was likely to have the most tension, number 73, Network. The result of watching Network a week before the 2020 Trump vs…


In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, Take 50: His Girl Friday. As always there will be spoilers.

Howard Hawke’s His Girl Friday is a beacon of a certain type of movie from a very specific time period. It is the gold standard of screwball comedy and a quintessential “talkie”. It seems the creators of the film wanted to celebrate a decade of synchronized sound on film by making an effort to cram as many words as possible into the 92 minute runtime. This rapid fire dialogue feels like a gift from the vaudeville tradition, and there are on screen equivalents that persist to this day, most notably in Amy Sherman Paladino productions like Gilmore Girls or The…


In July, 2015, the BBC released a list of the 100 Greatest American Films, curated by polling critics all over the world. I’m watching them and writing about them as a form of self taught film school. This week, in a double feature, to celebrate this film streaming on HBO Max, Take 27: e Barry Lyndon. As always there will be spoilers.

I’m going to come right out and say it, Barry Lyndon is a really long movie. I will try not to let that contagion infect this essay but no promises. I think it’s fair to describe Barry Lyndon’s story as both epic and meandering, powerful and lackluster. As always, Stanley Kubrick’s intentions when he crafted the film remain ambiguous, but his talent does not. I’ve posed the theory in the past that Kubrick’s films are included in the conversation for “best of” in nearly every genre: 2001 tops most lists of best Sci Fi movies, The Shining is easily one…

Jessie McAskill

Watching movies and writing essays.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store