#377. Alan J. Pakula

Some directors might not be prolific, but the movies they make are profound statements about humanity that stick with us over time. One almost wonders if the jobs they had before directing helped them to see the world in a slightly more significant way. From 1969 to 1997, Alan J. Pakula only directed 16 films, but at least a few of them have continued to be recognized for their greatness. Before he became a director, he had produced seven movies, including the Best Picture nominee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). His penchant for legal and political thrillers was present through his nearly 30 years of directing, and Pakula certainly showed how it could be done and done well. Even though he died at the age of 70 due to a car accident, his films will live on in posterity. This week’s two films highlight some of the best of director Alan J. Pakula.

                                                                  All the President’s MenAll the President's Men
Year: 1976
Rating: PG
Length: 138 minutes / 2.30 hours

While To Kill a Mockingbird was the first film Pakula produced to be nominated for Best Picture, All the President’s Men (1976) was the first film he directed to be nominated for this prestigious award. Many consider some of his previous films, like Klute (1971) and The Parallax View (1974), to be precursors to this political thriller. With all the legal implications that can come from accusing the White House of something as serious as the Watergate scandal, Alan J. Pakula showed us how a political thriller can be just as much of a legal thriller, even if it never gets to the courtroom. Some of his later works, like Presumed Innocent (1990) and The Pelican Brief (1993), continue in the same legal thriller genre Pakula has shown he knows how to handle. Still, All the President’s Men is his most famous, even being recognized on the American Film Institute’s (AFI’s) Top 100 list at #77.

The burglary of the Democratic National Committee isn’t considered to be important, but The Washington Post decides to report on it anyway. What initially seems like a routine robbery soon becomes much more suspicious as the thieves are shown to have connections to former CIA employees who themselves are connected to individuals in Richard Nixon’s inner circle. Diving further into this conspiracy, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) contacts his anonymous informant, “Deep Throat” (Hal Holbrook), and learns this incident goes all the way to the top of the government. Woodward and his reporting partner, Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), need substantial evidence that the president is behind these wrongdoings since any false accusations could be considered slander and could possibly endanger their lives if the allegations are true. The two reporters write the article anyway and leave the rest to fate.

Sophie’s ChoiceSophie's Choice
Year: 1982
Rating: R
Length: 150 minutes / 2.50 hours

Along with All the President’s Men, another of Alan J. Pakula’s films, Sophie’s Choice (1982) managed to break onto the AFI’s Top 100 list at #91. It’s no wonder why, considering it was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and ended up earning Meryl Streep her first Best Actress Oscar (but her second Oscar overall at the time). Pakula wrote the screenplay for three other films he directed, including the aforementioned Presumed Innocent and The Pelican Brief. And while Sophie’s Choice isn’t necessarily the same as his legal or political thrillers, there is certainly a good amount of drama present in this Holocaust period piece. The fact that “Sophie’s Choice” is practically a verb in today’s popular culture just goes to show how significant a film it has remained over the decades since its release.

Zofia “Sophie” Zawistowski (Meryl Streep) is a Polish immigrant who moved to Brooklyn after the horrors of the Holocaust left her alone. Back in Europe, she was married and had a happy life with her two children. Sophie seems to be trying to regain her happiness in New York but ends up being in an abusive relationship with Nathan Landau (Kevin Kline). After becoming friends with a writer named Stingo (Peter MacNicol), she eventually runs to him when Nathan is revealed to be a paranoid schizophrenic and reacts violently shortly afterward. During their time together, Sophie tells Stingo about how she had to choose which of her children would be sent to a Nazi work camp and which one would be executed. Even though Stingo wants to help Sophie, she returns to Nathan, and the two of them die shortly afterward.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 awesome Alan J. Pakula movies

Bacon #: 2 (Klute (directed) / Donald Sutherland -> Animal House / Kevin Bacon)

#375. Jason Reitman

It can be tough to grow up in the shadow of your parents’ success. Furthermore, when your father is comedy director Ivan Reitman, the challenge can be even greater. While Ivan directed such classic comedies as Stripes (1981) and Ghostbusters (1984), his son, Jason Reitman, has shown he has the skills to follow in his father’s footsteps. Perhaps the exposure to the film-making industry at such a young age is what helped develop Jason Reitman into the director he is today. Even though Jason’s films aren’t nearly as sophomoric as many of his father’s, they still have a sharp edge of comedy that he uses to examine many controversial topics. In fact, Jason’s ability to create meaningful comedies earned him a few Oscar nominations, an accomplishment his father never managed with the screwball comedies he created in the 1980s. This week’s two films highlight some of Jason Reitman’s best works.

Up in the AirUp in the Air
Year: 2009
Rating: R
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours

Jason Reitman’s films have earned critical acclaim for their portrayal of the human condition. From teenage pregnancy to getting fired, these life-changing moments can also be filled with comedic irony. Certain themes, like family and relationships, have been a common occurrence in Reitman’s films, including Young Adult (2011), Men, Women & Children (2014), and Tully (2018). Perhaps the most relatable moments in life are what propelled his films like Juno (2007) and Up in the Air (2009) into critical success. Both earned nominations for Best Picture, as well as Best Director nods for Reitman. What sets these films apart from his other works is his ability to convey the decisions we make in our lives, as well as the ones made for us by entities outside of our control. In the end, films like Juno and Up in the Air focus on the most fundamental element of humanity: relationships.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) has no home. He’s not homeless, but rather a businessman who travels and enjoys the experience so much that he doesn’t have a permanent address. As a minimalist, he gives motivational speeches about “What’s in Your Backpack?” to highlight how a life free of connections is liberating. Of course, the irony is that his job is to help companies fire their employees. He needs to travel to each of these businesses in person, as the termination process is something he feels needs to be done in person. When Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) introduces a video teleconference option, Ryan’s jet-set lifestyle might be in jeopardy. After attending his younger sister’s wedding and realizing that some amount of stability is beneficial, Ryan begins to rethink his philosophy of life.

Thank You for SmokingThank You for Smoking
Year: 2005
Rating: R
Length: 92 minutes / 1.53 hours

Ivan Reitman directed many films with ridiculous premises, like Twins (1988), Kindergarten Cop (1990), and Junior (1994). This is probably why Jason Reitman’s first feature-length film, Thank You for Smoking (2005), carries some of this ridiculousness over into the next generation. However, Thank You for Smoking relies on taking a controversial idea to its ultimate and logical conclusion instead of merely asking the question of “what if?” no matter how crazy that question may be. This is perhaps the greatest difference between Jason Reitman’s films and the films of his father: Jason’s films feel like they could actually happen. Since Thank You for Smoking was still early in Reitman’s directing career, there is a political focus that can be implied from his father’s films (like Stripes (1981) and Dave (1993)).

We all know smoking kills, but that still doesn’t stop lobbyists like Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) from using his spin tactics to show there is no link between smoking tobacco and lung cancer. Granted, the study that shows this lack of correlation was funded by the tobacco lobby. Since anti-tobacco sentiments are growing, Nick travels to Los Angeles to convince movie producers to add cigarette product placements in their films. Ironically enough, even the former Marlboro Man (Sam Elliott) is dying of cancer and is against the advertising of cigarettes. With legislation to put a skull and crossbones on packages of cigarettes, Nick hits the talk-show circuit to preach consumer choice to the nation. He still holds these beliefs, even after an attempt on his life using nicotine patches to give him nicotine poisoning. Now that he can’t ever smoke again, he finds this is the right time to start his own firm.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 relatable Jason Reitman movies

Bacon #: 2 (Dave / Frank Langella -> Frost/Nixon / Kevin Bacon)

#370. D.W. Griffith

Some directors may have been prolific, but then there are directors like D.W. Griffith. In the 23 years of his career, he directed over 500 movies. Most of these films were directed before 1914, as Griffith made the newfound medium of filmmaking his playground to discover and cement many of the film techniques we know today. It’s weird to think the close-up shot wasn’t widely used before Griffith made it a standard. It is also interesting to note that Griffith worked almost exclusively in the medium of silent films. Of his 518 movies, only two were with sound: Abraham Lincoln (1930) and The Struggle (1931). These were the last two films he ever directed. With a catalog of movies this large, there are bound to be a few gems. This week’s two films highlight some of the most significant films D.W. Griffith ever directed.

The Birth of a NationThe Birth of a Nation
Year: 1915
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 195 minutes / 3.25 hours

Partly because the length of a reel of film was a technical limitation, many directors of the silent era made their movies on a single reel of film. At a length of 1,000 feet, silent movies could fit about 15 minutes of footage on a single reel. Longer movies would often advertise their run-time in terms of reels. With so many short films in circulation, it was a little odd to find D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) was comprised of a whopping 12 reels. Even modern movies rarely break a three-hour run-time, but this silent spectacle certainly does. With movies like this, D.W. Griffith ushered in the era of the “feature-length” movie. He showed how much could be done in 12 reels of film, not only in terms of plot but also in terms of the creative and artistic methods used to tell a story of this length.

The Camerons of South Carolina enlist to fight the Civil War and soon find that Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall) is the only surviving son of his two brothers. His headstrong attitude caused him to lead a charge at a major battle and earned him a nickname: “The Little Colonel.” Unfortunately, he is captured after being wounded in battle. While he is accused of treason by the Union and sentenced to hang, his mother asks Abraham Lincoln to pardon him and has her request granted. After Lincoln is assassinated, Ben finds the freed slaves of the South are using underhanded techniques to become elected officials. These former slaves don’t seem to know proper manners for governing individuals, which is why Ben tries to “scare” them into behaving by starting the ghost-themed Ku Klux Klan. Soon, order returns as the Klansmen ensure the slaves are no longer stuffing ballot boxes.

IntoleranceIntolerance
Year: 1916
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours

If The Birth of a Nation was long, Griffith’s follow-up, Intolerance (1916) was even longer. Around 200 minutes long, this epic is actually four different stories told in parallel. Because of the backlash he received for the racially insensitive The Birth of a Nation, Griffith answered the only way he knew how: through film. He wanted to show intolerance in its many forms as a form of apology for glorifying the racist ideals of the Ku Klux Klan in his previous movie. Fortunately, this apology seemed to work, as he continued to direct many films after this point, including the classics Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), and Orphans of the Storm (1921). Regarding his legacy, the American Film Institute originally put The Birth of a Nation on its Top 100 list in 1998, replacing it with Intolerance during the 10th Anniversary list. A fitting substitution, considering the original circumstances.

To show “Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages” (the subtitle for this film), Griffith follows four instances of intolerance across history. The oldest story is from the Babylonians, whose intolerance between different sects of followers of two different gods led to their demise. Even Jesus Christ (Howard Gaye) Himself experienced intolerance, the penultimate result of which was His eventual crucifixion. Centuries later, Catholics were intolerant of Protestants, which resulted in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Finally, in the modern times of 1914, the socially backward situation that leads to a man being sentenced to hang just for protecting his wife from the boss who put him in prison the first time. Most of these moments of intolerance end in tragedy. There is one story that does manage to pull out a happy ending, while still enforcing the huge influence intolerance has over people.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great D.W. Griffith movies

Bacon #: 3 (San Francisco / Roger Imhof -> Man Hunt / Roddy McDowall -> The Big Picture / Kevin Bacon)

#368. Howard Hawks

It is rare to find a director who can direct across the spectrum of film genres. Often, a director’s style will dictate their genre. I mean, we’re not likely to see a horror film by Michael Bay. And while versatile directors like Christopher Nolan can span many genres, there are still a few outside their style. That being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Christopher Nolan comedy, as I’m sure it would be mind-bending and visually stunning. Steven Spielberg might be the one modern director who can successfully direct movies in any genre, but back when the film industry was just getting started, a few directors could “do it all.” One of these directors was none other than Howard Hawks. Back then, the ability to direct across all genres was likely more out of necessity than it was for resume padding. This week’s two films highlight some of Howard Hawk’s versatility as a director.

Sergeant YorkSergeant York
Year: 1941
Rating: Approved
Length: 134 minutes / 2.23 hours

Despite a large number of notable films, Howard Hawks never won an Oscar for Best Director during his career. He was nominated once for Sergeant York (1941), likely due to the peak of his career. In the lead up to the war movie that is Sergeant York (which itself was nominated for Best Picture), he directed two comedies, Bringing Up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940), as well as the drama, Only Angels Have Wings (1940). Of course, he directed many other classics after Sergeant York, including the musical, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), the western, Rio Bravo (1959), and the John Wayne adventure, Hatari! (1962). Hawks even managed to direct a sci-fi film with The Thing from Another World (1951), thus proving that he can direct pretty much any major genre that exists.

While Alvin York’s (Gary Cooper) hellion lifestyle has caused his mother much consternation, once he met Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie), he started to turn his life around. Promising to marry her once he can obtain a farm, Alvin works relentlessly at raising the necessary money, only to have his hopes and dreams dashed when the offer is pulled out from underneath him. Before he can right the wrong, Alvin is struck by lightning and finds God in the process. Shortly afterward, Alvin is drafted into the Army for World War I, despite his newfound abhorrence to killing. However, in the heat of battle, Alvin realizes he must kill in order to save his comrades. Using his skill as a sharpshooter, Alvin saves the day and returns home a hero. After he turns down offers to cash in on his fame, he finds that his hometown bought the farm he was eyeing and gave it to him as a gift.

ScarfaceScarface
Year: 1932
Rating: Passed
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

What’s interesting about Howard Hawks, aside from the numerous genres he could direct, was that his career started back in the silent era. Being able to successfully transition from the realm of silent films to the “talkies” is no small feat, especially considering how many directors and actors from that time failed to adapt to the technology that was permanently changing the way audiences experienced movies. While he only directed seven silent films, they also shared the diversity in genre he kept up during his career (four comedies, one drama, one romance, and one film noir). When sound became available, it wasn’t long until Hawks was directing classics like the crime drama, Scarface: The Shame of the Nation (1932). In fact, this film was so well made, the 1983 remake was partially dedicated to Howard Hawks.

During the prohibition era in Chicago, Antonio “Tony” Camonte (Paul Muni) is helping mob boss Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins) to take control of the south side of the city. While Tony is an excellent lackey, he eventually goes against Johnny’s wishes and starts to take on the Irish gangs who control the north side of Chicago. As his success continues, Tony’s confidence rises enough to the point where he starts wooing Johnny’s girlfriend, Poppy (Karen Morley). Of course, with Tony’s out-of-control ambitions left unchecked, Johnny sends an assassin to kill him. Escaping the threat on his life, Tony and his friend Guino Rinaldo (George Raft) kill Johnny, making Tony the new leader of the mob. Unfortunately, when Tony learns Guino is with his sister, he kills his friend, setting off a series of events that has him hiding in his house and fighting the police. Will Tony live long enough to make the world his?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 highly-praised Howard Hawks classics

#364. Damien Chazelle

It is sobering to realize how little you’ve accomplished in your life when you start to compare yourself to individuals like Damien Chazelle. While he’s only eight months older than I am, he’s already become the youngest individual to win a Best Director Oscar. Not just that, but he won with a mere two films under his belt, both of which were nominated for Best Picture. Of course, instead of bemoaning the fact that I haven’t won an Oscar for Best Director (I also haven’t graduated from Harvard, which is probably part of it), I am awaiting each successive movie directed by Chazelle. It is already clear he has a penchant for creating fantastic films, even if most of them have revolved around jazz. This week’s two films highlight the opening of Damien Chazelle’s career in filmmaking, signaling the start of a fresh vision in Hollywood.

La La LandLa La Land
Year: 2016
Rating: PG-13
Length: 128 minutes / 2.13 hours

One of the most daunting of movie genres, the musical requires much more than just acting. Choreography and music need to be seamlessly integrated into the plot of a film for the musical numbers to not seem out-of-place. It is then an impressive feat that Damien Chazelle’s second film was the musical, La La Land (2016). Even if it narrowly missed being named Best Picture for that year, it was clear Chazelle did his homework on the film, creating a colorful and loving homage to the golden age of musicals from the 1950s and 1960s. One can only wonder what a departure from music-themed movies with this year’s First Man (2018) will mean for Chazelle. The Oscars do love a good biopic, and there’s nobody more interesting than the first man to set foot on the moon: Neil Armstrong.

After a few, brief encounters, Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) and Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) have come to the realization that they’re in a love/hate acquaintanceship. This all changes when they both open up to each other and reveal their dreams. Mia has been struggling as an actress, having to resort to work at a studio coffee shop for employment, while Sebastian bemoans the state of jazz and wants to open a club where “true jazz” is played. When both of them finally admit they care for each other, they both support each other’s dream. Of course, for Mia to put on a one-woman show, Sebastian takes a job as a pianist for a band he does not consider in line with his views of jazz. After her show was poorly attended, Mia gives up on her dream, only to have Sebastian chase her down with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Will this potential success fulfill their dreams, or will it destroy their relationship?

WhiplashWhiplash
Year: 2014
Rating: R
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

If Damien Chazelle’s love of jazz wasn’t made clear in his breakout film, Whiplash (2014), then La La Land (2016) merely enforced it. Of course, you don’t get to make a big-budget Hollywood musical like La La Land without proving yourself first. Whiplash is an intense and unyielding look at competitive jazz competitions that not only revealed Chazelle’s visual style, but also his ability to create captivating characters who are driven by their ambitions. While it didn’t receive the record-tying number of Oscar nominations like La La Land did, Whiplash earned a respectable five nominations, of which Chazelle was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. The fact Chazelle could create a Best Picture-nominated film at age 29 is certainly as incredible as winning the Best Director Oscar two years later.

When conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) discovers drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) practicing in a music room at the Shaffer Conservatory, he invites the freshman to join his studio band as a backup to the lead drummer. Andrew sees this as an opportunity but soon realizes Fletcher’s style of leadership is filled with verbal and physical abuse. Despite all this, Andrew continues to practice, even going so far as to memorize entire pieces of music, which comes to his advantage when he’s put in as the lead drummer when the former lead forgot his sheet music. Meanwhile, Fletcher brings in another freshman as Andrew’s backup, leading to a brutal late-night audition between the three drummers. Andrew is soon fired from his spot, thus leading to his confession about Fletcher’s abuse, resulting in Fletcher’s firing. Fletcher thinks he has the last word, but Andrew shows his dedication in a public display of skill.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Damien Chazelle classics

Bacon #: 3 (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench / Anna Chazelle -> La La Land / Ryan Gosling -> Crazy, Stupid, Love. / Kevin Bacon)

#349. George Stevens

Modern audiences may not know about George Stevens or the films he directed from the 1930s to 1970. Some of the names of his movies might not be familiar to them either, but many of these films are classics in their own rights. He worked with some of the best in the industry at the time. Cary Grant (Gunga Din (1930) and Penny Serenade (1941)), Fred Astaire (Swing Time (1936) and A Damsel in Distress (1937)), and Katharine Hepburn (Alice Adams (1935) and Woman of the Year (1942)), just to name a few. By the end of his career, he even directed a film from his own production company, the Biblical epic, The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Throughout his directing career, he earned many nominations and awards, but most people on the street probably couldn’t say why. This week’s two films highlight some of the greatest films directed by George Stevens.

A Place in the SunA Place in the Sun
Year: 1951
Rating: Passed
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

Throughout the early 1930s, George Stevens directed mostly short films and comedy sketches. By 1941, he had picked up his first nomination for Best Picture with The Talk of the Town. While he did not direct this film, he would earn two more nominations the following year, for Best Picture and Best Director for The More the Merrier (1943). His first win at the Oscars would come almost a decade later with A Place in the Sun (1951). This film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, but only garnered Stevens the golden statue for the latter category. The legacy of this film was recognized in 1997 as one of the American Film Institute’s Top 100 films, being placed at #92. It is also included as one of the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, for similar reasons, not the least of which was Stevens’ expert directing.

George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) has not had nearly the amount of success his uncle, Charles Eastman (Herbert Heyes), has enjoyed. When the two randomly meet, Charles offers George a job in his factory as a way to help his struggling nephew. George takes to the work and finds himself being noticed by management for his good ideas. Consequently, Charles invites George to his estate for dinner with high society. At the party, George is immediately enamored with Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor). Unfortunately, George has already gotten himself involved with one of the factory girls, Alice Tripp (Shelly Winters). Alice senses George’s flightiness and informs him that she’ll expose him if he doesn’t marry her since she is carrying their bastard child. In a twist of fate, the courthouse is closed for Labor Day, so George suggests they take a boat out on the lake, knowing Alice cannot swim.

GiantGiant
Year: 1956
Rating: Approved
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours

After his Best Director win in 1951, George Stevens would have another set of Best Picture/Best Director nominations for the western, Shane (1953). He lost that year to From Here to Eternity (1953) but would be nominated for the set again with The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), losing to Ben-Hur (1959) that year. His second win at the Oscars was for Best Director with Giant (1956), which itself lost Best Picture to Around the World in 80 Days (1956). One wonders if the inclusion of Elizabeth Taylor in Giant helped to earn Stevens his Best Director wins, except that his last film ever directed was The Only Game in Town (1970), which featured Taylor but did not earn him a nomination. Following his film career, he founded the American Film Institute (AFI). One does wonder if the two Top 100 lists produced by AFI were biased, as four of his films have appeared on them over the years.

Yet again, Elizabeth Taylor portrays a socialite in Giant as Leslie Lynnton. She is swept off her feet by Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) and brought back to his ranch in Texas as his bride. Now that she’s a part of the farm, she becomes involved in its operations, somewhat stepping on the toes of Bick’s sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge). In retaliation, Luz hurts Leslie’s horse and is bucked off to her death. As a result, the ranch’s handyman, Jett Rink (James Dean), inherits a small portion of the property. He has had feelings for Leslie since she first came to the ranch, but respected Bick enough to keep his distance. When Jett discovers oil on his patch of land, he becomes wealthier than the Benedicts, thus upending the social order between these two neighbors. His persistent requests to drill for oil on the rest of the Benedict ranch are eventually granted as Bick realizes his children will not continue his legacy.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 stupendous George Stevens classics

Bacon #: 3 (Shane / Alan Ladd -> Paper Bullets / John Archer -> The Little Sister / Kevin Bacon)

#343. Jon Turteltaub

If you grew up in the 1990s, it’s likely you’d recognize the work of director Jon Turteltaub, but not his name. While Turteltaub hasn’t been as prolific as say, Steven Spielberg, he had many hits that defined our childhood. Even as we grew up, we would eventually turn to films made in the timeframe of the ’90s and think, “Huh . . . that was pretty good.” I am sure there are other directors for other generations who made films that defined their formative years, but for the Xennials (the group between Generation X and the Millennials), Jon Turteltaub is undoubtedly a strong candidate. Part of this was due to his connection to Disney at the time, directing many films aimed at the children of the ’90s. Even the less Disney-esque films he directed were still distributed via a Disney subsidiary. This week’s two films highlight two ends of Jon Turtletaub’s directing career.

National TreasureNational Treasure
Year: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

While Turteltaub’s career has veered mostly toward television pilots recently, with shows like JerichoHarper’s IslandCommon Law, and Rush Hour holding his focus, he still occasionally directs films. With Disney’s The Kid (2000) capping off his 1990s films, the rise of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise revealed that audiences had an appetite for action and adventure that Disney wanted to immediately grab hold of. Shortly after Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Disney tasked Jon Turteltaub to direct National Treasure (2004). A few years later, he would also helm the sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007). While there was no third film in this franchise, Turteltaub and Nicholas Cage would eventually team up again for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010).

Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) has spent his life searching for a treasure allegedly hidden by the Founding Fathers of the United States. While his father, Patrick (Jon Voight), is skeptical the treasure exists, he is surprised to find his son on his doorstep with the Declaration of Independence and Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) from the National Archives. Ben ended up stealing the original document when the search led his partner, Ian Howe (Sean Bean), to suggest that they steal the Declaration to find the next clue in the puzzle. Sensing Ian’s ulterior motives, Ben took the Declaration first and, with his father’s help, finds the next clue to locating the treasure. The ensuing cat and mouse chase lead the group across the east coast, eventually arriving at Trinity Church in New York City. With Patrick as Ian’s hostage, Ben has to decide: save his father, or give up the treasure?

Cool RunningsCool Runnings
Year: 1993
Rating: PG
Length: 98 minutes / 1.63 hours

While some people might have liked the campy 3 Ninjas (1992), Turteltaub really didn’t hit his stride until the next year, when Cool Runnings (1993) was released. Of course, that could just be my nostalgia talking. Either way, many people have considered it a good movie. Shortly afterward, Turteltaub directed such hits as While You Were Sleeping (1995) and Phenomenon (1996), showing that he could direct films that weren’t necessarily aimed at Disney’s target demographic. That being said, these films were still made under the wider “Walt Disney Studios” brand via Buena Vista Pictures. One does wonder if his association with Disney helped these films become the cult classics they are today. Some of his more recent, non-Disney films, like Last Vegas (2013), have done all right, but time will tell if his upcoming film, Meg (2018) will stand up over time like his work in the 1990s has.

Failing to qualify for the 1988 Summer Olympics, Derice Bannock (Leon Robinson) is upset that he can’t compete as a runner for his home country of Jamaica. Not letting the incident get him down, he seeks out a different route to the Olympics: bobsledding. If Derice can’t make it to the Summer Olympics, he is committed to competing in the Winter Olympics instead. Finding former bobsled gold medalist, Irv Blitzer (John Candy), Derice gathers a team of runners and manages to scrape together the cash to sponsor their team. Once at Calgary, nobody takes the team from the Caribbean seriously, including some of the team members themselves. After a last-place showing on the first day of competition, the four Jamaican bobsledders find their groove and start to advance in the rankings. With the potential for a medal on the line, will their old and used bobsled hold up long enough to get them across the finish line?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 terrific Turteltaub movies

Bacon #: 2 (Cool Runnings (directed) / John Candy -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)