4 Best Movies to Watch by Peter Bogdanovich

Staff & contributors

In his last film, American Serb film historian Peter Bogdanovich celebrates silver screen legend Buster Keaton. The subject alone is compelling to watch. It would be easy to pull clips from Keaton’s works, dig through the headlines, pull in some celebrity interviews, and call it a day. However, in Bogdanovich’s hands, this documentary handles Keaton with respect. Instead of focusing on the scandals, Bogdanovich focuses on Keaton’s brilliant work. Instead of reciting facts, Bogdanovich highlights how his bits influenced film today. Excellent editing - cuts, structure, and scoring - helps us glide through Keaton’s work. The film truly understands Keaton’s life and exactly why he’s brilliant. Comprehensive yet very focused, this documentary honestly feels better than film school.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Ben Mankiewicz, Bill Hader, Bill Irwin, Buster Keaton, Carl Reiner, Cybill Shepherd, Dick Van Dyke, Eleanor Keaton, French Stewart, James Karen, Johnny Knoxville, Jon Watts, Leonard Maltin, Mel Brooks, Nick Kroll, Norman Lloyd, Orson Welles, Paul Dooley, Peter Bogdanovich, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Lewis, Tom Holland, Werner Herzog

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Rating: Not Rated

Watch this documentary and find yourself amazed at how much of Hollywood history was determined by one woman: legendary casting director Marion Dougherty. At a time when studios were casting actors based on “type,” Dougherty revolutionized the process with her preternatural ability to see the potential in budding actors like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Glenn Close. Her work in introducing NYC’s theater actors to the silver screen launched countless careers and indelibly shaped iconic films like Midnight Cowboy and Lethal Weapon.

And yet, Dougherty’s work — and that of those who followed in her steps — is criminally underappreciated, as this doc both lays bare and seeks to redress. A largely female profession, casting was long devalued by a casually misogynistic industry, the persistent legacy of which is subtly highlighted in some interviews here. Among the talking heads sharing appreciation and anecdotes are many of the actors and casting directors whose careers Dougherty launched, as well as filmmakers (including Martin Scorsese) testifying to the pivotal role casting has played in their work. Playing the villain is Ray director Taylor Hackford, who believes casting directors add little to the filmmaking process — an argument that the doc wryly disproves with the sheer weight of refuting evidence it offers up.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Al Pacino, Amanda Mackey, Bette Midler, Buck Henry, Burt Young, Clint Eastwood, Cybill Shepherd, Danny Glover, David Rubin, Deborah Aquila, Diane Lane, Don Phillips, Dustin Hoffman, Ed Asner, Ed Lauter, Ellen Chenoweth, Ellen Lewis, Fred Roos, Glenn Close, Jeanine Basinger, Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, John Papsidera, John Sayles, John Travolta, Jon Voight, Juliet Taylor, Linda Lowy, Lora Kennedy, Lynn Stalmaster, Marion Dougherty, Martin Scorsese, Mel Gibson, Mike Fenton, Nancy Klopper, Ned Beatty, Nessa Hyams, Norman Lear, Oliver Stone, Paul Haggis, Paul Mazursky, Paul Rudd, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Donner, Richard Dreyfuss, Risa Bramon Garcia, Rita Hayworth, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Ronna Kress, Ronny Cox, Taylor Hackford, Tony Bill, Wallis Nicita, Woody Allen

Director: Tom Donahue

It’s bold to make a film about a legendary icon of cinema, but it’s even bolder to make one about Orson Welles. Best known for making Citizen Kane (universally agreed upon as one of the best movies ever made), Orson Welles is the renegade filmmaker whose works and techniques form the foundation of modern narrative filmmaking today. In his eyes, he asserts that the best films are made by accident. However, armed with archival footage and interviews with those closest to Welles, director Morgan Neville dares to question one of cinema’s biggest geniuses by examining the production of his last unfinished film, the Hollywood satire The Other Side of the Wind. While Welles was undeniably genius - able to inscrutably visualize a film without scripts - it’s easy to see how his tendency to stoke conflict for art could be so self-destructive. This film presents Welles as he is - both a cinema maverick and also an overly demanding artistic tyrant.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Alan Cumming, Andrés Vicente Gómez, Cameron Mitchell, Cybill Shepherd, Danny Huston, Dennis Hopper, Frank Marshall, Gary Graver, George Stevens Jr., Henry Jaglom, Jeanne Moreau, John Huston, Joseph Cotten, Joseph McBride, Keith Baxter, Michael Fitzgerald, Neil Canton, Norman Foster, Oja Kodar, Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Jason, Rich Little, Robert Random, Simon Callow

Director: Morgan Neville

Rating: TV-MA

It’s difficult to try to capture the truth of who a person really is, especially when there’s already preconceived notions or previous depictions about said person. Released a year after Capote (2005), Infamous inevitably drew comparisons to the biopic, especially with the stark difference between their tones. It starts off with a more gossipy, idle tone, introducing novelist Truman Capote first through documentary-like interviews, just before Toby Jones as Capote charms his way through droll chatter about some famous people. It seems much more vapid than Philip Seymour Hoffman’s depiction, but much more warm too, making Capote’s tendencies to gab and tell other people’s stories, in part due to fame, but also due to a certain joie de vivre of storytelling, once that inevitably breaks him when he finds the story of what his life could have been. Infamous might not be as acclaimed as its preceding Capote depiction, nor is it more truthful, but it’s certainly a fascinating portrayal of a fascinating man.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Brady Coleman, Brady Hender, Brent A. McCoy, Brett Brock, Brian Shoop, Daniel Craig, Dennis Letts, Gabriel Folse, Gail Cronauer, Grant James, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini, Jeff Daniels, Joey Basham, John Benjamin Hickey, Juliet Stevenson, Lee Pace, Lee Ritchey, Leticia Trejo, Libby Villari, Marco Perella, Michael Panes, Mitch Baker, Norman Bennett, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Andrew Jones, Richard Dillard, Sandra Bullock, Sheila Bailey, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Jones, Turk Pipkin

Director: Douglas McGrath

Rating: R