Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid 1969 Directed by George Roy Hill The Sting 1973 Directed by George Roy Hill Even limiting, I couldn’t leave these out – more to remind than introduce. Both are great fun, the top tier of winking buddy films. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Way We Were 1973 Based on the Arthur Laurents novel about college days at Cornell University when he was introduced to political activism by a student who became the model for Katie Morosky. Against the author’s wishes, Hubbell’s role was fleshed out to equal that of the heroine and Laurents left the project. Eleven screenplays followed. Later, a sequel was written and passed from hand to hand – beginning with Redford – never being green-lit. Directed by Sydney Pollack.
An unlikely romance between Jewish, anti-war Marxist Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand) and easy going, Anglo-Saxon Protestant Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford) begins towards the end of WWII when, in a bar, she recognizes him as a serious crush from college days. Despite her volatility and lack of social discretion and his seeming dismissal of political activism, they marry and move to California so Hubbell can write films. His best friend J.J. (Bradford Dillman) and ex-girlfriend Carol Ann (Lois Chiles) are already living “the life.” Hollywood’s involvement with the HUAC breaks the camel’s back. The love each other but…Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Great Gatsby 1974 Based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Directed by Jack Clayton. Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston) is spending the summer in a small cottage adjacent to the opulent home of Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford) about whom legends abound. He’s also a boat ride away from cousin Daisy Buchanan (Mia Farrow) and her unfaithful, macho husband Tom (Bruce Dern). Becoming a confidant to both Jay and Daisy, Nick discovers they were once in love and that Jay has pursued his ideal through the years. A car accident and Tom’s philandering bring them all down.
Close to the book. Marvelous visuals. Well cast and acting is excellent, but the film never lifts off. Originally Truman Capote was hired to write the screenplay. When that fell through, Francis Ford Coppola took over unsure whether his just completed Godfather would make any money. Free with Amazon Prime. The remake is surface glitz. Skip it.
All the President’s Men 1976 can be found in Stream Films About Newspapers and Journalists
Out of Africa 1985 Loosely based on author Isak Dinesen’s autobio-graphical book. Produced and directed by Sydney Pollack. “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills” evocative narration begins. Brokenhearted Karen (Meryl Streep) arrives in 1913 Africa, wealthy and single. Looking for companionship and help with her new farm, she proposes a marriage of convenience to a friend of her brother, Baron Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer- wonderful).
While Bror is mostly absent, Karen develops the farm, grows to understand and care for the natives and begins an ostensibly no-strings, intermittently co-habiting relationship with hunter/guide Denys Finch Hatten (Robert Redford) which widely expands her horizons. A fire destroys the farm. Denys dies in a plane crash. Karen returns to Denmark and writes as Isak Dinesen.
Out of Africa was filmed using descendants of several people of the Kikuyu tribe named in the book, including the grandson of chief Kinyanjui who played his grandfather. Much license was taken with history. Denys Finch Hatten was a British aristocrat, not the all American adventurer epitomized by Redford. The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. Sweeping and romantic. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Sneakers 1992 Directed by Phil Alden Robinson. (Sneaker is another name for a security hacker who explores breaching defenses and exploiting weakness in a system or computer.) In 1969, students Martin Brice (Robert Redford) and Cosmo (Ben Kingsley) hack into university computers in order to redistribute funds. While Martin is out getting pizza, Cosmo is arrested.
The fugitive changes his name to Martin Bishop and founds a security company that does penetration testing for corporations. Others in the quirky team include: Ex-FBI man Donald Crease (Sidney Poitier), the blind Irwin “Whistler” Emery (David Strathairn), whose hearing is extraordinary, conspiracy theorist and electronics expert Darren “Mother” Roskow (Dan Aykroyd), and young hacking genius Carl Arbogast (River Phoenix).
NSA officers who know his identity offer Martin a deal – in exchange for wiping his record, he’s to recover a “black box” from mathematician Dr. Gunter Janek, a Russian spy. His team retrieves the box. They discover it’s capable of breaking the encryption of nearly every computer system. Martin learns Janek, actually working for the NSA, was killed the night before and that the two men who contacted him had gone rogue.
There’s a plot to destabilize world economy, involvement of the FBI and Russian Consulate, Cosmo, and Martin’s ex-girlfriend Liz (Mary McDonnell). This is fun! Believable and detailed. Wait for the wonderful “postscript.” At one point the director was contacted by government operatives who told him the film could not include any references to “a hand-held device that can decode codes.” Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Horse Whisperer 1998 Based on the novel by Nicholas Evans. Directed by Robert Redford. Workaholic city woman Annie MacLean (Kristin Scott Thomas) drives her daughter Grace (a very young Scarlett Johansson) and Grace’s horse Pilgrim to the Montana Mountains. Grace survived an accident that killed her best friend and her horse, mangled Grace’s leg so badly it had to be partially amputated, and made Pilgrim uncontrollable. Annie feels her daughter’s recovery is linked to that of Pilgrim. She hopes “horse whisperer” Tom Booker (Robert Redford) is the solution. Tom agrees only if Grace will take part.
Mother and daughter move into a cabin on the ranch. Very gradually both Grace and Pilgrim heal. Watching Redford with both the girl and horse is transporting. In the process, Annie appreciates his less complicated, authentic life. She considers leaving a currently troubled marriage and stressful career to move out west with him. He wants her, but doesn’t press realizing how difficult the change would be. Husband Robert (Sam Neil) arrives to complicate Annie’s decision. A lovely film. Apparently only sustained trauma could cause the kind of reaction Pilgrim shows here. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Company You Keep 2013 Based on the novel by Neil Gordon. Directed by Robert Redford. Thirty years ago, attorney and single father Jim Grant (Robert Redford) was an anti-war activist in the Weather Underground. A fugitive under a pseudonym, he’s lived a quiet, productive life. When fellow activist Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) is smoked out, old hippie friend Billy Cusimano is angry that Jim won’t take her case. He gripes to ambitious reporter Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf) leading the young man to Jim. Time is up.
Jim arranges for his brother to take care of his daughter and goes on the lam. He travels from one former associate/friend to another hoping to eventually clear himself of a 30 year old crime of which he is, in fact innocent. Along the way he learns about another daughter. Some still believe, others have assimilated. Oh, how lives have changed. The splendid cast features, in part, Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Stanley Tucci, Chris Cooper and Brit Marling. A restrained, heartfelt thriller. Still relevant. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Old Man and the Gun 2018 Loosely based on David Grann’s article in The New Yorker about career criminal and escape artist Forrest Tucker. Directed by David Lowery. 74 year-old Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford at 82), who escaped from San Quentin, has just robbed a bank when he stops to help a woman with car trouble. Police drive by without a second look. In gratitude, Jewel (Sissy Spacek) buys him lunch at a diner. He tells her he’s a bank robber. One presumes she takes this with a grain of salt. They spend time. He tries to anonymously pay her mortgage.
Forrest continues to rob banks. He’s always a gentleman and rarely shows a gun. No one ever gets hurt. The case is turned over to the FBI who even-tually find him at Jewel’s ranch (doing something on a bucket list). She convinces Forrest to do his time and picks him up when released (clearly not a very long stretch). They live together at her ranch. One day he goes out to run errands…
By his own account, the real Tucker escaped from prison “18 times successfully and 12 times unsuccessfully.” At the age of 79 and married for the third time, he robbed four banks in the local Florida retirement community where he lived. Sentenced to 13 years in prison at the Federal Medical Center, Fort Worth, he died at 83. A tender, low key film with Redford’s weathered face and tone in full command. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Top photo: Bigstock