Melvin and Howard

Based on a true story. Maybe.

Whether you believe germ-phobic kazillionaire Howard Hughes left 156 million to a man he met once (courts eventually did not), this remains one wild, charming film.

Director Jonathan Demme finds just the right tone by not making fun of Melvin Dummar, but instead letting his oddball life play out in all its messy glory.

Paul LeMat and Jason Robards are great, but it’s Mary Steenburgen, an Oscar winner for the role, who steals every scene.

This was only her third film in what is now a 43-year run of excellence, and dang, what a start!

 

Network

“You’ve got to get mad!!”

Look, I like Rocky — it’s an entertaining flick, with more grit than you probably remember, but there is no way it should have beat this lacerating dark comedy for Best Picture at the Oscars.

I’m sure back in 1976 a lot of this film probably seemed outlandish, which makes it even sadder and stranger how many of its predictions came true.

The great Sidney Lumet puts a cast for the ages through their paces, burrowing deep to expose corruption and bile lingering below the surface in TV news.

In the end, you can’t look away.

 

La La Land

The Oscar winner that was, then wasn’t.

Years from now, long after the Best Picture snafu recedes from memory, hopefully this pretty fun musical romance and the beautifully-rendered Moonlight will be remembered best for what was onscreen.

Anchored by an ethereal Emma Stone, who did get to keep her little gold man, this one follows an aspiring actress and a self-absorbed “serious musician” as they come together, then fade away.

Dreamy and bittersweet, it’s a love letter to old school Hollywood, and one which hits all the right notes.

Two dreamers passing under a starry night — something to savor.

 

Paper Moon

“I want my $200!!!!!”

Tatum O’Neal did the unthinkable, debuting at age 10, delivering a fiery, funny performance which rightfully won her an Oscar.

She proved it wasn’t a fluke, immediately adding The Bad News Bears and Nickelodeon to her filmography — one of the best opening runs to any Tinseltown career.

Here, she verbally duels with real-life papa Ryan, whose character sells expensive Bibles to gullible Depression-era widows.

Soon a formidable con artist duo, the pair wind their way across the Midwest, one step ahead of the cops, spreading laughs wherever they go.

At least to the viewers, that is.

 

BlacKkKlansman

Fight the powers that be.

Spike Lee delivers an often-hilarious, yet righteously-angry film which shines a spotlight on a tale from the ’70s, while connecting that decade’s fight to the present world.

John David Washington plays the real-life Ron Stallworth, a Black cop who infiltrated the KKK by posing as a white man on the phone.

Tweaking notorious racist jackass (and future presidential candidate) David Duke, the undercover brother dances with danger, always aware he has little support from his fellow cops.

It’s a bold, bracing film, another memorable salvo from a director never afraid to fire the big guns.