Notes on John Sayles from a Fan

I became a fan of John Sayles when I discovered that he was the screenwriter for The Lady in Red (1979) and Alligator (1980). Lady is my favorite interpretation of the John Dillinger story, told from the perspective of the femme fatale who betrays the gangster, while Alligator is a tongue-in-cheek addition to the animals run-amuck genre inspired by Jaws. Each film expanded on the genre or cinematic myth that they belonged to without resorting to the heavy irony or self-consciousness that contemporary directors tend to abuse. Later, I saw The Return of the Secaucus Seven, his first feature, which was produced  independently of mainstream Hollywood, for  a class in college, and I have been following his career ever since.

Recently, Sayles appeared at the Printers’ Row Book Fair in Chicago to promote his new, 1000-page novel, A Moment in the Sun. The book begins in 1897, when gold was discovered in the Klondike, and ends in 1903, when Edwin S. Porter released The Great Train Robbery. Like any true fan, I would walk across hot coals to see John Sayles so I braved one of those hot, mortally humid days that only Chicago can breed to see Sayles and hear him read from A Moment in the Sun. The literary editor from the Chicago Tribune, which sponsored the book fair, introduced Sayles and interviewed him afterward.

SAYLES'S NEW NOVEL, 'A MOMENT IN THE SUN'

Considering her name was Elizabeth Taylor, the Trib’s literary editor had little appreciation for cinema. I detected a note of snobbery in her introduction when she listed Sayles’s early screenwriting efforts—Alligator, Piranha, and The Howling—with just the kind of pause between titles to suggest the films must be as silly as they sound. Then she added, “I haven’t seen them, though I’ve been told they’re well written,” followed by “I don’t like scary movies.” A few minutes later, she noted that Sayles was “known more as a filmmaker than a novelist, which is more a sign of our times than anything else,” making his three-decade directorial career sound lamentable. Despite the decades-long acceptance of film as an art form, I am always surprised that this attitude of superiority still exists among some literary folk.

Fortunately, John Sayles was as smart, articulate, and engaging as I imagined him to be based on his films and books, and Miss Taylor was quickly forgotten.  Though he was there to tout his novel, Sayles readily addressed his film career. He mentioned his upcoming film, Amigo, which is slated for release this summer. Amigo emerged from some of the research he had done for A Moment in the Sun, and it takes place during the Philippines-American War—an extension of the Spanish-American War.  In 1898, the Philippines declared itself an independent republic, which prompted the U.S. government to send troops to end the conflict. Amigo follows the actions of a U.S. platoon that occupies a village called San Isidro deep in the rice paddies of the Philippines far away from Manila. The amount of research that Sayles puts into his novels and films is impressive. He does all of his own research and often tracks down primary documents and letters, because as he noted, “the official record is inaccurate.”

Explaining his approach to storytelling, he discussed his preference for exploring behavior that is grounded in recognizable human actions, emotions, and manners. No matter how far a storyline might stretch into magic realism or how unlikely a coincidence might be, his characters retain the complexities of recognizable human behavior. He is drawn to ensemble casts and narrative canvasses with dozens of characters because he prefers to illustrate an issue from several angles. He refers to his characters as “witnesses” to a historical event or a social issue, with each witness representing one point of view, or one truth. And, while that point of view is valid, it is only one of many needed to tell the full story or shed light on an issue.

Sayles earns money as a gun-for-hire for mainstream Hollywood, rewriting scripts for the major studios. In recent years, as financing for indie films has become more difficult to raise, he has used the money earned from the studios to finance his own films. He has worked on the scripts for everything from Apollo 13 to The Spiderwick Chronicles to The Mummy to The American President. As one of many writers on these projects, he often doesn’t see much of his contributions in the final version of the film, though that doesn’t seem to bother him. Sayles made a point to take a swipe at Wikipedia by noting that he did NOT work on the script for The Fugitive, though the site insisted he had. The aside made the audience chuckle, but, later, as I was wading through online articles about Sayles, I saw the reference to The Fugitive many times, causing me to ponder how many “journalists” fact-check via Wikipedia.

With one foot in commercial Hollywood via his script work and another in the indie scene as the father of the independent film movement, Sayles is in a unique position to judge contemporary Hollywood. Needless to say, he is not impressed. For example, he noted that Hollywood movies have become so black and white that the bad guys are well beyond evil. Because there are no complexities to the antagonists, they can be dispatched in increasingly violent, torturous ways, so that the audiences feels the violence and torture are justified. This is a convention in current movies that Sayles clearly finds disturbing.

I BECAME A FAN OF JOHN SAYLES WITH 'ALLIGATOR,' WHICH HE SCRIPTED BUT DID NOT DIRECT.

In 30 years as a director, Sayles has developed a consistent, recognizable style while portraying the complexities of the American socio-historical experience through an admittedly liberal lens.  He is adept at depicting regional communities, capturing the atmosphere, dialects, and settings of rural areas in the South, small towns in tourist-based Florida, mining camps in Appalachia, or specific neighborhoods in major cities. His films are in contrast to mainstream Hollywood features, which tend to paint those from different regions in broad stereotypes or to offer a homogenized view of  America populated by characters who look and speak alike no matter where they hail from. The constraints of low-budget indie filmmaking work well with the naturalism that is part of Sayles’s style. Naturalism defines the acting of his performers and the visual design of the films. Sayles works within the parameters of the classic narrative style, so the editing is largely invisible while the lighting follows classical conventions. Though not flashy or overt, his visual style services the material and is marked by the highest craftsmanship. He has  worked with some of the industry’s best cinematographers, including Haskell Wexler (Matewan; Silver City; The Secret of Roan Inish), Robert Richardson (City of Hope; Eight Men Out), and Roger Deakins (Passion Fish). And, while Sayles prefers an ensemble cast in a wide-ranging narrative with multiple subplots that tie together, this type of structure does not dictate all of his films.

Sayles’s critics sometimes find his films too didactic, and his political points too simplistic. But, perhaps his strengths as a filmmaker lie elsewhere. Sayles excels in elements that seem to be extraneous in his films but actually add texture and depth– details that signify time and place, periphery characters who serve as narrative devices to hone in on a point, music that underscores the film’s themes, dialogue that rings true, references to popular culture that resonate with the storyline, or aspects of the narrative that reflect the culture or region depicted. To find the richness of Sayles’s films, you need to dig beneath the surfaces and linger around the edges.

Below is an annotated list of my five favorite films by John Sayles. Feel free to leave a comment on your favorite, and why.

Matewan (1987).  This film about a coal strike in Matewan, West Virginia, hits close to home. Several members of my family have been coal miners, including my grandfather, who worked during the era when the mines were unionizing, roughly the 1920s and early 1930s. Based on an actual event from 1920 called the Battle of Matewan, the film begins with the introduction of a union representative, played by Chris Cooper, one of Sayles’s acting discoveries, and reveals the implications of the strike for residents, miners, and the coal company. In the climactic battle, the Stone Mountain Coal Company attempts to evict the families of the striking miners using “detectives” from the Baldwin-Felts Agency. When Deputy Sid Hatfield, played by Sayles regular David Straithairn, attempts to stop them, a shoot-out ensues, leaving four residents and seven detectives dead.

Sayles nicely captures the culture of Appalachia in this film—an area that is generally depicted in negative stereotypes, such as the intolerant redneck, ignorant hellfire preacher, or oversexed Daisy May. In one scene, the teenage miner who provides the voice-over narration preaches a sermon to his church. He needs to relay information to the striking miners that he cannot directly say for fear of retaliation by the Baldwin-Felts men, so he turns the biblical story of Potiphar’s wife into a sort of code to get his message across under the noses of the detectives, effectively using an aspect of local culture (backwoods religion) against the oppressors.

In another subversion of stereotype, Sayles emphasizes the real-life integration of whites, blacks, and immigrants into the United Mine Workers union as part of the subplot through the secondary character of Few Clothes Johnson, a historical figure played by James Earl Jones. The coal companies brought in immigrants and African Americans to bust strikes in Appalachia, but the UMW under the leadership of Johnny Mitchell and then John L. Lewis stressed class unity over race or ethnic background. According to historian Eric Froner, the UMW may have been America’s most racially integrated union. Ultimately, black and immigrant miners chose to join the union rather than to work as scabs, and African Americans were eligible for and voted into union offices. Sayles uses music to underscore the harmony among the different groups who are united in a common cause; in the encampment of striking miners, the traditional old-time music of the region blends with the stringed instruments of the Italian immigrants and the blues-tinged contributions of black musicians.

SOME OF THE CAST FOR 'EIGHT MEN OUT' WERE SELECTED FOR THEIR ABILITY TO PLAY BASEBALL, INCLUDING CHARLIE SHEEN AND D.B. SWEENEY.

Eight Men Out (1988). This film makes my short list of Sayles films, because it reveals a bit of lore and history about my adopted home town of Chicago. Based on Eliot Asinof’s 1963 book, the film chronicles the fix of the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Red Legs, which was hatched by player Chick Gandil and gambler Joseph “Sport” Sullivan. With the participation of most of the major Sox players in exchange for money, the series was rigged so that the Red Legs won. The fix was quickly exposed, and the players were put on trial in Chicago. The trial was as fixed as the series, because the players’ confessions to the grand jury that led to indictments were mysteriously “lost.” Consequently, the players—including the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson—were acquitted, but they were banned from playing baseball for life by the newly organized baseball commission. Despite their guilt, the players are depicted as the sympathetic dupes of two opposing and equally greedy “big businesses”—organized baseball via Charles Comiskey and organized crime via the gamblers. Comiskey underpaid his players, made false promises to them, and cut corners on food and laundry bills while attendance to his ballpark and his profits increased. The players felt no loyalty to him and were easily lured into the scheme for a few thousand bucks by the gambling syndicate, which had turned to baseball after the U.S. government temporarily shut down racetracks during WWI.

STUDS TERKEL PLAYED SPORTSWRITER HUGH FULLERTON.

Eight Men Out weaves baseball history into larger cultural and economic issues and posits the Black Sox Scandal as a turning point in history. A sporting event becomes the harbinger of the corruption of the new decade—which saw Prohibition, the rise of the gangster, a shift in population from rural to urban areas, and a subsequent loosening of traditional values. Lost in the shuffle is the idealism of team dynamics and fair play symbolized by sports and players who are in it for the love of the game—hinted it at the end when Buck Weaver watches Joe Jackson happily playing baseball under an assumed name in some backwater town. In exposing the dark side of baseball history, Eight Men Out is a kind of doppelganger to The Natural, released four years earlier.

My favorite part of the film is the depiction of the two sportswriters, Hugh Fullerton and Ring Lardner, by Chicago’s own Studs Terkel and John Sayles, respectively. The pair acts as a sort of Greek chorus, tying the events together and adding up the impact of the players’ flubbed plays on the series. Upon accepting the role of Fullerton, Terkel reportedly told Sayles, “We’re going to get that bastard Comiskey.” To this day, Chicagoans remain a bit touchy about the Black Sox Scandal.

JACE ALEXANDER AND VINCENT SPANO IN 'CITY OF HOPE'

City of Hope (1991). This film charts the political, social, and ethical landscape of a city in New Jersey as the inner city crumbles under a generation wrecked by drugs, minorities who suffer from poverty and unemployment, an infrastructure corrupted by organized crime, and the clash of newly elected minorities with long-time politicians. The backdrop of City of Hope was like a snapshot of most major urban centers of the early 1990s. With 36 important speaking parts, the film represented one of Sayles’s largest ensemble casts. Its interweaving of plots and subplots into a big picture with socio-political density predates the much-lauded but less-sophisticated Crash by 13 years.

I like this film largely because of the cinematography by Robert Richardson. He uses two techniques that stand out from Sayles’s usual subtle style. A constantly moving camera follows characters as they walk and talk while mulling over their problems or concerns. As they pass by another character or group of characters, the camera stops to track with the new faces, picking up their thread of the story. Thus, the camerawork emphasizes the narrative structure of related subplots that increasingly overlap and intertwine as the story unfolds. In addition, Richardson, who has also worked for Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese, uses his trademark lighting technique in which the main characters are lit from above by a hot key light, framing their heads in a bright white glow. The effect is not soft and angelic like back lighting but harsh, as though they and their hidden agendas are being exposed in a spotlight.

THE MUSIC IN 'HONEYDRIPPER' WAS RECORDED LIVE, INCLUDING THIS CLIMACTIC SCENE WITH GARY CLARK, JR. AS GUITAR SAM.

Honeydripper (2008). I can’t resist this tale of a juke joint in the Deep South in 1950, because of the music. Called the Honeydripper, the joint is owned by Pinetop Purvis, played by Danny Glover, and it provides the central location for a community of African Americans on the cusp of great social change via integration and the civil rights movement. As I learned through my research on Elvis Presley, that change was foretold through the integration of regional musical styles and genres that eventually evolved into rock ‘n’ roll. This evolution largely predated the socio-political changes. The film pays hommage to that music and the styles that went into its makeup.

Honeydripper is alive with regional styles and sounds. The film opens with an old-style blues number sung in the manner of Ma Rainey or Bessie Smith. Later, a blind blues singer named Possum offers a few bars of “Stagger Lee” on the bottleneck blues guitar. Other styles of music—from Hank Williams’s “Move It On Over” heard on a truck radio to the gospel music sung at a revival meeting attended by Pinetop’s wife—pop up throughout. At the end, when Guitar Sam breaks into “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” long considered a clarion call for rock ‘n’ roll, savvy viewers will understand that his sound combines—that is, integrates—all the other styles and genres heard throughout the film. The music is a metaphor for the message. So important was the music to the texture and point of the film that Sayles hired a “forensic musicologist” to research the songs and the styles.

I LIKE 'ALLIGATOR' SO MUCH, IT DESERVES TWO FILM STILLS.

Alligator (1980). This was the film that brought the name John Sayles to my attention, which compels me to include it on my list. Sayles wrote the screenplay; Lewis Teague directed it. The plot can be summed up in one line: A giant alligator, which has been living in the sewers since someone flushed it down the toilet as a baby, terrorizes Chicago.

What I remember fondly about the film is its tongue-in-cheek approach. The filmmakers manage to distance themselves from the material to inject humor and pop culture references but not at the expense of the characters or the narrative. It simultaneously takes the material seriously while commenting on the ridiculousness of the giant-animal genre. The first third of the film keeps the giant gator under wraps, while we are introduced to the human characters (including the protagonist played by Robert Forster, one of my favorites) and offered facts about alligators. The monster gator is introduced with a jolt when it flies up through a manhole like a monster from hell to threaten a couple of kids on bikes. But, the real villains of the story are not the crafty crocodilian but the humans who run the gamut of corruption, from arrogant scientists who steal pets so they can experiment with illegal growth hormones to money-grubbing corporate interests who want the serum to crooked politicians who worry only about staying in office. The scene with the gator crunching down on Jack Carter, who plays the mayor, is priceless—and helps you sympathize with the alligator.

Part of the fun of the film are the pop culture references, which are the handiwork of Sayles. The first victim of the gator is a sewer worker identified as Ed Norton, while savvy cinephiles will understand that the problem is not resolved at the end when they see this graffiti in the sewer: “Harry Lime Lives.”

26 Responses Notes on John Sayles from a Fan
Posted By debbe : June 13, 2011 8:35 pm

this is a great blog suzidoll. im with you, i love john sayles movies.. and this was so interesting…. harry lime lives indeed. really worth waiting for!!!!

Posted By debbe : June 13, 2011 8:35 pm

this is a great blog suzidoll. im with you, i love john sayles movies.. and this was so interesting…. harry lime lives indeed. really worth waiting for!!!!

Posted By JR : June 13, 2011 8:35 pm

It’s interesting that Sayles has written a new novel (and such a long one!) because that’s what I love about his movies– they are like novels. The overarching themes, the multitude of characters, the importance of setting, I could go on and on.

My 3 Faves–

To me, Lone Star is one of the greatest films ever made. It delivers a knockout punch at the end, but the ending isn’t necessarily what the film is about.

Matewan is beautiful, lyrical, uplifting, and depressing all at once.

Limbo is really quite good; though the ambiguity of it all turns off some folks, it makes perfect sense for what the film is about.

Posted By JR : June 13, 2011 8:35 pm

It’s interesting that Sayles has written a new novel (and such a long one!) because that’s what I love about his movies– they are like novels. The overarching themes, the multitude of characters, the importance of setting, I could go on and on.

My 3 Faves–

To me, Lone Star is one of the greatest films ever made. It delivers a knockout punch at the end, but the ending isn’t necessarily what the film is about.

Matewan is beautiful, lyrical, uplifting, and depressing all at once.

Limbo is really quite good; though the ambiguity of it all turns off some folks, it makes perfect sense for what the film is about.

Posted By Lisa W. : June 13, 2011 11:45 pm

While I know John Sayles’ name, I have not seen any of these films! They all sound interesting and so very different from one another, but you’ve illustrated how sensitive Sayles is to nuances and complexities of specific regional cultures in each. I love the cover art for his book— sounds like he’s a great researcher. Will check these out! Thanks!

Posted By Lisa W. : June 13, 2011 11:45 pm

While I know John Sayles’ name, I have not seen any of these films! They all sound interesting and so very different from one another, but you’ve illustrated how sensitive Sayles is to nuances and complexities of specific regional cultures in each. I love the cover art for his book— sounds like he’s a great researcher. Will check these out! Thanks!

Posted By suzidoll : June 14, 2011 2:10 pm

JR: If I had been listing 6 titles, LONE STAR would have been the sixth. The piece was already running too long, so I stopped at five.

Posted By suzidoll : June 14, 2011 2:10 pm

JR: If I had been listing 6 titles, LONE STAR would have been the sixth. The piece was already running too long, so I stopped at five.

Posted By Chris : June 14, 2011 4:09 pm

I love John Sayles’ movies! My first introduction was Matewan. Sayles’ wrote one of the best making of books concerning Matewan titled “Thinking in Pictures”. Great read.

Posted By Chris : June 14, 2011 4:09 pm

I love John Sayles’ movies! My first introduction was Matewan. Sayles’ wrote one of the best making of books concerning Matewan titled “Thinking in Pictures”. Great read.

Posted By film czar : June 14, 2011 5:17 pm

It occurs to me now how much the Paul Haggis directed “Crash” is third rate “Lone Star”.

“Lone Star” is a great film. I saw it twice as a teenage, at the Michigan theater in Ann Arbor.

Haven’t seen it since.

Would though.

Fine picture.

Posted By film czar : June 14, 2011 5:17 pm

It occurs to me now how much the Paul Haggis directed “Crash” is third rate “Lone Star”.

“Lone Star” is a great film. I saw it twice as a teenage, at the Michigan theater in Ann Arbor.

Haven’t seen it since.

Would though.

Fine picture.

Posted By Al : June 15, 2011 8:09 pm

I can’t agree with JR more. “Lone Star” is absolutely brilliant at showing the borders that divide people through race, culture, age, purpose, and family, and how history can both blur but mostly sharpens these borders. And at the same time, the way it performs flashbacks in the story brilliantly evokes Faulkner’s quote: “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” Great acting by the whole cast (including an early knockout performance by Matthew Mcconaughey where he stands toe-to-toe with Kris Kristofferson!). Add to that it’s take on corruption vs. what makes for a good lawman, the “Citizen Kane” – like search for a character’s true nature, its amazing and diverse soundtrack – I think I could keep writing a comment on the movie longer than Suzi’s original post!

But I’ll just add that I agree 100% about “Limbo” as well. What an under-appreciated movie! The Alaskan setting is perfect in showing the stalled nature of the character’s lives, and like “Lone Star” it Ends at the Perfect Moment. I truly believe that if “Limbo” was presented at the Cannes Film Festival as some debut film by a Korean exile living in Canada that was discovered by Lars von Trier, it would be showered with awards as a landmark of film.

Finally, with it’s amazingly complex and intetertwined look at the different factions interacting in a city, the proper point of comparison for “City of Hope” shouldn’t be “Crash”, but “The Wire”.

Keep on filming, John Sayles! Can’t wait to see “Amigo”!

Posted By Al : June 15, 2011 8:09 pm

I can’t agree with JR more. “Lone Star” is absolutely brilliant at showing the borders that divide people through race, culture, age, purpose, and family, and how history can both blur but mostly sharpens these borders. And at the same time, the way it performs flashbacks in the story brilliantly evokes Faulkner’s quote: “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” Great acting by the whole cast (including an early knockout performance by Matthew Mcconaughey where he stands toe-to-toe with Kris Kristofferson!). Add to that it’s take on corruption vs. what makes for a good lawman, the “Citizen Kane” – like search for a character’s true nature, its amazing and diverse soundtrack – I think I could keep writing a comment on the movie longer than Suzi’s original post!

But I’ll just add that I agree 100% about “Limbo” as well. What an under-appreciated movie! The Alaskan setting is perfect in showing the stalled nature of the character’s lives, and like “Lone Star” it Ends at the Perfect Moment. I truly believe that if “Limbo” was presented at the Cannes Film Festival as some debut film by a Korean exile living in Canada that was discovered by Lars von Trier, it would be showered with awards as a landmark of film.

Finally, with it’s amazingly complex and intetertwined look at the different factions interacting in a city, the proper point of comparison for “City of Hope” shouldn’t be “Crash”, but “The Wire”.

Keep on filming, John Sayles! Can’t wait to see “Amigo”!

Posted By artistdon : June 17, 2011 4:32 am

One more vote for Lone Star. It simply blew me away, and it’s so refreshing to see a film about a community and its citizens -portrayed as three-dimensional for once – that is neither boring nor leading to a volcanic explosion. Chris Cooper should be in cast in twice as many roles as he gets, although seeing someone of his ilk in a big hollywood production seems a waste of talent.

Posted By artistdon : June 17, 2011 4:32 am

One more vote for Lone Star. It simply blew me away, and it’s so refreshing to see a film about a community and its citizens -portrayed as three-dimensional for once – that is neither boring nor leading to a volcanic explosion. Chris Cooper should be in cast in twice as many roles as he gets, although seeing someone of his ilk in a big hollywood production seems a waste of talent.

Posted By Mindy : June 17, 2011 10:44 am

Another vote for Lone Star.

Posted By Mindy : June 17, 2011 10:44 am

Another vote for Lone Star.

Posted By Walter Biggins : June 18, 2011 10:57 am

Lone Star is one of the greatest films of the 1990s. Just as Matewan hits you where you live, I grew up in Texas–albeit Dallas, not a border town–and it was astonishing how accurately Sayles (an outsider) conveyed the peculiarly Texan intersections of race, immigration, language, and masculinity.

Posted By Walter Biggins : June 18, 2011 10:57 am

Lone Star is one of the greatest films of the 1990s. Just as Matewan hits you where you live, I grew up in Texas–albeit Dallas, not a border town–and it was astonishing how accurately Sayles (an outsider) conveyed the peculiarly Texan intersections of race, immigration, language, and masculinity.

Posted By Yellow Rose : June 19, 2011 12:29 pm

Agree about Lone Star. One of the greatest films ever, what I think of as a rare “perfect” film: superb casting, direction, score, cinematography, characterization… all wrapped up in a compelling multi-layered and fully integrated storyline. Can’t think of any other artistic work in any genre that captures so well or so honestly the complexity that is Texas as metaphor for quintessential America.

Love the shifting interplay of pragmatism vs. mysticism in the gentle Roan Inish, too.

Okay. It’s an idiosyncratic list; I accept that. But Alligator? Really?

Posted By Yellow Rose : June 19, 2011 12:29 pm

Agree about Lone Star. One of the greatest films ever, what I think of as a rare “perfect” film: superb casting, direction, score, cinematography, characterization… all wrapped up in a compelling multi-layered and fully integrated storyline. Can’t think of any other artistic work in any genre that captures so well or so honestly the complexity that is Texas as metaphor for quintessential America.

Love the shifting interplay of pragmatism vs. mysticism in the gentle Roan Inish, too.

Okay. It’s an idiosyncratic list; I accept that. But Alligator? Really?

Posted By dukeroberts : June 22, 2011 2:16 pm

I must also throw a vote towards Lone Star. Seeing the class distinction between a Mexican long-lived and settled in Texas, looking down at an illegal immigrant who had newly crossed the border, was eye opening. Also, the biracial affair between a white man and black woman was handled with much more maturity than any other examination of such a relationship than I have seen. And that ending! Goodness! Cringe-inducing and sad at the same time.

I would also have Eight Men Out listed, as I used to be obsessed with baseball and it is a great story with a great ensemble cast.

My third choice would be Sunshine State. This choice is personal because it was shot 30 minutes up the road, for the most part. While he was down here filming the movie, I saw John Sayles out at a waterside restaurant/bar. He was having a good time with what appeared to be family and friends. I wanted to go speak to him so bad, but chickened out. Stupid me! And that goofy tour guide in the film? That was my college speech and film teacher, Mr. Smith. He once gave me a pass on writing a final because I was so much more advanced in my speech writing than any of the other students. Love that guy!

Posted By dukeroberts : June 22, 2011 2:16 pm

I must also throw a vote towards Lone Star. Seeing the class distinction between a Mexican long-lived and settled in Texas, looking down at an illegal immigrant who had newly crossed the border, was eye opening. Also, the biracial affair between a white man and black woman was handled with much more maturity than any other examination of such a relationship than I have seen. And that ending! Goodness! Cringe-inducing and sad at the same time.

I would also have Eight Men Out listed, as I used to be obsessed with baseball and it is a great story with a great ensemble cast.

My third choice would be Sunshine State. This choice is personal because it was shot 30 minutes up the road, for the most part. While he was down here filming the movie, I saw John Sayles out at a waterside restaurant/bar. He was having a good time with what appeared to be family and friends. I wanted to go speak to him so bad, but chickened out. Stupid me! And that goofy tour guide in the film? That was my college speech and film teacher, Mr. Smith. He once gave me a pass on writing a final because I was so much more advanced in my speech writing than any of the other students. Love that guy!

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