Sunday, July 26, 2015

by Janet Lawler 

This week the BBC conducted a new poll asking what are the 100 greatest American films. You might be surprised and shocked that many Oscar winners for Best Picture and Nominations didn't make the cut. The Deer Hunter?  Nope. Sorry.

Which movies are your favorites?  I've highlighted my picks. These movies impacted my life.  Probably did yours too.  Certain movies stick with you for a lifetime or remind us where we were when we first saw them.  I'm sure your list will be different than mine, but that's because different stories speak to different audiences.  Maybe you're a Billy Wilder fan, or a Alfred Hitchcock aficionado, or a lover of Sci-Fi.
 But, seriously, how could they leave The Sound of Music off this list?

The 100 greatest American film

100. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951)
99. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
98. Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)
97. Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
96. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
95. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
94. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
93. Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
92. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
91. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
90. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
89. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
88. West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961)
87. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
86. The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994)
85. Night of the Living Dead (George A Romero, 1968)  This movie terrified me as a kid!
84. Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)
83. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
82. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
81. Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)
80. Meet Me in St Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)
79. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
78. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
77. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
76. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
75. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
74. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
73. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)   Sidney Lumet is one of my favorite directors.
72. The Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1941)
71. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
70. The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953)
69. Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
68. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
67. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
66. Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)
65. The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1983)
64. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
63. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
62. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
61. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
60. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
59. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975)
58. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
57. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989)
56. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
55. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)   Mrs. Robinson... you know the rest.
54. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
53. Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, 1975)  Can't turn away.
52. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
51. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
50. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)  LOVE Rosalind Russell!
49. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
48. A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
47. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)
46. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)   Speaks to my soul!
45. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962) John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and a spectacular Lee Marvin as the meaner than mean Liberty Valance.  Rent it!
44. Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
43. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948)
42. Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
41. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
40. Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943)
39. The Birth of a Nation (DW Griffith, 1915)
38. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)  Changed the movie business and summer movies. Love it!
37. Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
36. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)   What can be said that hasn't already?  Theme song still gives us chills.
35. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
34. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)  Come here, my pretty!
33. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)  Now that's a thriller.
32. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
31. A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)
30. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)  "Well, nobody's perfect."  Amen to that!
29. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980) 
28. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) Had me scratching my head the first time I saw it, but then I came to admire every aspect of this film.
27. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
26. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1978)
25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)  Unfortunately, still relevant for our times.
24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)  Shirley MacLaine stole hearts.
23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)   Ah, New York.
22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)    "I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh."
19. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)  "You talkin' to... " you know the rest.
18. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
17. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
16. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
15. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
14. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
13. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
12. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)  Screenwriter's bible
11. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
10. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)   "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." Michael Corleone
9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)   Still makes me shower with one eye open!
7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) "It's not personal, Sonny, it's strictly business."
Don Corleone: Tell me, do you spend time with your family?
Johnny Fontane: Sure I do.
Don Corleone: Good. Because a man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

Until next time. 

You can follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet Lawler's debut novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


I often ask myself, "Self, what ever made you want to become a screenwriter?"

Self only has one good answer -- you love movies!

Today, the Academy of Motion Pictures moved me a tad closer to my life-long dream with this e-mail about my script placing in the 2015 Nicholl Fellowship for Screenwriting:

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

July 17, 2015

Dear Janet,

Congratulations!  You have advanced to the Quarterfinal Round of the 2015 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.  By doing so, yours is one of only 375 entries to escape the First Round.

With 7,442 scripts entered, the initial round was extremely competitive and made the selection of quarterfinalists a difficult task.  You may already have an inkling of the quality of this year’s screenplays if you’ve been following the reader comment excerpts posted on the Academy Nicholl Facebook page.  

To give you an idea of the selection process, The Tenant was evaluated by three judges drawn from a diverse group of film professionals.  After the top three scores were tallied, the highest scoring scripts advanced to the Quarterfinals.

During the Quarterfinal Round, your script will be read by at least two additional judges.  As was the case in the First Round, these judges will read the scripts without seeing application forms, log lines or prior scores and comments; they will know nothing about you and your script other than what is on your script’s pages.  We expect that about 150 of the Quarterfinalist screenplays will advance to the Semifinal Round.

If earnings greater than $25,000 have recently made you ineligible, please let us know as soon as possible via email to

Watch for a follow-up email regarding Quarterfinalist Contact List information and your log line. That will be sent in about a week or so.
Good luck through the remainder of the competition.

Greg Beal
Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

BREAK OUT THE CHAMPAGNE!  Congratulations to ALL the Quarter Finalists. This is a great honor.  I'd like to thank the Academy... oh, and of course, my mother. Now fingers crossed for the semifinals round.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Lucious and Cookie

The TV Academy won't have to deal with Cookie Lyon's wrath.  Although they snubbed her hit TV show EMPIRE for an Emmy nom, the actress Taraji P. Henson received one for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.  

Taraji delivers the heat and the best lines on the FOX show every week.  Unfortunately, Terrence Howard (EMPIRE) was overlooked for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.  The TV Academy may not want to diss Lucious Lyon next year.

Other Noms for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series include: Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Kyle Chandler (Bloodline), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Jeff Daniels (Newsroom), Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan and Better Call Saul's Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill.  Pretty tough competition.


There are the usual suspects for Outstanding Comedy Series: PARKS AND RECREATION, VEEP and MODERN FAMILY (that show gets funnier each year).  The fabulous Amazon show TRANSPARENT received a nod, as well as LOUIE, SILICON VALLEY and UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT.
Creator Jill Solloway and Cast of Transparent
  Outstanding Lead Actresses besides Taraji P. Henson in EMPIRE include Claire Danes in HOMELAND, Robin Wright in HOUSE OF CARDS, the amazing Tatiana Maslany in ORPHAN BLACK (who plays six characters on the show); MAD MEN's Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson and Viola Davis for HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER.

The Emmy Awards air on the FOX on Sept. 20th.  More categories below.   

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
black-ish • ABC • ABC Studios
Anthony Anderson as Andre Johnson

Episodes • Showtime • SHOWTIME Presents, Hat Trick Productions, Crane Klarik Productions
Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc

House Of Lies • Showtime • SHOWTIME Presents, Crescendo Productions, Refugee Productions, Matthew Carnahan Circus Products
Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan

The Last Man On Earth • FOX • 20th Century Fox Television
Will Forte as Phil Miller

Louie • FX Networks • Pig Newton, Inc. and FX Productions
Louis C.K. as Louie

Shameless • Showtime • SHOWTIME Presents, John Wells Productions, Warner Bros. Television
William H. Macy as Frank Gallagher

Transparent • Amazon Instant Video • Amazon Studios
Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
The Comeback • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Michael Patrick King Productions, Is or Isn’t Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television
Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish

Grace And Frankie • Netflix • Skydance Productions for Netflix
Lily Tomlin as Frankie

Inside Amy Schumer • Comedy Central • Jax Media
Amy Schumer as Amy

Nurse Jackie • Showtime • SHOWTIME Presents, Lionsgate Television, Jackson Group Entertainment, A Caryn Mandabach Production, Clyde Phillips Productions
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton

Parks And Recreation • NBC • Deedle-Dee Productions, Fremulon, 3 Arts Entertainment and Universal Television
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope

Veep • HBO • HBO Entertainment in association with Dundee Productions
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as President Selina Meyer

Until next time.

Monday, May 04, 2015

by Janet Lawler
Posted May 4, 2015

Recently, I did something I thought I'd never do.

I left New York.

Yes, I broke up with the greatest city on earth.  My city.  I didn't just leave it; I left it for another state. California. That sunny, palm-tree swaying, movie crazed, West Coast state.
 I took this photo in Central Park last fall
Why leave New York? In my opinion, there is a time to come to NYC and a time to leave it.  It was a hard decision. So, how do I feel now having left it? 

Like one feels after any breakup, even the inevitable one: guilty, relieved, sad and yet excited for the new challenges and changes. 
Moving Day - after 10 years in Astoria
I'll forever be a native New Yorker. My childhood and adult roots remain in that glorious, harsh, frantic, dazzling, loud, edgy, concrete jungle. 

My most memorable moments from living in NYC?

Oh. So many. Getting married at City Hall; watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve, Broadway shows, MSG concerts (Madonna and Fleetwood Mac), having my first play performed in the Big Apple, attending the World Series in 2001 at Yankee Stadium, just a month after 9/11. Game 5 against the AZ Diamondbacks. The Yankees won that game at home.  NYPD cops and baseball fans hugged and cried at the end of that World Series game as the song "New York, New York" bellowed at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

I'll especially miss all the fabulous friends I made living and working in Queens and Manhattan. From my coworkers, to my neighbors, to family and friends.  New Yorkers are a tough, loyal and witty group.  So are those I love in CT and NJ.
In March, we packed up the car and drove for 3,000 plus miles across the United States heading west.

It was a SPECTACULAR experience driving across so many states (NY, NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, MO, OK, TX, AZ and CA) seeing how the "middle" of the country lives -- tasting new foods, meeting new people, staying in roadside hotels and cruising the interstates with truckers. We took our time and visited friends and family we hadn't seen in years.  (Sometimes Facebook or emails just don't cut it anymore. You have to make time to SEE people you care about.)
A great day in Chicago
Sunset on the Interstate. God bless all the truckers keeping America moving.

Great Texas chow
My random road observations: New York is still the charmer with its skyscrapers and Hudson River, but there is a vast, vibrant, diverse country in America.  It's not only the East and West Coasters that matter or power this great nation.  There are millions of people in between NY and LA that also make a difference. Their pace is slower .  There is lots of open land.  Gas and restaurants are much cheaper.  And, America is also a faithful country, filled with lovely small towns and back roads.
Sweet Austin, Texas

Superstition Mountains in AZ
 We loved Columbus, Ohio for it's quaint town and parks; Pennsylvania for it's Amish countryside and family-style restaurants; Indiana for its  Midwest easiness and universities; Missouri for its Gateway Arch; Texas for it's great steak, BBQ, wineries and Austin flare; Chicago for it's skyline and downtown sites; Oklahoma for its land; Arizona for it's breathtaking mountains, desert and southwestern fare.  And, finally, California, well, what can you say?  The Pacific Coast glistens. The sunshine lifts your soul.  The surfers. The fish tacos. It's a place where you can be whatever you want to be, however you want to be it, and do a little surfing too.

So, again you ask -- no seriously, why did you leave New York?

Well, life is about change.  It's about growing.  We stayed in the same apartment for over a decade (a 5 story walk up, old apartment).  The winters are getting tougher.  New York City is a costly place to live short-term and especially long-term.  You get more for your buck elsewhere (simple things like a free parking space in your driveway, washer and dryer in your unit, roomier bedrooms, kitchen and living room, stores close by and quality of life.)  Now, I wouldn't trade a second of my years in NYC, but it was time to say farewell, for now.  We may come back someday; we may not.  Who knows?

My other big reason for moving to California is because I love the movies and writing (especially screenplays). So what better place to be than in southern California?  It's a kick in the pants here.  I always wanted to move to southern California -- now I have. Dreams come true on their own timeline. 
Surfer in La Jolla, CA
So, now my dilemma is with this blog you're reading. The NY Screenwriting Life started in 2005.  That's right, over ten years ago!  It has over 30,000 hits, thanks to you!  So, should I rename it?  And if so, to what?  Or should I close up shop and start a new blog in CA.  I'd welcome any ideas or suggestions.

Well, that's it. I hope my cross country move inspires you to examine your own life.  Are you living where you want to live?  Working where you want to work?  If not, take a risk.  Maybe change jobs. Write that screenplay.  Make that short film, finally. Drive or fly to a state you've always wanted to visit but haven't found time to do. You'll meet some cool folks along the way.

Black Beach in La Jolla
It's a gorgeous day here in CA. Think I'll go for a walk on the beach.
Until next time.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is also a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Janet J. Lawler
Posted: May 2, 2015
San Diego, CA

It's that time of year when screenwriters across the globe enter their movie scripts in a plethora of writing contests. 

It's costly and time-consuming to fill out all the contest applications, but it's a chance to get your work read by industry big shots.

I just uploaded my script The Tenant to the Austin Film Festival, Scriptapalooza, Nicholls Fellowship, Sundance Screenwriting Lab, BlueCat, PAGE International, Big Break and the Writers Lab.
Meryl Streep funds writing lab for women over 40
The latter lab received mega publicity when it was announced that Meryl Streep funded the screenwriters lab for women writers over 40, to be run by New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers.

How cool is THAT?!

You might recall Meryl Streep jumped out of her seat at this year's Oscars when Patricia Arquette mentioned women's equality during her Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech.  It struck a chord. Let's face it, Streep reads a lot of scripts.  She apparently sees a lack of women's narrative on the page (and screen) and is doing something about it.  Thanks, Meryl, from all the screenwriters (who just happen to be women) and want their voices heard down the cinema from The Avengers.

The official deadline for the Writers Lab is June 1, 2015 at 5PM EST.  So if you're a gal over 40, born on or before June 1, 1975 -- and you're a US citizen -- then you have a shot at this writers lab funded by Streep in NY.

You'll also need to have your script registered with the WGA , format your script as a PDF file and pony up the application fee ($25 for NYWIFT members and $55 for non-members). The Lab will take place September 18-20, 2015, at Wiawaka Center for Women, on Lake George. Here is the link to the Writers Lab

There are a gazillion contests out there for everyone.  So get busy and submit that killer script of yours before the final deadline, or better yet, before the early bird entry deadline.


Until next time.

Be sure to follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler's novel from the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

by Janet J. Lawler
Revised Dec. 24th, 2014

There are so many good movies coming out Christmas week, but one that hasn't received a lot of buzz, but definitely should, is BIG EYES.  It stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz.  It's the riveting story about a married couple, artists Margaret & Walter Keane.  Margaret paints pictures of moppets with huge, charcoal eyes.  It's her passion. She's reserved and not very self-assured about her life (recently divorced with a young daughter) and she's especially insecure about her art.  Her second husband, Walter, comes into her life and sweeps her off her feet with tales about his stay in Paris where he painted street scenes and lived the starving artist's life in Europe.  He's cocky, sociable and believes in his wife's talent.  So far so good... 

When Margaret's paintings begin to catch eyes (pardon the pun) and pull in money, Walter sees a gold mine in the making.  His own work isn't selling.  So he tells his wife that people don't buy "lady art" and he should claim to be the creator of her popular paintings.  He charms the unsuspecting public (collecting $5,000 a pop for Margaret's paintings, but signing HIS name on them).  He also sells posters and postcards of the work.  It becomes one big eyes fraud bringing them wealth and luxury.
Tim Burton directs
It takes awhile for Margaret (played superbly by Amy Adams) to stand up for herself, locked away in their new California house painting, losing friends and her identity along the way, not to mention her self-respect. But when Margaret finally finds the strength to confront her conniving, domineering husband, sparks fly and the conflict over ownership of the works land them in court.

As they say, it's not the crime, it's the cover up that does people in.

Big Eyes has one of the best courtroom scenes. Christoph Waltz is both amusing and yet a lunatic.  It's hard not to like him, until you realize what he's capable of doing to hold on to his dream of being a "famous painter".  This is a biopic  It took ten years to come to the big screen, directed by Tim Burton (every frame of this movie is captivating and a canvas of beauty from framing to lighting to costumes).  Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski do a wonderful job of writing a tale about marriage and compromise in a dramatic, suspenseful and comical style.  The film is also beautifully shot with the colorfulness of San Francisco during the 50s and 60s.

Here is the trailer for the movie.


This North Korea/Sony Pictures hacking invasion is one of the biggest stories to come along in awhile.  It has the entire country riveted, the entertainment industry paralyzed in fear and causing Americans to wonder just how secure their privacy is at their own corporate jobs.

Should Sony have pulled The Interview from release?  Would North Korea go so far as to blow up a movie theater or kill moviegoers during Christmas week?  Some people don't think it's worth the risk to take and others think, as Americans, we don't back down to threats.  I agree with the ladder.  As a New Yorker, I lived through 9/11 firsthand and we didn't stop going to restaurants, walking down the street, shopping on Fifth Avenue or going to the World Series in New York City that horrible fall.  Hit us and we'll hit you back harder, but we never run scared.  Never have, never will.  Not in New York, not in America.  I get that Sony is afraid to have more lawsuits or problems (and public email disclosures), but if all of Hollywood and all the movie chains stood firm together, North Korea wouldn't have the upper hand.  It's not too late.

This is too serious.  We can't allow another country, a dictator, to tell us what we can see, hear or create.  This is America.  We may not all get along here, have the same political or religious views, but we do value freedom.  It's a cyber war and we've lost the first battle, but it's far from over.  Stay tuned in 2015.

UPDATE:  Sony is releasing The Interview in time for Christmas in theaters and on demand.  You can exercise your rights by watching it on YouTube, Google Play and other digital outlets starting today and Christmas Day.

Central Park in December
This is one of my favorite times of year living in New York.  The streets are full with tourists, the restaurants buzzing with company parties, couples taking horse and carriage rides through Central Park and Rockefeller Center welcoming skaters from around the world.  I'm headed to Ireland for New Year's Eve.  It's my first time traveling to Dublin and it's a dream come true to go to the land of my heritage.  I'll lift a pint and think of you all on New Year's Eve... until then, have a WONDERFUL, safe and healthy Christmas and holiday season!

See you in 2015.  It's going to be one of the best years ever!!
Happy Holidays.

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is also a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.

Friday, November 28, 2014

CHASTAIN: Like Carmella Soprano... only with a gun.
by Janet J. Lawler
Updated: Dec. 11, 2014
New York

Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year
The Golden Globe Awards were announced today.  Jessica Chastain is nominated as Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for A Most Violent Year. 

Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac and director J.C. Chandlor
I attended a screening sponsored by the Producer's Guild at the DGA Theater on W. 57th St. for this new film A Most Violent Year.  The movie comes out Dec. 31st.  If you love crime dramas in the vein of The French Connection, The Sopranos, Serpico or even, yes, The Godfather -- this movie is for you.

It's one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. I plan to see it again when it comes out in theaters.

A Most Violent Year stars outstanding actors  Oscar Isaac (INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) and Jessica Chastain (ZERO DARK THIRTY).  Isaac portrays an immigrant who is trying to make his mark in the oil-and-heating industry in NYC in 1981 (one of the most violent years in NY history).  He's a moral, family man with quiet manner.  He takes pride in his business, his family and his word.  Soon, he finds himself the target of unprovoked attacks against his business from competitors who beat up his truck drivers and steal his oil.  Should be arm his drivers with pistols?  Fight back with the same dirty, corrupt tactics he's confronting?  

It's a moral dilemma that keeps the audience engaged and rooting for Isaac as he takes one hit after another.   
Chastain plays his tough Staten Island wife (with a helluva Armani wardrobe!).  She's the daughter of an ex-mobster, who knows her way around guns and political and industry tricks.  Imagine Carmella Soprano with a gun.  You don't want to mess with her or her family.

Chastain's character adds a nice balance to her hard-working, big-hearted, but sometimes naive, husband.  Chastain brings weight to any role she plays and has several key scenes that had the audience stunned by her actions.

J.C. Chandlor (ALL IS LOST) is the producer, director and writer of A Most Violent Year.  Chandlor keeps the story moving at a steady clip -- making us root for the businessman with the style and manner of Michael Corleone (slow, soft spoken and immigrant proud).  Except Chandlor's character is a moral man who plans to fight back in his own way without losing his soul.

Being a native New Yorker,  I know firsthand the time period (1981) this movie portrays with its spray-painted subway cars, crime on the streets and city corruption.  It was a bleak time for New York City. This movie captures that sense of fear, paranoia and desperation.

It reminds me of the iconic movies I grew up on and loved by acclaimed NY director Sidney Lumet (DOG DAY AFTERNOON, NETWORK, SERPICO, PRINCE OF THE CITY).

If you too miss those grimy, suspenseful crime-drama movies set in New York from a time gone by, don't miss seeing A MOST VIOLENT YEAR.

Watch the movie trailer here:

Follow The NY Screenwriting Life on Facebook.  Janet J. Lawler is also a published author and playwright.  Her first novel From the Ground Up is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.