Archive for January, 2011

Peter Yates (1929-2011)

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

 Peter Yates, the four time Oscar nominated director, has died.  He was 81.  Yates is responsible for a handful of great movies, and many other movies worth checking out.  He’s probably best known for two films: Bullit and the classic coming-of-age film Breaking Away.  Here are my picks for the late Peter Yates’ five best movies.

1.  The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973).  One of the best crime films of the 70s, with a knockout cast that includes Peter Boyle, Alex Rocco, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats and, in one of his best roles, the one and only Robert Mitchum.  Finally out on DVD after many years being unavailable in any format, this is one of the hidden treasures of seventies cinema.  Plus, the Criterion Collection disc has a wonderful commentary by Yates.

2.  Bullit (1968).  Steve McQueen at the peak of his coolness.  A terrific police thriller that still holds up after all these years, with wonderful supporting turns by Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn and a small but vital role by Robert Duvall.  Yates’ use of San Francisco is phenomenal, and it’s still hard to top that car chase.

3.  Breaking Away (1979).  I love this movie.  It’s a timeless story of four small-town young men with big dreams: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earl Haley (my personal favorite of the four).  Yes, it’s a great sports movie, but it’s just a great movie period.  Funny, touching and just a touch bittersweet.  Paul Dooley and Barbara Barrie (Oscar nominated for this) steal the show as Christopher’s parents.

4.  Krull (1983).  You probably know that I’m a huge fan of eighties sci-fi/fantasy films, so, of course I have a soft spot for this Tolkienesque/Star Wars-ish throwback.  It’s super cheesy, but it’s also lots of fun.   We don’t celebrate cinematic junk food enough, I think, and this is one of my favorites.  I’m not ashamed to say that this is a great movie.  Remember, the Glaive is in you!

5.  The Dresser (1983).   1983 was a busy year for Yates, my goodness.  Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay deservedly scored Oscar nominations for this great behind the scenes look at an aging master thespian and his dresser, as he performs “King Lear” in Great Britain during World War II.  A brilliant film, with two extraordinary performances.