Saturday, January 9, 2010

Favorites of My Favorites #3 -- Michael Mann

What American director working right now is a greater genre stylist than Michael Mann?  In my very humble opinion, no one.

I taught a course at the local university about a year ago on Mann and am a big fan.  To me, Mann's both classic and modern.  His style might be self-conscious, but he's not your typical post-modern director.  Most of his stories are fluid and told chronologically.  And his films never get into reeling off pop-culture references.   I love his blend of realism and style.  And you can count on me in the theater the first few days whenever he releases a new film.

I think Michael Mann's done as much as anyone to keep the crime film fresh and alive.  He has a wonderful eye for locations and a great ear for sound and music.  Very few, I think, are able to pursue as personal a career in Hollywood as he can.

MICHAEL MANN (in preferential order)
1.  Heat
2.  The Insider
3.  Thief
4.  Manhunter
5.  Ali
6.  Public Enemies
7.  The Last of the Mohicans
8.  Miami Vice
9.  Collateral
10.  The Jericho Mile
11.  The Keep

Never seen:
17 Days Down the Line


  1. Mann is by far #1 in my book. He is the king of making the audience love the villain and the hero at the same time and making us unsure of who to pull for. Look at Thief, Manhunter, Heat, Public Enemies and I use the Pacino line from Heat to describe them all. "All I am is what I'm going after."

  2. Great to see you here, Stephen! I think that's an excellent way to articulate a particularly Michael Mann talent.

  3. Couldn't agree more, mostly. :) I think you Miami Vice is generally underrated, because of baggage from the tv show and the fact that it isn't really about Miami police detectives, or at least doesn't seem to be. I'm also not a great fan of Thief, but Mann is a legitimate genius, no question.

  4. Hey, Patrick! Thanks so much for commenting here. I will need to re-visit MIAMI VICE one of these days. I saw it in the theater, I believe the day it came out. But I haven't seen it since.

    THIEF, I have seen numerous times. I remain a fan of the mood Mann creates and sustains (visually and aurally) in the film.

    Thanks for all the great support! Hope to see you here more often.

  5. He's one of the great ones in my are my five favorites:

    1. HEAT
    4. THIEF

  6. Jeremy: do you feel, like I do, that Friedkin and Cimino have been huge influences on Mann? I rarely read anything that discusses this at all. I once read though interestingly enough that at one point, I believe, Mann wanted Friedkin to play Lecktor in MANHUNTER.

  7. Late coming to this one, Jeffrey, but I have to comment on a director that I too am a big fan of. And although some are not big fans of his later work, I kind of like his style of ignoring background info and just dropping people right into the action. The big caveat for me with Mann is that there are some glaring omissions that I haven't seen (Thief, Manhunter) but of what I have seen I would rank my top 5:

    1. The Last of the Mohicans
    2. Heat
    3. Public Enemies
    4. Collateral
    5. The Insider

    I have Miami Vice literally sitting next to my DVD player waiting to be watched. Hopefully I'll get to it in the next few days.

    Hopefully you don't mind me leaving comments on some of the earlier posts in your archives... I'm having some fun looking at things I've missed before I found the place!

  8. Hey, Dave! Great to see you here. You have to see THIEF and MANHUNTER, like now. As a fan of Mann and of noir, I expect both to be right up your alley.

    I love your sentence, "I kind of like his style of ignoring background info and just dropping people right into the action." There's an abstract quality to Mann's work that really does it for me. At times, I almost feel like, as much as anyone, he's inventing new ways to use film language and showing us that certain things may longer be necessary.

    Please, by all means, comment anywhere and everywhere. The more the merrier, for sure.

    Thanks again!

  9. OK, I can now make a more complete Michael Mann list. I have now seen Thief and Manhunter - I loved the former and was not as crazy about the latter. Miami Vice was also a first time viewing for me and I thought it was really good. Another that acquired a bad critical rap and hasn't been able to shake it except for the few that champion it as being among Mann's best work. I don't quite think it's among his best, but it's close. Even though I still haven't seen The Jericho Mile and The Keep, here is a more complete list for me. The top two are really a tie and are completely interchangeable.

    1. The Last of the Mohicans
    2. Heat
    3. Thief
    4. Public Enemies
    5. Miami Vice
    6. Collateral
    7. Manhunter
    8. The Insider
    9. Ali

  10. Dave, great to see you making your way through Mann's work. He's definitely one of my favorite people working with the crime film right now.