Jeffrey Leathem reveals his five favorite films

January 11, 2019


Jeffrey Leathem

He may be a high school teacher, but this is Leathem’s true uniform.

As anyone that’s been in one of his classes knows, Jeffrey Leathem has some strong opinions on movies and the film industry, and he has the knowledge to back them up. After reading about other teachers’ lists, Leathem shared his opinions on their choices, sharing which ones he liked and which ones he didn’t. I decided to sit down with him for a discussion on his five favorite films, the hero archetype, and the history of the film industry.

Apocalypse Now

My third film was “Apocalypse Now,” which was supposed to be the second film made by American Zoetrope after “THX 1138.” It was supposed to be directed by Irvin Kershner, who did “Empire Strikes Back,” but after Zoetrope went bankrupt, it got pushed all the way to the back of the list. Coppola decided to do it in ‘79, and as a war film and as a psychedelic film that’s a product of the Vietnam-era of the ‘70s, I don’t think that, shot-for-shot, there’s a better war film than “Apocalypse Now.” It should have won an Oscar; it didn’t. It has fantastic performances from Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall, and of course Marlon Brando, among others, with a cameo by Harrison Ford and then a young Laurence Fishburne actually lied about his age in order to go to the Philippines to shoot. The Philippines were fighting a war while they were shooting, so the helicopters that you see in that movie are active Philippine Air Forces who weren’t killing rebels on the days where they were shooting.

This is Spinal Tap

Finally of course, there’s the one that’s a strange outlier: “This is Spinal Tap,” which is Christopher Guest and Rob Reiner film. That’s what also laid the groundwork for all of those other Christopher Guest films that people are probably more familiar with, like “Best in Show” or “Mighty Wind.”

SP:​ You picked a lot of movies that influenced you when you were younger, like ones you saw when you were in college and right when they came out. Are there any movies now that, if you that were remaking your list, have come out in like the last 10 to 20 years that you would include on your list instead of these?

JL:​ I think “Birdman” is brilliant. That movie blew me away the first time I saw it. Michael Keaton is spectacular, and that direction with the fluid cuts, which are seamless, make it almost like you’re watching a stage production on film, but you don’t miss anything that you would expect cinematically in that movie, and I think it’s great.

I’m also a huge Natalie Portman fan, and I think “Black Swan” is her best work. I would have put that one on the list from the more recent films.

“Django Unchained” is a really fantastic epic film from Tarantino, and he seems to have a little bit more patience in that film to develop scenes. He lets the actors do a little bit more work between cuts in “Django” than I think that he does in some of his other films, and I really liked his efforts there. Those are three good films that I would include on a list like this.

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