Five Favorite Films

Rachel Lambert's Five Favorite Films

The Director/Co-Writer of TIFF Premiere In the Radiant City Reveals the Film Her Friends Are Forbidden to Dislike and What Makes Her Dance in the Streets of New York.

by | September 13, 2016 | Comments

Photo by Rick Diamond / Getty Images

One of the films making waves at the Toronto International Film Festival this year is In the Radiant City, directed and co-written by Rachel Lambert. Having directed the short film Kin and the documentary Mom Jovi — which premiered at this year’s Nashville Film Festival — Radiant City is Lambert’s first scripted feature. Her background producing and writing for theatre doubly ensured her capacity for executing legitimate drama, be it on stage or screen. So, while her name may be new to you, her work experience is extensive and respected. Lambert is a true lover of film — something evidenced by her passion and thoughtfulness when discussing her five favorites with us. So check out the list here and get a head start on learning about this terrific up-and-coming talent:


The Godfather (1972) 99%

For one, I remember seeing it on the TNT marathon for a weird American holiday — a random birthday of a president or something — and they were doing this marathon, and I watched it and I watched it again and again and again on this marathon, and I couldn’t stop watching it. From that point on, I remember I went out and got the AFI top 100 list — back before you could look it up online — and I decided I was going to watch every single movie on that list.

Wonder Boys (2000) 81%

It’s dramatically different [from The Godfather] in terms of this town and the world of it. It’s a good movie, tremendously. I’m a writer, so obviously I enjoy the content because it’s about writer things and writer dramas and writer people. It’s just one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I can watch that movie over and over again. Robert Downey Jr. gives one of his best performances ever. And very funny. And I love Michael Douglas in it; he’s great. But it also has this wonderful capacity for pathos in this very earned way. It doesn’t feel kitsch. It feels really earned and honest, so it can play those lines really well.

The Big Lebowski (1998) 81%

My remaining three I organized by directors because I was like, “OK, there are three directors that I adhere to like gospel,” and so I collected my favorite of each of theirs. The third one being The Big Lebowski by the Coen Brothers [Ethan and Joel], because I think that if you can’t enjoy that movie than I don’t think we could ever be friends. It’s like a rule in my life. There is no way I could ever be friends with someone who didn’t find that entertaining and funny.

Is that the first thing you ask when you meet somebody?

“Hi, my name is Rachel. Did you like The Big Lebowski? No? Get out of my face. Get out [laughing].” I was really, really debating between that and Inside Llewyn Davis. I went with Big Lebowski because I thought, “Which one could I not live without?” That’s the one. I couldn’t live without it. A perfect example of why that movie is just so smart and so unexpected is they found the space in the narrative to have them all go to his landlord’s dance rehearsal — or dance recital, actually. They found space and made sure to take an afternoon to go to the landlord’s dance performance! I’ve never seen a movie make time for that. I thought it was brilliant, and I’m like, “Yeah , of course he’d go. That’s the kind of guy who would go. He said he was going to go, so he’d go.” I just thought that was genius.

Magnolia (1999) 84%

Paul Thomas Anderson. Magnolia. I just really love it. I mean, yeah, There Will be Blood is also a close contender; I love that too. But Magnolia — the audacity of it. I watched that movie and it’s scary by the end of it [laughing]. You’ve gone through this sort of tapestry of humanity that I feel is very hard to match in a lot of cinema these days. He is always surprising me, but that movie just… He finds a way to get the drama — he has a moment where everyone starts breaking out in unified song. And it feels totally authentic and earned. I’ve never seen a movie that does that but didn’t feel indulgent.

Jackie Brown (1997) 87%

Since I love Quentin Tarantino, I went with Jackie Brown – that’s my favorite Quentin Tarantino film. I could go on and on about why Tarantino is a master of dialogue and writing — I mean I love The Hateful Eight; I think that’s sort of genius of him as a director — but Jackie Brown is such a perfectly contained piece. It’s exciting but also has these perfectly human moments where characters are talking about growing older, and they ally themselves in this plot not because of… I mean there is gain financially and there is gain for personal reasons, but there is also this sort of camaraderie that’s born. It’s also incredibly clever and funny. I just love that. I love the soundtrack as well. You can’t love a Tarantino film and not love the soundtrack. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve strutted down New York City streets to Quentin Tarantino soundtracks! That’s for real. But I mean Jackie Brown is amazing, centered, and  [has] these unexpected characters. Samuel Jackson gives the performance of a lifetime.

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