The New York Times, morning daily newspaper published in New York City, long the newspaper of record in the United States and one of the world’s great newspapers. Its strength is in its editorial excellence; it has never been the largest newspaper in terms of circulation.
The Times was established in 1851 as a penny paper that would avoid sensationalism and report the news in a restrained and objective fashion. It enjoyed early success as its editors set a pattern for the future by appealing to a cultured, intellectual readership instead of a mass audience. But its high moral tone was no asset in the heated competition of other papers for readers in New York City. Despite price increases, the Times was losing $1,000 a week when Adolph Simon Ochs bought it in 1896.
Ochs built the Times into an internationally respected daily. Aided by an editor he hired away from the New York Sun, Carr Van Anda, Ochs placed greater stress than ever on full reporting of the news of the day, maintained and emphasized existing good coverage of international news, eliminated fiction from the paper, added a Sunday magazine section, and reduced the paper’s newsstand price back to a penny. The paper’s imaginative and risky exploitation of all available resources to report every aspect of the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912 greatly enhanced its prestige. In its coverage of two world wars the Times continued to enhance its reputation for excellence in world news.
Shot on the fly in real locations with smartphones and a cast of mostly first-time actors, this “fast, raucously funny comedy about love and other misadventures” from the director Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”) is a vibrant and heartfelt story of life on the fringe. The plot concerns two transgender sex workers (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) and their various fortunes and misfortunes over a 24-hour period in Hollywood. Played differently, the material could have been sensationalistic, but it isn’t; Baker is, above all, a humanist, and he loves his characters no matter what kind of trouble they’re causing. (For more indie drama, try “Inside Llewyn Davis” or “All Is Lost.”)
‘The Terminator’ (1984)
Because it begat so many sequels, reboots, adaptations and other ephemera, it’s easy to forget that James Cameron’s original “Terminator” film was, as our critic put it, “a B-movie with flair” — a stripped-down, low-budget exploitation picture with an ingenious central idea, a well-selected cast and a director who knew how to stretch a dollar. Linda Hamilton is charismatic and sympathetic as Sarah Conner, a woman who discovers a cyborg from the future (a terrifying Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been sent to hunt her down. (Fans of ’80s action will also enjoy “Predator” and “RoboCop.”)
The Coen Brothers (“at their clever best,” per our critic) found their first big Oscar success — seven nominations and two wins — with this wildly funny and disturbing crime story. A wonderfully wormy William H. Macy stars as a used-car salesman who plots the kidnapping of his own wife in order to extract a handsome ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. The plan goes to pieces, thanks in no small part to a sharp-as-a-tack small-town police chief, played to plucky perfection by Frances McDormand; she won the first of her three Oscars for best actress for her carefully modulated performance, which deftly combines first-rate comic touches with genuine warmth and depth.
‘2 Days in New York’ (2012)
Julie Delpy, who plays the female lead in Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, created a chatty-couple series of her own with her 2007 treat “2 Days in Paris” and this witty sequel. She crafts an opposites-attract story for her brash, neurotic Frenchwoman and that woman’s Brooklynite boyfriend (well played by a slightly restrained Chris Rock). We then watch as their precariously balanced relationship implodes under the stress of a visit from family. It’s both a romantic comedy and a comedy of manners, in which the politeness of familial interactions is capsized by their subtext, and the relationship bends until it nearly breaks. (For more family-based cringe comedy, try “The Family Stone” or “The Descendants.”)
‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998)
Steven Spielberg won his second Academy Award for best director with this World War II epic that our critic called “soberly magnificent.” The film fuses the types and tropes of vintage war pictures with a less romanticized view of the horrors of combat. The virtuosic, nearly dialogue-free, over 20-minute recreation of the Omaha Beach landing at the start of the film is as vivid and visceral a demonstration that “war is hell” as has ever been put to celluloid. And while the story that follows — a no-nonsense captain (Tom Hanks) leads his shellshocked unit into Normandy in an attempt to find the sole surviving son (Matt Damon) of a battle-torn family — may be less intense, it’s no less powerful. (“The Great Escape” is a more traditional but still essential World War II adventure.)
Sidney Lumet (“Serpico,” “Network,” “Dog Day Afternoon,”) made his feature directorial debut with this “incisively revealing” ensemble piece — one of the great courtroom dramas, or more accurately, jury room dramas. Twelve jurors huddle up to determine the fate of the man they’ve just watched on trial for murder, and what seems to be an open-and-shut conviction is complicated by the questions and protestations of a single juror (Henry Fonda). Lee J. Cobb is his primary antagonist; Jack Warden, Martin Balsam and E.G. Marshall are among the impressive cast. (For more Fonda, try “On Golden Pond.”)
‘The Prestige’ (2006)
Between his first and second cracks at Batman, director Christopher Nolan slid in this twisty, stylish exercise in sleight-of-hand moviemaking, as if to assure the fans of his breakthrough movie “Memento” that he was still up to his old tricks. This time around, the term “tricks” is literal: In “The Prestige,” Nolan tells the story of two stage magicians in 1890s London, whose friendly rivalry first becomes fraught, then deadly. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale scheme and connive appropriately in the leading roles; a standout supporting cast includes Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall and David Bowie.
Matthew Broderick (at his charismatically smarmy best) plays a high school computer whiz who uses his chunky PC and primitive modem to dial in to what he thinks is a video game company — unaware that he has instead dialed into the U.S. military’s supercomputer and started a nuclear war simulation. The screenplay (by the future “Sneakers” writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes) is smart and snappy while the director John Badham (“Saturday Night Fever”) orchestrates an effective mix of high-stakes drama and low-key comedy that, according to our critic, “grabs us where we’re most vulnerable.”
‘Do the Right Thing’ (1989)
Spike Lee wrote, directed and co-starred in this drama of racial tensions on the rise during the hottest day of the summer. Lee sets his story on one block in Brooklyn, as a minor conflict in the neighborhood pizzeria escalates into a full-scale uprising, but it’s no mere polemic; he fills the frame with such vibrancy and humor that when the violence begins, it’s like a kick in the gut. Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro and Rosie Perez are among the four-star cast, while Danny Aiello was nominated for an Oscar for his complex work as the pizzeria owner. Our critic called it, simply, “one terrific movie.”
The filmmaker Adrienne Shelly helmed this charming small-town rom-com, which, our critic A.O. Scott writes, “blends familiar elements into something both satisfying and surprising.” Keri Russell stars as Jenna, a diner waitress who channels all of her energies and frustrations — from her dull job, her lifeless marriage and her surprise pregnancy — into her intricate and delicious pies. Russell’s offhand warmth is perfectly suited to this complicated character, and Nathan Fillion (“Firefly”) is charming as a local doctor with whom she stumbles into an affair. The film’s quiet whimsy is infused with melancholy — tragically, Shelly was killed between its completion and release. Her biggest success (it even spawned a Broadway musical), “Waitress” is a reminder of a talent taken too soon. (For more indie comedy, stream “The Opposite of Sex.”)
‘Get Shorty’ (1995)
The crime novels of Elmore Leonard had eluded filmmakers for years, until the director Barry Sonnenfeld (“Men in Black”) and the screenwriter Scott Frank cracked the code here. In this “clever Hollywood satire with an enlightened sense of fun,” John Travolta shines as Chili Palmer, a smooth-talking Miami debt collector who finds his skills are particularly valuable in the movie business; Gene Hackman is uproariously funny as the sketchy producer who is first Palmer’s target, and then his partner. (For more comedy, add “The Bad News Bears” or “Death at a Funeral” to your watchlist.)
‘Crazy Heart’ (2009)
Jeff Bridges won a long-overdue Academy Award for best actor in this adaptation of Thomas Cobb’s novel from the writer and director Scott Cooper. Bridges stars as “Bad” Blake, an alcoholic country singer-songwriter whose best days seem to be behind him. He falls hard for a younger music journalist (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and starts to think he might be able to turn his career, and his life, around. A.O. Scott called this “a small movie perfectly scaled to the big performance at its center.” (For more character-driven drama, try “127 Hours.”)
Few film actors have enjoyed a send-off as affectionate as Harry Dean Stanton, the inimitable and prolific character actor whose penultimate film role was also one of his few leads. He plays Lucky, a firecracker and curmudgeon who knows his end is near, but isn’t going out quietly. The director John Carroll Lynch is a distinguished character actor himself — he played Frances McDormand’s husband in “Fargo” and the lead suspect in “Zodiac” — and he handles his leading man with affection and respect. Our critic called it an “accumulation of spot-on performances and long-familiar faces.” (Indie drama fans can also stream “The Indian Runner” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”)
‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ (1966)
The actor Zero Mostel is an absolute gas in this leading role of this “leering clown of a movie,” adapted from the Broadway smash with energy and verve by the director Richard Lester (“A Hard Day’s Night”). Mostel stars as Pseudolus, a fast-talking and faster-thinking slave in ancient Rome who cooks up a plot to win his freedom, with uproarious complications blocking his path at every turn. Lester keeps things moving at a healthy clip, smoothly weaving in slapstick set pieces and songs from the great Stephen Sondheim. Keep an eye out for Buster Keaton in his final feature film role. (If you love classic musicals, add “Funny Girl” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” to your watch list.)
‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)
The masterful British directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger helmed this mesmerizing drama about ballet, loosely adapted from the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. The filmmakers (and their fellow screenwriter Keith Winter) combine the conventions of the backstage drama with the operatic emotions of the dance itself, telling the story of a ballerina (Moira Shearer, divine) who finds herself caught between the company’s powerful owner (Anton Walbrook) and the composer she loves (Marius Goring). Our critic deemed it “a visual and emotional comprehension of all the grace and rhythm and power of the ballet.”