Milos Forman was in a real sweet spot in the early 1980s, what with this and 1984's "Amadeus." If there was a man built to deliver highbrow epics adapted from previous material, the Czech New Waver was your guy. There are a goodly amount of intertwining plot lines as befits an E. L. Doctorow work, and they survive the transition to film fairly well -- assisted by incredible performances by Brad Dourif, Howard Rollins, Jimmy Cagney, Elizabeth McGovern, Mary Steenburgen, and countless others. I am a big fan of this moment in American filmmaking where creators were aiming for the stars with ambitious historical epics (see "Reds" and "Heaven's Gate"), and we've lost something now that this particular idiom has been swept aside in feature films. Stepping into "Ragtime" is like finding a comfortable, bespoke shoe you didn't know you had, which fits perfectly and has always been intended for your use alone.