It’s because of this that we at HeyUGuys (and in this case, we, is myself and Gary) have decided to set ourselves a project. To watch and review all 250 movies on the list! We’ve frozen the list as of 1st January this year. It’s not as simple as it sounds, as we’ll be watching them in one year, 125 each.
This is our nineteenth update, a rundown of my next five movies watched for the project.
(You can find last week’s update here)
Notorious (1946) – 8.2 No. 130
Another IMDb250 update, another Alfred Hitchcock film. It’s testament to his great storytelling, and the reputation he still holds, that there are so many of his movies on the list. I haven’t thus far been overwhelmed by the entries i’ve appraised so far however, so will Notorious convince me of the man’s true genius?
Ingrid Bergman is Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a traitor to the US. Following his conviction and subsequent death, she goes off the rails, turning to alcohol and the comfort of men. This makes her the ideal target for government agent T R Devlin, played by Cary Grant. He offers her the chance to redeem herself by going undercover in a sting operation against her father’s former Nazi associates. Her mission is to get close to a German businessman, Alexander Sebastian.
Alicia and Devlin have become very close, so when Sebastian proposes to her, she is torn between her feelings and her duty. Alicia and Devlin allow the marriage to go ahead, despite their mutual affection. This drives a wedge between them, and as Alicia gets close to uncovering Sebastian’s operations, and Devlin tries to help her through the ordeal safely, her German husband’s suspicions are aroused. Can Devlin help her see the mission out safely?
If the plot sounds familiar, you’ve seen Mission: Impossible 2. Clearly M:I2 screenwriter Robert Towne did too, as the broad plotline was cribbed quite closely for the John Woo-directed sequel. The story of a woman forced to play out a relationship with a man she despises has potential, but i don’t think it is worked through particularly well here. In fact, and i’ll take a lot of flak for this, but i think M:I2 actually plays it better, amongst so much else it fails at. The sense of jeopardy and threat just isn’t present enough here, until the final tense scene. The performances by Grant and Bergman are good, and their relationship is certainly layered. The cinematography is, as always, excellent. But there just isn’t enough suspense, and with a poor basic storyline and the weakest of Macguffins to carry, the suspense is what the movie should be built on.
So far i have been entertained by most of Hitchcock’s films on the list, but no more than that. Clearly, the rapid rate at which i’m watching films for the project isn’t allowing me to fully appreciate them, and the list of films i’ll need to revisit after the project is finished is growing at an alarming rate.
The Big Sleep (1946) – 8.1 No. 136
A few weeks ago i watched The Maltese Falcon, the first Humphrey Bogart vehicle i’ve watched in many years, and aside from a couple of the most famous ones, i haven’t really experienced much of his filmography at all. This is my second Bogart film of the project, so will The Big Sleep match up to the little man’s big reputation?
Bogart is Philip Marlowe, an LA private detective. When he is hired by a wealthy gentleman to help out his daughter Carmen with some creditors, he is pulled deep into much bigger mystery. The gentleman’s oldest daughter, Vivian, believes her father has ulterior motives, involving a missing associate.
The trail leads Marlowe to a murder, and a blackmail plot against his client’s younger daughter. The plot then becomes almost ridiculously complicated, with cross, double cross, bluff and double bluff. Much like in The Maltese Falcon, Bogart manages to stay one step ahead of the conspirators trying to stop him, and takes the final twist in his stride as he wraps up another case.
I won’t spoil the plot. It rattles on at an impressive pace, the story doesn’t sit still, and the rapid fire dialogue, particularly between Bogart and Lauren Bacall as Vivian, is wonderful. The twists are interesting, and the storyline as a whole is very entertaining. The romantic strand is a little dubious, a perennial problem with many movies from this period. But Bogart is infinitely watchable, and whilst he doesn’t really have classic movie star looks, his screen presence makes his allure believable.
After just two movies, i can see why Bogart was so popular. And it is refreshing to see an actor who doesn’t have a conventional, handsome look being given parts as a ladies’ man. I’m looking forward to seeing what Bogie has to offer next.
Oldboy (2003) – 8.2 No. 116
I have to be honest, and admit that my Korean movie skills are poor. It’s a large corner of the film market that i have cruelly neglected, so would my first experience sell me on pursuing the market further? Or is Oldboy just too mental a proposition?
Park Chan-wook directs, and Choi Min-sik stars as Oh Dae-su, a drunken businessman, husband and father. Following a particularly raucous night out, Dae-su disappears, and awakens imprisoned in a run-down hotel room. For 15 years he is held there, with no indication of why, and when he learns that his wife has been murdered, his daughter has been fostered, and he himself has been framed, he vows revenge, and spends the duration of his incarceration preparing for escape, and vengeance.
After being unexpectedly released, Dae-su strikes up a relationship with a female sushi chef, who aides him in his investigation. As he comes closer to the truth, his combat skills are put to heavy test, and the few people he still cares about are made to suffer by the people behind his ordeal. Dae-su discovers that a childhood friend, and an incest scandal hold the key to his punishment.
Excellent cinematography, well choreographed action, and a genuinely thought provoking storyline make Oldboy a fascinating movie to watch. It is also completely mental, which only adds to its appeal. What could have been made as a straightforward revenge film is subtlyintrospective, and beneath the over the top violence and extreme plot is a story that delves deep into the human psyche. The exploration of what 15 years of isolation does to the human mind is just the tip of the iceberg, and Oldboy really has to be seen several times to be truly appreciated.
The storyline has some almost unbelievable elements, and a brilliant ending is required to justify the extremity of what has come before. It does, however, pay off perfectly, and validates the madness, tying up all elements of the twisted plot.
A great introduction for me to Korean cinema, and i will be seeking out more movies, beginning with more of Chan-wook’s work, probably the first of his Vengeance Trilogy, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance. Oldboy is definitely a must watch.
Good Will Hunting (1197) – 8.0 No. 196
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were young actors, trying to break into the Hollywood big time. Frustrated by the lack of great offers, and big opportunities, they decided to write their own movie. With a bit of hustle and borrowed muscle, they managed to push it through development, and bagged an Oscar between them for Best Original Screenplay.
Damon plays the titular Will Hunting, and Affleck his childhood friend Chuckie Sullivan. Together with their other friends, they work manual labour jobs by day and tear it up at night. Working as a janitor at MIT, Will’s genius mind is revealed to one of the professors there when he easily solves a complicated equation. There’s a problem however. Will is arrested for assault, badly timed it so happens as he has just met Skylar, a beautiful and intelligent student played by Minnie Driver.
The professor manages to strike a deal, which involves Will being released into his custody, to work in the mathematics department alongside him. The catch is that Will must see a therapist. The brilliant young man proves a match for the minds brought in to help him work through his emotional problems, linked to childhood abuse. That is until Sean Maguire is brought in, a gifted psychologist played by Robin Williams. Maguire attempts to force Will to face his fears, and overcome the emotional blocks that stop him from making the most of his gift.
Good Will Hunting is a strange one. The storyline has some very good elements, and parts of it are genuinely affecting. There are also some contrived, poorly written moments alongside them. The battle of wits between Will and his parade of head doctors, and the allusions to his psychologically damaging childhood are well written and acted. Will’s romance with Skylar, and his relationship with his friends are very poorly written, with some terrible dialogue and poor acting.
What is really interesting is that two men who have forged careers as actors have seen their biggest success as writers. Affleck’s performance here is pretty bad, but Damon show the promise that has lead to a continued career in the spotlight. It helps that he shares scenes with the brilliant Robin Williams, who has never been better as the unassuming, highly talented therapist, who brings out Will’s true emotions, whils\t learning a lot about himself in the process.
This was the first time i’d seen Good Will Hunting, and i wasn’t all that excited to watch it. It does have some brilliance, but there is also a very amateur air about some of the storyline. I can see why it is in the list, but it is doubtful it would be in my own, and but for the presence of Robin Williams, i’d probably never choose to watch it again.
LA Confidential (1997) – 8.4 No. 63
There were a few movies in the nineties whose brilliance was predicated on a cleverly plotted twist. Seven and The Usual Supects both utilised this, both featured Kevin Spacey and both are featured in the IMDb250 list. There is a third movie that also meets these criteria, but somehow seems to be the forgotten cousin.
LA Confidential is director Curtis Hanson’s fifties crime noir, adapted alongside screenwriter Brian Helgeland from the James Ellroy novel. Guy Pearce plays Edmund Exley, a young, idealistic and highly ambitious cop. He rises through the ranks quickly, due in no small part to a police scandal involving among others fellow cops Bud White, played by Russell Crowe, and Spacey’s Jack Vincennes.
White is an ox of a man, with a quick temper and a fondness for helping out abused women. Vincennes is a veteran who has lost his way, enjoying the celebrity of his connection to the Badge of Honour TV show, letting his morals lapse in the process. The differing activities of all three men lead them to the same conspiracy, and they find their lives at risk not just from the scum on the streets, but by the trusted men that they call colleagues.
LA Confidential is drawn together by a big twist, but unlike Seven and The Usual Suspects it isn’t this that lends it its greatness. A fantastically written story, amazing acting performances and a perfect blend of suspense and action make LA Confidential not just one of the great films of the nineties, but one of the best ever committed to celluloid. It’s a long film, but races by, with no wasted motion whatsoever.
The turns by Pearce and Crowe, both young and unknown at the time, made their careers. Their performances are great, there is no doubt, but they are somewhat saddled with two-dimensional characters. That is why it is Spacey who shines, despite being reduced to a supporting role, as the seasoned detectiveforced to re-evaluate the way he has conducted his career. He is more reactive than proactive, but his brilliant scene with the force behind the corruption in the LA police force, which features the mention of a name that conjures just as much power as John Doe and Keiser Soze, is the stand out of an amazing movie.
If you’ve never seen it, watch it, if you’ve forgotten it, rediscover it, because LA Confidential doesn’t just deserve to be in the list, it should be in the top ten. Easily the best film i have watched for the project so far, it is going to take some beating to be surpassed in my end of the year evaluation of the project.
You can find Gary’s next update next Monday, and i’ll see you here in two weeks time.
Don’t forget, you can follow our progress on Twitter at and http://twitter.com/gary_phillips_.