It’s because of this that we at HeyUGuys (and in this case, we, is myself and Barry) 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.
Week 20, 100 films down 150 to go. One of my favorite weeks of film viewing was week 20 as I finally got round to watching the whole of Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ which has been a film that I’ve always started but never got past the opening 10 minutes for one reason or another and now finally I did and I really cant choose which is better this or the equally incredible ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ which I watched before it and both are such incredible pieces of film making and story telling that it’s impossible to say. I also watched the glorious ‘The Princess Bride’ followed by the surprise hit ‘In Bruges’ which was such a good film and so under appreciated on its release, alas I also watched the ‘Battle of Algiers’ which I did not enjoy so much due to subject material but I will talk more of that later.
No.4 – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966) – Rating 8.9
Sergio Leone’s greatest ever film according to almost everyone voting on these films and at the incredible heights of Number Four in the IMDb 250 it’s apparently one of the greatest films of all time.
TGTBTU is one of those magical films that has the perfect casting, story, look and authenticity as we follow three gunslingers crossing and double-crossing at every opportunity each after a Confederate stash of gold hidden in a soldier’s grave. The three wonderful lead characters are the world weary “Good” Blondie (Clint Eastwood), the cruel and self serving “Bad” Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) and the sorry but comical “Ugly” Tuco (Eli Wallach).
Blondie and Tuco have a scam going where Blondie brings Tuco in for his bounty and as he is about to hang Blondie shoots the noose rope and sets him free, the two meet up, share the earnings and set off to the next town. Together, after much double crossing against each other, they come across a defeated and almost dead Civil war troop and find a solider called Bill Carson who tells Tuco the location of the cemetery where the hidden gold is buried, Blondie however distracts Tuco and is told the name of the grave before Carson dies creating a bond they can no longer break if they want to find the gold. The pair eventually get captured by the Union soldiers where they meet Angel Eyes who too knows of the rumored buried gold and has been seeking Bill Carson to find the location and so beats the location out of Tuco (pretending to be Carson) however Angel Eyes knows Blondie wont give up the grave and so strikes a deal with him to share the gold.
Everything builds towards a dramatic three-way Mexican standoff climax with all three characters facing each other in a large ring looking at each other not knowing who will draw first and who will shoot who, the quick cuts and close ups heighten the tension which is in turn heightened by Ennio Morricone’s magnificent score to make one of the best movie sequences of all time. The film overall is phenomenal, the acting is enjoyable, the story flows from scene to scene building allegiances and suspicion with the main characters which is the films strength. Clint Eastwood is at his best as Blondie and is the epitome of cool and Lee Van Cleef is the perfect villain for the film but it’s Eli Wallach who is the star of the film as he puts in one of the most enjoyable roles you will see in almost any of the 250 films on the list, he’s funny, ruthless and completely believable as Tuco the Ugly.
The only grudge I can possibly think of with the film is the dubbing/lip syncing which has always been an issue with Leone’s movies as actors spoke in their native tongue (which was predominantly Italian) which was then dubbed into English, Leone also use to shout directions to actors while Morricone’s score blasted out then getting actors to re-record their dialogue adding it into the final edit creating the lip syncing issues, however this is a minor grudge and an issue which actually adds a likable uniqueness about Leone’s films which I wouldn’t change for the world.
I’m surprised TGTBTU is placed No.4 in the list as I never thought it would be a film that would have been so widely appreciated but I fully understand why it’s there. Sergio Leone is a god of film making and has now made the Western genre my favorite genre to watch.
No.23 – Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) – Rating 8.7
Henry Fonda as a bad guy in a Sergio Leone western film, what a bloody great idea. Apparently Fonda turned down the role of Frank before Leone flew to New York and sold it to him by saying “Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera tilts up to the gunman’s face and…it’s Henry Fonda.” That is so dam cool, I love that sort of trivia about casting.
Sergio Leone’s follow up to ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ is an epic Western film that has no match in size or style, it’s Leone’s masterpiece of the period and has some of the most incredible characters and scenes that are paired off perfectly again by the wonderful score from Ennio Morricone which makes the film one of the most memorable movies I’ve seen from the IMDb250 list so far.
The film opens with one of the greatest opening scenes of all time, I won’t go to much into it but it is just Leone at his best, Set at a wonderfully authentic designed train station on a platform made from wooden planks and lasting about 7 minutes it sets the scene perfectly with three unknown cowboys passing the time in the hot sun, it’s a treat both visually and audibly and I can’t think of a better opening scene ever made and it introduces us to one of our main characters known as ‘Harmonica’ (the brilliant Charles Bronson) who has his own agenda with Frank but gets caught up in plot of a corrupt railroad company which has hired Frank (Fonda) to frighten a newly widowed Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) off her valuable land, add to this Jason Robard’s awesome no good outlaw Cheyenne whose gang get framed for killing the McBain family and seeks retribution then you have the basis of an incredible story that boils up to another stunning Sergio Leone conclusion.
I love that Sergio Leone got help from Dario Argento Bernardo and Bertoluccito help him create the film, They apparently spent about a year watching a whole host of classic Westerns such as High Noon, The Searchers, and specifically Johnny Guitar at Leone’s house and created the story made up of nods to Leone’s favourite genre and his ultimate ever film.
There is just so much eye candy to take in from the glorious opening scene at the train station to the wide shoots of the wild west being slowly changed forever with the arrival of civilization from the building of the rail road which marks the end to the mythical Cowboy period that filled Sergio Leone’s movies for seven glorious years. I consider Once Upon a Time in the West as the greatest western film ever made, it’s a stunning piece of work that will forever sit in my favorite movies of all time.
No.175 – The Princess Bride (1987) – Rating
I remember first watching Rob Reiner’s 1987 adaptation of William Goldman’s novel and being blown away by it in the late 80’s and as a Fantasy Movie fanatic at the time with Labyrinth, Willow, Legend, Krull, Conan, Beastmaster and Hawk the Slayer all featuring highly in my film collection, The Princess Bride was clearly one of the best.
The plot is of a farm boy turned pirate Westley (Cary Elwes) who has to fight his way past giants, an elite vengeful spanish sword fighter, a genius, Cliffs of Insanity, the Pit of Despair and rodents of unusual size in order to be reunited with the love of his life princess Buttercup (Robin Wright). Unfortunately, she is due to be married to Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon) who will stop at nothing to get Princess Buttercup to marry him and to kill the Dread Pirate Roberts (Westley) who has fled with Buttercup.
Princess Bride is brilliantly scripted and is an incredibly funny ride which is filled with some incredible fun cameos from the likes of Peter Cook as a clergyman with a speech impediment, Mel Smith as an albino torture assistant, and the wonderful Billy Crystal playing a Jewish faith healer. Andre the Giant plays the highly likable Giant Fezzik that teams up with Westley and provides a slightly inaudible performance, but it’s Mandy Patinkin who steals the film as the Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya intent on avenging the death of his murdered father by a six fingered man named Count Rugen played by the genius that is Christopher Guest.
It all comes together perfectly to provide a wonderful take of the fairytale genre coming close to mocking it but showing plenty of heart, humour and excitement. The characters are marvellously realised, wonderfully quotable (Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, You killed my father, prepare to die) and all are forever memorable which is why The Princess Bride deserves its place in the Top 250 Films.
No.185 – In Bruges (2008) – Rating
This is a film that never caught my attention when it was released in 2008 but I wish it did, In Bruges is a quality film with superb dialogue, great characters, loads of dark humor and the “shithole” that is Bruges.
Collin Farrell stars as Ray who along with his mentor Ken, played by the great Brendan Gleeson, flee from London to the medieval town of Bruges after Ray’s debut job as a hitman ends in failure. The two were instructed to go sight seeing but Ray spends most of his time whining about the town and mocking Ken’s attempts to take in the culture. But when Ray meets a local called Chloe (Clémence Poésy) who works on the set of a bizarre Dutch film he starts to take an interest in Bruges forgetting about the reason he is there and unaware of his bosses intended plan for him.
The dynamic relationship between Farrell and Gleeson grows more and more fascinating as we learn more about what their exploits that got them to Bruges in the first place and their attempts at sightseeing is at times hilarious especially regarding the climb to the top of a tower and Ray’s insistence and consequence for telling a rather portly American shouldn’t bother is dam funny and the laughs keep coming, mainly from Farrell who is in his best role for me to date and dishes out some of the best lines I’ve heard which is part of the reason why the film is rated so highly.
The film has some wonderful scenes throughout, some bizarre some hilarious and some pretty brutal and with the arrival of Ralph Fiennes as the film stealing Harry, their boss, it takes an unexpected turn. Fiennes delivers a fantastic performance putting on accent and a philosophy far from what he is known for, very reminiscent of Ben Kingsley Don Logan from Sexy Beast, and adds a very intimidating danger to Ray and Ken’s sightseeing in Bruges.
An excellent and incredibly surprising film that was 100 times better than I ever thought it was going to be, I’m no fan of Farrell but after watching In Bruges I’m a bigger fan of his now. It’s funny, it’s really funny, it’s shocking, highly entertaining and although I doubt it will hold it’s position in the top 200 films I’m sure it will remain in the top 250 films for a long time to come.
No.236 – Battle of Algiers (1966) – Rating 7.9
Battle of Algiers is the first film that I’ve seen from the IMDb250 List that is there purely on the message it is trying to send and the power of it. That doesn’t make it a great film however, The characters were not that interesting and there was no main character of such to follow or connect with which I feel is very important to make a film work, it seemed to just show a string of events that occurred during the French occupation of Algiers and the horrible Algerian war which took place but I was pretty much bored throughout and didn’t enjoy it at all.
The Battle of Algiers follows the events of the revolution that took place in th 60’s but it doesn’t give you much of a story as to why it happened and so prior knowledge of the event is required from the viewer to fully understand everything that is occurring. I knew practically nothing about Algiers or the events which is probably a main reason as to why I failed to connect with the film and enjoy it, that and I watched it on my iPhone which maybe took some of the impact away.
Battle of Algiers is a acquired taste of a film, I’m still not sure of the message it was trying to get across as it felt like I was suppose to feel sympathy for terrorists murdering police and killing innocent people by bombing bars and clubs regardless of why they are in Algiers, it’s a horrible and cowardly way to protest and something I didn’t enjoy watching. In all fairness it equally showed the French were no saints in the film as the depiction of the torture they handed out to captured Algerians was outrageously brutal and the colonizing of another country is obviously wrong but when the only French person that had any substance in the film was Col Mathieu who led the hunt for the four leaders of the FLN (National Liberation Front) it’s hard to be able to say the film was portrayed even handily to both sides.
None of the cast stands out individually, but the ensemble comes together perfectly and the acting is extremely realistic, so much so that what is being depicted could easily be taken as documentary footage and at times it’s hard to believe it’s not real footage as the volume of people involved in rioting scenes and protests is huge and the reactions of people due to bombing events is incredibly realistic and so I fully respect the movie for it’s technical achievement and the fact that it offers an attempted unbiased account of an important event in history but for me it missed something for me to be able to enjoy it and appreciate what everyone else seems to rate so highly.
You can find Barry’s next update next week, catch you in two.
Don’t forget, you can follow our progress on Twitter at http://twitter.com/baz_mann andhttp://twitter.com/gary_phillips_.