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 January 1st of this year. It’s not as simple as it sounds, we are watching them all in one year, 125 each.
This is our 36th update, my next five films watched for the project. You can find last week’s update here.
No. 33 – North by Northwest (1959) – Rating 8.6
Hitchcock again for the project and so far I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every single film I’ve watched of his. North By Northwest is easily up there with the best he’s made and it’s probably his most accessible movie for newcomers to the great director.
Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a charming ad executive who is mistaken for a US agent by a menacing group led by Phillip Vandamm (the excellent James Mason). Thornhill is set up for a murder he didn’t commit and is then chased across America in some of the most enjoyable set pieces in movie history.
I believe this was only the second time I’ve seen the film and the first time is now a very distant memory so it all felt very fresh watching the film play out that gave me surprises and a whole heap of enjoyment from every scene. North By Northwest has a wonderful feel to it with the ultra charming Cary Grant leading us from start to finish with wit, surprising physicality and a at times a rather intense performance as his character grows in statue. The films standout scenes add to its magnetism with the forced booze drinking scene followed by Thornhill’s escape in the opening of the film setting the way for all to come from the crop dusting plane chase to the scaling of Mount Rushmore. All of these magic moment make North By Northwest a true masterpiece in film making
Cary Grant slightly overplays it in scenes, particularly the drunken car escape, but he is so dam good and without him the film would never have the same appeal for me, the villains of the film are equally as irreplaceable with James Mason and Martin Landau delivering enjoyable roles alongside their heavies who constantly harass Thornhill throughout and of course there’s the Hitchcock Blonde bombshell, Eva Marie Saint as the femme fatale Eve Kendall, who gives Cary Grant a welcome distraction from his misadventures but who ends up getting him deeper in it.
Hitchcock again proves what a master of film he is and also what a vital contribution to cinema he has provided. Quality cast, brilliant film, macguffin and suspense. What more could you want.
No. 213 – Mystic River (2003) – Rating 8.0
Another regular contributor to our IMDb film list is Clint Eastwood who in my opinion delivers his best films from his catalogue in Mystic River.
The story is about three childhood friends (played by Penn, Bacon and Robbins) who grew up together in Boston and grew apart when Dave Boyle (Robbins) was abducted by pedophiles as the boys played in front of their homes. Thirty year’s later, the men are reunited when the murder of Jimmy Markum’s (Penn) daughter leads detective Sean Devine (Bacon) back to his old neighbourhood and due to evidence indicates Boyle as the prime suspect. As tempers begin to flair and secrets start to be revealed, Jimmy starts to take the law into his own hands acting as judge, jury and executioner for an incredible emotional conclusion.
The film has a brilliant all round cast that were rightly recognised for their performances in Mystic River, with Tim Robbins and Sean Penn both winning the Oscars for best supporting actor and best actor respectively and Marcia Gay Harden getting a nomination for best supporting actress. It’s a film that delivers a memorable story that takes you into a hard hitting, emotional and bleak direction as the film picks up pace. You get a horrible feeling in your stomach long before the unsettling ending occurs as you know what’s coming and although you never know for sure if Dave Boyle is an innocent man or guilty murderer until late on you feel sympathy for Boyle due to Robbins marvelous performance.
Sean Penn also delivers some of his finest work with a terrifying performance of anger, control and dominance. He powers his way through the script and when he learns his daughter is dead and has to be restrained by half a dozen cops you start to really believe in his character and from then on he is a man to fear. Kevin Bacon offers a whole lot less than Robbins and Penn do as his character hasn’t got the substance Jimmy and Dave have, but his detective character links the trio together emotionally and his understanding of the situation makes his job a race against time to uncover the truth before Jimmy and his guys act on their interpretation of the facts for a quicker retribution.
Eastwood has directed a hard hitting and well made film that fully deserves to be on the IMDb 250 list, more so than Million Dollar Baby and Changeling, and it’s a film that never fails to hit me emotionally when I watch it.
No. 90 – Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – Rating 8.3
Another appearance in the IMDb250 project for Sergio Leone and this was the last ever movie he made. To be honest its got nothing on his classic western movies and it feels like a film from a director who hadn’t directed a movie for around ten years but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a place in the IMDb list.
Once Upon a Time in America is an epic story that chronicles the lives of Jewish ghetto kids who rise to power in New York City’s world of organized crime. The film centres on David ‘Noodles’ Aaronson (Robert De Niro) whose life is shown in three points of his life, a young rebellious youth, a prison toughened member of a crime gang and finally a old man living with the regrets of his life.
The film shows the decisions and choices he makes starting with making friends with his future gang members as a kid going on to stab a rival gang member after he kills his friend. Ending up in prison Noodles is freed years later where he joins up with his friends again and goes on to be a part of a successful organized crime gang and after a run of money making schemes and destroying friendships with loved ones, things get too much for him and when best friend and gang leader Maximilian ‘Max’ Bercovicz (James Woods) wants to rob the federal bank, Noodles tips off the police leaving him filled with regret when news of the death of Max and friends during the robbery so he flees from New York. Many years later Noodles returns to New York as an old man after receiving a letter from a mysterious person and on returning he faces his bitter past.
The telling of the different periods through the 40 years of the lives of the boys growing up to old age is the films strength, the attention to detail to the aging city is the glorious background for the maturing boys and it’s an utter to joy to watch. The performances of De Niro and Woods are brilliant and the makeup works very well to show the aging. The young actors who portray the characters of Noodles, Max and their gang in the early years are also excellently cast and well acted and it gives you a great insight into the characters adding depth and motive to their actions later in life.
Their are some deeply uncomfortable moments, namely a scene where Noodles rapes his childhood love when they finally go on a date together as adults, it’s probably one of the most unsettling scenes I’ve seen in film and although it sums up Noodles real character as a mean, selfish character it really does hits hard. The film overall is a masterpiece, you cant deny the magical spell it puts on you while you watch it despite its slow paced three and a half hour running time and with Ennio Morricone again providing an incredible score with what many say is his finest work, Once Upon a Time in America delivers one of the finest gangster movies ever made and one that will be in the IMDb list for years to come.
No. 62 – The Third Man (1949) – Rating 8.4
What a wonderful film The Third Man is. You can ask a lot of people, who stars in The Third man? and a majority of them will instantly say “Orson Welles”. It’s strange to accept that Welles is not the star of the film despite stealing it in a small role of what is a large part of the truly excellent film and it is of course one of the greatest character reveals of any film ever made.
Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) travels to a post war Vienna that has been divided into zones by the victorious allies. Martins arrives at the invitation of Harry Lime (Welles), an ex-school friend, who has offered him a job in the city. However when he reaches Vienna he discovers that Harry Lime has recently died in a strange traffic accident and after talking to Lime’s friends, neighbours and associates Martins realises the stories are inconsistent and sets about to investigate what really happened to Harry Lime.
The Third Man gives you a wonderful slow revealing plot with excellent performances throughout, the score is delivered mainly by a zither and adds one of the most self repeated tunes from the IMDb list so far (I was whistling it for the rest of the day afterwards). The black and white film is glorious and is no time better than in the final chase through the sewers where the light and dark is shown off gloriously to give an absolutely gorgeous look. There camera work is also stunning with dutch angles being used effectively to give the film further appeal in style but everything always comes back to the reveal of Harry Lime for the first time, the moment the light comes on in the street to show Lime standing there in a doorway with a smirk that can only belong to Welles is utter magic on celluloid and one of my favourite scenes ever.
No. 65 – Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) – Rating 8.4
“Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”
I’ve never seen or heard much about The Treasure of Sierra Madre before watching it for the project it, now I’m glad to say it’s in my own top 50 films of all time. It’s an incredible film from John Huston with an even more tremendous performance from Humphrey Bogart as a paranoid and vicious gold prospector which was really the opposite to the roles Bogart normally plays, it’s scandalous he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.
Fred C. Dobbs (Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Tim Holt), both down on their luck in Tampico, Mexico in 1925, meet up with a grizzled prospector named Howard (Walter Huston) and decide to join with him in search of gold in the wilds of central Mexico. Through enormous difficulties, they eventually succeed in finding gold, but bandits, the elements, paranoia and greed threaten to turn their success into disaster.
Walter Huston puts in an outstanding performance and won best supporting actor for his role as Howard, the old prospector. John Huston won two statues for writing and directing and the film clearly shows why the film received so much praise. The characters are all superbly written with Bogart seriously unappreciated as the bad guy. His level of paranoia and unpredictability is amazing and his entire performance is stunning, multi-layered and so bloody watchable. It’s one of my favourite roles from the IMDb list.
Huston adds so much to the film with a sublime looking black & white that looked gorgeous on my TV and as it was shot almost entirely on location it felt authentic. The script takes the story through scenes of high adventure, action, melodrama and to compelling character moments that define the film with the three actors playing off each other wonderfully whether they are plotting together or having moments alone debating each others true intentions, it works so well and the paranoia that manifests from Dobbs mind takes the film to its dark inevitable conclusion,
Those who haven’t seen The Treasure Sierra Madre have to check this film out, along with 12 Angry Men it’s one that has really impressed me and will forever be one of my favourite movies.
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 and http://twitter.com/Gary_Phillips