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 38th update, my next five films watched for the project. You can find all our previous week’s updates here.
No. 118 – Fargo (1996) – Rating 8.2
The Coen Brothers make another appearance in the list with one of their greatest films from their wonderful collection of movies and it was Fargo that started my love affair with the Coen Brothers over 14 years ago. Fargo is one of those films that hits all the right buttons for me as a viewer, the story is sublime, it’s perfectly performed by a truly wonderful cast, the dialogue is glorious, the characters are so memorable and when ever I watch it I always feel completely satisfied with it. It’s a masterpiece.
The basic story is about Jerry Lundegaard (William H Macy) who arranges for his wife to be kidnapped by some hired third party guys, ones kinda funny looking and all goes to plan to begin with. The ransom is to be paid by his wealthy father-in-law and Lundegaard then plans to take the money himself to invest and split a percentage to the kidnappers. However things start to get out of hand when his henchmen start to bungle things up and when three dead people appear on a main road the police, lead by the pregnant Marge Gunderson (an Oscar winning performance by Frances McDormand), start to investigate which eventually leads her to Jerry and eventually to the kidnappers hideout where a bloody mess is being made out of the kinda funny looking one. It’s a wonderful story of a crime gone wrong and it’s never been done better.
The film opens by saying the story is based on events that actually took place which instantly casts a spell over you, of course it’s a red herring and they didn’t really occur but the claim it does is enough to get you emotionally hooked from the start when watching for the first time. The film plays out at a wonderful pace with wonderful exchanges of dialogue mainly between Marge and the people she meets and between Carl Showalter and his kidnapping colleague Gaear Grimsrud played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare respectively, their deteriorating friendship is the key to the downturn in events in the kidnapping saga and it’s also one of the many highlights of the film as Stormare blankly stares as Buscemi’s rants and slowly descends into madness and what a way to cap off the insanity than to fill a wood chipper with Steve Buscemi, a timeless classic scene.
There is just so much to love about Fargo from the wonderful score, the dark humour, the visually stunning photography, the way that Frances McDormand and her husband are always eating or lying in bed when they are in a scene together, the way William H Macy stutters his way through scenes with the brilliant American-Swedish accent and the way people still apparently hunt for the suitcase full of money buried in the snow thinking its really there. Fargo is an absolute joy to watch and in my opinion deserves a higher place in the list.
No. 192 – Ed Wood (1994) – Rating 8.0
The Oscar winning performance from Martin Landau is so damn good as Bela Lugosi, Johnny Depp captures the essence of Ed Wood perfectly and Tim Burton directs my favourite film of his as he recreates scenes from Ed Wood’s films with stunning accuracy, this is the story of the worst film director in history and it’s an absolute triumph.
Those that don’t know who Ed Wood was, Edward Davis Wood Jr was a screenwriting, director, producer, actor, author, and editor most notably during the 1950’s where he made what is regarded as the worst films in movie history that led to him being award the Golden Turkey award for Worst Director of all time. He befriended a ageing drug addicted Bela Lugosi who helped give his films some success and Ed Wood was a heterosexual cross dresser to add extra substance to an incredible story.
The film covers the period regarding Wood’s relationship with Lugosi and his creation of his most notorious films and it’s the relationship between Wood and Lugosi that steals the film. Landau really does put in a stunning performance as Lugosi and straight after watching the film I YouTubed Lugosi’s films that featured in Ed Wood to compare the performances and it really is worthy of the Oscar he received. What also has to mentioned is the perfect production of matching scenes and props from the original films which also assist Landau’s performance and those that were angered as to why Samuel L Jackson didn’t get the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Pulp Fiction will understand why after watching Ed Wood.
The supporting cast are also perfectly matched to their real life characters with Bill Murray, Jeffrey Jones, George Steele and Lisa Marie standing out. Murray and Jones in particular stealing scenes they appear in with Murray as Bunny Breckinridge, Wood’s openly gay friend who performed in his films and suffered a failed sex reassignment therapy and Jeffrey Jones flawlessly captures The Amazing Criswell a psychic Tv entertainer, actor and producer of Wood’s films. There are other notable performances from Patricia Arquette as Wood’s girlfriend then wife Kathy O’Hara and Sarah Jessica Parker in a decent turn as Wood’s first girlfriend Dolores Fuller who failed to accept Wood’s transvestism and delivers a classic line of “Do I really have a face like a horse” after a scathing review. It’s a wonderful assemble cast that adds so much to a truly great film and it’s a film that fully deserves its place on the IMDb250 list.
No. 49 – The Shining (1980) – Rating 8.5
I watched The Shining with big sound reducing headphones and it was quite possibly one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
Jack Nicholson stars as Jack, a writer who takes a job as caretaker at the Colorado Overlook Hotel for the winter. He is warned by the hotel’s manager that winters in the mountains are dangerous and that heavy snowfall closes up the roads for months. Jack along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) are left alone at the huge empty hotel and as weeks go by the snow grows heavier and Jack begins to get a bad case of writer’s block, slowly begins to go crazy.
It becomes apparent that the hotel is haunted and as Danny rides his bike through the iconic corridors he starts to get really freaky visions like an elevator opening up to a tidal wave of blood, the most terrifying set of twins (who completely freak me out) that keep appearing to Danny and also his really strange imaginary friend Tony and that “Red Rum” scene. The reality of he situation starts to reveal itself and things start getting worse for the family as Jack starts to loose it until he picks up an axe and goes about stalking his family to kill them, “Here’s Johnny”, the maze scene and the reveal that Jack’s soul always returns to the hotel to caretake and murder is a wonderful conclusion to the film and proves itself as easily one of the scariest movies ever.
“The Shining” is a brilliantly paced, incredibly creepy and at times a truly horrifying film. Watching it alone with my headphones turned up quite loud added a remarkable atmospheric experience I have never experienced before watching a film and when possible I’ve used my headphones to watch as many films since. The haunting instrumental music score by Herbert Von Karajan was one of the reasons for the frights I suffered and it fits the film so well. Nicholson’s performance is probably his best, his change in character is nothing short of stunning as he stares blankly over his typewriter as his mental state deteriorates, it’s all in about his voice and eyebrows and the change of facial expressions he can pull off to look like a bloody crazy man!. Shelley Duvall is also excellent as the sympathetic wife, she’s a proper movie screamer when she has to be and this really helps particularly during the films climax. Scatman Crothers also performed exceptionally as the cook of the hotel, he tells Danny that he has the “shine,” which is the ability to see the future and also comes face to face with Jacks axe towards the end. His voice is captivating (he voiced Jazz in the animated Transformers and Hong Kong Phooey) and his performance is really underrated.
Overall The Shining is a stunning film. Kubrick is an utter genius delivering everything you could want from a horror film with slowly building and rather unsettling momentum, psychological scares mixed with some of the most visually stunning shock moments in horror movie history that have been forever parodied or copied. The Shining fully deserves its place in the Top 50 films from the IMDb250 and will no doubt hold its place for many years to come.
No. 92 – The Elephant Man (1980) – Rating 8.3
I didn’t like Mulholland Drive, which is also on the IMDb250 list, and I’m not a big fan of David Lynch and his films so it’s fair to say I wasn’t looking forward to seeing the Elephant Man again for the first time in many many years when I was at an age I didn’t really understand films too much. However this is one of Lynch’s more accessible films, it’s a very moving and incredibly well made film with some of the finest performances, astounding makeup and glorious black & white cinematography from the IMDb films so far.
The Elephant Man stars John Hurt as John Merrick, a victim of a disease that has left him grotesquely deformed whose spent most of his life travelling in a carnival freak show. Eventually Merrick comes under the care of Dr. Treves (outstandingly played by Anthony Hopkins), who locates Merrick into his hospital where he studies him, helps him to conquer a restrictive speech impediment, and gives him back his human dignity. Treves introduces Merrick to culture, finery and things he’s only dreamed of experiencing but the question is he exploiting his friend for personal gain torments him.
Word about Merrick’s existence starts to spread and Bytes (Freddie Jones) his former owner at the freak show, the press and curious locals all try to get a piece of him and exploit his affliction. This eventually leads to Merrick being kidnapped and taken to France by Bytes and put on show again as The Elephant Man and even though his escape back to England is triumphant it leads to the final days of John Merrick. He visits the theater with Treves and his wife where the performance dedicated to him and then that night he discards all pillows from his bed and is determined to lie down like everyone else to sleep and he does for the final time.
The Elephant Man is a stunning film. The makeup is incredible and was taken from casts of the real John Merrick and adds an incredible sense of realism to the look of the character that is equalled by John Hurt’s perfect performance that was cruelly not given the Oscar it deserved although you can say that Robert De Niro’s Raging Bull is equally as impressive, I feel Hurt’s performance is far more complex and worthy of more recognition. The black & white photography shows Victorian England in remarkable stark realism
No. 182 – The Killing (1956) – Rating 8.0
Another first time viewing film for me and another one that has cemented its place my personal favourite movie list. This the second Kubrick film I watched for this week’s reviews and it couldn’t be more different. Kubrick has directed such a wide genre of movies with various degrees of success with Sci-Fi, Horror, War, Action Romance and many have made an appearance on the IMDb 250 list and The Killing is his earliest film to have made it and this one is a heist movie.
Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) is a veteran criminal planning one last heist before settling down and marrying girlfriend Fay (Coleen Gray). His target is the money counting room at a racetrack during a featured race and to steal two million dollars in the process. He recruits his team consisting of corrupt cop Randy Kennan (Ted de Corsia); track cashier George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr.); sharpshooter Nikki Arcane (Timothy Carey) whose to shoot the race favorite horse during the race causing a distraction, a wrestler called Maurice who provides a distraction for the police by starting a fight at the track bar, and the race course bartender (Joe Sawyer). The heist goes pretty much as planned but it’s the aftermath that creates a problem with double crossings, revenge killings, death, a little dog and a old suitcase full of money that isn’t quite strong enough to withstand a bump and then the whole plan is ruined.
Kubrick shows what a wonderful eye he had for film making early on in his career, the film noir feels right and look amazing with some wonderful scenes (see above) where just a bunch of guys, great dialogue, loads of cigarettes and a darkly lit room is all you need to make a scene work incredibly. The heist is carried out with wonderful precision and intelligence and with Sterling Hayden as the lead character everything about the film works like a charm as he gives orders and leads the team with assured authority making everything seem believable and precise. It’s a shame Kubrick didn’t make more films like this in his later years.
Overall The Killing is a wonderful movie, slow paced but excellently executed with a cast that all performed magnificently delivering one of my favourite films from the list.
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