The IMDb250. A list of the top 250 films as ranked by the users of the biggest Internet movie site on the web. It is based upon the ratings provided by the users of the Internet Movie Database, which number into the millions. As such, it’s a perfect representation of the opinions of the movie masses, and arguably the most comprehensive ranking system on the Internet.

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 40th update, my next five films watched for the project. You can find all our previous week’s updates here.

No. 145 – Ran (1985) – Rating 8.1

Kurosawa has been one of the highlights of the project with consistently strong films throughout that have all been an incredible experience to watch. Ran is no different and it’s by far the most visually stunning film from his entries in the IMDb250 list.

Ran is Kurosawa’s re-imagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in sixteenth century Japan. Grand in scope, it’s Kurosawa’s final masterpiece from a glorious career and it’s a stunning examination of the madness of war and the collapse of a family due to betrayal, greed, and the thirst for power.

Overlord Hidetora Ichimonji is the King Lear figure who starts as a powerful and dominant character with everything and ends with nothing. Swapping the king’s three daughters from the Shakespeare version, Kurosawa has instead gone for three warlord sons who eventually destroy his legacy and bring down the family, it’s a stunning choice that works perfectly. The journey of Hidetora is remarkable, first he banishes one son for warning him that splitting the kingdom between his three sons after his retirement will not work and with the ensuing wars between the brothers ends up with them all dead and Hideatora wandering the land as a madman distraught by the events of his humiliation and betrayal of his family.

There is plenty that stands out from Ran, the visual feast is what hits you first with the beautiful colour filling the screen when, if like me, you’re accustomed to Kurosawa’s black & white classic films. It’s absolutely stunning to watch especially when each clan is symbolised with a different coloured flag, particularly during the immense battle scenes, there is no doubt it assists to the films unforgettable qualities. Matched to this is the before mentioned battle scenes, they are quite possibly some of the most incredibly crafted battle scenes in movie history, not just for their direction but for the sheer scope of them where literally thousands of extras/actors were used to create truly unforgettable action and drama in huge and dynamic locations.

The performances of everyone involved is also worth mentioning with Tatsuya Nakadai being the standout as the broken Hidetora Ichimonji. His change from warlord leader to madman is unforgettable and heartbreaking as his sons betray him and his family is brought to collapse and one of the main protagonists of the down fall is his daughter-in-law Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada) who encourages her husband to take sole control of the clan and creates a destructive rift between Hidetora and his son that starts the collapse of the family. Mieko Harada’s performance is as the evil daughter-in-law is stunning and as instrumental to the films story as any other character and easily one of the more enjoyable roles of the film, especially with her horrific demise. There are so many other characters to mention that all add so much to the film and there is no doubt without all of them the film could never tell the story it does, you just have to see it to fully appreciate the stunning effort gone into making this epic masterpiece.

No. 201 – Dial M for Murder (1954) – Rating 8.0

Another Hitchcock film and another director who has delivered nothing but brilliant entertainment for me in the project.

Dial M for Murder is another Hitchcock film based on a successful stage play. Almost entirely set in a London flat, it’s the home of Tony and Margot Wendice, Tony (Ray Milland) is a former tennis star now working for a living and is after his wife’s money  and plots to kill her. The reason for his need to off his wife is because Margot (Grace Kelly) has long since lost interest in Tony and has fallen in love with another man, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), who is an American writer of successful television crime shows. Tony finds out about the affair and that she is about to leave him leaving him to fend for himself financially and so concocts a plan, a plan involving MURDER (In 3D apparently, which I wished I could have seen).

Tony is too clever to do the deed himself so his plan to take out his wife involves blackmailing an old friend, a small time petty crook called Charles Swan (Anthony Dawson), to carry out the murder for him. Things almost work to perfection but she doesn’t end up dead, Charles Swan does, and so to cover his murderous plot Tony attempts to set up his wife as having an ulterior motive for killing Swan and still walk away with her money. Alas genius detective John Williams (a Hitchcock regular) is the classic Scotland Yard Chief Inspector looking into the case and starts to identify some irregularities and suspects that Margot isn’t the guilty party.

The film is classic Hitchcock and for me rates as one of his best but it’s still behind Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, Rope, Shadow of a Doubt and especially Rear Window but it’s certainly a special movie on its own. The single setting works as wonderfully as it would have done on the stage and maintaining the audiences attention is key to the films success and Hitchcock pulls that off as only Hitchcock could probably do at the time. The plot is entirely engaging and the twist where the murderer is killed off and Tony’s game plan changes is unexpected and is executed to perfection. The small group of strong characters carry the plot from creation to payoff exceptionally, Ray Milland’s performance as a very pleasant villain is my favourite by far and there is never a moment where you cant enjoy watching Grace Kelly on screen is there? The ever enjoyable John Williams as the detective who pieces it all together is equally as entertaining to watch and plays off brilliantly against the calm intelligent Ray Milland in a glorious battle of wits. It’s Hitchcock, it’s genius and it’s timeless.

Check out some of the 3D version below, will need old red/green glasses to see.

No. 75 – Singing in the Rain (1952) – Rating 8.3

I never expected to like Singing in the Rain, I have nothing but bad memories of it when I last saw it many many years ago and I pretty much hate all musicals, but Singing in the Rain is a shining example of the genre as it just oozes magic from start to finish and that’s completely down to the brilliant cast and the perfect merge of music, comedy, dancing and a wonderful story.

The story is all about Hollywood and opens just before the dawn of talkies. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a dapper, smug and romantic silent film star and along with his glamorous blonde screen partner called Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) they are expected by the studios to act as a couple to keep the fans coming despite Lockwood despising her. After the rise of talkies the pair are forced to change their latest silent romantic drama movie ‘The Duelling Cavalier’ and make their first sound picture, now renamed The Dancing Cavalier.

The problems start as soon as Lina Lamont opens her mouth as she squeals out a high pitched voice that doesn’t suit her persona or the era of talkies. Lockwood’s best friend and old dance partner Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) proposes to turn the certain failure film into a successful musical and suggests that Don enlists his new girlfriend and aspiring actress/dancer Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) to dub in her singing voice for the monstrosity vocals of Lamont including going behind the scenes and lip-syncing Lina when appearing live. Conflicts and egos bloom and as Don and Cosmo plot to bring the real leading lady’s voice to the audiences we get the happy ending you know was coming, and it’s wonderful.

There really is something amazing watching an actor like Gene Kelly performing, whether it’s dancing incredibly complex routines, singing unforgettable tunes or laying on suave lines and wooing the ladies, there is no doubt he is a one in a million performer with the looks and the talent to be a true Hollywood Legend. Donald O’Connor also stands out despite being in the shadow of Kelly, his performance is one of huge character and personality  filled with so much humour and talent he at times steals the film away from Kelly with ease. The dancing is something that really stands out whilst you watch the film, O’Connor and Kelly team up in some spectacular routines together and alone and it’s when alone that two of the best moments of the film occur. The first one being Donald O’Connor’s rendition of “Make em Laugh” where he almost defies gravity in a one take dance routine that is as much funny as it is stunningly performed. The second routine is obviously Gene Kelly’s legendary “Singing in the Rain” dance, from the opening hum of the tune you get lifted to a happy feeling as Kelly dances and sings one of the most famous musical numbers ever performed (and the most famous spoof comedy take off too) which is the films highlight and it cements itself as a classic for all time.

Overall a magical feel good movie that has catapulted itself into my film collection with ease and fully deserves its place on the IMDb list.

No. 146 – It Happened One Night (1934) – Rating 8.1

I’ve never seen this film before and I doubt I will ever see it again, not because it’s rubbish or lacking anything to make it a classic but because it’s not really my cup of tea, but despite that ‘It Happened One Night’ is a very enjoyable brilliant romantic comedy and one that you know has been the blueprint for many films to follow.

Secretly married and spoiled Claudette Colbert (Ellie Andrews) is a runaway heiress trying to escape the clutches of her father after she is taken away from her new husband by her father to his yacht, she escapes and heads back to her love by boarding a bus headed for New York. Unemployed newshound Peter Warne (Clark Gable) smells a career-making scoop and follows her making her a deal to help her on her journey in exchange for a story and the promise not to blow the whistle on her location. The ensuing road trip the pair take is where their unexpected love starts to blossom and where some of the finest romantic comedy takes place and it all comes together nicely as the pair realise what real love they have found with each other before they make the mistake of losing it.

It Happened One Night was the first film to win all five major Academy Awards, Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay, which is a feat that wouldn’t be matched until One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). It fully deserves the accolades it received and there is no doubt why it’s held in such high regard and even today, almost 80 years later. Unfortunately it does remind you of the shocking lack of witty humour and romantic comedy that fills so many films released these days which probably contributes to why I find it hard to thoroughly enjoy these types of movies. Leap Year is a fine example of this with its very similar story yet it lacks anywhere near 1% of the quality of It Happened one Night and that’s all down to stunning Capra direction, Clark Gable and Ellie Andrews putting absolutely everything into the film and a story and script that doesn’t patronise in the slightest. Take note Hollywood!

Clark Gable again proves what a brilliant leading man he is with an infectious charm that just surrounds the man and I doubt the film would have worked as well without him as the leading man. The story is perfectly flowing and as a road movie it works nicely as the couple go from scene to scene building the bitter tension between the couple as well as their blossoming relationship with some excellent moments and situations. It’s nice, it’s charming and it is funny. Worthy of the IMDb best 250 list? of course. Would it go on my own personal list? Probably not.

No. 6 – Schindler’s List (1993 ) – Rating 8.8

Schindler’s List is a film sitting at No.6 in our list and there is no doubt it fully deserves its place in the top 10 and will no doubt hold its place in the top 10 for many years to come. It’s a truly remarkable, emotional and incredibly made film that will surely be Spielberg’s greatest achievement as director.

The true story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) who during second world war in Poland was a war profiteer, a Nazi party member and a man responsible for saving the lives of over 1000 Jews in the Holocaust. From the start of the film Schindler’s business fully exploits the Jewish community and it shows Schindler as an unlikely saviour but as the film progresses and the horror of war takes over the film turns. It’s when Schindler witnesses the brutal and bloody elimination of the Warsaw Ghetto that he begins to work subversively against the Germans to protect and save the Jewish people he had working for him.

Schindlers List has so many scenes that stick with you long afterwards, whether it’s the horrific invasion of Krakow ghetto which unfolds like a nightmare of brutality and foreboding or the horrible Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) sniping Jews for fun from his mansion overlooking the camp, the removal of children from the Jewish camp, the women being lead into what appears to be a gas chamber and the most affecting scene where ash rains down around the city as the bodies of hundreds of Jews are burned, they all just hit you so hard on so many levels and for me there has never been a film so emotionally affecting. It’s filmed in haunting black & white apart from one visually emotive moment where just a hint of colour is used in a striking subtle way as Oskar watches a young girl in a red coat walking through the war torn town amongst the black and white visuals of soldiers executing anyone refusing to move and when Schindler sees the girl again later shes resting on top of a pile of bodies and its a defining moment for his characters motives, it’s incredibly powerful.

The entire cast are exceptional and utterly believable. Neeson is stunning as Schindler and adds so much to the character delivering a faultless performance that’s both touching and emotionally charged. Ben Kingsley also excels as Itzhak Stern, Schindler’s accountant for his business and helped write the list saving hundreds of Jews, he takes his character through an affecting pivotal journey, at times coming close to death in some heart stopping moments and is easily the most likable character in the film. However it’s Ralph Fiennes portrayal as the truly frightening SS Officer Amon Goeth that is the standout performance, never do you feel at ease when he’s on the screen and his unpredictable nature and callous murder just caused me a constant feeling of sickness and anxiety and that’s a rare emotion for me to have from watching a movie and how Tommy Lee Jones got best supporting actor for ‘The Fugitive’ over Fiennes will always be a mystery, who talks about his role in The Fugitive anymore?

A strange thing happened just before I started watching Schindler’s List, my sister had been researching our family tree and identified that my family has Jewish connections and it really made an emotional impact on me whilst watching the film, the horrific reality of the events will shock and it will always carry an incredibly powerful message. Stunning movie and it will hold it’s place in the top 10 for many many years.

You can find Barry’s next update next week, catch you in two.

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