Top 100 Movie Review: #92 – A Place in the Sun (1951)

Dated.

Not only is the movie stale, it cycles through several formats never deciding what kind of movie it wants to be. 

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Elizabeth Taylor  and Montgomery Clift — at least they are pretty to look at.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #92
Academy Awards: Nominated for nine winning six, including Best Director and Screenplay
My Rating:cropped-smooth-star

I read about 300 pages of American Tragedy; it’s a behemoth of a book, clocking in at over 900 pages, and when I went to renew it someone had put a hold on it. I just rechecked it out, so I was shocked when I realized that a movie of a completely different name picks up at part 2 of the novel.

Even though I did not finish the book, this movie does it absolutely no justice — it wrings out all the juice leaving us an attempt at a love story. This film is simply dated, and while it might be a top 100 for cultural reasons, it exhibits little power today.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #32 – Godfather Part II (1974)

A Sequel Better Than The Original.

There, I said it. Godfather’s second incarnation is better than the first, having a cleaner plot and an interesting juxtaposition of past and present. 

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Al Pacino as Micheal Corleone.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #32/100
Awards: Nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (De Niro), Adapted Screenplay, & Score.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Initial reaction to this movie was divided with many people not liking the two story arcs happening at once. Canby writing for the New York Times described the film as “stitched together from leftover parts.” The film later became a focus of reevaluation with some considering it a better film than the first. Roger Ebert even went as far as to re-rate the movie with his highest ranking retrospectively.

Something about this film caught my eye more than the first, and I think it centers around me viewing the two-story arcs positively; it gives us time to breath from present day events while providing a solid, stand-alone story.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #10 – Singing in the Rain (1952)

A Musical with a Story.

Some of the numbers are a bit lame, but the story, acting and sets are intriguing enough to make up for the boring parts.

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Gene Kelly in the famous “Singing in the Rain” scene.

American Film Institute Ranking: #10/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for two – Supporting Actress & Original Music Score
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

The story’s iconic scene with Gene Kelly has been burned into the collective consciousness of Americana, but what about the rest of the movie?

Singing in the Rain pairs an interesting story with some solid musical numbers to be a pretty good film. While some of the lulls can be quite treacherous to get through, there is usually enough interesting things on screen, whether talent, clothing, set, or cinematography to make it bearable.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #93 – The Apartment (1960)

More Drama Than Comedy

While The Apartment gets pegged as a comedy, its premise is too dated to get the same laughs today but thankfully holds its own with sentimental moments. 

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Jack Lemon and Shirley McClain.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #93
Academy Awards: Nominated for 10 winning five, including Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Sick and stuck visiting family, I went to the on demand section of their cable provider looking for something to watch. Not wanting to get sucked into the four hour “Gone with the Wind (though I succumbed to that on day three of the flu), I decided on “The Apartment”; heralded as a classic comedy, it would fit nicely with my febril mood.

I ended up not finishing it. Too sick to continue and too confused by the lack of laughs, I took NyQuil and went for a deep sleep. Unfortunately when I came to, the on demand selections had reset. I didn’t finish watching until many weeks later, renting the DVD from the library.

I wanted to get it over with so I could write my review and move on, but something happened — I really enjoyed the last half of the film. All the problems that I was going to use to bury this film evaporated into thin air as the movie continued.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #8 – On the Waterfront (1954)

A Supremely Good Character Study

This movie has it all: interesting story, good setting, great acting, amazing musical score, but the character of Terry Malloy is in another stratosphere. 

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A young Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #8/100
Awards: Nominated for twelve winning eight, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Supporting Actress.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

At its heart, this is a classic good vs. evil. Where it gets complicated is every character has a lean they are facing, and we wait to see how they are going to act under pressure. The character that has the most pressure is Terry Malloy; he a complicated and fascinating lead and is the reason this movie is worthy of such high praise.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #34 – To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Who Doesn’t Want to Emulate Atticus Finch?

Even with a slightly white-washed script, “To Kill a Mockingbird” can swell the spirit and can recreate the magic from the book. 

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Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson.

American Film Institute Ranking: #34/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for eight, including best picture and director, while winning three for Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Adapted Screenplay (Horton Foote), and Best Art Direction.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

First, I think it has to be appreciated the challenge this director and screen writer faced: they had to take one of the most beloved pieces of literature and transmute it onto the silver screen. This was no small task.

Their approach was to put more focus on Atticus Finch than Scout which is a pretty-big deviation from the book. There are both positives and negatives because of this narrative change, and people’s feelings about this movie can usually be tracked back to how they view this slight of hand. Atticus is such a beloved figure of moral inspiration that having him be the center brings his edifying persona to the forefront, allowing fans of the book to get more of a favorite character. The downside is that the story strikes an odd tone, being almost silent on the African American plight.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #17 – The African Queen (1951)

A One-Set Movie Starring Mismatched Lovers

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Rose Sayer, the fastidious and devout saint (played by Katharine Hepburn), Charlie Allnut, the vagabond and loose sailor (Humphrey Bogart), and the main set of the movie, The African Queen.

American Film Institute Ranking: #17/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for four (Best Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay and Director) winning Best Actor for Humphrey Bogart (his only Academy Award).
Director: John Houston
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

“How can we put Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in close proximity for a couple hours and let them work their magic?”

Enter the adapted screenplay by James Agee (who also wrote a top 100 book of all time “A Death in the Family” which I review here). The African Queen is an interesting movie just from the set up alone: about 90% of the movie involves the two main characters floating down a river in a steam boat with the entire focal point on their relationship. There is some window dressing to get them there, but none of it matters. What is important is that Humphrey and Katharine are stuck together and have to work through their differences. This movie explores the classic motif of mismatched lovers using  stereotypical traits that are diametrically opposed (messy vs. clean, prude vs. crude, etc.). Thankfully, we have two power houses of Hollywood that end up pushing this ridiculous script along and somehow make a successful go at it.

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