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: #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: #70 – The French Connection (1971)

Bad Cop with a Good Focus

Popeye Doyle is unethical and unscrupulous, but at least his fixation is in the right place.

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Popeye Doyle played by Gene Hackman.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #70/100
Awards: Nominated for eight, winning Best Picture, Actor, Director and Adapted Screenplay.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

The movie is a sprint interspersed with a few jogs to slightly catch our breath.

This rapid pace doesn’t allow us to get to know anyone or anything — the driving force behind all the characters is a complete enigma to us. This had the potential to detract more from the movie than it did if it weren’t so gripping due to acting and action.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #30 – Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

The Case Study of Greed

Humphrey Bogart’s character epitomizes what can befall us all: the complete perversion of our sensibilities by unchecked avarice. 

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Bob Curtin (Tim Holt), Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), and Howard (Walter Huston).

American Film Institute Ranking: #30/100
Academy Awards: Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Jim Huston and Walter Huston — a father-son combo.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

It was obvious early on what this movie was going to be about: Greed = Bad.

By showing the cards early, I didn’t know if I would be interested, especially if the moral teaching was going to be heavy-handed. My concerns were ungrounded and the movie addressed them with a counterintuitive solution. Instead of using fast-pace or subtlety, Jim Houston takes the approach of a staggered walk, slowly allowing Fred C. Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) descend into is madness over the course of a couple hours.

What this does is make you experience every slow, twisted turn into immorality. This slow-train wreck of a nose-dive makes you squirm, really understanding what greed can do, exceeding my low expectations of what I thought would be an after school special delivery.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #98 – Unforgiven (1992)

A Ho-Hum Western

The moment you’ve been waiting for finally comes 4/5ths through the movie, but it all seems too late and anti-climatic. 

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Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Jaimz Woolvett. 

American Film Institutes Ranking: #98/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for several: best picture, actor, screenplay, director, supporting actor. Won for supporting actor (Gene Hackman), Director (Clint Eastwood) and Picture.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-star

I’m okay with Westerns. My favorite book of all time happens to be a Western (Lonesome Dove). Older generations who display the red,white and blue at every door and buy cars made only in Detroit view Westerns as a quintessential American representation. The West represents the idyllic egalitarian society with no centralized government and each small community creating their own standards for law and acceptable behavior — no need for big government here!

It all works out for you as long as you are the swashbuckling cowboy and not one of the the characters regelated to the edges such as women, children, seniors, and those not willing to be violent. Unforgiven continues with this deconstruction of the Western narrative, focusing on a protagonist that isn’t glistening with moral righteousness while showing the real toll of vigilante justice. So while Unforgiven is certainly a Western, it tries to butt up against the glorification of the genre.

My problem is that in the process of flipping the script, you lose connection with the characters leaving a resolution that is ultimately unsatisfying.

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