Wednesday, 31 March 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 195

103 - Rear Window - 4 stars
Back in the day, this would have been considered high concept. Like 12 Angry Men, all the action takes place in just one room, but instead of the audience looking in on the action, we join lead character L.B. Jeffries in looking out over his apartment block... which was a giant set created by Alfred Hitchcock, complete with an ensemble of characters known by nicknames like Miss Torso and Miss Lonely Heart.
Hitchcock's everyman of choice Jimmy Stewart is the photographer confined to a wheelchair and spends his time indulging in a spot of friendly neighbourhood voyeurism but becomes convinced that one of them (Raymond Burr aka Perry Mason and Ironside) has murdered their wife.
The film works because we are in the dark as much as Stewart's character in how much we know about her disappearance, we become implicit in his conspiracy theories.
Slowly he convinces his physical therapist (a very dry Thelma Ritter) and girlfriend Grace Kelly to become amateur sleuths to solve the case of the missing wife.
Aah, Grace Kelly. Her memory slightly tarnished by that awful Mika song, but for me she is probably the most beautiful woman who has ever lived. Her soft focus entrance in this film is a classic.

206 - The Departed - 4 stars
The film that finally won Scorsese his long overdue Oscar for Best Director. Is it his best film? No... but it is still one of the slickest and enjoyable crime dramas in recent years. It is also one of those precious rare things, a great remake which retains the tense 'cat and mouse' atmosphere of the original.
As always the majority of the English speaking world ignore any film with subtitles and as a result missed out on the Asian film Infernal Affairs, and The Departed is pretty much a carbon copy of it (even the un-Hollywood ending), transporting the action to Boston.
Leo is sent undercover to infiltrate Jack Nicholson's Irish mafia crew, unbeknownest to him gang member Matt Damon is working in the police force. Soon they are forced to search for the rat in each other's outfit whilst trying to remain hidden themselves.
The real strength of this film is the acting. A truly fantastic ensemble cast; Leo continued his tutiledge under Scorsese to shake of the shadow of Titanic; Jack Nicholson is, well, Jack Nicholson; small memorable roles for Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and Ray Winstone; Scorsese even managed to coax a foul-mouthed scene stealing performance out of Mark Wahlberg, which is incredible considering this cast.
What is it about the Boston accent that makes swearing sound so cool?
I want to finish the review by righting a wrong that has been sitting ill with me ever since its release back in 2006. Matt Damon did not get nearly enough praise as he should have for his performance. He excels as the smarmy. slimy Sullivan who will do anything to protect himself above anything else. Big shout out and 'props' to MAAT DAAAMON!

116 - Rio Bravo - 3 stars
I'm starting to wonder if I might have Kermode syndrome. In his autobiography he says that frequently fact and fiction become blurred, as indicated in his anecdote about Krakatoa: East Of Java, and today I've found that a lifetime of watching movies has affected my memory.
You see I was in a show earlier this year called Red, Hot & Cole which featured a song called Don't Fence Me In. I recognised the song and in my head I could hear it being sung by Dean Martin in Rio Bravo.
Imagine my surprise when I watched it this evening and it gets to the scene where Dean and Ricky Nelson have a wee sing-song and... they sing something else. Somehow I had managed to edit that song into the film, anyone else ever created a movie moment that doesn't really exist?
But what was the 'actual' film like?
Howard Hawks' rebuttal to High Noon, as he didn't believe that the sherriff would have asked for people's help when a gang of outlaws came looking for trouble.
Wasn't as good as I remembered. Takes to long to get to the final showdown, and wasn't as claustrophobic as John Carpenter's Assault On Precinct 13 spin on it, the sherrifs spend too much time wandering around town.
It does have its good points though, two of those being Angie Dickinson's legs in tights, one thing my memory did not let me down on!

Days remaining - 170 Films remaining - 220

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