Sunday, March 08, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #40

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

One of the most influential examples of film noir of the 1950's, The Asphalt Jungle is a perfect example of my favorite subgenre, the caper film. Directed by John Huston, the plot revolves around a small gang of thieves attempting to pull of a million dollar jewelry heist. As per usual, with this kind of film, things go awry. Starring a uniformly excellent cast, including Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Sam Jaffe, Jean Hagen, and Marilyn Monroe in a small but memorable part, this is a film to treasure. Huston won Best Director that year from the National Board of Review, and in 2008 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #41

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The directorial debut of John Huston, The Maltese Falcon is quintessential film noir at it's noirest. The plot, based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, concerns a San Francisco private detective searching for the killer of his dead partner, and his dealings with various unscrupulous characters who are all bent on obtaining a priceless statue of a bird. An all-star cast of character actors led by Humphrey Bogart in the lead, includes Sydney Greenstreet (making his film debut), Peter Lorre and Mary Astor as the requisite femme fatale. Chock-full of quotable lines, including "keep on riding me and they're gonna be picking iron out of your liver," "when you're slapped you'll take it and like it," "the stuff that dreams are made of," and my favorite: "I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #42

The Ice Storm (1997)

This wonderfully dramatic film feels like a really good novel, in fact, it is based on the novel of the same name, by Rick Moody. Based in the 1970's, it tells the story of suburban Connecticut families dealing with angst-ridden teens, and dysfunctional adults. Directed by Ang Lee, the stars are A++ caliber: Joan Allen, Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver as the adults, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire and Adam Hann-Byrd as the kids in the story. Hands down, one of the best films about the seventies, as well as one of the best films of the nineties, period.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #43

Theodora Goes Wild (1936)

Irene Dunne stars as a small-town librarian/Sunday School teacher living with her maiden aunts in New England who is also the pseudonymous author of a racy best-selling novel. Melvyn Douglas is her book's big city illustrator. Complications ensue when he follows her home. Released just two years after the Hays Code, this screwball comedy is much more progressive than what was generally viewed of as wholesome fare at that time. Dunne's first comedy, of many, she earned herself an Academy Award nomination, and entered a new phase of her career.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #44

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

Two of my favorite actors, Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney, star in this romantic turn-of-the-last-century tale of a widow and a sea-captain's ghost, learning to live and/or haunt, as the case may be, peacably together in a seaside cottage off the English coast. Remade later as a television series starring Hope Lange, this much loved film (7.9 stars on IMDB!), remains a black-and-white classic. Also starring a very young Natalie Wood, and George Sanders, in another of a series of roles he did as a debonair heel. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Monday, January 05, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #45

Mary Poppins (1964)

This was the movie that rocketed Julie Andrews to international stardom after having been cruelly overlooked for the part of Eliza Doolittle in the film version of  My Fair Lady.  Based on one of my all-time favorite children's books, by P.L. Travers,  Mary Poppins tells the story of a magical nanny who basically rescues single-handedly a London family around the turn of the last century. An eminently hummable score and a wonderful supporting cast, including Dick Van Dyke and Glynis Johns puts this movie into the must-see Classic category.

Monday, December 29, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #46

The Thin Man (1934)
Arguably the greatest screen team ever, Myrna Loy and William Powell made, all told, 14 movies together. Of those 14, six were Thin Man movies, of which the first is undoubtedly the best. Based on Dashiell Hammett's novel of the same name, "The Thin Man," in actuality refers not to Powell's character, but to the victim of the piece. The wit and sparkle of the interplay between Loy and Powell was rarely matched, and certainly not bested, in the history of cinema. The Thin Man also features early appearances by Maureen O'Sullivan, Cesar Romero, and, perhaps most famously, Asta, the charismatic wire-haired fox terrier who appeared in all six films, as well as other films throughout the 1930's.