Monday, April 04, 2016

My 150 Favorite Movies - #20

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

The title comes from a line in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple faith than Norman blood." This black comedy, arguably the best comedy out of Ealing Studios (which also included The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob), takes it's plot from an obscure novel titled Israel Rank: the Autobiography of a criminal, originally published in 1907, and which also served as the inspiration for the Broadway play, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. The story concerns a plot by an obscure relation to kill off all members of an aristocratic family who are standing between him and the dukedom, in order to avenge his mother's being disowned by them. Although that may not sound comedic, it is widely regarded to be a comedy classic especially since all eight family members, are played by the inestimable Alec Guinness. Dennis Price stars as the hapless murderer, along with Joan Greenwood and Valerie Hobson as his comely love interests.

Monday, February 22, 2016

My 150 Favorite Movies - #21

All About Eve (1950)

Bette Davis may have lost the Academy Award for Best Actress this year (to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday), but she certainly won the war, as everyone still talks about this amazing movie, and her performance in it. As an aging actress no longer able to play the ingenue, the performance may have been a little too close to home for comfort, but it rivets. Playing her opposite number, as the little ingenue who could (and the title character) Anne Baxter more than holds her own. Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Celeste Holm, and especially George Sanders, as acid-tongued critic Addison DeWitt, capably bring up the rear. Featuring an early cameo by a then little-known actress named Marilyn Monroe, All About Eve holds the record (tied by Titanic) for the most Academy Award nominations for any one film. Director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz was nominated for and won Oscars in both those categories.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My 150 Favorite Movies - #22

Destry Rides Again (1939)

Another of 1939's (the best year IMHO) wonderful movies, Destry Rides Again featured James Stewart in his first western, playing a deputy sheriff without a gun, and Marlene Dietrich in a role that some say inspired  Madeline Kahn's character Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles. Includes the classic tune, "See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #23

Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Set in China in the 1920's, Raise the Red Lantern stars the beautiful Chinese actress Li Gong as Songlian who is forced to marry the Lord of a powerful family. She must compete for his attention with his three other wives. One of the most beautiful and compelling films ever made, it was banned for a time in China in the early 1990's. Nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, it won the BAFTA, New York Film Critics Circle, and the National Board of Review for Best Foreign Language Film.

My 150 Favorite Movies - #24

Tootsie (1982)

I have already written about Tootsie here.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #25

Betrayal (1983)

The pedigree of this movie has few equals. Starring Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley and Patricia Hodge, the story is of a woman who has an affair with her husband's best friend, told from the husband's point of view. Based on the semi-autobiographical play by Harold Pinter, the conceit is that the entire story unfolds in reverse chronological order. Pinter adapted his own play for the screen, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay based on material from another medium. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert stated, "the Betrayal structure strips away all artifice. It shows, heartlessly, that the very capacity for love itself is sometimes based on betraying not only other loved ones, but even ourselves."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #26

The Third Man (1949)

About as Hitchcockian a film as you can get, without actually being directed by Hitchcock, The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed, is based on a Graham Greene novel, about a pulp novelist who travels to postwar Vienna at the invitation of an old friend, only to end up investigating his mysterious death. The production team behind this movie is top shelf, with David O. Selznick and Alexander Korda both serving as producers. The haunting zither music on the film's soundtrack topped international music charts at the time.In 1999, the British Film Institute voted The Third Man the best British film of the twentieth century. Starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten, with Alida Valli bringing up the rear as the obligatory femme fatale, this classic film is required viewing for all movie lovers.

Friday, October 23, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #27

Goodfellas (1990)

My all-time favorite film of acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas tells the true story of a mobster wannabe, on his way up, and what ultimately led to his downfall. The Lufthansa heist that actually took place in the late 1970's, and the events leading up to it is included as part of the story. Partially based on the book Wiseguy by Nick Pileggi, the stellar cast includes Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Paul Sorvino, and Lorraine Bracco. The movie's opening line, "As far back as I could remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster," was voted #20 of the "100 greatest movie lines" in Premiere magazine. An absolutely brilliant film, but could we expect anything less from this director?