Historical Blockbuster Done Right

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a movie from the 1930s for the AFI challenge so I’d thought I’d take it way back to 1935 for the iconic ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ based on a true story (1935: AFI 1998 #86) staring the George Clooney of the Golden Era Clarke Gable (because the Cary Grant comparisons are absurd – there will never be another actor as effortlessly charming as Grant) playing Fletcher Christian and British theatre star Charles Laughton as villainous Captain William Bligh (yup, they again chose a Brit to play the most hated man in the movie). I actually think that this maybe (correct me if I’m wrong) but the oldest film I have reviewed so far – although I managed to catch Buster Keaton’s silent farcical classic ‘The General’ (1926: AFI 2007 #18) a while back but haven’t managed to write about it because I hope to compare it to Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ (1936 AFI 1998 #81, 2007#78) which I’ve yet to see.

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Clarke Gable and Tahitian love interest Mamo Clarke

‘Mutiny’ is a legendary story of how Lieutenant Fletcher of HMS Bounty stages a revolt after witnessing Captain Bligh’s cruel and brutal treatment of his officers and crew on the long voyage to Tahiti in 1787. As a history minor graduate I had heard of this infamous tale, but I decided to take elective’s on the History of Sport and The French Revolution so it never made my syllabus, so I’m not sure if it is historically accurate. However, the fact that central character Roger Byam (played by Franchot Tone) who faces a moral dilemma of obeying his tyrant Captain or following his friend Fletcher into the mutiny was not a real character but based on midshipman Peter Haywood suggests that those wanting to use the flick as a point of reference before their history exam on the event may find that their grade is not as high as they’d hope. And although Captain Bligh has a reputation of being a tormenter he did not flog any of his crew to their death as the film depicts.

‘The Mutiny on the Bounty’ 1935 trailer

The historic event has had such a huge interest over the years that it has been made into a major movie five times – twice before the Gable version and twice after. There has always been a fascination with how or why the revolt took place- was Bligh a sadistic control freak like the 1935 movie depicts? Or was Fletcher and the crew so engulfed in the freedom and sexual liberation they experienced in Tahiti the thought of going back on board to a disciplinary Captain dreaded them so much that they took a huge gamble and staged a revolt as many contemporary historians suggest was the real cause of the mutiny.

Documentary on facts vs fiction on ‘The Mutiny on the Bounty’

We may not know the real cause of the conflict or what really happened when the crew landed in Tahiti (which is now a Honeymooner’s paradise and where the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills spend their summer vacations) but this film does a good job of trying to fill in the gaps. And although it maybe historically inaccurate in some parts – the film is bloody entertaining – I was not expecting to like it so much. It has the suspense of a modern blockbuster and you become so invested in the characters that you are desperate for Bligh (who was voted AFI’s 19th best villain) to have a piece of his own medicine. Charles Laughton who looks like a cross between Boris Johnson and Oscar Wilde is terrific as the ruthless captain who lacks a drop of compassion and Gable comes across as endearing and idealistic that he almost seems like an early prototype of Paul Newman’s character in Cool Hand Luke (1967). I haven’t seen the other versions of this story, but this is the only one that made it into the prestigious AFI top 100 list that it is probably the best version. Even Marlon Brando couldn’t save the 1962 version from it being a huge critical and financial disaster. But it would be interesting to see how Mel Gibson tackles the protagonist and Anthony Hopkins the villain in ‘The Bounty’ (1984).

the-bounty - gibson

Hopkins and Gibson in ‘The Bounty’ (1984)

For Bligh’s and moustacheless Gable’s near perfect performance, the cameo from James Cagney and the jam packed action that inspires blockbuster films to this day – I give ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ a perfect score 5 out 5.

 

The Best Festive Movie

I know this post is about thirty-days too late, but screw it – it’s still (barely) January and I’ve just got back to my day to day routine (Plus it’s my god damn blog – I’ll write about Christmas movies in July if I wanted to!)  So it’s the perfect time to reflect on the classic movies that I came across in December which was only a few short weeks ago.  

During that weird period between Christmas and New Year when you struggle to remember what date it is but strangely know exactly what day Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve falls on there are quite a lot of quality movies on the box – particularly classic flicks that are featured in the American Film Institute Top 100 Films of All Time. So I pretty much had a field day going through my list this festive season – although it seemed like every time I switched on the TV ‘Elf’ (2003) or ‘Home Alone’ (1990) was playing for the umpteenth time (but Will Ferrell giving James Cann lingerie as a gift never gets old).

‘Elf’ Buddy gives his Dad an inappropriate gift 

Unfortunately these movies are not deemed to be classic by the AFI; but what was shown on the Sky Christmas Channel and is worthy to be featured in The Top 100 Movies of all time list twice was the ultimate Christmas move – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946: AFI 1998 #11, 2007 #20) staring the remarkable James Stewart and Donna Reed. The movie centres around banker George Bailey, a hardworking man who can’t seem to catch a break – he is financially unstable, but his good willed nature, enthusiasm and hope gets him through tough times. That is until he reaches boiling point and contemplates suicide, but before he decides to end his life a guardian angel shows him what life would be like if he was never born. So it’s kind of like flipped version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843) by Dickens with the obvious differences that Scrooge was rich and disliked whilst Bailey was poor but loved.

The fact that the film lifted themes from Dickens’s masterpiece doesn’t take away how influential it is to the wholesome family movie genre. Ever since its release Hollywood producers have tried to create a Christmas flick as well written, acted and magical as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ but have so failed to deliver something that the whole family can enjoy and watch Christmas after Christmas.

The unmistakable Stewart speaks about how he got involved in his most iconic role

It’s pretty remarkable that children are still fond of this black and white movie, usually when I tell my family (who are all well over thirty) that I want to watch a film on my list, they tell me “It better be in colour”- but ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ gets a free pass. It proves that the strong storytelling and the message of thankfulness and belief in the kindness of human nature far outweighs any 3D or CGI special effects that has been regurgitated by movie execs in the last ten or so years. There were talks that the movie was to be colourised, but legendary director Frank Capra and Stewart were against it the final product. I must admit I would be curious to see if the movie would still be as perfect if in colour, but I guess if it isn’t broke why fix it?

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‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ gets the colour treatment

One of the reasons why this masterpiece which is 70 years old this year still resinates with viewers is that it touches on themes that are more relevant than ever. Many of us plan to travel the world when we leave school, but our dreams are put on hold by our guilt to help the family business or get a ‘proper’ job – I know I can relate to that. And almost all of us during the festive season reflect on our careers and financial position which can make us unsatisfied. This movie reminds us what is important – ‘Elf’ and ‘Bad Santa'(2003) may give us laughs, but will that be enough to sustain their legacy in years to come?

For the fact that this movie is not only the best festive movie of all time, but best movie period I give it 5 our 5.

The Closest Hollywood Got To A South Asian Leading Man

On Friday afternoon I was listening to the Steve Wright show on BBC Radio 2 like all thirty-year olds do when the newsreader suddenly announced breaking news; ‘Oh no! This can’t be good’ I thought. I was right; Omar Sharif, the star of two of the biggest movies of all time Dr Zhivago (1965; AFI 1998 #39) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962; 1998 #5, 2007 #7) which are both featured on the American Film Institute’s greatest films of all-time list had passed away from a heart attack aged eighty-three.

And like the social media sheep I am I immediately checked Twitter to see if he was trending and what other people had to say about the tragic news. Most tweeters were complementary of the legendary actor, but what struck me was a Tweet from a news agency – it stated the star who only earlier in the year confessed he had been suffering from dementia had been so far into the illness that he could not remember his career highlights.

Iconic : Peter O Toole and Omar Sharif

The first memory I had of him on screen was when he killed a man in the middle of a desert for drinking out of his well without permission (he was a badass!) in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. How could a man with such presence have been in such a hopeless state fifty years later? That’s probably the most depressing thing about doing the AFI challenge of watching all the movies featured on the list is that most of the stars I’ve come to admire in these classics have either passed on or now a shadow of their former self. What’s worse is most of my colleagues didn’t know who he was or how important he was to the film industry when I expressed my sadness when downing a pint of soda water later in the day.

Sherif Ali makes an unforgettable entrance in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’

Omar Sharif was not only an exceptional and charismatic actor; he was a ground-breaker who broke down racial stereotypes in Hollywood. He was the first and arguably the only non- white or black leading man and a heart-throb. Someone who I could identify with as he was the closest there was to a South Asian making it as the big box office draw in Hollywood – something rare today, but unheard of in the 1960s.

Today most of the South Asian and Middle-Eastern actors in TV and film play support roles and usually likable, but typically dippy and unlucky with the opposite sex. Take Raj from the ‘Big Bang Theory’ (2007 – to date) – on paper he seems like the biggest catch of the lot – smart, sensitive and from a wealthy family – yet for the first few series the writers of the show decided he was too intimidated by the opposite sex that he wouldn’t be able to talk to a woman unless he was drunk and it took him forever to find a girlfriend – even Sheldon found love before him! This man comes from the land of action heroes like Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan who never shied away from a woman, yet these characters are never portrayed in Western movies. Look at Dev Patel – he may have got the girl in the end of ‘Slumdog Millionaire (2009)’ but ladies weren’t exactly getting hot and bothered for a skinny boy who literately came from the gutter. In fact director Danny Boyle deliberately did not want to hire a Bollywood hunk for the movie because he felt neither would fit in the role – he may have a point but, it seems Asian men in Western movies either play a bumbling character with zero sex appeal or a terrorist.

Sharif: Timeless heartthrob – ‘Little Britain’

But David Lean, the director of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Dr Zhivago’ saw something in Sharif which I wish directors today had the balls to see with other ethnic minority actors – and casted him in pivot roles for two of his most ambitious projects (although frustratingly other Caucasian actors were considered for the role of Arab Sherif Ali before Sharif in Lawrence). In ‘Dr Zhivago’ Sharif plays the title character who finds himself in a love triangle between Julie Christie and Rita Tushingham during Soviet ruling of Russia at the beginning of the Twentieth-Century. Although the movie received mixed reviews at the time of release for being too long and not focusing enough on historical significance of the Russian Revolution, like fine wine the movie has aged well over the years and people have come to appreciate the convincing romantic magnetism between Sharif and Christie. This epic definitely gave Sharif that superstar stud status – he once boasted to receive over twenty-thousand marriage proposals in a month. But more importantly the movie proved that a man of brown skin could carry a Hollywood funded movie and have mass appeal. For this magnetic and intense love story set against a beautiful backdrop I give it 4 out of 5.

Love affair:  Omar Sharif & Julie Christie 

Like ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939: AFI 1998 #6, 2007 #8) and ‘Ben Hur’ (1959: AFI 1998 #72, 2007 #100) everyone has at least heard of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and understands its cultural significance. Peter O’Toole was robbed of a Best Actor for his portrayal of flamboyant T.E. Lawrence, a British Army lieutenant sent to Arabia to unite the British forces and Arabs against the Turks during the First World War. Despite being an epic adventure the movie subtlety tackles the moral dilemmas of fighting in combat as well the emotional effect killing has on the main character. Although the movie feels at times too long it wouldn’t been classified as an epic if it didn’t. It is perfectly told, acted and directed- I also give the movie 4 out of 5.

Sharif speaks about his friendship with Peter O’ Toole 

Even if Omar Sharif couldn’t recall the greatness of his two breakout roles in his final days – movie goers will fondly remember his contribution to cinema for years to come.

Sharif wins Golden Globe for his starring role in ‘Doctor Zhivago’

Things Get Heated Up In The Newsroom

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” are the famous words echoed by troubled Howard Beale throughout ‘Network’ (1976: AFI 1998, #66, 2007 #64) the movie I watched this weekend as part of my challenge to watch all films featured on the American Film Institute top 100 movies of all time. The quote is so iconic that after more than 40years it is still being used; most recently for an advert on UK television – I forgot what to promote (it must be one of those ‘wacky’ phone providers) but I remember asking my brother and sister; Sati and Nicky ”Do you know where this line is from?” Obviously they looked at me as if I was the insane Howard Beatle, but terrifically honest (“Life is bullshit!”) and said “What film?”

Iconic scene from ‘Network’

It a shame that a movie as great as ‘Network’ isn’t remembered as well as other iconic 1970s films like ‘The Godfather’ (1972: 1998 #3, 2007 #2), ‘Taxi Driver’(1976: 1998 #47, 2007 #52) or ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1978: 1998 #79, 2007 #53) but it is definitely just as good. It is probably the only movie on the list that deals that takes place in a newsroom and highlights how fickle the broadcasting industry is – I should know, I’ve done my fair share of volunteering and work experience in TV and radio newsrooms across the UK to know that no one really gives a rat’s ass about you, not even your mates (get the violins out). This what poor anchor man Howard Beale played by Peter Finch discovers when he is told he only has two-weeks left on air as he is being cut for low ratings. Rather than bow out gracefully he tells his audience he will commit suicide live in air- ironically this gives him a ratings boost and network executives exploit the broadcaster who is obviously mentally unstable by giving him his own show where he vents his anger to a cult following.

Icy Faye Dunaway and William Holden

The film stars the crème de la crème of 70s A-listers; legendary William Holden in his last memorable role plays Max Schumacher the Head Of News who faces a moral dilemma whether to help his friend who clearly needs medical attention or keep him on air to attract more viewers. Matters are made worse when he becomes involved with cold hearted Diana Christensen who is head of programming and is played by the top notch Faye Dunaway who was as big and perhaps more talented than Meryl Streep in the 70s (definitely better looking) but failed to maintain the legendary status of the three time Oscar winner. I hear that when she portrayed Joan Crawford in an unfavourable light in the camp cult favourite and winner of the Golden Raspberries ‘Worst film’ award ‘Mommie Dearest’ (1981), friends and colleagues of the 1940s star vowed to destroy her career. Nevertheless actress won a much deserved Academy award for Best Actress, but the real star of the movie was obviously Peter Finch who also nabbed the Best Actor award but unfortunately died of a heart attack before he was given the accolade.

Peter Finch was the only posthumous winner of an Oscar in an acting category until Heath Ledger won for Best Supporting Actor in 2009

From the moment the movie begins you are gripped in; the eerie narration reminded me of Wilder’s classic ‘Sunset Boulevard’(1950: 2007 #12, 2007 #16) which also starred Holden and the subject matter of the movie like ‘All about Eve’ (1950: 1998 #16, 2007 #28) is just as timeless and relevant today as it was four decades ago. One could say the movie is one of the first to touch on the idea of reality TV that has plagued our television over the last fifteen or so years – but obviously in a much more classy and thought provoking manner then ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Googlebox’. 5 out of 5 for me

How The Prototype For ‘White Chicks’ Became The Greatest Comedy Of All Time

I shouldn’t really be admitting this but ‘White Chicks’ (2004) is probably my biggest movie guilty pleasure – it’s predictable, crass and pretty offensive to caucasian people, but I can’t help but chuckle when clueless Terry Crews pursues Marlon Wayne’s character. Despite its massive cult following and box office success, the movie, unsurprisingly was a critical disaster and was nominated for five Razzies (the awards for the year’s worst films) which, is a far cry from the legacy ‘Some like it hot’ (1960, AFI 1998 # 14, 2007 #22), the movie it ‘borrowed heavily’ from has garnered over the years.

It was my second time watching the Billy Wilder classic which is featured in The American Film Institute’s 100 movies of all time this Sunday – I was actually geared up to view ‘The Searchers’ (1956 AFI #96, #12) which was the John Wayne western that has been in my Sky Player for the last three months but, I’ve been dreading to watch so I put off selecting the play button for as long as I can. This weekend I had no excuse so got up early before anyone at home was awake and before they had the chance to roll their eyes at me for ‘hogging the TV with ancient movies’. But when I finally got round to starting the film the TV box recorded only the title credits and stopped. Damn you Sky Player! I probably deserved that – nevertheless I was wide awake and didn’t quite fancy watching an ex-member of JLS plugging his new music to the disinterested presenters on ‘Sunday Brunch’ so I thought I’d again familiarise myself with Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic movie.

I was certain I saw ‘Some like it hot’ with my Dad when I was younger, but forgot some of the plot and the small details which made the film so memorable and iconic. The movie which is set during the prohibition era stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon who are musicians that go on the run from the mob after witnessing a murder – they disguise themselves as ladies and join an all-female band who are travelling to Florida. There they both meet and fall head over heels for the beautiful and flirtatious Sugar played by legendary Monroe who has no idea they are actually men.

Despite colour films becoming increasingly popular in the late 50s Wilder shot ‘Some like it hot’ in black and white

The plot is pretty straight forward and pretty tame by today’s standard, but the homosexual undertones throughout the movie along with Monroe’s blunt sex appeal makes it hard to believe it was certified a U in 1959. It was definitely a bold move by Wilder which paid off – I can imagine cinema goers raising their eyebrows during film’s initial screening when Sugar and Joe in drag share a passionate kiss. This is probably Monroe’s best performance (for which she won a Golden Globe, her only major acting accolade) and although she plays the same ditsy blonde – she displays a genuine talent for comedy and has perfect timing.

                 Monroe wins Golden Globe for her portrayal of Sugar in ‘Some like it hot’

Tony Curtis is impressive as Joe and “Josephine”, however he shows his true comedic flair when he plays ‘millionaire’ Shell Oil Junior to woo Sugar – His awkward British accent alone is genius and is much more likeable then Shawn Wayne’s Miami vice, LL Cool J ‘lick your lips’ like stud character he plays in ‘White Chicks’ to court Denise. But the real star for me is Jack Lemmon who I would say is perhaps the greatest comedian film star off all time. His ‘romance’ with Osgood Fielding played Joe E Brown (the equivalent to Terry Crews character in White Chicks) is pure comedy gold. It’s a shame that Lemmon was overlooked for an Oscar for his comedic roles such in this, the magnificent The Apartment (1960, AFI #93, #80)’ and ‘The Odd Couple’ (1968) where he shines rather than serious drama ‘Save the Tiger’ (1973). The two of the movies funniest characters are responsible for perhaps the most memorable ending in a film movie:

‘Some like it hot’ is perhaps one of the rare movies on the AFI’s top 100 movies of all-time list that you can watch over again and again without feeling the need to concentrate, it’s light hearted fun that is done well – I give this 5 out 5. The only thing that left a bad taste after watching it is that it gives a clear reminder how unoriginal and lazy Hollywood has become in recent years and that plots are recycled with gimmicks to make it appear new. My sister, Nicky asked how the movie was when she got up – I tried to tell her my frustration on how similar the Wayne brother’s movie was to the Wilder one, she replied: ‘Oh really that’s really cool they remade it – so what are we eating for breakfast?’

Hitchcock’s Leading Men At Their Best

In the UK we have recently been treated to Saturday matinée showings on BBC2 from the master of suspense. I have made it clear from my previous blogs how much of a fan I am of Alfred Hitchcock’s so my expectations were once again high when watching ‘Rear Window’ and ‘North by Northwest’. Both films appeared on the 1998 and 2007 AFI top 100 movie list and starred perhaps my favourite leading men of the Golden Age period Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.

Once again I made my brother Sati watch them with me, I’m trying to rope in my Dad but for some reason he doesn’t seem too bothered in going through the list. I think he is upset that none of the Dirty Harry movies or Westerns starring Clint Eastwood are featured in the ‘Hundred years, Hundred movies’ countdown so dismisses it as rubbish. To think of it the only Eastwood movie included is ‘Unforgiven’(#98, #68) which was made years after his prime – I’ll let Dad know when I get to it.

Before I played ‘Rear Window’ (1998 #42, 2007 #48) I told Sati ‘You’ll know the story’ – obviously I was referring to Simpson’s tribute in ‘Bart of Darkness’ when Bart breaks his leg, is confined to his room and suspects Flanders of killing his wife, which is pretty much the synopsis of the 1954 original. Although Stewart is a photographer and not a yellow 10-year-old cartoon character and rather than having Lisa as his sidekick he has the ever glamorous Grace Kelly who Sati refers to as ‘Boom’ which I think is a good thing. Perhaps my favourite character is Stella the maid played by Thelma Ritter who like the two main characters has her suspicions the whereabouts of the wife of neighbour played by Raymond Burr. So what if she is a carbon copy of her character in ‘All about Eve’ her sharp one liners brings humour to the screenplay which is much-needed in this rollercoaster of suspense.

The Simpsons pay homage to ‘Rear Window’ in ‘Bart of Darkness’

Kelly is as usual competent in her supporting role and despite the huge age gap between her and the protagonist their romance is believable. It doesn’t seem creepy – It just works. The film is a shot in a typical Hitchcock stylish manner – his love for panoramic wide shots is evident in this movie as wells as his fascination for voyeurism which is explored further in Psycho (1960). It is the epitome of a Hitchcock movie so if you have never been fortunate to see one of his movies then start with this. The pace of the movie is faster than ‘Vertigo’ (#61, #9) so you are at the edge of your seat throughout. I give this 4 out of 5 stars.

James Stewart gets nosey

Last night I finally managed to view ‘North by Northwest’ (#40, #55) which is dubbed as the blueprint for all the James Bond movies that followed suit. Rumour has it that Grant (who was a Bristolian) was first asked to play the iconic double agent, but turned it down because he only fancied playing it once and didn’t want to get bogged down in the franchise. I and Sati agree it was a right move; it would ruin his legacy if he was always associated with the famous Martini drinking English man – although it may save me from explaining to the youngins who he actually is when I mention him. Either way the role fits Cary like a glove – he is perfect as advertising executive mistaken for a double agent who is pursued across the country by an organisation hoping to prevent him from interfering with their plans to smuggle government secrets. Like Ritter his charisma and wit bring some light relief to the film.

Timeless Style Icon - Cary Grant's photo in a barbershop in South West London

Timeless Style Icon – Cary Grant’s photo in a barbershop in South West London

The plot is more complex than any Hitchcock movie I’ve seen but it makes even more exciting. Eva Marie Saint speaks about North by Northwest of ‘On the Waterfront’(#8, #19) fame and still going strong at 90 years old play his love interest. Perhaps she can be viewed as the prototype for the typical bond girl we have come to know and love in modern cinema – she possess as the qualities of one: extremely beautiful (Hitchcock sure loved his blondes) but with a dark secret and extremely untrustworthy. You never know if she is on the side of Grant or out to frame him until the end.

The budget for this was a whopping $4.2 million which seems like pennies today, but in 1959 it took you a long way. This movie is as close as Hitchcock got to a full-blown action blockbuster and he put the budget to good use in the famous plane chasing scene and the climax at Mount Rushmore where the two leads are chased by the perpetrators to the historic landmark. There are moments in final scenes when even I was feeling like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo. My only complaint is that like most Hitchcock movies the ending seems abrupt – 4.5 out of 5 for this.

69 seen – 54 left to go

Bank holiday movie mayhem!

In the U.K. over the past weekend we have been celebrating our first Bank Holiday weekend of the summer – and you know what that means? More classic movies on T.V. It seems like the perfect time for television stations to put on a matinee for people to reminisce about yesteryear, I’m an oldie at heart so I welcome a black and white noir over a Transformers/Avengers/Captain America (they are depressingly all the same to me) action nonsense any day.

Unfortunately I only managed to catch one film on ‘MORE 4’, but it is considered an absolute classic, starring two of cinema history’s most prolific actors, in fact they were both listed as the ultimate screen legends of by AFI – Humphry Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in ‘African Queen’ (#17 in 1998, #65 in 2007). The announcer even stated that “You don’t get more A-lister” than these two when introducing the movie directed by the equally iconic John Huston. So I was definitely hyped up, this is going to be great I thought. So I sat down just before midday on a lazy Sunday morning to watch two veterans act their heart out.

Screen legends Hepburn & Bogart

The thing that strikes me most about the movie is that it is a lot more vintage than it seems, maybe because it is shot in Technicolor or maybe because it was shot on location outside the States or Europe which was unusual for 1951. It was made only a year after ‘All about Eve’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard’ which seems like a lifetime ago when you watch it. Perhaps the modern feel is contributed to the fact that the black actors (or extras) where not playing domestic staff which is what they seemed to have done in most films pre-1960.

The movie is made well; I particularly like the opening scene where Hepburn and onscreen brother Robert Morley who are missionaries unsuccessfully attempt to get local villages to sing hymns with them. They are cramped in a hot and stuffy ‘church’ with traditional tribal wear on and it is evident they don’t know any English and are there against their own will. The noises they make whilst trying to ‘sing’ is pretty horrendous but the scene is striking as Huston’s close shot of the tribal people who are half naked is a complete contrast to the pristine English middle class demeanour of Hepburn and Morley. It is ironic that these people who are ‘trying’ to help attempt to shoot them later in the movie. The film must have opened audiences in 1950s America to a whole new culture they’d never experienced.

It nice to see Bogie in a colour film, one of the few he did before his untimely death a few years later and he thoroughly deserved his Oscar, surprisingly his only one – perhaps the Academy felt guilty about not giving him one for ‘The Maltese Falcon’ or ‘Casablanca’ so they felt obliged to give it this time. If they gave one to Sinatra it was only right that the founder of the Rat Pack got one too. Nevertheless the film has cemented it’s self as one of the most culturally significant movies of all time, beautifully shot with superb acting – it definitely deserves its place on the AFI 100 movie list.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that parts of the film were shot at Isleworth Studios, which is my home town in London and now sadly a block of flats. I told my family about this and my brother said Bogie and Hepburn “where probably chilling in a café somewhere down the road”. A thrilling thought!

Watch Bogart win his Best Actor Oscar

Have I Seen This?

There are some films on the AFI top 100 movies of all time list that you are certain you haven’t seen, I never heard of ‘Duck Soup’ until I began this challenge more than two years ago. But then there are those films that are so famous, so iconic that you’re not actually sure you have seen before.

I know I have seen bits and bobs of E.T. – the famous scene where Drew Barrymore discovers him for the first time, the part where the forensic team sections off the house where the little boy was hiding E.T and obviously that memorable bike ride. But I’m not quite sure I have actually seen Spielberg’s most personal production from beginning to end which is a criteria I must stick to when completing this challenge. I don’t even remember how the movie started. So my dilemma is should I count these movies as ones that I have seen or re-watch them again?

These films are the ones that I’m not quite sure I’ve seen from beginning to end on the AFI top 100 list:

Film Release year 1998 rank 2007 rank
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 1982 25 24
Jaws 1975 48 56
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937 49 34
The Silence of the Lambs 1991 65 74
Saving Private Ryan 1998 71
Ben-Hur 1959 72 100
Rocky 1976 78 57

I think its only fair to see these films again from beginning to end. One of the films that regularly airs on the Sky Movie channels is Jaws from 1975. It is the celebrating it’s 40 Anniversary this year and remains the blueprint for many of the Horror/Thriller/killer animal movies that have come in droves in the last few decades but have failed to match its critical and commercial success.

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider & Richard Dreyfuss in iconic Jaws (1975)

I was quite surprised to see the movie to the list; it seemed quite out of place amongst the Film Noir and emotional War movies that the AFI seem to place in high regard. Perhaps they felt that the films cultural significance was too big to ignore and there are only a handful of horror movies that are represented in the top 100.

The plot of Jaws is pretty simple – there has been a sudden increase of fatal shark attacks in New England’s tourist hotspot Amity Island. The Mayor and Police Chief, Martin Brody (played by the late Roy Scheider) come into blows whether to close the beach which is what the latter wants propose or keep quiet to avoid a disruption in the flow of tourists which is was the Mayor wishes to do. As the attacks become more frequent Brody and professional shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) make it their mission to kills the beast themselves.

The storyline is as simple as it get, but what was so unique about this film that should have been a B-list or cult movie but instead turned to be the biggest movie of all time at the time of release was the suspense that Spielberg creates throughout leaving the viewer on the edge of their seats. The same effect used Psycho which also made the AFI list. The sharp one liners like ‘you’re gonna need a bigger boat’ (which was apparently adlibbed) brings humour to this often tense thriller which has the one of most recognisable theme music along with Hitchcock’s 1960 smash – you know which one I’m talking about.

Lasting impact – The Jaws tourist attraction at Universal Studios

But does Jaws belong on the list of the greatest 100 movies of all time? The film was highly enjoyable and who can deny it’s influence, but the jury is out with me – let me watch all 100+ films and then decide if it is worthy of a spot.

Missed Opportunity 

So here is the list I have been desperately trying to complete last few years and it’s safe to say it has taken over my life a bit; every Sunday night I routinely search the Sky Planner schedule for the next few weeks in hope to record a film that I haven’t seen on my list. This week I haven’t been so vigilant – two films I have been looking forward to watch came on U.K. television this week and I missed them – ‘The Philadelphia story’ (#51 ’98, #44 ’07) and ‘North by Northwest’ (#40 ‘98, #55 ‘07) both staring my favourite classic Hollywood actor Cary Grant. I’m kicking myself!

Cary Grant

Last night just before I prepared myself for the day ahead and after hours of flicking in between forgettable television shows I saw the movie I have been anticipating to watch ever since I started this damn challenge, but I was 20 minutes too late and there was no later showing on BBC4 for one of Hitchcock’s greatest triumphs – it looked so good and had the thrill factor of a James Bond film but the sophistication only the master of suspense could bring, but I refused to carry on watching as I hadn’t seen it from the start – which is a criteria I try to adhere to when completing this task.  So I reluctantly turned my TV off and complained to anyone who would listen to me before going to bed.

Well at least I still have ‘The Searchers’ (#96, #12) recorded on my Sky Box – although I’m not as excited about seeing a Western staring John Wayne – but then again it jumped a whopping 84 places on the 2007 list which means it might like fine wine – better the more times you watch it. I must sit down and have a go soon before someone at home deletes the recording.

In the meantime I’ll just watch the trailer for ‘North by Northwest’ and ‘The Philadelphia Story’ again. The aeroplane scene in ‘North by Northwest’ is perhaps the most iconic image in cinema history!

Do you agree? Or do you think the ‘I’m king of the world’ scene in Titanic is more memorable or maybe Monroe’s dress scene in ‘The Seven year Itch’?

Iconic Titanic ‘King Of The World’ scene

Legendary Marilyn Monroe

The American Film Institute challenge!

Around two years ago approximately on the 5th January after feeling the effects of indulging over the Christmas period (of feeling mostly guilty) I decided rather than promising myself to get a six-pack or get a job in the media industry (which I have unsuccessfully trying to pursue for the last seven years) for that years New Year’s Resolution I thought I would do something more achievable and fun. So I set myself the task of watching all the movies featured on The American Film Institute’s top 100 list of all time.

Sounds straight forward right? But how wrong was I? Not only were there two lists – one from 1998 and an updated version on 2007 which means there were in fact 123 films to get through but some of the older films were extremely difficult to get hold of thanks to Sky getting rid of their classic movie channel and replacing it with a modern great movies channel which considers films like ‘Barb-Wire’ to be a worthy movie.

 So this task is challenging to say the least, but I am loving every minute of it and I thought I will document my journey with reviews, thoughts and the obstacles I face until I get to the end – this will be the first New Year’s Resolution that I will complete even if I am 2 years too late!