cinema

Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013

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Anyone going to watch one of this summer’s effects-laden blockbusters such as ‘Man of Steel‘, Iron Man 3’ or ‘Star Trek Into Darkness‘ should take a moment to remember the visual effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen who has died in London aged 92.

Ray Harryhausen

Harryhausen’s instantly recognisable stop-motion work in films such as ‘Mighty Joe Young‘, ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ and the 1981 version of ‘Clash of the Titans’ inspired a generations of film-makers who, in the 1970s, 80s, and beyond, transformed the landscape of the action and adventure movies that dominate the cinema screens during the summer months. Many of them, including George Lucas, James Cameron and Stephen Spielberg, were among the first to pay tribute to the American animator whose childhood interest in dinosaurs led to a career spent bringing extinct creatures, mythical beasts, and ghostly apparitions to life across seven decades of film making.

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Born in 1920, Harryhausen’s nascent desire to bring dinosaurs back to life was fueled by the creations of Willis O’Brien in films such at ‘The Lost World‘ and ‘King Kong’. He ended up working for O’Brien in Hollywood after the war with his mentor picking up an Oscar for 1949’s ‘Mighty Joe Young’ despite the younger man doing most of the work that ended up on-screen. The majority of his most famous work followed in the next 20 years with the ‘The 7th Voyage of Sinbad‘, ‘One Million Years B.C.’ and ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ remaining classics of their type. The stop-motion animation looks juddery and old-fashioned to us now but it’s still striking, charming, great fun and, at times, terrifying. Witness Harryhausen’s most celebrated sequence – Todd Armstrong’s fight with the skeleton army in ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.

By the time ‘Clash of the Titans‘ was released, the effects produced by Harryhausen looked creaky and outdated. Ironically it was the boundaries pushed by Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic in bringing ‘Star Wars’ to the screen that heavily contributed to methods like stop-motion being abandoned by mainstream movie makers. However the believable alien races in the ‘Star Wars’ trilogy along with Spielberg’s ‘E.T.’ and ‘Jurassic Park‘ owe a huge debt to Harryhausen’s innovation and imagination.

Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: The End

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The time has come for parting…

… but Fred and Yasser got together one last time to look back at the lists as a whole and how they fared. Did either man make any mistakes in they scores? Did they feel hard done by? And have they learned anything at all from the experience?

Here’s your answers…

You can read the entires from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

You can also access the complete lists by clicking here for Fred’s and here for Yasser’s.

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Fred: Did you enjoy ‘Film Club’?

Yasser: I loved it, even when it made me hate you

FS: (laughs) I can guess when that might have been. Did you enjoy it more or less than you thought you would at the outset?

YA: I didn’t think it was going to be as fun as it has been

FS: Me either. I knew I’d enjoy my own choices, but I was worried about yours. It’s been great. It opened my eyes. We discussed in the last two posts how it has made us watch films differently

YA: Yeah, but I think I’m safe. Yesterday I watched the new ‘G.I. Joe‘ movie. I don’t want movies to constantly mentally stimulate me. Sometimes I just wanna watch shit get blown up

'Film Club' is over with 'North by Northwest' and 'The Dark Knight' topping the two lists. Both films come from the eras that proved most popular for each man.
‘Film Club’ is over with Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘North by Northwest’ and Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ topping the two lists.

FS: My first question about the lists themselves is to ask if there are any on my list that you think you would never have watched if you hadn’t been forced to?

YA: Honestly? (laughs)

FS: Be brutal…

YA: All the President’s Men‘, ‘Bad Day at Black Rock‘, ‘Inherit the Wind‘, ‘Cinema Paradiso‘, ‘Wild Strawberries‘, ‘Topsy-Turvy‘, ‘High Noon‘, ‘Breathless‘ and ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors‘. Would never have watched any of those

FS: A lot of the straight dramas, and all of my foreign choices. Interesting

YA: You?

FS:Fearless‘, ‘The Last Samurai‘ and ‘13 Assassins‘. Maybe the first two of the ‘Lord of the Rings‘ trilogy too. I’d already seen the third one

YA: Anything set in the far east or middle earth then

FS: (laughs) Yep! I’m not a lover of martial arts films. Now, ‘Breathless’, ‘All the President’s Men’ and ‘Cinema Paradiso’ all scored fairly well. Do you think you’d be more inclined to give things a chance in future?

YA: Well, I would say I watch more variety than most people. I dislike westerns and ‘Bollywood’, but I try to give everything a chance

FS: Musicals…?

YA: I like ‘Oliver!, and many of the Disney films I grew up watching had lots of songs in them. I used to sing along. I would never watch ‘Mamma Mia‘, though

FS: With your list, I’m not sure I’d go for martial arts movies, but you did help to remind me that I like a good action movie now and again. Things like ‘Batman Begins‘, ‘The Dark Knight‘ and ‘Casino Royale

The controversial film-maker Roman Polanski was the only director to appear on both lists. (FS: 'Chinatown', YA: 'The Pianist'
The controversial film-maker Roman Polanski was the only director to appear on both lists. (FS: ‘Chinatown’; YA: ‘The Pianist’)

FS: Big question now. We have watched the 25. We have rated. Do you think there were any films on my list that you rated too harshly? And are there any you look at and think ‘that was generous‘?

YA: ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ was rated harshly. When I read the review we did I was bigging it up at times, talking about the imagery and irony, but there were some elements that I still didn’t like so it probably would’ve gotten a 6/10

FS: That’s good. Anything else?

YA: ‘High Noon’ was generous. Should’ve been a 5/10. ‘Wild Strawberries’ – I was being nice giving it 4/10

FS: No way! Fucking hell! (laughs)

YA: No lie. (laughs) That should be a 3/10. ‘City Lights‘ – Oh my gosh! If the girl was better that would’ve been a 10/10, but it’s still a 9/10

FS: Bastard

YA: Everything else would be the same.

Michael Caine and Liam Neeson are the only actors to appear in three films scross both lists. Caine pops up on each (FS: 'Sleuth'; YA: 'Batman Begins' and 'The Dark Knight') whilst all of Neeson's are on Yasser's list ('Kingdom of Heaven', 'Schindler's List' and 'Batman Begins')
Michael Caine and Liam Neeson are the only actors to appear in three of the 50 films. Caine pops up on both lists (FS: ‘Sleuth’; YA: ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’) whilst all of Neeson’s are on Yasser’s list (‘Kingdom of Heaven’, ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Batman Begins’)

YA: Your turn!

FS: Okay. ‘Fearless’ got 7/10. I think that was too high. It was a 6/10, mainly because I gave ’13 Assassins’ 6/10, but liked it better. I’d bump ’13 Assassins’ up to a 7/10

YA: Interesting

FS:Meet Joe Black‘…

YA: Emotional connection. Tricky

FS: I think the emotional connection I have with the film meant I was wildly generous. Taken on its own standing, it’s a 4/10. However, I’ll make it a 5/10 because I do like it even though it’s pretty dull

YA: Okay

FS:Amelie‘ would go up to 9/10

YA: I’m glad

FS: ‘Casino Royale’ is an interesting case

YA: Oh?

FS: I almost swayed towards making it a 9/10, but then I saw the superior ‘Skyfall and that cemented the 8/10 in my head

YA: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! ‘Casino Royale’ is better than ‘Skyfall’

FS: No it’s not. ‘Skyfall had a better villain, the characters were more rounded, and it was just generally more enjoyable

YA: The villain was a rip-off of Ledger’s ‘Joker’. The director said that himself

FS: We could argue about this all day. It’s staying as an 8/10. The rest of your top ten is spot on, except ‘The Dark Knight’

YA: Did you over-mark it?

FS: I didn’t think so when we were discussing it, but looking back I do feel the whole climax with the ferries and the ‘Bat-Sonar’ was well done, but a bit lacklustre. Neither part worked for me so maybe 8/10 was more realistic. It was really good, but the climactic confrontation between Batman and ‘The Joker’ should have been one of the main talking points and we barely mentioned it

YA: The initial plans were to continue ‘The Joker’s’ story in the third film, but with Ledger dying, Nolan couldn’t find it within himself to recast the role

FS: What lesson do we learn from this? Never do anything with eyes on a sequel

YA: Like ‘Back to the Future‘? “FS: touche”

FS: No, not at all

YA: ‘Back to the Future Part II’, man! It sets up ‘Part III’

FS: Yes, but they were filmed back-to-back which is different to making one and thinking ‘in four years time we can make a third‘. If Nolan had filmed ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ back-to-back and Ledger had died during filming then I would take your point, but it didn’t happen that way

At 64 minutes, 'Way Out West' was the shortest film we watched. The 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy was by far the longest, clocking in at a mammoth 682 minutes. All in all, it would take just over five days to watch all 50 films back-to-back.
At 64 minutes, ‘Way Out West’ was the shortest film we watched. The ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy was by far the longest, clocking in at over 11 hours. All in all, it would take just over five days to watch all 50 films back-to-back.

FS: The next question I have is would any of my choices threaten to break into your top 25?

YA:It’s a Wonderful Life‘ could threaten to enter my list, but nothing else. I should have picked a Hitchcock movie but I would have gone for ‘Vertigo

FS:Casablanca‘ should have been on mine. I think part of me didn’t choose it as it felt too obvious but that was a mistake. ‘The Godfather‘ is the big one, though. I don’t think it would make it into the top 10 but we would be looking at somewhere from 11-15

YA: I’m glad about that

FS: Maybe I’d have dropped ‘High Noon’ for ‘Casablanca’. I think if I was to include ‘The Godfather’ then ‘Breathless’ would drop out. I’d struggle to relegate any of the others though

YA: I’m curious. ‘Beauty and the Beast‘…

FS: Yes?

YA: … would that now be your top animation?

FS: Spirited Away‘ is the best animated film I’ve ever seen followed by ‘Up‘. After that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ might be number three

YA: ‘Spirited Away’ is awful. Awful, awful. I think you took more films from me, but your list opened my eyes

Steven Spielberg (top) is the only director to have had three films on the lists - all of them on Yasser's ('War Horse', 'Schindler's List' and 'Saving Private Ryan'). Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott both appeared twice on Yasser's list, whilst Billy Wilder (bottom) was the only man to direct two of Fred's choices ('Sunset Boulevard' and 'Some Like It Hot').
Steven Spielberg (top) is the only director to have had three films on the lists – all of them on Yasser’s (‘War Horse’, ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’). In addition, Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott both appeared twice on Yasser’s list, but Billy Wilder (bottom) was the only man to direct two of Fred’s choices (‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘Some Like It Hot’).

FS: That brings me on to my last point which is about what the main criticisms of each others list would be. For me, your list was limited in its scope both in terms of when the films were made and what genres they crossed

YA: Huh? My list is awesome

FS: I’m not talking about the quality of the films. I’m saying that your 25 is a narrow representation of cinema as a whole

YA: Oh yeah? (laughs) What am I missing?

FS: If we take ‘Birth of a Nation‘ as the first feature-length movie with a plot, that was made 100 years ago, give or take a year. You had 100 years of films to choose from yet 22 or your 25 were made since 1991. That’s nearly 90% of your list

YA: That’s what I grew up watching. You grew up watching things made from the 1950s-70s

FS: Yes, but your parents stop choosing what films you watch when you are how old? I’m not having a go. I’m just saying that whilst your list demonstrates that modern cinema is alive and thriving, there’s not much from before the 1990s

YA: I think my movie taste only improved, like, 5-7 years ago. That’s when I started watching things like ‘Casablanca’ or ‘Gone With the Wind‘. All I watched before that was things like ‘Con Air‘ or ‘Bad Boys

FS: So the majority of the older films you’ve seen just don’t do it for you like modern movies do?

YA: They do but, for both of us, film watching is a labour of love

The average age of Fred's choices is 50 years whilst Yasser's is 16 years. There were 10 films from the 1950s in Fred's list. Yasser chose 12 from the 2000s
The average age of Fred’s choices is 50 years whilst Yasser’s is 16 years. There were 10 films from the 1950s in Fred’s list. Yasser chose 12 from the 2000s making it the most represented decade.

FS: What about the style of films on your list? There isn’t much to smile about on your list, especially towards the very top

YA: Why don’t you just say it? The majority of my films have violence in them

FS: There is that

YA: Your list has lots of nostalgia in it. ‘Breathless’, ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘, ‘Cinema Paradiso’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard‘ all nod to the old days of Hollywood

FS: That’s true

YA: I like violence in films as it’s an escape but I don’t choose movies because they are violent. In my top 10 we have ancient Rome, superheroes, World War II, the mafia, fantasy, espionage, cops and robbers. I think that’s pretty normal

FS: Do you not agree that the films are all the same kind of movie?

YA: (laughs) No, I really don’t

FS: Gangsters, gladiators, soldiers and spies… There is a lot of fighting – big battles or shootouts

YA: Maybe, but my films are based on my interests. I’m very defensive here because I know what people think

Of the seven 'Best Picture' Oscar winners we watched, six were on Yasser's list, including 'Gladiator' (right). 'The Sting' (left) is was the only film on Fred's list to win the big one.
Of the seven ‘Best Picture’ Oscar winners we watched, six were on Yasser’s list, including ‘Gladiator’ (right). ‘The Sting’ (left) is was the only film on Fred’s list to win the big one.

FS: What about my list? What would you say about it?

YA: Some are thought-provoking and the majority have of the films have messages behind them. ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ and ‘Wild Strawberries’ in particular are movies where the writers and directors are telling the audience a life lesson they should learn and it felt very pretentious

FS: Interesting

YA: Your comedies were the highlight

FS: I was particularly pleased that my three 1930s comedies scored 27/30 all together

YA: Somehow, I dunno why, I don’t think comedies are as worthy to be in my high estimations as more serious movies

FS: That shows. It’s an attitude I have never, and will never, understand

Thanks to all our ‘Film Club’ followers.

Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Fred’s Number One

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The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen.So far, they have watched 24 of each others choices and there has been plenty or harmony, but just as much discord. Now the end is in sight and any criticism of the other man’s favourite is unlikely to go down well.

We finish with Fred’s favourite movie of all-time. It was made by the arguably the most famous film director of them all, right in between his most critically acclaimed film and his best known. Starring the ultimate male movie star and with a score to die for, it’s…

You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
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Fred: We come to the last review

Yasser: ‘Tis a sad moment, Fred

FS: It’s a film I’ve watched at least once a year every year since I first saw it when I was probably 15 or 16. Before then, do you know what my favourite film was?

YA: I find it hard to imagine you as a teenager as you act like an old gentleman most of the time. You say shit like “good grief!”

FS: (laughs)

YA: A musical? Or Laurel & Hardy!

FS: No, it was ‘Around the World in 80 Days‘ – a terrific film, but then as I started to take more interest in films, I watched one that I instantly knew was a large cut above everything else I’d seen

YA: And that film is…

FS:North by Northwest

North by Northwest‘North by Northwest’
1959 – USA
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Cary Grant, James Mason, Eva Marie Saint, Martin Landau, Leo G. Carroll

YA: There’s something special about Hitchcock

FS: There is. You have seen this ‘wrong man‘ thriller before now…

YA: On your recommendation, yes. What is it about it that makes it your top pick?

FS: If you look at all of my choices it’s pretty clear that 1950s Hollywood is my favourite era of film-making. ‘North by Northwest’ brings together some of the key elements of that era, and the talent involved is universally at the peak of their Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saintpowers. I don’t know where to start, but when that first rumble of drums begins and the famous MGM logo appears on that bright green – not the usual black – background I feel tremendously excited

YA: Yeah, that green screen was a bit odd, I found, but a welcome change

FS: This might be an odd place to start considering the director, writer and cast involved, but the music is brilliant. Bernard Herrmann’s theme is definitely one of the best ever

Roger Thornhill gets into a spot of botherYA: The music grabs your attention first, but for me it’s the bright green titles

FS: Well, yes. Saul Bass – another legendary figure. I think his credit sequence is brilliant. I love it

YA: It’s odd that it’s the first thing we are talking about

FS: It’s because the tingle that the very first moments send down my spine is very, very real

FS: What did you make of the music in general?

YA: It was exciting. It had suspense in it. When I do notice music in movies I try to find all the little emotions in it. There’s a range of things this soundtrack did. It was very adept at keeping up with the many different story arcs – from suspense to comedy to romance

"Poured any good drunks lately?"FS: The music when Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is driving drunk is very different to when he’s on the train with Eve (Eva Marie Saint) for instance

YA: You still haven’t answered my original question – what makes this number one?

FS: (laughs) I think what I’m finding so difficult is this not only set the bar for thrillers, or Hitchcock movies, or MGM Technicolor flicks of the 1950s, or chase films. It set the bar for every film I’ve seen before or since and it’s not been surpassed. When I watch a film now, I often go into it almost hoping that I get the same Grant and Saintsensation that I have whenever I watch ‘North by Northwest’, but it has never happened.

YA: Okay

FS: I even worry that it’s my favourite because it’s been my favourite for so long, but as soon as I watch it that fear disappears. I just don’t enjoy any other film the way I enjoy this. It give me a different feeling inside. Sorry to be so abstract

YA: Nope, that is exactly what I am looking for. A sentimental attachment to the film

FS: This is going to sound pretentious, but I almost feel like the film is part of me – Saint and Martin Landauthat it is mine somehow (laughs)

YA: Yeah. That’s how I feel about ‘The Dark Knight

FS: Even if people criticise it, I don’t feel strongly as I am so assured of its quality that I don’t need their validation… which may be a good thing (laughs)

YA: We will see how it goes

FS: (laughs)

YA: I want to talk about the director

FS: Where better to start?

YA: Anyone who thinks of themselves as a movie fan has heard of Alfred Hitchcock, and if they haven’t seen any of his films then they don’t really understand cinema at all

Alfred HitchcockFS: Not many directors are as recognisable as their actors

YA: He crops up on the cover of new DVD releases of his films. How many other directors could get away with that? If they released ‘Jaws‘ and it had Spielberg on the cover as well as the shark, you’d look at it and think ‘whoever designed that cover is a cock

FS: I tend to use Charlie Chaplin as the benchmark for cinematic icons, but I don’t think there is a director as recognisable as Hitchcock. I even think if you showed a picture of Hitchcock, a picture of Cary Grant and a picture of Elizabeth Taylor to 100 people, more people would be able to name Hitchcock than the others

YA: We have looked at some wonderful directors over the fifty films, but Hitchcock… Fred… he’s on another level. He’s one of my favourites, one of your favourites and he’s still gaining fans. He was innovative and fresh and didn’t always fit the norm. I regret Hitchcock with Grant on-setnot having a Hitchcock film in my 25

FS: You are correct in that he is on a different level to anyone else. His reputation grows as time goes by as his films still look fresh 50, 60 years after they were made

YA: Without CGI too!

FS: Exactly! His hit-to-miss ratio is well above any other director I can think of

YA: Even now he is a breath of fresh air

FS: In terms of his direction, he had a definite style and rarely strayed from making thrillers. ‘North by Northwest’ reaps the benefit of the thirty years he’d spent making this type of movie

YA: Hitchcock does what he does best. I noticed how Thornhill is arrestedmany elements of most espionage movies, particularly the James Bond movies, are very much like ‘North by Northwest’. The investigation in the hotel room, the distinctive suit, the tall, dark and handsome lead, an attractive female who puts the lead at odds and helps him

FS: The first time we ever discussed this film I was surprised to hear you say it wasn’t a typical Hitchcock movie. Have you changed your opinion?

YA: Yes and no. It’s odd. It doesn’t have that typical air of suspense like the grittier Hitchcock movies, but you do feel the Hitchcock magic. It’s a brighter Hitchcock film

FS: I think all of his best films prior to this have a light touch to them, with the exception of ‘Vertigo‘. I think ‘North by Northwest’s evolution began back in the British Hitchcock movies of the 1930s like ‘The 39 Steps‘, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much‘ and ‘Young and Innocent‘. They all deal with ordinary men plunged by Cary Grantmistaken identity or a twist of fate into a whirlwind situation

YA: The man is Roger Thornhill, played by one of the greatest

FS: Cary Grant. What a man

YA: Legend

FS: The perfect movie star and the perfect person for this role

FS: It was so nearly James Stewart, who would no doubt have been great, but Grant is just so right. He worked with some great directors but it was Hitchcock who brought out his dark side, like he did with Stewart

YA: Well, both were favourites of Hitchcock and both are amazing actors. Hitchcock brought out some sides of them that you only saw hints of in other roles. You see Grant and SaintJames Stewart getting frustrated and angry in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘, but have you seen ‘Rope‘?

FS: That’s right. It’s like watching ‘Penny Serenade‘ and then watching ‘Suspicion‘. Both show a side of Grant that we don’t see in the romantic comedies, but there is no comparison between them. Grant wasn’t the greatest actor in the world, but I don’t think there has ever been a more charismatic star. He’s perfect in this whether he’s trying to make light of his predicament and trying to charm his way out of it, or he’s getting angry or desperate. You believe him

YA: When I first watched it I thought he was too old for the role. He looked a bit tired at times, I thought, but having seen it again I can’t say that

FS: He was all too aware of his age, which is why he stopped making films in the end, but I think a younger man wouldn’t have been quite right. Cary Grant can be A publicity shot featuring Grant and Saintcharming and resourceful without coming across as cocksure. His slightly advanced years gave him more vulnerability, if you like

YA: I quite like the scenes with his mother (Jessie Royce Landis) and I liked his relationship with his assistant (Doreen Lang). I dunno – the more I watch Grant the more I think he’s a cool mofo

FS: Jessie Royce Landis’ role was only small but she was great fun. You sound as if you liked her

YA: I liked their relationship. I think Grant brings the best out of his colleagues most of the time

FS: I’d agree with that in the case of Eva Marie Saint. He really helps her shine, as Grant with Leo G. CarrollI don’t like her in much else I’ve seen

YA: I’m gonna say what I feel about Saint. When you first meet her she is charming and easy to like – a strong woman who goes for what she wants. But there’s one scene that really made me cringe

FS: Which was…?

YA: When Eve and Thornhill meet up in the woods and have that… romantic moment… if you could call it that. It was so terrible on her part. She turns into a soppy, fake mess. It felt like a bad advert where a couple say goodbye to one another at a train station

FS: Last time out, the discussion was dominated by the hero-villain relationship. The villain here, Phillip Vandamm (James Mason), is not a super villain like ‘The Joker’ but he’s not a nice man either. What did you think of the character and of Mason?

YA: I liked him, but it was one of those performances that was good enough to forget Grant with James Masonbecause he was right for the role. I don’t know if that makes sense

FS: Not really

YA: There wasn’t something significant about what he did that made him stand out, especially over Cary Grant. Actually, when you see him in the auction scene or in the cafeteria scene I like him the most

FS: I think James Mason is the equal of Grant in this. He’s another actor I love and Martin LandauI think the suave and urbane Grant needs an equally suave and urbane villain… and he gets one

YA: In the last act of the film, I think that Martin Landau is better than Mason

FS: Landau is another brilliant actor, but I don’t agree that he’s better than Mason. Creepier? Yes, but Mason has this ‘seen it all before’ air that is sensational. Nothing phases him. They are two very accomplished performers

YA: I’d agree with that

Landau and MasonFS: When we watched ‘Anatomy of a Murder‘ the ensemble cast didn’t really ‘wow’ you, but James Stewart did. I get the feeling it’s the same here, with Cary Grant providing the majority of what you liked

YA: Quick mention for Leo G. Carroll as ‘The Professor’. He was ace

FS: Like Mason, he had an almost weary outlook on the whole thing, like he’d been through it a hundred times before

YA: Exactly

YA: Let’s talk about the story. What is it that brings you back time and time again?

FS: When I was young it was the big Hitchcock set-pieces that grabbed me, but on repeated viewings I realised it is a really clever thriller and the way Thornhill gets himself involved deeper and deeper is brilliantly done. It’s classic Hitchcock – an ordinary guy getting involved in something way outside his comfort zone. He’s not a cop or an action hero or a spy

YA: I love the story. Some elements are far-fetched but most movies are. I must confess though that this wouldn’t make my top 5 Hitchcock movies

Grant and Saint

FS: That’s either very bad for me or very good for Alfred

YA: I’ve already spoken about the worst moment. Most of the time I’ve dropped a point for a leading lady who isn’t strong enough for the role but, bar that one scene, Saint was ace. I especially liked how Eve Kendall was introduced as a promiscuous, independent girl

Saint and GrantFS: Was there anything else you didn’t like?

YA: There’s always something about the Mount Rushmore scene that doesn’t fit. Why the fuck are they on Mount Rushmore?

FS: (laughs) I’m telling you, Yasser. The Statue of Liberty, the British Museum, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Albert Hall. How you can say this isn’t typical Hitchcock is beyond me

FS: Quick word for the best moments? I think you know what I’m driving at here

YA: The crop-duster scene?

FS: Yep! Just magic. A wonderful example too of how having no music in a scene The crop-duster scenecan be so effective. You just hear the hum of the plane’s engines in the background. The whole scene is a work of genius. When I watched this on the big screen last year there was a buzz around the cinema when it started. Everyone sat up a little straighter in their seats

YA: It’s iconic and very well done, but to be honest I was more impressed with the film’s dialogue. The auction scene for instance. How he manages to escape is great, as is the scene where Thornhill’s plastered in the police station

FS: The script is fantastic. Lots of good lines and the auction scene is probably my favourite section of the whole film

FS: Here is my last shot at selling this film to you. We have a cast made up of a talented actress, two incredible actors as the villains, memorable supporting players, and the ultimate male movie star. They all touch their best and the two leads – Saint and Grant – have probably never been better. The music from the legendary Bernard Herrmann is spine-tingling. Ernest Lehman’s script is packed with terrific lines, and you have Saul Bass’ outrageous, visually assaulting title sequence. Finally, no matter how much I think I prefer other directors, Alfred Hitchcock is really my favourite. The number of true classics he made is astounding, and in ‘North by Northwest’ he’s taken all the best elements of his films and packed them together

YA: Interesting. I think it’s sum-up time

FS: Go for it

YA: It’s rare to find a director whose name can grab a movie lover’s attention, but Alfred Hitchcock was such a man. His talent goes far beyond the norm, placing him above all others. Why I didn’t include my own favourite Hitchcock film, ‘Vertigo’, in my list still baffles me. The look and feel of ‘North by Northwest’ is not as dark as ‘Vertigo’, ‘Psycho‘ or ‘Rope’ but that is not to say the film should be taken for granted.

YA: Cary Grant is, in my estimations, one of the screen’s greatest actor. His charm, charisma and suave debonair character bring out the best in his co-stars. Throughout the film he is flawless. James Mason as the main antagonist is awesome, and perhaps I didn’t speak enough about him, but it’s difficult when another star like Grant excels with such minimal effort in comparison. Eva Marie Saint has a wobbly moment where her performance felt forced, but the rest of the time she is also up there with her Saint and Grantco-stars. The supporting cast of Carroll, Royce Landis and Landau didn’t have as much screen time but made their parts memorable.

FS: This is good…

YA: There’s technical brilliance throughout, some of which still hold its own nearly 55 years later, and the score helps everything along nicely. The stunts like the crop-duster scene are amazing and I believe all the majority of Bond films and other espionage movies take inspirations from this. It’s timeless and that is because of Hitchcock. However, does it deserve 10/10? From Fred’s list, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Way Out West‘ and ‘Back to the Future‘ all captured my imagination and I built an emotional connection to the films, Unfortunately I didn’t feel that here and for that reason it’s a 9/10. An amazing achievement and a film I respect, but there are other films, and other Hitchcock movies, I love more

FS: Super. It’s a good score. I’m a little disappointed but if you’d said before we started that my top 10 would average 8/10 I’d have been happy

So there we have it. ‘Film Club’ is over…. for now at least. Check back next time were we have one final chat and look back over the 50 films we watched.

Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Yasser’s Number One

Posted on Updated on

The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen.So far, they have watched 24 of each others choices and there has been plenty or harmony, but just as much discord. Now the end is in sight and any criticism of the other man’s favourite is unlikely to go down well.

We start with Yasser’s top choice and in keeping with the feel of his list it is a modern classic directed by a big name and featuring iconic performances in a battle between good and evil. Fred’s watch it and is ready to give his verdict…

You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
__________________________________________________________________

Fred: Well… here we are. The penultimate review and the film at the top of your list

Yasser: Yeah. A film I’ve seen dozens of times

FS: Dozens? Wow! It’s only five years old

YA: I know it all word-for-word. I watched it again this week with my ‘Fred’ eyes

FS: (laughs) And how was that?

YA: It was refreshing. I’ve waited since July to watch it with a more judgemental pair of eyes

FS: What is the film?

YA: It’s ‘The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight‘The Dark Knight’
2008 – USA
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman

FS: It’s your favourite of favourites – your number one. Simple question for you – why?

YA: Brilliance through and through. The cast is brilliant, the direction, cinematography, visual effects, sound, editing, costume – all of it’s amazing. I love everything about this film

FS: Shall we start with the story?

YA: If you remember, one of my other choices was ‘Batman Begins‘, which you liked

FS: Very much…

YA: ‘The Dark Knight’ pretty much carries on from ‘Batman Begins’. It starts with a bank heist, and you know I like a good bank job. Were you impressed by the opening Christian Bale as Bruce Waynesequence?

FS: Yes. It really started with a bang. I’d thought it was a great way to start, as it would have been easy to begin with some moody shots of Batman/ Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) doing moody things, or a collection of shots showing Batman cleaning up Gotham to show what he’d been up to since the end of ‘Batman Begins’, but instead they went straight into the new story and introduced his new foe as quickly as possible

YA: And what a foe he is! We get introduced to ‘The Joker’ (Heath Ledger) very early on

FS: Yeah, and we are left in no doubt that he’s going to be something new and Heath Ledger as 'The Joker'different from what we saw last time out by virtue of how he handles the heist.

YA: The way he is introduced is epic. The whole build-up around him in a few moments

FS: All the double-crossing during the heist makes you think ‘this guy’s a ruthless SOB‘. Then you realise that he’s happy to do the dirty work too

YA: Just in those couple of minutes you already know this guy is clever and having fun

FS: We quickly get introduced to another major new player in Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). He looks every inch the American hero. Robert Redford crossed with Dan Marino

Aaron Eckhart as Harvey DentYA: He has that look, doesn’t he?

FS: Dent’s an all-round good guy – idealistic, but not an idiot – rather like Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman)

YA: The story has picked up the thread from ‘Batman Begins’ on how Batman has affected the criminal underworld, forcing them to work in daylight and unite instead of being competitors. It becomes a bit of a challenge for Gordon and Dent and makes them reliant on Batman

FS: The first meeting between Gordon and Dent shows that is going to be an issue as Dent tried to get a grip on Batman, but Gordon blocks him as much as he can

Gary Oldman as Lt. GordonYA: The plan they have to put an end to the mob is a good one, but the mob is one step ahead and manage to elude their efforts. This is why I find the story fantastic. It’s not about aliens invading Earth and then all the superheroes team up. ‘The Dark Knight’ is much, much more. Everything in the story ties to something else. It’s like ‘The Departed

FS: It does have a layered story and a lot of characters to keep up with, but like a good episode of ‘Seinfeld‘ everything is linked, even if it’s not immediately apparent

YA: I think the story of Harvey Dent is one of the best story arcs

FS: His story really showed how powerful ‘The Joker’ was. Dent is a symbol of good – “Gotham’s White Knight” – but the rampant, carefree evil of ‘The Joker’ still gets Ledgerthrough to him

YA: ‘The Joker’ is monumental to the film’s story. His actions make the whole city panic, and the brilliant thing is he just wants to create chaos. He doesn’t have any regard for himself. He just wants to watch the dominoes fall

FS: With the film not setting up any back story, it quickly becomes apparent that he’s doing all this for nothing but his own pleasure

YA: I think he’s the best psycho sociopath personality I’ve seen on-screen

FS: On one of his early appearances I was was worried for you. I thought for about 30 seconds that all the hype and expectation around Ledger in this film was going to result in a let down. The good news is that as soon as he stopped the annoying fake laugh those worries about him evaporated faster than a raindrop in a bush fire. Ledger was terrific

YA: Nolan got a lot of grief for casting Ledger, but Nolan and the rest of the cast told the press that what he was doing with ‘The Joker’ was something no-one has seen before

FS: I have seen him in a few things and always thought he was very average. This Ledger out of make-upis head and shoulders above anything else he did

YA: He also had to live up to the previous ‘Joker’, Jack Nicholson

FS: Was he better than Jack?

YA: Jack who?

FS: Jack was good, but he was Jack and we loved him for it. Ledger was so different from anything else he ever did. It wasn’t about ‘ha ha! Isn’t Jack great?‘, it was ‘God! ‘The Joker’s a bit of a cunt, isn’t he?

YA: I think Bale does a magnificent job again

FS: He lapses into his husky “I’m Batman!” voice a bit too often

Bale as BatmanYA: I knew you’d bring that up. I thought to myself ‘Fred is going to say that’s overused‘. The gravelly voice is all part of or Bruce hiding himself behind Batman. It’s the animal side he sets free. It’s his way of being intimidating

FS: He is very good. Don’t get me wrong

YA: From a viewer’s perspective it can seem excessive, but it wouldn’t be in character if Batman sounded like a yuppie

FS: I see what you are saying, but there’s a couple of moments that are verging on self-parody. It’s not a big deal, it’s just that Ledger is so good that Bale seems diminished. Taken on it’s own his performance is as good as it was in ‘Batman Begins’

Nolan with Caine and BaleYA: I think that’s the same for Freeman, Caine and Oldman. They are all pretty consistent

FS: They are reassuring presences

YA: How did Eckhart fare in your eyes?

FS: Initially you aren’t sure if he’s going to be a disruptive influence on the Batman-Gordon relationship, but quickly you realise he’s ready to accept it as it benefits Gotham

YA: The more I watch his performance the more I like it. You can see the resemblance between him before and after his personality change

FS: It was the most difficult role as, like Bale in ‘Batman Begins’, he has a few different faces to show across the story (no pun intended). He did very well. He’s not in Bale or Oldman’s league as an actor, but he holds his own

YA: He’s also the love interest for Rachel Dawes, played here by Maggie Gyllenhaal. How was she in comparison to Katie Holmes?

Maggie Gyllenhall as Rachel DawesFS: I was expecting her to be much better, but I don’t think she was any better or worse. Holmes surprised me in ‘Batman Begins’ with how solid she was and I think that’s the most you can say for Gyllenhaal. Solid without being great

YA: My sentiments exactly. Did anyone else stand out for you?

FS: Not really. This is Ledger and Bale’s film, and even Bale feels like a supporting player sometimes as Ledger dominates the movie so much. Whether that is a side-effect of what happened to him afterwards we will unfortunately never know

YA: Going back to the story for a moment, it’s really about how Batman is trying to clean up Gotham but he has rules for himself. ‘The Joker’ has no rules and even changes his mind throughout the film about what he wants in favour of what is fun in his mind. He creates a reputation, like Batman, and puts the same fear into people. He wants to test Gotham’s morality – through threatening to blow up the hospital, killing people daily unless Batman is unmasked, or during the ending with the sick, twisted game involving the two ferries

FS: That section with the ferries is very tense. It alludes back to the heist at the beginning where ‘The Joker’ Ledgerleft nothing to chance or to other people. I loved it

YA: Even the way he kept changing the story about how he got his scars showed he was always one step ahead

FS: The scars story thing was great as when you heard his first explanation you think ‘God! That is awful‘. Yet when he changes the story any smidgen of sympathy or insight into his mind disappears. In a weaker film the lack of explanation as to why he was so crazy would have driven me insane

YA: It’s the beauty of Nolan’s ‘Joker’

FS: You said it!

FS: Speaking of Nolan…

YA: You know, if he continues on this path he’s going to be remembered as one of the greats

FS: If he died tomorrow I’d consider him the equal of Spielberg for this type of film

YA: Praise!

Nolan and the castFS: He hasn’t done a ‘Schindler’s List‘ or a ‘Munich‘ so it’s difficult to compare him on that score, but for action/adventure movies I think he’s right up there with the best

YA: His films are mentally stimulating as well as leaving you in awe because of the visuals

FS: With ‘E.T.’, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark‘ and others of that era, Spielberg didn’t have the sophisticated effects to work with so he knew the stories had to be nourishing too. What makes Nolan great is that he does have visual effects at his disposal that can show you pretty much anything and make it look real, but he doesn’t rely on that like a lot of film makers do

YA: What about the other technical aspects? Did you like the way the IMAX shots panned out the screen?

FS: It can be easy to worry only about what’s going on centre stage, but guys like Nolan and Wally Pfister, the cinematographer, know that to make a world real every inch of the screen has to be real. The editing was a bug-bear of mine last time and, again, there was some issues. However, that is nit-picking

YA: What about the score? Please tell me you liked it

FS: You know what I’m going to say. I didn’t notice it, but the film made me feel Bale and Ledgerhow it wanted me to feel so it must have done a good job

YA: I love the way the violin scratching happened every time ‘The Joker’ was lurking around the corner

FS: I listened out for that as you had flagged it to me beforehand. First time, I noticed it but after that I was so engrossed so I forgot to listen out for it

FS: Do you think there were any flaws with the film?

YA: Nothing major. A couple of plot holes maybe, but they are admissible

FS: I did think Bruce Wayne was pretty careless in this. There is a scene where ‘The Joker’ turns up at Bruce’s party and people see Bruce going into what the think is his panic room. I reckon, after Batman turns up five minutes later, I’d have put two and two together

YA: (laughs) Yeah! I was wondering if you felt it was a good move to make the Tumbler turn into the Batpod, or did it feel too childish?

Bale on the BatpodFS: Ehhhh… good question. Look, a film like this will always have bits where I think ‘Yeah right! As if that would work‘ and that was one of them, but it worked within the film as a whole. The tightrope a Batman movie walks is the most difficult. He’s an ordinary man, not a flying alien or a man bitten by a radioactive spider. With those sorts of stories you are instantly in a fantasy world whereas this is set in the real world with some fantastical elements. They have to make the unrealistic things feel as plausible as possible and I don’t think any film does that as well as it’s done here

FS: We were talking about flaws…

YA: Oh dear…

FS: I watched ‘The Dark Knight’ and really enjoyed it. I would watch it again and it is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen. However, it may be a victim of ‘Film Ledger and GyllenhaalClub‘ itself. Doing this has made me a lot more critical so that I watch movies now that I would previously thought of as ’10/10′ movies and I feel that, as they aren’t perfect, I cannot rate them that highly

YA: Intriguing…

FS: Film ratings should be a bell curve where the majority lie between ‘4’ and ‘7’ and the ‘1’s and ’10’ are the smallest groups of all… however I’ll save the rest of this for my summary

YA: I too see flaws in movies i would have originally called ’10/10’s, but you can’t be too critical because if you are…. where’s the escape?

FS: So this is where you get a last chance to tell me why ‘The Dark Knight’ is so amazing

YA: Okay. I love Batman. Loved him since I was a boy. I watched the Adam West TV Show growing up and the Tim Burton franchise, which was ruined when it was given to Joel Schumacher by Warner Brothers after people said it was too dark, and he fucked things up in all honesty. They did the right thing to reboot Batman

FS: The results speak for themselves

YA: Nolan changed the the image for Batman in film and made it more real. With ‘The Dark Knight’, Warners gave Nolan more control and he made an absolutely brilliant film. The story is beautifully told and touches on many different themes. It’s long but never Echkartdrags. It’s ‘bang! bang! bang!’ all the way through. The main reason I love it is the storyline and the sacrifices Batman is forced to make. I’ve always said a hero is only as good as the villain, and Ledger as ‘The Joker’ is the best I’ve seen anyone play a villain ever. And I don’t think it’s quintessentially just a superhero movie. It sets the bar so high it will be hard for another superhero film to top it

FS: That’s probably true

YA: I love Batman. (laughs) That’s it

FS: (laughs)

FS: This has been the toughest film to assess as it is your favourite and I know you are a huge fan of Batman and the Nolan franchise in particular. However, I have to leave all of that aside and judge the film as I see it

YA: Do your thing

Ledger's family accept his posthumous OscarFS: ‘The Dark Knight’ is an excellent action movie that picks up the high standard of ‘Batman Begins’ and takes it up a notch. With no back-story to explore, the film goes straight into the action. We know Batman and know what he’s about. We know Gordon is the only honest cop and we know that Alfred (Caine) and Fox (Freeman) are Bruce’s father figures. We also know Rachel is the girl he loves but has cut adrift in order to do what Gotham needs him to do – to be Batman. The new elements that are introduced are Eckhart’s Harvey Dent, who does a very good job in high-class company, and ‘The Joker’ who the film revolves around. A lot has been said about Heath Ledger’s performance in the wake of his death. It has been eulogised to a ridiculous level and whilst nothing could ever live up to all the hype, it is a stunning portrayal of pure evil for evil’s sake

YA: I’m getting excited now

FS: The technical aspects of the film are almost universally superb, but what really makes the film great, in tandem with Ledger, is Christopher Nolan. All I can say about him is he is on his way to being the best in his genre and if he shows he can Posterdo other things too then the sky’s the limit. Now we come to the rating. Watching this, it struck me that action is a genre that I don’t find it difficult to watch or enjoy, but I do find it difficult to really love. I think ‘The Dark Knight’ is up there with the best of them, but I’m sorry to say that I don’t think I could honestly say it deserves top marks. I thought it was brilliant, but it didn’t leave me with the feeling the very best films gives me. I’m sorry Yasser but it’s a 9/10

YA: So the reason it gets nine is that it’s an action movie?

FS: Not exactly. I think I’ve become more realistic about what ratings films deserve since we started ‘Film Club‘ and there are very few perfect movies. Also, we all have genres we enjoy more than others and i wonder if I am hard-wired to be critical of action movies

YA: You should be judging these films objectively!

FS: It’s the same as what you have said about musicals and westerns. You can appreciate one now and again, but in general you don’t like them. I’m not saying it deserves a nine BECAUSE it’s an action movie, I’m saying that after watching it and awarding it a a nine, I started to wonder if there is something about action movies that will always make me think of them unconsciously as imperfect

YA: That’s disappointing… like, I don’t like you right now (laughs)

Next time: The final film of the fifty is Fred’s favourite. Fantastic or flawed?

Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Twenty-Four, Part Two – ‘Paths of Glory’ (1957)

Posted on

The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. It’s been a whole year since the first Film Club, and after a winter break it returns to look at the final four films. Will the boys’ favourites find appreciation or disdain from the one another?

In at number two on Fred’s list is a classic anti-war movie made in the early career of one of Hollywood’s most iconic directors. It’s a film with a message. Will Yasser enjoy it?

You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
__________________________________________________________________

Fred: My penultimate choice, and therefore my second-favourite movie, is the 1957 film ‘Paths of Glory‘. It was directed by Stanley Kubrick, but it’s not exactly a typical Kubrick film, is it?

Yasser: I don’t think Kubrick had a typical genre. He was very much an all-rounder

FS: No, that’s true. I suppose what I mean is that in terms of style and scope it doesn’t have much in common with most of his work

YA: He was an ambitious film-maker, and he didn’t make as many movies as the studios wanted, but what he did make – ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘, ‘Dr. Strangelove‘, ‘Full Metal Jacket‘, ‘Barry Lyndon‘ – are all very good films. ‘Spartacus‘ and ‘The Shining‘ are two of the best films I’d say I’ve seen

Paths of Glory (1957)‘Paths of Glory’
1957 – USA
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Ralph Meeker, Timothy Carey

FS: Okay, you are a Kubrick fan. Where does this fit in?

YA: The decision to film it in black and white was a good one

FS: Why was that?

YA: I suppose the same reason why ‘Schindler’s List‘ would not have been as good if it was in colour. There’s a more serious tone to it

Kubrick on the trenches setFS: A more documentary feel?

YA: The gravity of the situation the people on screen are in won’t feel as desperate as it does at times. I might be talking absolute shite right now, but that is how it feels

FS: (laughs) No, I think you are right. The film has a serious message and if it looks like ‘The Great Escape‘ that might be taken away from. ‘The Guns of Navarone‘ has a strong anti-war message, but people just see it as a big action film. Gregory Peck was always disappointed by that

YA: I find in some serious films, black and white helps the directors as they know that the shadows help with the drama

YA: This is close to your top spot, Fredders. Why is it so high in your estimations?

FS: This is the only film I’ve seen in the last ten years that ever made me think ‘you know, this might be better than my number one‘. I want to say from the off that I am Kirk Douglas with Kubrick on setnot a big fan of Kubrick. For me, he was a wildly self-indulgent film-maker whose best work was done under the close control of the studio system. I’ve seen a number of his most famous works and, whilst they all have good moments, I found them to be all very disappointing. ‘Paths of Glory’, though, blew me away. It goes against every Hollywood convention for a war film that had been built up since Pearl Harbour and has a proper impact because of that

YA: It’s a sad story, not a heroic one

FS: Exactly. It’s not a ‘flag waver

YA: See, I gotta say that after I finished watching it I was left angry

FS: Good! That’s how you should feel. The film’s done its job if that’s how you felt

George Macready and Adolphe MenjouYA: It is a shocking film

FS: It is shocking. The ending in particular is not what you are expecting and left me stunned into wide-eyed silence the first time I watched it

YA: Yep. That’s why I was so pissed

FS: (laughs) But I think it’s that moment that turns it from a good film into a great one

YA: It really makes you think

FS: It’s an incredible story, isn’t it? Three soldiers put up on a court martial and facing the death penalty as an example to hundreds who were made attack an unbreachable position on the battlefield by their generals. To think it’s based on a true story, and I’m sure one of many examples where greed and megalomania took Wayne Morris, Douglas and Ralph Meekerover any sense of moral decency

YA: The motherfucker who sent these poor fucks to attack ‘The Anthill’ knew it was a bad decision but his ambition, his own personal gain, stuck in the forefront of his mind

FS: Ah yes! The excellent George Macready as General Mireau

YA: I didn’t like General Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) either. He’s the one who offers Mireau the opportunity to get promoted, but then turns his back on him when Mireau Menjou and Douglasfinds disfavour

FS: Mireau is the more obvious villain, but Broulard is every bit as guilty. Again, he’s out to serve himself. I’m glad the film made an impact with you

YA: Mireau is the more one-dimensional character, but Macready’s performance is not. He plays him very well. You can see his eyes light up when Broulard mentions promotion

FS: Good, good

YA: Then this pompous air surrounds him whenever he talked to Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) or anyone else, like he’s been ordained to achieve this victory and what he says is always right

FS: He looked down on everyone. He spoke to Dax as Macready: The more obvious villainif he were a schoolboy, and there is that wonderful scene in the trenches where Mireau uses the same practiced patter with each soldier he talks to

YA: He was played very well, but I don’t imagine it’s hard to play someone like that. You just have to act like your shit doesn’t stink when it really does

FS: How about Menjou?

YA: Broulard had a more practiced apathy – a fake smile. He was quick to change sides when it suited him. He saw the whole thing as a Chess match

FS: I agree with you there. You see that Dax is very wary of him when they are on screen together, even though Broulard is a more jovial and welcoming presence Kubrick with Menjouthan Mireau. Menjou is very good – always has been when I’ve seen him – but he’s a bit forgotten

YA: I thought out of the two of them, trying to fuck each other over to get a higher position, Broulard was the more cunning and more likely to advance

FS: His attempts to make Dax his ‘yes-man’ despite everything that happens is a perfect example of what he is willing to do

YA: Speaking of Dax… Kirk Douglas

FS: How good is he?

YA: Well, we do love Kirk

FS: (laughs) Yes we do

Kirk Douglas as DaxYA: I don’t think I’ve seen him put a foot wrong in anything

FS: I was about to say the same, certainly not in his heyday anyway

YA: He never won an Oscar, did he? I think he got an honourary award, but that’s not the same

FS: Three nominations, no wins

YA: ‘Paths of Glory’ was released in 1957…

FS: Yes

YA: … I think Douglas’ performance in this pretty much cemented him as the lead in Kubrick’s next film in 1960, ‘Spartacus’

FS: Actually, it was the other way around. Interesting story. Douglas was the producer and star of ‘Spartacus’, having decided to make an epic in anger after being passed over for ‘Ben-Hur‘. He fell out with ‘Spartacus’s original director DouglasAnthony Mann and hired Kubrick

YA: Beautiful! Things have a way of working out. Kirk Douglas has a way of being broody on-screen

FS: Yes, and boy does he need it here!

YA: He grinds his teeth, sticks his chin out, and stares. He doesn’t need to say anything and you know what he means

Dax goes over the topFS: (laughs) Yes. Excellent! This is a great performance. He has some great scenes

YA: I think my favourite is when he’s sat with both Generals at the table in Broulard’s chateau

FS: The three of them only have two scenes all together, but they work really well together. The court martial scene contains one of the great movie speeches…

YA: He’s fighting a system he works for and there is nothing going in his favour

FS: Douglas plays the whole film with suppressed anger. Dax knows that losing his temper will get him nowhere so he keeps it under wraps, but it’s always there just Timothy Carey, Meeker and Joe Turkelbelow the surface

YA: Douglas, Macready and Menjou were all fine actors, but he one I really felt for was Ralph Meeker as Corporal Paris

FS: So, there are three soldiers court martialled, all with different personalities. Meeker plays the most ‘normal’ of the three and he’s very good

YA: It was important to touch on at least one of their backgrounds so you have a better understanding of who they were prior to being charged with cowardice

FS: Otherwise it would have been too impersonal

Carey in the court martial sceneYA: It was good to see them go through all of the emotions as they waited in prison – anger, sadness, hope, regret

FS: What did you think of Joe Turkel and Timothy Carey as the other two soldiers? Not much screen time, but right for the roles

YA: I don’t think there is one actor in the film who doesn’t perform well

YA: Kubrick…

FS: Yes?

YA: … he’s odd. He could have been bigger and better. I know he rarely had a ‘miss’, but he could have made more films

FS: I’m not against a film-maker picking and choosing their projects, but he took it Kubrick shares a joke with Douglas and Susanne Christianto an extreme

YA: I think it can be better for a director to have a ‘miss’ now and again to get them back on track

FS: You are asking the wrong person. I find a lot of his output pretty boring, if I’m honest

YA: There were bits of the direction and cinematography that I didn’t like – mainly because of the lighting

FS: Interesting…

YA: I felt it was too bright sometimes when it was night time

FS: I love the way it’s filmed

In the cellsYA: It’s a minor detail

FS: Was there anything else you didn’t like?

YA: The subject seemed far-fetched, but reading into it later, this shit really happened. research strengthened the film

FS: That’s good to hear

YA: You don’t understand how pissed I was. Powerful shit, Fredders. I’ve gotta give it to you. I think it’s the downfall of the film – everything in it is so bleak

Court MartialFS: Surely if the film has set out to make you angry, to make you think about the injustice and senselessness of what went on, and it succeeds in doing that then the film was pitched just right

YA: Yes, that’s true. I’m not arguing with that. It’s a good downfall, if that makes sense

FS: (laughs) No, but I like it

FS: Any questions before you rate it?

YA: Actually, yes. This is a war movie. Did that have a bearing on your decision to have this in second spot?

FS: I’m not sure I understand the question. I love war movies, though this is the only one on my list and it’s not a typical example of the genre. However the fact it’s a war movie has no bearing on how highly I’ve ranked it. I think as an example of story telling it’s nearly perfect. There is no long build up, just the salient facts and Richard Anderson, Douglas and Macreadythen we are on to the main body of the story. A lot of film-makers would have taken a sombre tale like this and spun it out over three hours

YA: A subtle jab at ‘Schindler’s List’?

FS: No because the story of ‘Schindler’s List’ needed that run time as it had more complex background to cover. I hesitate to use ‘High Noon‘ and ‘Bad Day at Black Rock‘ as examples, as I know you didn’t like them all that much, but those films and this show that a movie that clocks in at around 90 minutes can be just as effective as a longer film

YA: ‘Paths of Glory’ is a difficult film to watch as you have to allow yourself to get angry at something that doesn’t personally affect you. The film unfolds simply enough but it’s the character performances and the bleak story that make this film stand out. Kirk Douglas does what he does best. George Macready and Adolphe Menjou play two generals out for what they can gain at the expense of their subordinates. Out of the two, the latter is much better than the former. Out of the main cast, however, Ralph Meeker is the worthy winner out of an array of good performances. He, Turkel and Carey Paths of Glorymanage to give you a fair idea of what it would be like if you were faced with execution.

FS: Super!

YA: Kubrick did a wonderful job of getting the tone and pace right. He used the black and white effectively, even if the lighting was sometimes odd. All in all, the story is gripping and it leaves you questioning people’s morality. The film has stuck with me since viewing it. A very good film, but not completely perfect. 9/10

FS: I’ll take that all day long

Next time: We have made it to the top. What is the film at number one on Yasser’s list? Watch this space to find out

Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Twenty-Four, Part One: ‘Gladiator’ (2000)

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The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. It’s been a whole year since the first Film Club, and after a winter break it returns to look at the final four films. Will the boys’ favourites find appreciation or disdain from the one another?

In at number two on Yasser’s list is a modern epic and Oscar winner starring Russell Crowe. It has shades of the 1950s and 60s, but is that enough to find favour with Fred?

You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
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Fred: ‘Gladiator‘ is the film at number two on your list. You are a big fan of Ridley Scott and a big fan of ‘sword and sandal’ epics, aren’t you?

Yasser: Yeah. I love big, grand films, be it biblical epics likeThe Ten Commandments or ‘sword and sandal’ movies like Spartacus

FS: What is it about ‘Gladiator’ that makes it your favourite?

YA: Since the days of the Heston era it’s been a long time since someone made a big film like Ben-Hur that has caught my interest, but ‘Gladiator’ was magic. Scott did a wonderful job of getting the best out of his cast, the production was wonderful. The costumes and sets looked beautiful

FS: Okay. Let’s start with the cast

Gladiator‘Gladiator’
2000 – USA
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi

FS: As befitting an epic there is a big cast, but really it’s a story of two men – Maximus (Russell Crowe) and Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). You chose Kingdom of Heaven, another Scott film of this type, earlier in your list. I didn’t like it mainly due to a weak central performance. Thank God for Russel Crowe! He has the right Russel Crowestature to carry this kind of film

YA: He has a brooding nature that fits in well with the role he plays

FS: Generally, I think he’s a bit overrated but he is capable of being really good, and this is one of his best performances. It’s very much a Heston-type role. Not much is required from him in acting terms, but he has a presence

YA: I think Maximus is his best role to date, along withCinderella Man

FS: I think The Insider and A Beautiful Mind are his best, but this is up there. In Joaquin Phoenixmost other films he would dominate the picture. However, I don’t think he’s the best person in ‘Gladiator’. That honour goes to Phoenix

YA: How did he not win the Oscar?

FS: I’m surprised too as he’s absolutely brilliant. I have never seen him be bad, but in this he’s exceptional as Commodus, who is such a warped, impotent, snivelling little shit

YA: Looking at his earlier work compared to his late brother River, I’d say he suffered from having a lot to live up to, but Joaquin has developed into a brilliant actor in the last 15 years. You can tell there are a lot of screws loose. He was an alcoholic and the death of his brother hit him hard. He probably used a lot of those emotions to help him in this role

FS: The key to this type of epic, where the story is one of good vs. evil, is to have an effective hero and villain. If either performer is poor then the whole film suffers

Phoenix and CroweYA: The hero is only as good as his antagonist. Agreed

FS: Crowe is talented and has star quality in abundance, so to cast someone to match that to play opposite him is hard. Phoenix’s performance has to be perfect as he’s not Crowe’s physical equal. He makes Commodus so conniving, so wretched, so disgusting and despicable that you really hate him. However, he never strays into cardboard villainy

YA: He’s the main reason I love the film. Crowe has the lines that everyone quotes and the fight scenes that people remember, but it’s Phoenix who gives a career-defining performance, for me. It’s the first time he gained my respect as a viewer

YA: How did you find the story?

FS: Part of the brilliance of the movie is that it borrowed heavily from some of the older epics yet it stands alone as a great movie in its own right. The writing is very Richard Harris and Crowegood. Films like this can be stodgy but I didn’t find that with ‘Gladiator’

YA: How do you mean?

FS: If this had been made in the 1950s I think the angle of saving the empire would have been emphasised, but whilst Maximus is loyal to Marcus Aurelius’ (Richard Harris) vision for the future, you know it is his personal revenge that is really driving him

YA: Yeah, Commodus rips his life apart by destroying his career, his father figure, and his family. Even after that he’s still jealous of Maximus because everything Commodus gained from Marcus Aurelius’ death disappears when Maximus returns. He loses theRidley Scott with Oliver Reed respect and love of the people and even his sister

FS: He’s desperate to control everything but at every turn Maximus scuppers him almost by accident. Even when Maximus heeds Proximo’s (Oliver Reed) advice on how to survive as a gladiator by entertaining the crowd, he’s only doing it because of his desire to get revenge on Commodus. He’s doing what he needs to do. It’s a clever way for the story to unfold

YA: I was a bit worried you wouldn’t like the film

FS: I like it very much. I will say I enjoyed it more the first time I watched it. This time around I was left with a feeling of it not being as good as I’d remembered

YA: See, the more I watch the more I like

Derek Jacobi and Connie NielsenFS: There were a couple of irritating aspects of how the film was made

YA: Go on…

FS: The cinematography was the main one. It was quite muggy. The battle scenes were dank and blurry and that wasn’t helped by the needless slow-motion

YA: Hmmm. I don’t mind the slo-mo stuff

FS: I think it’s unnecessary and very few directors know how to use it effectively. Scott also added that blurry effect which didn’t help. It looked like a 1980s music video

YA: Many directors have their own way of doing things

FS: Yes and many directors are bad directors (laughs). The other thing I didn’t like Crowe on horsebackwas the score. It just didn’t fit

YA: My buddy Hans Zimmer

FS: It sounded quite eastern for a film based in Europe. Don’t get me wrong – I can’t claim to know what Roman’s listened to in their own homes, but I didn’t like it

YA: I think Zimmer is incredible

FS: I just don’t get his reputation

CroweYA: People love the ‘Gladiator’ soundtrack. It was Oscar-winning

FS: That’s hardly a guarantee of quality. The best thing I can say about it is that for the most part I didn’t notice it

YA: During the arena scenes it really helped with the pace of the fights. It often changed very well to the tone of how things happened. I don’t understand why you don’t like the score. I’m finding it hard to wrap my head around it

FS: Let’s talk about Ridley Scott

YA: Not sure what we can add from the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ conversation

Ridley ScottFS: Let’s be fair to him – ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ was a mess and he didn’t control his actors, possibly because he got a bit arrogant after ‘Gladiator’s success. This shows more what he’s capable of. I like him. I just wish he could show some consistency. If he did, he’d be another Spielberg

YA: See, I like ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ for more personal reasons

FS: You’d have to. ‘Gladiator’ is everything that is not. Well written, well acted by the lead, no over acting by the supporting cast

YA: So you like the supporting cast too?

Nielsen and CroweFS: The two leads dominate the story so much that the supporting cast is fairly incidental, but no-one sticks out as a poor performer. Oliver Reed, someone who famously frittered away his talent, is an asset to the movie. Richard Harris is very good in the few scenes he has, as is Derek Jacobi. Of the younger players, I liked Connie Nielsen and Djimon Honsou

YA: I like Honsou. There was a point when I thought he was going to become a big star but his career didn’t pick up

Crowe with Djimon HonsouFS: I think it’s still quite difficult to be a big star if you are black. Look at the roles he gets – slaves and poor Africans. They are hardly the types of roles associated with someone like Denzel Washington

YA: I agree

FS: It’s amazing to think that in the fifty years since Sidney Poitier won his Oscar things haven’t moved on that much

YA: Tell me what you thought of the costumes and sets

FS: As mentioned earlier, the cinematography wasn’t very good and it’s a great shame as it’s obvious no expense was spared on the sets, props and costumes. The staggering array of weapons, armour and helmets was a plus point, as was the contrast of the dusty, hot arena to the cool luxury of the Roman palace

YA: I don’t think the cinematography is as bad as you make out. Not for the entirety of the movie

FS: There was a grey mist over a lot of it. Not in the arena scenes, to be fair. Those fight scenes in the arena are my favourite thing about the whole film

FS: I’ll give you one more opportunity to tell me what is so great about ‘Gladiator’

YA: It reminds me so much of classic films of old that I grew up watching like ‘Ben-Hur‘ and ‘The Ten Commandments’. It manages to cram a lot in, from war to romance to Crowe with his Oscarthe politics of Rome. The fundamental story is of revenge and it’s told beautifully. It’s very intricate.

FS: Anything else?

YA: The sets and costumes are lavish. Maximus falls from favour and is turned into the underdog. The antagonist is perfect. Everyone delivers here, for me. Some might say ‘Ben-Hur’ or ‘Spartacus‘ is better, and they are fantastic, but I like most technologies and I think Scott uses technology well. He manages to blend the gold of the old with the gloss of the new

FS: Nicely put

FS: We are at your second-favourite movie and you have been getting some good scores for your top ten. ‘Gladiator’ is the sort of film I find very entertaining without understanding exactly why it’s held in the very high regard that it is. Part of me thinks the lack of anything similar for the 30 years or so before it has probably helped it. It borrows from many of the classic epics – ‘Ben-Hur’, ‘Spartacus’ and ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ in particular – but doesn’t feel derivative as it employs a modern outlook in its story telling and use of new film-making techniques.

Crowe on set with ScottYA: I really want to know the score

FS: The plus points are the two leads, and Phoenix in particular, the writing, and the marvelous action scenes. It lacks a little emotional punch for me, which means it misses out on the very top scores. The film is driven by Maximus’ desire for revenge yet the scenes that require Crowe to step out of his mean and moody persona and into a softer mood don’t really convince

YA: Hmmm…

FS: The score is tricky. I’ve seen this film before and loved it, but this second viewing has dulled my enthusiasm. It’s very good but there is something lacking – emotional involvement to go with the grand scope and brilliantly staged set-pieces. It’s not up there with your top choices, but it’s a definite 8/10

"8/10? Are you joking?"YA: That’s slightly disappointing

FS: The memory was better than the reality.

YA: Bah!

FS: You should have picked ‘Spartacus’

Next time: Fred’s number two, ‘Paths of Glory’

Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Twenty-Three, Part Two: ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (1946)

Posted on Updated on

The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. With just three films left on each list, no-one wants a bad score for one of their absolute favourites. Thank goodness there is no more Orlando Bloom or Ingmar Berman.

It’s Fred’s turn, and with impeccable timing, he’s got the most celebrated Christmas movie ever made at number three in his list. Starring James Stewart, and directed by Frank Capra, did it tug the Akram heart-strings?

You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
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Fred: We are into my top three – three films that are in a league of their own – and at number three is a very appropriate film for this time of year, Frank Capra‘s ‘It’s A Wonderful Life

Yasser: You actually introduced me to this, earlier in the year

FS: Does it stand up to repeated viewings?

YA: I’ve seen it four times, now, within a year

FS: That’s good news

YA: It is just brilliance. Sheer and utter brilliance

It's a Wonderful Life‘It’s A Wonderful Life’
1946 – USA
Director: Frank Capra
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Henry Travers, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell

YA: Out of all the films on your list, one would assume that ‘Back to the Future‘ was my favourite, and they would have been right… a year ago

FS: I think I’m going to enjoy this chat

James Stewart as George BaileyYA: This film is the ultimate and definitive Christmas movie

FS: It sure is

YA: It’s not even a Christmas movie, let’s be honest. Only the end takes place at Christmastime

FS: Well, it’s got nothing to do with Santa, elves, decorations, turkey, or even Christmas Day, but it was based on a story that was in a Christmas card

YA: I did not know that. It must have been a big fucking card

FS: (laughs)

FS: The film’s director Frank Capra is well-respected, but is seen as a purveyor of very sentimental Americana – so-called ‘Capra-corn’. How familiar are you with his movies?

Stewart with director Frank CapraYA: Since I met you, I’m starting to get well acquainted with Frank Capra. I loved ‘Arsenic and Old Lace‘, and I watched ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington‘ the other day…

FS: Excellent

YA: … and you know, I never thought that an actor from yesteryear would become one of my favourites of all-time, but Jimmy Stewart is right up there

FS: That is a victory in itself. You spoke about how highly you rated him when we discussed ‘Anatomy of a Murder‘. What is it that makes him so great?

YA: I think it’s his voice. He sounds genuine and humble. He’s very convincing

FS: He is an everyman figure. An honest, believable performer, whether he’s in a comedy, a thriller, a western or a drama. After Laurel & Hardy and Spencer Tracy, I’d say he’s next on my list of favourites

YA: The war changed him, though, didn’t it?

FS: People think it is Alfred Hitchcock who first explored James Stewart shows his dark sideStewart’s dark side, but for all its sentimentality, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ – his first post-war movie – is pretty dark in places. George Bailey (Stewart) is not ‘Mr. Perfect’. He contemplates suicide, loses his temper with his kids, he’s utterly desperate at times…

YA: Yeah. Stewart portrays it very well. You don’t get mad at him for losing his temper, you pity him. He’s like the every-guy superhero – self-sacrificing for the greater good. That’s what makes me relate to and love George Bailey

FS: It’s a well-written character. You really want him to make a success of his life and escape little Bedford Falls

YA: He does a lot for his loved ones and his community

Lionel Barrymore (seated) with StewartFS: He’s one of the pillars of the community. He stands up to mean, money-grabbing Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) for the man on the street, often to his own cost

YA: This takes its toll on him

FS: That’s right. As each opportunity passes him by, his temper gets shorter, the temples get greyer and the bags under his eyes get darker

YA: He carries on, though, as he knows it’s the right thing to do

FS: Where does George Baily rank in the Stewart performances you’ve seen?

YA: Ah mate! That’s a hard question. I loved him in ‘Harvey‘. He was top on as Mr. Has George's worst nightmare come true?Smith. ‘Vertigo‘ is my favourite Hitchcock film. However, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is hands-down his best

FS: Hurray!

YA: You know how it is with me. I have to feel some form of connection to the film to like it, and George Bailey has an enduring story

FS: I’d like to talk about some of the other actors that we meet during George’s life story

Capra and StewartYA: Carry on, bro

FS: Lionel Barrymore plays Mr. Potter. Did you think he was a good villain?

YA: What a fucking miser. That greedy bastard reminded me of Scrooge

FS: Yeah, in a way some of the characters are fairly broad. George is quite complex, but Potter is just plain nasty. The standard of the acting, though, is very high and Barrymore drags Potter back from the brink of panto

YA: He was really good. You could sense his malcontent for the Bailey Building & Loan, and you could feel his greed when his corrupted mind saw an opportunity to expand his empire at the expense of others

FS: This all reaches its agonising peak when George’s Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) accidentally leaves the Building & Loan’s entire bankroll inside Potter’s newspaper. My head is in my hands at that point – every time. What did you think of Mitchell?

YA: He was adorable, wasn’t he?

FS: He’s very absent-minded, so a lot of the comedy inThomas Mitchell and Stewart the film comes from his interactions with George

YA: Not at the end, though. I was mortified when it all goes wrong for him. He was another, like George, that you really felt for

FS: His apparent silliness in the first half makes his anguish, and George’s anger with him, all the more moving

FS: How about Gloria Grahame? What did you think of her?

YA: Violet (Grahame) was a slag. She was a sket

Stewart with Gloria GrahameFS: Okay… and Gloria Grahame?

YA: (laughs) Yeah she was good. She played a sket very well

FS: Finally, before we talk about the films final quarter, what did you think of Donna Reed?

YA: She could really act. I love George and Mary’s (Reed) endearing relationship. When they are walking home from the party together, it’s really sweet. You know the bit Donna Reedwhere he offers to tie a lasso around the moon, pull it down so she can swallow it, and it’ll dissolve and all the light will come out of her fingertips and hair?

FS: Yes

YA: Then, right in the middle of this romantic scene, something terrible happens. That’s the thing with this film, man. It’s a real roller coaster of emotions

FS: It sure is. That’s why it’s in my top three

FS: We should now talk about the arrival of Clarence (Henry Travers) and the ‘alternate 1946‘ he creates to show suicidal George what life would have been like Henry Travers with Stewartif he’s never existed

YA: I think this, and the beginning in heaven, are probably the weakest points of the film

FS: No way! Surely this is the section that makes the film a classic?

YA: I like Clarence. His character is sweet and funny…

FS: … but?

YA: I dunno. The fantastical element ruins the harsh realities of real life in the film, like ‘A Matter of Life and Death

FS: I know people who sit through the rest of this, just to watch the final half-hour

Stewart and TraversYA: Real life shit mixed with crazy stoner shit that doesn’t sit with the tone of the film. It’s a tonal shift

FS: I’m stunned. It’s just a fantasy film – a fairy tale, if you like

YA: It’s just an observation. I still like this sequence, I’m just pointing out how different it is from the first two acts of the film

FS: But to say it’s the weakest… For me, it’s the best section. I love the whole film, but it’s that last quarter that pushes it so high on my list

YA: I just wasn’t as emotionally connected to it as I am with the rest of the movie. I think the sequence is very important in helping George realise how significant his Merry Christmas!contribution to life has been. It’s not like that final ballet in ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘ where it’s good, but adds nothing to the story

FS: You’re the first person I’ve ever met who prefers the back story to the fantasy sequence

YA: The very end is the best part, for me. Only at the end does George realise how much he is worth, with or without money

YA: Why do you like the film so much?

FS: It’s the film on my list that elicits a strong emotional response from me every time I watch it. I always laugh at the funny bits, and I always feel tense during the tense parts, and I always, ALWAYS cry. Every time I watch it it’s new to me, even though it’s one of the films I’ve seen the most in my life. I always think ‘this time, Reed and StewartUncle Billy won’t be so careless’ or ‘this time, George will go and work for Sam Wainwright’ (Frank Albertson)

YA: I’m with you on that. I’ve seen it four times in a year and every time I felt the same emotions as the first time I saw it. I don’t cry, but I feel a lump in my throat, my eyes well up

FS: When George is desperate and he goes home to where Mary is decorating the tree and George just grabs Tommy and hugs him as he starts to cry… Oh God! It gets me every time. That scene of total despair is what makes me cry

YA: All good stuff, but what makes it a top three movie?

FS: It stands as an example of several Hollywood talents at their peak. Capra, A publicity shot showing the whole castStewart and Reed are all exceptional, and the character actors in the supporting cast are superb

YA: What else?

FS: When I think about it, it pulls together elements from other movies on my list. It has a bit of ‘City Lights‘, ‘Back to the Future Part II‘, ‘Wild Strawberries‘, ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, and ‘Cinema Paradiso‘ about it

FS: I just have one final question before you sum up. Do you think it deserves to be as high as I have placed it?

YA: Possibly needs to be higher

FS: Oh yeah! On that note you can sum up

YA: ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is a truly magnificent story about a man and the difference he can make in the world. Throughout his life, George Bailey slowly lets go of his dreams and makes sacrifices for others so they can better themselves. It’s an endearing tale, but an arduous journey for George. The film goes off on a tangent briefly, but that helps the story come to one of the best endings you’ll ever see. It had me laughing, smiling, It's A Wonderful Lifesaddened and slated every time I’ve seen it

FS: Well put

YA: One of the key reasons for that is Jimmy Stewart who is astonishing to watch. However, you cannot fault any of the cast as there are key contributions from Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers and Thomas Mitchell, all under the fantastic direction of Frank Capra. The film is very hard to fault and, unlike my other summaries, it’s hard to pick on technical details when you’re immersed into such an emotional journey. It’s a must-see and hands down the best film on your list so far – 10/10

FS: Terrific!

Next week: It’s the films at number two on the lists. Yasser picks ‘Gladiator’, and Fred goes for ‘Paths of Glory’