Week 16 of the wonderful IMDb 250 project is upon us and we are now 80 films into the 250 target and almost a third of the way through the supposed best 250 films of all time.
Week 16 gave me the chance to watch another wonderful selection of films in The Lives of Others, Changeling, The Big Lebowski, Amelie and Inglorious Basterds, all are or contain superb pieces of film making of which three are permanently embedded into my own personal top 10 films of all time (as of today!), in addition I added another new first time film to my collection in The Lives of Others which was another exceptional movie.
No.56 - Das Leben Der Anderlen (The Lives of Others) – Rating 8.4
The best thing about the IMDb250 project is that it’s given us the chance to watch, what are for me, some of the lesser known films that I would never have seen and The Lives of Others is one of these films.
The astonishing film is a from debut writer/Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck that won the best foreign language film Oscar in 2007 beating the incredible (and better in my opinion) Pans Labyrinth in the process. I’m not that clued up on History which i suppose made this film impact on me more as almost all the films subject material was new to me and startling in its reality.
The film follows successful dramatist Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his partner Christa Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) whose a popular actress and both are big stars in East Germany. The Minister of Culture starts to become infatuated with Christa after watching her perform and so he instructs secret service agent Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe), who is the best of the best of Stasisurveillance operatives, to observe and record all conversations they have, but when he is suppose to report anything that is dissenting or right wing opposition against the government he instead starts to care for the people he is monitoring and conflicts with his previous soulless loyalty to his country until things reach a bitter sad ending before the wall comes down releasing all from the Stasi regime and eventually after a few years giving Wiesler a moment of hapiness in the closing shot.
The film is slow paced that builds up the characters roles to a real, solid and believable performances. The standout being the stunning Ulrich Muhe who plays the agent tasked in watching the couple, His cold empty stare and demeanour is unforgettable and terrifying and the grey clothing he wears clearly stating the colourless life he leads. It’s certainly a sad note that he died a year or so after making the film.
As political films go this was a difficult one to follow and being a slowish reader of subtitles and at times watching it on my iphone I think I failed to take in a fair bit of information to follow everything but the message was still hard hitting and the film was a real experience and insight to a post war regime that shocks with its censorship of culture and expressions of interests and views.
Stunning film but challenging to watch.
No.224 – Changeling (2008) – Rating 8.0
Another Clint Eastwood movie from the list and another one that certainly entertained but whether it’s fully deserving of its place on the list, I don’t think so. As a film based on true events it’s a fascinating watch but as a film it struggles through the 144 minutes.
Staring Angelina Jolie as a single mother Christine Collins whose son Walter goes missing in 1928 and after a nation wide police hunt a young boy resembling Walter turns up claiming to be her son. Christine Collins claims he isn’t and the police refuse to believe her and when she persists the powers that be, namely the Mayor and chief of police who have enough problems going on in LA and don’t need an error like this hanging over them during election, they proceed in getting her thrown into a psych ward.
A radio show hosting Reverend (John Malkovich) who criticizes the government regularly fights for her release along with many supporters whilst a sub plot involving a detective initially going to deport a boy to Canada uncovers a child killing horror called the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders where it was eventually found that Walter was held but helped the other kids escape.
The film was meticulously researched by J. Michael Straczynski, who apparently took 90 per cent of the movie’s dialogue from the actual court records that took place during the event and that is was gives the film its undeniably power and Clint Eastwood just adds the pictures.
The look of Changeling is phenomenal with its authentic, convincing and completely realistic 1920′s look that was wonderfully brought to life by Director Clint Eastwood and more importantly Production Designers and the Art Direction from James Murakami and Gary Fettiswho fully deserve their Academy award nomination and were arguably beaten only by the Curious Case of Benjamin Button to the Oscar. A decent movie but only due to the that it’s based on real events.
No.142 - The Big Lebowski (1998) - Rating 8.1
My favorite film of all time and my desert Island disc movie that I could just watch over and over again. What a joy it was to revisit the story of The Dude or the Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing (It’s so full of quotable lines) and see the Coen’s in their finest form creating one of my most memorable films ever.
I was in the cinema just before watching Lebowski again for the project and saw a little clip advertising Volkswagen before the film, showing Dudeism (See below) and It’s clear just how much Jeff Bridges performance of ‘The Dude’ has affected peoples lives for the better, it’s astonishing that a character like this has created such a cult following to the levels it has but not entirely surprising as the character is so likable and the epitome of relaxed coolness. Who hasn’t wanted to drink White Russians after seeing it, wear his comfy style clothes and have a such a way with words?!
The film starts of with the wonderful narration from Sam Elliot over The excellent ‘The Man in Me’ by Bob Dylan leading up to us being introduced to Jefferey ‘The Dude’ Lebowksi buying milk with a cheque. On returning home he finds a couple of guys mistaking him for another Jefferey Lebowski demanding money that is owed to Jackie Treehorn and when noticing they have the wrong Lebowski Woo, the Asian American involved, pee’s on the Dude’s favorite rug that really tied the room together, But Woo is not the issue here.
The Dude’s best friend and Vietnam vet Walter (John Goodman) encourages him to go to the real Jefferey Lebowski and get compensation, and so he does. After an altercation with the Big Lebowski The Dude steals a rug that sets of a chain of events that includes kidnapping, ransoms, porn Barron’s, German nihilists, bowling, death, amputated toes, ringers for ringers, dream sequences, modern art, tumbleweed, pederasts and a world record use of the F*** word. It’s a truly wonderful story where we go from one plot to another meeting some of the greatest selection of characters ever put on screen in one film. John Turturro’s Jesus is hilarious and as memorable as any character in the film and SteveBuscemi’s Donny is wonderfully naive and good natured and the perfect target for Walter’s funny verbal attacks on him.
But in the end it’s the Dude’s film so go rent it and maybe it will change your life and also take great pleasure in knowing that The Dude abides.
No.44 - Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001) – Rating 8.5
Amelie is a film that has happily nestled itself into my Top 5 films of all time since I saw it about eight years ago and I doubt it will ever leave it as Jean Pierre Jeunet’s masterpiece is just one of the most beautiful, well crafted and brilliant feel good movies I’ve ever seen that never fails to raise a smile every time I see it.
Amelie Poulain is played by the wonderful Audrey Tautou who dominates the film with her incredibly lovable performance and hypnotizing eyes (which can easily make you miss the subtitles). It’s a love story in essence but it’s so beautifully told and so full of rich colorful images, engaging observations and superb characters that it’s completely different from anything I’ve ever seen before or since and I fell in love with it, I would indeed call it the perfect film.
Amelie works in a cafe in Paris and wants to make people happy and attempts to do this by ensuring those around her are shown their own capacity for happiness. These delightful characters include her apprehensive father, a hypochondriac colleague, a jealous lovetorn customer, a painter with bones like glass and a shop clerk whose bullied by his boss, all get help in Amelie’s inventive mischievous way but it’s all at the expense of her own happiness, that is until she meets Nino (Matthieu Kassovitz) a kind of strange man who collects discarded photo booth photos, and she starts a new challenge of getting the man of her dreams to notice her.
The film is full of wonderful moments that are just too long to list, and characters I’ve not even mentioned that all add so much to the film despite only being it it for short scenes they have their place in this world and all are forever memorable.
Amelie is an exceptional film from one of the best film Directors of all time in Jean Pierre Jeunet. I cannot fault it and I cannot praise it enough, Complete and utter bliss.
No.68 – Inglorious Basterds (2009) - Rating 8.4
Tarantino’s best film ever? Quite possibly.
Instantly in the stunning opening scene from Oscar winning Christoph Waltz as the movie villain of the decade/century Hans Landa and his polite, well mannered and eternally creepy interrogation of a French farmer hiding Jews in his home that is all shot in a tension building and uncomfortable way that I felt I was holding my breath for ages till it concluded. There is no doubt Inglorious Basterds is something special.
The story is of two plots to assassinate the Nazi Germany leadership, one by a team of allied Jewish soldiers led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and the other by a young French Jewish cinema owner (Melanie Laurent) who escaped Hans Landa hunting in the opening scene as a young girl. The two stories intertwine in typical Tarantino style and play out in completely satisfying fashion.
I wont go too much into the story but rather deal with the stand out individual scenes with one of the finest being a bar meeting of the Basterds in disguise as German Soldiers meeting with a German actress come spy Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) attempting to share information about the movie premiere where the attempt on Hitler and the German officers will take place, one thing leads to another with dialogue in Tarantino’s perfect style is passed back and forth in the most delicious way especially when an overhearing previously unseen SS Officer enquires about the German accent of one of the impersonating Brits. The entire scene is so well sustained and tension building that you just cant blink and take your eyes away from the screen as the fun word play card game turns into a Mexican standoff with devastating effect.
Of course there is every scene that Christoph Waltz appears in where he adds an unnerving manner and presence and a delivery of speech that you feel only he can deliver. Add to this a really funny turn by Brad Pitt as Aldo Raine especially when putting on an Italian accent in front of Hans Landa, Some seriously brutal scenes of scalping and baseball bats, The baseball bat being particularly uncomfortable to hear let alone watch as Sgt Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) slowly approaches unseen from a dark tunnel intermittently smacking his bat on an echoing wall audibly torturing the waiting soon to be batting practice Jew killing Nazi. Tarantino is just having so much fun making this film and no other Director is enjoying making films as much as he does.
Inglorious Basterds won’t appeal to everyone but for me it is easily one of my favourite films of all time. I enjoyed every single part of it and although it never reached the peak of it’s opening scene which was for me the scene that won the Oscar for Christoph Waltz and was always going to be impossibly to sustain throughout.
Tarantino at his best.
That’s it for this week, join us next week for the next update from Barry.