“Six of the best of my idea of “classic films” – I’m not saying these are my six all time favourite movies, but they definitely fulfill the criteria and I hold them all in very high regard.”
The films featured in this review are…
All About Eve (1950)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Little Women (1994)
The Front Page (1940)
See the criteria for a “classic” in the text version of the review below.
Some other contenders or “runners up” (and I am not implying they are any less deserving, it’s just that I had a limit of six for this review and was aiming for a healthy mixed bag of goodies)…
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Mon Oncle (1958)
Citizen Cane (1941)
Born Yesterday (1950)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Aunty Mame (1958)
Brief Encounter (1945)
Black Narcissus (1947)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1948)
The Third Man (1949)
2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
Some Like it Hot (1959)
Star Wars (1977) when it was the only episode
Review (text version)
Here we are, review number 13… and they said it wouldn’t last.
This is a special installment, not one of the regular CRACKS reviews at all and what’s triggered this deviation is an email from Phylis Foote of Harlem, NYC who asks, “Hi there Greg… wondering what five or six of your all time favourite movies might be?” Five or six Phylis? Make it impossible for me… fifty or sixty and we might have a fair… anyway….
Kevin from Culburra Beach in Australia was asking, “… do you have any favourite “classic” movies, and why do you like them?”
Ah, Kevin, an enquiring mind, going the extra mile and asking “why” not just “what”…… plus, noted, is the use that oft abused term, “classic”.
Ask a Millennial to name a “classic” movie and they might likely quote the early screen work of Shia LaBeouf… OK if you say so… But how does this greying old crock define a “classic”?
Criteria for a “classic”…
1: it stands the test of time and I’m sorry but 7 years is not a long enough test. Try 20 years and you’re just edging into the ball park.
B: it has to stand up to repeated viewings and still make an impact, still reveal new nuances and reconfirm it’s standards – whatever it set out to do when it was made it’s still doing it very, very well.
3: Its core messages are valid or somehow echo social, moral or interpersonal ideas that are still relevant in our times or helped shape our times.
I confess these are all American movies. I’m not consciously excluding world cinema options but I guess the reason these films have floated to the top at this time is because most of them have influenced me over many years. I grew up seeing a number of them on TV when I was very young, and they were often rerun many times, so they seeped in, made their mark – indelible spots on my soul.
Like so much of the western world our TV offerings were rarely in another language and rarely reflecting cultures beyond the USA, Great Britain and lil’ ol’ Awstraylya. My exposure to foreign films came later, in my very late teens, when SBS television first appeared on our dusty shores (but was usually unwatchable at the house I lived in due to very poor TV reception – couldn’t read the sub titles) and I started seeking out international titles at places like the Roma Cinema in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. I’m not apologizing for the fact that the “classics” in this review are all American films. Hey, they are great movies and sometime I might do a review of six classic Japanese films! But I digress.
So in no particular order here are six of my favourite “classics”, and just for Kevin, a few reasons why.
ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
From 1950, oscar robbed Bette Davis in the role of her lifetime, running the full three legged race of bitch, victim and high octane egomaniac in this Joseph Mankewictz penned and directed backstage melodrama to end all backstage melodramas.
It’s a very talky movie in which the words are flavoursome, rich and delicious with some of the most quotable lines in movie history drizzling like treacle over barbed wire.
Great scenes – the ensemble cast on the stairs at Eve’s party; Davis and Celeste Holme in the car broken down in the snow; the fabulous sadomasochistic sub text layers revealed when George Sanders challenges Anne Baxter in the hotel room! It doesn’t get any better.
Guaranteed, after EVE, you will never ever think about fur coats, Liebestraum or gulping a cocktail in quite the same way. And to prove it’s as relevant today as when it was made, what does Marilyn Monroe ask of George Sanders…
“Do they have auditions for television?”
And as he so insightfully replies,
“That’s all television is my dear. Nothing but auditions.”
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)
Peter O’Tool in a career defining role showing us how to creatively accessorise an all white robe, with Alec Guinnes looking very regal, Omar Sharif looking impossibly young and Anthony Quinn acting bigger than the Sinai. It’s a boy’s movie through and through, guns, guns, guns, explosions, a train crash, no women of significance but there are a lot of very frisky camels.
Why do I like it so much? For a start the visuals transport me to another world – a very clean world of sand. Of special note the spectacular use of landscape in scenes like the departure of the Howeitat and Lawrence’s gang from Wadi Rum and the thundering assault on Aqaba.
It’s one of the finest screenplays ever written – presenting arguments on a complex topic from many perspectives and making a point as clear and relevant today as it was in World War 1 – what interest do the British (or any foreigners) have in Arabia? Plain and simple – oil.
If you CAN ever see this film on a cinema screen don’t miss the chance – LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is THE reason 70mm film was invented! (well, no, not really, but…) It’s a bigger than huge, a true epic, but never loses the sense of intimacy of one very extraordinary man’s story.
Trust me, after seeing LAWRENCE, you will never again contemplate an attack on a Turkish stronghold without doing it on the back of a camel.
What makes a man a better man? When he’s an actor, desperate for a gig, who opts to audition for a role in a daytime soap opera wearing a floral frock. If more people took career risks like that what a better place the world would be, right?
The script for TOOTSIE apparently went through more hands than an Olympic rowing team, usually a clear indication of a celluloid disaster in the making, but in this case the end result is priceless comedy incredibly well balanced with its up front pro feminist message.
The film is masterfully paced from beginning to end and despite the extreme idea of this guy fooling everyone into believing he’s a she, it is totally believable. Dustin Hoffman proving, once again, he can play ANYTHING!
And here’s one to shock… I can hear the email complaints pinging in the background already….
LITTLE WOMEN (1994)
Jillian Armstrong’s 1994 film version … yes, it’s too young to be a “classic” by my rigid standards, but what fun is a rule that can’t be bent out of shape under the unnatural influence of crinolines and corsets? When I first saw this film I had to admit it was perfect and that’s a word I have reserved for only three other movies – ever.
LITTLE WOMEN is a class act on every level – the script, the casting, performances, costuming, art direction, lighting… yes, it’s a bit of a Nanna’s chocolate box sort of movie but was it ever trying to be anything but that? No… and what it sets out to do it does brilliantly.
Winona Ryder is actually very good, Susan Sarandon, again, just knows how to play a role that brings believably and respect to a character that had traditionally been played as two dimensional in other film versions, and there are plenty of them, but for once, the last remake is the best! Warning, there are no guns, no fisty-cuffs, no car chases.
“Real” men are gonna hate this movie – too many girls in big frocks curling their hair – so guys, don’t moan, just go build a book shelf or change the spark plugs in the car and let the girls and the gays really enjoy this one in peace, OK?
George Stevens take on Edna Ferber’s Texan saga of oil, cows and racism is as a good a film as it was when made. James Dean is mesmerising and Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson both prove their acting chops are very solid when handed material this good with a sensible director heading the round up.
So some of the rear projection shots and odd fashions (what year is that meant to be when Rock and Liz first meet?) are a little jarring to contemporary audiences but make the effort to look past those few bumps and this tale of people resisting inevitable change – and finally embracing it – still packs a wallop.
Want some more “whys” there Kevin? Dimitri Tiomkin’s music, Jane Withers as Vashti, Mercedes McCambridge as the dykey old Luz… oh those evil boots and spurs! …and wonderful Chill Wills as Uncle Bawley. Such a pity he didn’t make more movies 🙂
The scene where Taylor visits James Dean at his little house and he offers her afternoon tea is one of the finest moments in any movie I have ever seen – it’s heartbreaking and brilliantly played by both of them.
HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)
Hands down, slam dunk winner as my all time favourite comedy bar none.
It also proves another case where the remake is better than the original. His Girl Friday, where the dialogue delivery is on the spin cycle in this battle of the sexes, battle of the wits and battle of the tongues.
“You’ve got an old fashioned idea divorce is something that lasts forever, ’til death do us part.’ Why divorce doesn’t mean anything nowadays, Hildy, just a few words mumbled over you by a judge.”
Howard Hawkes directs Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as a once married couple who just quite can’t let go of each other or their careers. “Why?” Kevin…. here it’s the smart and snappy script adapted from the play THE FRONT PAGE by Hect & MacArthur, but, in a stroke of brilliance, with a gender swap of one of the lead characters adding a whole new level of comedic tension. The story has been filmed at least twenty six times in different guises, this was version number two and still stands hats and shoulders above the rest of the bunch.
Special mention to the “been there, done that, seen it all” reporters playing cards while Rosalind Russell makes a series of phone calls around them. A brilliant example of ensemble acting and comic timing.
So there you go – six of the best of my idea of “classic films” – I’m not saying these are my six all time favourite movies, but they definitely fulfill the criteria and I hold them all in very high regard.
If you want to see some of the runners up, please check the web site http://www.betweenthecracks.reviews.
© 2015 Greg Punch
All About Eve (1950) – 20th Century Fox
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – Columbia Pictures
Tootsie (1982) – Columbia Pictures
Little Women (1984) – Columbia Pictures
Giant (1956) – Warner Brothers
His Girl Friday (1940) – Columbia Pictures
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