List: True Crime in the Movies

Turner Classic Movies is spotlighting films about real life crime in their programming this month. So, responding to that, here are my picks for the best films about true crime that I know.

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10. Goodfellas (1990)

The real life Wiseguys and Henry Hill’s decent into the underworld through his friendships with the other Wiseguys.

 

9. Psycho (1960)

While many details are changed, Norman Bates is a version of the real life murderer Ed Gein who committed his crimes in a small Wisconsin town between 1954 and 1957.

 

8. The Informant (2009)

Mark Whitacre was deeply involved with corrupt business politics and a lot of fraud and money laundering. Though he was far from innocent, he knew how to use all the ways to use his knowledge of corruption and truth to protect himself from the consequences.

 

7. Bugsy (1991)

The birth of Las Vegas through gang activity led by Bugsy Siegel.

 

6. The Joker Is Wild (1957)

Frank Sinatra gave his best performance ironically as a performer who couldn’t sing. Joe E. Lewis had been a great singer whose gang affiliations once funded his career and then ended it when he wasn’t willing to continue following their demands. His former partners cut his throat so he couldn’t make money singing for anyone else. Becoming a comedian and leaving his gang life, the realities of the life of crime he left behind are always with him.

 

5. Badlands (1973)

Kit and Holly are versions of the real life murder/romance spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate in 1958. Though Bonnie and Clyde broke a lot of ground cinematically, Badlands tells its story in a far darker way that feels much more real.

 

4. Compulsion (1959)

Along with Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope from a decade earlier, Richard Fleischer’s Compulsion recreates, though with different names, the case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb.

 

3. M (1931)

Peter Lorre’s Franz Becker is based on the real life child murderer Peter Kürten, and the investigator is based on Berlin detective mastermind Ernst Gennat.

 

2. On the Waterfront (1954)

A real Waterfront Commission existed. All the major characters in the movies are based on real people. Terry (Marlon Brando) is based on the whistleblower Anthony DeVincenzo. Father Barry is based on a real waterfront priest, Father John Corridan. And the mob boss Johnny Friendly is based on Michael Clemente.

 

1. In Cold Blood (1967)

Richard Brooks’ adaptation of Truman Capote’s book follows every moment of the events that led up to the heinous Perry Smith/Dick Hickock murder of a rural Kansas family.

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List: The Movies of Russia

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10. Ninothcka (1939)

While set mostly in Paris, Ernst Lubitsch’s masterful screwball comedy gives an astounding picture of the USSR during Stalin’s regime. Through the Russian characters that have traveled to France, we get a picture of the cold, harsh, brainwashed reality of the times of Russian communism.

 

9. Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (2013)

While no longer Communist, the Russia depicted in this fascinating documentary on the punk band Pussy Riot isn’t much different than that of Stalin’s. The band took a bold stand against the corruption of the union between the Kremlin and Russian Orthodox Church. Staging a protest/concert during a mass the state run Cathedral of Christ the Savior, they sing “Mother of God, drive Putin away.” The film intensely portrays the cry for help among the nation of Russia under its present leadership and corruption, showing just how quick Putin is to deny human rights to his people.

 

8. Reds (1981)

Following John Reid (Warren Beatty), a journalist who covered the 1917 Russian Revolution, we get a great epic of Russia in the early 20th century involving the rise of Communist and all its supporters and detractors. Reid became one of those followers who tried to bring the ideals he saw in Russia to America. Reds is the best film I know of to show a more neutral, if not positive side of Russia’s Communism at least in its earliest days.

 

7. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

The sights, culture, and of course all the “traditions”  in the opening song of a small Jewish village are delightful. Even though we know the beloved characters will not be staying there much longer after the tzar ordered the deportation of Jews, we get to join them in all the exuberance and beauty of their last days in Anatevke.

 

6. Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)

With sets and costumes more extravagant than any film version of War and Peace (the only good one I know of is the 1966 adaptation directed by Sergey Bondarchuk, but I haven’t been able to see the whole film yet being over 7 hours which is why it’s not included here), this masterful epic is set during the war between Russia and Japan in 1904.

 

5. Anna Karenina (1935)

Greta Garbo played Tolstoy’s title character in a way that shows the hypocrisy of the 19th century Russian elitist society and its moral codes that carried great consequences even when the enforcers were more guilty than the perpetrators. She takes us to this culture through what looks like a very genuine love for the character she played.

 

4. Anastasia (1956)

Of course a list on films about Russia would not be complete without a take on the partly historical and partly legendary story of the country’s most famous grand duchess. Many have been made, but only this one with Ingrid Bergman really succeeds.

 

3. Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Sergei M. Eisenstein begins with the mutiny that took place on the titular battleship. The movie is set in segments, each of which tells of a different part of the 1905 Russian Revolution that involved the Battleship Potemkin.

 

2. Russian Ark (2002)

300 years of Russian history, art, and culture all in the same building in one very short movie set in what is now a museum. We see all the different eras of the building, what it has been over the years, and the role it has played in its country’s state of affairs at each given time.

 

1. Old and New (1929)

The old Russia is prior to the later Revolution, and the new Russia is the rise of Communism. Like Battleship Potemkin, this film was also directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein, one of the greatest masters of the silent film era. He shows an old Russia full of desperation and a new Russia full of hope. That new Russia full of hope has its hope in its newfound adoption of Communism, so as the new Russia becomes more fully Communist, the new Russia is new in ideology but in practicality it looks a lot like the old Russia.

List: Movies of the UK

Continuing our summer vacation in the movies, we’ll go to a different European country each Thursday in August. Starting with movies related to the United Kingdom, this list is not my picks for the best movies that happen to be set in the UK but the best portrayals of the country or part of the country that I’ve seen in the movies.

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10. Mrs. Miniver (1942)

William Wyler’s first WWII film takes us to the home front in a rural village on the outskirts of London. The beauty of the countryside and the strikingly different values of the British home front compared the American home front (at least in the movies) are very special. The movie makes Kay Miniver a real war hero, more intimately involved in the efforts of her husband and son that what we see from the American perspective where soldiers’ wives were most concerned with the affairs at home, doing the work to make up for the absent family member.

 

9. The Ruling Class (1972)

The funniest movie about British parliament ever made, Peter O’Toole’s character becomes an English lord after the death of his father by hanging as the result of a cross-dressing accident. If that’s not weird enough, Peter O’Toole’s character thinks he’s Jesus, and the rest of the political system has to adapt his insane ramblings and quirky ideas that don’t allow anybody to get anything done. The movie harshly criticizes the self-aggrandizement and self-absorption seen in the British politics of the time. But it’s a great movie for Americans right now as this movie’s hilarious portrayal of a chaotic, cult-like political system is something we’ve become very familiar with over the last 6 months.

 

8. The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

Now, the funniest movie about British royalty ever made. Charles Laughton plays Henry VIII with all his murderous, sexually immoral, and misogynist ways and an affinity for devouring capons in the funniest scene of the movie. The idea of telling the true, dark, and deeply disturbing story of Henry VIII and the executions of his wives accurately with a crazy comedic twist was unheard of in 1933, making this a landmark, terribly under-seen and underrated masterpiece.

 

7. The Quiet Man (1952)

John Ford’s romantic comedy finds John Wayne in Ireland, and this movie has to be on this for its sheer beauty. Every scene shows a grand picture of rural Ireland that is unforgettable.

 

6. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The greatest of all swashbuckling epics shows an England of a time gone by that continues to live on in legend and imagination. Errol Flynn’s physically demanding performance of Robin Hood takes us to this legendary England of our imaginations.

 

5. Wuthering Heights (1939)

The beautiful home that shares its name with the title of Bronte’s novel is brought to life in William Wyler’s film. The architecture and the courtyard surrounding the house gives some of the best production design in film history to recreate this Victorian set.

 

4. The Queen (2006)

After a couple political comedies earlier on the last, the best British political movie I’ve ever seen is The Queen. Interestingly, the movie doesn’t focus much on politics or what it means to be the queen. It’s about the nation-wide grief that country experienced at the loss of Princess Diana all through the eyes of Diana’s most prominent detractor.

 

3. Mary Poppins (1964)

The magical nanny is our tour guide to a fanciful version of London in the early 1900s. The realistic sets show us a lot what it must’ve looked like until we get to get jump in Burt’s paintings with Burt, Mary and the kids.

 

2. The Full Monty (1997)

Sheffield…a city on the move. So the movie begins, but that beginning is a news reel from quite a while before our story begins. The Sheffield of The Full Monty is not a city on the move but a city of hurt and desperation. Yet the hope that these characters experience as they join together gives a feel for the spirit of Sheffield.

1. Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Ang Lee directs and Emma Thompson stars, but she doesn’t star as much as an actress as she does as a writer. Her adaptation of Jane Austen’s lesser work takes a novel that’s almost incomprehensible in parts and has a terrible ending contrary to the earlier development of the characters and transforms it into one of the most enchanting films ever made. The movie takes us to the location, but much more it transports us to the society of 1700s rural England, to the norms that are unjust but the people who overcome those injustices. Inspiring, funny, romantic, and absolutely joyous in every second we spend in Victorian-era London, Sense and Sensibility is the best movie journey to the UK I’ve ever seen.

Best Film Scores #60-41

Michael CaulfieldMichael Giacchino: #99, Up; #62 Inside Out, & #45 Ratatouille

Thursdays in June I’m giving my picks for the greatest movies scores of all time. Two weeks ago, I listed #100-81 and last week #80-61. Now, here is the list for #60-41. Listen to all scores from #100-41 here.

 

60. John Debney, Elf (2003)

59. David Amram, The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

58. Franz Waxman, My Cousin Rachel (1952)

57. David Raskin, Laura (1944)

56. Charles Chaplin, Limelight (1952)

55. Elmer Bernstein, To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

54.  Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven (1992)

53. Alfonso Vilallonga, Blancanieves (2012)

52. Luis Bacalov, Il Postino (1994)

51. Ennio Morricone, Cinema Paradiso (1988)

50. Quincy Jones, The Color Purple (1985)

49. John Powell & Henry Gregson-Williams, Chicken Run (2000)

48. Victor Young, Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

47. Nino Rota, Amarcord (1974)

46. Alex North, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

45. Michael Giacchino, Ratatouille (2007)

44. Erich Wolgang Korngold, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

43. Bill Conti, The Right Stuff (1983)

42. Burt Bacharach, Casino Royale (1967)

41. Maurice Jarre, A Walk in the Clouds (1995)

 

Cannes Film Festival 1965-1982

Here’s week two of my spotlight on the Cannes Film Festivals. I’m ranking all the films I’ve seen that screened in competition each year of the festival and give grades to each. This week, it’s those that the festival showed between 1965 and 1982.

1965

1. The Knack…And How to Get It (UK) C+ Palm d’Or Winner

 

1966

1. Doctor Zhivago (USA) C+

Palm d’Or: TIE between The Birds, the Bees, and the Italians (Italy) and A Man and a Woman (France)

 

1967

1. Blow-Up (UK) B- Palm d’Or Winner

 

1969 (No festival in 1968)

 

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2. My Night at Maud’s (France) A

1. Easy Rider (UK) A+

Palm d’Or: If… (UK)

 

1970

1. M*A*S*H (USA) C+ Palm d’Or Winner

 

1971

1. Death in Venice (Italy) D

Palm d’Or: The Go-Between (UK)

 

1972

 

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2. Jeremiah Johnson (USA) A-

1. The Ruling Class (UK) A+

Palm d’Or: TIE between The Martei Affair (Italy) and The Working Class Go to Heaven (Italy)

 

1973

1. Godspell (USA) C-

Palm d’Or: TIE between The Hireling (UK) and Scarecrow (USA)

 

1974

 

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2. The Sugarland Express (USA) C-

1. The Conversation (USA) A Palm d’Or Winner

 

1975

Palm d’Or: Chronicle of the Years of Fire (Algeria)

 

1976

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2. Bugsy Malone (USA) B+

1. Taxi Driver (USA) A- Palm d’Or Winner

 

1977

2. Car Wash (USA) C

1. Bound for Glory (USA) B-

Palm d’Or: Padre Padrone (Italy)

 

1978

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1. Coming Home (USA) A+

Palm d’Or: The Tree of Wooden Clogs (Italy)

 

1979

 

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4. Norma Rae (USA) C

3. Days of Heaven (USA) C+

2. The China Syndrome (USA) A-

1. Apocalypse Now (USA) A+

Palm d’Or: TIE between Apocalypse Now (USA) and The Tin Drum (West Germany)

 

1980

1. Breaker Morant (Australia) B+

Palm d’Or: TIE between All that Jazz (USA) and Kagemusha (Japan)

 

1981

1. Chariots of Fire (UK) F

Palm d’Or: Man of Iron (Poland)

 

1982

1. Missing (Greece) D+

Palm d’Or: TIE between Missing (Greece) and The Way (Turkey)

First 50 Masterpieces

Yesterday, I published my fiftieth review of a classic movie. Here is a list of links to all of the first 50. They’re listed in order of premier date.

Intolerance: Love’s Struggle throughout the Ages (1916)

The Gold Rush (1925)

Frankenstein (1931)

A Tale of Two Cities (1935)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Rebecca (1940)

Citizen Kane (1941)

Saboteur (1942)

Casablanca (1942)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Gaslight (1944)

Rome, Open City (1945)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Monsieur Vincent (1947)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

The Snake Pit (1948)

Rashomon (1950)

Sunset Blvd. (1950)

All about Eve (1950)

A Place in the Sun (1951)

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Stalag 17 (1953)

River of No Return (1954)

On the Waterfront (1954)

A Star Is Born (1954)

Rebel without a Cause (1955)

Guys and Dolls (1955)

The Killing (1956)

The Bad Seed (1956)

Ben-Hur (1959)

Psycho (1960)

A View from the Bridge (1962)

David and Lisa (1962)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather Part II (1974)

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

On Golden Pond (1981)

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The Right Stuff (1983)

The Color Purple (1985)

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Home for the Holidays (1995)

Fargo (1996)

Joyeux Noel (2005)

The Yacoubian Building (2006)

Cannes Film Festival 1939-1964

With the Cannes Film Festival later this month, my lists throughout May will all be dedicated to this prestigious event. The early years of the festival were not consistent. They began in 1939 and didn’t hold their second until 1946. Not until 1951 did it become an annual event. My lists will rank the movies I’ve seen for each that were screened in competition for each year along with a grade for each and an acknowledgement for the top prize winner (known as the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film from 1939-1954 and the  Palm d’Or since) if I haven’t seen it. I’ll begin with the first 18 festivals

1939

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2. Goodbye Mr. Chips (UK) C

1. The Wizard of Oz (USA) A+

Grand Prix: Union Pacific (USA)

 

1946

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8. Anna and the King of Siam (UK) B+

7. Rhapsody in Blue (USA) B+

6. Beauty and the Beast (France) A

5. Gaslight (USA) A+

4. The Lost Weekend (USA) A+

3. Gilda (USA) A+

2. Rome, Open City (Italy) A+

1. Notorious (USA) A+

Grand Prix: 11 films were awarded including The Lost Weekend and Rome, Open City, among 45 nominees

 

1947

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2. Boomerang (USA) B

1. Dumbo (USA) A+

No Gran Prix chosen in 1947

 

1949

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1. The Third Man (UK) A+ Grand Prix Winner

 

1951

"All About Eve" Thelma Ritter, Anne Baxter 1950 20th Century Fox ** I.V.

2. A Place in the Sun (USA) A+

1. All about Eve (USA) A+

Grand Prix: TIE, Miracle in Milan (Italy) & Miss Jule (Sweden)

 

1953

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3. Indiscretion of an American Wife (Italy) C

2. Peter Pan (USA) B-

1. Lili (USA) A+

Grand Prix: The Wages of Fear (France)

 

1954

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2. From Here to Eternity (USA) D

1. Gate of Hell (Japan) B+ Grand Prix Winner

 

1955

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5. Bad Day at Black Rock (USA) C-

4. The Country Girl (USA) C+

3. Marty (USA) A- Palm d’Or Winner

2. East of Eden (USA) A+

1. Carmen Jones (USA) A+

 

1956

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3. The Harder They Fall (USA) C

2. The Man Who Knew Too Much (USA) C+

1. I’ll Cry Tomorrow (USA) A-

Palm d’Or: The Silent World (France)

 

1957

1. Funny Face (USA) D+

Palm d’or: Friendly Persuasion (USA)

 

1958

Palm d’or: The Cranes Are Flying (USSR)

 

1959

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2. Black Orpheus (France) B- Palm d’Or Winner

1. The 400 Blows (France) A

 

1960

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2. La dolce vita (Italy) Palm d’Or Winner

1. Never on Sunday (Greece) A-

 

1961

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1. A Raisin in the Sun (USA) A+

Palm d’Or: TIE, The Long Absence (France) & Viridiana (Mexico)

 

1962

Palm d’Or: The Given Promise (Brazil)

 

1963

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1. To Kill a Mockingbird (USA)

Palm d’Or: The Leopard (Italy)

 

1964

 

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2. The World of Henry Orient (USA) A

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (France) A+ Palm d’Or Winner