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Showing posts from November, 2016

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #98: North by Northwest

With North by Northwest (1959) Alfred Hitchcock finally hit peak Hitchcock. It has many of the tropes from his past movies such as an accidental hero with slight mother issues, a sexy blond female co-star, international villains, and a MacGuffi. However it also goes further than any of Hitchcock’s previous work by having the well-dressed protagonist embark on a crazy adventure that takes him to various set pieces that each become and more and more dangerous. On the surface it may all seem terribly silly, but crucially it is also incredibly fun.
I got the movie on DVD as part of an Alfred Hitchcock essentials collection a few years ago for Christmas, but its action set pieces are so iconic I had already seen them be parodied in pop culture many times before. For instance, the sequence where the hero is attacked by a crop duster is replicated in the spoof Wrongfully Accused, but because it is a Leslie Nielsen comedy the crop duster is a small toy plane. Then there is the final standoff a…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #99: Toy Story

One of the joys of the innocence of childhood is not ever being sure where the line is between reality and fiction. A child who watches a puppet show will believe he is watching a living creature and purposefully ignore the strings being pulled from above. At a certain age in children’s lives there is also little difference between a puppy and a teddy bear, which is what the filmmakers at animation studio Pixar were probably counting on with their early masterpiece Toy Story (1995). Who among us has never played with toys and deep down thought maybe they were having lives of their own once we left the room?
I imagine I was not the only kid to be fascinated by the sight of Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) getting up after his owner Andy (John Morris) got out the bedroom. The biggest problem with computer animation is that it cannot capture the life in a human being’s eyes, but that problem does not apply to toys since they are of course lifeless to begin with. That doesn’t stop us from believi…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #101: Raising Arizona

Whereas Blood Simple demonstrated how the Coen Brothers could handle gritty violence, their sophomore effort Raising Arizona (1987) showed what they could do with cartoonish violence. Even though the movie revolves around the kidnapping of a baby, armed robberies, and a Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, it is madcap fun from beginning to end. Nicolas Cage, nowadays known for throwing everything including the kitchen sink in his performances, makes for a great lead in the pantheon of Coen characters even if this has been their only collaboration so far.
This was another instance of being able to mix work with pleasure, since back when I was at the Université de Sherbrooke I took a Scriptwriting course and part of our homework included doing an analysis of Raising Arizona. It is hard to dispute the educational component of such an assignment, since this is one of the Coen Brothers’ lesser successful films, at least financially, and we certainly all learned a lot watching it for the very firs…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #102: The Hustler

Robert Rossen’s The Hustler (1961) is proof that any sport can be used for good cinematic drama even if that sport is pool. Although this is not a game that involves a massive sport arena and bloody boxing gloves, things can get dramatically interesting if the monetary stakes are high, and visually arresting if the filmmakers shoot from the right angle. It also helps a lot if the man putting his money on the table is played by a young Paul Newman in a career-breaking role.
Prior to watching the film I had a vague idea of the meaning of the word “hustling” and a rather passive interest in the game of pool. It’s a fun game to play if you are having a couple of nachos and chicken wings on a Friday evening with friends, but I didn’t see it as a spectator sport. Watching The Hustler in the classics section of Netflix two years ago was a bit of an education since it shows the sport as a way of life for some people, and a huge source of revenue for big time gamblers.
Newman star as “Fast” Eddi…