860. Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy (2011) Dir. Tomas Alfredson, 127 mins.
Based on the classic 1974 novel of the same name, Alfredson’s visually stylish espionage thriller is set in London in the early 1970s and follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service. The outstanding Gary Oldman leads a high quality ensemble cast as John Le Carre’s British spy George Smiley, formerly disgraced, but brought back by MI-6 to lead the hunt. While some will dislike the slow pace and find the narrative structure difficult to follow, the film displays a brilliant sense of time and place that combined with the atmosphere of Cold War paranoia builds to a satisfying and compelling finale.
859. My Left Foot (1989) Dir. Jim Sheridan, 103 mins.
It tells the story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who grew up in a poor, working-class family and despite only having control of his left foot became a writer and artist. Propelled by outstanding performances, particularly the astonishing Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot is both a gritty and inspiring film.
858. The Killing Fields (1984) Dir. Roland Joffe, 141 mins.
The Killing Fields is a harrowing biographical drama about the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which is based on the experiences of two journalists, Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg.
857. Gravity (2013) Dir. Alfonso Cuaron, 91 mins.
It stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as American astronauts who are stranded in space after the mid-orbit destruction of their space shuttle, and follows their subsequent attempt to return to Earth.
856. Far From Heaven (2002) Dir. Todd Haynes, 107 mins.
Julianne Moore plays the seemingly perfect 50s housewife who’s life begins to fall apart in Haynes homage to the films of Douglas Sirk. Shot and designed to re-create the atmosphere of a 1950s melodrama the film is filled with intelligent writing and some heart breaking performances.
855. First Man (2018) Dir. Damien Chazelle, 141 mins.
Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, the film stars Ryan Gosling as Armstrong, alongside Claire Foy as his wife and follows the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in 1969. The film’s emotional core comes just as much from Armstrong dealing with the loss of a child (7 years before the lunar landing), as it does his remarkable achievement as an astronaut. The film features some brilliant direction, outstanding performances from Gosling and Foy, a haunting musical score and an extraordinarily powerful Moon landing sequence. However, the film was not without detractors and its choice to not depict the planting of the American flag on the lunar surface led critics and politicians from both political parties to debate the film’s stance on patriotism.
854. The Hour-Glass Sanatorium (1973) Dir. Wojciech Has, 124 mins.
The story follows a young Jewish man who visits his father in a mystical sanatorium where time does not behave normally.
853. Performance (1970) Dir. Donald Cammell, Nicolas Roeg, 105 mins.
Acclaimed for its influential cinematic techniques, Performance stars James Fox as a violent and ambitious London gangster who, after carrying out an unordered killing, goes into hiding at the home of a reclusive rock star (Mick Jagger). A weird and memorable psychological crime thriller that’s full of ideas and good performances.
852. All That Jazz (1979) Dir. Bob Fosse, 123 mins.
With a screenplay by Robert Alan Aurthur and Fosse, All That Jazz is a semi-autobiographical fantasy based on aspects of Fosse’s life and career as a dancer, choreographer and director. It’s an irreverent send up of show business conventions and, as well as being superbly shot, features a brilliantly energised central performance by Roy Scheider.
851. Mad Max (1979) Dir. George Miller, 93 mins.
Financed privately rather than by the failing Australian Film Commission this violent dystopian action movie was a big international hit and changed the way Australian films were funded in favour of a more commercial ethos rather than a cultural one. The film also launched the career of future Hollywood star and director Mel Gibson, who plays a vengeful policeman embroiled in a feud with a vicious motorcycle gang. Now lauded for its visceral power and strong direction the film initially polarised critics.
850. True Grit (2010) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 110 mins.
The Coen brothers revisionist western is a more faithful adaptation of Charles Portis’s novel than the 1969 version starring John Wayne. The film follows 14 year-old farm girl Mattie Ross who hires Rooster Cogburn, a boozy, trigger-happy US Marshall to help her track down and apprehend an outlaw named Tom Chaney who murdered her father. A solid, occasionally moving character study with a particularly likeable performance by Jeff Bridges as Cogburn.
849. The Straight Story (1999) Dir. David Lynch, 112 mins.
The film is based on the true story of Alvin Straight’s 1994 journey across Iowa and Wisconsin on a lawn mower to visit his estranged brother Lyle, who has suffered a stroke, and hopefully make amends before he dies. The slow pace may well bore younger viewers but The Straight Story is a lyrically profound work that features a perfect performance by Richard Farnsworth.
848. Husbands and Wives (1992) Dir. Woody Allen, 108 mins.
Released after Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s relationship had come to an end, Husbands and Wives was their final movie together. Filmed by Carlo Di Palma with a handheld camera and featuring documentary style one on ones with the characters, the film follows Gabe Roth (Allen) and his wife Judy (Farrow) who are taken aback by the casual announcement from their best friends, an upper-middle class Manhattan couple (the excellent Judy Davis and Sydney Pollack), that they are splitting up. Soon Gabe and Judy are analysing their own marriage. One of Allen’s best, it’s bleak but yet compelling.
847. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 119 mins.
Loosely based on the novel of the same name by British author Diane Wynne Jones, the story follows Sophie Hatter who is a responsible and beautiful girl who runs her late fathers hat shop in a fictional kingdom where both magic and early 20th century technology are prevalent. On her way to the bakery to visit her sister she encounters, by chance, a mysterious wizard named Howl and gets caught up in his resistance to fighting for the king in a war with another kingdom. Influenced by Miyazaki’s opposition to the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 the film is thematically different to the book and considers the destructiveness of war and the value of compassion. Although the narrative begins to lose focus by the second half this is still an imaginative fantasy that becomes more and more emotionally intense.
846. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) Dir. Blake Edwards, 115 mins.
The film features Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic role as Holly Golightly the naive and eccentric socialite. The future A-Team star George Peppard plays the lonely neighbour and writer who becomes enchanted with her. The overall charm (particularly the cat named ‘Cat’) will allow most viewers to forgive the dafter parts.
845. Shakespeare In Love (1998) Dir. John Madden, 123 mins.
The film depicts an imaginary love affair involving Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) and playwright William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) while he was writing Romeo and Juliet. Winner of seven Oscars, including beating out Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture, the film is enchanting and witty and Paltrow, with her perfect English accent, makes for the ultimate muse for Fiennes’s passionate bard.
844. Sleeper (1973) Dir. Woody Allen, 138 mins.
The plot involves the adventures of the owner of a health food store who is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an ineptly led police state. A madcap sci-fi parody made as a tribute to comedians Groucho Marx and Bob Hope.
843. Oliver! (1968) Dir. Carol Reed, 153 mins.
Based on the stage musical, with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, and Charles Dicken’s novel, the story centres on orphan Oliver Twist, born in a workhouse and sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. After escaping, Twist travels to London, where he meets The Artful Dodger, a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly criminal, Fagin. Winning the best film Oscar in 1968, Oliver! is triumph of great characters, music and production design and was a fitting swan-song for The Third Man director Carol Reed. The British Film Institute ranked Oliver! 77th in their list of the greatest British films of the 20th century.
842. Shaun of the Dead (2004) Dir. Edgar Wright, 99 mins.
A British horror comedy starring Simon Pegg as Shaun, a man attempting to get some kind of focus in his life as he deals with girlfriend and family problems while also having to cope with an apocalyptic zombie uprising. Not just a parody of George A. Romero and zombie films in general, Shaun of the Dead is full of wonderful witty satire and plenty of gore.
841. La Belle Noiseuse (1991) Dir. Jacques Rivette, 237 mins.
A reclusive famous painter, Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli), lives quietly with his wife and former model (Jane Birkin) in a rambling château in rural Languedoc-Roussillon. When a young artist visits him with his girlfriend, Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart), Frenhofer is inspired to commence work once more on a painting he long ago abandoned, La Belle Noiseuse, using Marianne as his model.
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