640. Withnail & I (1987) Dir. Bruce Robinson, 107 mins.
Based on Robinson’s life in London in the late 1960s, the plot follows two unemployed young actors, Withnail and “I” (Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann) who live in a squalid flat in Camden Town in 1969 while squandering their finances on alcohol. Needing a holiday, they obtain the key to a country cottage in the Lake District.
639. Odd Man Out (1947) Dir. Carol Reed, 116 mins.
In the aftermath of a botched hold-up, intended to finance the activities of his IRA cell, a wounded Johnny McQueen takes shelter in the back-alleys of Belfast, a shadowy underworld where sanctuary is freighted at every moment with peril. Meanwhile, a vast police manhunt is launched, a net that closes steadily, remorselessly in upon him.
638. The Public Enemy (1931) Dir. William A. Wellman, 83 mins.
A trend setting gangster film that stars James Cagney as a young man rising up the criminal underworld in prohibition-era urban America. Whilst the film has a brief consideration of the reasons for the character’s drive to criminality, it might be a rebellious response to his father being a policeman, at its centre is an almost infantile delight in fast cars and shoot outs.
637. Fat City (1972) Dir. John Huston, 100 mins.
With Huston’s reputation having plummeted by the late 60s, the pendulum began to swing back with Fat City, a study of small time, Dead end boxers, filmed with laconic sympathy and unmistakable, seemingly effortless authority.
636. Avatar (2009) Dir. James Cameron, 150 mins.
The film is set in 2154, when humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on Pandora, a lush moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system. The expansion of the mining threatens the continued existence of a local tribe of Na’vi an indigenous humanoid species. We’ve seen the story before (Dances With Wolves and The Last Samurai are just two that come to mind), but never looking like this.
635. Paper Moon (1973) Dir. Peter Bogdanovich, 102 mins.
A bible salesman teams up with an orphan girl to form a money-making con team in Depression-era Kansas.
634. Kanal (1957) Dir. Andrzej Wajda, 91 mins.
Set in the Warsaw sewers during the 1944 Uprising, Kanal was successful enough for Wajda to be appointed head of the so-called Polish Film School.
633. American Splendor (2003) Dir. Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini, 101 mins.
American Splendor is a 2003 American biographical comedy-drama film about Harvey Pekar, the author of the American Splendor comic book series.
632. Quiz Show (1994) Dir. Robert Redford, 133 mins.
The film chronicles the Twenty One quiz show scandals of the 1950s, the rise and fall of popular contestant Charles Van Doren after the fixed loss of Herb Stempel, and Congressional investigator Richard Goodwin’s subsequent probe.
631. Ed Wood (1994) Dir. Tim Burton, 127 mins.
The film concerns the period in Wood’s life when he made his best-known films as well as his relationship with actor Bela Lugosi. Johnny Depp is the daft director while Martin Landau delivers a career best performance.
630. The Prestige (2006) Dir. Christopher Nolan, 130 mins.
The story follows Robert Angier and Alfred Borden, rival stage magicians in London at the beginning of the 20th century. Obsessed with creating the best stage illusion, they engage in competitive one-upmanship with tragic results.
629. Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967) Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 87 mins.
One of Godard’s key works, the film locates its story of a Parisian housewife’s resort to prostitution within a wider treatise on the sociology of contemporary Paris.
628. Million Dollar Baby (2004) Dir. Clint Eastwood, 132 mins.
This film is about an underappreciated boxing trainer, the mistakes that haunt him from his past, and his quest for atonement by helping an underdog amateur boxer achieve her dream of becoming a professional.
627. Babette’s Feast (1987) Dir. Gabriel Axel, 102 mins.
A Danish film based on a short story by Karen Blixen (portrayed by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa) about two middle-aged sisters who take in a refugee as their housekeeper.
626. Memories of Murder (2003) Dir. Joon-ho Bong, 130 mins.
It is based on the true story of Korea’s first serial murders in history, which took place between 1986 and 1991 in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province.
625. Great Expectations (1946) Dir. David Lean, 118 mins.
After an anonymous patron provides him with an income, orphaned Pip sets out for the life of a young gentleman. But soon a criminal to whom Pip once showed kindness resurfaces, leading to some surprising revelations. With a polished look that was much appreciated in America, Great Expectations was one of several British films of the 40s to win an Oscar for their photography.
624. The King’s Speech (2010) Dir. Tom Hooper, 118 mins.
Colin Firth plays the future King George VI who, to cope with a stammer, sees Lionel Logue, an Australian speech and language therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. The men become friends as they work together, and after his brother abdicates the throne, the new king relies on Logue to help him make his first wartime radio broadcast on Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939.
623. The Last Detail (1973) Dir. Hal Ashby, 104 mins.
Two Navy men are ordered to bring a young offender to prison but decide to show him one last good time along the way. Jack Nicholson stars as the crude, loud mouthed petty officer.
622. Hunger (2008) Dir. Steve McQueen, 96 mins.
Michael Fassbender delivers a brilliant and committed performance as Bobby Sands in artist Steve McQueen’s potent debut.
621. Carol (2015) Dir. Todd Haynes, 118 mins.
Set in New York City during the early 1950s, Carol tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aspiring female photographer and an older woman going through a difficult divorce. Superb performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Mara is the young woman who dreams of being a photographer.