900. Gangs of New York (2002) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 167 mins.
The film is set in 1864 in the slum neighbourhood of Five Points, Manhattan and follows Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo Di Caprio) an orphan who seeks revenge against gang leader William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), a crime boss and political kingmaker who had murdered Vallon’s father 18 years earlier. Considered a lesser Scorsese work by some critics Gangs of New York is still a terrific piece of film-making with an exceptional performance from Day-Lewis.
899. Flowers of Shanghai (1998) Dir. Hsiao-hsien Hou, 130 mins.
Set in Shanghai in the 1880s the film follows the intrigues of four elegant brothels, each with a madam, a courtesan in her prime, older servants and maturing girls in training. Maybe not Hou’s best film and it does require plenty of patience, but it’s worth seeing for its exquisite imagery.
898. Midnight Express (1978) Dir. Alan Parker, 121 mins.
Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Billy Hayes, the film is an often harrowing account of a young American student, Hayes, sent to a Turkish prison for trying to smuggle hashish out of Turkey in 1970. While the film received criticism for the depiction of Turkish prison workers as violent villains and for deviations from the book, it has some unforgettable scenes and a powerful performance by Brad Davis as Hayes.
897. The Little Foxes (1941) Dir. William Wyler, 115 mins.
An adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play that involves the corrupt machinations of Regina Giddens (Bette Davis) and her two greedy brothers who scheme mercilessly in their attempt to make a fortune on a new cotton mill. In the process, Regina is willing to crush anyone who stands in their way including her own husband who has a serious heart condition. Entertaining, insightful and with innovative cinematography The Little Foxes is a prime example of how well a play can be adapted for the big screen.
896. The New Land (1972) Dir. Jan Troell, 204 mins.
In a sequel to Troell’s 1971 film The Emigrants, Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann star as the Swedish immigrants establishing their home in Minnesota, during the Dakota War of 1862. With totally believable characters and stunning photography The New Land makes for brilliant and compelling cinema.
895. Porco Rosso (1992) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 94 mins.
The plot revolves around an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace, who thanks to an unusual curse, has been transformed into a pig, and is now living as a freelance bounty hunter chasing “air pirates” in the Adriatic Sea. More beautiful animation and irresistible, vibrant story telling from the masterful Miyazaki.
894. Hugo (2011) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 126 mins.
Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the magic of early cinema was his first use of 3-D. The film is an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s award-winning, imaginative best-seller, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” and follows a 12 year old boy who lives alone, after his father is killed, in the walls of the Gare Montparnasse railway station in Paris in the 1930s. The boy embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of a broken automation his father has left him. A charming and moving children’s tale that should appeal to all lovers of cinema.
893. Evil Dead II (1987) Dir. Sam Raimi, 85 mins.
The second of three films in the Evil Dead series is part horror, part comedy, with Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) once again battling horrifying demons at a secluded cabin in the woods. Inventive and full of energy, Evil Dead II is very funny and has better special effects and scares than the original.
892. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970) Dir. Vittorio De Sica, 94 mins.
Vittorio De Sica’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis focuses on an intellectual, aristocratic Jewish family living in Ferrara, Italy in the late 1930s who don’t comprehend the threat of the Nazis until its too late. Moving and tragic it brilliantly depicts a family living an idyllic sheltered existence that is torn apart by the rise of fascism.
891. Crumb (1994) Dir. Terry Zwigoff, 119 mins.
A 1994 documentary film about the noted underground cartoonist Robert Crumb and his family, particularly his brothers, Maxon and Charles, as well as Robert’s wife Aline Kominsky-Crumb and his children. Making the connection between Crumb’s creativity and his eccentricity or perhaps craziness, the film is troubling and disarming with some haunting images.
890. Divorce Italian Style (1961) Dir. Pietro Germi, 105 mins.
Marcello Mastroianni excels in Germi’s hugely entertaining and darkly humorous comedy as an impoverished Sicilian nobleman who wishes to end his marriage to his shrewish but devoted wife because he’s fallen in love with his much younger attractive cousin. While Italian Catholic law prohibits divorce, murder is only punishable by a light sentence if it’s committed to restore family honour. So he plans to find his wife a lover, deciding on a local priest’s godson with long standing feelings for the wife, and shoot them both in a jealous rage.
889. La Chienne (1931) Dir. Jean Renoir, 91 mins.
Bleak, pessimistic and highly controversial (it wasn’t shown in the US until 1975), Renoir’s precursor of Italian neo-realism follows Maurice, a meek bank clerk and aspiring painter, who is trapped in a marriage with an abusive woman who mistreats him. After a work celebration, Maurice sees a young woman, Lulu, on the street being beaten by a man. He protects her and takes her home. Maurice soon falls in love with her, unaware that she’s a prostitute and that the man who was beating her is her pimp, Dede. Janie Pelletier gives a notable performance as Lulu, but didn’t get the chance to enjoy the acclaim, as just weeks after the film was completed she was killed in a car crash.
888. The Burmese Harp (1956) Dir. Kon Ichikawa, 116 mins.
Based on a children’s novel of the same name written by Michio Takeyama, the film tells the story of a group of Japanese soldiers trying to uncover whether one of their number survived after the Burma Campaign of World War II. Could he be the same person as a Buddhist monk they see playing a harp? Notable as one of the first films to portray the losses of World War II from the perspective of the Japanese army, The Burmese Harp remains a powerful and purposeful anti-war film.
887. Collateral (2004) Dir. Michael Mann, 120 mins.
Mann’s neo-noir crime drama stars Tom Cruise cast against type as a contract killer and Jamie Foxx as a taxi driver who becomes Cruise’s hostage during an evening of the hit-man’s work. Helped by widely praised performances from its two leads, Collateral is a stylish and tense thriller.
886. Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922) Dir. Fritz Lang, 297 mins.
Criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse attempts to gain total control over society by manipulating the stock market. He uses hypnosis, seductive women and psychological terror to drive his wealthy victims to self destruction. Exuberant but uneven cinema art, Dr. Mabuse remains a film to see for the moments of visual brilliance.
885. Time of the Gypsies (1988) Dir. Emir Kusturica, 136 mins.
After several notable award winners earlier in the 80s, Bosnian born Kusterica further affirmed his reputation as a world class European director with a film about a Romani teenager with telekinetic powers who is tricked into engaging in petty crime in Milan’s underworld. Funny, moving and tragic.
884. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Dir. Danny Boyle, 120 mins.
The film tells the story of 18 year old orphan Jamal Malik, from the Juhu slums of Mumbai, who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Jamal looks back on his life so far, showing how he is able to answer every question while dealing with the suspicions that he is cheating. A feel good film that’s often exhilarating, Slumdog won eight academy awards.
883. Fury (1936) Dir. Fritz Lang, 90 mins.
Having escaped Nazi Germany after Hitler’s request that he become head of the fascist regime’s film industry, Lang signed a contract with MGM and convinced the studio to let him make a film about an ordinary man (Spencer Tracey) mistakenly arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and possibly murdering a child. When a frenzied mob of town residents set fire to the jail the man is presumed wrongly to be dead. He then sacrifices his relationships with his family and sweetheart, becoming obsessed with taking revenge on his accusers. Lang’s powerful film shows how the quest for revenge dehumanises the man in much the same way as it did the lynch mob.
882. The Letter (1940) Dir. William Wyler, 95 mins.
Nobody played strong and bitter women quite like Bette Davis. Here Davis is Leslie Crosbie, the malevolent wife of a Malaysian rubber magnate (Herbert Marshall) who is accused of murdering her lover and attempting to cover up the crime. Wyler’s classic melodrama might be a tad predictable but it should be seen for Davis’s powerful performance and the brilliant opening scene.
881. Les Vampires (1915) Dir. Louis Feuillade, 399 mins.
Feuillade’s celebrated underworld crime series was made up of ten feature length episodes released monthly. It follows a journalist and his friend who become involved in trying to uncover and stop a bizarre underground Apache gang, known as The Vampires. Elegantly beautiful and exhilarating, the film was despised by many critics when first released but is now revered, particularly the performance of Musidora as Irma Vep.