A-Z Film Challenge: Day Nineteen

If I thought that ‘R’ was hard, ‘S’ was almost impossible. So many I wanted to include, I had an A4 page for a shortlist. It gave me a real headache, and a late night too. Just trying to reduce the number down to a normal size post had me biting my nails over what I had to leave out. But I had to make some tough calls, and left out all the obvious ones that screamed in my head to be allowed on. Once again, I have settled for some obscure choices, and left you all to run riot with the rest.

Ricardo Darin again, and the wonderful Argentinian thriller, ‘The Secret In Their Eyes’. (2009) Oscar-winning excellence all round, in this film that spans a period of twenty five years, as a judge and his colleague investigate a rape and murder that becomes the focal point of their lives. From the discovery of a body in 1974, through the case being closed and reopened, to the unexpected and gripping climax, this film never lets up, and demands your attention at all times. It deserved that Oscar, undoubtedly.

I write a lot about war films, and there are hardly any I haven’t seen. But the German film ‘Stalingrad’ (1993) is one of the most authentic and convincing to ever look at events during WW2. Following a group of soldiers from a relaxing posting in Italy, to the sheer hell of the street fighting in the Russian city, this film is memorable for both its realistic portrayal of combat, and the sincerity of the performances from the mostly unknown cast. Beware of poor imitations.

Billy Bob Thornton had his finest hour in a film hardly anyone has seen, and is rarely mentioned. In the poignant thriller ‘Sling Blade’ (1996) he not only starred, but also wrote and directed the film too. This tale of a man released from a mental hospital in Arkansas, trying to fit back into society with a damaged mental state, is a film I have never forgotten. He befriends a local boy and his mother in his home town, and gets a job as a repair man. Events turn tragic, when the mother’s abusive boyfriend takes offence at her friendship with the man, and he in turn seeks to protect the family members who have become his friends. Thornton is just wonderful in this film, a sight to behold.

David Lynch’s film, ‘The Straight Story’ (1999) is based on a true story about a man using a powered lawn mower to travel across two states to visit his estranged brother. That’s it. Man on a lawn mower, driving a long way to see his brother. Sound dull? Pointless? You would be wrong. The wonderful Richard Farnsworth captivates as the gentle Alvin Straight, and the scenery and soundtrack are both magical too. The everyday situations Alvin finds himself in will make you look at the better side of life, the kindness and gentleness that we are capable of, if we just act like human beings. This is a life-affirming film, and made me feel a better person for just watching it. As well as Farnsworth, Sissy Spaceck and Harry Dean Stanton lend great support. One of the best, by far.

I have written about this film on my blog before, and also submitted a full review to a film website. It remains one of the enduring memories of my youth, and I still can’t forget how impressed I was when I first watched it, aged just fifteen. Jean-Pierre Melville’s French crime thriller, ‘Le Samourai’ (1967) has got nothing to do with Japanese warriors, so don’t be confused by the title. It deals with the life of a Parisian hit man, someone who lives a lonely life (like the samurai of old) on the wrong side of the law. Alain Delon plays Jef Costello with such overwhelming cool, that I immediately wanted to be him. (And still do) His girlfriend Jane (played by Delon’s sister, Nathalie) is his only real human contact, and she supplies the alibis that keep him from being arrested. After a hit, the police start to get on to Jef, and he tries to cover his tracks. Moody, beautifully shot, and oozing Parisian 60s cool, (including the Citroen DS car) this is one to catch up with.

Just one more (Only one? I cry) before my choice for today.

Gnashing my teeth at all the films I had to omit, I decided to increase the length of the post by adding this one. A great example of American film noir, ‘The Sweet Smell Of Success’ (1957) gives Burt Lancaster one his most convincing and ‘baddest’ roles, as the bitchy columnist J. J. Hunsecker. He is a man who can destroy reputations overnight with a few words, and takes great delight in doing just that. Tony Curtis co-stars, as the weak press agent, Sidney Falco. He is a flattering and fawning man, willing to go to any lengths to get a a mention for his clients in Hunsecker’s column. When J.J.’s younger sister begins a romance with an up and coming young jazz musician, he uses Falco to discredit the young man, stopping at nothing to get what he wants. This is an insightful look at the newspaper industry, and still completely relevant today. “Match me, Sidney.”

No Japanese film today, and nothing from Akira Kurosawa either. But my top pick is another Asian film, this time from South Korea. Buddhist monks living in a floating temple, in the middle of a lake, surrounded by mountains. Spanning decades in the life of a young novice monk, and his wise mentor, ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring’ (2003) is something magical and unique. This is a spiritual and peaceful experience, watching how they live their lives, and how those lives change with the seasons, and the years going by. Viewing this film is like a combination of sitting looking at the best painting ever created, whilst being inside the most serene and contemplative spot on Earth.
There really is nothing else quite like it, I assure you.

98 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day Nineteen

  1. Hi Pete, Back again, a little late. The only one I have seen is Spring, Summer – truly a wonderful film.

    I had thought I’d seen A Straight Story, but I must have been thinking of something else. It’s on my list to see now, along with Sling Blade.

    Not many of my picks have had a mention. I wanted to recommend the 70s films of Lina Wertmuller – madcap political tragicomedies with Giancarlo Giannini as the strutting macho anti-hero: Three S films:
    * Seven Beauties (Giancarlo as a Neapolitan spiv who ends up in a concentration camp trying to seduce the portly German female officer),
    * The Seduction of Mimi (Giannini as a Sicilian worker trying to exact revenge on the cop who seduced his wife), and (with reservations)
    * Swept Away (Giannini as a sailor shipwrecked on a tiny island with a rich bitch on whom he wants to turn the tables.

    Some of my other suggestions have been picked: Sideways, A Streetcar Named Desire, Singing In the Rain and Strangers on a Train,

    but many have not, so I’ll list some here so they don’t feel excluded:

    The Seven Samurai, The Seventh Seal, Scenes From a Marriage, La Strada, The Servant, Sex, Lies and Videotape, A Single Man, Secretary, Stranger Than Paradise and Strictly Ballroom.

    S is too large to cover, but so many great movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, ozflicks. I don’t know the Giannini films you mention, so will happily check them out.
      ‘Secretary’ and ‘The Servant’ are both in my collection, so thanks for mentioning those. Your other picks were spot on too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have ‘Snowtown’ on DVD, but I haven’t watched it yet. I have seen many people hyped up on drugs, in fact. I was an EMT for most of my life, after all. I just think that Pacino overacts as a base line in most of his roles. I wasn’t specifically referring to the scenes where he is out of control, just the whole performance. I still like the film, but much prefer it when he controls himself a bit more, as he did in ‘Carlito’s Way’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The mood and atmosphere are thoroughly chilling and rendered with creepy assurance. And good old Spacey, for the short time he’s on screen, exudes a calm yet eerily calculating menace.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Another Splendid and interesting movie list. I Shall have a look into some of the other that have passed me by.

    Here is a Selection of Some of my favourite..

    Scarface, Saving Private Ryan, Scream, Se7en, (The) Secret Garden, Scanners, (The) Shining, Shrek, Shutter Island, Signs, (The) Silence Of the Lambs, Sin City, (The) Sixth Sense, Sliding Doors, Snatch, Some Like It Hot, Something’s Got to Give, Source Code, Spartacus, Splash, Split, Starship Troopers, (The) Strangers, Strangers On a Train, Sucker Punch, Superman (1978), Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Me. Vengeance, (The) Shawshank Redemption and Spirited Away.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a smart thriller. I first read the novel by Patricia Highsmith who has wotte remarkable crime thriller novels that are a favourite genre of mine to read. I would have also includes Hitchcocks Shadow of a Doubt since it seems like it was a great success but I have yet to watch it. I do tend to like alot of his movies. ☺

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll happily provide some S films that have resonated with me, one way or another. Sea of Love, Sense and Sensability (1995), Seven, also from 1995. Everyone loves to hate ‘Shakespeare in Love’, but I thought it clever and charming. Shaun of the Dead, The Shining, Sideways, Silence of the Lambs, Sin City(2005), and Sunset Blvd.
    You were right, S seems to be a prolific letter!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Cindy. Especially for including ‘Sea of Love’. I adore that film!
      I follow the trend for ‘Shakespeare in Love’, and absolutely hate it. Perhaps because of Joseph Fiennes, who I have never liked.
      ‘S’ was a mad letter, so hard to make choices. Many thanks for yours though.
      Best wishes as always, Pete. x


  4. You have mentioned two that would be in my list, The Straight Story was a real feel good movie rekindling faith in human nature. And Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall is one of the few films I ever watched twice in the same week, following your recommendation a few years ago I might add, thank you! The final scene still plays in my head as I ponder the deeper meaning (or maybe not that deep) It could offer hope? Or, as I fear, questions the reason for even trying if the first place?
    I’d love to add a film, but that will probably happen in a few days when I have thought about it after some heavy scything! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well I was waiting for S and no-one has mentioned either of my choices πŸ™‚ Firstly from DC, Suicide Squad, mixed reviews but I loved it and Phil has still not got over Margot Robbie’s naughty representation of Harley Quin πŸ™‚ it’s a good romp of a movie with a stellar cast
    Secondly back through the mists of time to 1965 and a beautifully shot movie filmed in Big Sur California and starring Elizabeth Taylor and her husband at the time Richard Burton, about single mother who ends up having an affair with her boy’s headmaster, as Dick & Liz had both had affairs and just got married prior to filming, the acting was spot on. What caught me most about The Sandpiper though was the scenery, and the movie’s song which won an academy award, here it is πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh fun….start with classics…”Sahara” with Bogey, “Scarlet Street” with Ed G. Robinson, The Stranger” with Orsen Wlles….Modern ones…”Syriana” with Clooney, “Sleepy Hollow” with Depp, “Sahara” with Cruz, “Slither” with Fillion, “Serendipity” with Fillion also, and “Space Balls’…..now the bad SciFi….”Snow Beast” with Svenson, “Slipstream” with Bill Paxton….whew! Coffee time! chuq

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Sahara’ is a clunky old tank film. I haven’t seen that in years. Anything from Welles is good with me, and I have ‘Serenity’ on DVD.
      Thanks for all those extras, chuq.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Very interested in your recommendations, I need to take a month off, stock up on popcorn, and lock the door! πŸ™‚ The “S” list is just out of control. Slingblade is an amazing movie, Thornton deserves the acclaim, but the whole cast was just excellent. That movie really sticks with you, and I’ve always worried that if I run into Dwight Yoakum someday, I’ll have an uncontrollable urge to do him a mischief. I would put Duval’s insane mumbling up against Brando’s mouthful of cotton wool in the Godfather, any day.
    I was surprised there were no mentions of Streetcar Named Desire, or The Sand Pebbles, it always seems to get excellent reviews, even though I personally didn’t make it through the whole thing. Saving Mr. Banks & Private Ryan were both outstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I expected a lot of love for ‘Private Ryan’, a film that I enjoyed a lot. (Despite Hanks, who I don’t care for) ‘The Sand Pebbles’ was on my original list. I really liked that film at the time, even though it feels very ‘colonial’ now. Glad to meet another fan of ‘Sling Blade’, and of Duvall. I thought his Tom Hagen was the best thing about ‘The Godfather’.
      Thanks for your thoughts, Robert.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I loved The Straight Story, such a quietly moving film on the resilience of the human spirit. Stand by Me would be my main choice as it resonates a lot with me, each and every time I watch it. And of course, I have to put in Scream.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Scream’ is worth it for Neve. Glad you agree about ‘The Straight Story’, and I think we can all relate to ‘Stand By Me’, remembering our lives as young boys.
      Cheers mate, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes, you know how I feel about much of what Ricardo DarΓ­n has been on and Secret is a wonderful film all around (script, acting, filming…). Star Wars is… well, Star Wars. I agree on many of the additions to the list (The Sting, indeed, I love con films as you know). I guess because of the con I should add David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner, where Steve Martin is fantastic. I don’t think I’ve watch Spring, Summer… Now I must (agree on the Billy Bob Thornton comments (although for some reason I love Pushing Tin, that I didn’t remember to mention on the P because I never remember the full title, only Tin something… )

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pete, I thought you were going to choose Roger Corman’s “The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent” (1957). Alas! No… (In case you’re wondering, I haven’t seen this insult to cinema, either!)

    I’ll list a few guilty pleasures first: “Suspiria” (1977). “Showgirls” (1995), “Sleepy Hollow” (1999), “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (2004), and “Sin City” (2005/2008).

    On my short list of favorites is: “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943), “Sunset Boulevard” (1950), “Le Salaire de la Peur” (1953), “Some Like It Hot” (1959), “Spartacus” (1960), “The Shootist” (1976), “Silver Streak” (1976), “Speed” (1994), “Starship Troopers” (1997), and “Secretary” (2002).

    I’m sure a few people will name “Singin’ in the Rain” (1953), “Shane” (1953), “The Searchers” (1956), “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), and “Schindler’s List” (1993), These are all excellent films. I have two of them on DVD (hint: Gene Kelly and John Wayne).

    If you’ve noticed a glaring omission at this point, it’s because this film is my number one pick. You’ll notice I mentioned a certain film directed by Billy Wilder that stars an actress named Marilyn. Well, I’m going to pick another Billy Wilder film, only this one stars someone once named Norma Jeane: ‘”THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH” (1955). The central character is played to hilarious perfection by Tom Ewell, and the “girl” upstairs is both incredibly charming and sexy, whether standing naked behind plants on a balcony, or holding down her dress while standing on a subway grate. My final word on this film? “I think it’s just elegant!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David. I was expecting to see the Verhoeven films, and I had a feeling that Monroe would get your top spot. I think that ‘Sin City’ is a great representation of the graphic novel, and ‘Showgirls’ is a sexy treat, not unlike a cinematic candy bar. Berkley and Gershon was a good pairing, and the old ‘musicals formula’ was nicely updated. Thanks also for mentioning the many classic titles.
      (I have some idea of your choice for ‘V’.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pete, “Showgirls” has become a cult film that remains controversial among movie critics. I first watched it at the movie theater just prior to moving to Las Vegas. I view it as a cynical depiction of the American dream, where someone desperate to succeed must use desperate means to overcome bad luck, moral obstacles, and a-holes in order to rise to the top, keeping in mind that if one’s meteoric rise is followed by a precipitous fall, then…”if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” (of course, since the drive to succeed is voluntary, this idiom isn’t exactly Sisyphean).

        I really enjoy “Sin City” and its sequel, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” These films demand multiple viewings, and also must be watched back to back. It’s too bad moviegoers didn’t go for, and film critics didn’t appreciate, the well-made sequel.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I view ‘Showgirls’ as a feast for the eyes myself, but I do get the implied irony too, and the nod to those old films. Critics can be very snobby, but then so can I. Especially when it comes to pointless remakes, and Comic-character films. πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to agree that Wayne and Boone were at their very best in that tale of the changing face of the Old West. I was impressed with that at the cinema, though I don’t think I have seen it since.
        Regards, Pete.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. I can’t believe you’ve already reached S! It’s funny, I never cared for Billy Bob Thornton until I saw him in Sling Blade where he totally blew me away! I watched the trailer for your winner, and it does look wonderful Pete. I’m going to have to see if I can find it. So, my list would have to include: The Sting, Shaun of the Dead, Silence of the Lambs, Saving Private Ryan, Scream, Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn version), and The Social Network. My winner would be Star Wars because it had a huge impact on my 12 year old self. Plus I have wonderful memories of going to see it with my dad.😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Glad to hear that you liked ‘Sling Blade’, Kim. I know few people who have seen it. I agree that Thornton is often guilty of overacting, but in this film (and ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There) he got it just right. My top pick from Korea is a film that will make you feel good about life, I am sure.
      Thanks for your suggestions and additions.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That was an excellent adaptation of the book indeed. I had liked Brian Cox as Lecter in ‘Manhunter’ (1986), (called Lecktor in that film) but Hopkins gave the character a thespian upgrade, in SOTL.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have never forgotten the intense and realistic fighting inside that factory, Frank. I am expecting a ‘comment avalanche’ for the Star Wars films. Let’s see…
      Best wishes, Pete.


  12. Another great list!

    The “S” movie I had in mind earlier that was influenced by “Night of the Living Dead” is “Shaun of the Dead”, the first in the Cornetto Trilogy from Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. And possibly one of the first in the RomZomCom genre? (I just looked that up, and it was the first!) Another great soundtrack, too. And I’ll also add “The Sting” because this was an excellent follow-up of a “buddies” movie (which is what the Cornetto Trilogy is really all about, after all) for Paul Newman and Robert Redford after the success of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. Plus it introduced the music of Scott Joplin to a whole new generation.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Joplin’s piano was memorable indeed in ‘The Sting’, Susan. I loved the film at the cinema, but the final con is so definitive, that I have been unable to enjoy any repeated viewings of the film. I am a great fan of Robert Shaw, and enjoyed him as the villain.
      If you like Simon Pegg, I can recommend the wacky TV series that launched his career, ‘Spaced’. It also starred Nick frost, and the wonderful Jessica Hynes. (It has nothing to do with Space)
      You will see the roots of all the later films in this.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have the “Spaced” DVD, as well. Loved that series, and pretty much everything else that Pegg has done, including Scotty in the new “Star Trek” movies. So many of the British actors who have appeared with Pegg and Frost in various movies and in that TV series have popped up elsewhere. But I always recognize them from their original roles. “Black Books” is another TV series we have on DVD and watch regularly. Pegg has a part in one of those episodes, too.

        Liked by 1 person

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