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That’s “Entertainer”-ment: “The Sting” in the Tale, and the Art of Movie-Making…

Last Sunday, I discussed The Sting on The 250, the weekly podcast that I co-host discussing the IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All-Time. However, I had some thoughts on the film that I wanted to jot down first. You can listen to the podcast here.

The Sting is a remarkable movie in a number of ways.

The film is somewhat overlooked in the annals of Best Picture winners, its victory in the category nestled between The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II. More than that, the film feels positively old-fashioned when compared to many of the Best Picture winners of the decade; The French Connection, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer and even Rocky. Many of those Best Picture winners offered a sketch of America as it existed in the seventies, a more grounded and realistic approach to cinema reflecting a broader range of experiences and perspectives than had otherwise bubbled through mainstream popular film.

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123. The Sting (#100)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week joined by special guest Gerry Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, George Roy Hill’s The Sting.

When a simple con leads to horrific consequences, amateur con artist Johnny Hooker vows to avenge himself on crime boss Doyle Lonnegan. Enlisting the help of over-the-hill veteran Henry Gondorff and a motley crew of small-time hoods, Hooker sets in motion an elaborate con game with potentially disastrous consequences.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 100th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: The Old Man and the Gun

There’s a charming gentleness to The Old Man and the Gun, an old-fashioned charisma that reflects its octogenarian leading man.

The Old Man and the Gun has been largely branded as the last feature film to star Robert Redford. Of course, show business retirements are notoriously fickle, as Clint Eastwood has repeatedly demonstrated and will likely continue to demonstrate with The Mule. It isn’t too hard to imagine Robert Redford returning to the screen (or behind the camera) in a couple of years, his roguish grin enough to forgive the broken promise that audiences probably never wanted him to keep anyway. However, it is still impossible to escape the sense of The Old Man and the Gun as a farewell piece, a tribute sculpted in the image of its lead.

Every good thief should know a solid fence.

The Old Man and the Gun is gentle, sweet and has charm to spare. As a performer, Redford is defined by a star quality that feels increasingly old-fashioned in an era where blockbuster cinema is driven by established intellectual property and awards-season fare seems to be shaped by recognisable directors. Redford was always an actors whose central appeal lay in how hard it was to dislike him. Redford had a roguish charm that offset a more fundamental decency, a movie star who seemed like he’d have stories to tell over a nice drink, but never at anybody else’s expense.

If The Old Man and the Gun is to be Redford’s cinematic swansong, there are certainly worse ways to go.

The Old Man and the Gun infamously blew its casting budget on Robert Redford, who insisted that he could play both title characters.

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Non-Review Review: Truth

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2016.

Truth is a truly repugnant piece of work.

It is quite plain to see what Truth aspires towards. It wants to be a prestige picture about the erosion of journalistic freedom in twenty-first century America; it positions itself alongside films like Spotlight and All the President’s Men (and even television series like the fifth season of The Wire) in contending that a free press is an essential organ of a functioning democracy. It is entirely correct in this respect. Truth is bookended by reminders of how the press exposed scandals like Abu Ghraib and held those in authority to account.

truth

However, Truth is spectacularly ill-judged. The film clearly wants to tell a story about journalists who find themselves under intense scrutiny for reporting something that those in power would not want exposed. There are very candid stories to be told about the failure of the American press in this role during the early years of the twenty-first century; the role of the media in the march towards the Iraq war, the death of newspaper journalism and the rise of messier (and uglier) system in its place.

Unfortunately, Truth chooses the worst possible story upon which to make this stand. What clearly aspires to be a drama about journalistic integrity becomes a tone-deaf testament to journalistic incompetence. Then again, perhaps Truth picked its subject matter perfectly.

truth4

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Watch! New All Is Lost Trailer

Universal sent over the latest trailer for All is Lost. Starring Robert Redford as a man adrift, the movie is written by and directed by J.C. Chandor. Chandor made a name for himself as the writer and director of Margin Call, a peek behind the curtain at the events leading up to the financial crisis. All is Lost looks to be an entirely different animal. With only one credited role (Redford as “our man”), it looks like a showcase for the leading actor’s talents.

The film has been generating good buzz (I hear it was well-received at the Galway Film Fleadh), and it looks like a fascinating old-school man-against-unforgiving-nature survival drama. Check out the trailer below.

J. Michael Straczynski’s (and Mike Deotado’s) Run on the Amazing Spider-Man – The Best of Spider-Man, Vol. 4-5 (Review/Retrospective)

Opinion is somewhat divided on J. Michael Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man run. the general consensus is that started strong, but that it lost its way somewhere along, before culminating in the much-maligned One More Day arc that effectively wiped decades of character development for Peter Parker and his cast. More importantly for the author of One More Day, it also completely wiped out a large volume of his contributions to the character – which is a bit of a shame. Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man would get tied up in various crossover “event” storylines like The Other, Civil War and Back in Black, to the point where Straczynski’s run went from being driven by the author’s own ideas to being dictated by editorial whim.

The start of the writer’s work with artist Mike Deodato seems to be where Straczynski was placed on a somewhat tighter editorial leash, with Sins Past mangled in the back-and-forth between author and editorial, perhaps a sign of things to come. It’s telling that it remains one of the most controversial facets of Straczynski’s run, even today.

Is it still a blast?

Note: This review or retrospective covers Straczynski’s run with artist Mike Deodato up until the “Other” crossover event. It doesn’t take up the full fourth hardcover, but it starts with the Sins Past story arc. Just so you know.

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Non-Review Review: Three Days of the Condor

Reflecting the political climate of the time, the seventies produced any number of high-quality conspiracy thrillers. I think what helps Three Days of the Condor stand above most of the rest is a great leading performance from Robert Redford at the height of his charisma, confident direction from Sydney Pollack and a rather clever central premise that feels interesting in its own right, rather than just a vehicle to create a palpable sense of paranoia.

Branching out...

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