#302/ 365 – ‘Princess Mononoke’ (1997) – 134 mins
IMDb Challenge #182/ 250 – Ranked #112 – Lovefilm
While protecting his village from rampaging boar-god/demon, a confident young warrior, Ashitaka, is stricken by a deadly curse. To save his life, he must journey to the forests of the west. Once there, he’s embroiled in a fierce campaign that humans were waging on the forest. The ambitious Lady Eboshi and her loyal clan use their guns against the gods of the forest and a brave young woman, Princess Mononoke, who was raised by a wolf-god. Ashitaka sees the good in both sides and tries to stem the flood of blood. This is met be animosity by both sides as they each see him as supporting the enemy.
It was time for another encounter of the brilliance of Studio Ghibli, With Princess Mononoke being the fifth of sixth entries registering on the IMDb 250 for the Japanese giants.
Whilst the film is full of extraordinary spectacle on its epic scale. I just didn’t fully connect with its realised tale of civilisation versus nature. Also the central romance felt underdeveloped. I needed something more deep and magical like other Ghibli classics.
#303/ 365 – ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (1974) – 91 mins
IMDb Challenge #183/ 250 – Ranked #73 – Lovefilm
King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail possibly opens with some of the most innovative credits ever to grace a film. It’s difficult to imagine a stronger beginning, but the film’s irreverent humor doesn’t flag as the story begins.
Maintaining fantastic pace, every scene is paved with comedic gold. With The Black Knight “It’s just a flesh wound.” fight and the “Run away!”, Killer Rabbits being some of the best. Then there’s great testament in Terry Gilliam’s and Terry Jones directorial vision that the film looks much more expensive than the £229,000 it cost to film.
#304/ 365 – ‘Life is Beautiful’ (1997) – 116 mins
IMDb Challenge #184/ 250 – Ranked #71 – Lovefilm
In 1930s Italy, a carefree Jewish book-keeper named Guido (Roberto Benigni) starts a fairy tale life by courting and marrying the lovely Dora (Nicoletta Braschi). Guido and his wife have a son and live happily together until the occupation of Italy by German forces. In an attempt to hold his family together and help his son survive the horrors of a Jewish Concentration Camp, Guido imagines that the Holocaust is a game and that the grand prize for winning is a tank.
Life is Beautiful has to walk a very fine line between the comedic and dramatic. Too much comedy and it will seem to trivialise the importance of the dark overtones of the Holocaust in Nazi occupied Italy, too dramatic and the comedy will feel completely out-of-place. It’s a precarious balancing act, which actor, director and screenwriter Roberto Benigni pulls off impressively. Many of the comedic scenes Beningi performs in (too whose show this is throughout) have a great Chaplinesque feel to them, but Life is Beautiful is far from a playful romp.
Ultimately and where it never puts an emotional foot wrong is in its depiction of the love and sacrifice of a father has for his son, that makes Life is Beautiful a tremendous bittersweet gem to savour, enjoy and cherish.
#305/ 365 – ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ (1928) – 88 mins
IMDb Challenge #185/ 250 – Ranked #208 – Lovefilm
Captured by the Burgundian allies of her English enemies, Joan of Arc is tried for heresy and witchcraft by Bishop Pierre Cauchon. Fearing for her life, she withdraws claims to have seen visions of St Michael, only to disavow her recantation and is burned at the stake on 30 May 1431.
With a profoundly moving performance from Melle Falconetti in the title role, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s film, which is told mainly in the form of expressive close-ups of the aforementioned actress – details the trial of French teenaged freedom fighter who claimed to have been tasked by God to rid France of the English.
#306/ 365 – ‘Braveheart’ (1995) – 177 mins
IMDb Challenge #186/ 250 – Ranked #208 – TV
In 14th Century Scotland, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) leads his people in a rebellion against the tyranny of the English King Edward I Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan), who has given English nobility the ‘Prima Nocta’.. a right to take all new brides for the first night. The Scots are none too pleased with the brutal English invaders, but they lack leadership to fight back. Wallace creates a legend of himself, with his courageous defence of his people and attacks on the English.
With it easily reminding you of such classics (whilst not in the same league) as, Lawrence of Arabia, El Cid, and Spartacus. The grandeur is for all to see in Mel Gibson’s epic which he not only give us memorable, brutal and bloody battles, but some characters of real substance.
Whilst Gibson’s tale is historically suspect along its bum-numbing three-hour length which at times slightly overstays its welcome – but overall you can’t but help surrender to its breathtaking beauty.