#329/ 365 – ‘American History X’ (1998) – 119 mins
IMDb Challenge #205 / 250 – Ranked #40 – Lovefilm
Derek Vineyard (Edward Norton) is paroled after serving 3 years in prison for killing two thugs who tried to break into/steal his truck. Through his brother, Danny (Edward Furlong) narration, we learn that before going to prison, Derek was a skinhead and the leader of a violent white supremacist gang that committed acts of racial crime throughout L.A. and his actions greatly influenced Danny. Reformed and fresh out of prison, Derek severs contact with the gang and becomes determined to keep Danny from going down the same violent path as he did
American History X storytelling is very powerful. It’s a film that examines the mindless and ugly side of human nature though its depiction of racism and Neo-Nazidom in America. At times its incredibly difficult to watch and it carries in it’s mean’t to shock sadistic ‘kerb’ scene, probably one of the most shocking acts of violence in screen history – watch it and I gurantee you’ll wince and be haunted.
The chief issue I had with American History X is that while we’re presented with one truly three-dimensional character in Derek, to which Edward Norton puts in a utterly convincing performance as both the evil racist and the reformed decent guy. It’s comes in the weakness and stretch in the script, thats expecting us to believe this man could change so dramatically.
#330/ 365 – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946) – 130 mins
IMDb Challenge #206 / 250 – Ranked #29 – DVD Collection
When his savings and loans company crumbles, George Bailey (James Stewart) stands on a bridge on Christmas eve, contemplating suicide. Then and angel (Henry Travers) visits him, and shows him what the world will be like without him.
“Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”
Right, what on earth am I going to say about this Christmas and beloved classic that resides in my Top 10 films of all-time, and a film that culminates in one of the most joyful experiences any film-lover can hope for.
At least everyone as seen it at least once, correct? Hands up who hasn’t? I’ll be surprised if you haven’t as every Christmas if there’s one story guaranteed to show up on television it’s Frank Capra’s – It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a film that I watch every Christmas Eve without fail, except this time I got the joyous chance to watch it early because of the challenge.
There’s no doubt that It’s a Wonderful Life is a ‘feel good’ movie though because of its darker, perhaps disturbing themes of the attempted suicide in its main character, George Bailey, it should be far from a happy Christmas affair. But where master storyteller Frank Capra makes the magic comes alive is showing George the true value in heart and family.
James Stewarts fills the role of George perfectly and his performance throughout is immensely satisfying. So when you combine the characters, the story, the heartfelt message, and the acting and it’s easy for me to name ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ the best Christmas movie ever made and one that towers high above the rest of the other seasonal offerings.
#331/ 365 – ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981) – 115 mins
IMDb Challenge #207 / 250 – Ranked #22 – DVD Collection
Renowned archeologist and expert in the occult, Dr. Indiana Jones, (Harrison Ford) is hired by the U.S. Government to find the Ark of the Covenant, which is believed to still hold the ten commandments. Unfortunately, agents of Hitler are also after the Ark. Indy, and his ex-flame Marion, escape from various close scrapes in a quest that takes them from Nepal to Cairo.
With its iconic opening sequence in which our hero, escapes through a trap-filled tunnel from a gigantic rolling boulder and from there in with its ancient treasures, evil Nazis, fights, fires, romance, heavy drinking, “I hate snakes”, proper and dazzling stuntwork before CGI came along to dominate the movie making process, and a climax with of something of the supernatural it never lets go of our attention. Yet though the midst of all this action and adventure theres, John Williams soaring soundtrack.
Then theres the charming Dr. Indiana Jones himself, a hero with no special powers he’s just an ordinary man with a whip to save the day, and makes archaeology cool. To be honest even today, it is difficult to envision anyone but the Harrison Ford playing the character, but he was Steven Spielberg and George Lucas last choice. Tom Selleck was preferred, but he couldn’t take up the role due to his Magnum, P.I. television contract.
Like ‘Back to the Future’, Raiders of the Lost Ark manages to tell a first class ripping yarn to make it the perfect entertainment film. Which to this day and far beyond continues to WOW viewers around the globe.
#332/ 365 – ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ (1989) – 127 mins
IMDb Challenge #208 / 250 – Ranked #22 – DVD Collection
Renowned archeologist and expert in the occult, Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), returns for the 3rd Indy film. Teaming up with his father (Sean Connery), Indiana sets out to try and find the Holy Grail that gives eternal life…
Like in Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Last Crusade opens up with a thrilling prologue sequence set in 1912, with our iconic archaeologist being chased by bandits across carriages of a circus train, but this time around there’s one significant difference – this Indiana Jones is a boy, played by the late River Phoenix.
Though Harrison Ford is soon in the saddle and he’s charismatic as ever as the whip-cracking hero as he encounters mysterious codes, airships, secret cults, awe-inspiring revelations and yet again battling the Nazis.
One of great pleasures in this third installment amongst the stunning locations, superb pacing and again that sublime John Williams score, comes from watching the great chemistry Ford shares with Sean Connery who signed on to play Dr. Jones Snr – it clearly shows they are having a whale of a time.
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade doesn’t quite match the majestic heights of Raiders but then its very rare to find many sequels that do better the original, but it did bring a fitting end to rip-roaring original trilogy (lets just not mention the woeful ‘I’m just managing to scrub from my memory…Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ that would follow in the latter years.) – keeping up with the Joneses in this double-bill has never been this much fun.