#345/ 365 – ‘North by Northwest’ (1959) – 131 mins
IMDb Challenge #219 / 250 – Ranked #38 – DVD Collection
New York advertising executive Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) is mistaken for a government agent by a gang of spies. He gets involved in a series of misadventures and is pursued across the States by both the spies and the government whilst being helped by a beautiful Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint)
Cary Grant is perfectly cast as the self-confident executive, and he would have made one hell of a James Bond if only those films had started a decade or so earlier. With it’s witty, well structured and subtle script which keeps you guessing about its secrets throughout. The cheeky innuendo dialogue means the romance between Grant and Eve Marie Saint who plays the ultimate femme fatale sizzles with some great chemistry.
Featuring the now iconic crop duster attack sequence, North By Northwest is a roller coaster ride of a movie from beginning to end with many surprises in between. Jump aboard this Hitchcock train and you won’t want to get off.
#346/ 365 – ‘Se7en’ (1995) – 127 mins
IMDb Challenge #220 / 250 – Ranked #28 – DVD Collection
This thriller portrays the exploits of a deranged serial-killer. His twisted agenda involves choosing seven victims who represent egregious examples of transgressions of each of the Seven Deadly Sins. He then views himself as akin to the Sword of God, handing out horrific punishment to these sinners. Two cops, an experienced veteran of the streets who is about to retire and the ambitious young homicide detective hired to replace him, team up to capture the perpetrator of these gruesome killings. Unfortunately, they too become ensnared in his diabolical plan….
From the outset of the opening sequence, you know you’re in for an experience that will not be easy on the eyes. David Fincher took the serial killer genre to a whole different level as the plot explores the extreme pitch-black side of the human soul.
After the disappointing Alien 3, Se7en is definitely the film that kick-started Fincher’s career and for me he’s a masterful director, without Se7en there would have been no Fight Club, Panic Room or Zodiac. Sit back enjoy, you cannot deny its power and effect and ooh that ‘what’s in the box’ twist…
#347/ 365 – ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991) – 118 mins
IMDb Challenge #221 / 250 – Ranked #27 – DVD Collection
Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a young intelligent FBI trainee, has been sent to the Baltimore state hospital for the criminally insane to interview an inmate Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). A brilliant renowned psychiatrist turned infamous psychopathic serial killer. She must match wits with Lecter -who has the darkest of all minds- and trust him to give her clues in the search for “Buffalo Bill”. A nick name for a loose, unknown, unstoppable psychopathic serial killer…
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”. With lines like that Dr. Hannibal Lecter is more than your everyday villain, in fact he’s one of the most disturbing and memorable characters in screen history and with Anthony Hopkins having only around 20 minutes of screen time in the role gives some idea of the impression he makes. Jodie Foster equally produces a magnetic performance as the vulnerable yet strong Starling.
Winner of Five Academy Awards in 1992, Best Picture, Director for Jonathan Demme, Screenplay and gongs for Hopkins and Foster. Silence of the Lambs is an absolutely cracking thriller – that still holds well after 20 years since it was first released.
#348/ 365 – ‘The Usual Suspects’ (1995) – 106 mins
IMDb Challenge #222 / 250 – Ranked #24 – DVD Collection
Police investigating an exploded boat on a San Pedro pier discover 27 bodies and $91 million worth of drug money. The only survivors are a severely burned and very scared Hungarian terrorist and Verbal Kint, a crippled con-man. Reluctantly, Kint is pressured into explaining exactly what happened on the boat. His story begins six weeks earlier with five criminals being dragged in by New York police desperate for suspects on a hijacked truck and ends with the possible identification of a criminal mastermind.
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist”
With its forever twists and turns that demands your attention throughout, The Usual Suspects is one of those films where the pleasure always comes in the puzzle – trying to work out who’s lying, scanning every character’s intricate bit of dialogue and gesture for some clue as to which, if any, of the gang, just might be the legendary underworld figure Keyer Soze, or even whether he exists at all. Christopher McQuarrie’s Oscar winning screenplay is a pitch perfect example of crime thriller storytelling and Bryan Singer’s direction provides the film with some fantastic slick pacing.
Then there’s the cast, where everybody delivers top-of-their-game performances. Kevin Spacey (richly deserving his Oscar win) gives a gripping, subtle and slippery turn as the nervous, crippled Kint. Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Pollak, as the gangs two hard men constantly strike some real sparks of each other. Benicio Del Toro provides most of the films humor as the swaggering Fenster.
#349/ 365 – ‘Psycho’ (1960) – 109 mins
IMDb Challenge #223 / 250 – Ranked #23 – DVD Collection
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is having an affair with the heavily in debt Sam Loomis (Gavin), and after a lunchtime tryst, she impulsively runs away with the $40,000 she was supposed to bank for her employer. Driving from Arizona to her lover in California she is overwhelmed by guilt and paranoia until, exhausted, she pulls into the secluded Bates Motel just 15 miles short of her destination.
Psycho, The Master of Suspense most iconic film. Though after many viewings it becomes a whole lot less potent once you know the secret of Norman Bates. Psycho also suffers in its middle act when the charismatic Janet Leigh is gone, you are left to watch less meaningful characters muddle their way through the mystery surrounding the motel.
Nonetheless with its unforgettable shower scene mixed with Hitchcock’s artistry touches to marvel at, clever camera angles, fantastic experimental styling for its time where he makes superb use of light and shadows, Psycho is still deservedly among the three or four best films he ever made.
#350/ 365 – ‘Rear Window’ (1954) – 112 mins
IMDb Challenge #224 / 250 – Ranked #21 – DVD Collection
Professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries (James Stewart) breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors. He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife. Jeff enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant girlfriend Lisa Freemont (Grace Kelly) and his visiting nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) to investigate.
From one Hitchcock film, it was straight into another, and for me Rear Window is his most accomplished work and one of my most favourite films of all time. One of the most engrossing aspects in this extremely tense thriller, and, in its own way, you could say groundbreaking, is the way Hitchcock studies with great effect voyeurism mixed with entrapment.
Like the Master of Suspense earlier film ‘Rope (1948)’- the entire film takes place either in photographer Jeffries apartment or within view of it. The one set, is full of fascinating intricacy and detail. The camera remains in the apartment to which we see things precisely as Jeffries with his broken leg sees them, which turns out to be absolutely vital to the effectiveness of the whole film. Also What keeps you in the movie is the impressive performance of James Stewart. Primarily because and unlike many of his other physical roles, his role here is a very limiting one, and he must act with his eyes, face, and voice alone.