A-Z Film Challenge: Day Seven

A quiet Sunday in Beetley, and time for the letter G. There are not as many ‘G’ films as you might expect, but many of them are so good, choosing a selection is as hard as ever. Don’t forget to add your own selections in the comments. I have deliberately omitted some well-known ones, just as a test!

‘G’ starts off with two modern gangster films that are among the best films ever made, in my opinion.
‘The Godfather'(1972) (and its two sequels) changed all the rules of the genre, bringing us a sweeping saga of the life of organised crime families, from the early 1900s, right up to the 1960s. A huge cast, perfect locations, and atmospheric detail beyond compare, place these three films firmly in the list of the greatest films ever made. Like them or not, the quality is breathtaking. Almost twenty years later, Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’ (1990) added even more to the mix, and delivered a one-off film that is memorable for so many reasons. One that is firmly in my top ten of all time.

Some films can be worth watching for the imagery alone. If the story seems superfluous, and you find yourself looking at the scenes like paintings on a wall, rather than following the action, then just let it happen without complaint. Two fine examples of this can be found in ‘G’. ‘Goya’s Ghosts’ (2006) deals with the life of the famous artist (Stellan Skarsgard) like an historical soap opera in some respects. Yet watching the film is a complete delight, and it becomes easy to forget just how well the cast, including Natalie Portman and Javier Bardem, are doing their jobs. An homage to Dutch Master paintings, and a story imagined rather than taken from history, ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’ (2003) plays like a series of wonderful paintings coming to life before your eyes. Despite authentic performances from Scarlett Johannson and Colin Firth, this is a film to look at, instead of a story to follow.

Too many ‘G’ films to deal with in detail, but so many not to leave out. The original version of the crime thriller, ‘The Getaway’ (1972) with Steve McQueen on top form, and Peter Weir’s tragic yet beautifully filmed WW1 story, ‘Gallipoli’. The powerful American drama, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ (1992), with the wonderful Jack Lemmon, ably assisted by Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino, and Alec Baldwin. That was an acting masterclass. Disturbingly accurate in many ways, ‘The Grey Zone’ (2001) was a claustrophobic take on the horrors of concentration camps, during WW2. From World Cinema we have the delightful German comedy, ‘Goodbye Lenin’ (2003), showing an East German family dealing with the confusion following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

No look at the letter ‘G’ would be complete without the superb British crime thriller, ‘Get Carter’ (1971). With a later American sequel best ignored, this was a great 1970s film, with Michael Caine on top form as the London criminal travelling to North East England to avenge his brother. Add a cast of great British character actors, and you have arguably the best film of its type ever made here in the UK. Once again, I had a clear idea which film would be my final choice for this letter of the alphabet. However, the runner-up is still one of my favourite modern films, even though so many people have never seen it, and it hardly gets a mention anywhere. Seen by some as a coming of age teen drama, and by others as an interesting Indie experiment, ‘Ghost World’ (2001) brought us a stand-out performance from Thora Birch in the lead role, as well as allowing a young Scarlett Johansson to be noticed, for her break into the world of mainstream films. Add a reliable Steve Buscemi, and you are left with a touching film that deserves a lot more attention.

In 1990, I went to the cinema to watch an American crime thriller, directed by Stephen Frears. Described as a ‘film noir in colour’, the concept interested me, as did the cast. I thought it might be good, and it was. In fact, it wasn’t just good, it was truly great. This sleazy tale of small-time con artists coming up against organised crime had me enthralled from the start. Angelica Huston was a revelation in the role of Lilly, and a fresh-faced John Cusack convinced totally, as her estranged son, Roy. Everything about this film just screams quality. The colours, the editing, the snappy script, and a taught story, adapted from the novel of the same name. Then you get Annette Bening in one of her best roles, alongside a supporting cast that includes J.T. Walsh, Stephen Tobolowski, and Pat Hingle.
They really don’t get much better than this.

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67 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day Seven

  1. Once again I’m loving your choices Pete except I have to admit I’ve yet to watch the Godfather movies. I’ve never been terribly found of mafia movies, but I’ve promised Vinnie I’ll try them. I think I’d definitely add Gaslight, Good Morning Vietnam, and Good Will Hunting. And Gone With the Wind would definitely top my list.

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    1. I have never really liked Robin Williams, so thanks for adding his two films to the list, along with ‘Gaslight’. If you don’t want to watch The Godfather trilogy, that’s up to you. It’s a lot more than just gangster films though. It deals with American history, corruption, Cuba, and the rise of the large casinos. Sort-of Game of Thrones in suits, and not always cold.
      Then again, I never want to watch Harry Potter films, so you do what you want! πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was more than pleasantly surprised (shocked, actually!) to see you choose “The Grifters” (1990), which was on my short list, as your number one “G” pick Not only do I have this great film on DVD, but I have also read “Les Arnaqueurs”β€”the French title given Jim Thompson’s book. The other films on my short list were “Gilda” (1946), “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953), “The Great Escape” (1963), “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966), “Grease” (1978), and “Galaxy Quest” (1999).

    I’m definitely a fan of John Cusack. I’ve seen many of his films, and own “Grosse Pointe Blank” (1997), “High Fidelity” (2000), “Identity” (2003), “The Ice Harvest” (2005), “The Raven” (2012), and maybe a couple more that elude me.

    To be honest, I expected you to choose “Goodfellas” (1990). I was pretty sure you would not choose “Gremlins” (1984). Although I’m not going to name “The Grifters” as my number one “G” film, my hat’s off to you for choosing it! To be sure, it’s really difficult for me to choose from among the films listed above, but I suppose I’ll go with “The Great Escape.” Not only is this a terrific film with a top-notch cast, but it also has a superb soundtrack (I have Elmer Bernstein’s film score on CD).

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    1. You came up with some from my ‘deliberately omitted’ list, David.
      I left out ‘The Great Escape’, ‘Gilda’, and ‘Galaxy Quest too. You can take a gold star for getting three. I was certain they would all get a mention. ‘The Grifters’ is one of my all-time favourites, and I also enjoyed Cusack in the other films you mention.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. ‘Ghost Dog: The way of the Samurai’ (1999) is an excellent choice, William. I was hoping that a fellow film buff would choose that one. I had it on VHS, and later on DVD. Forest Whitaker has never given a better performance. And Jarmusch is such an accomplished film-maker.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Nice to see one Aussie film get a guernsey, if not the prize. I liked the Grifters a lot at the time, but had forgotten it. The Great Beauty would be my choice, but I liked Ghost World and Goodbye Lenin too. As for omissions, there are lots of G films I’ve loved: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Grapes of Wrath, The Gods Must Be Crazy and The Grand Budapest Hotel are some. Keep up the good work! I’m looking forward to I! (that sentence sounds a bit rasta, but I mean the letter ‘i’)

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    1. Thanks, ozflicks. I had to look up ‘get a guernsey’, but I now know what you mean. I have some more Weir films for consideration, and another Aussie film follows, in ‘H’. Thanks for all your great choices too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. Weir is the best Australian director (in my opinion of course). But I think your next Aussie film is the one we know I haven’t seen. I always imagined β€˜get a guernsey’ came from the UK but apparently not. It’s another of our strange localisms. Cheers. Peter

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        1. I think we say ‘capped’ over here, after the cricket caps. (Even for football)
          You have guessed right about the film you haven’t seen, I suspect.
          If you like Weir, look out for ‘P’ and ‘W’! πŸ™‚
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Looks like Marvel is the ‘thing’, Theo. I used to love the comics, but I haven’t got around to the films. Don’t know if I will…
      Thanks as always for the comment.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That was always going to be your pick, V. I knew that, and understand why. Sometimes, I want something other than a long saga though. Something sharp and visual, and ‘The Grifters’ gave me that, with a great cast into the bargain.
      Cheers mate, Pete.

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  4. Glengarry and Gallipoli; nice Pete, Both great films that have held up over time. So many others mentioned in the comments, while wildly popular in their time simply seem shopworn to me today.

    Not so the ones you’ve picked,

    Regards from Florida

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  5. Well this one was easy! Guardians of the Galaxy, an absolute swashbuckling romp from Marvel, the cast including Chris Pratt (unfortunate name) Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Glenn Close and Benicio Del Toro, got great reviews and is the most fun (outside of Deadpool).

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  6. “Godfather”, “Glengarry Glen Ross”, “Getaway” – a triple bill of great great films! “Grifters” is an inspired choice, terrific direction and acting – as for what was left off, how about:

    The terrific Hollywood black comedy “Get Shorty”
    James Caan as “The Gambler”
    The epic “Gladiator”
    Any “Godzilla”, so why not “Godzilla Vs. MechaGodzilla”
    David Fincher’s “The Game”
    The classic “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”
    The classic 007 Bond film “Goldfinger”
    Australia’s war drama “Gallipoli”
    The original Swedish “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”
    “Good Will Hunting”
    “The Graduate”
    “Groundhog Day”
    And of course, “The Ghost & Mr. Chicken!”

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          1. ‘Gran Torino’ was a good ‘old man’ film. Not unlike the British ‘Harry Brown’ (2009). I was frustrated by ‘Gangs’, mainly because of DiCaprio, as usual. I have yet to watch ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, but I have it saved on my PVR.
            Thanks, Cindy. Best wishes as always, Pete.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. Weir’s ‘Gallipoli’ was mentioned by me.
      You got some of the deliberate admissions, including ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ (but only the Swedish original, please.) Also ‘Gladiator’, a great epic from Ridley Scott. It too many liberties with history, and stuffed in too much CGI, to ever be my top pick though. ‘Get Shorty’ is a feast of insider wit that I loved, but it’s not for everybody. I adored Anne Bancroft in ‘The Graduate’, and wanted to be her ‘toy boy’!
      Thanks very much for all your great additions too.
      Glad you agree about ‘The Grifters’ I sometimes forget just how good it is.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Still not got around to watching Gallipoli..must find it soon. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was very watchable, as the original Swedish version. One of the best of all time for me is La Grande Illusion, Jean Renoir. Absolute classic

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  8. Great job again, Pete – see things are going more smoothly than you first expected. The first one for G that I thought of was “Giant” staring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson & James Dean.

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  9. I have seen many of the early ones you mention, probably at your recommendation, The Grey Zone and Goodbye Lenin were both memorable for different reasons. I have never seen The Grifters so that’s now on my list, but one I would add would be Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the original with subtitles) Having also seen the remake in English, an identical copy, its hard to understand how the two films are so different.

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    1. That Swedish film is so good, and I even rate the sequels just as highly too. The remake was unforgivable, but at least we have the original to relish.
      You passed my test too! That was one of those I deliberately omitted. Go to the front of the class, young Eddy. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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