A-Z Film Challenge: Day Fourteen

On the ‘home straight’ now, and up to the letter ‘N’. I have an idea for my top pick, so let’s see if it stays the course today. There is not a huge number of film titles beginning with ‘N’, yet many of those are very good indeed. I will be leaving out some of the obvious classics, and some modern films for you to mention. As always, I much appreciate all the comments, and continued involvement.

To start, two black and white classics, with very different themes. ‘Jules Dassin set ‘Night and The City’ (1950) in post-war London. Suitably dark, for the film noir style, Richard Widmark stars as the hustler on the edge of the criminal underworld, with Gene Tierney as the requisite girl in danger, and Herbert Lom suitably villainous as the betting fixer. Perhaps not as good as its reputation, the film nonetheless has pace, and it is beautifully filmed too, in locations that have changed greatly since.
The first, and arguably still the best mainstream zombie film, Romero’s original ‘Night of The Living Dead’ (1968) managed to scare the pants off me as a teenager. With all the zombie films that have followed, many from Romero himself, we have seen more gore, and great improvements in special effects. But his 60s scarer still has power, and the claustrophobic feel never goes away.

One of my favourite modern epics, and an historical saga of life in rural Italy, ‘Novecento’ (1976) covers a group of characters during the turbulent years of Italian history, from 1900 to 1945. It’s all there; peasant farmers, cruel landlords, the rise of Communism and Fascism, and two world wars. Bernardo Bertolucci delivers the sweeping vistas and wonderful set pieces he is known for, and despite the running time of over five hours in the original cut, (reduced to four hours for the one-film edit) this never gets tiring to watch. As well as the Italian actors, many famous faces grace the cast. They are dubbed into Italian, and very well done it is too. Donald Sutherland, Robert De Niro, Gerard Depardieu, Burt Lancaster, and many, many more. This might be the best film you have never seen.

I like smart and snappy con-man films, and they have rarely been done better than in the Argentinian film, ‘Nine Queens’ (2000). Starring the excellent Ricardo Darin, and set in an unfamiliar Buenos Aires, this is a superb film about the mishaps that befall a couple of fruadsters who live a life of crime. Full of twists and turns, and with great pacing too, it really is one to see. It has been remade, but I suggest you give that version a wide berth, and stick with the original.

Ray Liotta has had a mixed career. Despite his standout performance in ‘Goodfellas’, he often takes roles in poor films, and sells his talents cheaply. However, one starring role was just made for him, and he grabbed it with both hands. Almost overlooked, the gritty and bleak thriller, ‘Narc’ (2002) sees him as corrupt cop Henry Oak, being investigated by undercover officer Nick Tellis, (Jason Patric) a man with his own past demons to overcome. Liotta has a real presence in the film, and despite the nasty character of Henry, I couldn’t help but like his portrayal of a man who is not all what he seems to be.

In case you were wondering, I am not leaving out ‘Network’ (1976). Sidney Lumet’s satirical drama is as relevant now as it has ever been. Peter Finch is just wonderful as TV anchorman Howard Beale, and delivers his descent into madness with flair. Faye Dunaway has one of her finest Oscar-winning hours as the head of the programme, alongside a reliable turn from William Holden, as the sympathetic president of the network. There is Robert Duvall too, as the cynical TV man who agrees to exploit Beale’s madness for ratings. Four Oscars, all well deserved. You will never feel the same about watching TV again.

My choice for today is another foreign language film. No surprise there. The original version of ‘Nikita’ (1990), from Luc Besson, is still one of my favourite French films. Stylish, original, and with a great cast, this is a thriller to enjoy over and over again. The lovely Anne Parillaud is rarely seen, and that makes her starring role in this intriguing assassin-thriller all the better. The rest of the cast step up to the plate, delivering similarly memorable performances. With the legendary Jeanne Moreau, and the brilliant Tcheky Karo, this is modern French film making at its exciting best. And Jean Reno is in it too!

(This trailer is in French, but the film has subtitles.)

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60 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day Fourteen

  1. I’m catching up on some of the ones I missed. I didn’t think I had anything when I went through the comments (thanks for the list. Nine Queens, as you know, I love) but when somebody mentioned Nightmare in Elm Street it made me think of Nosferatu, that is fabulous. The old silent film (Murnau) but there is also an interesting version by Werner Herzog with Klaus Kinsky that is very good indeed. (Night of the Hunter I love too). I have the feeling I’m forgetting some good ones, but I’ll leave it there…

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  2. Nikita is excellent, a real shot of adrenaline. Even though 99 percent of the time, American remakes seem kind of insulting, to the original movie and to the audience, I feel compelled to watch them sometimes, because it’s interesting to see what Hollywood keeps, and what it discards, and what extra crap it sticks in. The “Assassin/Point of No Return” was definitely “Killed It/Pointless/Just Return It”. I saw that GP Cox put in a vote for “No Time for Sergeants” and it’s really a pretty funny little movie. The toilet salute scene took me by surprise and had me laughing hysterically.
    I watched “Niagara” twice, because I’ve been there countless times, but just to see what the town looked like in the ’50’s. I like film noir mysteries, but this one didn’t seem to work, to me, I’ve never understood the appeal of that movie.
    Even if someone isn’t a Hitchcock fan – – what about “The Trouble with Harry” It’s also seemed like a unique and wonderful mix of elements, one of my all-time favorites.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions, Robert. I agree that most remakes are pointless, but the desire to watch them anyway is irresistible. I watched the Bridget Fonda remake of ‘Nikita’ just so I could shout at the screen. My most annoying remake has to be the awful US version of the wonderful European film, ‘The Vanishing’ (1998), (which may pop up in ‘V’) where they blatantly (and pointlessly) changed the ending. Outrageous!

      I quite like ‘Niagara’ but maybe that’s because I have never been there. ‘The Trouble With Harry’ had a great cast, and was an interesting idea, but it never really grabbed me, for some reason.
      I have never seen ‘No Time For Sergeants’, but Andy Griffith is a solid character actor, so I may search it out.
      Best wishes, Pete..

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Nikita and Network I’ve seen but the others, I have not. More titles to add to the growing list. In addition to No Country for Old Men, I liked watching Sean in The Name of the Rose and North by Northwest. Oh, I’ll throw in Neverland, too. Nice to see Kate being her saintly self and a nice change to see a handsome Depp acting normal.

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  4. My favorite “N” films (at least the ones that come to mind) are: “National Velvet” (1944) [sentimental, yes, but a great story], “Niagara” (1953) [a nice dramatic turn for Marilyn Monroe], “North by Northwest” (1959) [one of Hitch’s best], “The Name of the Rose” (1986) [I’ve also read the book in French translation], and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) [a dark delight].

    Pete, are you prepared to be shocked? One of my guilty pleasures is “Innocent Blood” (1992), starring Anne Parillaud as a vampire who tries very hard not to play with the food. I bought this film on VHS (and later on DVD) after she won me over as an assassin in “Nikita.” You mentioned Tchéky Karyo, Jean Reno, and Jeanne Moreau, but don’t forget Jean-Hugues Anglade, already famous for his role as Zorg in “37° 2 le matin” (“Betty Blue”). You may recall that Anglade witnessed the August 21, 2015 Thalys train attack, and that he suffered a minor hand injury when, to quote Wikipedia, “he attempted to access the emergency hammer for breaking the train window.” So here we go! I’m going to second the motion, and also choose NIKITA.

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    1. Thanks very much for your suggestions, and the background info too, David.
      I had you down for ‘Niagara’, a film I also like, and was sure you would choose.
      Thanks for the back-up on ‘Nikita’ too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. No superhero’s in ‘N’ but am going with a couple of oldies,- Nevada Smith, Steve McQueen with his shirt off was a bit of an eye opener for my 7yr old self 🙂 I used to love cowboy movies when I was a kid. Also The Name of the Rose starring Sean Connery & Christian Slater, based on the book by Umberto Ecco, great adaptation.

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    1. I love ‘The name of The Rose’. One of my favourite books, and a great film starring Sean Connery. I left it off, sure that someone would mention it. And you did! Thanks, FR.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. No Country for Old Men springs to mind, very much enjoyed, one of the few films I have seen at the flix.
    On the hunt for Nikita, although I have a feeling I have seen this before looking at the trailer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You and Theo both mentioned one of my favourites. ‘No Country…’ is a great film.
      Make sure you don’t end up with the US remake of ‘Nikita’. It’s called ‘The Assassin’, and is not good.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  7. Great list as always, Pete….”Network” is like a snapshot of today’s TV – amazing that it’s 40 years old! Also, it lost Best Picture in 1976 – along with “Taxi Driver”, “All The President’s Men” and “Bound For Glory” to – wait for it – “Rocky!” Talk about a good year for film!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have nothing to add to your list today (since you’re not a fan of Hitchcock and North by Northwest has already been mentioned by others in the comments), but I do have a memory to share … I saw “Night of the Living Dead” in the early 70s at university – one of those Free-Friday Films they held on campus. I have never been a fan of horror or anything really scary, but felt protected by the couple I attended the film with, mainly because the guy was big and strong and could protect we two women, if things got bad. He was also a biology major and would be able to explain away, in scientific terms, anything that really frightened us. And that was a pretty scary movie to watch, too, right up to the point where a car goes out of control, crashes, catches on fire, and the zombies begin reaching in to pull out and eat the flesh of the people left inside the crash. Some guy in the audience shouted, “Mmmm! Barbecue!”, and the entire audience burst out laughing, defusing any sense of fear or horror of what we were watching on the screen. I’ve never watched that movie again, although it was the influence for one of my very favourite “S” movies …

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    1. Oops! And just when I thought I didn’t have anything to add to “N”, I remembered “Notting Hill”, another movie written by Richard Curtis with possibly one of the best car-chase scenes (next to “Bullitt”) that I have ever enjoyed. Certainly the best musical score, anyway, With Spencer Davis Group for that scene and Bill Withers providing the music for the “time-change” scene when Hugh Grant walks through the market and experiences several different seasons in the span of that one song. Brilliant! And, again, great story telling by Curtis.

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      1. I worked in the Notting Hill area for over 20 years, Susan, so the locations interested me. I had even bought a book in that Travel Book Shop. I liked Rhys Ifans in that film, but I am not a fan of Julia Roberts, I’m afraid to say. Hugh Grant was as reliable as ever, but considering that he only ever plays ‘Hugh Grant’, that’s not really a challenge! 🙂
        Best wishes, Pete.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I tend to agree Pete. I liked all the bits of Notting Hill without Julia Roberts in them, which left a very good half-film. All the British actors were good to great. And I liked that Dylan Moran, who’s the book thief, went on to run a bookshop in Black Books later on.

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  9. I don’t watch too many movies these days, so my mind is always thinking of the older ones and I got a real kick out of “No Time For Sergeants” with Andy Griffith. A light comedy.

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    1. ‘La Notte’ has a great cast, and a good contemporary theme too. Good choice, Sue.
      I think you might appreciate ‘Novecento’ for the absolutely stunning visuals. It’s a long haul, but worthwhile.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I like ‘Strangers on a Train’, ‘Rear Window’, ‘Rebecca’, ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, ‘Blackmail’ (1929), and I even quite like his odd film, ‘Frenzy’. It’s not like I don’t give the man credit, but I just think most of his ‘big star’ films followed a tried and tested formula, and you can almost always know what to expect, even in ‘Psycho’. I rarely get the tension that others feel, and find his heroes and heroines to be too middle class, as a rule. And they are often also in unrealistic and contrived situations.

          Add to that the fact that most film fans are happy to worship the ground that he walked on, and I felt the need to take a stand against his overwhelming reputation. It has always seemed to me that if enough people tell you he was great, then you are expected to just accept that as fact. I enjoyed the film ‘Hitchcock’ (2012), with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. Nice to get a glimpse of the man behind the director’s chair. I can recommend that one.

          Cheers, Pete.

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  10. Novecento also gets my vote. A stunning experience.

    Night of the Living Dead is one scary movie which I do like, so well-done.
    Network I’m dying to see and have on order.

    A few other ‘Night’ films which I like are The Night of the Hunter (with Robert Mitchum’s crazy preacher), Night of the Shooting Stars (by the Taviani brothers as a companion piece to Novecento with civilians on the run in the chaos of the end of fascist Italy), and Night at the Opera (for Marx Bros hijinks).

    I suppose I should also mention a couple of the famous ones you left out: Nashville and North By Northwest, which I love.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Glad to meet another fan of ‘Novecento’. I left out ‘Night of the Hunter’, expecting many to choose that one. I like the Marx Borthers, but never add their films to any lists. As for Hitchcock, you don’t know me that well yet, but I am well-known on film blogs as someone who doesn’t rate his work. There are some exceptions, (Strangers on a Train, etc) but I generally consider him to be vastly overrated. (I know, it’s a lonely place to be…)
      I like most Altman films, but as I don’t care for Country Music, ‘Nashville’ didn’t work for me.
      Thanks for all your great suggestions.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. “Nikita” is an excellent choice…..again I revert back to bad SciFi….”Night Fright” with John Agar…..”Night Of The Blood Beast” with Michael Emmit…now I draw a blank…..Have a good Sunday….chuq

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