A-Z Film Challenge: Day Fifteen

Up to the letter ‘O’. It’s another challenging one, though my top choice was already made. I am interested to see what you think of these ‘O’ films, and to read your own selections. I think I have left out enough obvious ones for some of you to mention.

I rarely mention comedy films on this blog. However, I am a lifelong fan of the madcap comedy of the British star, Will Hay. He made a series of films with an ensemble cast, with his most successful period during the 1930s. Accompanied by the grizzled figure of Moore Marriott, and the overgrown schoolboy character always portrayed by Graham Moffatt, he produced a series of hilarious films looking at aspects of British life at the time. ‘Oh Mr Porter’ (1937) remains as one of my enduring favourites, and is also a fascinating glimpse at a railway industry that has long disappeared from this country.

Ten years later, and Carol Reed directed a convincing James Mason in the dark thriller, ‘Odd Man Out’ (1947). Set in Belfast, this is an early look at ‘The Troubles’, the war of Irish Nationalists against British rule of the six counties. Ably supported by Robert Newton and Cyril Cusack, Mason stars as Johhny, the leader of an IRA group operating in the city. After a robbery goes wrong, the action follows a wounded Johnny as he seeks shelter in the city at different locations. Memorable indeed.

More or less accurately described at the time as ‘High Noon’ in space, an almost forgotten Sean Connery role takes my next spot. One of my favourite ‘Space’ films, I have always wondered why ‘Outland’ (1981) is so rarely mentioned. Connery is on great form as the lawman of the future, given the bleak and unpopular posting to the lawless mining colony of Con-Am 27. Unexplained deaths, drugs, prostitution, and a huge corporation out to get him, this film has all the elements of a crime thriller and western combined, imaginatively transferred to a distant planet. The tension is ever present, and the performances solid. Connery is confronted by the villainous Peter Boyle, and turns for help to the kindly female doctor, played with conviction by Frances Sternhagen. This is a really good film, and deserves to be better known.

In the shadow of ‘The Godfather’, another gangster saga is often missed. With leading roles for Robert de Niro, James Woods, and many other fine actors, ‘One Upon A Time In America’ (1984) is an epic work from Sergio Leone. It follows a group of young New Yorkers from their childhood on the streets, through to late middle age. The full-length edit (available on DVD) runs to over four hours, and is far superior to the widely distributed shorter version. Lovingly recreated period feel, memorable set-pieces, and beautifully filmed by Leone. Add a wonderful soundtrack too, and you have a complete cinema experience.

Rarely does a remake meet the standards of a good original. This is one case where it almost succeeds, but not quite. The crime thriller ‘Old Boy’ (2003) is a masterful Korean film, presenting one of the most unusual stories ever filmed. With a killer twist near the end, this unforgettable work from Park Chan-Wook wowed both audiences and critics alike, and with good reason. To avoid spoilers, I cannot really describe the story, but I will say, “just see it!”
Ten years later, the film was remade, this time by the talented Spike Lee. I approached this with some trepidation, but I am pleased to be able to tell you that it is actually very good indeed. Josh Brolin is a revelation in the starring role, and the story stays true to the Korean original. But watch the 2003 original first. Please.

My choice today is a Japanese film that proves it was not only Akira Kurosawa who made outstanding films in that country. A few years after its release, I went to see this film as a teenager, at the National Film Theatre, in London. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. This historical story of women preying on wounded and displaced samurai warriors in the spooky marshlands of feudal Japan is a visual feast in black and white. Jealousy, murder, and a scary mask may not sound like much, I agree. But don’t be fooled by the description, it is just magnificent. ‘Onibaba’ (1964).

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75 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day Fifteen

  1. Some great pics Pete. ‘Odd Man Out’ is just a great flick for so many reasons. I love Newtons performance. A head of his time with that portrayal. ‘Outland’ I agree is a good solid flick. CB is not a sci fi guy but this works (just watched High Noon). Leone makes another good one with ‘Once Upon..’. Agree with your take. Seen the Lee ‘Old Boy’ but not the original. It’s on the list. Will have a peek at ‘Mr Porter’ and ‘Onibaba’. My ‘O’ pick. ‘The Offence/The Onion Field’. My finger slipped that’s two. Good work Pete.

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    1. I had both of your picks on the original shortlist, CB. Both powerful films indeed, and I would like to watch them again soon. The original ‘Old Boy’ still holds up against the (quite good) remake, and ‘Onibaba’ is just something else. Something haunting.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An eclectic bunch as usual of beloved classics or must sees to add to my growing list. I’m always interested to hear about films lesser known or forgotten by time and have them championed by someone with such good taste. I still can’t figure out Outland though. I will have to see the film again to see if I missed something the first time around. 🙂

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    1. When you say ‘can’t figure out Outland’, do you mean that you didn’t like it and can’t figure out why I included it? I should explain that I don’t think it’s a ‘great’ film, I just enjoyed it a lot at the time, and still like the performances. I think it’s as good as many that get more praise, but it is showing its age, and budget. I doubt you missed anything at all, but it was probably watched in the shadow of more modern space epics.
      Thanks, Lloyd.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know you included it because you dug it which is as good a reason as any. I can’t figure it out in the sense when I watched it 28 odd years ago on VHS I remember being disappointed. It sounded great, High Noon in Space, Connery and Peter Hyams directing but it didn’t blow up my skirt. Like I said, maybe worth a re-watch.

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  3. Nice to see you mentioned Oldboy (2003). It’s a very beautifully scripted film. I shall never forget the live octopus eating scene..Other’s in my favourites include:

    O’ Brother where Art Thou?, Ocean’s Eleven, Office Space, (The) Omen, Orphan, (The) Orphanage, (The) Others and One Hour Photo. ☺

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    1. I second The Others, can’t believe I forgot to mention it. That movie really turned up the suspense in the best way, keeping things under wraps and gradually revealing something unexpected.

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  4. For O the only film I can think of that’s not been listed here yet is Open Your Eyes (1997) but I’ve not seen it in a long old while and can say it would be a fave or anything. Just naming one that starts with O was very hard, I don’t own any so there you go!

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  5. Sorry, I had to add, I love the musical Oklahoma!, although I’m not sure the movie deserves to feature, I love the songs and the silliness so much, I had to leave it there. 🙂

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  6. Hi Pete. I must catch up on some of your recommendations. All of the ones I can think off right now have already been mentioned. I could cheat and say that the original Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) by Alejandor Amenabar, that later became Vanilla Sky is pretty good, but it’s an A in Spanish. Of course, his next movie, Los Otros (the Others), is an O, and it wasn’t bad (somehow the reference to the Orphanage brought it to mind).

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  7. Dear Pete,
    Due to recent health complications, I haven’t been able to participate as much as I would have liked, but tried to keep up. Congratulations, first of all, this challenge looks rough! I’ve enjoyed all the posts I’ve managed to read, but just had to say today, so excited to see you single out the rarely seen Odd Man Out (and of course, Once upon a time in America is an all-time favorite for me!). All the best, Nandia

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    1. Thanks, Nandia. I had a feeling that you would enjoy some of these posts. You are right to think that it is a rather rough challenge. Although the posts are not that long, I spend most of my time agonising over which films to feature.
      I sincerely hope that your health improves soon, and thank you as always for your participation, and the words of encouragement on my blog.
      Very best wishes to you. Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. By the Hook had a lot of my favorites. I can add the creepy ‘The Omen, love Malkovich in Of Mice and Men, and I know how you feel about Meryl’s accent in Out of Africa, so will throw in an interesting Marlon Brando film I liked, One-Eyed Jacks.

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  9. One flew over the Cuckoos nest will always stay in my mind, not because its the best film but the fascinating back story which is explained in the book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
    Omen was a scary memory from my childhood, but I’m sure its very dated by now, so I’m off to find some of the suggestions made here to improve repOrtoire!

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  10. Pete, I have never seen “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), and, to be honest, I thought perhaps this might be your choice of “O” film. I’ve never heard of “Onibaba,” though it certainly intrigues. I’ve also never seen “Once Upon a Time in America,” though it has been on my wish list for a long time now.

    I’m waiting to see if anyone casts a vote for “One Million Years B.C.” (1966) [dinosaurs!], “The Omega Man” (1971) [Charlton Heston!], “The Other Side of Midnight” (1977) [Marie-France Pisier!], or “Out of Africa” (1985) [Robert Redford!]. I won’t mention which one I like best, but I’ve seen R̶a̶q̶u̶e̶l̶ ̶W̶e̶l̶c̶h̶ them all.

    Okay, now let me name three of my favorite films: “The Omen” (1976), “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976), and “Open Range (2003).

    I think you said that you consider Gregory Peck a somewhat wooden actor, but I’ve always liked him, and own several films in which he stars, including (but not limited to) “Roman Holiday” (1953) and “The Big Country” (1958). There have been sequels, and also a reboot of “The Omen,” but the original is by far the best of the lot (and yes, I’ve also read the novelization in French translation!).

    Clint Eastwood paired himself up with Sondra Locke in a half dozen films, and I think “The Outlaw Josey Wales” was the first. To be honest, I don’t think Locke adds much to his films, but the chemistry is there. Always watchable is Chief Dan George. When I was in the 7th Grade, he came to my junior high school and spoke. This was back before he made a name for himself in “Little Big Man” (1970).

    “Open Range” is ranked near the top of my list of favorite westerns. I’ve always been lukewarm towards Kevin Costner, but he’s absolutely perfect as Charley Waite. And he’s in excellent company with Robert Duvall and Annette Bening. Add to that a great plot, beautiful scenery, a one-horse town built specifically for this movie, and an unforgettable rainstorm, and you’ve got a standout in the genre!

    Pete, I’ve already mentioned two great westerns. But there’s another one, and I think you can guess which one it is. You discussed a film with an almost identical title. Not coincidentally, it also shares the same director! Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, Jack Elam, Woody Strode, the lovely Claudia Cardinale, and, in one of his best roles, playing against type, a very gritty Henry Fonda. At 165 minutes, it’s not a short film, and the plot moves along slowly, but—bless my harmonica!—it is a true masterpiece. My pick is “ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.”

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    1. That’s a great list, David. I have said before that ‘Outlaw Josey Wales’ is my favourite Eastwood film, and I also own ‘Open Range’ on DVD. I knew of your love for both. I also left ‘The Omen’ for others, as well as ‘One flew…’, which is a powerful film that I don’t really like that much. ‘Out of Africa’ had some nice scenery, but Streep’s mannered performance left me a little cold.
      I would not have thought of ‘One Million Years BC’, to be honest. Although I went to see it in the cinema, it is frankly laughable in most respects.

      Despite my love for his gangster saga, I have little time for Sergio Leone films, (I know, cinematic sacrilege committed) and I actually didn’t like ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ one bit. The same goes for the ‘Dollars’ trilogy, and almost any ‘spaghetti western’ you can name.
      But I love to read your suggestions, and all your thoughts too.

      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Assuming you’ve seen the full-length version of “Once Upon a Time in the West” (as opposed to the original carved-up theatrical version) you’d certainly be in the minority in your opinion. It has a 98% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes. Of course, I don’t base my opinion of a film on the general consensus of film critics, but rather on my own biased criteria. I happen to like all the spaghetti westerns, including Leone’s “Duck, You Sucker!” (1971). As for “One Million Years, B.C.,” it’s not even remotely a good film, but Raquel Welch (who also starred in “Fantastic Voyage” around the same time) makes it worth watching—and the stop-motion animation is fun, too. “The Other Side of Midnight” is one of my guilty pleasures. And notice that, with respect to “Out of Africa,” I highlighted Robert Redford. That’s because Meryl Streep’s insane political rants have alienated me (nevertheless, I’ll continue to watch “The River Wild” and “Death Becomes Her”).

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    2. And I think that Sondra Locke is just awful in everything. She is only there because she was his girlfriend. Quite frankly, her presence in his films is embarrassing, as was Linda Eastman, in her ‘collaborations’ with Paul. Not least with Wings, and pretty much anything else you care to mention. McCartney had a very poor choice in women. He should have stuck with Jane Asher, who turned out to be an elegant and dignified lady.
      I doubt she would have ever foisted herself onto the stage.
      Then again, he has turned out to be a very sad character himself, trying to defy the ageing process.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sorry Pete. I haven’t seen any of these, not even the well-known ones, although I plan to watch Once Upon a Time in America soon. (Most remiss of me)

    For me O is for O, as in O Lucky Man and O Brother Where Art Thou, a musical comedy entry no less!
    And of course not-so-crazy Jack in the nuthouse – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
    And On The Waterfront, with Brando when he was lean and hungry.

    Expecting a little P from Oz tomorrow? Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I left out the Lindsay Anderson film, as well as ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’, and ‘Waterfront’. I thought a lot of people would suggest those. I have seen ‘O Brother’, and as much as I usually like the Coens, that was too silly for me.
      There will definitely be an Australian ‘P’ tomorrow, I just hope it’s the one you expect.
      Thanks for the suggestions, ozflicks, and best wishes.
      Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. When I was 14, I remember going to the movie house to see “The Old Man and the Sea.” I also remember it was beyond me at the time. Subsequently, I have viewed it again and find the film solid and moving. I also remember in that time period several other films that I should have in commenting on your daily posting such as “Bell, Book and Candle” and “Bridge over the River Kwai.” I’ll try to do better in the last half of this sequence (challenge?).
    Warmest regards, Theo

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  13. Once Upon a Time in America is the one I would have voted for; forgot all about Outlander- haven’t seen it in decades. Gonna watch your Japanese pick if I can find it with sub-titles. Still haven’t been able to find Martyrs with English sub-titles here.

    Best from Florida.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I may have an obscure film today that you may never have heard about before, but growing up in Toronto I was well aware of it at the time it was released. “Outrageous!” (1977) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076513/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 is about a Canadian female impersonator from Toronto who tries to make it big across the border in NYC (although it actually looks like a rather-seedy Buffalo they travel to …). The star, Craig Russell, lived in my neighbourhood, and my mother knew his mother, so there was kind of a personal connection for me to this movie. But it was made at a time when the subject matter, and being gay, was still not really “explored” in staid, old Toronto. Sadly, Russell died at 42 of an AIDS-related complication. The movie was also based on a collection of short stories by Canadian author, Margaret Gibson, “The Butterfly Ward”.

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