2008 - What a marvelous year for me as far as movies are concerned. I couldn't even begin to count how many films I watched but I have decided to let you folks see what movies/actors/directors really wowed me in '08.
1. Franco Nero - I can't believe I had never seen a Franco Nero film before. Even his popular ones (Die Hard 2 for instance) - never seen. I happened to stumble across him in the film Hitch-Hike (see my review) and was immediately impressed. I think the next film I watched him in was Street Law, which also blew me away. Other films I watched with Mr. Nero - Django, Keoma, Fifth Cord, Force 10 to Navarrone, High Crime, Companeros, Texas Adios, Querelle, Enter the Ninja, 21 Hours at Munich and Camelot. Nero is a great actor with a debonair quality and athleticism that is very rare.
2. The Deer Hunter - Go see this movie NOW!
3. The Great Silence - I wrote a review on this one too. What an incredible film. So dark and unconventional for a spaghetti western or for a film in general. Just a great experience watching this one.
4 & 5. Once Upon a Time in the West / Once Upon a Time in America - When Sergio Leone is mentioned, what comes to most people's minds would probably be The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, right? Well, not for me. I did watch the Clint Eastwood/Leone trilogy and I wasn't really that blown away. Of course I will be watching them again in the future, but Leone's films that really got me were Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America. Similar titles but such polar opposites. OUATIA was 3 hours and 45 minutes long but it was well worth the time put into it. DeNiro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern...a great cast in about as epic as a film can be. OUATITW I was lucky enough to catch at a small theater and it was just incredible. Henry Fonda playing a cold blooded killer while Jason Robards and Charles Bronson are the (almost anti-) heroes. Leone's masterful use of widescreen cinematography is breath-taking. The landscapes seem to go on forever. The real magic of the film though would have to be Claudia Cardinale. She is one of the most beautiful actresses to grace the silver screen and she portrays her character perfectly.
6. Ray Winstone - I first saw Ray Winstone in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He didn't really stand out, though when I saw him again in The Proposition, I liked him. I was flipping through an issue of Spin magazine and read an article about "The Greatest Rock Film You've Never Seen". It was Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (see my review). It showed a picture of a younger (and much skinnier) Ray Winstone. The film itself sounded interesting (which it was) and Ray was perfect as the cockney-accented singer of punk band The Looters (featuring two Sex Pistols and a Clash). I started seeking out his other films and ended up watching Nil By Mouth, The War Zone, The Departed, Sexy Beast and Scum.
7. Oliver Reed - Another actor I had seen before but didn't really know who he was. I know I saw him in The Brood and Oliver (the musical). What made me pay attention to him was his role as desperate prison warden Vito Cipriani in Revolver. I later saw him in the controversial Ken Russel film The Devils, which he was also great in. I started looking for more films with Mr. Reed and ended up watching Spasms, Women in Love, Sitting Target and Venom.
8. Scorsese/Keitel/DeNiro - What could be better than a film with Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro, directed by Martin Scorsese? Well, if you've seen Mean Streets or especially Taxi Driver, the answer is (in New Yorkian) "dair ain't". I won't list all the films I've seen with any of these three involved but I will say that I was impressed by the following films I watched in '08 - Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Saturn 3 (see my review), The Deer Hunter (see above), Once Upon a Time in America (see above), The Departed, Casino, Goodfellas, Who's That Knocking at my Door?, Heat and a Bronx Tale.