The Best Film currently on Netflix

Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)

You’re a photographer, one who rarely stands still. You shoot action and drama, travel to places unheard of in the 1950s. You’re courting a stunning socialite; “hot” is tame for this dame. But she wants you grounded and she’s got her wish. A crash at a rally track saw to that. Now you’re stuck in your apartment for a couple of months with a broken leg, an acerbic masseuse, and too much time on your hands. You spend your days trying to ignore the New York summer heat, and gazing out of your rear window…

There’s a whole courtyard of mini dramas for this Tom to peep at: differing neighborly tales of love and relationships. Some have just got together. Some are drifting apart. Some are at each other’s throats. It’s diverting more than compelling. If only this place would liven up a bit. Maybe a row? A fistfight? How about a murder?

Sam Bowles

 

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The Best Film on TV…Ever?

Rio Bravo (1959, Howard Hawks)

There are good films. There are great films. There are chef d’oeuvres. And then there are cinematic works that belong in their own category of gorgeousness, forged with the stars in immaculate alignment. These movies straddle the art/entertainment divide and EVERY scene is a standout: Citizen Kane, Rear Window, The Godfather, Céline et Julie vont en Bateau, Jaws, GoodFellas… I’m sure you can add your own to the list.

Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo is, of course, one such jewel. For those who don’t know much about Hawks, it would appear he was something of an egocentric bullshitter, rather too fond of telling self-aggrandising tall tales. He was also comfortably one of the best American directors of all time. Scan Hawks’ filmography and it seems like the man only dealt in masterworks: Scarface, Bringing Up Baby, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Red River… It’s ridiculous. Just one of those flicks would be enough to seal any director’s reputation as a moviemaking god.

Yes, Rio Bravo is a western and I know that’s a problem for many people. The genre has gone from perennial to occasional. Back in the 50s, both on TV and at the pictures, you couldn’t move for cowboy stories. Of course most are by-the-numbers, but occasionally an artist like Hawks transcends genre and conjures up greatness.

I could go on at length about the rolling Rio Bravo… I could attempt to go into detail about the grace of the performances by John Wayne (yes, that John Wayne), Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, and Ricky Nelson. I could try, as many others have, to describe the elegant simplicity of Hawks’ unobtrusive camera style. I could tell you that I know of no other film as consistently funny and moving as this one. I could tell you that it’s just so damn entertaining. But really it’s like trying to describe the smile playing on the Mona Lisa’s lips; great works of art are beyond the descriptive powers of prose. All I would say is this: I recommend that you watch Rio Bravo, and cherish that we live in the age of the motion picture.

Rio Bravo is showing today, Sunday 20th September, 4.55pm ITV4

Sam Bowles

The Best Film Added To Netflix this Week

12 Angry Men (1957, Sidney Lumet)

This flick gives me the horn. Big time. It’s almost entirely shot on a single set, yet intensely cinematic. It’s just a dozen blokes talking to each other, yet moves and twists like a thriller. It gives you the chance to feel all liberal and self-righteous, yet it’s also fucking hilarious. And it’s one of the truly hot summer films. Like Do The Right Thing-level hot. I’m loosening my collar just thinking about it.

A young lad from the slums is on trial for murder. The 12 men of the title – women aren’t to be trusted, especially back then in the 50s – gather in the jury room to thrash out a verdict. They take an initial vote and all except one, Juror 8 (Henry Fonda), say “guilty”. Juror 8’s position is initially mocked and derided, but as they go back over the details of the case, a different scenario from the one presented in court (which we have not been privy to) starts to emerge.

The screenplay, by Reginald Rose, is a piece of genius in its exposition, pacing and characterization. Every character manages to make an impact, yet none is painted too broadly. The cast, which includes Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam and Jack Klugman, is borderline immaculate.

This was Sidney Lumet’s first film and I doubt he ever made a better one.

Sam Bowles