Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

When I picked up Once Upon a Time in America I had no idea what it was about and certainly no idea how long it was.  I put off starting the film for a few days and then settled in.  The film is set between the 1920’s to the 1960’s and follows the life of David “Noodles” Aaronson, a Jewish gangster who grew up during prohibition, played by De Niro.  Noodles reluctantly returns to his childhood neighborhood and reflects on a life of excitement, passion, and betrayal.  Sergio Leone’s final film features a well-crafted and driving story line, masterfully executed suspense sequences, and elegant editing and camera work.

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Hell or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water follows two brothers, Foster and Pine, as they crusade through West Texas with a carefully crafted bank robbing system.  Tepid on their trail are the Texas Rangers, Bridges and Birmingham.  The film falls victim to a few western clichés, the robin hood story and the soon-to-be retired Ranger on board for one last hurrah, however the story has some unexpected turns and is nimble and poignant in terms of lower class society.  The film touches on several relevant themes to the current social climate, including: the banking system, race, greed, and the effects all of these have on the working class. Continue reading “Hell or High Water (2016)”

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The (2007)

This film is not just a biographical drama, but a psychological roller coaster. Each role is well written and complex, allowing the actors to really dive in and take the viewer along for the ride.  We learn to love characters we should hate and learn to hate characters we should love.  From the title alone the audience knows where the film is going.  As we get to know the difference between Jesse James the man and Jesse James the myth it becomes challenging to root for his survival or demise.  At the same time, Casey Affleck’s performance is tremendous and conjures up ambivalence that teeters back and forth until the credits.  It is rare that the protagonist in a film is also the antagonist.  In addition to that, the cinematography was stunning and vibrant. Although this film seemed to fly under the radar when it was released, perhaps it was just overshadowed by its contemporaries: There Will be Blood and No Country for Old Men.  I highly recommend this movie.

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