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It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Dir: Frank Capra

Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is a manifestation of the power of love and family which improves remarkablly as the years pass. It is one of those truly timeless movie, like Casablanca or The Third Man which is able to enthral you with such power it's impossible to let go. If one was to combine the elements of the picture; the characters, the story, the situations and, above all, the message (which not only tells the truth but supposes the finest component of the film), it would not be hard to discover why It's a Wonderful Life is considered the classic that it is. There are many things to enjoy in the film and one of the main ones is of course the acting. James Stewart is utterly convincing in his portrayal of everyday American man George Bailey (though I much rather prefer his performance in Vertigo) and the rest of the cast is, too, a standout. Frank Capra's direction is no exception; everything seems to be under his control and the he gives the pace a light-footed feel (and deliberately so) which helps in telling the story with much more skill and fluidity. The wonders that the movie works are as astounding as they're bewildering, given that upon its initial release the movie bombed - its reputation would grow years later with repeated TV showings in the '80s. The one thing that most strikes me is the touch of optimism which floats around the film. Capra includes several dark moments in the film (George's suicide attempt, his drinking problems, the rows between husband and wife, etc), but nonetheless he never forgets to tell us, "Despite all odds and whatever the circumstances, one must look on the bright side of things." Which is practically the entire message of the film. But It's a Wonderful Life doesn't succeed because of its moral - rather, it succeeds because of the way it is told, with such magic. Heartwarming, sweet, outstanding, It's a Wonderful Life is a gem. Christmas wouldn't be the same without it.

Jaws (1975) Dir: Steven Spielberg

Jaws is a film that took the world over by storm. With its uncompromising scenes of bloody violence and unforgettable moments of sheer terror, it instantly won audiences over and became one of the highest grossing films of all time. Jaws immediately was recognised as an incredibly important picture upon its release, and it would later be interminably ripped-off, apart from spawning three (and evidently inferior) sequels.  There are many alternative ways to see Jaws, from a modernization of Moby Dick  to a commentary on the contradictoriness and occasional absurdity of political goals, to an overcoming of intense fears (Brody's fear of the water, Quint's fear of death at sea by sharks, Hooper's fear of relying on more intuitive methods, everyone's fear of the unknown), and then some. These subtexts are a large part of what makes Jaws a masterpiece. But for me, that's not the only reason why I love it so much. Perhaps it's the ability of the picture to know what our fear and vulnerabilities are, thus frightening us by showing us things we'd never seen before. The technical aspects of it are outstanding; from the magnificent handling of the underwater cinematography, to the already-legendary central music theme by JohnWilliams, which has become a true icon in film history and proves to be as unsettling as they come, providing the audience with a sense of ever-following menace. Spielberg doesn't hide his influences under the surface (no pun intended) as we find out that Hitch could've been one of the main ones, given that he uses the dolly out/zoom in camera trick which was previously used in Vertigo (despite that, Jaws is the film for which the technique is recognised the most - the most famous moment comes when Roy Scheider's character Brody suddenly realsies that the shark is attacking bathers on the beach). On the whole, Spielberg's direction is oustanding - everything ranging from the acting to the gradually woven suspense is simply phenomenal. With the passing of time, Jaws has become a classic. Regarded as one of the greatest film ever made, even nowadays some consider it to be Spielberg's finest.  

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Dir: David Lean

"In terms of pure grandeur, power, sweep and emotion very few films come close to Lawrence of Arabia. It is a film that proudly can rival any other because of its ambition and deserved critical praise. Because of this, or rather, as a result of this, the fact that David Lean is one of the greatest and most successful directors of all time can be confirmed. With both intelligence and experience he gives the film such scope and immense proportions that it becomes very hard to think that other directors couldve accomplished such a challenging project. Even today, in the 21st century, in a time where CGI has become more important than other film factors, remaking such film would be almost impossible. David Leans vision is wonderfully mesmerising and his love for filmmaking is ever-present and almost palpable every shot. With confidence and inspiration, he gives the film his own and particular feel, turning it into a magical experience and rapidly convincing us that this is one of the finest works of cinematic brilliance to ever illuminate the big screen.
Rarely has this film been equaled and I can easily see why. The awe-inspiring battle sequences still look amazing forty years later and the stellar performances, featuring Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer and Omar Sharif are simply great and very convincing. However, it is Peter OToole who steals the show with one of his earliest film roles. He can be enigmatic, arrogant, mad, heroic, all these at the same time, portraying T.E. Lawrence in a semi perfect way and showing us his emotions and feelings with incredible ease. It comes as a surprise to find out that he didnt end up winning the Academy Award for which he got nominated that year. Apart from that, the beautiful score by Maurice Jarre suits the mood of the film incredibly well and is very haunting. Magnificent." Read the rest of the  

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Dir: Peter Jackson

"To tell you the truth, few people could have made this movie like Peter Jackson. His exuberance is clearly present in every frame and his brilliance is never-ending. From the very beginning, we quickly realise that what he has created is a pure masterpiece. Without a doubt, the film has been wrought with pure passion and love for the material it was based on. Not only does the film manage to do justice to the book, (even though it skips some parts and adds others), but what it does is does is exceed all expectations. What has been accomplished is almost like a miracle; the film is ambitious, powerful and incredibly enthralling.
Despite its length, The Fellowship of the Ring never bores; once its trapped you its impossible to ever let go, and that alone can be considered as a remarkable achievement because seldom have long films been able to do that. Its stunning, engaging and thoroughly marvellous; it left me speechless.
The performances are very solid all round. Ian McKellen, in an Academy Award nominated role, is excellent as the benevolent wizard perfectly as is the rest of the cast, who do a really fine job. It was a surprising pleasure to find out that the acting was excellent in a fantasy movie, because surely this one was an exception. It isnt often that we get a film like this.
Secondly, the special effects are visually impressive and they somehow manage to create the Middle-Earth we all had pictured in our minds. Be it a gigantic troll chasing our heroes in the Mines of Moria or the haunting landscapes of Lothlorien, the visual magnificence of the film is uncommonly spellbinding. And thats a fact.
Andrew Lesnies Oscar-winning cinematography for the film is merely majestic. Managing to capture scenes of beautiful New Zealand landscapes apart from using subjective camera movements and extreme close-ups of the actors, his work on the film has been a noteworthy one. And Howard Shores score, what can I say? Its rich, bewitching and powerful. Simply amazing." Read the full

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) Dir: Peter Jackson

The Two Towers doesn't just surpass the original in every single aspect, rather, it dwarfs it. Immense in terms of scope and grandeur, The Two Towers doesn't bother with providing the audience a re-telling of what occurred in the original, as it immeditaely plunges us into the middle of the story. The core story of the film is much darker and uglier than in the original; there is a palpable sense of cruelty and malevolence in the film, and the intimacy and togetherness which was in the first film is now lacking, as the central characters have all ruptured; but, of course, this was all meant to be the way it is. The film introduces us to Gollum, the most effective and credible computer-generated character to have ever been put on cellulloid so far. Acting-wise, the actors seem even more confident in their roles, and for me, it is Sean Astin who seems to have flourished a powerful assurance to the role of Sam. Granted, the rest of the cast also do a very fine job; Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Bernard Hill and Ian Mckellen just to name a few are all remarkable. But it is Peter Jackson's direction which makes the film so special. The Battle of Helm's Deep is arguably the most skillfully executed and breathtaking battle scene in the history of cinema; seldom have I been as impressed as when I contemplated that particular sequence, utterly in awe. The CGI characters are all well done, the set pieces are unbelievable and the cinematography is no exception: once again, it manages to capture a sense of awe and beauty very few others could, with its abundant aerial shots, elegantly sweeping camera moves and extreme close-ups. The Two Towers is a colossal film. It's all about spectacle, and this one has plenty of it.

Memento (2000) Dir: Christopher Nolan

Without a doubt one of the most original and inventive films of all time, Memento is not your usual thriller since its narrative structure is exceedingly peculiar. It's told in reverse, which makes the story so much more intriguing as the audience is willing to know what's going to happen next (or rather, what happened before). Despite all odds,  Christopher Nolan's direction is simply superb, both fooling and disorienting the viewers with the diabolically clever story, and managing to skillfully execute the complex narrative  ( which at the same time is very neatly edited, too).Guy Pearce is remarkable as Leonard Shelby,  speaking every word with confidence and reassurance, proving to be one of today's most talented leading actors. His performance stays with you like a tatoo, long after the film's finished.  Memento is one of those films that you immediately want to see again; it's compelling, challenging and incredibly unique. And in a time where originality is the main factor that the vast majority of Hollywood films seem to lack, Memento comes as a breath of fresh air.

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