Anyone reading this who knows me well, knows that I live for going to the movies. To me, give me a huge movie theater over “DVD night” all day and any day.
But every now and then, I do enjoy a nice night in with some of my all-time favorite films. Last night I was able to view two movies I hadn’t seen in a long time. The first was A Place In The Sun starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelly Winters.
After that, I moved onto Rounders starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. Two completely different films, one I consider classic cinema of the 1950′s. The other I consider one of the best movies of the late 90′s and perhaps the best motion picture ever made about the world of poker and gambling addiction.
A Place In The Sun is a film that I first watched as a teenager and it always stuck with me. The plot revolves around George Eastman (Clift), who is thrust into the blue collar life of a rich uncle’s family business where he’s expected to learn the ropes from the bottom up. While paying his dues, he becomes involved with Alice Tripp (Winters). She is a simple, trusting, “plain Jane” kind of a girl who works on the assembly line. When George is finally introduced to high society he meets the gorgeous, sophisticated Angela Vickers (Taylor) and quickly forgets all about Alice. Only Alice won’t be gotten rid of so easily, especially since George has gotten her pregnant.
Based on a true story, this 1951 film was pretty shocking in its time. Elizabeth Taylor is so beautiful in this movie, that she makes the audience almost understand why George might want to “do away with” the pregnant Alice. Clift was one of the best actors of his generation and he truly shows it here. Winters plays her part just right as Alice, for which she was nominated for an Oscar (along with Clift). In total, the film earned 9 nominations, scoring 6 wins.
I have always loved movies about the social outcast or the loner who tries to figure out his place in the world. A Place In The Sun reminds me a lot of another one of my all-time favs, 1999′s The Talented Mr. Ripley. I recommend A Place In The Sun for any lover of 50′s cinema.
IMHO, the last great era of cinema was during the late 1990′s. The films during that time had brought back an old school, harder edge era that had not been seen since the early days of Pacino, DeNiro, Hoffman and Scorsese.
I think Rounders could have easily fit well in 1973, as it did when it was release in 1998.
The story follows a law student (Damon) who moonlights as a high stakes poker play. After losing $30k, he takes his girlfriend’s advice and leaves that world behind. Now as a reformed gambler, he must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend (Norton) pay off loan sharks.
Rounders is considered (along with The Cincinnati Kid) to be the greatest poker movie ever made. The film is more than just about poker. It’s about how far you would go for a best friend and the pitfalls of getting deeper and deeper into gambling debt. Matt Damon and Ed Norton are very believable as poker players and best friends. In fact, after the movie came out both men played in the World Series of Poker.
I think of Matt Damon’s career as Old Coke vs. New Coke. I prefer Old Coke. Give me Good Will Hunting and The Talented Mr. Ripley over The Adjustment Bureau and The Brothers Grimm. In Rounders, you see him in his acting prime. As for Norton, it’s hard to imagine him ever giving a bad performance because he never does. He should have scored a supporting actor nomination for his turn here. It’s nice to look back at this film, 13 years later, and know that these two guys weren’t one hit wonders. They were, and still are, a sure bet.