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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: December 2012


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Dec 1: The Sting

"In 1930s Chicago, a young con man seeking revenge for his murdered partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker."
Directed by: George Roy Hill, Rated: PG, 129 minutes

While The Sting is far from as flashy as the Oceans' 11 series or as action packed as The Italian Job, it's still one of the first heist/con movies of its time. With a memorable soundtrack (thank you ice cream trucks) and acting that leaves you smiling, it's a bonafide classic that must be seen. It's entertaining, full of humor, a bit of violence, and has a lot of twists you can barely see coming (a lot of the twists in the film were first seen with The Sting). Ladies and gentlemen, there are dozens of reasons why this movie won Best Picture in 1974 and it's no surprise it was able to beat out The Exorcist and American Graffiti.

Even the devil can't out-movie The Sting. 

Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) is a suave con man who makes his living scamming any hapless stranger walking down the street. He's a scamp, never really making it big and losing whatever he makes gambling. His partner, Luther (Robert Earl Jones) is an older man, well past his prime in the conning game. He's ready to retire and settle down and get straight (or legal). After Hooker and Luther steal from the wrong man, Luther finds himself face down in an alleyway, dead. Hooker, angry and scared, heads to Chicago to find Luther's old friend, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), to not only have a place to hide but also a place to come up with a plan of revenge against the greedy and evil Lonnegan (Robert Shaw). The two hatch an idea of staging a horse betting ring and figure out a way to draw Lonnegan into betting millions, only to take it away from him for revenge.

Before he hunted a great white shark, he was the swarmy and evil Lonnegan. 

The Sting is a very smart movie that's well ahead of its time. It's a movie from the 70s, set in the 30s, with the humor and charisma you can find in any decade. With each additional viewing, it proves more and more timeless and you can't help but be amazed at what's happening on screen. Robert Redford and Paul Newman have a blast in their roles, and the reunion of them four years after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid reminds us why they're so perfect together. They both exude masculinity and cool and seeing them work off of each other adds an entirely new level to the film. George Clooney and Brad Pitt were able to emulate this chemistry thirty years later, with Oceans 11, but even then, it's far from as awesome as Newman and Redford. Besides the two leads, The Sting also has plenty of recognizable faces (most of which you're used to seeing much older) and has great supporting performances from Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, and Harold Gould. Of course, Robert Shaw is also great, as always, and his Irish and angry Lonnegan proves to be a villain you can most certainly stand against.

No matter how hard you try, you will never be as cool as these two men. 

The Sting is a must watch for any fan of film. So many themes and ideas we see in the heist movies of today borrow from The Sting and once you recognize that fact, it looks even greater. The movie also uses the ever-annoying The Entertainer (again, thank you ice cream trucks) but to a much greater effect. It becomes the movie's theme and is more memorable than annoying and helps build the setting of 1930s Chicago. With great acting, witty and smart dialogue, and terrific set design, The Sting is a ride through multiple pasts and reminds us that movies are the perfect escape from reality. 

The Good:
a great capture of the 1930s with an optimistic feeling to it that leaves you more excited than depressed
The Better:
the performances from the entire cast with Robert Redford and Paul Newman more perfect than ever
The Best:
knowing that the film has such an importance in cinema history and being reminded of how influential it is

Overall: 8.7/10

Discussion Question:
Where does The Sting rank in the greatest movies of all time? Has it been a bit forgotten over time?


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November Ratings Roundup

Month 11 of this journey has come to an end. I have now watched and review 335 movies in 335 days and am one step closer to the end of the year. Below is a graph showing all of the movies I watched in November with my rating being compared to IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

The Cinematic Katzenjammer:
Highest Rated: Skyfall, 9.4/10
Lowest Rated: Krull, 2.0/10

Highest Rated: Life of Pi, 8.4/10
Lowest Rated: Rec 3: Genesis, 5.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes:
Highest Rated: Heathers and Time Bandits, 95%
Lowest Rated: The Raven, 22%