Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Summary: An old man recalls the friendships of his mobster past as he searches for some final answers.

Thoughts: I’m not really sure what to say about this film.  It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen.  It was three hours and forty-some minutes, but it pulled me in and the time flew by, like being pulled into a wonderful symphony; the pacing was just perfect.  This is definitely Sergio Leone’s masterpiece.  My only complaint is that I didn’t think it had to be so dirty; I guess Leone was going for the “gritty” dirtiness that tries to make you feel dirty as a viewer.  It’s all unnecessary and doesn’t add anything to the story.  That complaint aside, the overall film is just brilliant.  It starts out a bit confusing, because you get these seemingly random scenes and you’re not sure how they relate to each other.  But as the film continues, it all becomes clear, and in a way that makes the chronological shuffling somehow work wonderfully.  At its heart, the film is about the relationship between two guys played by Robert De Niro and James Woods.  We see their friendship begin as teenagers, continue into adulthood, take some wild twists, and end in an unexpected powerful tragic poetic awesome way.  Gah!  It was so good!  I can’t write anything very intelligent-sounding about it, because the emotion of it was just so perfect.  Tragic, but . . . I don’t know how to describe it.  It’s not like a “someone dies” sort of tragedy, it’s like the whole story, the whole arc of the main characters’ relationship just somehow comes together . . . I really don’t know what it is.  It just left me overwhelmed with emotion.  The film also features one of Ennio Morricone’s most beautiful musical scores, and some beautiful use of the song Yesterday.

It seems the blu-ray is currently out of print, but it seems there’s an extended cut in the works that will add an additional twenty minutes (I think) of footage to the film, bringing the film’s running time over the four hour mark.  Whew!  But I’ll definitely be on the look out for it.  Brilliant, epic, wonderful film.

For a Few Dollars More (1967)


Link: For a Few Dollars More

Summary: Two bounty hunters team up to take down a murderous convict.  One bounty hunter, played by Clint Eastwood, plans to sabotage him by joining his crew of thugs.  But the bounty hunter secretly knows exactly who he is and uses the knowledge to his advantage, working to frame the new recruit for his own crimes.

Thoughts: I enjoyed this one more than Leone’s Yojimbo rip-off, A Fistful of Dollars.  The story was more intricate, full of some great twists and turns.  I love Leone’s use of close-ups, though his editing here was still rather bizarre at times with the quick cutting, and the *boing!* sound effect was just stupid.  What is this, some preschooler’s cartoon?  But you gotta love Leone’s stand-off climax scenes, especially with Morricone’s iconic scoring.