Saturday, November 22, 2008

Luther said I could learn some things from you. I already know how to drink.

Everyone falls in love for the first time. You remember that feeling. The feeling of true amazement that something can be so beautiful or wonderful. It's the thing that people write songs about. It's that zen moment where you truly feel one with yourself and, to a small extent, you feel true happiness. Even when you move on from your first love, you don't ever forget it. It's that first experience that really just grabs you. This works with art just as much as it works with relationships. My first love, The Sting, is a true testament of the power of perfect film making. It's sumptuous in it's visual style, it has a story that sucks you in and it's characters are enjoyable to watch. The music of Joplin, the acting prowess of the late Paul Newman and of Robert Redford, the villainous brilliance of Robert Shaw, and every technical aspect just hearkens to a classic time in history and in film history. It's entertainment and it's art. It was love at first sight.

As most movies from the 70's that I grew up on, many thanks must go again to my parents. Their influence on everything art has been huge. I first saw The Sting in grade school with some friends over. We immediately were all sucked into the cool life of the con artist. So much so that we would pretend we were con artists in the school yard at St. John's and want to aspire to the life of the con. That, in essence, is kind of strange. To want to become a criminal? That's just how much you loved the characters in the movie. Redford and Newman were so lovable that even though they were common criminals and drunkards, you wanted to be like them. Smart, cool, self-assured and handsome. Isn't that what everyman wishes to be? And don't we all have these faults of our own? The Sting also was the originator of my love of Poker. Not Texas Hold'Em but draw Poker. I'd play all the time, never knew how to cheat, but seeing this amazing scene with Newman really get under the skin of Shaw is sheer screen magic.

This was a film that made me want to be an actor. At CCHS, I was in the productions there and both Redford and Newman were hereos to me. Their comedic timing and dramatic tone in this film was what I wished to aspire to when taking the stage. Especially Guys and Dolls, I modeled my background character much after that of Johnny Hooker and Henry Gondorf. The spirit of the grifter was channeled and I even got myself my first speaking role, a ridiculous one liner, in that show. I used the slur of Newman during the card game as a guide for my character, The Drunk. I was forever in love with thopse characters and channeling the spirit of their story worked wonders. I carried on that comedic style into the other roles I played. It's their style and grace that I admire most.

The Sting waivers at the top of my all time movies list from time to time. It competes with 4 other movies in the Top 5, all of which will be represented here. So far, Rushmore was already discussed and three more will follow. It no longer holds the #1 spot of these five, but I'd like to think that it is much in heated competition with the rest. It's the only movie that has been up near the top of my list for over 15 years. It's the most consistent film. A lot of people wonder how a movie that has a twist ending can have any kind of replay value. For me, the story is great and all and the first time around makes you gasp for air. It leaves you guessing and then the sheer joy coems once you find out the truth behind the con they played. However, it's not only the story that drives the film. It's the cast of characters, the intertwining relationships and the pureness of the characters at the heart of the story that keep me coming back.

As we all know, Paul Newman passed away this year leaving a brilliant legacy of acting and philanthropy behind him. I was deeply saddened by this great loss, but all the greats must go sometime and Newman has sealed his fate in the stars. A legend he will remain. The Sting, easily one of his finest roles, also seems to be one of his most underrated. His character of Henry Gondorf seems so real and so genuine that you forget it's a character. It's Newman who makes it look so easy. Just the way he makes a facial expression or the way he holds himself is priceless. I will truly miss him, but will always have The Sting to remember him by.

Like all first loves, you can't ever forget them. You can't appreciate enough how they changed your outlook on life. You will remember all the great times you had with them. Luckily, when it comes to a film, it's love can't betray you or change. The only thing that changes is yourself. The Sting will always been one of my favorite films, no matter what. I will make my children watch and enjoy it and keep it's great name alive. I will keep crusading for the film to get recognition on the AFI Top 100 movies list as it's not being on there is truly a sin. Regardless of all that, there is no denying that this film is truly a perfect piece of cinema greatness.

1. Cinema Paradiso (1988) dr. Giuseppe Tornatore
2. Rushmore (1998) dr. Wes Anderson
3. Jurassic Park (1993) dr. Steven Speilberg
4. It's A Wonderful Life (1946) dr. Frank Capra
5. Trust (1990) dr. Hal Hartley
6. Donnie Darko (2001) dr. Richard Kelly
7. On The Waterfront (1954) dr. Elia Kazan
8. Monty Python & The Holy Grail (1975) dr. Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
9. Do The Right Thing (1989) dr. Spike Lee
10. Stop Making Sense (1984) dr. Johnathan Demme
11. Trekkies (1997) dr. Roger Nygard
12. Fight Club (1999) dr. David Fincher
13. The Sting (1973) dr. George Roy Hill

Up Next: Ghost Busters (1984) dr. Ivan Reitman

1 comment:

Magoo said...

I love this movie. I saw it with my dad years ago, but I saw it again in film as art during the rehearsal period for "red herring". Pat McDonald and I came out of that screening ready to act, and act well. That movie brings it out of everyone if they have any inclination to act at all. Great review.