Best Art Direction

[3.0] Elizabeth Taylor plays the powerful and sexy Egyptian queen who fends off Roman conquest while falling in love with its leaders — first Rex Harrison’s Caesar, and then Richard Burton’s Antony. First I’ll be nice to Cleopatra. The sets are sprawling, opulent, and sometime jaw-dropping. Richard Burton gives a powerful, remorseful monologue near the end, and Roddy McDowall gives one of the best performances …

[6.0] Somewhere in Africa, there’s a secret society hidden away by fancy technology. They have, like, a really super-strong metal there that the rest of the world wants, but the secret African people know the rest of the world will just destroy itself if it ever gets their metal, so they don’t share it. But then one of their metal weapons is found in a …

[7.0] Guillermo del Toro serves up a fantasy love story set in the 1960s in which a mute janitor at a top-secret research facility falls in love with… well, a fish man. Sally Hawkins plays the janitor and Doug Jones (a Del Toro regular) plays the fish. Hawkins is endearing and Jones is always reliable, but the supporting players outshine them here. Richard Jenkins is great …

[7.0] In this potpourri of Middle-Eastern folklore, a banished king (John Justin) and a street boy (Sabu) team up to stop an evil magician (Conrad Veidt) from marrying a beautiful princess (June Duprez). The Thief of Bagdad tries to combine everything you can imagine from “Arabian Nights”, including the Genie and the magic carpet. Disney certainly used this classic as a springboard for their own …

[7.5] Paul Newman plays Fast Eddie, an overzealous pool player who’ll sacrifice everything to beat the renowned Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). This cautionary tale about obsession is the perfect showcase for several fine performances. It may be Newman’s finest work. He and costars George C. Scott, Jackie Gleason, and Piper Laurie were all nominated for Oscars here. Laurie has a unique, dark chemistry with Newman, …

[8.0] A lonely writer falls in love with a singing, dancing courtesan in this bawdy musical that soars on the charms of co-stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. The song numbers cannibalize lyrics from love songs over the past century, an approach you’re either going to love or hate. I think the musical sequences are the best part of Moulin Rouge!, whether it’s the Tex …

[7.0] Ingrid Bergman won the first of her three Oscars for this psychological thriller from George Cukor. Bergman plays a woman increasingly traumatized by her husband, a thief who nearly succeeds in convincing her that she’s losing her mind. It’s easy to invest in a movie when someone’s being mean to Ingrid Bergman. I only wish that she were more empowered in the story’s third …

[3.5] Near the end of both Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris, there is a big, epic dance number that feels very out of place. It’s the only thing I don’t like about Singin’ in the Rain, and the only thing I DO like about An American in Paris. The later film is essentially a superb 20-minute dance number tacked onto an …

[7.0] An unusual sequel of sorts, The Godfather Part II spends equal time in the past and the present, exploring the early life of Vito Corleone (with Robert DeNiro taking over the mantle from Marlon Brando) while also following the continuing story of Vito’s son Michael (Al Pacino reprises his role). Thematically and emotionally, the movie plays like a long and redundant epilogue to the first …

[7.0] In colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness has an ongoing affair with a big game hunter. On one hand, Sydney Pollacks’ Oscar-winning best picture is long and subdued. But on the other hand, it does a great job transporting you to another time and place. The wildlife, cinematography, and music score (another fine work from John Barry) will whisk you away whether you want whisked or …

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