Old-School Badasses Edition
If you've ever thought to yourself, "man, I wish The Western were just a tad faster, and a bit more streamlined," then High Noon is the movie for you. Don't let its 1952 release date fool you; Nearly all 85 minutes of Director Fred Zinnemann's classic are edge-of-your-seat-intense, colored by a sense of earnestness that is largely absent from modern flicks. Gary Cooper stars as Marshal Will Kane, the town hero who is set to both retire and be wed to the lovely Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly... Lucky...) before some demons from the past come back to haunt him. Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), a man Kane sent to prison a few years back, will be arriving in town on the noon train, and there's little to no doubt what his intentions are. As the town panics, its up to Will to find enough help to defeat his old foe once and for all. High Noon is brilliantly shot, and performed with a gleeful sense of grandiosity, most especially by holier-than-thou Cooper. It's brief runtime ensures that the heat is always on, and the music, most especially Best Original Song winner High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'), ensure that the menace never seems too far behind.
One of, if not the greatest sports movie of all time, The Hustler stars none other than Paul Newman as "Fast" Eddie Felson, an up-and-comer in the pool-playing scene with more than a few skeletons in the closet. After losing a fortune by challenging reigning great Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), Felson hits rock bottom, meeting a similarly troubled soul (Piper Laurie as Sarah Packard) while he's down there. Finally, Eddie runs into Bert Gordon (George C. Scott... More on him later), a cut-throat manager who might just take him to the top, but at what cost. The Hustler is every bit the simple morality tale that it sounds like, but it gains extra traction from a sense of true unpredictability, and One of the best performances of One of the greatest acting careers of ever. More than anything else, the movie is a character study, and Newman fills "Fast" Eddie with enough nuance and soul that you never doubt his inner-turmoil. Bonus points for making a game like pool look impossibly cool, likely an impossible task were it not for Eugen Schüfftan's smoky Black and White camera work.
I've seen a variety of great performances in my life time, but there are only a handful that pop up instantly when I consider the inevitable, "Best Performance of All Time," question. There's Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, and George C. Scott in Patton. Filling the role of the movie's namesake, Scott stars as One of the most divisive, ruthless, and infamous generals in the history of the American military. Gifted and brilliant, Patton sees more than his fair share of successes, but his fiery temper and unsightly ways of punishing insubordination find him in trouble time and time again. Patton is a quite a chunk, taking up nearly Three hours of screen time with a plot that meanders from One idea or place to another. The scale of the thing, however, is not to be denied, nor are the performances, the always-wonderful Karl Malden chipping in a brilliant supporting turn as General Omar N. Bradley. But this is the George C. Scott show, his strangely charismatic snarl and growl present in nearly every scene. It's a performance that towers over everything else that the movie has to offer, and, quite frankly, would be similarly mammoth in size regardless of what movie contained it.