Friday, October 21, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Sergio Leone

Sergio Leone
[24th w 21,210]

1. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, The (1966) #36
2. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) #52
3. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
4. For a Few Dollars More (1965) #508
5. A Fistful of Dollars (1964) #1583

For me, Leono has one really good film, Once Upon a Time in America (of course, the long version only), and a bunch of good popcorn entertainment, mostly designed for drive-ins - that's where I first saw all the spaghetti westerns, as the genre he helped create was called. It really meant Italian 'westerns', which were usually filmed in Spain or North Africa. In my opinion, they denigrate a more serious genre by creating satires built of excess and stereotypical characters.

They did make a star of Clint Eastwood, who had only done mostly tv (Rawhide) up to then. The first, Fistful of Dollars, is actually based on Akira Kurosawa's film Yojimbo, about a drifter who pits two rival sides of a town against each other, collecting money from each side. Kurosawa's film was in turn inspired by the westerns of John Ford!

Nowhere is this more evident than The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, perhaps the most over-ranked film in our compendium of polls, now #36 all-time and well ahead of such true classic westerns like The Searchers (1956) and High Noon (1952), which I find preposterous. Leone's hasn't nearly the grace or artistry of either of those films. This film has hammy acting, a long, boring pace, incongruent sequences (such as the Civil War intrusion), and a ridiculously long, anti-climactic ending - which comically ends where it begins. Once Upon a Time in the West is much better, casting Henry Fonda against type as a ruthless killer, hunted by Charles Bronson for reasons unknown. This one at least remains serious throughout, unlike GB and U.

This was still overlong and slow, however, and this languid pace of Leone's really works well only in Once Upon a Time in America [photo left], a brilliant, multi-decade study of Jewish gangsters in New York, their rise from street-wise kids to a successful, if small, crime organization. An overall perfect cast was led by one of Robert De Niro's best performances, as he ages about 40 years - almost matched by one of James Woods' best. It also featured the first performance of a 12-yr old Jennifer Connelly, as a young dancer and object of De Niro's eye as a teenager. This film is on par with the two Godfathers, in fact, I like it better than the first, not as much as II, and I can re-watch it more often than Godfather I.


doc ellis said...

fistful of dollars is not mere popcorn entertainment. in my opinion it is a top 25 film. there is a heartwarming story within where a man who has the power to be the town boss, but instead, in atypical fashion of powerful gunslingers, acts selflessly and uses his power to free the captive woman to be reunited with her family. the theme is subtle and mostly unnoticed by the masses, who mostly just see the plot and action, but it makes the film a beautiful story wrapped in an enormously entertaining package. the enhancement of this aspect of the story, along with the brilliant use of camera, the amazing score, and superb performances, elevate it way above its inspiration, yojimbo, and its sequels.

Anonymous said...

you don't understand anything about cinema

José Sinclair said...

I doubt that even Leone did NOT see this as drive-in B film level stuff.. it's just too silly otherwise, but still a nice homage to John Ford.. I enjoyed this one somewhat, but found Good, Bad, & Ugly to be excrutiating torture, so self-indulgent that it lost "watchability" for me.. one of the few films I've ever walked out on, and I was with friends - I waited for them on the grass behind the theater, where the exits came out - I've later seen it, including the ridiculous 3-way gunfight that lasts seemingly a half hour.. zzzzzz.. didn't work w Bergman, doesn't work w westerns especially
-- "your results may vary" -- Jose

José Sinclair said...

PS - re Yojimbo - I think Kurosawa and Kubrick are the best directors of all time (one made a million films, one made 11) - Yojimbo itself was a Japanese homage (w tongue-in-cheek) to John Ford, whom Kurosawa admired.. the best Kurosawa films in BW are Seven Samurai (remade as Magnificent Seven), Stray Dog (beautiful 49 detective noir, some great stuff shot in the black mkt of tokyo from the ground up w doubles due to danger), and High & Low (anti-corporate crime caper).. most would include Rashomon, which is good but moves too slowly for me

José Sinclair said...

DOC ELLIS?? I saw YOU pitch in the minor leagues as a kid, I think for Knoxville, vs the Macon Peaches who had Pete Rose, and several from the later "big red machine" that won for Cincy Reds (Macon was their farm team in AA or whatever it was) - huge, off the cliff CURVE ball, Doc!! Unhittable.. -- the JMAN

José Sinclair said...

Anonymous said "you don't understand anything.." -- well, I have a degree in art, a minor in art history - Roger Ebert had a degree in English.. my best friend edits films for HBO (has an Emmy & a Sundance Award), we grew up together in this stuff - my granny was a big film fan and started me at age 4 - I've seen 10,000 movies plus.. maybe YOU haven't seen enough films yet to distinguish ART from PASTICHE? As for LEONE, he is very high on FAN polls, very LOW on critics polls, fan polls have Star Wars in the top 20! that says enough right therer -- and as always, "your results may vary"

Anonymous said...

nobody takes can take your opinions for you have godfather 2 as being a better film than godfather 1 you are full of shit

Mark Woollon said...

Your response to the "understand nothing" comment is petty as fuck. Let it go man. People should respect your opinions, regardless of if they *really* disagree (me included- Leone is a legend) but your expression needs some work. Seems to state opinion as fact and in the world of movie criticism you should know, with all your 'experience', that's not the way to do it. Just trying to help.