The Thursday List: Foreign Film Edition

"Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968)
Not only is the film that almost single-handedly breathed life back into westerns, it is quite likely legendary Italian film director Sergio Leone's best film... and widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, western movie ever made. The combination of a strong story, interesting characters well portrayed, Leone's directing near-operatic style, and brilliant score by Ennio Morricone is marvelous and really fires on all thrusters. And Henry Fonda as Frank, in my opinion one of the best screen villains in all cinema, is amazing. This film isn't just a must-see for fans of westerns but also for film fans in general. This film is in my Top 100 and the Top 100 of many others as well. Highly recommended.

"The Devil's Backbone" (2001)
A horror film set in Spain in 1939, the last year of the Spanish Civil war, "The Devil's Backbone" is simultaneously a compassionate, heartfelt story of humanity, innocence, comradery, human frailty, and sacrifice and a story of greed, viciousness, corruption, fearful villainy, war, and murder. And a ghost story. Guillermo del Toro's work here delivers both a remarkable elegance and a pronounced and relentless dread. This film is in my Top 30 and is held in very high regard by a wide swath of moviegoers as well. It's a horror film, and beautiful, that you would do yourself a real favor to watch. Highly recommended.

"The Third Man" (1949)
At the crossroads of post-WW2 Germany, while the Cold War escalates almost quietly, a pulp novelist arrives to visit a friend and finds far more than a bargained for. "The Third Man" is regarded by many to be the best British film of the 20th century, and I am not inclined to disagree. It was brilliantly written by Graham Greene, skillfully and creatively directed by Carol Reed, and Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton, as well as the rest of the cast, deliver near perfect pitch performances. And then there's the memorable score, only one instrument, a zither. Shot simply and much on location in still war-damaged Vienna, the striking cinematography strongly complements the performances and lends enormous atmosphere. This film is in my Top 10. It's a classic. Highly recommended.

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