Once again I fell back on doing another selection of Oscar nominees. For this week I went with films from 1961.

220px-GunsofNavaroneThe first on my list the Guns of Navarone was one I knew the name of for years but didn’t really know anything else about it. (in fact for until this week I thought it was a western). It tells the story of a commando raid against two giant guns on the Greek island of Navarone the only thing presenting an Allied attack on the island of Keros.

This was a very well done film. For it’s time I found it wonderfully cynical making it very much about how war forces people to make terrible choices. No one is particularly good and despite this being a World War !! film, most of the Germans are just soldiers in truth there is pretty much only one Nazi in the group.

The moral ambiguity makes this film fascinating with the arguments between leads Gregory Peck and David Niven have over doing what is right vs what is necessary absolutely fascinating.

225px-Hustler_1961_original_release_movie_posterMy other film is the all time classic, The Hustler, which tells the story of small time pool shark Fast Eddie Felson, played by Paul Newman, as he struggles to prove himself the greatest pool player in the country.

While this film has just about everything what draws me the most is the acting. Paul Newman who’s best known as an American everyman with boy next door good looks does a brilliant job of twisting this into an arrogant portrait of greed and a desperate need to prove to everyone that you are the best *which when you are hustling pool is not a good idea..

George C Scott excels as the manipulative bastard who plays him.

However I have to say my favorite part of this film is Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Gleason in a serious role before (or perhaps a more accurate way to say it is “non comic” as many of Gleason’s comic roles are very serious) but this is a magnificent minimalist performance with Gleason dominates every shot he is in with precise movement.