Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Sting


Dir: George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Slap Shot)

There are two axioms that are too often overlooked in cinema. The heist film is perhaps the greatest genre of cinema, and Paul Newman is the greatest actor living today (for he is our last link to classical Hollywood; he makes the world a very beautiful place to live). Thankfully, this film understands both of these principles.

In a crowded movie season (Last Tango in Paris, Mean Streets, American Graffiti, The Exorcist, Cries and Whispers), The Sting managed to nab seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. But like the Lord of the Rings, the film only received one acting nomination (Robert Redford). Yet again, the Academy demonstrates the tragic myopia that plagues most of their decisions, forcing them to give make-up Oscars to glorious actors in subpar roles (Newman for Nobody's Fool).

The Sting relies on numerous double-crosses and suprise turns, so a clear summarization of the plot would do violence to one's viewing pleasure. This film spends as much time winking at the audience as the characters do to each other. The sets are spectacular, seemingly ripped from the pages of the Saturday Evening Post. The dreary undertow that drains the optimism from most films dealing with the Great Depression is wiped out by the cheeky charisma of Newman and Redford; rehaps the best on-screen buddy duo (that even includes Turner and Hooch).

Certainly, the film made the appropriate nods to a more cynical generation, but I think the Sting really stands out as a film 4 years too late or 8 years too early. Many of its contemporaries relied on heavy doses of helplessness and nihilism to demonstrate a now belabored point. Granted, I love those types of films-some are my favorites of all time-but I am glad the Sting got its props (occassionally, the Academy gets it right).

With that said, I love Butch Cassidy more.


Blogger paroske noted on 11/13/2005 02:09:00 PM that...

This one is another oversight on my part. Never seen it. You are right on Newman and Reford.