Ebert’s Greats: Leaving Las Vegas & 49 Up

List Item: Watch Roger Ebert’s “The Great Movies”
Progress: 176/409 Title: Leaving Las Vegas
Director: Mike Figgis
Year: 1995
Country: USA

Leaving Las Vegas is one of those movies that many people seem to hold up on internet forums when they are trying to defend Nicolas Cage as an actor. Until now the only films where I saw him in a proper role were Adaptation. and Moonstruck (I have seen Raising Arizona but I really don’t rate it too highly). Having watched Leaving Las Vegas I can add this to the list since he is able to bring a lot of sympathy to his character of Ben; a self-destructive alcoholic seeking to drink himself to death in Sin City.

Alongside Cage’s character of Ben is the love-interest of the film; Sera, a prostitute whose career is not exactly going well (then again there are not many films which feature a happy and successful prostitute). Sera is another character which, like Ben, is pretty much a stock-fictional character, but her sensitive portrayal by Elisabeth Shue makes her a truly engaging character.

In terms of plot there is not much to this film and it stands as an interesting character study of a doomed romance between characters so damaged and unable to change that heartbreak is inevitable. Yet, somehow when things reach their inevitable conclusion there is a strange beauty to the thing. I am left wondering, however, about her fate after the film’s conclusion.

49up3Title: 49 Up
Director: Michael Apted
Year: 2005
Country: UK

I had made it a bit of a mission about two years ago to start watching the Up series of movies since I would like to see the next edition (63 Up!) when it comes out with all the previous editions locked in my memory banks (not that you’d need it seeing how about 15% of the movie is composed of recaps and looking over the older footage).

For the uninitiated, the Up series are films that come out every seven years where they check  in on the life of the same group of people, the first edition taking place all the way back in 1964.

What’s interesting about 49 Up versus 42 Up is how most of the subjects have now become self-aware of how they are being perceived and how the editing might be altering the truth. It’s just fascinating how these films have altered from a political leaning, to a personal leaning to a far more meta aspect. The great joy of these films is just watching how they have been changing over the years.


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