The Sting (1973)

2016 #127
George Roy Hill | 129 mins | Blu-ray | 1.85:1 | USA / English | PG / PG

The StingSet in Chicago during the Great Depression, The Sting follows a young street-level con artist (Robert Redford) as he seeks revenge for his murdered partner by teaming up with a seasoned big-con pro (Paul Newman) to scam the mob boss responsible (Robert Shaw).

If that sounds like a somewhat violent crime movie… well, it kinda is. Although The Sting is often billed as a caper, sometimes even as a comedy (look at those grinning mugs on the poster!), it actually has more of an edge. I mean, it’s not The Godfather, but it’s not Ocean’s Eleven either. The star power and chemistry of Redford and Newman are what give the movie a buoyancy to overcome the storyline’s inherent darkness, though I wouldn’t say that reaches far enough to regard the film as a romp, which is the impression I’d obtained over the years.

Indeed, I wonder if it suffers from its age more broadly. Not because the filmmaking quality has dated (they may not make ’em like this anymore, but great filmmaking is timeless), but because it was so influential that it’s been copied to death. It still has a lot of points to commend it, but the heist — the driving force of the plot — lacks freshness to modern eyes. Newness is not the be-all-and-end-all, of course, but the con only really comes to life in a flurry of last-minute twists… most of which have also been copied ad nauseam, of course.

The Sting is certainly not a bad movie — and, for all my talk of it being mercilessly copied, it did manage to con me in a couple of places — but it wasn’t exactly what I’d anticipated. Perhaps I’ll like it more on some future re-watch.

4 out of 5

The Sting was viewed as part of my What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…? 2016 project, which you can read more about here.

The Perfectly Adequate Monthly Update for July 2016

Another month over, another list of movies I watched during it…


#116 Zootropolis (2016), aka Zootopia
#117 Superman Returns (2006)
#118 Cold in July (2014)
#119 American Ultra (2015)
#120 Ten Little Indians (1974), aka And Then There Were None
#121 Zoolander (2001)
#122 Pride and Prejudice (1940)
#123 High-Rise (2015)
#124 The Visit (2015)
#125 The Imitation Game (2014)
#126 Sicario (2015)
#127 The Sting (1973)

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  • A total of 12 new films this month means I maintain my ten-per-month minimum for the 26th month.
  • It also easily passes my July average (6.5, by far the lowest of any month), and is equal-best July ever (with last year).
  • It’s the ‘worst’ month of 2016 to date, though.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS viewing was classic con caper The Sting, which is still enjoyable but somewhat overshadowed by the fact it’s been so influential in the four decades since its release.
  • Zootastic: watched both Zoolander and Zootropolis, aka Zootopia, this month. That signifies absolutely nothing, it’s just there aren’t that many films with titles beginning “Zoo”.

(I’ve decided to put a moratorium on the Analysis section until at least December’s update — as I wrote in June, it’s a bit pointless at the minute. That’s why relevant stats & stuff are now included in this part.)



The 14th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Although it has the shortest list of any month so far this year, it was a pretty strong one quality-wise — a ‘problem’ that afflicts both these first two categories, of course. Despite there being several strong contenders, I’m going to come down in favour of twisty, surprising neo-noir Cold in July.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
There were films this month that weren’t as great as I was hoping, to one degree or another (High-Rise, The Sting), and others that lived up to my moderate-to-low expectations just fine (American Ultra, Zoolander), but none that were outright bad. So the unlucky winner is Ten Little Indians, for being a word-for-word remake (of the ’60s version) that isn’t quite as good as its predecessor.

Most Blatant Author Surrogate of the Month
Jesse Eisenberg’s lead character in American Ultra feels like it’s just screenwriter Max Landis going, “hey, what if it turned out I was Jason Bourne…”

Film Most Deserving of a TV Spin-off Series of the Month
I know I already mentioned this in my review, but I really would devote some of my precious TV-viewing time to a Zootropolis Zootopia Zootropolis spin-off… if it was one of those kids’ shows that’s so well written it works for an adult viewer too, of course. I guess the detailed animation required to realise that world is cost-prohibitive to this ever happening, though.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
A first, here: the most-viewed new post last month was the review of the month before that; i.e. The Independent Monthly Update for June 2016. Maybe it was my Brexit joke; maybe it was Deadpool; who can say?



This month: child hitmen, magical nannies, Shakespeare with big cats, and a really long walk to return some unwanted jewellery.


Summer! I hate summer. On the bright side, it means winter is coming… eventually…

Blindspot: What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…? 2016

If you read enough blogs, you’ve probably seen Blind Spot lists/projects/whatever manifesting on them over the last week. For readers who don’t know what this Blindspot* thing is, it’s essentially “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen” by another name. For readers who don’t know what “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen” is, it’s essentially Blindspot with a more idiosyncratic name.

And if you have no idea what any of these words mean, I shall explain: you pick 12 films you’ve never seen but really want to / feel you should have / etc, then spend the next year watching one per month.

First: my 12 picks, in order of must-see-ness. Then, a few interesting (maybe) facts about them. After that, I’ll tell you how I picked them.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest




Grave of the Fireflies





The Pianist





12 Years a Slave





Barry Lyndon





Ben-Hur





The Maltese Falcon





Snatch.





The Sting





The Iron Giant





The Deer Hunter





Howl’s Moving Castle




A few facts about this year’s 12:

  • There’s a spread of 72 years between the oldest (The Maltese Falcon, 1941) and newest (12 Years a Slave, 2013). The latter is the most recent film I’ve yet included on WDYMYHS.
  • The 1970s make up 33% of the list. The 2000s are next with 25%. There’s one film apiece from the 1940s, 1950s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s.
  • The total listed running time is 27 hours and 3 minutes, making the average length of a film 2 hours and 15 minutes.
  • 58% of the list are over 2 hours long; 25% are over 3 hours! Only two are under 90 minutes.
  • The shortest is The Iron Giant (86 minutes), the longest is Ben-Hur (212 minutes).
  • Just one film this year is in black & white (it was 50/50 last year).
  • Just two aren’t originally in English… but as they’re anime, there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll watch them with the English dub anyhow.
  • This year features only the third animated film to make it in to WDYMYHS… and the fourth… and the fifth. Previously animation has made up 5.6% of WDYMYHS titles. This year it’s 25%.

Whereas other people just seem to choose their films, I have to turn it into A System. (I’m the guy who posts 3,000 words of statistics about his own viewing every year — what did you expect?) I must admit that I was feeling a bit uninspired this year though, so my system is nothing like as complicated as the last two years (which you can read about here and here, if you like).

Essentially, I decided I fancied achieving some more awards on iCheckMovies. So I looked at all the lists I was getting close on — “close” in this case being any with 12 or fewer films to the next award (because of the 12 films on this list, y’see). That came to 43 lists. 43! Going through them, I noted down any unseen films that I own or have ready access to. That came to 209 films, of which 110 were on more than one list. Even with 43 lists, the most prolific film (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) was on just 9, which I guess is testament to the randomness and wide-ranging spread of lists I was using.

Such low ‘scores’ meant the films were all ranked quite close together, so I also threw in that grand arbiter of film quality popularity, the IMDb Top 250, to see if it shook out a top 12. And, with the implementation of some familiar WDYMYHS rules, it did. Said rules were: no repeat directors (ta-ra, Amadeus and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind!), and that a WDYMYHS film I failed to see isn’t allowed on the next year’s list (cheerio, Princess Mononoke and City of God!)

At first I wasn’t quite sure about these selections, but having sat with them for a bit I feel better about them. As a whole group, they’re perhaps a bit more… mainstream (for want of a better word), and less quirky (for want of a better word), than my systems have generated in the past few years. Maybe that’s just a matter of perspective, though: there are two anime movies on there, and, though they’re both Studio Ghibli, I don’t know that we can call anime “mainstream” even now.

Anyway, there they are. Hopefully I’ll do better than 75% this year. Even if I don’t, getting round to seeing some of these is better than not getting round to any.


* No one can seem to agree if it’s one word or two. Regular readers will know how much this bugs me. ^