This week's DVD picks are The Hustler and The 25th Hour.
The Hustler (released in 1961 by 20th Century Fox) – This film was the world’s introduction to the character of “Fast Eddie” Felson, the pool playing hustler which eventually won Paul Newman an Oscar in the “sequel”, The Color of Money. Newman was better in this film.
Felson is a great pool player and a compulsive gambler who doesn’t know when to quit. He plays the pool legend “Minnesota Fats” and ends up gambing away the money he had previously won. Felson follows that up with the hustle of a local pool shark that leaves him with two broken thumbs. Finally, he ends up in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby where Eddie plays a match in billiards, not pool. Eddie loses badly.
The Hustler received nine Academy Award nominations and maintains a lofty 97% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is part of the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress and was named by the American Film Institute as the sixth best classic American film in the sports genre.
The 25th Hour (released in 2002 by Touchstone Pictures) – This Spike Lee “joint” is about a drug dealer spending his last free day before going to prison. Edward Norton plays the lead character as he takes a nostalgic journey through his old haunts. The journey is actually a reflection on a life of delivering misery.
The journey leads to a scene in an apartment overlooking Ground Zero. It was a tough image to see just over a year after the attack but the comparison was effective. The friends and family of Monty, the lead character, also mirror his revelation as they confront some of their own demons. Betrayal, lust and deceit are all dealt with through Monty’s relationships. Through his looming incarceration, Monty actually sees a higher sense of morality that his friends and family have yet to experience. This is one of Spike Lee’s best.
It is finally warming up in Louisville so between going to the park and watching basketball, find time for one or both of these movies. Feel free to drop me a line about your thoughts or suggest a future DVD at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great weekend.