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The Magnificent Seven


USA Director: John Sturges Producer: John Sturges Screenwriter: William Roberts Cinematographer: Charles Lang Jr. Editor: Ferris Webster


Cast: Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter 1960/color/128 min.


If you’re seeking the link between the darkly intense horse operas of the late 1950s and the down-and-dirty spaghetti Westerns of the mid-1960s, look no further than The Magnificent Seven, John Sturges’s enduringly popular and influential 1960 action/adventure about hired guns who get a shot at redemption—and at the rapacious bandits who terrorize the Mexican farmers they’re employed to protect.


With an Akira Kurosawa masterwork—1954’s Seven Samurai—as his inspiration and a posse of rising stars in his cast, Sturges established the template for countless sequels, homages and unauthorized knock-offs. But the original, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, remains uniquely satisfying, being at once a rousingly old-fashioned tale of tarnished heroes who remain courageous under fire and a thoughtfully revisionist meditation on the ways of men who live by their guns.


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Chris Adams (Yul Brynner), the man in black who is first among equals, has few illusions about what sets him and his confederates apart from lesser mortals: “It’s only a matter of knowing how to shoot a gun. Nothing big about that.” Trouble is, such expertise is in short supply among the farmers whose remote village is repeatedly plundered by bandit leader Calvera (Eli Wallach). And so, at a time when “gunmen are cheaper than guns,” Adams can afford to assemble six straight-shooters—played by Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Horst Buchholz and Brad Dexter—to help him even the odds in favor of the farmers. In the end, the meek really do inherit the earth. But their protectors are the ones who pay the price for being in a class by themselves.


Introduced by Joe Leydon, Variety


Trainspotting


UK Director: Danny Boyle Producer: Andrew MacDonald Screenwriter: John Hodge Cinematographer: Brian Tufano Editor: Masahiro Hirakubo


Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Kelly Macdonald, Robert Carlyle 1996/color/94 min.


It’s hard to believe nearly 15 years have passed since director Danny Boyle burst onto the filmmaking scene with his gonzo adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s cult novel (brilliantly adapted by frequent Boyle collaborator John Hodge), fostering an amazing performance by a then-unknown actor named Ewan McGregor. Boyle and McGregor had teamed up on the amazingly tight, pitch-black thriller Shallow Grave just two years prior, but it was with Trainspotting that they left an indelible imprint.


Boyle follows the misadventures of feisty young punk Renton (McGregor), whose days in the musty slums of Edinburgh become numbered when he decides to try and kick a heroin habit—despite the fact that he doesn’t know who he is if not an addict. Of course, sobriety has some side effects of its own—felt equally by his close-knit pack of friends, played with gusto by up-and-coming actors Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly Macdonald, Ewan Bremner and the wonderfully acidic Robert Carlyle. They’re all fine and dandy living the low life, so why does Renton have to go and suss it all up?


Incorporating a perfect soundtrack that sets the mood no less thoroughly than that of Pulp Fiction, Boyle created some of the most memorable moments in cult cinema (Renton’s dive into a filthy toilet comes to mind) and helped capture the imagination of a disillusioned generation in dire need of an antihero. He gave them that and more in a movie with its own lust for life, screening as part of The Watching Hour.


—KEITH GARCIA


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