Monday, August 15, 2011

Battle of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1973

                                    [now you see it-now you don't]

Robert Redford and Paul Newman; there really is no dreamier movie star duo.

Newman has since left the building (R.I.P) and Redford tends to work more behind the camera these days, either directing or running Sundance, but anyone in the mood to honor their glory days should look no further than the Best Picture Winner of 1973.

Either one has never laid on more charm, or utter swoon-worthiness, than when the two teamed up playing old fashioned hustlers, who are trying to pull off the ultimate grift, in The Sting.

Back in the 1930's, criminals were all about slight of hand, pick-pocketing, and no-good card cheats; they had to use their charm and be quick on their feet to come up with elaborate schemes and hoaxes that could con any loaded gentlemen out of a couple bucks, or if they played their cards right, a few million bucks.

Redford plays the younger, less experienced buck ("he has plenty of moxie"), who, out of revenge for his fallen criminal partner, teams up with the wise Newman, to take down one of the richest and evilest men in Chicago.

Their plan will not be as simple as they dream, especially as Redford's character, after pickpocketing the wrong man, is being trailed by a private detective, and the police start sniffing out their scheme as a whole.

From beginning to end the audience believes they are part of the sting, that we are with the cool kids on the inside. Ultimately, we don't know anything, and it turns out that we were just along for the ride.

During a building block scheme, that leads to their bigger con, Newman unexpectedly transforms a losing poker hand, into the best hand of the night, which wins him a big pot of winnings. We, as the audience, are dumbfounded just like the other losers at the table; how did he do it?

Much like a magician, the best criminals never reveal their secrets, and The Sting plays that up perfectly.

This idea, and the overall old fashioned feel of the movie, only creates an enthralling plot where the audience becomes part of the game-we feel like we are in Chicago during the 30's, and they are trying to trick us just as much as the other characters in the film. 

Even in the last minute, when it seems like all has been told, the movie closes with a slight feeling that there are still many secrets being kept.

Modern movies, like Oceans 11, owe their existence to The Sting. Anyone who enjoys that Pitt and Clooney collaboration, will thoroughly love watching Redford and Newman in its classic predecessor.

The 1970's Oscar train of greatness barrels on. Next Up: The Godfather: Part 2.

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