The Redbox Report - Top 5 Black and White Films

Published: Mar 04, 2014 15:30pm EST
By Bob Phelan, Movie Critic for Konsume Entertainment

Please Note: This article was updated Mar 04, 2014 @ 03:45pm EST


Everybody in America recognizes the term Redbox. The movie dispensing kiosks are almost at every corner. If you see a McDonald’s or pretty much any convenience store then there’s a good chance you'll be able to easily find one. And if you don't know what a Redbox is, what are you doing with your life? They're amazing! A cheap, easy way to catch up on the latest DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Sure they usually get new releases a few weeks after they're available for purchase but in most cases its worth the wait.

That’s where I come in. My brother-in-law and I have been recording a movie podcast for a little over a year called 'The Redbox Report'. To go along with reviewing the week's biggest Redbox releases, taking turns recommending a movie the other hasn't seen to review, going over the weeks movie news, and talking about what else we watched, we also do a top five list in conjunction with one of the movies we review. With Nebraska being released last week we counted down our top five movies shot in black and white. While Nebraska was an authentic, funny, and sometimes sad portrayal of a father and son relationship it didn't quite make my list.

But here’s what did.


1. Raging Bull

I recently created a list over at the great movie website Letterboxd of my top 100 movies of all time and Raging Bull came in at number 19. Its my favorite film by the great Martin Scorcese and the best performance of living legend Robert DeNiro, although I haven't seen any of The Godfather trilogy (blasphemy! I know... I'll be correcting that). Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty are also fantastic in supporting roles. The story of successful boxer but troubled man Jake LaMotta is shot in beautiful black and white cinematography. Although made in 1980 I couldn't imagine the film being in color. The almost cartoonish boxing violence is contradicted by the shockingly realistic real world violence. If you haven't seen this film its easily available on Netflix streaming. I'd recommend checking it out.


2. 12 Angry Men

I am of course talking about the original 1957 version of the film, Sidney Lumet's directorial debut. A great ensemble cast helps magnify the positives and negatives of the judicial system while telling the story of an all white jury deliberating on whether a minority youth is guilty of murder or not. It also gets at racism that while improved is still far too prevalent in our society. Lumet really makes the basically one set work. You feel the discomfort and claustrophobia of the jurors as the room somehow feels smaller and smaller as the movie goes on.


3. The Apartment

Jack Lemon is amazing in this all time classic. A relatable, likeable average joe who takes advantage of a situation where he can work his way up the ladder at work by allowing his superiors to use his apartment as a place to take their mistresses. That doesn't sound very likeable but Lemon gets at all sides of the character, making you take a look at yourself to see if you would do the same thing. Shirley MacLaine is great as the love interest and the film works well as both a drama and a comedy. The beautiful black and white cinematography is on full display as well. This is another one that is readily available on Netflix streaming.


4. The Hustler

Another classic, this time with Paul Newman shining through with the fantastic lead performance. Newman plays a pool hustler who gets ambitious trying to take down Minnesota Fats, played wonderfully by Jackie Gleason. It follows the ups and downs of his life during this stretch of time including a love affair with Piper Laurie's character. The romance portion of the movie doesn't hold up as well for me but that is overshadowed by the excellent hustling scenes. Youth and raw talent can take you far but The Hustler would have you believe that there’s much more to it than that. And I can't argue.


5. Clerks

I could've went a number of different ways with this pick but I wanted to give a nod to a modern film that chose to use the black and white aesthetic. Clerks is the Kevin Smith comedy that helped lead Miramax to break through in the cinema landscape. The witty dialogue and authentic depiction of young adult male friendship (especially working at a convenience store) carries the picture, and it has to with the minimal budget. That budget might be a significant reason that the movie was shot without color but I couldn't imagine it any other way. Clerks 2 was alright but something felt off with the bright colors. If he ever makes Clerks 3 I would hope he decides to go back to the style of the original.


Honorable Mentions: Manhattan, Frances Ha, Following, Pi, Nebraska


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Bob Phelan
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