Revisiting Movies–A Top Film List


It’s been a while. Recent movies have tended to be loud, formulaic, preadvertised (trailers usually give away all of a film’s essentials), very commercial, flawed, dumb, crass, pointless, and geared toward What Faulkner called “the glands” and the lowest common denominator. That said, I enjoyed All is Lost (reviewed in a recent blog entry), Branagh’s Macbeth (a filmed live performance), and movies from the past five years like The Social Network, Barney’s Version, and The King’s Speech.

I taught film in my classes–works like Citizen Kane, Dr. Strangelove (which should have been included on the following list), and North by Northwest. Later, I did a three-year stint at Alberta Film Classification,  happily leaving in 2005 because 90% min. of films I saw were crap, flawed, and often very weak and limitedly commercial.

I used to be quite into film and amassed a collection I am very happy with of favorites and classics. After long absence, I came back to my list of movies yesterday and went through it, picking out films I consider to be great or classics. It is fairly obvious which directors have impressed the most–Welles, Huston, Allen, Godard, Coppolla, Kubrick, Lumet, Lean, and Hitchcock. Likewise, strong acting performances from the likes of Cary Grant, Welles, Bogart, Branagh, O’Toole, Newman, Kelly, Hopkins, to name a few. (For the record, favorite actresses have included Hepburn, Kerr, Binoche, Bergman, Davis, Thompson.)

As I peruse the list before printing it, it is obvious that I enjoy good scripts and writing, great character acting, certain moods and atmospheres, irony and wit, romance, real comedy (not that crap that comedy has become today), mystery and intrigue, good lines, dialogue, and conversation, great scenes/moments of being, and a wide range of beauty and truth as conveyed by film.

(ps/I will add that The Last Picture Show and Dr. Strangelove should have been included in the original draft.)

-All About Eve–incredibly witty ’50s comedy with numerous great performances, best of all by George Sanders & Bette Davis. Ironic, cynical views of relationships and theatre.

-a Hitchcock–Psycho, unquestionably. But Rear Window, Frenzy, Vertigo, and North by Northwest are all worth the viewing time, too.

-a Woody Allen–Love and Death (riotous take on 19th century Russia), Midnight in Paris or Annie Hall

The Best Years of Our Lives— 3 post WWII relationships; “Love conquers all”

-a Godard–either Breathless (which takes apart the romance conventions) or Pierrot le Fou which breaks nearly every movie convention

Playtime–Jacques Tati’s comic masterpiece; one of the great French films; a childlike humor

Casablanca–corny and omnipresent, but great performances and lines; a romance classic

Citizen Kane–light years ahead of its time in so many departments; Welles` best

Crash–the 2005 AA winner–amazing cross-section of couples and performances–incredibly ironic and powerful; fearless politically incorrectness with many truths

Don`t Look Now–Nicholas Roeg`s dark classic– a thriller with spooky atmosphere galore; incredible cinematography

Godfather II–still the best of the 3–Pacino`s best and amazing cross-cutting between a family`s past and present

A Hard Day`s Night–all the fun that the Beatles once were and represented; the 1st significant young person`s ‘musical’ on film–should have won an AA for the music

Henry V (Branagh)–came from out of nowhere; still powerful, maybe the most powerful Shakespeare on film; a resonant atmospheric film

In the Heat of the Night–for the performances of Steiger and Poitier–their relationship; film captures how it was in the mid-60s down south; a breakthru film on race and race relations, made by Canada’s top filmmaker Norman Jewison

Lawrence of Arabia–best seen in a widescreen theatre–epic atmosphere bigtime; and 3 nutcases at play–Lean (the director), O`Toole (the lead) and Lawrence; stunning music and atmosphere

The Maltese Falcon–very witty, sarcastic, cynical John Huston flick–Bogart`s best as Sam Spade; top film noir ever–numerous plot twists and mystery

My Dinner with Andre–proof that 2 guys talking could be more interesting than 80% of the films that have been made. About ideas, consciousness, choices.

-an Altman–Nashville or Short Cuts–both with large casts and multiple intersecting plots. Ironic and funny social commentary. Strong use of music and improv scenes

-a Redford family film–Ordinary People (best film about dysfunctional family and a modern teen) or A River Runs Through It (a brother study–Brad Pitt`s best as Redford ringer appearance-wise)

-(one guilty pleasure entry in passing) Neil Simon`s The Out-of-Towners–Jack Lemmon & Sandy Dennis`s best as a couple visiting NY for whom all goes wrong–very funny

Remains of the Day–another 2 character/actor piece: Hopkins and Thompson`s best (a close Hopkins` 2nd best–Shadowlands)

Singin`in the Rain–best musical comedy

2001: A Space Odyssey–huge when it came out–mostly for the cinematography and mood; man vs. machine`s top movie moment–see on widescreen; amazing end sequence

The Third Man–Welles` best, charismatic role–he makes evil attractive and very likable! Great cinematography & score. The sewer & ferris wheel scenes are bigtime classics.

The Verdict–great performances–Newman, Rampling & others; great Boston atmosphere; directed by the great Sidney Lumet; study of alcoholic lawyer in the trial of his life against all odds (a close Lumet second–Dog day Afternoon)

-Wings of Desire–very different; the black & white cinematography is a knockout; Falk steals the show unexpectedly in a movie convention breakdown; captures the pain, suffering and angst of humanity as well as the glorious possibilities of love

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