Thursday, January 08, 2009

Seventy Films

It's the time of year for Top Ten lists. While I'd like to contribute to this questionable activity, the truth is that I don't hear enough contemporary music or watch enough contemporary films or read enough current books to provide any meaningful summary.

Instead, I have decided to share my favourite films, spurred on by the inane list Stanley Fish volunteered for the New York Times. Restricting himself to "American" films, he chose only one from the eighties, one from the nineties and none from the last fifteen years. Perhaps more incredible is the complete absence of cinematic marvels from that great period of film-making in the USA, the seventies.

Unlike Fish, when I see a film I want it to pop out my eyeballs, tingle my cerebellum or choke my gut... preferably all three. I don't mind if it is incredible beautiful, deeply symbolic or indeed completely artificial... I am not scared by the intellect and realise that a film is a construct.

I came across Fish exercise in boredom courtesy of a blog entry at The Online Photographer. There Mike Johnston salutes this list for the strangest reason, to wit:
Some time ago I decided not to read any more "ten best movies" lists that contains Citizen Kane, a movie that never made it for me and seems to get included on most lists simply because it's been included on most lists—sort of the same reason why Charles Nelson Reilly was famous (because he was).

I think Charles Nelson Reilly was famous because he could be funny in four second sound-bites and was obviously gay at a time when you could not be on television.

But back to film. Johnston apparently thinks that all the film critics, movie lovers and film books of the world are wrong and that Citizen Kane has no intrinsic worth. Fascinating. (As Spock would say when encountering alien life.) He's also willing to disregard the other nine films on a writer's list because he disagrees with a single choice. Oh well, I guess that's why blogs exist: so people can post their myopic rants for everyone else. (This blog no exception!)

So I wrote up my own top film list, ending up with 70 entries. Imposing Fish's constraint, 27 of them are from the USA, more than any other country. Johnston will be happy that Citizen Kane is not among them. This is not because it's not an insanely great film, but only because I prefer The Trial and Touch Of Evil. I realised after compiling the list that I'd imposed some sort of filter on how many times I'd allow a particular director entry.

Any film that makes it to the list must be one I am willing to watch multiple times with wonder. Though there are a few I have rarely viewed, out of lack of opportunity. Maybe someday I'll see Knife in the Head and realise it is not a cinematic masterwork. But it likely is, Bruno Ganz being involved. There are others I avoid repeating since such experiences are too unbearable -- anything from Lars Von Trier, for example.

My list doesn't include Bergman, Fellini, Almodóvar, Antonioni, Eisenstein, Coppola, Fassbinder, Scorsese, Kurosawa or Lang. It's a list of my personal favourites, not what I think is "important". It shares only Vertigo with Fish's list.

Maybe it will spur you to write a blog entry of your own?

Sunrise (1927 Germany)
Un Chien Andalou (1929 France)
His Girl Friday (1940 USA)
Casablanca (1942 USA)
I Walked With a Zombie (1943 USA)
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943 USA)
Rear Window (1954 USA)
The Night of the Hunter (1955 USA)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 USA)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957 USA)
Touch of Evil (1958 USA)
À bout de souffle [AKA Breathless] (1960 France)
L'Année dernière à Marienbad [AKA Last Year in Marienbad] (1961 France)
La Jetée (1962 France)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962 USA)
The Trial [AKA Le Procès] (1962 France)
Dr Strangelove (1964 UK)
Soy Cuba [aka I Am Cuba] (1964 USSR)
Alphaville (1965 France)
Repulsion (1965 UK)
Wavelength (1967 Canada)
Quatermass and the Pit (1967 UK)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 UK)
Petulia (1968 UK)
Je T’aime, Je T’aime (1968 France)
THX 1138 (1970 USA)
Catch-22 (1970 USA)
The Hart of London (1970 Canada)
Solaris (1972 USSR)
Images (1972 UK/USA)
Badlands (1973 USA)
Spirit of the Beehive [AKA El Espíritu de la colmena] (1973 Spain)
Eraserhead (1977 USA)
The Last Wave (1977 Australia)
3 Women (1977 USA)
Knife in the Head [AKA Messer im Kopf] (1978 Germany)
The Shout (1978 UK)
Alien (1979 USA)
Koyaaniskatsi (1982 USA)
Blade Runner (1982 USA)
Videodrome (1983 Canada)
Local Hero (1983 UK)
Paris, Texas (1984 Germany)
Brazil (1985 UK)
The Sacrifice [AKA Offret] (1986 USSR)
A Chinese Ghost Story [AKA Sien nui yau wan] (1987 Hong Kong)
Wings of Desire (1987 Germany)
Barton Fink (1991 USA)
Until the End of the World (1991 Germany)
Hard Boiled [AKA Lat sau san taam] (1992 Hong Kong)
La Double vie de Véronique [AKA The Double Life Of Veronique] (1991 France/Poland)
Trois couleurs: Bleu [AKA Blue] (1993 France/Poland)
Trois couleurs: Rouge [AKA Red] (1994 France/Poland)
Exotica (1994 Canada)
Twelve Monkeys (1995 USA)
The End of Violence (1997 Germany)
The Sweet Hereafter (1997 Canada)
The Thin Red Line (1998 USA)
Last Night (1998 Canada)
Zentropa (1991 Denmark)
The Kingdom (1994 Denmark)
Gamera: Revenge of Iris [AKA Gamera 3: Iris kakusei] (1999 Japan)
Fight Club (1999 USA)
Dancer In the Dark (2000 Denmark)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000 USA)
Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain [AKA Amelie] (2001 France)
16 Years of Alcohol (2003 UK)
Omagh (2004 UK/Ireland)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004 USA)
A History of Violence (2005 Canada)

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4 comments:

Brittany Bell said...

Nice much!

robin said...

All About Eve (1950 USA)
Sunset Blvd (1950 USA)

Anonymous said...

Any film list that doesn't include Breakfast at Tiffany's and Some Like it Hot must be considered incomplete.
But thanks for excluding the ghastly Citizen Kane.

robin said...

Having since seen "Knife in the Head" twice more recently, I can only encourage everyone else to find it.

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