Playing the Indian Card

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Movies: Some Personal Favourites

This is a list of movies that have struck me as especially worthwhile. I do not claim this to be a list of the best movies of all time. After all, I haven't seen everything, and I find it too boring to put titles here that virtually everyone acknowledges are great, unless they really did strongly move me personally. My hope is instead that I may turn someone on to a really good movie they had overlooked.

And to remind myself that film really can be art. These days, with what is coming out of Hollywood, it is hard to remember.

  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? Nobody does Americana better than the Coens. Best soundtrack ever.
  • Fargo. Saw it in Korea with subtitles.
  • The Big Lebowski. The Coens' take on the modern West. Nice ferret. Liked it so much I had to read the screenplay.
  • The Princess Bride. Everybody loves it now, which is disappointing. There was a time I thought I was the only one who knew.

  • Pennies from Heaven. This may be my favourite movie of all time. Saying anything would be a spoiler.
  • The Birds. Disliked it first time. Now I think it is Hitchcock's best. Best part is the scene outside the school with the children singing inside. Why is it so ominous? The best thing about The Birds as a whole is that nothing is explained.
  • The Grave of the Fireflies.Shows why I think animation is the pinnacle of film as art. 
  • Howl's Moving Castle. Hang the story. I love it as pure visual art. 

  • O What a Lovely War! Best thing, of course, is the soundtrack. I'm a sucker for musicals. The more multi the media the better.
  • No Country for Old Men. I'm a little reluctant to include it, because everyone thinks so. Still, I think it might be the definitive picture of the soul of America in film.
  • Gettysburg. My candidate for the best war movie ever. Accurate historical reenactment.
  • True Grit (Cohen Bros.). Can't get it out of my mind. Single-handedly revives the Western as a living genre. Cinematography rules.

  • The Magnificent Ambersons. Overshadowed by Citizan Kane, but I like it better personally. An American epic.
  • Culloden. My candidate for best documentary ever. Often imitated since, mever matched.
  • Paths of Glory. Not the best war movie ever; the best courtroom drama.
  • O Lucky Man! When I saw this at twenty, I thought it explained the universe. I love coming of age films.

  • High Noon. I saw this in early childhood, and it marked me for life. It demonstrates the full power of the classic unities. Another essential American tale.
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I am told it is better as a play. It's the verbal jousting that makes it.
  • Bonnie and Clyde. Saw this three times in rapid succession. The full impact is hard to appreciate now, because it has been imitated by everybody.
  • Full Metal Jacket. Powerful war film, great Sixties soundtrack, but perhaps best understood as a film about love.
  • Rope. Another great argument for the classic unities. White knuckles all the way.

  • Dial M for Murder. And another. A Chinese box.
  • Polanski's MacBeth. Best take on Shakespeare ever. None of the usual stuffiness. Nor of the silly trendiness of "modernising." 
  • Dog Day Afternoon. Another one that is close to the classic unities. So crazy it could only be true.
  • 90 Days. A little NFB film that I expect few have noticed. Innovative and very human.

  • Pleasantville. Loved it so much I read the screenplay. An oblique parable of growing up.
  • Eyes Wide Shut. Much derided, I think it is Kubrick's final statement. The casting sucks, but the soundtrack is great and the film leaves you with much to think about.
  • Lolita (Kubrick). Powerful portrait of guilt. Peter Sellers is transcendent.
  • American Pop. I love musicals and I love animation. A history of American music in cartoon. For me, irresistible, even though it's corny as heck.
  • The Shining. Wonderful camera work; debut of the steadicam. Kubrick does Hitchcock well.
  • The Lion King. Sure, everybody knows it is great, but adults without kids should make a point of watching it too. 

  • The Jungle Book (Disney). Relatively overlooked, Disney's last and perhaps his greatest. It kind of explains the Sixties, believe it or not. Great soundtrack, and the model for animation voice work. 
  • A Man for All Seasons. This one changed my life philosophy. Robert Bolt should have won a Nobel for Literature.

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