Friday, May 29, 2009

The Inevitable List

Just before I went on vacation, I got an email from Iain Stott at The One-Line Review inviting me to participate in one of those periodic "best of" lists. He asked for a list of fifty films, but allowed that that might be too few, and suggested a range of fifty to a hundred films. List making isn't really in my constitution--any list I might construct is subject to change at a whim--so I provided him with a mid-range list in alphabetical order. Listing is one thing. Ranking is another thing all together. THAT, I cannot do. In any event, here's the list I provided, arranged alphabetically:

  • Ace in the Hole (1951, directed by Billy Wilder)
  • All About My Mother (1999, directed by Pedro Almodovar)
  • Attack! (1956, directed by Robert Aldrich
  • Awaara (1951, directed by Raj Kapoor)
  • Begone Dull Care (1949, directed by Evelyn Lambart and Norman McLaren)
  • The Big Sleep (1946, directed by Howard Hawks)
  • Black Narcissus (1947, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)
  • Black Rain (1989, directed by Shohei Imamura)
  • Casque d'Or (1952, directed by Jacques Becker)
  • Cat People (1942, directed by Jacques Tourneur)
  • Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974, directed by Jacques Rivette)
  • Chimes at Midnight (1965, directed by Orson Welles)
  • Closely Watched Trains (1966, directed by Jirí Menzel)
  • The Conformist (1970, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci)
  • The Conversation (1974, directed by Francis Ford Coppola)
  • Cries and Whispers (1972, directed by Ingmar Bergman)
  • Dead Ringers (1988, directed by David Cronenberg)
  • Duck Amuck (1953, directed by Chuck Jones)
  • Duck Soup (1933, directed by Leo McCarey)
  • Eyes Without a Face (1960, directed by Georges Franju)
  • Fires on the Plain (1959, directed by Kon Ichikawa)
  • Forbidden Games (1952, directed by Rene Clement)
  • Frankenstein (1931, directed by James Whale)
  • Girl Shy (1924, directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor)
  • The Gleaners and I (2000, directed by Agnes Varda)
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966, directed by Sergio Leone)
  • The Grave of the Fireflies (1988, directed by Isao Takahata)
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, directed by John Cameron Mitchell)
  • High Sierra (1940, directed by Raoul Walsh)
  • The Human Condition (1959-1961, directed by Masaki Kobayashi)
  • In a Glass Cage (1987, directed by Agustí Villaronga)
  • In the Mood for Love (2000, directed by Wong Kar Wai)
  • The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, directed by Don Siegel)
  • The Invisible Man (1933, directed by James Whale)
  • Jackie Brown (1997, directed by Quentin Tarantino)
  • King Kong (1933, directed by Ernest Shoedsak and Merian C. Cooper)
  • The Land of Silence and Darkness (1971, directed by Werner Herzog)
  • The Last Life in the Universe (2003, directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang)
  • Leave Her to Heaven (1945, directed by John M. Stahl)
  • The Leopard (1963, directed by Luchino Visconti)
  • M (1931, directed by Fritz Lang)
  • The Man in the White Suit (1951, directed by Alexander Mackendrick)
  • Man of the West (1958, directed by Anthony Mann)
  • Manji (1964, directed by Yasuzo Masumura)
  • Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, directed by Maya Deren)
  • My Brilliant Career (1979, directed by Gillian Armstrong)
  • The Night of the Hunter (1955, directed by Charles Laughton)
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968, directed by George A. Romero)
  • Only Angels Have Wings (1939, directed by Howard Hawks)
  • Out of the Past (1948, directed by Jacques Tourneur)
  • Pandora's Box (1929, directed by G. W. Pabst)
  • Pinocchio (1940, directed by Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen)
  • Rififi (1955, directed by Jules Dassin)
  • Rocco and his Brothers (1960, directed by Luchino Visconti)
  • Running Fence (1978, directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin)
  • The Searchers (1958, directed by John Ford)
  • Seven Samurai (1955, directed by Akira Kurosawa)
  • Seventh Heaven (1928, directed by Frank Borzage)
  • Singin' in the Rain (1953, directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen)
  • Some Like it Hot (1958, directed by Billy Wilder)
  • The Spirit of the Beehive (1974, directed by Victor Erice)
  • Stagecoach (1939, directed by John Ford)
  • Sunrise (1928, directed by F. W. Murnau)
  • Sweet Smell of Success (1957, directed by Alexander Mackendrick)
  • Take Care of My Cat (2001, directed by Jae-eun Jeong)
  • The Terrorist (1999, directed by Santosh Sivan)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, directed by Tobe Hooper)
  • To Be or Not To Be (1942, directed by Ernst Lubitsch)
  • Touch of Evil (1958, directed by Orson Welles)
  • A Touch of Zen (1969, directed by King Hu)
  • Unforgiven (1992, directed by Clint Eastwood)
  • The Unknown (1927, directed by Tod Browning)
  • Videodrome (1981, directed by David Cronenberg)
  • Viridiana (1961, directed by Luis Bunuel)
  • The Wild Bunch (1969, directed by Sam Peckinpah)
Obviously, there are some old chestnuts in there that make most of these kinds of lists, while there are also some films that are idiosyncratic choices. I had a couple of things in mind while I was constructing this. One: I wanted to include animation. Two: I wanted to have at least a few short films. Three: I wanted to list favorites rather than movies that I merely esteem as "great." Which isn't to say that I don't think my choices ARE great--I think that they are--but I wasn't going to arbitrarily list Citizen Kane when there are two other movies by Orson Welles that I enjoy watching more (and I LOVE Citizen Kane, don't get me wrong). And, clearly, the seventy-five films I've listed above are insufficient. I could provide such a list without straying outside the confines of the horror movie (I've resisted that impulse, but it might have been fun). In general, these kinds of lists say more about the list-maker than they do about the films themselves. For my part, a couple of entries reflect the fact that I've seen them recently. Out of sight, out of mind, after all.

In any event, Iain will publish his compendium sometime in July or August. I'll be interested to see what other lists look like (I've already seen a couple of them).


Anonymous said...

Oh, how very little my (potential) list would overlap! Maybe a half dozen titles or so. :D

The one that surprises me the most is The Land of Silence and Darkness... could you elaborate? I'm intrigued.


Vulnavia Morbius said...

The Land of Silence and Darkness was the movie that really gave me an appetite for documentaries. Prior to it, I had no idea that docs had the scope for personal expression that fiction had. Plus, I thought it was tremendously moving. It's still my favorite Herzog film.

Deborah said...

I applaud you for making room for a documentary as well.

Many I haven't seen, many I love, although I've never attempted to make such a list, so I'm not sure how much they'd overlap (not much).

Like you, when making lists (SHORTER ones) I go for favorites rather than "best," and I don't think I'd ever list Citizen Kane. I tend to list movies I feel affection rather than admiration for. Some of my favorite movies are more objectively flawed than other movies I love less.

As an example, CHASING AMY is a movie I have enormous affection for, it means a great deal to me. It is also enormously flawed, and by no means great, but I think if I made such a list it would end up on it.

Anonymous said...

I liked Land of Silence... a lot as well, though my favorite Herzog remains Signs of Life (not that I've seen many, mind you). Did I ever mention on IMDb that I met Mr. Herzog not long ago? The whole crew for his latest movie stayed at my hotel while they were shooting in San Diego. We even got to be extras on our days off!

Btw, I love, love, love the inclusion of Celine et Julie, Meshes of the Afternoon and Only Angels Have Wings. It kinda makes me want to compile my own list...


Vulnavia Morbius said...

Hi, Deborah. I love documentaries. Our local film festival is a documentary fest, so I get to see a lot of them. I can't resist including them, just as I can't resist including short films. I might be inclined to list Citizen Kane on alternating Thursdays. Ditto Casablanca.

Jesse: I hope your experience on a Herzog set wasn't like The Burden of Dreams. That stuff was crazy. Meshes of the Afternoon is one of my favoritest things in the world. So is Celine et Julie. And Only Angels Have Wings is one of those films I can't take my eyes off of when it shows up on television. It's mesmerizing. I'd love to see a list of your own.

Deborah said...

Casablanca is a genuine favorite for me on all levels.

Netflix has revealed the world of documentaries to me. I think Murderball and Trembling Before G-d, at least, would make a favorites list.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

I loved Murderball. When it showed at the True/False a couple of years ago, the directors brought a couple of murderball teams with them and they staged an exhibition after the movie for anyone who wanted to see it. It was cool.

I liked Trembling Before G_d, but I had trouble entering the mindset of the people in the film, so I didn't love it. While I'm on the GLBT spectrum myself (boy howdy, AM I), I've never felt guilty about it. And I don't have a religious bone in my body, so as I was watching it, I kept thinking: "Why don't you people just leave? You'd be MUCH happier." Not very sympathetic, I know, but I just don't understand why anyone would adhere to a religion that hates what you are. Still, these are my issues, and really shouldn't reflect on the film itself, which is really good.

I love Casablanca, too, but at this point, it doesn't need champions. I mean, I'm deeply suspicious of anyone who doesn't love Casablanca because I have a deep suspicion that such people just don't love movies. Still, I DID include Singin' in the Rain--about which I think similar thoughts--so maybe I'm completely full of it. I wouldn't rule out the possibility.


Anyway, thanks for the conversation. It's always fun talking to you.