Wednesday, June 2, 2010

TOP TEN #1: MOVIES I CAN'T BELIEVE I HAVEN'T SEEN

THE TOP TEN BEGIN


I doubt you are as excited about this as I am. I have been compiling lists for years now, especially ones pertaining to film. I love lists. I love looking at ones others have constructed. I love compiling them myself. I love the resonance they evoke (their accessibility in terms of remembrance). Lists, especially ones with a ranked order (an onerous characteristic I will strive to employ) speak volumes. A list is a bold statement. A list claims consideration. A list works.

Anyone who has watched films with me or even talked about films with me (which is pretty much anyone who has talked more than a minute with me) will know how prone I am to bring up lists. Just the other day I was beseeching my cousin to check out "The Happiness of the Katakuris" and consequently I remarked, "It is one of the ten weirdest films ever made." Yes, I have such a list.

In my Film Tome, listing plays an essential role. I keep a list of all the films I can remember ever seeing. I have a list of the best films of all-time, each decade, each year, every genre (and sub-genre). Then there are dozens of more specific lists: birth scenes, helicopter moments, father-son movies, you name it! Truly the possibilities for lists are endless.

What I'm doing here today is beginning a new segment on The Film Tome Blog: the Top Tens. These are lists, each with a unique category, each with something different to prove. The films will be ranked from #10 to #1, but it should be remembered that even placing on a Top Ten is a reward. These lists are not limited to singular movies, it could be considering moments or scenes, characters in movies, actors, directors, etc. Rest assured the Top Tens in this Tome will all be film-related.

In my Top Tens don't expect a plot description of any particular film unless I feel it is necessary to expound why it made the list. Clearly, some things could be considered "spoilers," but usually nothing more than any research would reveal. Like many aspects, it will depend on each particular topic.

Allow me to briefly explain the format for this Top Ten: I'm counting down to #1. I list the name of the movie (and the year it was released), show a screenshot from the film, provide A&R* that the film has heretofore garnered, and then my explanation of why it gets a spot on my list.

*A&R? Appreciation & Recognition. This time around I'm proving A&R in the form of any of the three following sources: American Film Institute (AFI), Internet Movie Database (IMDb), and They Shoot Pictures Don't They (TSPDT). To keep things simple, I will reveal where the title being examined ranks among these three organization's list of the best films (if it ranks at all). For AFI (in regard to all movies American-made), their 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition), For IMDb, you guessed it, their infuriating and alluring Top 250. And for TSPDT, probably the least known of the trio, the current version of their impressive The 1,000 Greatest Films list.

* * *

So, with that winded (but necessary) intro concerning the Top Tens complete, I now give you the first list to be posted on The Film Tome Blog. And what better list than one that will further discredit me in your eyes as a worthy film scholar and lover? That's right folks, you read it here first, The Top Ten Movies I Can't Believe I Haven't Seen:

10. The Professional - 1994


A&R: IMDb #34

This one, more than any other on my list, has me wondering what all the hype is about. I say this mainly due to it's extremely high status on IMDb's Top 250. This praise along with such a captivating premise and also being Natalie Portman's motion picture debut (she was cast when just 11-years-old), "Léon" has piqued my curiosity for quite some time.

9. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - 1964


A&R: AFI #39, IMDb #31, TSPDT #33

I hope this movie is as good as it's title! This one has been hanging over my head for years... I first knew of its existence back in junior high, the trailer for it on the "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" DVD fascinated some friends and I. It is hailed as one of the grandest comedies America has ever produced and ranked #3 on AFI's more specific 100 Years... 100 Laughs list.
However, most of all, this is Kubrick, and that say's it all. I can hardly stand hearing this film's marvelous name and knowing I have yet to see it. And trust me, if you go venturing in he realms of film you'll hear it again and again.

8. Gone with the Wind - 1939


A&R: AFI #6, IMDb #156, TSPDT #61

My Mother will be proud. This is her personal favorite movie of all-time (and for partly that reason it makes my list). I won't lie, I've always been hesitant to see this one. From what I've seen on the outside it looks very likely to weary me. I fear it's not my cup of tea. Alas, I have had such feelings proven wrong before (and I'm always happy when that occurs). Furthermore, on the "outside" you can think until the cows come waddling home, but you'll never really know until you enter in. I believe that principle can be applied to many-a-thing. On a more optimistic note, "Gone With The Wind" has an air about it that I sense is capable of sweeping me away into blissful wonder. The type of harmonic haze that only a film from Hollywood's Golden Age is capable of. The winner of 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director, "Gone With The Wind" demands my attention. Someday I'll sit down and watch it with Mother. By the way, what a beautiful name... "Gone with the Wind."

7. 火垂るの墓 (Grave of the Fireflies) - 1988


A&R: IMDb #179, TSPDT #776

I've never seen anything from Studio Ghibli (think of it as Japan's version of Disney) that I disliked. I think it's impossible. While this isn't one of Miyazaki's, it is still noted as one of the brightest gems in the Ghibli cave. Even though it is an animated feature from a studio renowned for it's family films, I've heard this one is nothing to be taken lightly. It is the tale of the relationship between two orphaned siblings set against the backdrop of the close of WW2 in Japan. It has been compared to "Schindler's List" and Roger Ebert claims it is one of the most anti-war films ever made. I recall when Adam along with former co-host Sam on the Filmspotting podcast mentioned this film after they first saw it. The power herein surprised them and they declared this one will produce tears in any viewer's eyes. Having recently witnessed the manic "Pom Poko" from the same director (Isao Takahata), I am more intrigued than ever.

6. City Lights - 1931


A&R: AFI #11, IMDb #67 ,TSPDT #25

Charlie Chaplin is a household name for a reason. In the history of film he made deep footprints that have been admired by the world ever since and gave others a path to follow. Chaplin's "Gold Rush" (one of my favorite films) left such an impression on me and further opened the heavy door to B&W films that far too many of us are scared to pass through, yet alone look through. There are several Chaplin works that could have made my list, "City Lights" not only represents the team but stand out among them. It is a love story and I can only imagine how humorous, sweet, and charming it is. AFI recently labeled it the best "romantic comedy" ever made.

5. Touch of Evil - 1958


A&R: IMDb #115, TSPDT #21

As a connoisseur of "long takes" I have naturally come across this film and have seen it's three-minute-and-thirty-second opening a number of times. Honestly, the first time I beheld that shot was one of the greatest cinematic experiences I've ever had. See the marvel for yourself. But that's all I've seen! I've had access to this film on my Netflix instant queue long enough. I have no excuse for not watching it. That opening scene alone is further proof of the genius that is Orson Welles, who works as the director, screenwriter, and supporting actor herein. This movie is referenced in "Get Shorty," a fun flick that cinephiles can easily indulge in. The main character, Chili Palmer, attends a theatrical revival of "Touch of Evil," mouthing the lines, and staring at the screen it absolute awe and adoration. A great scene that film geeks around the globe can appreciate. There's a lot of love for this film out there and I can feel it. On top of all of that, Charlton Heston stars as a Mexican, Miguel Vargas. This I gotta see!

4. Unforgiven - 1992



A&R: AFI #68, IMDb #104, TSPDT #217

Clint Eastwood certainly knows how to star in a Western (anyone who has not seen "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" gets a demerit in my class), but can the guy direct one? Luckily he stars in "Unforgiven" in addition to directing it, so at least he is half-safe right out the gate. This film has a cast as impressive as the Lakers' starting lineup during the 1999-2002 NBA seasons: Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Richard Harris. To top it off, Westerns form one of my favorite genres and I don't think I've seen what the '90s brought to it yet. Eastwood is a luminary and "Unforgiven" is one of his most famed adventures.

3. North By Northwest - 1959


A&R: AFI #55 , IMDb #32, TSPDT #57

Hitchcock is a supreme being in the film realm. He has an immense portfolio to his iconic name (he may very well have more films in IMDb's Top 250 than any other filmmaker) and among his most highly regarded pictures this is the one I've never seen. A few of the ones I have seen are truly among my most beloved films ("Pyscho," "Rear Window," "39 Steps," and "Rope" for starters). Cary Grant (a celebrated actor I need to know better myself) starring gives all the more reason to place this movie so high. I always hear about the "crop duster chase scene" featured herein, I'm terribly excited to see it!

2. The Birth of a Nation - 1915


A&R: TSPDT #133

D. W. Griffith was the biggest name in directing until DeMille took the throne. The Directors Guild of America used to call its highest honor in his name. The D. W. Griffith Award was given to many masters, from Kurosawa to Kubrick. Charlie Chaplin called Griffith "The Teacher of us All." The "All" likely refers to the workers in those early days of cinema, but surely such learning was not solely reserved for those pioneers. What better way to be taught by this legend, then and now, than to see his greatest film? I'm abashed to report I haven't let Griffith teach me yet... I have not seen "The Birth of a Nation." After all, if it wasn't for this ground-breaking feature his name wouldn't be as acclaimed. This silent film was a controversial choice because it promotes white supremacy to the extent that knights of the Ku Klux Klan are portrayed as heroes. Eric Armstrong, the editor and publisher for The Moving Arts Film Journal said, "'The Birth of a Nation' is as revered as it is reviled. Its unparalleled innovation and audacity, technically and narratively, coupled with its unprecedented cultural impact, makes it perhaps the single most important film ever made."

1. Lawrence of Arabia - 1962


A&R: AFI #7, IMDb #42, TSPDT #13

I heart epic films. David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" is often mentioned in the same breath with "epic," and I think there is more reason to this association besides the 216-minute running time. Steven Spielberg (who has listed it as his favorite film) refers to it as "a miracle of a movie." He revealed that "Lawrence of Arabia" convinced him to become a filmmaker. That's of particular interest to me because it was Spielberg's films that convinced me to become a filmmaker. (Such reminds me of the only line worth remembering from Young Jeezy's shallow album, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101... "I'm your favorite rapper's favorite rapper." Poor Jeezy, you sure ain't. Anyways, the application of this thought provides interesting roots worth examining.) "Lawrence of Arabia," of all the movies that have ever been made (and boy oh boy there's a lot of them), you're the one I can't believe I haven't seen the most.

* * *

Well folks, there you have it, The Top Ten Movies I Can't Believe I Haven't Seen. I was a little surprised myself with the shortage of foreign films on the list. Sometimes that's just the way things go... surprisingly. This list was particularly hard to assemble and there are several movies that were in the running for a Top Ten spot. Ultimately, when it came right down to it, these are the ten titles I want to rid of the "Haven't Seen" status on Flixster the most.

Hopefully some of you can still take me serious as a filmmaker, film lover, and the curator here at the Film Tome. As I'll do with all Top Tens, I invite any and all of you to play along and post comments revealing the movies you can't believe you haven't seen. Please, don't leave me open and exposed like this all alone, discredit yourselves a little too! I look forward to hearing from all of you, especially YOU.

Also, I'll have you know that I'm planning on taking action. This particular exercise in list-making wasn't purely for my embarrassment and , but for my own benefit. My meaning is that I plan to see all ten of these films before the year is up! Expect a follow-up from yours truly and reviews for each of these powerhouses before December 31, 2010. Perhaps next year I will do this list again with my new ten. Scratch the "perhaps." I will.

Before I was planning to make the Top Tens a weekly feature. After discovering how much time this one took to form and publish I'm not going to make any guarantees for now. We'll see how things works out over the next few weeks. Besides, there are dozens of others posts I'd like to get out there too. In any case, with a new segment now underway, The Film Tome is off to bigger and better things.

I'm your enlister, J.S. Lewis.


Updated 9.14.11