Friday, February 23, 2007

Tagged for Ten

I am, apparently, part of a tag-team blogroll. I have been tagged by the redoubtable Anny Ballardini, as follows:

Okay, I have been tagged by our Great Tom Beckett who was tagged by Richard Lopez (who by the way mentions The Hitcher - movie I also wanted to quote) to name 10 favorite movies, not too bad, indeed. Difficult, though, these are just the first I was able to dig up, I am sure there are plenty more and will come out in the next few hours with a comment, how could I forget that one?


So, here is Anny's list:

1. La vita รจ bella (Life is beautiful) Benigni
2. Apocalypse now (Redux is all right) Francis Ford Coppola (loosely based on Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad)
3. A Beautiful Mind by Ron Howard
4. American Beauty by Sam Mendes with Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening
5. Catch Me If You Can by Steven Spielberg, I even liked Leonardo Di Caprio in this perfomance besides the usual Tom Hanks (see Philadelphia, Save Private Ryan, The Da Vinci Code, There is mail for you,
6. Dogville by Lars von Trier (not exceptional but I can forgive much to a movie that features Nicole Kidman)
7. The Experiment (a must see) by Oliver Hirschbiegel (based on the 1971 Stanford University simulation study of the psychology of imprisonment)
8. Girlfight by Karyn Kusama with Diana Guzman
9. The Lord of the Rings (3) by Peter Jackson and Harry Potter (the entire series)
10. Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise

10. The Matrix + The Matrix Reloaded by Andy Wachowski with Keanu Reeves and Carrie Ann Moss, originally taken from William Gibson’s homonymous novel.


As it happens, I just did this exercise about a year ago for a website called The Cinematheque, so although Anny is quite right, and one's lists are subject to change at a moment's notice, I'll reprise that list here:

1. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1943)

It's customary to list a movie by director, so I've followed that custom, and Michael Curtiz was a Hollywood giant, with a career that stretched from the slient era to the 60s. He directed some of Errol Flynn's classics (which means some of my favorite movies) like Captain Blood and Charge of the Light Brigade; he directed Yankee Doodle Dandy and Young Man With a Horn and We're No Angels, a movie I had occasion to quote to my Honors English class last week. And he directed The Sea Hawk, also with Errol Flynn, but I'll get to that.

But for me, Casablanca is not Curtiz's movie, or even Bogart's. It belongs to Howard Koch, beloved friend and mentor, who co-wrote the screenplay. Here's looking at you, Howard.

2. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

Your most formative experiences are, unsurprisingly enough, come in your most formative years. I was seventeen when I first saw The Seventh Seal, and I can't count the number of times I've seen it since then. And every time, I get that same rush of awe that I felt the first time I saw it.

3. The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

I have an Italian film too, Anny -- not at the top of the list, but high up. I used to tell my screenwriting students, "Any one of you could make this movie. You could raise the kind of budget he had. You could go out in the streets of Poughkeepsie with a hand held camera, as he did in Rome. You could use amateur actors, as he did. All you'd need would be genius."

4. Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)

Anything by Kurosawa. Throne of Blood did Shakespeare (a Samurai Macbeth) almost as well, but Ran, his Samurai King Lear, benefits from Kurosawa's masterful use of color and the big screen. And why you should still go out to the movies: There's a scene in Ran where the king and the fool are sitting on top of a hill, talking. At the foot of the hill, in the lower right hand corner of the screen, is a dappled white horse. And I thought as I watched it, "On TV or vCR that horse won't even be on the screen."

5. Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)
The classic Oedipal Western, worth the price of admission just for the closeups of the cowboys' faces yelling as the trail drive begins. If you wondered whether John Wayne could act, watch his disintegrating personality in this movie.

6. A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, 1935)
You could pick any Marx Brothers movie. I picked this one.


7. Cabin in the Sky (Vincente Minnelli, 1943) -– the best Louis Armstrong showcase on film, and no ten best list of anything that has an opportunity to include Louis Armstrong should leave him out. I almost picked High Society for the same reason – I know most people don’t even think it’s the best version of this story, but it is, because of Satch, Bing and Frank.

8. Scaramouche (George Sidney, 1952) -- I am pleased to report that two movies on my list -- Scaramouche and Cabin in the Sky -- didn't even make the NY Times list of the 1000 best movies (three if you count my honorable mention for High Society). I take this as a tribute to my unerring good taste. Swashbuckling is one of the things the movies do best, how can you pass up a guy who was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad?

9. War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1968) -- It would be easy to make a ten best list entirely from movies that did not make the NY Times 1000 Best List (Modern Times, Ivan the Terrible Parts I and II, Rio Bravo, just to name a few). I had put Lawrence of Arabia on my listoriginally, and it's a great spectacle, but I had forgotten the greatest spectacle of all time (so did the NY Times, but I'm making amends for my error). Featuring the entire Russian army, and wonderful acting, and not a slack moment in nearly seven hours of running time.

10. The Last Waltz (Martin Scorsese, 1978)
Best concert film ever.




And extras. Anything by Kurosawa, but especially Dersu Uzala: The Hunter and the underrated Dreams. Anything with Errol Flynn, but special mention to Robin Hood, which I'm re-watching now with my 6-year-old grandson, and The Sea Hawk, where Michael Curtiz once again had the benefit of a wonderful screenplay by Howard Koch. Some Hollywood B movies that achieved a level of greatness: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Tarzan and his Mate, The Incredible Shrinking Man. Rosselini directing De Sica in Generale Della Rovere. Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy. And on that note...my mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you.

I can't think of anyone to pass it along to. Who do I know who has a blog, whom Anny doesn't know? I'm sure I'm forgetting someone. But I'll post this anyway.

1 comment:

Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a Super cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

Ran Movie Review