Monday, December 28, 2009

MASTER LIST #19: The 101 Best Films of the 2000s

On the heels of perusing so many "best of the decade" lists, I do get the impression that there is much more from this decade I need to see (particularly from Asia and Eastern Europe); I have passion for all these films listed, but I'm still left with a needling and probably wrongful suspicion that movies are a dying art form. I'm not making excuses here, but the fact is that, unless one is granted admission into the somewhat cloistered world of film festivals and metropolitan movie houses, the chance to see projected on screen films by, for instance, Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul or Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-hsien is somewhat close to nil. Even so, I feel confident that the majority of these titles stand strong as the best of this most recent, tumultuous, sometimes exasperating era in cinema. We can be thankful that the first 10th of the 21st gave us the opportunity to see stunning work from old hands like David Lynch, Michael Haneke, Quentin Tarantino, Darrin Aronofsky, Joel and Ethan Coen, Gus Van Sant, Jean-Pierre and Luc Darden, Mike Leigh, the crew at Pixar, Clint Eastwood, and Lars Von Trier. And the decade introduced us to thoughtful new talents like Kelly Reichardt, David Gordon Green, Paul Greengrass, Andrew Dominick, Richard Kelly, Todd Fields and Shane Meadows, among many others. And so, now, with my eventual growth in tastes perhaps to come (it's always a work-in-progress), here are my choices for the best movies of the aughties, in order of preference according to (1) personal affection, (2) historical influence, and (3) overall quality:

1) The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
2) Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
3) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominick, 2007)
4) The House of Mirth (Terrence Davies, 2000 (U.K./France/Germany/U.S.))
5) United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006)
6) Russian Ark (Alexandr Sokurov, 2002 (Russia/Germany))
7) Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001)
8) You Can Count On Me (Kenneth Lonergan, 2000)The Fountain (Darrin Aronofsky, 2006)
9) Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009 (U.S./Germany))
10) Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003)
11) Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt, 2006)
12) Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
13) Nobody Knows (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2005 (Japan))
14) No Country For Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
15) The Fountain (Darrin Aronofsky, 2006)
16) The Fall (Tarsem Singh, 2008)
17) There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
18) Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, 2004)
19) The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001 (Germany/Poland/France/Austria))
20) L'Enfant (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005 (Belgium/France))
21) Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
22) Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, 2004 (U.K))
23) Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005 (U.S./Canada))
24) Children of Men (Alfonzo Cuaron, 2006 (Japan/U.K./U.S.))
25) A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001)
26) The Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo, 2003)
27) Dancer in the Dark (Lars Von Trier, 2000 (Denmark/Germany/Netherlands/U.S./U.K.))
28) In The Bedroom (Todd Fields, 2001)
29) All The Real Girls (David Gordon Green, 2003)
30) Max (Menno Meyies, 2002)
31) Cache (Michael Haneke, 2005 (France/Austria/Germany/Italy))
32) The Lives of Others (Florian Henkel von Donnersmark, 2006 (Germany))
33) Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)
34) Grindhouse (Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, 2007)
35) Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008 (U.K.))
36) Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom, 2006 (U.K.))
37) Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
38) Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff, 2001)
39) Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, 2003)
40) Synecdoche, NY (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
41) To Be and To Have (Nicolas Philibert, 2002 (France))
42) Little Children (Todd Fields, 2006)
43) Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonzo Cuaron, 2002 (Mexico))
44) Requiem for a Dream (Darrin Aronofsky, 2000)
45) Day Night Day Night (Julia Loktev, 2007)
46) In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wei, 2000 (Hong Kong))
47) Napoleon Dynamite (Jared Hess, 2004)
48) Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2001)
49) Time Out (Laurent Cantet, 2002 (France))
50) Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009 (U.K./Australia/France))
51) Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008 (Sweden))
52) Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)
53) Monsters Inc. (Andrew Stanton, 2001)
54) George Washington (David Gordon Green, 2000)
55) The Fog of War (Errol Morris, 2003)
56) Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg, 2002)
57) In America (Jim Sheridan, 2003)
58) Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
59) Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
60) O Brother Where Art Thou? (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2000)
61) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
62) The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2009)
63) Bad Santa (Terry Zwigoff, 2003)
64) Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2008)
65) No End In Sight (Charles Ferguson, 2007)
66) Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles, 2006)
67) Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004)
68) Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, 2003)
69) Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)
70) Birth (Jonathan Glazer, 2004)
71) Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Stephen Kijak, 2008 (U.K.))
72) Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
73) Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott, 2001)
74) 8 Women (Francois Ozon, 2002 (France))
75) This is England (Shane Meadows, 2007 (U.K.))
76) A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009 (U.S./U.K./France))
77) The Son (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2003 (Belgium/France))
78) Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay, 2000 (Scotland))
79) City of God (Fernando Merilles, 2003 (Brazil))
80) The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Judd Apatow, 2005)
81) The Wrestler (Darrin Aronofsky, 2008)
82) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)
83) Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2003 (Denmark/Sweden/France/U.K./Germany/Netherlands))
84) Unbreakable (M. Night Shamalyan, 2000)
85) Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders (James D. Scurlock, 2006)
86) Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003 (South Korea))
87) Still Walking (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2008 (Japan))
88) Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004 (Germany))
89) Thanksgiving (Alex R. Johnson, 2001)
90) Series 7: The Contenders (Daniel Minahan, 2001)
91) Anvil!: The Story of Anvil (Sacha Gervasi, 2009)
92) The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005)
93) 12 (Lawrence Bridges, 2002)
94) The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009 (Austria/Germany/France/Italy))
95) The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)
96) American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, 2003)
97) Somers Town (Shane Meadows, 2009 (U.K.))
98) Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004 (U.K.))
99) Hustle and Flow (Craig Anderson, 2005)
100) In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008 (U.K.))
101) Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007 (U.S./U.K.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Master List #18: The 101 Best Films of the 1930s

Even though the planet's mired in a similarly decade-defining depression, the movies of the 1930s are rooted so distantly away from the noisy present that watching them makes one obsess over how much life has seemingly since wriggled backwards or hence. They really feel not of this earth. Their striking opulence and risky experimentation; their steadfast dedication to amusement (there are more comedies, musicals, love stories, action movies, horror tales and animated works on this list than on the roster of any other decade I've examined); their directorial, craft, and acting confections--all float fathoms above the well-moneyed drabness we're seeing screened today; when you see a '30s movie, you're absolutely transported elsewhere--that is, if you give them the proper attention. (For those who may exclaim "I don't like old movies": my heart goes out to ya but a word of advise: forget about the pace of the editing, the less-"real" acting style, and the quietude and REALLY pay attention to the unusual--hell, mind-blowing--quality of these movies). To boot, they're entertaining and smart--and I'm taking it incredibly easy on the hyperbole here.

Largely message-less (and when messages were sent to audiences, they often arrived in the unlikely packaging of Duck Soup and Modern Times), these 101 movies transmit rich emotions all their own--a toasty glow and snazzy rap that's impossible to recreate. The era gave light to directorial greats like Chaplin, Hawks, Hitchcock, Ford, Whale, Curtiz, McCarey, Eisenstein, Browning, Vigo, Renoir, Lang, Wyler, Capra, Disney, Dave Fleicher, and even the infamous Leni Riefenstahl. Then, on screen, you see James Stewart, John Wayne, the Marx Brothers, Boris Karloff, Greta Garbo, Vivian Leigh, Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Vivian Leigh, W.C. Fields, Jean Harlow, Myrna Low, William Powell, James Cagney, Peter Lorre, The Little Rascals, Edward G. Robinson, Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Popeye, King Kong, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis and...sheesh, you could go on and on. It don't matter if these movie don't make your heart palpitate like a modern Michael Bay epic: obviously, with such a glittery roll call, the 1930s ranks as very nearly the greatest decade ever for film achievement. So here, evaluated by (1) overall quality, (2) historical importance, (3) influence, and (4) personal affection, are my choices (with one-line synopses to be added later):

1) City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 31)
2) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 39)
3) Stagecoach (John Ford, 39)
4) Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 33)
5) Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming/David O. Selznick et al., 39)
6) Vampyr (Carl Th. Dreyer, 32)
7) Twentieth Century (Howard Hawks, 34)
8) The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 35)
9) Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, 36)
10) The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, 38)
11) Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir, 38)
12) Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (David Hand/Walt Disney, 37)
13) 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, 32)
14) Queen Christina (Rouben Mamoulian, 33)
15) M (Fritz Lang, 31)
16) Alexander Nevsky (Sergei Eisenstein & Dmitri Vasilyev, 38)
17) The Music Box (James Parrott, 32)
18) L'Age D'Or (Luis Bunuel, 30)
19) The Tale of the Fox (Wladyslaw and Irene Starewicz, 30)
20) Freaks (Tod Browning, 32)
21) Frankenstein (James Whale, 31)
22) The Private Life of Henry VIII (Alexander Korda, 33)
23) Zero For Conduct (Jean Vigo, 33)
24) L'Atalante (Jean Vigo, 34)
25) Olympia (Leni Riefenstahl, 38)
26) Fury (Fritz Lang, 36)
27) The Old Mill (Wilfred Jackson/Walt Disney, 37)
28) It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 34)
29) Young Mr. Lincoln (John Ford, 39)
30) The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming et al., 39)
31) Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (Howard Hawks, 31)
32) The 39 Steps (Alfred Hitchcock, 35)
33) The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey, 37)
34) King Kong (Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack, 33)
35) It's A Gift (Norman Z. McLeod, 34)
36) Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 35)
37) The Criminal Code (Howard Hawks, 31)
38) The Rules of the Game (Jean Remoir, 39)
39) The Blue Angel (Josef von Sternberg, 30)
40) The Public Enemy (William Wellman, 31)
41) All Quiet on the Western Front (Lewis Milestone, 30)
42) The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 38)
43) Nothing Sacred (William Wellman, 37)
44) A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, 35)
45) Dinner at Eight (George Cukor, 33)
46) The Front Page (Lewis Milestone, 31)
47) Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 35)
48) The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 34)
49) Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 38)
50) Gunga Din (Howard Hawks, 39)
51) Lost Horizon (Frank Capra, 37)
52) Gulliver's Travels (Dave Fleischer, 39)
53) I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy, 32)
54) Sylvia Scarlett (George Cukor, 35)
55) Wuthering Heights (William Wyler, 39)
56) The Petrified Forest (Archie Mayo, 36)
57) The Old Dark House (James Whale, 32)
58) Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 30)
59) Pygmalion (Anthony Asquith, 38)
60) Little Caesar (Mervyn Leroy, 31)
61) My Man Godfrey (Gregory LaCava, 36)
62) I Love to Singa (Tex Avery, 36)
63) Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies, 36)
64) Popeye the Sailor (Dave Fleischer, 33)
65) Babes in Arms (Busby Berkeley, 39)
66) Way Out West (James W. Horne, 37)
67) Minnie the Moocher (Dave Fleischer, 32)
68) Captain Blood (Michael Curtiz, 35)
69) A Midsummer Night's Dream (William Dieterle & Max Reinhardt, 35)
70) Boudu Saved From Drowning (Jean Renoir, 32)
71) Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (Frank Capra, 36)
72) The Most Dangerous Game (Irving Pichel & Ernest B. Schoedsack, 32)
73) Ferdinand The Bull (Walt Disney, 38)
74) Intermezzo (Gustaf Molander, 36)
75) Monkey Business (Norman Z. McLeod, 31)
76) The Band Concert (Wilfred Jackson/Walt Disney, 35)
77) Destry Rides Again (George Marshall, 39)
78) Alice in Wonderland (Mervyn LeRoy, 33)
79) Angels with Dirty Faces (Michael Curtiz, 38)
80) These Three (William Wyler, 36)
81) Dead End (William Wyler, 37)
82) Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 39)
83) Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod, 32)
84) Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton, 32)
85) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (William Dieterle, 39)
86) Goodbye Mr. Chips (Sam Wood, 39)
87) Sons of the Desert (William A. Seiter, 33)
88) Mutiny on the Bounty (Frank Lloyd, 35)
89) The Mystery of the Wax Museum (Michael Curtiz, 33)
90) Of Human Bondage (John Cromwell, 34)
91) A Tale of Two Cities (Jack Conway, 35)
92) Bored of Education (Gordon Douglas/Hal Roach, 35)
93) Dodsworth (William Wyler, 36)
94) The Bat Whispers (Roland West, 30)
95) The Green Pastures (Marc Connelly & William Keighley, 36)
96) A Day at the Races (Sam Wood, 37)
97) Man on the Flying Trapeze (Clyde Bruckman, 35)
98) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Norman Taurog, 38)
99) The Big House (George W. Hill, 30)
100) The Champ (King Vidor, 31)
101) Flowers and Trees (Walt Disney, 32)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2009 Movie Diary--Late May to Late August

I have to clear my MOVIE DIARY sidebar, so I'm committing it to posterity as an entry into the body of my blog. I review each film in fifteen words or less (which is harder than one might think). The best movies are marked with 2 stars. Anyway, from mid-May 2009 to late August 2009 (from bottom to top), I watched:

**Village of the Damned (creepy kids abound in staid but entertaining 60s British horror/sci-fi classic)
Planet of the Apes (season one) (TV adaptation of famed series is kid-friendly fun)
**The Office (season 4) (Remains the best sitcom on TV, for my money; brilliantly filmed and acted)
**Easy Living (Opulent screwball, written by Sturges, with blustery Edward Arnold and always-charming Jean Arthur)
Gommorah (What's all the hoopla about? Feels real, but never engages)
Trans Siberian (Brad Anderson thriller seems stupid initially, but damn if it doesn't pull the rug out!)
Nothing But The Truth (torn-from-headlines story makes it feel a bit TV-movie, but Kate Beckinsale's performance is beyond reproach)
**Adventureland (not riotous like Mottola's "Superbad," but better; sweet, real, impeccable period detail, perfect soundtrack; terrific)
**Alice in Wonderland (1933) (Paramount-produced all-star vehicle is surrealistic wonder, thanks to idiosyncratic performances and trippy costume/makeup/production design)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (season 4) ("Producers" subplot captivates, but irritainment quotient almost makes David's series jump the shark)
**Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Directorially inventive documentary about secretive American singer/songwriter/producer whose genius has defined decades of British music)
**For All Mankind (Moon-landings doc sports pristine footage, narrated by astronauts; mesmerizing, but "It's amazing" comments get tiresome)
Play It As It Lays (Hollywood hate, 60s-style; it ain't The Bad and the Beautiful)
**The 7th Victim (Val Lewton's Greenwich Village-set Satan-fest is typically brilliant; I love Kim Hunter's bottom lip)
Public Enemies (Aside from mesmerizing Stephen Lang--who also has best lines--absolutely zero to recommend here)
Whatever Works (musty Woody Allen effort's another downfall notch; Larry David's unimpressive, but Evan Rachel Wood's luminous)
Romance and Cigarettes (Ambitious film inspired by "Pennies From Heaven" fails via substandard story; Walken excels in wasted cast)
**The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis De Sade (AKA "Marat/Sade") (Cinema's truest depiction of insanity, with amazing songs and direction by Peter Brook)
**Swamp Thing (Comic-booky as all get out, directed with heart by Wes Craven)
**Blue Velvet (Remains a masterpiece)
Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust (TV doc-flavored, but still enlightens to genoside's long-taboo cinematic status)
**Mad Men (Season 2) (Just keeps getting better and better; one of the greatest TV series of all time)
**The Hurt Locker (Best film made about Iraq War features Bigelow's exacting direction and Jeremy Renner's star-making lead)
I've Loved You For So Long (Sometimes dull, extremely mopey French film enlivened by radiant Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein)
I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (Terrible title mars Jeff Garlin's funny, sweet movie about fat man looking for love)
Live Free or Die Hard (Fun but absolutely ridiculous actioner takes John McClane's invulnerability as far as can go)
Next Stop, Greenwich Village (Good to see early Walken, but Mazursky's 50's-era tale is too twee for my tastes)
Invaders From Mars (Menzies' visually resplendant interpretation of a now ho-hum sci-fi script)
**The Staircase (Brilliant 8-part true-crime miniseries shows what kind of defense money buys, even with obvious guilt)
The Carol Burnett Show (9 disc set) (Smart vaudvillian comedy is superb, but gaudy musical numbers deserve unceremonious dropkicking)
Eye of the Tiger (The very definition of 80s action cheesiness, with Busey, Kotto, and Cassell)
Frozen River (Leo is believable in lead but writer Courtney Hunt fails to direct to material's potential)
**Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (Tells well a story you only think you know; excellent period footage, too)
**Pulling (season 1) (Saucy femme-driven Britcom is sharp comeback to stupidity of "Sex and the City")
Ghosts of Mars (Carpenter's final big-screen outing too dumb to even be taken lightly; dates his talents terribly)
**Citizen's Band (Demme's layered, beautifully cast tale of CB-obsessed outcasts is completely captivating)
Last Embrace (Jonathan Demme's attempt to run with Hitchcock comes closer to really bad De Palma)

**[rec] (Spanish horror film, remade as Quarrentine, is riveting genre entry--the best in many years)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (John C. Reilly excels in not hysterical spoof of rock bio films, with excellent songs)
**White Lightning (Terrific hooch-slinging southern noir with charismatic Burt Reynolds and greasy Ned Beatty)
**Crime of Passion (Excellent domestic noir with harried Barbara Stanwyck getting cop husband Sterling Hayden in hot water)
The Dying Gaul (Ho-hum melodrama enlivened by always reliable Peter Saarsgard and Patricia Clarkson)
**One-Trick Pony (Energetic Robert M. Young music biz drama requires that you REALLY like writer/star/composer Paul Simon)
**The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (Crushing comic leads from Holly Hunter, Beau Bridges in Michael Richie's tale of trailer-trashy ladder-climbing)
**Blast of Silence (Allan Barron's low-budgeter deserves credit for its masterful shot set-ups and 60s NYC locations)
The Three Musketeers (The Ritz Brothers are the highlight of this routine Allan Dwan entry)
**Synecdoche, NY (Definitely not for everyone, this look at life as entertainment is absolutely amazing, and pretentious)
Razorback (Aussie horror with gigantic wild boar is extremely well-shot; suffers from weak lead, pedestrian finale)
The Ruins (Dunce-capped rehash of The Blob with Aztec plants as Blob replacements; waste of time)
**Alien (Completely contemporary-looking, even after 30 years; however, opt for original over unnecessary director's cut)
**W. (Underrated Oliver Stone dissection of Bushie Jr.s rise, with magnificent lead perf from Josh Brolin)
**Love Eternal (Glowing Cocteau adaptation of Tristan and Isolde saga; romantic and sometimes hilarious)
Revolutionary Road (stiff-necked argue-fest with DiCaprio and Winslet coming off as squabbling siblings playing dress-up; disappointing)
Entourage (Season 5) (More of the same; I respect the show, but it's ADD and depressing simultaneously)
**Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Great seeing Jason Siegel commanding; smart, hilarious--like all rom-coms should be--but often lowbrow)
September 30, 1955 (Worshipful 50s kids mourn James Dean's death; good cast, sometimes thoughful, often embarassingly silly)
Patti Smith: Dream of Life (Just because we like your stuff doesn't mean we're really interested in your life)
**Tess (Polanski's adaptation of Hardy's epic of heartbreak remains unspeakably beautiful in every way)
Shoot (The nutsiness of warmongers gets another once-over, this time with ultimately ridiculous results; begins strongly, though)
**The Big Combo (John Alton's stylized B&W images are magnificent in this perfect noir from Joseph H. Lewis)
**Attack! (Bitter Aldrich WWII slamfest with sniveling Eddie Albert, hammy Jack Palance, sly Lee Marvin)
Nobel Son (Stupidest movie EVVV-ARRRRRR)
Pickpocket (Celebrated Bresson film may be cold by design, but its distancing effects left me unmoved)
**Prime Cut (Lee Marvin kicks hick ass in sloppily entertaining potboiler co-starring slimy Hackman and cute Spacek)
**The King of Comedy (Creepy Scorsese character study, with Lewis and Bernhard invaluably supporting unusually nerdy De Niro)
**When Willie Comes Marching Home (Charming one-joke Ford romp, with Dan Dailey as frustrated WWII soldier; features gorgeous Corinne Calvet)
Up The River (Early John Ford comedic curio with Tracy and Bogart as prisonyard buddies)
**Gentleman Jim (Raoul Walsh's quaint, cartoony biopic of boxer Jim Corbett, with dashing Errol Flynn out front)
The Law (Jules Dassin's saucy Italian-set sex comedy starring an electrifying Gina Lollabrigida)
**Rear Window (watched Hitchcock's classic with my mother, and we noticed many sublime details)
**Wendy and Lucy (studied, beautiful Kelly Reichardt movie with shattering lead performance from Michelle Williams)
**Happy-Go-Lucky (another Mike Leigh masterpiece, about the pluses and perils of happiness, with terrific Sally Hawkins)
Shooting Henry Hill (laughably awful documentary about famed "Goodfellas" mobster's present-day trevails; know-nothing filmmakers emerge with crap)
**The Outlaw Josey Wales (stands as perhaps Eastwood's best directorial effort--right up there with Unforgiven)
Trouble Along The Way (playing a precocious kid, Sherry Jackson steals football comedy away from likable John Wayne)
Someone Like You (not-bad romantic comedy is lucky to have the always watchable Ashley Judd as its lead)
While She Was Out (stupid feminist revenge fantasy is poorly directed and acted)
The International (globe-hopping financial intrigue "actioner" is a complete waste of time)
Kicking and Screaming (whiny overintellectuals prove occasionally funny in typically drab Noah Baumbach film)
**Changeling (underrated Eastwood film is unrelentingly horrific, but could have been shortened)
Not Only But Always (lifeless biopic of Dudley Moore/Peter Cook proves Brits can be as fatuous as yanks)
**At Last The 1948 Show (B&W precursor to Monty Python is suitably smart and funny)
Syriana (It may be complex, but that don't mean it's smart; blah)
Sansho The Baliff (I know it's a classic, but this exquisitely photographed tale of slavery left me cold)
**Ride the High Country (Peckinpah's first masterwork speeds by at breathtaking pace)
The 2000 Year Old Man (unnecessary but still diverting adaptation of Carl Reiner/Mel Brooks comedy staple)
**Inside Moves (a tearjerking tale surrounding the highest of the low; Richard Donner's masterpiece)
**Anvil!: The Story of Anvil (so far my favorite movie of 2009: a touching tribute to brotherhood forged in metal)
**Drag Me To Hell (funny and scary return to horror genre for director Sam Raimi; Alison Lohman's a trooper)
**The Shining (Kubrick's classic about a disintegrating family is amusing and singularly well-mounted horror)
**THX-1138 (Lucas' director's cut seems like a wholly different movie--and a one-of-a-kind sci-fi gem)
**The End of Summer (Ozu's elegant swansong, with typically slow pacing, well-considered shots, and intense family dynamics)
**The Old Dark House (James Whales' followup to "Frankenstein" is weird, atmospheric, surprisingly funny; as always, Karloff is superb)
**Star Trek (doubtful that 2009 summer movies will get much better than J.J. Abrams' smart, entertaining, well-cast reboot)
Up (Pixar's newest falls into Standard Operation Procedure after brilliant first 20 minutes; disappointing)
**Dragonslayer (unjustly forgotten 1981 fantasy film is technically brilliant, but could use more dragon play)
A History Of Violence (overrated Cronenberg has jolting individual scenes and dynamic Viggo Mortensen, but disintergrates as it progresses)
**Vanishing Point (Seminal 70s action can be enjoyed on two levels: smash-em-up and elegantly photographed existentialism)
Age of Consent (florid Michael Powell finale is too 60s-Movie-like, but James Mason and nude-scuba-diving Helen Mirren shine)
**Chilly Scenes of Winter (masterpiece of malaise and barely requited love, with perfect cast and Joan Micklin Silver writing/direction)
**Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock's favorite of all of his films, and justifyably so; stunning acting from all)
**Hard Times (rib-cracking Walter Hill actioner about Depression-era bare-fisted fighter Charles Bronson, as minimalist as ever)
**A Kiss Before Dying (twisted Robert Wagner vehicle from the 50s, with heartthrob perfectly cast as evil, ambitious boytoy)
**The Quiet Man (John Ford's happiest, most colorful and romantic film, with lilting leads from Wayne and O'Hara)
**The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (kinetically edited 1974 action film with great cast, slyly humorous touches, incredible David Shire score)
**Raggedy Man (40s-era romance with Sissy Spacek and Eric Roberts is a wonder; directed by Jack Fisk)
Vigilante Force (deceptively complex 1976 drive-in movie plays like western; Kris Kristofferson is a likable villain)
**Bigger Than Life (terrifying Nicholas Ray domestic drama with frantic, sweaty headcase James Mason at center)
It, The Terror From Beyond Space (early template for Alien suffers under first-act plotting but gains steam towards end)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Master List #17: The 101 Best Films of the 1940s

Though the 101 movies mentioned here are some of the best ever made, the 1940s still stands as my least favorite decade for movies. The texture of cinema in that era feels boxed in to me--as if only a few directors made an attempt to get away from the confines of studio-approved packaging and the overwhelming influence of World War II. Those who did break out--like Welles, Sturges, and Capra, for instance--paid the price for their mavericking. Thus I've always maintained a distaste for the 1940s (and particularly for Casablanca, which is the most overrated movie of all time, and which I grudgingly include in the list only because of the sheer number of memorable lines it contributed to the world lexicon). Still, for the singular hat-wearing feel they have to offer, the titles on this list are must-sees, for sure. So here, evaluated by (1) overall quality, (2) historical importance, (3) influence, and (4) personal affection, are my choices (with one-line synopses to be added later):

1) It's A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 46)
2) The Treasure of Sierra Madre (John Huston, 48)
3) Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 41)
4) Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges, 41)
5) The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 43)
6) Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincent Minnelli, 44)
7) Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 43)
8) Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 46)
9) Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 49)
10) Great Expectations (David Lean, 48)
11) The Set-Up (Robert Wise, 49)
12) The Third Man (Carol Reed, 49)
13) The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 40)
14) Ball of Fire (Howard Hawks, 41)
15) Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 45)
16) They Were Expendable (John Ford, 45)
17) The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 41)
18) The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 41)
19) Bambi (David Hand/Walt Disney, 42)
20) The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 48)
21) My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 46)
22) To Be or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 42)
23) Brief Encounter (David Lean, 46)
24) The Red Shoes (Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger, 48)
25) Detour (Edgar Ulmer, 45)
26) She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (John Ford, 49)
27) The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 40)
28) On The Town (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, 49)
29) Monsiuer Verdoux (Charles Chaplin, 47)
30) Red River (Howard Hawks, 48)
31) Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 44)
32) The More The Merrier (George Stevens, 43)
33) Fantasia (Luske/Jackson/Algar/Disney et al., 40)
34) His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 40)
35) The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 46)
36) The Thief of Bagdad (Powell/Berger/Whelan et al., 40)
37) I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur/Val Lewton, 43)
38) White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 49)
39) The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, 42)
40) Long-Haired Hare (Chuck Jones, 49)
41) Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 44) 42) Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 46)
43) Rome--Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 45)
44) Cat People (Jacques Tourneur/Val Lewton, 42)
45) The Heiress (William Wyler, 49)
46) Superman Vs. The Mechanical Monsters (Max Fleicher, 41)
47) Begone Dull Care (Evelyn Lambart/Norman McLaren, 49)
(An experimental masterpiece)
48) The Sullivans (Lloyd Bacon, 44)
49) King-Size Canary (Tex Avery, 47)
50) Yellow Sky (William Wellman, 48)
51) The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (Preston Sturges, 44)
52) The Ox-Bow Incident (William Wellman, 43)
53) The Pride of the Yankees (Sam Wood, 42)
54) Battleground (William Wellman, 49)
55) Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky, 48)
56) Pinocchio (Luske/Sharpsteen/Disney, 40)
57) Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 44)
58) The Killers (Robert Siodmak, 46)
59) Laura (Otto Preminger, 44)
60) Murder My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk, 44)
61) The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles, 47)
62) Yankee Doodle Dandy (Michael Curtiz, 42)
63) Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 45)
64) The Cat That Hated People (Tex Avery, 48)
65) The Shop Around The Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 40)
66) Nightmare Alley (Edmond Goulding, 47)
67) Macbeth (Orson Welles, 48)
68) Letter From An Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls. 48)
69) Miracle on 34th Street (George Seaton, 47)
70) Dumbo (Ben Sharpsteen/Walt Disney, 46)
71) Shoeshine (Vittorio De Sica, 46)
72) Wilson (Henry King, 44)
73) The Body Snatcher (Robert Wise/Val Lewton, 47)
74) Champion (Mark Robson, 49)
75) Foreign Correspondent (Alfred Hitchcock, 40)
76) A Letter to Three Wives (Joseph L. Manckiewicz, 49)
77) Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 47)
78) Since You Went Away (John Cromwell/David O. Selznick, 44)
79) Adam's Rib (George Cukor, 49)
80) Meet John Doe (Frank Capra, 41)
81) Body and Soul (Robert Rossen, 47)
82) The Little Foxes (William Wyler, 41)
83) Christmas in July (Preston Sturges, 40)
84) The Why We Fight series (Capra, Stevens, Huston, 43-45)
85) Sergeant York (Howard Hawks, 41)
86) That Hamilton Woman (Alexander Korda, 41)
87) The Major and the Minor (Billy Wilder, 42)
88) Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 42)
89) The Fallen Idol (Carol Reed, 48)
90) Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 45)
91) Henry V (Lawrence Olivier, 44)
92) It Happens Every Spring (Lloyd Bacon, 49)
93) Lady in the Lake (Robert Montgomery, 47)
94) The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder, 45)
95) Mighty Joe Young (Ernest B. Schoedsack, 49)
96) Red Hot Riding Hood (Tex Avery, 43)
97) The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 46)
98) Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 45)
99) The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, 45)
100) Der Fuehrer's Face (Jack Kinney/Walt Disney, 42)
101) The Picture of Dorian Gray (Albert Lewin, 45)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

MASTER LIST #16: The 101 Best Films of the 1950s

Of course, a staggering array of masterworks hail from the 1950s--so much so that putting them in order of preference was like splitting an already split hair. One can really see that this was another monumental era for cinema, with Kurosawa, Bergman, Donen, Hitchcock, Huston, Ford, Kubrick, Welles, Fellini, Nicholas Ray, Anthony Mann, Max Ophuls, and Billy Wilder, among others, delivering many of their greatest works (it was a brilliant time for short films, too, with the Warner Brothers-based works of Chuck Jones garnering four spots among the eight short films mentioned). You can see the building blocks for the upcoming tumult of the '60s and '70s here, too (despite what some may think, it was not entirely a Leave It To Beaver decade; there are some seriously cynical movies on this list). It's also a decade of supreme sophistication and, at the same time, entertainment; here, The Seventh Seal and Sweet Smell of Success sits right beside 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Court Jester. And there's even room for George Pal and Ed Wood! So here, evaluated by (1) overall quality, (2) historical importance, (3) influence, and (4) personal affection, are my choices:

1) Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 58)
2) The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 59 (France))
3) Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 57)
4) Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 54)
5) Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 59)
6) The Searchers (John Ford, 56)
7) Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 52 (Japan))
8) The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 55)
9) Singin' In The Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 52)
10) Umberto D (Vittorio De Sica, 52 (Italy))
11) Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 58 (Sweden))
12) Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 50)
13) Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 58)
14) La Ronde (Max Ophuls, 50 (France))
15) Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 57 (Italy))
16) Winchester '73 (Anthony Mann, 50)
17) Giant (George Stevens, 56)
18) Kiss Me, Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 55)
19) High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 52)
20) The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 57 (Russia))
21) What's Opera, Doc? (Chuck Jones, 57)
22) The Seven Samarai (Akira Kurosawa, 54 (Japan))
23) Twelve Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 57)
24) The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann, 53)
25) North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 59)
26) Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 57 (Japan))
27) Mr. Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati, 53 (France))
28) Pork Chop Hill (Lewis Milestone, 59)
29) The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 55)
30) The Quiet Man (John Ford, 52 (USA/Ireland))
31) Neighbours (Norman McLaren, 52 (Canada))
32) In A Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 50)
33) Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda, 58 (Poland))
34) The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 57 (Sweden))
35) Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 53 (Japan))
36) Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 59)
37) The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock, 56)
38) Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 58 (France))
39) The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 56)
40) A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 51)
41) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 56)
42) Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 51)
43) Les Diabolique (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 55 (France))
44) The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (Roy Rowland, 53)
45) Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 56)
46) Shane (George Stevens, 53)
47) Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 50 (Japan))
48) A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan, 57)
49) East of Eden (Elia Kazan, 55)
50) Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger, 59)
51) Curse of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 57 (Britain))
52) Duck Amuck (Chuck Jones, 53)
53) The Day The Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 51)
54) There's Always Tomorrow (Douglas Sirk, 56)
55) Lady and The Tramp (Geronimi/Jackso/Luske, 55)
56) Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 51)
57) Lola Montes (Max Ophuls, 55 (France))
58) The African Queen (John Huston, 51)
59) A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 51)
60) Limelight (Charles Chaplin, 52 (Britain))
61) Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 57)
62) All About Eve (Joseph L. Manckiewicz, 50)
63) Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 54)
64) The Bad and the Beautiful (Vincente Minnelli, 53)
65) The Man From Laramie (Anthony Mann, 55)
66) Othello (Orson Welles, 55 (USA/Finland/France)
67) Summertime (David Lean, 59 (Britain/Italy))
68) The Tell-Tale Heart (Ted Parmelee, 53)
69) Fixed Bayonets! (Samuel Fuller, 51)
70) Wagon Master (John Ford, 50)
71) The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse, 56 (France))
72) On The Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 54)
73) A Star is Born (George Cukor, 54)
74) Rebel Without A Cause (Nicholas Ray, 55)
75) Executive Suite (Robert Wise, 54)
76) The Girl Can't Help It (Frank Tashlin, 56)
77) The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 51 (Britain))
78) The Tall T (Budd Boetticher, 57)
79) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen, 54)
80) One Froggy Evening (Chuck Jones, 55)
81) Kanal (Andrzej Wajda, 57)
82) Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geronimi, 59)
83) The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 50)
84) Funny Face (Stanley Donen, 57)
85) Day of the Outlaw (Andre De Toth, 59)
86) Mister Roberts (John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, 55)
87) 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Richard Fleicher, 54)
88) Beat the Devil (John Huston, 53)
89) The Diary of Anne Frank (George Stevens, 59)
90) Plan 9 From Outer Space (Edward D. Wood, Jr., 59)
91) Feed The Kitty (Chuck Jones, 52)
92) Bend of the River (Anthony Mann, 52)
93) The Caine Mutiny (Edward Dmytryk, 54)
94) Moonbird (John and Faith Hubley, 59)
95) Quo Vadis (Mervyn LeRoy, 51)
96) The Court Jester (Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, 55)
97) Summer with Monika (Ingmar Bergman, 53 (Sweden))
98) Bad Day at Black Rock (John Sturges, 55)
99) Guys and Dolls (Joseph L. Manckiewicz, 55)
100) Bus Stop (Joshua Logan, 56)
101) The War of the Worlds (George Pal, 53)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

MASTER LIST #15: The 101 Best Films of the 1960s

Whoa! Easily the most challenging decade for films since the silent era, in my opinion. So many of the following 1960s films cited are not for everyone (popular filmmaking, spearheaded by the Americans, on the other hand, was at its lowest ebb, with dunderheaded musicals, epics, and comedies taking the forefront at the box office). Very nearly half of the entries on the list hail from the finest filmic artists of World Cinema--Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni, Lester, Germi, Leone, and so on--working outside the states, and then there are so many more filmmakers who transplanted themselves in less-familiar parts of the world to mount their creations (Kubrick did his great works in Britain, while, for instance, Britain's Alfred Hitchcock and John Schlesinger did their decade-defining works in America). There was a lot more give-and-take between commonwealths in this era; that, plus the massive social and political transformations occurring all over the globe during the decade (not to mention the great strides in literature, music, and movies themselves) contributed to the one-time-only richness of 1960s cinema. So, based on (1) overall quality, (2) influence, (3) historical importance, and (4) personal affection, here are my choices:

1) 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 68)
2) The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 69)
3) Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 60)
4) Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 62 (Britain/USA))
5) The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 66 (Italy))
6) Blow Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 66 (Britain/Italy))
7) Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 64 (Britain/USA))
8) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 62)
9) Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 66 (Sweden))
10) The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 61 (Britain))
11) Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 69)
12) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 64 (France))
13) Salesman (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerlin, 69)
14) Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols, 66)
15) Targets (Peter Bogdanovich, 68)
16) Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 65 (Britain))
17) Once Upon A Time In The West (Sergio Leone, 69 (Italy))
18) The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel, 62 (Spain))
19) Playtime (Jacques Tati, 67 (France))
20) The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 67)
21) Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 67)
22) I Am Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov, 64 (Russia/Cuba))
23) Pierrot Le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 65 (France))
24) The Music Man (Morton Da Costa, 62)
25) Ride The High Country (Sam Peckinpah, 62)
26) Masculin-Feminin (Jean-Luc Godard, 66 (France))
27) West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 61)
28) Point of Order! (Emile De Antonio, 64)
29) War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk, 68 (Russia))
30) A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester, 64 (Britain))
31) David and Lisa (Frank Perry, 62)
32) Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 68)
33) Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 60 (Britain))
34) Mothlight (Stan Brakhage, 63)
35) 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 63 (Italy))
36) The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pier Paulo Pasolini, 66 (Italy))
37) Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 61 (Japan))
38) if... (Lindsay Anderson, 69 (Britain))
39) Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard, 67 (France))
40) 7 Up (Michael Apted, 64 (Britain))
41) The Color of Pomegranates (Sergei Parajanov, 68 (Russia))
42) Medium Cool (Haskell Wexler, 69)
43) Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles, 65 (Britain/USA))
44) La Jetee (Chris Marker, 62 (France))
45) Monterey Pop (D.A. Pennebaker, 69)
46) In Cold Blood (Richard Brooks, 67)
47) Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 66 (Russia))
48) Cul-de-Sac (Roman Polanski, 66 (Britain))
49) Primary (Robert Drew, 60)
50) Hud (Martin Ritt, 63)
51) The Manchurian Candidate (John Frankenheimer, 62)
52) Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller, 63)
53) Faces (John Cassevetes, 68)
54) To Kill A Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 62)
55) The Misfits (John Huston, 61)
56) Petulia (Richard Lester, 68 (Britain))
57) The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 61)
58) The War Game (Peter Watkins, 65 (Britain))
59) The Knack, And How to Get It (Richard Lester, 65 (Britain))
60) Stolen Kisses (Francois Truffaut, 68 (France))
61) Closely Watched Trains (Jiri Menzel, 66 (Czechoslovakia)
62) It Happened Here (Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, 66 (Britain))
63) The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman, 60 (Sweden))
64) Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 64 (Japan))
65) Fail-Safe (Sidney Lumet, 64)
66) Jules and Jim (Francois Truffaut, 62 (France))
67) Culloden (Peter Watkin, 64 (Britain))
68) Don't Look Back (D.A. Pennebaker, 67)
69) Jigoku (Nobuo Nakagawa, 60 (Japan))
70) Point Blank (John Boorman, 67)
71) The Rain People (Francis Ford Coppola, 69)
72) Divorce, Italian Style (Pietro Germi, 61 (Italy))
73) Through a Glass, Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 61 (Sweden))
74) The Dot and the Line (Chuck Jones, 65)
75) The Naked Kiss (Samuel Fuller, 64)
76) Oliver! (Carol Reed, 68 (Britain))
77) Belle De Jour (Luis Bunuel, 68 (Spain/France))
78) Nothing But A Man (Michael Roemer, 64)
79) Bullitt (Peter Yates, 68)
80) Mickey One (Arthur Penn, 65)
81) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 69)
82) One, Two, Three (Billy Wilder, 61)
83) Head (Bob Rafelson, 68)
84) Bedazzled (Stanley Donen, 67 (Britain))
85) 101 Dalmatians (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske & Wolfgang Reitherman, 61)
86) The Hill (Sidney Lumet, 65)
87) A Man For All Seasons (Fred Zinnemann, 66 (Britain))
88) They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (Sydney Pollack, 69)
89) The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 63)
90) Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 60 (Britain))
91) The Bellboy (Jerry Lewis, 60)
92) Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 67)
93) Yellow Submarine (George Dunning, 68 (Britain))
94) Seven Days in May (John Frankenheimer, 64)
95) Zulu (Cy Endfield, 64 (Britain))
96) On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 69) (Britain))
97) Judgment at Nuremberg (Stanley Kramer, 61)
98) A Shot in the Dark (Blake Edwards, 64 (Britain))
99) Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, 62)
100) Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, 61)
101) Two For The Road (Stanley Donen, 67 (Britain))

Thursday, July 2, 2009

MASTER LIST #14: The 101 Best Films of the 1980s

Having followed the stellar 1970s, and heavily steeped with former movie star Ronald Reagan's culture-changing presidential agenda (at least in its latter half), the 1980s may seem at first glance as a nadir for cinema (especially since the decade itself was, in my opinion, the beginning of the end for serious movies). But I find absolutely nothing worthy of burial in this list. All titles cited that were released before 1983 are suitable for inclusion in the golden age of the previous decade, and those that came afterwards are only VERY slightly weaker. Among those doing some of their best work in this decade: Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Philip Kaufman, Terry Gilliam, Stanley Kubrick, John Huston, Sidney Lumet, Jonathan Demme, Albert Brooks, and Steven Spielberg. Plus we have the emergence of Alex Cox, Jim Jaramusch, Bill Forsyth, Steven Soderburgh, Joel and Ethan Coen, Ross McElwee, and Sam Raimi. Not a bad batch of filmmakers there. Anyway, according to (1) influence, (2) overall quality, and (3) personal affection, here's my lineup for the decade, with short commentary:

1) Fanny and Alexander (TV or film version) (Ingmar Bergman, 83 (Sweden))
2) Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 80)
3) Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 82 (Scotland))
4) Sherman's March (Ross McEllwee, 86)
5) Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 86)
6) Reds (Warren Beatty, 81)
7) Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 87)
8) Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 89)
9) The Killing Fields (Roland Joffe, 84)
10) Jean De Florette / Manon of the Spring (Claude Berri, 87/88 (France))
11) Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 85 (Britain))
12) Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 89)
13) Das Boot (TV or film version) (Wolfgang Petersen, 83 (Germany))
14) Chilly Scenes of Winter (Joan Micklin Silver, 81)
15) The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 83)
16) Blade Runner (Director's Cut) (Ridley Scott, 82/92)
17) Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant, 89)
18) 'Round Midnight (Bertrand Tavernier, 86 (France/USA))
19) Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme and Talking Heads, 84)
20) Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 85 (Japan))
21) The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Philip Kaufman, 88)
22) Entre Nous (Diane Kurys, 83 (France))
23) The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 86)
24) Matewan (John Sayles, 87)
25) E.T. The Extraterrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 82)
26) The Sacrifice (Andrei Tarkovsky, 86 (Russia))
27) This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 84)
28) Burden of Dreams (Les Blank, 82)
29) Le Rayon Vert / Summer (Eric Rohmer, 86 (France))
30) Cutter's Way (Ivan Passer, 81)
31) Prince of the City (Sidney Lumet, 81)
32) The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 83)
33) Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 85)
34) Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, 82)
35) The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese, 88)
36) Tess (Roman Polanski, 80 (France/Britain))
37) The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 80)
38) Pennies From Heaven (Herbert Ross, 81)
39) Star 80 (Bob Fosse, 83)
40) Gallipoli (Peter Weir, 81 (Australia))
41) Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Speilberg, 82)
42) High Hopes (Mike Leigh, 88 (Britain))
43) Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 80)
44) Shoot The Moon (Alan Parker, 82)
45) Mystery Train (Jim Jarmusch, 89)
46) Wings of Desire (Wim Winders, 87 (Germany))
47) Last Night at the Alamo (Eagle Pennell, 83)
48) Gregory's Girl (Bill Forsyth, 81 (Scotland))
49), lies and videotape (Steven Soderburgh, 89)
50) Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 81)
51) Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen, 84)
52) Sophie's Choice (Alan J. Pakula, 82)
53) Once Upon A Time in America (long version) (Sergio Leone, 84)
54) Used Cars (Robert Zemeckis, 80)
55) The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 82)
56) Modern Romance (Albert Brooks, 80)
57) After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 86)
58) The Long Riders (Walter Hill, 81)
59) Missing (Costa-Gavras, 82)
60) Diner (Barry Levinson, 82)
61) Thief (Michael Mann, 81)
62) Drowning by Numbers (Peter Greenaway, 88 (Britain))
63) Smash Palace (Roger Donaldson, 81 (Australia))
64) Blood Simple (Joel and Ethan Coen, 85)
65) Pixote (Hector Babenco, 81 (Brazil))
66) Empire of the Sun (Steven Spielberg, 87)
67) The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 80)
68) The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen, 85)
69) The Fourth Man (Paul Verhoeven, 83 (Germany))
70) Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, 83 (Britain))
71) Aliens (James Cameron, 88)
72) The Vanishing (George Sluzier, 88 (Denmark))
73) Out of the Blue (Dennis Hopper, 80)
74) Threads (Mick Jackson, 84 (Britain))
75) Tucker: The Man and His Dream (Francis Ford Coppola, 88)
76) The Dead (John Huston, 87 (Ireland/USA))
77) My Dinner With Andre (Louis Malle, 81)
78) A Passage to India (David Lean, 85 (Britain))
79) The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 80 (Britain/USA))
80) Lost in America (Albert Brooks, 85)
81) Broadcast News (James L. Brooks, 87)
82) The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese, 86)
83) Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 81)
84) Prizzi's Honor (John Huston, 85)
85) The Road Warrior (George Miller, 81)
86) Hope and Glory (John Boorman, 87 (Britain))
87) Zelig (Woody Allen, 83)
88) Sid and Nancy (Alex Cox, 86 (Britain))
89) Die Hard (John McTiernan, 88)
90) Coal Miner's Daughter (Michael Apted, 80)
91) Altered States (Ken Russell, 80)
92) Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 88 (Canada))
93) Airplane! (Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker, 80)
94) Something Wild (Jonathan Demme, 86)
95) Raising Arizona (Joel and Ethan Coen, 86)
96) One-Trick Pony (Robert M. Young, 80)
97) Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (Tim Burton, 86)
98) The Stunt Man (Richard Rush, 80)
99) They Live (John Carpenter, 88)
100) Old Enough (Marisa Silver, 84)
101) Marvin and Tige (Eric Weston, 83)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

MASTER LIST #13: The 101 Best Films of the 1970s

In response to the current poll being held at the magnificent Wonders in the Dark, I decided to commit to posterity my 101 favorite films from the 1970s. I came of age in the 1970s, so I saw about 65% of these titles in first-run theaters (it was an unbelievable time to be a budding film lover--so much so that I haven't enough words to describe it here). So, in order, based on (1) influence, (2) personal affection, and (3) overall quality, here's my list, with short commentary:

1) The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 72/74)
2) Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 77)
3) A Little Romance (George Roy Hill, 79 (France/USA))
4) Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 74)
5) Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 76)
6) All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 79)
7) Eraserhead (David Lynch, 77)
8) Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 78)
9) The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 71)
10) Nashville (Robert Altman, 75)
11) Manhattan (Woody Allen, 79)
12) Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 79)
13) Aguirre The Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 72 (Germany))
14) Deliverance (John Boorman, 72)
15) Network (Sidney Lumet, 76)
16) Gimme Shelter (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerlin, 71)
17) One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman, 75)
18) The Day of the Locust (John Schlesinger, 75)
19) O Lucky Man! (Lindsay Anderson, 73 (Britain))
20) Seven Beauties (Lina Wertmuller, 76 (Italy))
21) Breaking Away (Peter Yates, 79)
22) Best Boy (Ira Wohl, 79)
23) Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 75 (Britain))
24) M.A.S.H. (Robert Altman, 70)
25) Punishment Park (Peter Watkins, 71 (Britain))
26) Badlands (Terrence Malick, 73)
27) McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 71)
28) Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 76)
29) The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 78)
30) The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood, 76)
31) Oblomov (Nikita Mikhalov, 79 (Russia))
32) Small Change (Francois Truffaut, 76 (France))
33) American Graffiti (George Lucas, 73)
34) Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 73)
35) Claire’s Knee (Eric Rohmer, 71 (France))
36) The Tin Drum (Volker Schlondorff, 79 (Germany))
37) Alien (Ridley Scott, 79)
38) All The President’s Men (Alan J. Pakula, 76)
39) The Black Stallion (Carroll Ballard, 79)
40) Being There (Hal Ashby, 79)
41) The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 74)
42) Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 77)
43) The Honeymoon Killers (Leonard Kastle, 70)
44) Straight Time (Ulu Grosbard, 78)
45) Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich, 74)
46) The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 73)
47) Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 74)
48) Special Delivery (John Weldon and Eunice MacCauley, 78)
49) A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 71 (Britain))
50) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 74)
51) Images (Robert Altman, 72)
52) Tommy (Ken Russell, 75 (Britain))
53) Interiors (Woody Allen, 78)
54) A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 74)
55) The Last Waltz (Martin Scorsese, 78)
56) Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 71)
57) Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 71)
58) Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 71)
59) An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 78)
60) Grey Gardens (Maysles/Hovde/Maysles/Meyer, 75)
61) Scenes from a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman, 76 (Sweden))
62) Halloween (John Carpenter, 78)
63) The Candidate (Michael Richie, 72)
64) Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 75 (Australia))
65) Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, 79)
66) Husbands (John Cassavetes, 70)
67) The Parallax View (Alan J. Pakula, 74)
68) Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols, 71)
70) Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 72 (Russia))
71) 3 Women (Robert Altman, 77)
72) Gates of Heaven (Errol Morris, 78)
73) Over The Edge (Jonathan Kaplan, 79)
74) F for Fake (Orson Welles, 74)
75) Frank Film (Frank Mouris, 73)
76) Kramer Vs. Kramer (Robert Benton, 79)
77) Electra Glide in Blue (James William Guercio, 73)
78) THX-1138 (Director’s Cut) (George Lucas, 71/2001)
79) The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Bunuel, 72 (Spain))
80) Harry and Tonto (Paul Mazursky, 74)
81) Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Jones/Gilliam, 75 (Britain))
82) Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 71)
83) Who’ll Stop The Rain? (Karel Reitz, 78)
84) Fiddler on the Roof (Norman Jewison, 71)
85) The Bad News Bears (Michael Richie, 76)
86) Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 75)
87) The Poseidon Adventure (Ronald Neame, 72)
88) What's Up Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 72)
89) The Man Who Would Be King (John Huston, 75)
90) Citizen’s Band / Handle With Care (Jonathan Demme, 77)
91) Ryan’s Daughter (David Lean, 70 (Britain))
92) Night Moves (Arthur Penn, 75)
93) The Silent Partner (Darryl Dukes, 79)
94) Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins, 74 (Britain/Norway))
95) The Front (Martin Ritt, 76)
96) Richard Pryor Live in Concert (Jeff Margolin, 79)
97) Bad Company (Robert Benton, 72)
98) Going in Style (Martin Brest, 79)
99) Wanda (Barbara Loden, 70)
100) Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 74)
101) Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 78)

Monday, June 8, 2009

MASTER LIST #12: The 40 Best Film Books

In responding enthusiastically to MovieMan's wildfire-like Reading the Movies meme over at The Dancing Image, I've come up with my top forty movie books. Listed roughly in order of importance, they are as such (and I've recently added notations where I gather these books are OUT OF PRINT and thus need special pursuit):

1) The Cult Movies series (1,2, & 3) by Danny Peary (Delta 1981, 1984, 1989)
2) Guide for the Film Fanatic by Danny Peary (Simon and Schuster, LTD, 1987)
3) Alternate Oscars by Danny Peary (Delta 1993)

For my money, Peary is the finest film writer out there. He transmits passion, knowledge and originality of thinking without ever becoming pretentious or unintelligible. He's funny, engaging, and has seen a whole lotta stuff. He's obviously an authority that deserves to be read again and again--and with his breezy style, it's easy to do so. The Cult Movies books are the best-looking non-color film books out there, too--each of the series' 200 entries come complete with credits, full synopses, 5 or so pages of analysis, and a few well-chosen photos; the movies he chooses to cover come from all genres and eras (Peary is a truly democratic film writer). Guide for the Film Fanatic is the book I run to before or after I've seen something notable; I must have burned through four copies of the tome over the years. And Alternate Oscars does brilliantly what we'd all like to do: mete out justice to the movies and actors that deserved the awards; his choices here are sometimes unfailingly personal, but the author always makes convincing arguments. He's now concentrating on sports writing but as a movie aficionado, Danny Peary is the best! No contest! (all are out of print)

4) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Pauline Kael (Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd, 1970)
5) Taking It All In by Pauline Kael (Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd, 1986))
6) 5001 Nights at the Movies by Pauline Kael (Holt Paperbacks, 1991)

I could list many more works by this legend, but I kept it down to these three--the first two were my teenaged introduction to the former New Yorker film writer, and the latter is the three-inch-thick guide to movies that also, to this day, is a regular reading stop for me. Kael often disappoints me with what she thinks of my favorite movies (she called 2001 "the biggest amateur movie ever made"), but her writing is so hard-scrabble vivid that I can forgive her 1000 times over for making me feel like a fool (though her opinions have rarely changed my mind). My circa-1989 NYC roommate Gary Sherwood once received a call from her in response to a letter he wrote regarding her favorable review of Tim Burton's Batman; through him, she asked me what my favorite movie thus far of 1989 was, and I responded sex, lies and videotape. She was not pleased, but I still love Soderburgh's movie. And, may I say, it's held up better than Burton's bloated epic has.
7) The Stanley Kubrick Archives by Alison Castle (TASCHEN America Llc, 2008)
The mindbending publishing company Taschen released this massive $200 look into Stanley Kubrick's purview in 2008, and it promptly took first place status in the Kubrick book sweepstakes. Its overwhelming first half consists of frame blowups of images from each of Kubrick's works, from Killer's Kiss to Eyes Wide Shut (the source being Kubrick's prints of his own movies). And the extremely exacting latter half covers the ins and outs of each film's making, replete with Kubrick script pages, memos, and photographs. The book even covers his short films, his little-seen first feature Fear and Desire, his early photographic output for high school and Look magazine, and failed projects Napoleon, The Aryan Papers, and A.I. Stunningly designed and colored, this would be my choice for the nicest-looking, most revealing film book available. I note, happily, that my copy is signed by Malcolm McDowell on the full-page repro of his first Clockwork Orange close-up

8) Hitchcock/Truffaut by Francois Truffaut (Simon and Schuster - Touchstone Books, 1967)
The ultimate in classic conversation between fine filmmakers. Its revelatory quality is absolutely unmatched.

9) Inside Oscar (10th Anniversary Edition) and Inside Oscar 2 by Damien Bona and Mason Wiley (Ballantine Books 1996; Ballantine Books 2002)
An apologetically reverent look at film history, as seen through each year's politically-driven race for the Academy Awards. You'd think it'd be an easy thing to list all the conglomeration's nominees and winners, as this book does perfectly in its final section, but so many Oscar books screw things up with typos and just-plain-wrong information. Not this one. Inside Oscar is the definitive Academy Award overview. (out of print)


10) Joe Bob Goes To The Drive-In by Joe Bob Briggs (Delacorte Press 1986/1987, with intro by Stephen King)
Joe Bob (aka John Bloom) brings his unbridled joy to the discussion of bad (and good) filmmaking. His chunky, without-boundaries film writing reminds us of why we like movies: it's cuz they're fun. You Remember that? It was on the basis of this book that I chimed in with my bosses at TNT in the mid-90s in recommending him as the host of that network's memorable Monstervision franchise. I'm not bragging--I'm just sayin'... (out of print)

11) This is Orson Welles by Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich (Harper Collins 1992)
Reading this, one realizes that Welles' reward as a cinematic genius wasn't necessarily in the making of often (but not always) great movies, but rather in the living of an always rich life. If we could have an earthly existence that held 1/1000th of the excitement that Orson felt, we'd be very lucky indeed.

12) Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of a New Hollywood by Mark Harris (Penguin (Non-Classics), 2009)
The best film book of recent years takes a gander at the five movies nominated for Best Picture at the 1967 Oscars: Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Doolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and In The Heat of the Night. Harris follows the gestation of these movies right up to their release and acclaim (or lack thereof). In doing so, he chronicles the late 60s seachange that led to the last golden era of movies, the 1970s. It reads like a masterful suspense novel--that's how engrossing it is.

13) Making Movies by Sidney Lumet (Vintage, 1996)
This is one book that deserves to rank as the future's #1 textbook for budding filmmakers. Lumet's attention to detail even extends to the direction of extras (he rightfully says that NYC extras are better than LA extras, because the NYC participants are real actors rather than fame-seeking hot-doggers). It's an extraordinary late-career contribution to film writing from one of cinema's greatest craftsmen.

14) The Making of Kubrick's 2001 by Jerome Agel (Signet; First Edition 1970)
I've had a copy of this book on my person ever since I saw 2001 when I was 11 (in 1977). I've only ever seen it as a pocket paperback, but it was clearly printed a lot, because I've never had any trouble finding a copy after my last one had fallen apart. Agel was a nimble media writer who'd worked closely with Marshall McLuhan on a number of tiny-but-dense paperbacks like The Medium is the Massage and Is Tomorrow Today? It's not surprising, but is nonetheless a miracle that he devoted time to compiling this incredible overview of one clearly groundbreaking movie. An Agel book is unmistakable in it layout, typeface, and bouncy form of organization. Here, along with that unique print voice, you will find numerous Kubrick interviews, talks with almost everyone associated with the film, critical reactions (often printed in full), fan (and non-fan) reactions, film quotes, and an amazing 96-page photo compilation that features cut scenes, behind-the-camera views, and frame blowups, all meticulously captioned. The best book ever produced dealing with a single title. (WAY out of print)

15) The Ingmar Bergman Archives by Paul Duncan and Bengt Wanselius (TASCHEN America Llc; Har/DVD/Fl edition 2008)
Like its Kubrick-centric predecessor, Taschen's richly illustrated analysis of the great Swedish filmmaker's career is essential to our understanding of Bergman's immutable worth.

16) RE/Search #10: Incredibly Strange Films by Vivian Vale and Andrea Juno (RE/Search, 1986)
The idiosyncratic San Francisco publishing company RE/Search threw into the film book race with this loving look at outside-the-mainstream filmmakers like Russ Meyer, Ted V. Mikels, Doris Wishman, Larry Cohen, Dave Friedman, Hershell Gordon Lewis, and Ray Dennis Steckler. A compilation of interviews and essays, as well as rare photos and movie ads, it's essential reading for filmfans looking for something different. (out of print)

17) Hollywood on the Riviera: The Inside Story of the Cannes Film Festival by Cari Beauchamp and Henri Behar (William Morrow & Co; 1992)
There've been scads of books written about the Oscars. But only one has been penned about the equally (if not more so) political machinations surrounding the world's leading film festival. This is that unmatchable book. (out of print)

18) The Motion Picture Guide by Stanley Ralph Ross and Jay Robert Nash (CineBooks, 1983)
In 1983, L.A. actors/writers Ross and Nash released this photo-less 17-volume set which examines, apparently, every movie ever made. Pre-IMDB, it was the go-to spot in learning the participants in any film you could think of. What was Peter Lorre's character's name in Beat The Devil? Who photographed Heaven With A Gun? Who wrote A Hatful of Rain? And what songs were used in American Graffiti? You could find the answers here. WARNING: the authors often synopsize the greatest movies in rash detail (their entry for Gone With the Wind lasts five pages, and that's in incredibly tiny type), so if you are sensitive to spoilers, don't read everything. And, I must say, my opinions of movies don't often jibe with theirs (they give Taxi Driver a half a star--they clearly like older movies). But, even if these guys sometimes seem as if they don't know what they're talking about, The Motion Picture Guide is a still a breathtaking achievement. The authors continued with yearly annuals until the 1990s, when they were replaced by Edmond Grant and Ken Fox. (WAY out of print)

19) Scorsese on Scorsese by David Thomson (Faber and Faber, 1989)
Another completist overview of a great filmmaker's career, told with utter honesty by the man himself. Regularly updated.

20) Reel Facts by Cobbett Steinberg (Penguin Books LTD; Rev Ed edition, 1981)
Reel Facts was a book that I picked up in an early edition when I was 10, in 1976. It clued this kid in to all major film festival and critics groups awards. There have been other books that have done what it does (including the later-cited The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards by Michael Gebert), but Steinberg's book is the only one that generously includes, in full, 35 years of the Harvard Lampoon's hilarious worst-movie awards (which takes up, thankfully, about 70 of 500-plus pages). (WAY out of print)

21) The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood by David Thomson (Little, Brown; 2005)
A dazzling, and essentially personal view of film history that takes into account budgets, box-office, executive predilictions, decade zeitgeists, and filmic quality. It boggles the mind, really, in terms of its pervasive overview, and deserves to be a textbook mainstay.

22) In The Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch (Silman-James Press; 2 Revised edition, 2001)
The essential tome on film editing and sound work, written by a master of the crafts.

23) The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 by Andrew Sarris (Da Capo Press, 1969)
The immutable 60s classic that first posited the auteur theory.

24) A Short History of the Movies by Bruce Kawin and Gerald Mast (Longman; 9th edition, 2005)
The eternal movie textbook, detailed and loving.

25) 50 Years of the Academy Awards (1977 edition) by Robert Osborne (Abbeville Press, 1977)
I got this 1977 book for Christmas that year, and its no-nonsense style, plus its copious illustrations, spurred me on to examine all major Oscar players. It's been updated repeatedly by the distinguished TCM host--up to the 80th year of the awards--but I have a fondness for this edition, particularly. (out of print)

26) Horror Movies: Tales of Terror in the Cinema by Alan G. Frank (Book Sales, 1974)
I received this book for Christmas in 1975. I was a horror movie fan and a regular reader of Forrest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland, but I had never seen anything like this British-based horror movie book decorated with scads of fascinating photos. It's out-of-print now, but it should be in the library of any self-respecting horror movie fan (along with the more complete Nightmare Movies: A Critical Guide to Horror Movies by Kim Newman, which just missed making my top 40). (out of print)

27) The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (Vols. 1 & 2) by Michael Weldon (Ballantine Books, 1983, 1994)
Weldon--the master viewer of B-Movies, and the editor of the absolutely essential Psychotronic magazine, weighs in on all fronts, with great humor, passion and precision.

28) Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide by Leonard Maltin et. al (2000 edition published by Signet on September 1, 1999; published yearly)
The perennial movie guide is difiicult to determine in origin. I seem to remember it appearing on bookshelves as early as 1976 (along with Steven Schafner's now-forgotten TV Movies). Staunchly mainstream, it's always does well for a quick look at a movie you're about to watch, but as years progress, older titles are deleted. So, beware...

29) Scenes from the City: Filmmaking in New York by James Sanders (Rizzoli, 2006)
This amazing volume focuses in on movies shot on the greatest soundstage in movie history: New York City. Wholly backed by the New York City Mayor's Office of Film and Television, it features a pleathora of fantastic behind-the-scenes photos of all your favorite NYC-shot movies, complete with exacting locations (the scene from Annie Hall you like? Filmed at 67th and 2nd). It's an incredible work that's as much a travel guide as film book.

30) Stanley Kubrick Directs by Alexander Walker (Harcourt Brace Co; 1972)
Originally published in the early 70s (and recently updated in the 90s in order to cover the director's entire career), this critical dissection of Kubrick's works comes from a close personal friend of the director. As a kid, I referred to this book--which had incredibly valuable frame blow-ups and Walker's rich insights--many, many times. Its pages are instant nostalgia.

31) Defining Moments in Movies: The Greatest Films, Stars, Scenes and Events that Made Movie Magic, edited by Chris Fujiwara (Cassell Illustrated, 2007)
The most recent book on my list reads like a printed version of the web's most impassioned blogposts. Through the words of over 100 internationally-reknowned film writers, it recounts the major moments in film history, from 1899 to 2007. Beautifully illustrated and written, it makes me feel like an absolute dumbkopf--which I love, because I'm always looking to learn more. (out of print?)

32) Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho by Richard Anobile (Macmillan, 1974)
With this book, Anobile pioneered the now-dead fotonovel. He painstakingly looked at each of the key frames of Hitchcock's masterpiece and reproduced them in book form. This, of course, happened before each of us had VCRS and DVD players in our homes. So arriving into classrooms, as I once did with his books, was something of an achievement. He went on to do fotonovels for Ninotchka, Alien, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein, but Anobile's look at Psycho would remain his most valuable contribution to film publishing. (out of print)

33) Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists by Steven Bach (Newmarket Press; Revised edition, 1999)
Bach's unsparing look at Michael Cimino's studio-toppling making of Heaven's Gate--still, to me, a vastly underrated movie that popped up wrong-place-wrong-time--stands as a cautionary tale for young filmmakers who, tainted with a taste of success, think they can do anything under the sun.

34) Off-Hollywood Movies: A Film Lovers Guide by Richard Skorman (Harmony, 1989)
A guilty pleasure. The writing isn't notably superb, but the films cited are. (out of print)

35) The Encyclopedia of Movie Awards by Michael Gebert (St. Martins Mass Market Paper, 1996)
Gebart's vastly personal take on the history of movie awards is too vehement to be ignored. A great pocket-sized book to carry with you anywhere, if you're a movie lover. But I wish it were more complete, and twice as thick. (out of print)

36) Hollywood Rock, edited by Marshall Crenshaw and Ted Mico (Harper Collins; 1994)
The history of rock n' roll and all other related music genres, via movies. Crenshaw does little writing here, but his editing is unparalleled. If you like movies AND music--as I suspect many movie writers do--this is essential perusing. (out of print)

37) The Film Encyclopedia by Ephraim Katz (Collins; 6 edition, 2008)
The unquestionably ultimate source for biographical film information. Even in this age, it often trumps the IMDB for insanely accurate information about any film worker's career.

38) Film Forum: Thirty-Five Top Filmmakers Discuss Their Craft by Ellen Oumano (St Martins Press, 1985)
Godard, Altman, De Palma, Silver, and many more world filmmaker nitpick every single aspect of filmmaking in this singular hardback. A must. (out of print)

39) Directors in Action: Selections from Action, The Official Magazine of the Directors Guild of America by Bob Thomas (Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1973)
This very rare tome collects interviews with a bunch of forgotten (read: Paul Williams) and unforgotten (read: Hal Ashby and James Bridges) filmmakers, and really gets into the niggling details. A treasure. (WAY out of print)

40) Picture Shows: The Life and Films of Peter Bogdanovich by Andrew Yule (New York, NY Limelight Editions, 1992)
Only his close personal friend Orson Welles has come close to the life lived by this incredible moviemaker/film writer, who's made his way from print to Corman to filmmaking greatness to tragedy and The Sopranos in a remarkably colorful career. Though the book doesn't cover Bogdanovich's complete output, it does point to key decades radically experienced. (out of print)

I should note that I love the writings of J. Hoberman and Roger Ebert, but I've relied on their daily writings rather than their books.  And I'm ashamed to say: I've read little by James Agee.  Gotta get on that!