Monday, August 4, 2008

All-Time Best

Pakeezah
Michael J. Anderson
Yale University/Tativille

Au hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991)
By the Bluest of Seas (Boris Barnet, 1936)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948)
My Night at Maud's (Eric Rohmer, 1969)
Pakeezah (Kamal Amrohi, 1971)
Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1939)
Through the Olive Trees (Abbas Kiarostami, 1994)
Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)


L'Eclisse
Lisa K. Broad
New York University
(updated: 9/2/06)

L'Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996)
L'Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1962)
Floating Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1955)
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1976)
Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
Midnight (Mitchell Leisen, 1939)
Il Posto (Ermanno Olmi, 1961)
The Sacrifice (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1986)
The Three Crowns of the Sailor (Raoul Ruiz, 1983)


Topsy-Turvy
Emily Condon
Sound Unseen Film + Music Festival

1. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
2. Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957)
3. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975
4. The Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
5. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
6. Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, 1999)
7. Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)
8. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
9. Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica, 1952)
10. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)

Comments: Here's my more or less arbitrary top ten list (in no particular order). I wouldn't say 10 "best." Maybe 10 "most admired" or something like that.

Sunrise
James Crawford
Reverse Shot/Museum of the Moving Image

1. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
4. Sunrise (F. W. Murnau, 1927)
5. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
6. Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
7. Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954)
8. L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
9. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
10. Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)

Back to the Future
Andrea Janes
Kino International

10. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
9. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
8. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
7. Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994)
6. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
5. Fargo (Joel Coen, 1996)
4. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
3. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
2. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
1. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)

Comments: Okay, so I did go to the BFI list, after making my list, and was surprised to see some of my movies on there. I may be less lowbrow than I thought. Not more highbrow, just less lowbrow.

I wasn't going to put The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on my list because I thought it may be too much, like putting Sherlock Jr. on it. But they both get honorable mentions, Liberty Valance because it's my favorite western and just so thematically rich and brilliant and Sherlock because it's Buster, dammit. Then I saw them on the BFI list and felt I couldn't leave them off. So those are my post-BFI-reading honorable mentions.

To narrow the possibilities, I tried to concentrate on English language and writing aspects (e.g., I valued a good screenplay/story over beautiful photography or art direction, etc.). This cut out some of my favorite foreign language films, like Umberto D., which I like better than The Bicycle Thief, and Pierrot le Fou, which I like better than Breathless for some reason, and Fanny & Alexander and Persona, which I love love love. Themes of identity intermingling, what's real, what's not, I don't know! Which is also why I love Vertigo, other than it's so damn stylish. So those are my foreign language honorable mentions.

Then I had about twenty films left and it was hard deciding among them, obviously, so here are the other honorable mentions first:

All About Eve - Always gets mentioned as one of the great comedies, but sometimes this movie's a bit rich for me. Still, admirable.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - No one could pretend this is one of the time great movies, but I love it so much. Jane Rusell has the best lines. I can sing all the songs from this movie, which I tend to do at weddings, when drunk.
Vertigo - it was a tough call cutting it from my list to the honorable mentions, but if I could have an 11th, this would be it. So damn stylish.
African Queen - great writing, love Bogart and Hepburn together, and love that he's a drunk Canuck, and love it when he calls her a "psalm-singing skinny old maid."
Working Girl - you know why. Staten Island Ferry baby! Plus great one liners.
Tootsie - this is a really well-written film & has a great character arc, if you're into that sort of thing.
Revenge of the Nerds - the proto teen comedy, so good, and I love the techno rap Little Darlings - another proto teen comedy, surprisingly charming.

Okay, here is my real list:
10. His Girl Friday - for the dialogue
9. Days of Heaven - for the character development (though it was largely improvised, not written, a writer could stand to take it as an example of story growing out of character. it took a year for them to grow organically and in the end their fates and actions emerged from these sensitively developed characters) - plus so gorgeous, too
8. Annie Hall - for romantic comedy that isn't god-awful and sappy
7. Heavenly Creatures - for creating complex heroines and making me cry for a friendship lost during a horrific murder scene
6. The Apartment - I think it's my favorite wilder, possibly
5. Fargo - for characters, imagery, dialogue (that great tender last line about needing the little stamps restores my faith in humanity) - for giving Frances McDormand a role/character like Marge Gunderson
4. The Lady Eve - master class in comedy writing - love Barbara Stanwyck in this role
3. Rushmore - for ingenuity, tenderness, characters, dialogue (can you sum up an entire friendship in the line, "I'll take punctuality," and "I'm a little lonely these days") forget the story between Max and Miss Cross, it was all about Bill Murray for me
2. Jaws - for the dynamic between Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss - the second half of this film trascendes genre & has great dramatic writing
1. Back to the Future (1) - a great commercial comedy. a perfect example of using imagination while working within the parameters of the Hollywood formula. I love Marty, Doc Brown, the Flux Capacitor and especially George McFly. He is my density.

According to this list I haven't seen a great movie since 1998. Though The Royal Tenenbaums was good too. But still that's kind of sad.


Blow-Up
Pamela Kerpius
Seen Film/Termite Art

1. City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)
2. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
3. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
4. Sunrise (F. W. Murnau, 1927)
5. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
6. Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
7. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
8. Kiss of Death (Henry Hathaway, 1947)
9. Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)
10. My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, 1936)


The Seven Samurai
Mike Lyon
Tits & Gore

Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)
Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)
The Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
Under the Flag of the Rising Sun (Kinji Fukasaku, 1972)
Vengeance is Mine (Shohei Imamura, 1979)
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984)
Tetsuo - The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989)
Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, 1993)
Eureka (Shinji Aoyama, 2000)
Ichi the Killer (Takashi Miike, 2001)

Comments: "The Ten Best Japanese Films"

Feeling ill-equipped and lacking the confidence to present a serious list of the ten greatest films of all time, I chose instead to focus on my area of speciality, the cinema of Japan - and even within this milieu, each decision and excision caused interminable bouts of hand wringing! The difference between a "best of" list and a "favorites" list may seem subtle, since personal preference plays handily into both, but here I have attempted at all times to avoid my numerous biases and focus on those films that have had the greatest impact on the direction of Japanese and world cinema. As such, important but transitional periods in Japanese film history are unfortunately underrepresented, notably the masterfully filthy pinku eiga of the 1960s. But as I viewed the films that ultimately comprised the top ten as well as many others over the past week, I found myself reinvigorated in my passion for Japanese film and the power of its greatest directors and actors, some choices solidifying themselves easily while others snuck up on me quite unexpectedly.

So then, the films, in no numbered order but instead listed chronologically, with brief justifications-

TOKYO STORY (dir. Yasujiro Ozu - 1953)
-More than 50 years removed from its release, Tokyo Story remains one of the most profound and understated human dramas ever committed to film. Of all the films listed, its inclusion was the one that was never in doubt; Ozu meticulously examines family ties, love and loss without a single flourish or overwrought emotion. Far from boring in its quiescence, its evocation of real humanity, simple and painful, will remain as soulful and immediate in another 50 years.

UGETSU (dir. Kenji Mizoguchi - 1953)
-It seems like too easy a choice until you watch it again (and again, and again...) Mr. Anderson's own recent essay on this site regarding the film far outstrips any insights I may have, so let me simply say: few if any truly beautiful films are this substantive and so rewarding after repeated viewings. It may be the most pitch-perfect morality play ever executed.

SEVEN SAMURAI (dir. Akira Kurosawa - 1954)
-The old workhorse of Japanese film somehow seems perpetually fresh, almost mythical, no matter how much praise is thrown at it. Still mesmerizing is Kurosawa's unearthly command of the camera and deft deconstruction of social hierarchy, a class divide exposed and bridged by Toshiro Mifune in his greatest performance. Kurosawa closes the book on the Confucian class system, abolishing the long-cherished romantic ideal of the wandering warrior. Of all Kurosawa's considerable triumphs, it remains the most satisfying.

UNDER THE FLAG OF THE RISING SUN (dir. Kinji Fukasaku - 1972)
-Fukasaku's Battle Royale may become the film he is most remember for, but Rising Sun stands as his masterwork, and indeed as one of the greatest anti-war pictures ever filmed. Fukasaku's own wartime experiences inform this brutal mystery, peppered with all the director's trademark freeze frames, sharp pans, oblique angles and shifting film stocks. Even today, its condemnation of Japan and even the Imperial institution is shocking, if not flatly offensive, to polite Japanese society; in 1972, it was an act of supreme artistic courage.

VENGEANCE IS MINE (dir. Shohei Imamura - 1979)
-No one doubts Imamura's chops, but in Vengeance is Mine he masterfully rides a razor wire of moral ambiguity, painstakingly examining the lives of a serial killer and his family. There are no traps in place to implicate society or the viewer, no sympathy extended for the family or the killer. In the end they are simply human, perhaps too human to not be unsettling and moving at the same time.

NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (dir. Hayao Miyazaki - 1984)
-Utopian, socialist, feminist, environmentalist, Christian (or is it Buddhist?) - everyone has their own axe to grind with Nausicaa. In the end, it easily escapes categorization by simply being a good story, well told. The world is destroyed, but Miyazaki never stoops to suggesting it should be rebuilt. The disjuncture between man and nature cannot be resolved, only lived with. Animation may have been considered art in Japan before Nausicaa's release, but afterwards, the whole world began to understand.

TETSUO - THE IRON MAN (dir. Shinya Tsukamoto - 1989)
-Where would Japanese film be without Tetsuo? Few paradigm shifts are this stark, but there's no denying that Tsukamoto opened a door, perhaps the door, into the future for young Japanese filmmakers. Dehumanization in the machine age is taken to its ultimate limit as Tsukamoto's ageless everyman, the brilliant Tomorowo Taguchi, mutilates himself by shoving metal into his body, grows a sawblade metal cock and becomes the bastard child of the only truly living organism in Japan - Tokyo.

SONATINE (dir. Takeshi Kitano - 1993)
-I've had an incredible amount of difficulty writing this justification, not because it seems an inappropriate inclusion or because Sonatine is not Kitano's best, but because his hypnotic style so often defies examination. Perhaps it is true that Kitano's cinema is a cinema of shared moments, of nostalgia and violence intertwined into slight, surprisingly sad packages. Kitano's own Murakawa may be his ultimate protagonist - aging, physically and mentally isolated, yet somehow born before our eyes, and truly living, briefly and childishly.

EUREKA (dir. Shinji Aoyama - 2000)
-Aoyama's beautiful and heart-wrenching allegory for national recovery in the wake of the Tokyo subway sarin gas attacks is a brutally honest indictment of a society's role in creating and burying national tragedy. The omnipresent Koji Yakusho could wring blood from a stone with the intensity of his performance; if only every world crisis was followed by such a thoughtful and universal appeal for the triumph of humanity.

ICHI THE KILLER (dir. Takashi Miike - 2001)
-It would be a dire mistake to ignore the films of prolific and troubled Takashi Miike, who at 45 has already produced a staggering 68 films. Ichi may have become a pop benchmark for cinematic shock, but beneath the waves of blood and outlandish characters, Miike spins the old pinku trope of sadists and masochists finding paradise in one another into a scathing condemnation of modern Japan sacrificing its youth at an altar of excess.


Memories of Underdevelopment
Vicente Rodriguez-Ortega
New York University
(updated: 9/9/06)

1. Underground (Emir Kusturcia, 1995)
2. Aguirre, Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)
3. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
4. The Gold Rush (Charles Chaplin, 1925)
5. Memories of Underdevelopment (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968)
6. Fallen Angels (Wong Kar-wai, 1995)
7. Jules et Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)
8. Husbands (John Cassavetes, 1970)
9. Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987)
10. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)

Touch of Evil
Brian Shirey
Kino International

The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
(Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
Aguirre, Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)
Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
JFK (Oliver Stone, 1991)

Comments: To state the obvious one more time, this is impossible...
It's chronological.

Ask me again next week, you'll get a different 10...

L.A. Confidential
Matthew Singer
IFC News/Village Voice/Termite Art

1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
2. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
3. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
4. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
5. Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974)
6. Gymkata (Robert Clouse, 1985)
7. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
8. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)
9. The Fortune Cookie (Billy Wilder, 1966)
10. Rashômon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)

Comments: "The Top 10 Movies of All Time (At The Moment)"

This list comprises my 10 favorite films of all time
as of August 24, 2006. A couple of films were obvious
inclusions, but parsing the biggies down to just ten
was no easy task: I finally approached it by imagining
I was going off into space and could only take ten
movies with me. Ultimately, I decided these are the
ten I would take (though I'd probably try to sneak a
few more in amongst the freeze-dried ice cream).

The date of the list is crucial because, to me, these
sorts of lists are and should be in a constant state
of flux. Five years ago, my list would have looked
very different. Five years from now, it could look
very different still. I do not consider myself
qualified to state definitely what are the "best"
movies of all time: I haven't seen enough movies to
speak with such authority, and if at some point in the
future I claim I have, I am lying and should be
smacked briskly across the face. To me, the movies
are what we see in them, and these are the ones I
currently see the most in.

Ordet
R. Emmet Sweeney
Village Voice/Termite Art/Kino International

1. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
2. Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)
3. An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujiro Ozu, 1962)
4. On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1952)
5. A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991)
6. Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
7. The Naked Gun (David Zucker, 1988)
8. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
9. It's Always Fair Weather (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1955)
10. Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)

Comments: My only limitation was one film per director - and it's surprising how many films from the fifties made it - four out of ten. I have a thing for end of genre films, I guess - with Rio Bravo, It's Always Fair Weather, and On Dangerous Ground all appearing near the end of their respective genre's cycle. The list would be different depending on what day it was, and what I've seen recently - but I think my top three will always be around. Perfect, I call them.


The Shining
Frank Tarzi
Kino International

Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)
A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
Fargo (Joel Coen, 1996)
The Godfather, Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
Where Eagles Dare (Brian G. Hutton, 1968)

Comments: This is the best I could do right now, I know I missed many of my favorites. I’d probably have an easier time with a top 100, or top 10 genres.

4 comments:

raam said...

according to me the 10 best films of all time are:
1.Rashomon
2.Citizen cane
3.Pather panchali
4.Cinema paradiso
5.The informer
6.Psycho
7.Bicycle thieves
8.La strada
9.Tree of the wooden clogs
10.High noon

nahal said...

My 10 Best Films Are:
-Cinema Paradiso
-About Elly...
-Mulholland Dr.
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-Casablnaca
-2001: A Space Odyssey
-Chinatown(and Rosemary's Baby)
-21 Grams(and Babel)
-The Godfather

Peter said...

Michael, nice to see you include Mizoguchi's The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums in your all-time top ten. It's my favorite too. I recently watched Oshima's Boy, which is another great Japanese film.

daniel said...

My list:

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
2. Sansho The Bailiff (Mizoguchi, 1954)
3. Touch Of Evil (Welles, 1958)
4. Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979)
5. Persona (Bergman, 1966)
6. Last Year At Marienbad (Resnais, 1961)
7. White Heat (Walsh, 1949)
8. Aguirre, The Wrath Of God (Herzog, 1972)
9. Harakiri (Kobayashi, 1962)
10. A City Of Sadness (Hou, 1989)