Hey kids! Here’s a fun game you can play at home!
It’s always been my contention that you can tell a lot about a person by what their favorite movies are. It may not be as psychologically revealing as a rorshach or word association test but I think it is a shorthand glimpse into another person’s weltanschauung, their basic ideas about the world and their place in it. Of course, it’s just the outermost surface of one’s personality; to be truly revelatory, you have to explain why they are your favorites. That’s when you really start to learn something about your friends and loved ones! Sadly, though, my theory about cinematic taste being a small window into the soul is viewed by today’s pop culture intellectuals as being hopelessly outdated and naive; they think the top ten lists that magazines and websites compile at year’s end are glib and superficial; nothing really significant could be learned in that way, could it? (Still, for all their uselessness, we keep making them every year, don’t we?). My suggestion is that you can test it for yourself; the next time you’re in a social gathering, ask your friends what their ten favorite movies are and, if you’re feeling really courageous, why those ten. If you’re with the right group, it can be the start of an amazing conversation; in the wrong group it can strike the evening dead! If you’re like me, though, and you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the midst of fellow cinephiles, it can be nirvana!
Of course, you don’t have to try it out in a group; you can start by simply asking yourself what your ten favorites are and why. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m willing to expose myself to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and share my ten favorites with you, dear reader. I will qualify the following list, however, by saying that these are my ten favorites at this particular time and place; the top five stay on the list pretty consistently from year to year but the bottom five rotate in and out depending on how I feel on any given day. After the film’s title I’ve listed its director in parentheses:
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)
2. The Best Years of our Lives (William Wyler)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
4. The Searchers (John Ford)
5. Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur)
6. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang)
7. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman)
8. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges)
9. Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg)
10. The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale)
I won’t bore you with an overly detailed explanation of why each of these are my favorite but I will make a few random comments: If you were to ask any of the usual suspects at one of my movie programs, they would tell you without hesitation that Orson Welles is my favorite director; not only am I amazed by the wunderkind quality of his genius but I resonate deeply with his personal philosophy, a sort of heroic fatalism. In contrast, “Best Years of our Lives” represents, ultimately, the unvarnished optimism of the Greatest Generation. It and “Kane” create a nice yin/yang dynamic tension with one another. “Vertigo” is almost unnerving in the extent to which it reveals Hitchcock’s obsessions and desires; I admire the courage of an artist willing to expose himself so flagrantly. Plus, that final image of James Stewart on the ledge is one for the ages – totally free and totally, tragically, alone. “Out of the Past” is more tragic fatalism but it’s also lushly romantic and Robert Mitchum is one of the best noir antiheroes; Jane Greer is the best femme fatale, bar none. “The Seventh Seal” is the first deeply, unashamedly, philosophical film I ever saw and it still holds up; along with all its challenging ideas it is also beautifully acted and filmed. Preston Sturges had an amazing career and almost any of the films he made could easily scoot into the number eight position, but the humor of “The Lady Eve” is so light, effervescent and refined. Plus, Barbara Stanwyck is just so darn sexy! “Cool Hand Luke” may be Paul Newman’s best role and Luke’s “preferring not to” (to paraphrase Herman Melville) has always been an inspiration to me. Finally, James Whale’s “Bride of Frankenstein” is the perfect balance of sardonic wit and compassionate sensitivity for the Creature (perhaps Karloff’s best performance).
Well, there it is; I’m sure there is plenty of room for informed discussion here and I’d welcome any comments. Plus, if anyone is feeling bold, I’d like to see other people’s lists. I promise to be respectful; if someone wants to share the films they cherish, that is no occasion for mockery!
To comment, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about classic films and enjoy the magic of movies at Movies with Mike. Held the 1st Thursday of each month at 6:00pm downstairs at the Lenoir Library. This program is free and popcorn is provided! For more information, please call 828-728-4207. The Lenoir Public Library is located at 120 Hospital Avenue in Lenoir, NC. Caldwell County Public Library website: http://ccpl.libguides.com/main