Lists. Mostly, we make lists.

As you probably know, Edward Copeland has extended the deadline on his Best of the Best Pictures survey. Good news for you (us?) procrastinators and Johnnies-come-lately. For what it's worth, I had mine in last week; I'm just now getting around to posting them here, owing to the nice influx of visitors--many of them coming via Edwards kind link--contributing to our survey of overlooked and underappreciated films. If you'd like to weigh in, you can go here--but only after you've sent your 10 Best Best Pictures list to Edward.

Also, Dennis Cozzalio is still taking submissions for his latest quiz. He was kind enough to not only link to our survey, but provide some great, unexpected and interesting suggestions as well. Be sure to give him a look. You can read Dennis' BotB list here.

And thanks, too, the That Little Round-Headed Boy for jumping in with a list of 10 great overlooked gems (and by 10, I mean 18 or so--way to go the extra mile, RHB!) that has kept the coversation lively in the comments section and on his site, too.

Okay, enough with housekeeping; on with the countdown.

The Ten Best Best Pictures

10. Amadeus

Spectacle, tragedy and a brilliant performance by a guy named Murray. From the director who brought you Hair. Aside from that, the way that it breathes life into the otherwise flat, abstract history of dead, European white men makes the whole enterprise so sublimely worthwhile.

9. In the Heat of the Night

I’ve only ever seen this one on TV, in fragments, and never from beginning to end in a single sitting, yet it’s made an impression on me sufficient to rate inclusion here. Maybe if I watched the DVD, it’d rate higher. Certainly one of the all-time best on-screen slaps. At its essence, two titans of the craft in a battle of wills and ego that’s singularly satisfying. (God help me, I’m starting to sound like James Lipton.)

8. Tom Jones

I’ve seen it only once, on VHS about 20 years ago, but it was recommended by and watched with the girl who later became my wife, so it has a place in my heart as well as my top 10 Oscar winners list. Of course, there’s the rightly famous food scene that conflates lust and gluttony into a single not-so-deadly but oh-so-delicious sin. And the ribaldry. Let’s not forget the ribaldry. In general, it’s just such a shameless, good-time romp; the bawdy, lascivious hedonism of the ‘60s distilled into 128 deliriously intoxicating minutes.

7. Annie Hall

Dear Woody Allen,

It’s taken me about 20 years to forgive you for beating out Star Wars, but in that time, through many viewings of both, I’ve come to appreciate that this was one of those rare instances when the Academy got it right. In other words, the best picture for everyone but 12-year-old boys in 1977 was indeed Annie Hall. Also, a quick note of thanks for introducing us all to the inimitable Chrisopher Walken as Duane, the loveable psychotic who fantasized about driving head-on into oncoming traffic.

Your friend,

Mr. Middlebrow.

6. The Silence of the Lambs

One of those rare movies that’s at once pleasurable and disturbing to watch, owing mostly to the dynamic between Lecter and Starling. The rest of the rationale for it being here is sort of ineffable. I just really like it.

5. Shakespeare in Love

I don’t know if it was resentment over Gwyneth Paltrow not deserving Best Actress (which she didn’t) or that it beat out Saving Private Ryan, but I was surprised to see this voted one of the least deserving. For me it ranks among the 10 best because it’s a pitch-perfect meditation on the creative process, a love letter to the concept of a muse. It’s also just a thoroughly enjoyable, smart, funny, sexy movie. Tom Stoppard’s script is sprinkled with just the right amount of anachronisms, meta references and in-jokes, but it always feels inclusive while humanizing the Bard. Also, it’s my little way of protesting Platoon beating out A Room with a View, in 1986.

4. It Happened One Night

My introduction to screwball comedies, Frank Capra and Claudette Colbert. Needless to say, I was immediately smitten; as a bonus, I also got a whole new appreciation for Clark Gable, whom I’d known up to that point only as Rhett Butler. Pure joy this brilliant never fades.

3. The Godfather Part II

However absurd it might be to pick the latter of the two GFs, there’s something about it that I find just ever-so-slightly more satisfying than the first. (In case it isn’t obvious by now, I’m firmly on the side of ‘favorites’ vs. objective, qualitative ‘bests.’) Maybe it’s a preference for Deniro over Brando. Mostly it’s the Michael story and the way Al Pacino delivers lines like “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart!” and “They came into my home. Into my room, where my wife sleeps and my children come to play with their toys.”

2. The Bridge on the River Kwai

Most people tend to favor Lawrence of Arabia, but this is my favorite David Lean opus and one of only two movies on this list I consider a must-own. Like pretty much everything here, it holds up well to repeated viewings and never feels dated or quaint. I’m always awestruck by Alec Guinness’ performance and the fine line he walks between honor and madness. As soon as my wife deems it appropriate, I plan to watch it with my son and, I hope, show him what it means to be a man of integrity and principles, to live by a code. There are very few films that put those abstract ideas into such compelling, wholly authentic action and manage to be so sublimely entertaining at the same time.

1. Casablanca

I have a feeling that this will be—quite rightly—the slam-dunk, undisputed number one, so I wonder what, if anything, I can say about it. I can tell you what makes it my favorite Best Picture (and number two, behind The Right Stuff, on my all-time personal faves list): The performances of Peter Lorre and Claude Raines and all the little ancillary subplots and details that dart in and out of “the problems of three little people,” adding up to far more than a hill of beans. The brilliantly woven totality of it—the writing, the direction, the stars, the supporting players, the historic immediacy of the story—is what makes the golden age of Hollywood golden. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

1 comment:

Mr. Seed said...

"I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart!"