We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, January 11. 2011
A Bird Dog pup (pupette, actually) has asked me to help her fill out her college education by listing some things she ought to know and read, but cannot fit into her college schedule as she has mapped it out.
Music to a Dad's ears, of course. Father knows best.
Well, I will just focus on one piece of her request here and now (because it went well beyond entertainment - this is just the fun part). She is a theater rat and reads plays daily for fun. She knows most of Shakespeare pretty well, and loves Pinter too (!). But she says her knowledge of films prior to her era is very limited. "What films should I know?," she asks. (I call them movies because I am a knuckle-dragging clinger.)
Ain't it great when the youths acknowledge their ignorance?
I told her I had once, for fun, made a list of my 100 essential movies (and I am not much of a movie fan), but it went away when my ancient Mac died ten years ago. Naturally, my list had some John Wayne, Gone With The Wind, Bridge Over The River Kwai, Swept Away, Streetcar, Waterfront, Mr. Blandings, Wonderful Life, the hideously painful Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, some James Bond and some WC Fields, Citizen Kane, Days of Wine and Roses, some Jack Lemmon like 7 Year Itch, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Harvey, Billy Budd, the Alistair Sim Christmas Carol ( which she has seen countless times), and, as one item, all of Charlie Chaplin. I don't want to try to make my list again, and, for a person who is more of a reader than a movie person, I got well over 100 with my list of basic flicks.
If you google "100 essential movies of all time," you can get all sorts of obscure lists by critics. She did take the time from her Christmas-break reading and ski trips to New Hampshire and constant NYC trips to watch Amarcord today, which definitely is on my list.
Man, that movie is rich in memorable imagery, and as Italian as anchovies in olive oil.
So help me out. What's on your essential movies-to-see-to-be-culturally-literate list? (please do not feel that you need to list 100!).
Thursday morning links
Re Cultural Literacy: She asked for it..., the comments were good fun. Thanks, y'all. She enjoyed noting them very much. Are you familiar with the McSweeny's site? Apparently lots of folks are, but it's new to me. Verbing? I don't approve of it.
Weblog: Maggie's Farm
Tracked: Jan 13, 05:50
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Babettes Feast is recent but a thought-provoking parallel of Christianity. C. S. Lewis would likely approve it.
There's a book out called "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". That should do it.
Just off the top of my head, to add to your list....
Gone With The Wind.
The Blues Brothers.
Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
And so on and so forth, but I'm going to let other voices add to this. But those are important.
The Longest Day (the original, not the remake, of course)
A Bridge Too Far
Once upon a time in the west
Planet of the Apes (the original, not the remake, of course)
TRON (the original, not the remake, of course). Not a great movie, but one of the earliest examples of large scale use of CGI make it an important historical artifact.
Midway (1976 original)
My name is Nobody
yes, I'm somewhat of a fan of Charlton Heston :)
Two of my favorites:
The Treasures of Sierra Madre
Long Day's Journey into Night
I make it a point to watch Henry V, Apocalypse Now, Ran, The Seventh Seal, La Dolche Vita and The Bicycle Thief on about a biannual schedule. Culturally you have to watch The Exorcist as well, no?
Also forgot The Gospel of John.
Also forgot lots of other ones. Like Ben Hur.
And Zorba The Greek. Sheesh.
I gotta leave this alone, or my brain will be up al night.
Noting that you said 'to be culturally literate' and not 'best movies' or 'most artsy movies,' and trying to avoid the obvious choices ...
The original King Kong
Twelve O'Clock High (best study of wartime command ever)
Moby Dick (1956 version)
Bridge on the River Kwai (yes, Alec Guinness can ACT, dammit!)
The Princess Bride (more quotable lines per minute than any movie before or since)
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (the fighting Kali: Ray Harryhausen at his best)
From Russia With Love (once upon a time, James Bond was a believable secret agent)
and for something lighter...
The Sting ("Four nines", [beat] "Four jacks!")
Support Your Local Sheriff!
yes, "films." "movies" are so plebeian. off top of my head....excluding some obvious old ones...
Anne of a Thousand Days
To Catch a Thief
Driving Miss Daisy
Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Kramer v Kramer
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
It Happened One Night
Remains of the Day
Godfather 1 & 2
As Good as it Gets
Dances with Wolves
Shakespeare in Love
Fried Green Tomatoes
Four Weddings & a Funeral
When Harry Met Sally
The Lives of Others
A Place in the Sun
Bad News Bears
Duck, You Sucker
Once Upon a Time in the West
Karol, A Man Who Became Pope
The Green Pastures
The Christmas Story
It's a Wonderful Life
Zorba the Greek
The Seven Samurai
"Withnail & I"
eminently quotable film; including what is perhaps the best version of Hamlet's soliloquy ever filmed (by Richard E Grant) at the end.
I'm pleased to see some folks repeating my list, and adding to it, but I forgot one.
If you don't know the Pooka, you don't know nothing!
Don't forget that one with Cary Grant and Bergman. The one where she is the daughter of a Nazi and he turns her into a spy for the US. (What the hell is that?)
Bread and Chocolate
What is the French film with the race car driver?
ALL. EVERY SINGLE ONE. JOHN WAYNE films! Yup sorry about that girls--he was the most consistent father I ever had!
Arsenic and Old Lace
The Trouble with Harry
Dial M for Murder or another Hitchcock
Pink Panther [A Shot in the Dark]
Rocky Horror Picture Show
something with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
All the entries listed are wonderful,
but don't forget my favorite:
Starship troopers should be on her reading list, not movie list :)
The book is essential, the movie so-so.
The movie was OK - a good cult flick. Unfortunately didn't delve deeply into the reasons for becoming a citizen and the value of service.
NO NO NO!!! The movie is a completely bastardized version of "Starship Troopers" - didn't even have powered armor - what the hell?
Heinlein's message about individual responsibility, contributing to the greater good, the blue print for a society that is a success - all of that got screwed over but good.
And it didn't have powered armor.
And the bugs - honestly is it realistic for giant bugs blowing plasma out their asses across a couple of light years - does that seem like a good idea for planetary domination? Hell no. And the fleet scene - all the ships are grouped together while the bugs blow more plasma out their asses? Seriously?
And it didn't have powered armor.
Tell her to read the book - much betterer.
And it does have powered armor. :>)
The Lion in Winter
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Harold & Maude
The Omega Man
Planet of the Apes
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Longest Day
The Quiet Man
These are the one that I would haul to that prototypical desert isle, along with a majority of the ones named above.
Oh, one more that occurred to me: the 1939 The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn. Just so she can see what a REAL 'swashbuckler' was. They don't make 'em like that n'more.
Also one or all of the 'Road' pictures starring Bing & Bob, so she can see what kind of comic actors Hollywood could find, once upon a time. No one ever matched them, no one ever will. Though Danny Kaye in his prime came close -- see The Court Jester for details.
Front Page (1931 version) - saw it in a film class, still remember it 30 years later.
Shadow of a Doubt - Joseph Cotton, niece suspects her beloved uncle's visit might be to hide from a manhunt
This Gun for Hire - classic film noir with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake
Lifeboat - Hitchcock in a small boat
The Mad Miss Manton - early Jimmy Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck
Galaxy Quest and any 21 C. Taiwanese movie is OK or essential. Explicit narratives on food, art, and sex comprise the art and cheese our dweeb masters would foist on us as compelling, but I can't find the titles to pass on. Sorry, you out of it peoples.
Meanwhile, consider watching Twin Falls Idaho and the
applepie--that Hitchcock film is Notorious--my favorite Hitchcock movie! And I agree with the John Wayne comment--gotta get at least one or two--I especially like McClintock! and True Grit.
Agree with many of the above, also consider:
The Scarlet Pimpernel (Leslie Howard, pre-GWTW I think--outstanding acting!)
On Golden Pond
Something with or by Clint Eastwood! How about a Dirty Harry movie, Play Misty for Me, and Gran Torino?
Raiders of the Lost Ark
I'm partial to musical theatre, so here are some memorable film versions, most of which haven't been mentioned yet:
Singin' in the Rain
The Wizard of Oz (she's probably seen it!)
The Sound of Music
Kiss Me Kate (a young Bob Fosse is dancing in this movie)
West Side Story (the original movie with Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno, among others)
Annie (the first one with Carol Burnett -- proves she is a comic genius)
Rocky Horror Picture Show
A Man for All Seasons
The Man Who Would Be King
Gone With the Wind
To Kill a Mockingbird
I go along with almost all of the above mentioned films. Back in the 1980s we decided that life needed laughter to be complete and I started to collect the best videos I could find which made us laugh. Hopscotch, the best revenge movie ever made with Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson is on our list, with Noises Off, a wonderfully funny film with Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, and other stellar creatures, is frequently watched. It has one of the most continuously funny backstage schticks I've ever watched.
I enthusiastically second the vote for Henry V, but make sure it's the Laurence Olivier version, which is gorgeous, and influenced cinematography for many years [besides the fact that Laurence himself was certifiably gorgeous]. I saw this film when I was in my freshman year of college, and it simply knocked me over.
Then there's Undercover Blues, a charming not well-known film, with Dennis Quaid and Kathleen Turner, which is staged in New Orleans when it was still New Orleans, and has the authentic steamy quality, the sounds and sights of the real city in all of its glory. Quaid and Turner are supposedly retired spies who have just had a baby, and take her with them to New Orleans, and the movie combines suspense and warmth and wit in equal parts. Living as I do more or less next door to New Orleans, and visiting it a lot in the last forty years, I know that it's hard to capture its special charms, but this film does it.
I'd hate to have her miss The Philadelphia Story, with Kate Hepburn being utterly charming. The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark are still a lot of fun, with lush technicolor and music which is still good.
And watching Maureen O'Hara in one of her pirate movies is to see one of the most beautiful actresses ever to grace the cinema. She was amazing, and she lit up the screen.
Oh ... and Kiss Me Kate, with the wonderful Cole Porter music and lyrics is a delight. Hearing 'Were Thine That Special Face' and 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare' sung the way they should be sung is a real trip.
So many good ones listed already
A Clockwork Orange - the ONLY movie to address the gray areas between good and evil. Try and figure out whether Alex is sympathetic or simply wretched, as his life is manipulated for political ends.
M - can't beat it. Literally an ode to the free market. Shows how even criminals will police themselves to keep things working "properly"
Metropolis and Things to Come - a bit hokey, but always a fun way to review where we've been and where we're going through the eyes of those who came before us.
Intolerance. Just because you have to see it. DW was a master.
Any Woody Allen pre-1989. He was just pure comic genius and by the late 70's had his finger on the psyche of the nation as a whole.
The Wild Bunch (the poetry of violence)
True Grit (either)
To Have And Have Not
The Big Sleep
Paths of Glory
Cabaret ("Tomorrow Belongs To Me" being one of the most powerful scenes in American cinema)
The Road Warrior (this is how to make an action movie)
A Few Good Men
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (a stylish ending, and good contrast to The Wild Bunch)
McCabe and Mrs Miller
The Hunt for Red October
...in the way of a John Wayne rec: In Harm's Way
Dark Blue World
Closely Watched Trains
Judgment at Nuremberg
Ship of Fools
Paths of Glory
Inherit the Wind
The Final Countdown (but only because I'm in it!)
Raising the Red Lantern (VHS only, the DVD copy went awry)
Three until-now overlooked genres:
1) Musicals - probably the only way she'll hear the Great American Songbook without drippy jazz overlay - and a major cultural frame.
2) Westerns - tough for a girl, but also an essential set of American cultural norms and mythology. It's how we see ourselves, even today. The evolution of this genre tracks other anti-heroic cultural trends.
3) Screwball comedies - the classic stuff. What class means. What witty-not-vulgar means. Anything directed by Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder will be good for a start.
Zero movies. Movies aren't important enough to be required to be culturally literate.
Some that haven't been mentioned yet:
Maltese Falcon - Bogey
African Queen - Bogey and Hepburn
The Thin Man - Dick Powell and Myrna Loy
The Third Man - Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles
M - Peter Lorre - Hitchcock's last European film before he emigrated
It Started in Naples - Sophia Loren and Clark Gable
The Quiet Man - Maureen O'Hara and the Duke
THE THIRD MAN ... want to watch a genius at work watch Orson Wells carefully throughout the film especially in the ferris wheel scenes.
THE CAIN MUTINY ... ditto for Boggie (genius)
Sheesh - y'all are a pretty pedestrian lot huh? :>)
In no particular order:
"Silent Running" - one of the first movies to use heavy CGI - more than "Tron" and has a rather interesting ecological premise.
"Treasure of Serria Madre" - one of the all time best movies ever made.
"Alien" - Ridley Scott's master work - even better than "Blade Runner" in my opinion which also ranks high in my pantheon of movies.
"ET" - great story, lot of fun - schmaltz out the wazoo, but vey enjoyable.
"Gremlins" - Funny, scary, lots of action, great ending.
"Dune" - any version, but the David Lynch version is probably the best in terms of story and execution. SciFi channel did a version, but it's pretty much the same only with little more CGI.
"Star Wars - Episode IV - A New Hope" - the first Star Wars movie, likely the best of the entire franchise. Pure fun.
"The Day the Earth Stood Still" - classic scifi, great story line, wonderful direction and execution.
"WALL-E" - animated and a ton of fun. There is a political message in there, but it's muted and background to the movie.
"Frankenstein" - the 1939 version. There has never been another version like it.
"Blazing Saddles" - the most non-PC, hysterically funny movie ever made. The bean supper scene around the camp fire is priceless and worth the price of admission by itself.
"History of The World, Part I" - another Mel Brooks at his zany best.
"Forbidden Planet" - Leslie Nielson's Captain of the explorer ship was the prototype for Captain James T. Kirk. In fast, Roddenberry acknowledged that "Forbidden Planet" in its entirely was the base board for "Star Trek".
"Metropolis" - Silent, black and white, not noir directed by Fritz Lang who showed exactly what could be done with the medium.
"Road Warrior" - The second of the Mad Max movies, it's Gibson's best as an actor and George Miller's triumph as a director. BEST. END. OF. THE. WORLD. MOVIE. EVER!
"2001 - A Space Odyssey" - what can you say - brilliant - absoutely brilliant.
"Fantasia" - Walt Disney's cocaine fueled triumph - a classic of gel cell animation.
"A Nightmare before Christmas" - Tim Burton's incredibly funny and well done take on a classic Christmas tale.
"The Incredibles" - a very different Super Hero tale cleverly written and drawn entirely on computer. Great movie no matter what your age.
""Men in Black" - What can you say about a secret government agency that keeps check on visiting aliens to Earth? Add Will Smith, pair him up with Tommy Lee Jones and you have an instant classic.
I think I'd better stop now - I could keep going. :>)
""Dune" - any version, but the David Lynch version is probably the best " the Lynch version is the ONLY version IMO.
""WALL-E" - animated and a ton of fun. There is a political message in there, but it's muted and background to the movie." I disagree. The political message (like with Avatar) that humans are evil, deserve extermination, and deliberately destroy the planet is central to that flick, and it's squarely aimed at impressionable little children to boot.
Could add THX1138 to the mix. Very much unknown, it's George Lucas' first ever movie.
This is good fun, and she will find it useful.
"All About Eve" ; If she is a theater rat as you say, then she has to see this first.
"Mildred Pierce" is a 1945 Warner Bros. feature film. Tell her to never see this one.
How did the bard put it? "Sharper than a serpents tooth, the cut of an ungrateful child."
Veda is to die for.
How appropriate for a snowbound discussion!
Ah, yes, My Name is Nobody.
Also, Mr. Roberts.
I saw "Duck Soup," but any of the other Marx Borthers movies, like "Horse Feathers," "A Night at the Opera" or "A Day at the Races" should also be there...
Any of the early Walt Disney animated flicks, at least before he died.
Also, how about some of the Rogers & Hammerstien musicals? "Sound of Music," "Oklahoma," or "The King and I" ?
Steve McQueen, in "Bullitt," "Papillion" and "The Great Escape"
Clint Eastwood, in "Where Eagles Dare," any of the Dirty Harry series, "Every Which Way but Loose," "Gran Torino," "Space Cowboys," "Unforgiven" and the speghetti westerns
Rebort Redford in "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid" and "Three Days of the Condor"
Paul Newman in "Nobody's Fool," "The Hustler," "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
Robert Duvall in "The Great Santini," "The Apostle," "Second-Hand Lions"
just some miscellaneous ones - "Ghostbusters (the original)" "Breaking Away" "Tora, Tora, Tora"
With apologies that others have mentioned some of the same. This is a mix of eras and genres. Hard not to enjoy anything on this list:
West Side Story- Beautiful to every sense
Citizen Kane- Magnificent. Incredible story-telling.
Stalag 17- Engaging and intriguing.
The Matrix- Brilliant. Brilliant story, effects and philosophical exploration.
2001: A Space Odyssey- Enchanting
The Birds- Amazing build up of the ominous.
Sixth Sense- Incredible mystery. Two hours of delightful tension.
Also worth seeing:
African Queen- Good tale.
Cars- Absolutely fun. Good story, good pacing. Characters you love.
A Fish Called Wanda- Hilarious.
Casablanca- Not as good as African Queen, but a good tale that's embedded in popular culture.
LA Confidential- The wardrobe lived up to the hype.
The Sting- Before Ocean's 11, Diggstown, and Leverage, you had this classic.
PeeWee Herman's Big Adventure- Trust me. Fun and goofy, yet there's a decent story here.
Die Hard- Total action.
How about Shane OR Go Tell the Spartans OR Second Hand Lions OR 2001 A Space Odyseey
Hmmm. What films should the "pupette" know? Personal favorites aside, there are a few which have set the foundations for film art and which have not been included in the suggestions offered so far.
"Birth of A Nation". - Griffith devised at least half of the film language used today and most of his offerings are on display in this film.
"An American In Paris" - Grand ballet a l'America!
"East of Eden" - Great book, great film and you get to visit Mendocino! (favorite location for beaucoup films)
"Man With The Golden Arm" - The essential film noir.
"Plan Nine From Outer Space" - How not to make a film.
"Amelie" - OK, so I'm in love with Amelie.
"The Hunger" - Paramount of the Vampire genre.
"Dracula" - Each of the three versions starring, respectively Lugosi, Langella and Oldman.
"The Mummy" (original) - Any film that holds up for nearly 80 years must have something going for it.
"Lord Of The Rings" - Just to see how good CGI can be.
"The Fountain" - Aronofsky's best film yet.
"The Day The Earth Stood Still" - Not a great film but science fiction begins here.
"The 13th Warrior" - Everything you ever need to know about Euro-Caucasians.
"Wild Orchid" - Lady porn at its best.
"Snow White" - The foundations of great animation.
"Fantasia" - Walt Disney at his best.
"Atlas Shrugs" - No it hasn't been made into a film yet but, when it is, the film will have to be the best or worst film ever made.
[/b]"Plan Nine From Outer Space" - How not to make a film.[/b]
No - not quite. While a worthy example of bad bad can be, "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" is probably the supreme example of how not to make a movie.
Oddly, this movie is so bad, so poorly made, so uneven, disjointed and off the wall that its actually quite good.
How bad can it get? Well the theme will give you a hint. When you really listen to the theme, despite is lame-a-rama feel, its very funny. Seriously how could you NOT love a song with "I know I'm going to miss her, the tomatoes ate my sister"?
There is also an inside running joke in the movie which pops up in the most odd places.
So, I see your "Plan Nine" and raise you that most bizzare classic "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes".
Just quick a dispatch since today is one giant meeting day and I have little time for deep film thoughts:
All Quiet on the Western Front - Original
Thin Man (1st in the series)
Great Expectations - Original
Seven brides for seven brothers
Fiddler on the Roof
Team America World Police (just seeing if you are paying attention)
I've been wondering if anyone would name "Zulu"! On my top ten, for sure. Also "Fiddler on the Roof."
Once Upon a Time in the West
King Arthur ( the Antoine Fuqua version )
What? No Elvis.
Gotta have Jailhouse Rock, and maybe Blue Hawaii.
I'd have to say "Flaming Star" (A bi-racial Elvis is exploring his two heritages - Indian and White) and "King Creole" which was directed by Michael Curtiz of "Casablanca" fame.
Know what I'm surprised at this being Maggie's Farm and all.
Nobody has mentioned "I'm Not There", "No Direction Home" and "Don't Look Back".
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Under the Volcano (from Malcolm Lowry novel)
Bread and Chocolate
Fanny and Alexander
Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut)
more later (they finally plowed my street, so off to work)
Skimmed over the list, didn't see "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Good list. I will not duplicate other suggestions.
Life of Brian.
Miracle on 34th Street. Perhaps on the list for its influence, not for its quality.
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
You know BD, I just happened to think of one that is a real cultural treasure and one that is not readily thought about often.
Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Outlaw Josie Wales.
I forgot "Groundhog Day." I see a much deeper (good) message in that movie.
And while I'm on Bill Murray, "There's Something About Bob." Hilarious and touching.
ahem... edit: "What About Bob?" is the title I meant, above.
Couple more, and then I'll shut up.
Man of the House
Serenity, and the series Firefly
A couple I didn't see it my quick overview:
1984 - I've see both movies that were made. The book is better. The movies are better than not knowing the content. See it. Find it on google video.
And though mentioned, Blazing Saddles.
Applepie - I think the French movie is A Man & A Woman
Must not miss
On the Beach
Village of the Damned
John Ford classics:
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
The Quiet Man
Other not mentioned:
Sink the Bismark
Better Off Dead
The Bishop's Wife (Original)
The Man Who Came to Dinner
The Pink Panther
Twelve Angry Men
My Favorite Year
"Being there" redux...