Monday, July 21, 2008

It Was a Very Good Film, When I Was 0-7

So there's this meme going around and I caught it cause I'm promiscuous like that, especially when the arts are involved and what's more to complete the project would be a huge time suck when the rest of my life has too many demands already. I learned about it over at Ben's place: you're supposed to name the best film for every year since you've been born. Now, since I'm older than Thomas Alva Edison (Ole Alvy, we called him), that's a lot of films, and it seems weird to pimp for my buds Auggie and Lou Lumiere.... (bet those 11 words have never shared such close space before).

Seriously, this is an odd and mostly silly project. For what does "best" film mean, anyway? And should it be the best for you then when the year actually happened, which of course makes the early years particularly difficult unless you were monstrously precocious. So here's what I came up with, and it's totally subjective, and yes, I'm a snob, and yes it's what I could do as quickly as possible while still spending entirely too much time on it. So much so I'm going to break it up into decades. Ladies and gentlemen, the fabulous 1960s....


The Zapruder Film. OK, just kidding, nothing like a little assassination humor to kick things off in a merry vein. (It is an incredible documentary, though.) Charade (Stanley Donen). Sure, it's really Hitch-lite, but by 1963 Hitch needed some lightening (his film that year was The Birds, which has an eerie power, but best of the year?). Plus Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn make such a lovely couple. Plus there's the lines started by her, "You know what's wrong with you?" "No, what?" "Nothing." Plus it's great who the bad guy is. Hud gets to be runner-up, for James Wong Howe's shimmery b&w photography if nothing else, not that Paul Newman and a shimmery herself Patricia Neal are nothing else.


Dr. Strangelove. If I need to explain, you haven't seen the film recently. Actually, now it seems less funny, more prescient. The other day I was re-reading through David Thomson, who I generally like if not always agree with, and he's cold to the the too-cold for him Kubrick. Even to Strangelove (as Sellers is too cold for him, too). But then I realized his real problem--in his George C. Scott blurb, he doesn't mention Buck Turgidson. For a film critic, this is like not noticing a B-52 has crossed your defense perimeter. Screw Patton, this was Scott's best performance.


This is the first year I have to cheat a bit, and move up a few weeks a film actually released in mid-December 1964. Otherwise 1965 sucks, as I almost chose Mickey One out of perversity (if you've seen it, you'll know what I mean). So, instead it's The TAMI Show. TAMI stands for Teen Age Music International, and it's one of the first rock concert films, with a wildly diverse group of perfomers. Gerry and the Pacemakers, playing like they need them. Glimpses of Terri Garr as a young go-go dancer. James Brown at the height of his get-down. And a frightened Mick Jagger, as he has to go on after Brown.


Maculine/Feminine. So much good Godard that still seems so much of the 1960s and so much completely timeless. Funny, bitter (feminin ends up just fin at the end), brittle, and bright. If that generation was the "Children of Marx and Coca-Cola" what are kids now? (Probably not able to enjoy a film this clever.)


Bonnie and Clyde. I know, the consensus pick, but after you've seen a naked Faye Dunaway at a window saying, "Boy, what you doing with my momma's car," and that's just the first 3 minutes, you'd be hooked too. One of the films that tried its best to work out the 1960s violence the 1960s couldn't work out of, so it set it in a different decade. It also let the bad guys be the good guys. Think about this film and think that Sound of Music was just two years prior. Try not to think about which film won a best picture Oscar.


You think I'm going to say 2001, but it's Kubrick gone mysto-mushy, great moments for which you need to be on drugs to connect the dots, some in invisible ink. So instead I'll default to a film that meant much to me years later, Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. It's a solid enough version, but of course it's solid enough Shakespeare, too--there's a reason it's the entry drug into the world of the Bard. But Zeff (rhymes with Hef?) decided how nice it would be to cast actual teens in the starring roles. Therefore, Olivia Hussey.

I can't begin to say how shocked our high school freshman year English class teacher was when Olivia unveiled her Husseys, however briefly. Especially since our teacher was a nun. You'd think she would have known, given the film had been out for well over a decade at that point. Not that we complained.

Can't be anything but The Wild Bunch. Peckinpah captured the west at its worst, codes gone screwy, and probably did make violence more cathartic than it needed to be. Still, as the credits show, for just as Holden says "If anybody moves, kill him," we get the credit Directed by Sam Peckinpah. If we want our violence, he will question how much we can withstand our desires.

Since you don't count by saying, "0-1-2-3," 0 is part of what ends not what begins. I'm going to go truly artsy here and say The Conformist. I need to see it again--it's been over 2 decades--but it's the kind of complex that cinema rarely seems to even want to try to be anymore. It's got action, and politics. And Bertolucci has to be in this list some place, no? Given (preview of coming attractions) 1972 could be 5 films, we'll be sure he gets a spot here.

I'll be back tomorrow to see if we can avoid the malaise of the 1970s.

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Blogger Mike said...

I can't begin to say how shocked our high school freshman year English class teacher was when Olivia unveiled her Husseys

No, but I can say how shocked I was when she revealed her Husseys when I was in freshman English class.

The answer? Very shocked.

And very pleased.

3:24 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

So glad someone else thinks 2001 requires drugs to watch. I recently rewatched, and just completely didn't get large sections of what they were trying to go for, or why parts were such a big deal (just ask the music).

Meanwhile, Dr. Strangelove is the only other one on this list that I've seen, and I agree that's a completely scary movie to see today (see also, Battle of Algiers). The others on this list are out of the realm of my social consciousness. I guess I'm just too young.

5:24 AM  
Blogger Rickey Henderson said...

a-men for the love for Hud. Great flick. Great list overall. And no, "The Birds" probably didn't deserve a spot on the list, but had you been born in '59, Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" would've been a compulsory selection.

5:44 AM  
Blogger George said...

Rickey, please don't push me even closer to the big 5-0, even to get to all those wonderful films of the 1950s. How to choose between Vertigo and Touch of Evil for 1958?

Mike, we're here to please. Just not in the same way as Ms. Hussey.

Heather, lists like this just mean you have lots of exciting watching in your future!

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Freealonzo said...

Nice theme here. Don't forget Fellini's 8 1/2 for 1963.

2:35 PM  
Blogger George said...

You know, I'm just not that crazy about 8 1/2. Fellini in general is just too Fellini-esque for me--somehow the films are both over-the-top and boring. I know I'm in the minority with this opinion. Probably my favorite film of his is Amarcord but I didn't pick that for 1973 either, did I?

10:01 PM  

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