Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Things Santa Should Bring

Every year around this time, I offer up a list of 10 films that belong on the 1001 Movies list. so why break with tradition now? There are plenty of films that are important in real ways of great in the way that almost everyone agrees that make them required viewing for anyone serious about film. So without further ado, here in no particular order is this year's model.

10 Films That Should've Been on The List All Along

1. The Caine Mutiny
Sure, we know by now that Bogart could play a bad guy or a severely damaged guy, but who knew he had a character like Queeg in him anywhere? A great film of military justice and military law, the two not being synonymous.

2. True Stories
Oh, I'll take plenty of heat for suggesting this most-oddball-of-oddball films by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, but there is nothing else in the world like this film. Only Byrne would consider it important to get 50 pairs of twins to work on his film for...some reason or another. It's Eraserhead for the family.

3. Hairspray
John Waters appears on The List once, and with reason for that film, but he should be on it twice. Hairspray tackles racism with fun, with cheese, with music, with transvestitism, and with anything else it can. An essential film in the cult/camp genre.

4. The Great Dictator
Chaplin's most influential talkie? Do I really have to defend this one?

5. In Bruges
I remember when In Bruges came out. I really wanted to see it, but never got to it. I finally caught up with it this year, and I liked it enough that I went out and bought a copy of it. That's the only time I can say that about a Colin Farrell movie. That's how good this is--it transcends having Colin Farrell in it.

6. The Skin I Live In
Pedro Almodovar is no stranger to The List, so when his latest was somehow snubbed, I found myself quite surprised. It's his most disturbing film to date, and possibly his best. Visually beautiful but psychologically disturbing, there's a moment in the middle that will force most men into a fetal position for at least 10 minutes.

7. Misery
Is there a more defining moment in a modern horror film than Kathy Bates hobbling James Caan? Over and over, horror/thriller films are ignored at the Oscars, but Kathy Bates earned every last bit of that gold statue. Her Annie Wilkes is the gold standard of female crazy on screen, surpassing Glenn Close's role in Fatal Attraction and being the default comparison for female screen psychotics ever since.

8. They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Human misery and desperation always draw a crowd. There's a reason gladiator fights were popular, after all--seeing those with nothing to lose fighting for a chance to still have nothing is, after all, a thrill for many. This film, about dance marathons during the Great Depression has all the pathos and melodrama and some truly fantastic performances. If I see this on somewhere, I can't not watch, mostly for just how riveting Jane Fonda is.

9. Friday the 13th
The List is missing only this film in its collection of early influential slashers at the dawn of the genre's popularity. Why it hasn't made it into this particular canon, I will never understand.

10. 1984
I am an admitted fan of the great John Hurt, and this is one of his best, most heartfelt and heart-rending performances. An adaptation that goes darker than its already dark source material.


  1. I haven't seen 3, 8, and 9, although I have seen the musical version of Hairspray. You probably wouldn't prefer it over the original, and since I haven't seen the original I can't actually say I would either, but I found it to be a very enjoyable film - one of the best musicals of the 2000s.

    I never noticed The Great Dictator wasn't on there. Wow.

    I liked In Bruges quite a bit, too. I consider it Farrell's best performance.

    I'm sure I read the post you did last year for this, but I wasn't active on the 1001 list yet, so it probably didn't make a huge impression on me then. I mention this because I'm wondering if you've given any thought to what movies you'd replace with those?

    I've been jotting notes for when I complete the list. It is the same idea of what should have been on the list (maybe I subconsciously remembered your post from last year). Where I have a strong opinion, I've tried to pair it with a movie I'd remove. For instance, I recently saw both Renoir's Boudu Saved from Drowning and La Bete Humaine. I would definitely swap out Boudu for the other one. In fact, this is one of the bigger "Huh?" moments for me so far.

    Another example is swapping out Report for the Zapruder film.

    1. My guess is that the Zapruder film isn't on the list because it wasn't a planned film--it just happened. I agree that it's a critical piece of film history, and I'd pair it with the film of Oswald's assassination.

      I've seen bits and pieces of the Hairspray remake, and it's good, but I love the energy of the original. I recommend it--it's essentially a musical as well, although the main characters don't do a ton of singing. Tons of fun.

      As for switching in and out, a lot of times, it's not really based on a theme, but I'd kill Monsieur Verdoux for The Great Dictator in a heartbeat. Most of the time, though, there are films I'd like to see gone (Independence Day) without specifically having something similar to replace it with.

      For reference, here are my other posts in this "series." It should be noted that I don't necessarily endorse all of my choices on my earlier versions of these.




    2. I just read them. Thanks. I saw I did comment on your 2011 one, so I definitely read it back then.

      For what it's worth, here are my raw notes right now on changes I might suggest when all is said and done (everything that follows are those notes):

      Safety Last! instead of The Kid Brother
      Lloyd’s The Freshman instead of Keaton’s The Cameraman
      The Zapruder film instead of Report
      Roots instead of Riget (The Kingdom)
      The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman
      The Jericho Mile
      The Day After instead of the English film from the 60s
      The Wrong Trousers (Wallace and Gromit short)
      Battle Royale
      La Femme Nikita
      Leon: The Professional
      District B13
      Iron Man
      Vanishing Point
      The Warriors
      La Haine
      Office Space
      Inherit the Wind
      Donnie Darko
      Renoir’s La Bete Humaine instead of Renoir’s Boudu Saved from Drowning
      Rudolph Valentino movie – The Sheik or Son of the Sheik
      Le Plaisir instead of another Max Ophuls movie? (need to see all book choices first)
      An Inconvenient Truth instead of a lesser 2005/2006 movie
      Risky Business as my generation’s The Graduate – what to remove?

      They far and away focus on directors’ early movies instead of their best movies. Where they include the best ones, too, the sheer number of movies for an individual director is excessive. Determine five directors with most entries (Hitchcock is definitely one) and whittle some of them down.

    3. If I remember correctly, Hitchcock has 18 films on the list, and probably a third of them could go. There's a crapton of John Ford and Bergman on the list, too, and more than half a dozen Woody Allen. Some of the Allen has since been booted (I think). I agree, though, there's far too much representation of a number of directors.

      I obviously agree with some of your choices, since I included them on earlier versions of this post.

  2. It amazes me that Great Dictator isn't on the list when Monsieur Verdoux is. The latter is very good but Great Dictator is much better. I'm surprised Friday the 13th isn't either, though I think it's a piece of crap, but regardless of that it probably should be seen for its dubious place in film history.

    For me the problem with the list has always been over- (and under-) representation of period rather than directors. The silent era makes up about a third of film history but about five percent of the list (I know lots of silent cinema is lost, but even so), whereas the period from about 1970 onwards makes up more than half of it. I'd like to see that imbalance reduced.

  3. I strongly feel that Mean Girls should be in the book and I predict that a generation from now, it will be. Mean Girls is this teenage generation's Ferris Bueller and Breakfast Club, rolled into one. Every year, the day before Christmas break, I let my Regents Chemistry class watch a movie of their choice from the five DVDs that I bring in. And every year, in every class, they want to watch Mean Girls. And I don't mean in the 'oh, it's all right I guess' kind of way, in the vocally ecstatic about the possibility of watching it kind of way. And it's not just the girls. The boys all want to watch it too. And it's not just the popular girls and boys... It's nearly everyone. This year, it actually was everyone! If the list is not about the 'best' 1001 films but instead, the most relevant 1001 films, then I think this will make the list when my former students grow up and become the people who make the decision about which films to pick.

    And for what it's worth, I think Mean Girls is fantastic. It gets high school right while being scathingly funny. And the dialogue is immensely quotable. You go, Glenn Coco!

  4. @James--The silent era is underrepresented in that a great deal of the language we know of cinema started there. It wouldn't trouble me terribly if the number of silent films on the list doubled. The mid-point of the list is about 1972 or so, originally about 1969.

    @Sio--I agree, but I think not having a single Harry Potter film is a bigger miss. Talk about cultural importance! I can only think that it comes from a certain snobishness. Any film that speaks to a particular generation almost en masse (see: inclusion of the not-my-generation's The Big Chill, for instance) is required viewing.

  5. Man, talk about a big issue: who would we like in and out of the list. Whenever the issue come up it always generate a lot of debate and they even mention that in the book. I have many time thrown my arms into the air in exasperation over the picks.

    On you list of suggestions I can definitely support The Great Dictator and Misery. I will always wonder why they never included them and the way each new edition is edited the prospect of them ever making the list is nil.

    1. One of the issues I see with The List is that there's no cause for those concerned with making each edition to go much further back than 10 years for deleting items and no impetus to look back more than 36 months for new additions. It's why the vast majority of films released before say 1995 (yes, a few exceptions) will never vanish from new editions, but nothing new from those years will show up, either.

      Maybe (please?) the 10th edition will have a larger overhaul and toss some of the more marginal picks for better ones, even in the early years.

  6. Very interesting post (and comments). I've only seen 4, 6, and 9 on your list, and agree strongly on 4 and 9 while not being totally convinced when it comes to 6.

    A movie that I definitely would like to see in the book, though, is »12 monkeys«.

    1. I completely agree on 12 Monkeys. In fact, I'd even be willing to give up its source material for it to be here.

  7. I've seen 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9. And I agree with all of them! :P

    1. Considering that you introduced me to two of them, I'm not surprised.

  8. Disagree about Friday the 13th (1980), which I saw this past Halloween, and thought was a film of it's era, and hasn't aged particularly well. I couldn't see anything remarkable in it, that hasn't been done in 100 other movies since then. That’s not the filmmakers fault, but just the movie business has drained the standard slasher premise to cliché. Probably works as nostalgia.

    Agree on The Skin I Live In, and your list reminds me I need to check out In Bruges.

  9. I agree with In Bruges, Misery and The Great Dictator, I was shocked to find the latter two not on the list, and I'm all for Friday the 13th and The Skin I Live In for being on there, as I've not seen them and would quite like too. The omission that I'm frequently appalled at is Tron, due to the groundbreaking nature of the CGI, and the influence it has had on cinema since, regardeless of whether the film stands up or not.

    1. @Chris--Yes, Friday the 13th has been done to death, but it is very much a formative film for the genre, and it's an underrepresented genre in general on The List.

      @Jay--I had Tron on the first of these lists I did. I completely agree. Even if the story is goofy, the visuals were spectacular for their day.

      Get The Skin I Live In and do yourself a favor--don't read anything more about it until you've seen it. Don't let this one get spoiled for you.

    2. I got The Skin I Live In for Christmas, just need to find an evening to watch it! And I'm also annoyed that there's so many Hitchcock films on the list, but they couldn't find room for Dial 'M' For Murder, one of my favourites of his.

    3. And instead, we got Marnie. It's just not right.

  10. Oh this is a great list. Excellent picks for sure. Agree most with They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, a little-seen quasi masterpiece in my mind.

    1. I've seen it two or three times. It's one I'll eventually visit on the Oscar lists, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. For my money, Jane Fonda was never better.