Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Comes but Once a Year

For the last few years, my traditional Christmas post has been to suggest 10 new additions to the 1001 Movies list. Sure, I’ve finished the list and finished it again this year (and let me tell you, having to watch 13 films was a lot easier than the first 1154). But I see no reason to change this tradition. There are plenty of films that should be on the 1001 Movies list that have never been there. There’s too much chaff and some wheat that’s been tossed out. While I know I have no pull with the editors and my opinions and a couple of dollars will get you a coffee at Starbucks, it makes me feel better to suggest some things that need more love.

The following films are offered in no specific order other than, more or less, the order that I thought of them.

1. The People Vs. Larry Flynt

For whatever reason, this film has been all but forgotten. That’s a damn shame because it’s a really well-made film with a lot of great performances top to bottom. It’s also a film that I think is extremely important in its message. More people should know it and more people should watch it.

2. Hellraiser

Hellraiser is a disturbing and ugly film, but it’s also one of the great horror films of its decade. This is a film that takes a lot of hard left turns and has some very disturbing implications. Yes, the series eventually turned to shit, but the first one is fantastic. Since horror is underrepresented in general, this would be a solid addition.

3. The Blues Brothers

I’m mildly embarrassed that it’s taken me this many years to list The Blues Brothers on one of these yearly lists. Honestly, it should have been there from the start. The legacy of this film is that we got a lot of shitty Saturday Night Live alum movies after it, but there are few movie musicals this much fun all the way through. And the music is great.

4. Henry V (1989)

The Lawrence Olivier version of Henry V is on the list, but the Kenneth Branagh version, which is superior in every aspect, is not. I think that’s a problem. This is my favorite Shakespeare on film, or at least my favorite faithful adaptation.

5. Rollerball (1975)

Just so you don’t think I’m insane, I’m referring here to the original version with James Caan. In addition to the punishing action of this film, there is a very interesting anti-corporate, pro-individuality message here. I like a lot of James Caan films, but this one ranks as one of my favorite of his performances. Also…if Rollerball became a real sport, it would dwarf every other sport on the planet.

6. Elevator to the Gallows

I completely dig film noir, so when a French director pays homage to the style, I’m very interested. Add a kick-ass Miles Davis soundtrack and I’m doubly interested. I love the story here and how everything works to get us to the ending. There’s nothing in this film not to love.

7. Good Night and Good Luck

For whatever reason, 2005 is horribly underrepresented on The List, which I find bizarre; it was a much better year that the paltry number of List films would indicate. Good Night and Good Luck is one of the best of the year. Almost every decision made in producing this film was the right choice, from the casting to the filming in lustrous black-and-white. More people should know this movie.

8. The Innocents

Technically, I think The Innocents is a horror movie, but it plays out much more like a psychological thriller. There’s a lot of weird going on here. It reminds me a lot of The Haunting, which is probably why it didn’t end up on the list. But it deserves some consideration for being exactly what it is—a hell of a taut thriller with disturbing implications.

9. The Raid: Redemption

If you haven’t seen this, you haven’t seen an action movie. This makes everything else look like a walk in the park. There’s not much here in terms of plot and you won’t care for a second because all of the time is taken up with unbelievable ass kicking. It’s holy shit, jaw-dropping good.

10. Up

I’m actually the most surprised at the absence of this film of all 10 listed here. While certainly a film that kids can understand and enjoy, this is Pixar’s most adult film, or at least has the most adult themes. If for no other reason, Up should be on the list for the first few minutes, which is some of the purest and most beautiful visual storytelling in cinematic history.


  1. Interesting anecdote. Rollerball was released the same year Major League Baseball was debating adopting free agency. Coincidence? I think not. DLM3

  2. A super duper "Hell yeah" for "Elevator to the Gallows"!

    Over at IMDB, I have a list for my favorite movies listed year by year and "Elevator to the Gallows" is my choice for 1958.

  3. Steve, I can never argue with any mention of Good Night, and Good Luck. I don't see why it doesn't receive more acclaim as you know. No arguments on The Raid or Up, either.

    I still need to see a decent amount of these, including Elevator to the Gallows and Rollerball. The latter was an option for votes for the 2015 Blind Spots Series, but few people chose it. With Larry Flynt, I haven't seen it since the theaters. I remember enjoying it, but I think that might be common for a lot of people. It's too bad, especially since it offered a hint at the talent that Harrelson would show down the road.

  4. Of the ones I've seen I think I agree with all of them. Up would be my number one choice for "how the heck did this never get put in the books?"

  5. Definite thirds for the ones I've seen. Blues Brothers might not be great but it is iconic in the ways generally celebrated by The Book. Love Elevator and Good Night. And the omission of Up, perhaps my favorite of the Pixar movies, just seems perverse.

  6. @Doug I did not know that.

    @Tony--Considering that Gigi won the Oscar for 1958, I think we can assume that I'm going to side a lot more with you on what the best film of that year actually is.

    @Dan--It's people like you and me that need to proselytize about Good Night and Good Luck. It needs more love. And really, you should go watch Rollerball, Blind Spot list or not.

    @Chip--No kidding. I like other Pixar movies more, but so few movies have that sort of iconic, pure storytelling moment that Up does. It's such a massive miss in a list that needs more animation in general anyway.

    @Marie--That was exactly my thinking on The Blues Brothers. I've lived most of my life in the shadow of Chicago, so it naturally resonates more with me than with a lot of other people, but it's no less iconic for its era than something like Ghost Busters. Then again, since The List also excludes Caddyshack and Animal House, there's a history with iconic comedies being left out.

  7. I was underwhelmed by Good Night and Good Luck, the filmmakers do a fine job of recreating the time it was set, just it was too dry and emotionless for my taste.
    I'm with you on Up, Elevator to the Gallows, The Innocents,The Blues Brothers and Hellraiser. Great choices, which I agree deserve to be in the book! I haven't seen the rest on your list.

    1. You should see the others. I'd pick one of those four out specifically, but I'm not sure I can. They're all fantastic.

      Branagh's Henry V will make you go want to beat up French people, there's that..

  8. Of your picks, I've only seen The Blues Brothers, which was a phenomenal success here in Sweden and definitely should be in the book.

    Hellraiser, Rollerball, Larry Flynt, Henry V, and Up has been on my wantlist since they were first screened, and I also have high hopes for Elevator. Didn't know much about he remaining three, but you sure make them seem interesting!

    1. If you're even remotely into action movies, The Raid is an absolute must. If you liked The Haunting, you'll find a lot worth seeing in The Innocents because the two are very similar in a lot of ways. Good Night and Good Luck may be too American to translate well.