A.L.’s Favorite Movies

Well, Roger Simon started it, and while he actually knows something about movies, lack of subject-matter knowledge has never stopped bloggers in the past. So here are my 20-or-so favorites.

  1. Providence (Alain Resnais). John Gielgud, Dirk Bogarde, and Ellyn Burstein in the best move ever made about writing and artistic imagination. A fevered night in the imagination of a novelist, and a bright morning in his life.

  2. Samurai Trilogy (Kurosawa Inagaki). The story of Miyamoto Musashi – essentially the Japanese version of ‘Gone With The Wind’, with Mifune in the title role of the samurai, philosopher, and artist.

  3. Decalog (Kieslowski). Ten loosely liked stories set in a Polish apartment block and based on the Commandments. Episodes 1 and 2 are so powerful that I can’t watch them too often, and yet have to.
  1. Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (Girard). An ephemeral set of vignettes that still serves as the most definitive film biography of anyone that I’ve seen. I happen to be a huge Gould fan, but friends who aren’t love this as well.

  2. Choose Me (Rudolph). The most romantic move I’ve ever seen, and one that captures L.A. in the early 80’s (Ed Ruscha is in it!) better than any history book you’re likely to read.

  3. Singin’ In The Rain (Donen/Kelley). I mean, ‘Singin In The Rain.’ What else do you need to know? Gene Kelley, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Cyd Charisse, Comden and Green, “Moses Supposes”,”Dignity”, and “Singin In The Rain.

  4. Henry V (Branagh). “No King of England if not King of France,” and St. Crispin’s Day. Sadly, Branagh’s best to date, but I still have hopes for him.

  5. Oklahoma (Zinneman). The American experience in the American musical.

  6. Godfather II (Coppola). The look on Pacino’s face at the end of the film is the payoff; the film itself is a riveting counterpoint to ‘Oklahoma!”.

  7. Yankee Doodle Dandy (Curtiz). A joy to watch, and something that let Cagney express the warm heart under the hard edge.

  8. Young Frankenstein (Brooks). Hard to figure out which Brooks to pick, but this is the one we watch the most often.

  9. Chinatown (Polanski). Perfect surfaces, sullen, soiled woman, and John Huston as the appetite that built a city. I see echoes of this film everywhere I go; in Catalina last month, I sat in one of the yacht clubs and looked around…

  10. Winchester ’73 (Mann). James Stewart moves away from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and shows what the hardness in his eyes means. A valued gun is stolen, and Stewart goes to get it back.

  11. Blade Runner (Scott). The future. Where William Gibson got all his ideas.

  12. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks). Grant, Hepburn, and the definition of effortless attraction based on brains and sharp wit.

  13. White Hunter, Black Heart (Eastwood). Clint Eastwood plays John Houston in Africa. Eastwood, beaten in body and spirit, being driven away and waving with malice to the local gentry.

  14. Don’t Look Now (Roeg). Roeg also made ‘Performance’ which almost made the list, but this is the scariest, sexiest movie I think I’ve ever seen. It’s the only movie I know that has caused me to lose sleep; I can’t reccomend it enough.

  15. King of New York (Ferera). Over-the-top 90’s gangster movie, worth watching for Christopher Walken’s definitive portrait of the master criminal out for one last score and for Lawrence Fishburne’s mindblowing hip-hop gangster, Jimmy Jump.

  16. M.A.S.H. (Altman). Dude, the 70’s were largely defined by the attitudes in this movie. And not only is it a historical artifact, but it’s damn funny and one of the last Altman films in which he actually cares about his characters.

  17. Shakespeare In Love (Madden). A much better than OK movie, but it has one magical quality – it makes you imagine what it must have been like to see a Shakespeare play for the first time.

  18. The Long Goodbye (Altman). Phillip Marlowe trying to live in 1970’s Los Angeles. Honor? What does that mean?

OK, that’ll get us started…

5 thoughts on “A.L.’s Favorite Movies”

  1. AL, Here are a three more:

    Citizen Kane. All the potification about this film was (and is) true. I consider it still the best American film, ever. The scene when Kane breaks up with his wife over a series of breakfasts is…priceless.

    Touch of Evil. Long before illegal immigration was an issue this film gave us a clear picture of corruption along the California/Mexico border. A Superior cast, even Charlton Heston performs at A level.

    The Hustler. See it just to watch Piper Laurie (long thought forgotten)and Jackie Gleason perform.

  2. Charles –

    I agree (and actually like Touch of Evil better than Citizen Kane) that these are great films; there are a bunch of others in the canon that I passed over (in part because I tend to like quirkier things, and in part ot promotew the lesser-known).

    A.L.

  3. Are there any more films in the last ten years that would qualify for your list? That is the question. Is everything getting worse or have movies always been mostly bad with occasional glimmers of genius?

  4. Oh, definitely – mostly bad. I have friends who are obsessed with old movies, and have dragged me to see many, many of them…and the ones that were forgotten are almost always well-forgotten.

    90% of everything (or more) is crap, remember.

    A.L.

  5. With the corporate stucturing of studios taking over and the exorbitant prices to now make a movie – the era of making maverick and brave movies that takes chances and have quality plot and character development may be over. This genre peaked in the mid 70’s with Coppola and Spielberg. Movies that now don’t go for the easy bucks in the cheesey or easy buck category might never get a chance to even get in the door anymore. The future may be viewing independent genre movies on line believe it or not. Newer technology may make it easier to make movies.

    Here are a few of my favorites -

    1) Rudy
    2) Field of Dreams
    3) Shawshenk Redemption
    4) Rocky I
    5) Ben Hur (Really love that flick)

    Can’t think of any others right now.

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