Posts Tagged ‘flicks / movies’

Watching Black Swan the other day, I thought about how few movies I see. Thinking about it slightly more, how many great movies do we need to have per year anyway? One or two seems fine as the years go by and we keep busy at other pursuits.

So, here we have 50 56 films for my years, with a nod to some I might not feel like seeing these days, but had an impact at the time. Sometimes once or twice is enough anyway. Not every film I loved from way back when is here either, so no E.T. or Indiana Jones here. Consideration of wanting at least one film by certain actors factors in as well.

I used to keep meticulous track of all the movies I saw, but tossed it aside and now form this list from a list of a bout 140 movies that I whittled things down to. My film-viewing history is neither complicated or interesting. As a kid in the ’70s and ’80s, I saw plenty of those decade’s lesser offerings, onward into the ’90s to now, seeing only a few here and there. The only era into which I have delved deeply, as an aficiandao, was during the ’90s when I avidly recorded ’30s and ’40s films thanks to channels like AMC and TCM.

So, here we have the first 55, more difficult to narrow down than the follow-up TV post that actually was posted before this! Four that I wrote up have been deleted to make it 55; seems like the coming years will bring more than one induction each. We only live once, and two movies a year isn’t so bad anyway.

Orphans of the Storm (12/28/1921): If only for the necessity of gazing at Lilllian and Dorothy Gish through the camera lens.

Animal Crackers (8/23/1930): If I had my way, I’d splice the first three Marx Brothers films together and watch on repeat, but pick this one for the presence of Lillian Roth along with the usual players. The Cocoanuts was the first and had the amusing 1920s Florida real estate boom satire and Monkey Business the Chevalier stuff. And then there’s the next few movies they did…

Follow Thru (9/27/1930): A real journey into another era, with hit or miss humor and lots of labor to make a film with decent sound and in color, but it has Nancy Carroll and Thelma Todd and is very entertaining. The work of DeSylva, Brown, & Henderson deserves to be remembered and celebrated.

Palmy Days (10/3/1931): A stand-in for all of Eddie’s early work, some of which might show up on this list eventually. He’s paired well with Charlotte Greenwood and lots of great jokes. The blackface that shows up in his work is especially unfortunate as Eddie was Jewish with a lot of his humor based on being a decided outsider.

Movie Crazy (8/12/1932): Harold Lloyd with sound is even funnier and he made two top-notch talkie films that deserve to be watched and watched again. Constance Cummings comes along for this ride.

Love Me Tonight (8/18/1932): Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald (and Charles Ruggles and C. Aubrey Smith and even Myrna Loy) in one of the most charming and compelling films made. Maurice and Jeanette paired up again, but never better than here.

The Fatal Glass of Beer (3/3/1933): W.C. distilled into a nutshell. A film to howl to for all 21 minutes.

*New for 2023*

Made on Broadway (5/19/33): A shining, but nothing flashy, example of early 1930s drama. Short, sharp, and intriguing. No angel himself, the Robert Montgomery character winds up pronouncing judgment on the Sally Eilers character, making me cringe as her character has certainly been victimized by men in her past. Also introduced me to Madge Evans, in the role of the true confidant and lifelong love.

Alice Adams (8/15/1935): Touching. Earnest Katherine Hepburn, plus references to being liable to eat “broken glass” and “rusty tacks.”

The Milky Way (2/7/1936): Harold Lloyd strikes again, this time with the snappy Verree Teasdale, Adolph Menjou, and Helen Mack as worthy accomplices.

Any Andy Hardy film (3/12/1937-1946): From A Family Affair to Love Laughs, nothing better captures the times, albeit in simple, idealized fashion. Funny and fun to see Mickey Rooney use an old-time phone.

Easy Living (7/16/1937): Jean Arthur at her winsomest with great support. About as screwball as they come, although these next two top it. Too bad she lost her job at The Boy’s Constant Companion, though.

The Awful Truth (10/21/1937): Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, and Asta/Skippy. Mostly improvised on set, the brainchild of director Leo McCarey.

Bringing Up Baby (2/16/1938): Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Asta/Skippy. Plus Nissa the Leopard and Charles Ruggles. The screwiest of them all with non-stop laugh lines—ad-libbed and scripted. Both stars at their peak, with Grant no doubt getting a bump in technique from his previous film (see above).

The Wizard of Oz (8/25/1939): The stuff of legends, emblazoned on every kid’s mind. Glides along seeming like no time at all. What could be better?

My Favorite Wife (5/17/1940): More laughs, possibly, than the previous screwballs, as Dunne and Grant and McCarey team up again. One of the most welcome “sequels” in cinema history. Hard to believe this was released in May as it has the air of a holiday picture.

Rhythm on the River (9/6/1940): Der Bingle could have appeared before this, but now that he has, one of film’s greatest is commemorated. Mary Martin, Oscar Levant, Basil Rathbone. Real quality light musical comedy stuff. Kind of a precursor to Holiday Inn, below.

Kipps (6/28/1941): A film (and book) worth revisiting. Michael Redgrave and Phyllis Calvert are winning, and she gets one the best lines ever, “Artie, I wouldn’t do this for everyone, mind you.”

Holiday Inn (8/4/1942): Top to bottom one of the most well-made and entertaining films ever with possibly its best song. If not for the blackface/”Abraham!” elements, it would be cherished ’til kingdom come.

Meet Me in St. Louis (11/22/1944): Nostalgic Americana as only this era could do it. Margaret O’Brien and Harry Davenport particularly charming, along with a raft of songs and scenes.

It’s A Wonderful Life (12/20/1946): Must have been quite interesting to see a few days before Christmas so long ago. Has one of my favorite scenes and, actually, any scene with Donna Reed in it is a fabulous one in this story.

Life with Father (8/14/1947): Tour de force for William Powell, permeating the film when he’s not even on screen, leaving all other actors, except possibly Jimmy Lydon, as bit players—not that I’d want it any other way. Masterwork.

The Bachelor & The Bobby Soxer (7/24/1947): Hilarity combining Andy Hardy and screwball comedy. Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee, and again amusing Harry Davenport.

The Heiress (10/6/1949): Brilliant story from a brilliant novelist, a brilliant script, a brilliant director, with a brilliant composer and theme song, plus brilliant acting all around. But there’s really only name needed to recommend this movie: Olivia de Havilland.

The Red Balloon (5/3/1956): One of the products of the 50s that endures in my mind. A tribute to the days of elementary school filmstrips.

Wild Strawberries (12/26/1957): The first meditation on life and time on this list. Extremely well done with many moving scenes, despite some of the usual 1950s clunkiness and heavy-handedness.

The Innocents (11/24/1961): My favorite “horror” movie. A movie of ghosts, mystery, the unseen, the unexplained, the whispered. Wonderful!

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (4/22/1962): My favorite western of the few I’ve seen. Great cast and story and message.

The Music Man (6/19/1962): Small town, Midwestern charm of old, coupling nicely with Meet Me in St. Louis above. Many infectious, heartfelt songs and wonderfully cast, top to bottom. Robert Preston and Shirley Jones outstanding, one nearly over the top, one understated. And the stylized, but historical, mise en scène and costumes pack a wallop.

Les dimanches de Ville d’Avray (11/12/1962): Bare, yet lush black and white, with the textures of Corot in a place he painted. A story of what can happen to the disturbed, damaged, dreamers.

Les parapluies de Cherbourg (2/19/1964): Lush everything, yet a simple story, entirely sung. A real achievement, drawing us in with those most beautiful of opening credits and mesmerizing throughout.

Mothra vs. Godzilla (4/29/1964): Mothra must be included in the film that represents Godzilladom. More entertaining in every aspect than most of its genre.

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (9/4/1964): Striking and brave in its originality, despite an ancient “script”.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (12/16/1965): Two great acting leads. The spy movie to beat all spy movies.

The Family Way (12/18/1966): My favourite of the kitchen sinks, and a much-needed Hayley Mills entry to this list. Great job all-around. If it only had Herman’s Hermits, although there are ties to Paul McCartney and The Smiths.

Chinatown (6/20/1974): Modern day film noir, with great leads and just about everything else. My memory used to fixate on the bandaging Nicholson wears in his face after injury, but now it fixates on his generous helpings of Old Crow.

Rikki-Tikki Tavi (1/9/1975): Television special, but something we saw as a school filmstrip. A beautiful depiction of a short story; another reminder of how great animation used to be pre-computer.

Monty Python & The Holy Grail (4/3/1975): Funniest movie ever made. Memorized.

Star Wars (5/25/1977): What can be said? If this were the only Star Wars film it would still be an all-time classic and then some.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (11/16/1977): Spielberg without much corn. Completes the landmark sci-fi year that was 1977 from a very different perspective than the above.

Watership Down (10/14/1978): Favorite feature-length cartoon.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (8/17/1979): Second flick, funny as the first. Almost.

Airplane! (6/27/1980): Best of its genre, silly-stupid joke after joke after joke, although the Naked Gun movies deserve a mention for more sustained achievement.

Blade Runner (6/25/1982): One of the best scene-setting, world-creating films out there. Some amazing lines too. Its sequel is one of the rare worthy ones and made earlier drafts of this list. See the Final Cut.

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (8/9/1985): Upon re-watching this last year, I found I’d almost memorized the whole thing and still found it hilarious. Priceless, unique.

Eight Men Out (9/2/1988): The only baseball or sports movie that really sticks with me despite its oversimplifications for this former Deadball fanatic.

Flirting (3/21/1991): The two leads are excellent in this imaginative film. Absorbing, although it suffers from male gaze, and depicts a world I was thankfully never a part of that is thankfully almost gone.

Howards End (3/13/1992): By far the best of its Merchant-Ivory, drama-based-on-a-novel kind. If asked, I’d probably still say this is my favorite film. I saw it in a theater in the small town where I started graduate school. Little did I suspect…

Clueless (7/19/1995): Charming way of getting into the head of an “other” many would assume was a dummy, not many of us admire or would want to be. The camera absolutely loves Alicia Silverstone; I fell too. One of many 1990s movies I missed. This might be one I was most happy to finally see.

Saving Private Ryan (7/24/1998): Everyone should experience war, or this movie, so as to avoid supporting casual entry into it. The TV series, Band of Brothers would be another option, as would Born on the Fourth of July, although this movie is something else again.

Topsy-Turvy (9/3/1999): I guess this is the best back-stage drama out there, although the plot is incidental. The film is really just vignettes in how The Mikado was made, with the swirl of human drama the players underwent while preparing, focusing on their character and lives, not the show.

Donnie Darko (1/19/2001): You can learn the “real” story if you read up and watch the director’s cut, but the verve and mystery of the original is a more jarring, enriching experience. I enjoyed coming up with my own ideas in this very cool film with a killer opening credit song.

Elf (11/7/2003): I laughed a lot, out loud, in the theater the first time I saw this. And I didn’t feel stupid about it afterwards: the true test.

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (3/19/2004): Glad I overcame a certain prejudice to see it. Winslett is amazing, Carrey excellent, and the layered story endlessly engaging. A joy to “figure out” or, better yet, meditate upon.

Black Swan (9/1/2010): Beauty, focus, competition, art, physical strain, abuse, insanity, delusion, illusion.

The Day He Arrives (5/19/2011): Another one that plays with time. A much more cerebral take on repetition and variation than the phrase that has entered our language, Groundhog Day.

What will be next? Another from the pre-Hays Code era, something at least somewhat contemporary, some lingering nostalgia from my youth? Tune in later in the year to find out.


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