I really like lists. There are few pleasures in life as wonderful in their simplicity as crossing something off a list. I have two very extensive lists tucked away in a notebook in my desk. They are the movies I should watch and the books I should read before I die.
I bring this up because Yahoo posted one of those “100 movies to see before you die” (which was posted on the imdb homepage) and, while I’ve seen a pretty big chunk of those movies, I also noticed a few glaring, and a few slightly unsual, omissions. I’ve highlighted a few below.
1. The Producers— Blazing Saddles is a funny movie. But the Producers was first and, in my opinion, best. Maybe it’s because I think the Producers feels more like a coherent, tightly plotted film than Blazing Saddles or even, for that matter, Young Frankenstein. The resulting film is not just a very funny parody, which a lot of Mel Brooks films are, but a truly great comedy. If you disagree with me, well that’s just too bad because you are the audience, and I am the author. I OUTRANK YOU!
2. The Apartment– This is a film that seems to have some cred when it comes to “Greatest films” lists (it is, for example, one of only three films on my list that is also on the AFI 100 years… 100 movies list), but it doesn’t really seem to get talked about much. That’s a shame, because it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. Jack Lemmon is so wonderfully understated as the “everyman” and Shirely MacLaine never fails to break my heart with her performance. It is rarely laugh-out loud funny, which is something you would expect of a Billy Wilder comedy, but it IS funny. The best part, though, is watching both C.C. Baxter and Fran Kubelik comes to terms with their own mistakes; for Baxter, that means realizing that being a pushover may have earned him a better job, but at the expense of who he is as a person. For Miss Kubelik, that means realizing that romance is not exactly what she thinks it should be. As they grow closer, they also grow as people, and that makes this a very touching film.
3. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off— There is a shocking lack of iconic 80s movies on this list and while I know most people would pick a member of the Molly Ringwald/John Hughes trilogy as a representative, I choose Ferris Bueller. Why? Because Ferris Bueller is one of the most joyful (yes, even with Cameron’s breakdown), funny, and fun movies ever.
4. WALL-E— I know it’s a very recent film, but it is already a classic. In terms of what can be done with animation, I would count this as a milestone. It is visually stunning, it’s true, and it makes amazing use of silent movie conventions. WALL-E himself is an unconventional hero, a little robot just yearning for a little love. With almost no diologue, Andrew Stanton and his band of Pixar magicians make you care deeply for WALL-E and Eve. The love story at the center is very simple, but that’s what makes it so powerful.
5. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut— Another one of those films that I think suffers from not being “serious” enough for this type of list, but it is actually a wonderfully crafted musical. Like the show itself, it is vulger, offensive, and freaking hilarious. “Blame Canada” was nominated for an Oscar, but my personal favorites are “What Would Broitano Do” and “La Resistance (Medley).”
6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s— There is not doubt that Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a thoroughly imperfect film. Mickey Rooney’s character is a pretty horrific black mark on the film, and that certainly shouldn’t be ignored, but I also don’t think that means the entire film can be dismissed. Part of me is impressed that Roman Holiday DID make the yahoo list, because I happen to think Roman Holiday is a better film than Breakfast at Tiffany’s, BUT… Breakfast at Tiffany’s is also an iconic film, full of a lot of wonderful scenes and characters, and some great acting, and not even a casual fan of films should miss out on it.
7. The Muppet Movie-– Look. Maybe it’s high-brow enough for SOME people, but I think the Muppets ROCK, okay? They are the greatest. I am fiercely protective of them, and the Muppet Movie is just amazing. With random cameos with some of the greatest comedians of all time, but especially of the 1970s, with the best coming from Steve Martin as the thoroughly rude waiter (“Excellent choice”). It also has a really sweet message, and some pretty awesome songs. The highlight, however, is the barely contained insanity of the entire cast of characters. (As a sidenote, I am beyond excited for the Jason Segel penned Muppet Movie to come).
8. Princess Bride— An insanely quotable, funny film, Princess Bride is an essential because it captures a wacky, slightly fractured fairy tale with some great comedic performances (I am partial to the villainous but understated Christopher Guest), a incredibly funny script, and a framing story that makes the film into something besides just a fairy tale. It may not dominate the screen time, but the outside love story, the story of the love of a grandfather and grandson, is in many ways, the real heart of the story.
9. City Lights— This is my favorite Chaplin film by far. Not only is it very funny, but it is a wonderful love story. (This is a film, by that way, that WALL-E owes a great deal to). It’s also probably the last great silent film, and has one of the most rewarding endings of any movie. I’m actually having difficulty putting into words why this film is so great, but I think there’s something sort of appropriate about that. Watch it for yourself.
10. The Philadelphia Story— Katherine Hepburn. Cary Grant. Jimmy Stewart. I’m not sure a romantic comedy could have a better cast. The three stars play off each other exeptionally well, and help create one of the best comedies of all time. The sexual politics are occasionally troubling (like, seriously, Katherine Hepburn’s dad, it is NOT your daughter’s fault that you cheated on her mother), but the film is still a triumph of screwball comedy. Also, Drunk Jimmy Stewart is the best.
Any films YOU think should have been on the list (or that you think I’m crazy for including on mine)?