A Theory of Everything… Cinematic (It’s a List)

The following list provides a personal ranking of all the great movies out there in the world, many which deal with ontological questions (i.e. what is being?), grouped using hypothetical thematic associations that might spark new ideas. The goal is to put “everything” in here: action, romance, musicals, the avante-garde, animation, documentaries, and city symphonies.

  1. The Tree of Life
    Malick’s personal version of cinéma pur or a city symphony, a genre of film characterized by an emphasis on environment, light, abstract composition, camera movement and soundtrack, and the complete exclusion of characters, name-brand stars, and narrative. Malick’s vision includes everything, includes big stars speaking lines, but Malick takes a minimalist approach to character, allowing a tragic event, the fragments of their thoughts, the delineation of time passing, and the contemplation of how the viewer would react in the same situation, to suggest a story, rather than declare it explicitly through exposition. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, it’s perhaps only through a viewer’s personal reflection on the choices of edits and elided shots of unexplained visuals that meaning forms. Characters stare off into space, presumably haunted or comforted by memories in equal measure, hunted by an always drifting camera capturing Tarkovsky-like long takes. Through various clues provided via voiceover we wonder about a parent’s fears or grief, about a boy’s impressions of his parental role models, about the parents as representations of Grace and Nature, about the evolution of Earth and the Afterlife. It leads to an experience that might conventionally be described as pretentious, but only to the same degree that poetry is pretentious, which is to say this film is poetic, tonal, monumental, gorgeous, heartbreaking, and overwhelming. The lightest touch is taken to the history of the universe, filtered through a few years in the lives of a simple suburban Texan family. Somewhere in there a dinosaur chooses not to kill, and another admires a sunrise, and it means either nothing or everything to that family.
    More: Getting to The Root of the New Tree of Life, The Tree of Life: Let the Wind Speak, Traveling Across the Eons in The Tree of Life, and perhaps compare the Mother’s possible thought process to this quote from Eliza’s father in My Fair Lady:

    Alfred P. Doolittle: What’s half a crown after all I’ve give her?
    Friend: When did you ever give her anything?
    Alfred P. Doolittle: Anything? I give her everything. I give her the greatest gift any human being can ever give to another. Life. I introduced her to this here planet, I did, with all its wonders and marvels. The sun that shines, the moon that glows. Hyde Park to walk through on a fine spring night. The whole ruddy city of London to roam around in, selling her blooming flowers. I give her all that. Then I disappears and leaves her on her own to enjoy it.

  2. Age of Innocence
    A dexterous display of adaptation and collage. Wondrous, brutal passages of Wharton’s exposition are carefully translated visually. The three leads (Pfeiffer, Ryder, Day-Lewis) employ subtle timing choices and interpretations of posture within the frame of Scorcese’s dynamic camera and exquisite compositions to recreate those otherwise missing layers of meaning. As soon as you catch up to what a character is thinking, you realize he or she actually, probably, has two or more motivations. Grace and desire brawl within a ring of invisible societal rules where financial ruin is ever on the periphery, a lurking ruthlessness is the most powerful weapon and the domination of souls is the ultimate trophy. Schoonmaker balances languor and momentum to such a degree that you might feel you’ve watched an epic chase or fight sequence instead of a love story. The influence of Visconti’s vibrant if melodramatic Senso is everywhere, from the operatic impulses of the characters to the sweeping opera house environment, from the massive aristocratic homes to the camera’s attraction to the opulent furniture, glassware, and tapestries found inside, as well as to Alida Valli’s chromatic gowns, veils, scarves, and gloves, and even to the treatment of fonts in the title sequence. More: The Age of Innocence: Savage Civility, Martin Scorsese’s Film School: The 85 Films You Need To See To Know Anything About Film, His Girl Friday: Thelma Schoonmaker Cuts Things Down to Size, Senso and Sensibility, Luchino Visconti: Count Zero
  3. The Horror: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Begone Dull Care, Powers of Ten
    The essential audacity at the core of 2001 is its four part structure, where each of the four short stories, “The Dawn of Man”, “Moon Mission”, “Jupiter Mission”, and “Jupiter and beyond infinity”, share truncated, unresolved endings and very loose, somewhat imperceptible, links to each other. Typical movie-goers, having expectations defined by classical cinema, must reorient themselves at least four times, starting with the very first frame, right from the jump, thrown into a prehistoric landscape when all the posters show spaceships. What do primitive man-apes, a reoccurring black rectangular slab (which isn’t always visually identifiable in the frame and creates a kind of negative space in the celluloid), and a long, abstract animation to close out the picture have to do with each other? It’s all completely unpredictable, and that Star Gate sequence comes so out of nowhere that it overwhelms your sense of what came before. It acts like a memory wipe. Kubrick provides no info dumps. The viewer is invited, or challenged, to tease out the connections for themselves. And, in the end, Kubrick’s aim is not to explain. Instead, he uses his four episodes to sketch out the existential horrors of metamorphosis and scale.
    2001‘s vast influence on all science fiction since rarely includes the film’s profound dislocating weirdness. Spielberg translated the shapes, colors, and score of the Star Gate sequence into all the different spaceships in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Nolan used aspects of the Star Gate to inform the black hole sequence and the four dimensional library of Interstellar. 2001‘s sound design, the creepy heavy breathing effect, the orchestral soundtrack, all repeated in Alien, along with elements of the spacecraft and spacesuits. You’ll also find its computer displays and sound effects in Blade Runner and an almost identical set and costume design — with neon lights, reflections and everything — in the Tie Fighter interiors and Tie Pilots of Star Wars and The Force Awakens, as well as the protracted flybys of spacecraft of their opening shots. 2001‘s Escher-like playfulness with autonomous zones of gravity can be found in Inception, Gravity and Dr. Strange. But most of these films strive for clarity, for classical narrative structure and a standard emotional resonance. None of these films attempt to bend the rules of what a movie is supposed to be to the degree attempted by 2001. Even the novelist behind 2001, Arthur C. Clarke, clearly didn’t understand what Kubrick crafted from his work, or he wouldn’t have approached his abomination of a sequel, 2010, by over-explaining all which is left obscure in the original. The choice to present the head trip that is the Star Gate sequence without explanation proves the absolute essentialness of preserving mystery. Created in part by Douglas Trumbull, adapting a process of photography called the “slit screen” first developed by experimental animator John Whitney for the title sequence of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the sequence clearly represents some kind of involuntary and evolutionary metamorphosis of astronaut into Star Child. Which means what exactly?
    Kubrick retains a quality of the unknown by not only choosing a specific technology but also a sphinx-like aesthetic previously employed exclusively by artists in the field of experimental cinema. These art film makers, the artists that animated abstract shapes before a camera or drew directly on the celluloid, include Hans Richter, Walter Ruttmann, Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger, and Len Lye, along with John Whitney and his brother James Whitney. Some aimed to create “visual music”, some had different concerns. The group may be epitomized by Norman McLaren, whose work was produced under the umbrella of the National Film Board of Canada and is still free to view on their website. Perhaps McLaren’s best film, directed alongside Evelyn Lambart, is Begone Dull Care, a drawn-on-film mini-opus choreographed to the bebop of The Oscar Peterson Trio. The film is doing more than simply visualizing a piece of music, however. We’re watching scratches and paint become a painting in motion. We’re watching a representation of pure evolution, of metamorphosis, similar to the aims of the Star Gate or, perhaps, like a sped-up proof of Darwin’s theories, or the moment a sentient AI becomes a serial killer. It’s an ethereal/otherworldly/alien experience that creates a very pleasurable impression of dislocation. In kind, Kubrick’s career modus operandi is subtle disruption, always breaking from norms in hopes of discovering the new, especially if it leads to horror. In 2001 he does this by using these color abstractions to enhance the inherent disturbance of the enormity and deadliness of space. He took many cues from another National Film Board of Canada production, 1960’s Universe. Kubrick hired the artists behind the animations of planetary bodies in that film, duplicated elements of the pacing and musical score, and, of course, expanded on the suggestion of interstellar travel. In the end Universe isn’t as mind-bending as the Eames’ Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero which, like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and Contact after it, effectively visualizes the scale of our imperceptible little planet to that of the solar system, galaxy and universe beyond. Both Universe and Powers of Ten, like 2001, in repositioning human life as a mere blip in time and space and malleable to the whims of forces beyond our ken, either accidentally or purposively conjure up the horrors of the unknown at the core of existence.
  4. Unreliable: Rashômon, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
    More: 10 Great Movies Telling Stories Within Stories

  5. The Forbidding World: Cave of Forgotten DreamsEncounters at the End of the WorldFata Morgana, Lessons of Darkness, Grizzly Man
    Werner Herzog has traveled to the outposts of this “forbidding world” seeking the hidden and highly mysterious, reveling in strangeness. He fills the frames of his many documentaries with mischievous and murderous landscapes. Think the horizontal limbs and torsos of the Sahara Desert in Fata Morgana and the Hothian ice planet with its own nomad culture in Encounters at the End of the World. Herzog maintains his sense of fascination by taking the point of view of an alien, newly arrived on our planet, awed and perplexed by the details in the surroundings and humanoids he meets. The alien is enthralled with mirages in Fata Morgana, capturing the reflections or refractions bounced into one environment from somewhere else miles away through temperature transference, perhaps reflected multiple times to arrive in the filmed location. The “heated strata of air that function like a mirror” puts a science to ghosts, ghosts manufactured by a planetary machine. Epitomized in Grizzly Man and Lessons of Darkness, the alien seeks transient artifacts, wanderers, the lost, experimental juxtapositions, and harsh environments threatening untimely death. He braves both extreme elements and dialogues with potentially unhinged subjects, and most importantly he abstains from judging. The world feels too small in his confident body of work. Too limited by classical physics. If Herzog had the means for interstellar travel, he’d be Doctor Who. No, the Silver Surfer, due to a similar morose and ultimately doomed nature. More: Ecstatic Truth: ‘Ferocious Reality’ Dissects Herzog’s Doc Aesthetic
  6. Shakespearean: Ran, Throne of Blood
  7. Persona, The Wizard of Oz, Sunset Boulevard, Mulholland Drive
  8. Life in Turmoil: Koyaanisqatsi, Solaris
    Mainstream movies focus on pleasure. Sentimentality, jolts of fright, the momentum of action, the relief of laughter. They deal in escapism. They assail you with regulated thrills. Movies are clockwork mechanisms, relatively easy to engineer. And they typically steer clear of any troubling metaphysics that often result from looking at human life. Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Reggio and Fricke’s Koyaanisqatsi share at least one thing in common: neither is that type of movie. They were both engineered for a different purpose, to unnerve, i.e. to freak you out intellectually.
    Koyaanisqatsi is the artiest of art films, exemplifying Andre Bazin’s term “montage of attraction”, leaning on no other narrative tools. As Bazin describes in “What is Cinema?”, “montage by attraction… may be roughly defined as the reenforcing of the meaning of one image by association with another image not necessarily part of the same episode”. The montage of Koyaanisqatsi consists of slow motion and time-lapse shots of urban landscapes colliding against the immense canyons of the Four Corners and other natural wonders, accompanied by an incessant Phillip Glass score, creating a hallucinatory and purgatorial view of our world. Koyaanisqatsi is a city symphony about North America, but an America as a stand-in for Dante’s Inferno.
    Definitions of the Hopi word used for its title include “life of moral corruption and turmoil”, or perhaps corrupted existence, or chaotic existence. “Crazy life”. “Life in turmoil”. The film opens with a cave pictograph of an alien visitation, followed by the fire of a space shuttle launch, then moves on to the savagery of nature: volcanic activity, desert dunes, massive cloud formations, oceanic chaos. But it’s the man-made, from industrial construction to the multitude of cars, bombs, military craft, and buildings, and buildings being demolished, to assembly lines of office workers, engineers and food, people churning through Grand Central Station, speeding cars turning into streaks of light at night, and big-wigged Las Vegas ladies, that the crazy life of the 20th century is rhapsodically portrayed. It all goes by in a fast 80 minutes. And it ends brutally, with an unedited stock shot of the 1962 Atlas-Centaur rocket exploding after liftoff and spinning, like a dancer, in a fiery free-fall, supplemented by Glass’ requiem mass “Prophecies”. This particular mission was un-manned, but after well-documented NASA failures it’s easy to picture manned. Put yourself in the place of a 12th century Hopi Native American Indian (known as “The Peaceful People” by the way), living on the Mogollon Rim escarpment, which sounds like it once was a very Edenic portion of Arizona, lost in thought, gazing at the sky, trying to imagine what a “crazy life”, an existence of corruption or nonsense, would look like. Human beings shooting themselves into space and falling back to Earth on fire, or, for that matter, any aspect of the New York portrayed in Koyaanisqatsi, might be it.
    Or the space station of Solaris, too, positioned over a roiling, sentient alien ocean far from the green pastorals of Earth, either attacking, or trying to communicate with, the visitors above with corrupted visions. Solaris is a means for Tarkovsky to record his own haunted thoughts on the meaning of life. He steers straight for the metaphysical, building on the doubling tactic found in Hitchcock’s Vertigo where the existence, and murder, of multiple versions of a person make you question your own definition of what’s real. In this quasi-science fiction adaptation of a Lem novel (without an easily available, decent English translation yet), relying on fairly amateurish but sort of quaint special effects, Tarkovsky marries long, inert scenes with heavy passages of dialogue that all eventually coalesce into a kind of dazzling, glittering arabesque about love, memory, reality, and reasons for being. Solaris is actually a fun watch in the end. It’s not the opaque slog of The Mirror‘s memory palace, nor Stalker‘s talky allegorical journey through the decaying, and clearly toxic, infrastructure of the Soviet military industrial complex, two other Tarkovsky mystery boxes often cited as masterpieces that don’t provide much incentive to crack open. Solaris‘ narrative aims are straighter, and it also achieves a palpable horror, if a more intellectual than visceral one. As Kurosawa said of the film: “Sheer fearful emotion this film succeeds in conjuring up… It truly somehow provokes pure horror in our soul.” Lots of dangerous questions arise, like gangplanks cantilevered over oblivion. Tarkovsky doesn’t pretend there are any easy answers, although he lets his main character, Cosmonaut/Psychologist Kris Kelvin, accept a few for his own brittle sanity. “Don’t turn a scientific problem into a common love story” one of the smarter characters says, completely in vain, to Kelvin. Our hero, like a typical cinema-goer, ignores him and turns to what he knows.
    It’s a simple warning also unheeded by many recent, potent, technically extraordinary but surprisingly sanctimonious sci-fi films, all determined to provide a semblance of closure. Nolan’s Interstellar immediately comes to mind, informed by rigorous scientific fact but ultimately built for a sentimental notion of the power of love. Or there’s Villeneuve’s Arrival, Cuarón’s Gravity and Chazelle’s First Man, breathtaking films that, in exploring interstellar travel, language and technology, open up a ton of potential lines of inquiry about the meaning of life but ultimately serve a singular purpose, to provide one character the grief counseling they so desperately need. Instead of allowing this big old universe of chaos, complexity and mystery to change everyone’s perceptions, these directors adhere to simple cornball themes rooted in pop psychology. On the other hand, in Andrei Rublev Tarkovsky has his characters quoting a bit of scripture: “In much wisdom there is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow”. So maybe Tarkovsky wouldn’t wish his dark thoughts to creep into the heads of the buzzy directors above. Like Tarkovsky’s Cosmonaut, better to be guided by their hearts and ignore the oblivion. More: Cinema Sounds: Koyaanisqatsi, Koyaanisqatsi on YouTube, Watch Koyaanisqatsi in Reverse, Akira Kurosawa on watching Solaris with Andrei Tarkovsky, Solaris: Inner Space, Lost in Space: Tarkovsky’s Solaris, The Clone Returns Home: Solaris-ishness…, A Drop in the Ocean: One Scene from Solaris, On Both Page and Screen, Polish Master Stanislaw Lem Makes You Question Reality, Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong Bio-Pic Is an Accidental Right-Wing Fetish Object, Neither Right- Nor Left-wing, First Man Plants Its Flag in a Troubling Ambivalence
  9. Fun with Feudalism: Seven Samurai, Princess Mononoke
  10. Bicycle Thieves, Man with a Movie Camera
  11. A Noir Codex: Citizen Kane, The Third Man
  12. Vertigo, Don’t Look Now
  13. The Nail: Do the Right Thing, It’s a Wonderful Life, Three Colors: Blue (1993)
  14. M, Wings of Desire, Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
  15. Liberties Taken: Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Lawrence of Arabia

     

  16. The Gaian Mind: The New World, Walkabout, My Neighbor Totoro
  17. Only Connect: In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, A Room With a View
    The intimate non-affairs of Wong Kar Wei’s two great films, shot in a uniquely futuristic palette of colors, trace the playful, exceedingly charming but tragically brief connections that two people can have. In the Mood for Love explores its deeply connected couple in an unusual way: when they realize their often absent spouses are having an affair, they role-play various scenarios as their spouses, correcting each other to make the performances more accurate. It sounds theatrical and melodramatic, but it’s all presented on screen in a fragmented, improvisational style. Although they traverse cramped Hong Kong offices and apartments and find solace and moments of happiness sitting very close to each other, sharing meals and taxis, writing at the same desk, and acting out a love affair on the stages of barren, nighttime streets, the gulf created by their marriages, their own need to remain faithful to their spouses, and possibly their fear of ruining the romance, is vast, and a distinct, deliberate pacing heightens that distance. The longing of the characters to not be lonely is palpable, and it was clearly created more in the editing room than on the page. Did they fall in love for real? In a series of dreamy epilogues we see many conventional changes in their ordinary lives, but also hints that the love forged from the delicate affair persisted. The woman revisits her old home and sheds a tear. The man whispers a secret into an empty hole at Angkor Wat, which in the next shot is overgrown with grass. Wong Kar Wei wants us to think so. All the same filmic elements are present in Chungking Express, the colors, the editing style, the charismatic players, and it also, in the same way, tracks the initiating events of two people meeting, which then coalesces into romantic, if ultimately unfulfilled, reveries that propel us along. The characters are always seeking something but finding nothing, except longing and emotional solitude. When E.M. Forster wrote “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect…” he specifically wrote it about “the difficulty of connecting our ordinary, conventional personalities with our transgressive erotic desires” 1, but as a universal conceit it certainly works, too. In A Room With a View, Forster concocted a fantasy love affair to fulfill the “only connect” edict. A young woman coming of age is challenged to see past her pompous fiancee for a passionate devotee of truth and beauty. It takes her quite a while to make her decision. The power of the novel and its filmed adaptation is in the extended disconnection of the two people we want to see get together. And whether their attraction is erotic or not is never actually said. All three films share a look at deep yearning, often unrequited, the isolation of the soul or the monumental effort to break that isolation. All three lean on the interiority of characters, on their mysterious thought patterns and un-acted on desires. Wong Kar Wei’s less idealistic approach to romance suggests isolation is the norm, but an isolation that breeds personal euphoria and defines a way of being that leads to a peaceful soul. More: Barry Jenkins on Wong Kar-wai, In the Mood for Love: Haunted Heart, English Hearts and Italian Sunshine, 1. The Prose and the Passion: A New Life of E.M. Forster
  18. Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi
  19. Rear WindowNo Country for Old Men
  20. Who Am I?: I Am Cuba, Ghost in the Shell (1995)
  21. Artists in Crisis: Singin’ in the Rain, (1963), Topsy-TurvyIrma Vep, Day for Night
  22. Godless: Andrei Rublev, Amadeus, Duck Amuck
  23. Annie Hall, Pulp Fiction, Being John Malkovich
  24. “They Need to be Dee-stroyed”: Cabaret, The Sound of Music, Inglourious Basterds
  25. ChinatownOn the Waterfront
  26. AlienNausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
  27. Family: Tokyo Story, The Royal Tenenbaums, Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets

     

  28. More Human Than Human: Blade Runner, Alphaville
    Blade Runner is not officially a remake of Alphaville, but it sure feels like it. In Godard’s surrealistic take on science fiction, the traditional film noir private eye, a cynical and violent Lemmy Caution, enters an alternative universe where elements of normality are flipped. Everyone seems like a replicant. The absurdity becomes normal. You learn to expect all no’s are yeses. Natasha became Rachael. Lemmy Caution became Deckard. In Alphaville, the Outlands stand in for Earth, while in Blade Runner, Offworld is Alphaville. Professor Vonbraun is Tyrell. Both end with a ride out of the city into nothingness. Like Deckard’s Voight-Kampff test, the Alphaville cops have Natasha tell “Story 842” to Caution as either a suppressive tactic or a test of his criminality.

    [Four agents appear, two from the bathroom and two from the hallway]
    -Come with us!
    -Where?
    Agent: Residents’ Control. When he doubles up, get him
    …Story 842, Miss
    Natasha: One day a tiny man entered a North Zone café…
    …and ordered a cup of very hot, sweet coffee…
    …adding, “I shan’t pay, because I’m afraid of no one”
    He drank his coffee
    He left
    He didn’t pay for his coffee
    For the sake of peace, the café owner said nothing
    But when the tiny man repeated the trick three times…
    …the café owner decided to get a tough to sort him out
    So, on the fourth day…
    …when the tiny man called for his cup of coffee…
    …the tough lumbered up to him and said:
    “So you’re afraid of no one?”
    “That’s right”
    “Well, neither am I”
    “Make that two cups of coffee”, called the man
    [Johnson begins laughing hysterically]
    english translation

    Like anecdotes about calfskin wallets, butterfly collections, full-page nudes, flipping tortoises, and boiled dog, stories are weaponized by government officials.

  29. On Endurance: The Martian, Doctor Zhivago

  30. Epic Spaghetti: Once Upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  31. The Godfather, Miller’s Crossing, Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars, The Maltese Falcon
  32. Cuban Links: The Godfather Part 2Memories of UnderdevelopmentBuena Vista Social Club
  33. Diabolus ex Machina: Pather PanchaliAparajito, Apur Sansar i.e. The Apu Trilogy
  34. Akira (1988), Moonlight (2016)
  35. Naked (1993), The Matrix
  36. Goodfellas, Jules and Jim, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  37. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, North by Northwest, The Day the Earth Stood Still
  38. Jaws, Psycho, The Birds
  39. You Is a Marvel: My Fair Lady, Paris is Burning
    Of course Eliza Doolittle, in this world we all live in, with her thin frame and 90 degree jawline and porcelain skin, was able to transform from a “guttersnipe” to a duchess in six months time. Her only barriers were her manners and her accent. Her margin for error was wide and her avenue for success was straight and short. Doolittle’s story arc, propelled along by clever, incredibly memorable songs, represents a bootstrap-type fantasy — leaping into the highest social strata through hard work — but only an achievable fantasy for a select few with her specific characteristics. Consider the dreams of the subjects of Paris is Burning who would naturally switch the gender roles around in the lyrics to Henry Higgins’ “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” just to achieve one of the endless traits that catapulted Doolittle, who was born with all of them, forward.

    This is white America. Any other nationality that is not of the white set, knows this and accepts this till the day they die. That is everybody’s dream and ambition as a minority – to live and look as well as a white person. It is pictured as being in America. Every media you have; from TV to magazines, to movies, to films… I mean, the biggest thing that minority watches is what? “Dynasty” and “The Colbys”. Umm, “All My Children” – the soap operas. Everybody has a million-dollar bracket. When they showing you a commercial from Honey Grahams to Crest, or Lestoil or Pine-sol – everybody’s in their own home. The little kids for Fisher Price toys; they’re not in no concrete playground. They’re riding around the lawn. The pool is in the back. This is white America. And when it comes to the minorities; especially black – we as a people, for the past 400 years – is the greatest example of behavior modification in the history of civilization. We have had everything taken away from us, and yet we have all learned how to survive. That is why, in the ballroom circuit, it is so obvious that if you have captured the great white way of living, or looking, or dressing, or speaking – you is a marvel. ~ Pepper LaBeija

    It makes you wonder why our world of division and poverty ever became the way it is based on the flimsiest and most random set of criteria. More: Roger Ebert on My Fair Lady.
  40. Clocks and Mirrors: Cléo from 5 to 7, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

  41. La Dolce Vita, The Conformist
  42. Pan’s Labyrinth, O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  43. Marketa Lazarová (1967), Excalibur
  44. The Seventh Seal, Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  45. Brazil, Raising Arizona
  46. Assassin Week: Le Samouraï, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Harakiri, Blast of Silence
  47. Singular Obsession: Unforgiven, The Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver

    I want to thank Stanley Kubrick for the war room in “Dr. Strangelove,” Billy Wilder for C. C. Baxter in “The Apartment,” Kurosawa for the death of the king at the end of “Throne of Blood,” Martin Scorsese for panning a camera down an empty corridor in “Taxi Driver,” Joel and Ethan Coen for the last scene between Marge and Norm in bed at the end of “Fargo,” Paul Thomas Anderson for the deafening of H. W. Plainview in “There Will Be Blood,” Bergman for the visit of Bibi Andersson to Liv Ullmann in the dead of night in “Persona,” Francis Coppola for the killing of Fredo Corleone in “The Godfather II,” David Fincher for the first scene in “The Social Network,” Bob Fosse for the audition sequence at the beginning of “All That Jazz,” Quentin Tarantino for Christopher Walken’s speech about the watch in “Pulp Fiction,” Woody Allen for the fireworks over “Manhattan,” Clint Eastwood for making it rain at the end of “Unforgiven,” Michael Powell for the moment Moira Shearer steps into the ballet of “The Red Shoes,” David Lynch for the car journey with Frank Booth in “Blue Velvet,” Mike Nichols for Benjamin in the swimming pool in “The Graduate,” François Truffaut for the moment the boy looks into the lens at the end of “400 Blows,” and Wim Wenders for the moment Harry Dean Stanton sees Nastassja Kinski after all those years at the end of “Paris, Texas.” ~ Sam Mendes, quoted in Sam Mendes’s Directorial Discoveries

  48. God Guise: Fitzcarraldo, Devi (1960), Burden of Dreams
  49. Bewitchery: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo
  50. All About My MotherAll About Eve
  51. Collapse: Weekend (1967), Mad Max: Fury Road, Sorcerer
  52. Colonial Rot: Apocalypse Now, The Year of Living Dangerously, A Passage to India
  53. Hedonistic: Valmont, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  54. Hero Deconstruction: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Casablanca, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Wages of Fear
  55. Raise the Red Lantern, Thelma & Louise
  56. American Goofballs: M*A*S*H, The Right Stuff
    Great American satirists like Robert Altman and Tom Wolfe eagerly eviscerate traditional ideals, revealing the bureaucratic absurdity at the heart of war and patriotism, not to mention other great characteristics like hotheaded competitiveness, media consumption, consumerist excess, and political aggression. In every scene we find men as children playing at adulthood. Except that foremost among the tools of resistance in these films is the formation of a natural camaraderie among the charismatic players. The playgrounds forge alliances, and through teamwork we transcend stupidity and actual great things happen. But The Right Stuff goes for something greater still when the exotic and unknown powers of an aboriginal ritual and a mesmerizing burlesque act serve as ultimately life-protecting incantations, stepping in where the common and jingoistic (and middle manager and engineer) fail. In doing so it rises from satire and attains a higher level.
  57. A Slice of Chicago: Some Like It Hot, The Untouchables, Eight Men Out
  58. La Strada, Fight, Zatoichi, Fight
  59. A Place in the Sun, Giant

     

  60. Manifest Destiny: Gangs of New York, West Side Story
    Like the era of Day-Lewis’ tour de force, hate-filled construction Bill the Butcher, the politics of the 2010’s in America has laid bare bitter divisions about what is America. The need to either define or redefine a concept of “America” has emerged, probably mainly because one rich clown, protected by an army of lawyers, backed by a cable “news” channel happy and willing to lie to its audience, emboldened by rallies filled with a base of Libertarian Alt-Right neo-nazis, paid his way up to the highest seat in the land relying on racist and jingoistic tactics. These entirely cynical tactics appear throughout cinema history, where the faux distinctions make for explosive confrontations, dynamic drama. Latin American exodus, emancipated blacks, seekers of religious freedom, refugees running from genocide, victims of expansionist doctrine… the background of the immigrant changes, but there’s always a self-proclaimed “nativist” to get their knickers in a bunch about them. “Once an immigrant, always an immigrant” says Anita in West Side Story, to introduce one of Cinema’s most entertaining and poignant musical numbers, “America”, but the concept is not true if you take the long view, or the Native American would be running the world. In America, apparently, anyone can become the nativist, if they are willing to to ignore those pesky little facts about where they originally came from, and abide a necessary generational patience, and engage in grisly, bare-knuckled, eye-gouging political combat, and, of course, to ignore basic human decency.

    Such is the impact of a politics of anger. For a time, it attracts followers and cements loyalties, breeding a spiraling mass of dangerous passions, inspiring some Americans to cast their opponents as a dangerous “other,” dividing the nation, and linking manhood with authority in rhetoric as well as fact. ~ Joanne Freeman, Professor of history and American studies at Yale University, “America Descends Into the Politics of Rage” for The Atlantic

  61. Hormonal Imbalance: Band of Outsiders, Grease, Sign o’ the Times
    You could chalk up every move, either mental decision or physical locomotion, the savages makes in all these movies to out of whack hormones. It is said that “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast”1. For the short attention spans of young adults, prescribe music and dance. For moviegoers of all ages, too, for that matter. Bored? There’s a musical number for that. In a noteworthy scene in Bande à part, Godard follows an innovative aural experiment with an influential line-dancing number his leads dubbed the Madison. Both of these elements invigorate an otherwise pretty standard tale of juvenile delinquency. The Madison scene also serves to redirect its chaos-making characters’ nervous energy for a bit, as does a breakneck race through the Louvre to beat a world record. These jack rabbits need constant diversions. Godard, a pioneer cinephile, is known for films in which the Hollywood musical is translated into cinéma vérité.2 West Side Story, a global phenomenon released three years before, looms large here, as it also follows young, easily enraged characters as they fall in love, create chaos, face death. This meditation on wild youth is often rewarding. It creates dynamic screen energy. Also concerned with lustful young adults, Prince’s frisky Sign o’ the Times, a concert film of non-stop, athletic choreography, is seemingly highly influenced by West Side Story, too. One might note a similar freedom in the use of a stagey urban artificiality to enhance emotional associations, washing sets in pure color, playing with forced perspective, adding jazzy interludes, and relying on a distinct, if opposite, point of view on the cultural barriers between love and race relations. Evident in Bande à part, Sign o’ the Times *and* Grease is how Robbins and Wise transitioned in to and out of moments of magical realism with camera tricks and quick cuts, and all three movies engage in West Side Story‘s implication of sexual repression. Grease both parodies and mimics the constant agitation, quick mood swings, short attention spans, and rapid sexual development of out-of-control teenage hormones from its romantic seaside start to aroused finish at a fair. The film skims whole plot points to get to the goods, and finally sexualizes the very last innocent character in the climactic number. And Prince, well, needless to say his whole world-view might be characterized by one song, “D.M.S.R.”, which goes “All I want to do is dance, Play music, sex, romance, And try my best to never get bored”. Sign o’ the Times hints at story but all it really wants to do is have sex with you through the screen. Bolstered by wild edits of teeming, spastic crowd scenes, exaggerated movement and facial expression, both later films achieve a sustained state of unhinged intensity that the more classically languid West Side Story does not. More: The Philosophical Beauty of the Movie Musical, Revolution & Car Crashes: 5 Things Learned About Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Weekend’ with a lot on Band of Outsiders. Opening One’s Eye to Godard. Notes: 1. Bill Congreve, The Mourning Bride, 1697; 2. Film Studies: Sit Down, Child, and I’ll Tell You All About Jean-Luc Godard
  62. Perpetually Haunted by Death: There Will Be Blood, The Shining, Decasia
  63. The Minors: Bull Durham, Sugar, Ballplayer: Pelotero
  64. Requiem for a Dream, Amélie, Masculin féminin
  65. The 400 Blows, Au Revoir les Enfants, American Graffiti
  66. Run Lola Run, Sense8 (Season 1)
  67. The Cotton Club, Once Upon a Time in America, Manhatta
  68. Essential Jarmusch: Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law, Mystery Train
  69. Cause and Effect: Back to the Future, The Way Things Go, La Jetée, Canon (1964)
  70. I Was Born, But…, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Black Stallion

     

  71. Messianic: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Superman (1978), Ben-Hur, Spartacus
    And The Dark Knight, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Wonder Woman (2017).
  72. Heists are Fun: Riffifi, Bob le Flambeur, Mission Impossible, Ocean’s Eleven, Reservoir Dogs
  73. Raising Hell: Bonnie and Clyde, The Harder They Come, Heat, The Battle of Algiers, City of God
  74. Is This Love?: Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Before Midnight
  75. The Camps: The Bridge on the River Kwai, La Grande Illusion, Schindler’s List
  76. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
    More: Plastic Fantastic: J. Hoberman on The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien vs Technology: J. Hoberman on The Hobbit (“Although lacking the visionary chutzpah and demented social energy that characterized the great pulp fantasies orchestrated by Fritz Lang in the 1920s, Jackson’s Ring trilogy was the greatest feat of pop movie magic between Titanic and Avatar.”)
  77. The Emerald Forest, Deliverance
  78. Breathless, Boogie-Doodle
  79. Fight Club, A Clockwork Orange
  80. Up, Wild Strawberries, Lost in Translation, Manhattan
    Old white guys reconnect with the world through energetic youth.
  81. Traumatize the Kids: Mary Poppins, Bambi, The Witches (1990)
  82. Missed Him by This Much: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
  83. Playtime, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child
  84. The Great Chases: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Italian Job, Bullitt, The Last of the Mohicans, The French Connection, The Road Warrior, Project A, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, To Live and Die in L.A., Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Ronin, The Fast and the Furious, The Bourne Identity, The Matrix Reloaded, Casino Royale, The Dark Knight. More :Ranked: The 28 Best Car Chases in Movie History
  85. Loaded with Gags: Monty Python’s Life of Brian (“Biggus Dickus”), Modern Times, The Philadelphia Story, Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera, It Happened One Night, Roxanne, The Jerk, L.A. Story, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Producers, The Gods Must Be Crazy
  86. Best Fights: Gravity (Bullock fights Zero G), Iron Monkey, House of Flying Daggers, every Marvel movie since Iron Man