The Great Movie List: A Theory of Everything

Top 31-40 Double Features

  1. Violence—The Supreme Authority: Starship Troopers (1997), Robocop (1987), Total Recall (1990)

    “It has become clear, in these last decades of decadence, decline, towering institutional violence, and rampant bad taste, that American life is stuck somewhere inside the Paul Verhoeven cinematic universe.” ~ How “Starship Troopers” Aligns with Our Moment of American Defeat

  2. Adventurous Timeframes: Annie Hall (1977), Pulp Fiction (1994)
  3. Transcending Family: Tokyo Story (1953), Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets (1971)

  4. Family Role-playing: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Roma (2018), Rachel Getting Married (2008)
  5. Save Those Who Weep: Blade Runner (1982), Alphaville (1965), Shift (2012)
    In Alphaville, Godard’s low budget, absurdist take on the science fiction genre, the traditional film noir private eye, a cynical and violent Lemmy Caution, inhabits an alternative universe of swimming pool executioners, lexicon erasures, and voice box AIs, yes, but also a Blade Runner-esque collection of barcoded seductresses, robotic enforcers, and an almost complete breakdown of fundamental moral codes. Regardless, Blade Runner is not a remake. Natasha is not Rachael, Lemmy Caution is not Deckard. Professor Vonbraun is not Tyrell. No one seems like a replicant. “I’m fine, thanks. Don’t mention it.” In the city or interzone of Alphaville, the Outer Countries might be Earth. In Blade Runner, the Offworld Colonies might have an Alphaville. Both end with a rediscovery of love and an escape from the city into nothingness. But Alphaville‘s absurdity, where a no is mostly a yes, is totally normal, and not an influence, even though both employ Voight-Kampff tests where super-computers and bureaucrats ask wandering questions to uncover plans for sabotage. Anna Karenina’s Natacha tells an awfully reminiscent “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!
    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. More: Counting Down the Greatest Crime Films of All-Time: #37 Blade Runner (1982), Andrew Sarris on Alphaville, Godard in Fragments, Alphaville is 50: After Modernism Lost it Meaning, it Still had its Looks, Blade Runner 2049: Birth, death, and artificial identity, The Orientalist Buddy Film and the “New Niggers”: Blade Runner (1982, 1992, and 2007), This Future Looks Familiar: Watching Blade Runner in 2017, Blade Runner’s source material says more about modern politics than the movie does, Slave Runner: Genetic Engineering, Slavery, and Immortality in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), Blade Runner 2049 Tries to Make a Love Story Out of the First Blade Runner’s Violence, Off World (Experimental Film) [IMAX 3.6], Anxious Metropolis: Alienation and the Cinema of 1960s Paris in Alphaville and Playtime, The Animated Works of Max Hattler – Senses of Cinema

  6. Primitive Wonder Home Movies: For All Mankind (1989), Window Water Baby Moving (1959)
  7. On Endurance: The Martian (2015), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Earth Crisis (2020)

  8. Epic Spaghetti: Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
    Remixes of all the good bits from conventional westerns like High Noon (1952)–the stoic heroism, the mythic showdowns, the shady, edge of civiliation morality–while smartly tossing the weaker elements of conventional westerns like High Noon–the cowardly, childish motivations, the wooden acting, the simple cause and effect situations.
  9. Scarface (1931), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

    Hawks digs in and delights in the spectacle, and, without in any way minimizing the horror of the gangster life, he avows its horrific sublimity—a quality that explains why a certain kind of strong character, with strong desires and weak morality, might choose this path. As in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” if there weren’t pleasures that inhere in and derive from certain misdeeds, no one would bother to commit them—and, if viewers needed Hawks’s personal seal of disapproval to know that murder is evil, it’s too late for them.

    More: “Scarface” Startles Anew on the Criterion Channel

  10. The Bigheads and High Hats: Yojimbo (1961), A Fistful of Dollars (1964), The Godfather (1972), Miller’s Crossing (1990)
    Sergio Leone based his first great spaghetti western on Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. Kurosawa apparently adapted a film version of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Glass Key” for Yojimbo, while the Coen Brothers used “a clever splicing” of Hammett’s “Red Harvest” and “The Glass Key” for Miller’s Crossing, which is also heavily influenced by the recognized king of the gangster genre The Godfather. More: Counting Down the Greatest Crime Films of All-Time: #84 The Glass Key (1942), ‘Miller’s Crossing’: A Lamentation of Losers by the Coen Brothers, Yojimbo: All Things Dashiell Hammett, From “Red Harvest” to “Deadwood”, Interview with Cinematographer Gordon Willis, 30 Years of Coens: Miller’s Crossing, Counting Down the Greatest Crime Films of All-Time: # 4 The Godfather (1972), Miller’s Crossing, 30 Years Later: Revisiting the Coen Bros’ Gay Irish Gangster Epic
  11. Cuban Links: The Godfather Part 2 (1974), Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), Buena Vista Social Club (1999)
    Coppola follows history to Cuba. Once you’re there, do some sightseeing. Need more gangster flick? Follow DePalma’s Scarface back to America. More: A Cuban Masterpiece Returns to the Screen in a New Restoration, 10 Things I Learned: Memories of Underdevelopment, Buena Vista Social Club: A City in Time, Counting Down the Greatest Crime Films of All-Time: # 5 The Godfather, Part II (1974)