The Great Movie List: A Theory of Everything

Top 81-90 Double Features

  1. Loop Trap: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Russian Doll (Season 1, 2019), Run Lola Run (1998), Westworld (Season 1, 2016)

  2. Tintin-like: A Dog’s Life (1918), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Ninotchka (1939), Porco Rosso (1992), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), Ball of Fire (1941)

    Innocents at the center of sweeping adventures, in the spirit of Chaplin and Herge’s Tintin. More: Counting Down the Greatest Crime Films of All-Time: # 25 The Lady Vanishes (1938), Hergé: Observations on Film Art

    Hergé was a big fan of the movies, and made no secret of his admiration for burlesque humanism, particularly the type of comedy, free from maliciousness, and with the narrative rhythm created by Charlie Chaplin in his films. ~ About The Thomsons

  3. A Woman’s Fate: Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Thelma & Louise
  4. Au revoir mon amour: Breathless (1960), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluis de Cherbourg) (1964), Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
  5. Groovy, Man: Woodstock (1970), Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood (2019)
  6. Is This Love?: Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), Before Midnight (2013)
  7. American Goofballs: M*A*S*H (1970), The Right Stuff (1983)
    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.
  8. A Slice of Chicago: Some Like It Hot (1959), The Untouchables (1987)
  9. Hormonal Imbalance: Band of Outsiders (1964), Grease (1978), Sign o’ the Times (1987), Cosmic Ray (1962)
    You could chalk up every move, either mental decision or physical locomotion, the characters make in these three 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 as a likely touchstone, which also follows young, easily enraged characters falling in love, creating chaos, and facing untimely death. As well, Jacques Demy’s repeated appropriations of Hollywood musical tropes, embodied in full by The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, also from 1964. These meditations on wild youth through song and dance are shortcuts to 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.

  10. Perpetually Haunted by Death: There Will Be Blood (2007), The Shining (1980), Decasia (2002), Coda (2013)