Critic (Cinema Scope, The Important Cinema Club)
|The Black Cat
|Edgar G. Ulmer
|Glen or Glenda
|Edward D. Wood Jr
|The King of Comedy
|The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
|Touch of Evil
|The Wizard of Oz
The Black Cat
When Ulmer's camera drifts through the horrible dungeon of Karloff's Bauhaus mansion, built atop one of the bloodiest battlefields of the First World War, as Beethoven's 7th plays on the soundtrack... that's cinema.
"The last man nearly ruined this place, he didn't know what to do with it / If you think this country's bad off now, just wait'll I get through with it!"
Glen or Glenda
When cinema goes to sleep, this is what it dreams.
My list needs a Hong Kong movie, and when I follow my heart, this is where it leads me. Nothing sends me into cinematic ecstasy quite like this.
The King of Comedy
Just when you're about to breathe a sigh of relief because Rupert is finally leaving Jerry's house, he marches back into frame and launches into a monologue that begins "I just wanna say one more thing..." and ends with "Come on Rita, we're wasting our time!"
If Inside Llewyn Davis tells us that it takes luck to become Bob Dylan and that there's no shame in failure, this scrappy DIY self-portrait asks: Why can't Llewyn Davis just keep making music anyway? A very funny and profound movie about creativity, and the only movie I've ever seen in which the director put his actual phone number onscreen.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Liberty Valance is dead, but at what cost? The great American movie.
Years after deciding to spare her life, Verdoux runs into the streetwalker who made him briefly reconsider his cynical worldview. She has risen out of poverty by becoming the kept woman of a munitions manufacturer. "That's the business I should have been in," he says. "Yes. It will be paying big dividends soon," she replies. Happiness always comes at the expense of someone else's suffering. But hey - that rum tastes pretty good!
Touch of Evil
In the last minute of this movie about the importance of due process, we learn that the kid really did plant the bomb, and that the corrupt cop Quinlan's "famous intuition" was actually right all along. So, was Quinlan's corruption still wrong? The answer is yes.
The Wizard of Oz
More great characters and exquisite moments than any other movie. The smudgy makeup and painted backdrops are a wonderful tonic to the digital sterility of modern blockbusters. Judy Garland is real and raw - imagine how sickly-sweet Shirley Temple would have been in the role. I'm including this one as a tribute to my late parents, who loved this movie, as well as to myself, who loves this movie.
Ground rules: only one movie per auteur (otherwise the list could easily be 50% Chaplin), and I've decided to hang up Citizen Kane's jersey. Nick Pinkerton came up with a good methodology in 2012, writing that he chose "works that, when walking away from them, I no longer felt myself to be quite the same person.” That’s the approach I've taken here, and this list, whatever its flaws, is the most honest I know how to come up with. Many of these films have been with me since before I turned 18. An exception is Local Legends, which represents a lot of what excites me right now.
That this poll is much harder than it would have been in 1952 is a good problem to have. Not only have so many great movies been made since (Breathless, to name just one, was a full eight years away), but film history also keeps opening up. How many voters in 1952 had heard of Oscar Micheaux? How many in 1962 knew Yasujirō Ozu? How many in 1992 had studied closely what was happening in Hong Kong? How many people anywhere in 2002 had easy access to Akerman, Kiarostami, Rivette, Tarkovsky, or most of Welles after Kane, to name a few who have risen the ranks in recent polls?