Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Must Movies

During the past couple weeks, movie list memes have been growing like mold on various blogs and mine is not immune to contagion.

There's something inherently boring about reading a stranger's list of "what I've read/seen/heard" because most of us only really care about he WE stack up against the list for either a fleeting moment of feeling superior or maybe we'll finally break down and get "Battleship Potemkin" from the library and surrender a night. Therefore, this is about YOU, not me.

So, if that didn't scare you off, here's my contribution to movielist memequest.

The Guardian came out with the top 50 movie adaptations according to them, and Kottke.org chimed in with what he's consumed.

Here's mine. M=seen the movie. B=read the book. My editorializing is in [brackets].

1. 1984 -MB-
2. Alice in Wonderland -M- [Tried the book, but Carroll's writing annoys me.]
3. American Psycho -MB-
4. Breakfast at Tiffany's -M-
5. Brighton Rock
6. Catch 22 -M- [Abandoned the book midway. I think it was seminal for its time, but has aged badly.]
7. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory -M-
8. A Clockwork Orange -MB-
9. Close Range (inc Brokeback Mountain) -B [just the short story]-
10. The Day of the Triffids [They're kidding, right? Isn't this a giant radioactive/alien monster movie?]
11. Devil in a Blue Dress [Now I must see this on this recommendation, as mentioned above.]
12. Different Seasons (inc The Shawshank Redemption) -MB-
13. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (aka Bladerunner) -MB- [The book has about as much in common with the movie as Tang does with Orange Juice.]
14. Doctor Zhivago -M- [My mom loved this movie. I fell asleep to it several times in the back seat of the car at the drive-in. It caused a pavlovian (interesting, MS Word's dictionary doesn't know "pavlovian") response where to this day I get drowsy if I see a frame of the flick or hear "Laura's Theme.")
15. Empire of the Sun -M- [I think. I remember a Spielbergian moppet looking up a war planes a lot.]
16. The English Patient -M- [I can't imagine the book could be more boring than the flick was, but I'm not about to find out.]
17. Fight Club -MB- [An amazingly faithful adaptation, actually.]
18. The French Lieutenant's Woman -M-
19. Get Shorty -M-
20. The Godfather -M-
21. Goldfinger -M-
22. Goodfellas -M- [This was a book? Who knew?]
23. Heart of Darkness (aka Apocalypse Now) -M-
24. The Hound of the Baskervilles -MB-
25. Jaws -MB-
26. The Jungle Book -MB-
27. A Kestrel for a Knave (aka Kes)
28. LA Confidential -M-
29. Les Liaisons Dangereuses -M-
30. Lolita -MB- [I found the Kubrick adaptation creepy before I read the book, but even moreso afterwards. Yes, it's a great novel, but reading about a child walking funny due to pain after being molested still curdles my yogurt.]
31. Lord of the Flies -MB-
32. The Maltese Falcon -M-
33. Oliver Twist -M-
34. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest -MB(PLAY)- [The play is actually more faithful to the book, but this is one case where perhaps the movie transcends its source material.]
35. Orlando
36. The Outsiders -MB- [Gotta admit it: Coppola has a knack for book adaptation. They've all rocked.]
37. Pride and Prejudice -B-
38. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
39. The Railway Children
40. Rebecca
41. The Remains of the Day -M-
42. Schindler's Ark (aka Schindler's List) -M-
43. Sin City -M-
44. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold -MB-
45. The Talented Mr. Ripley -M-
46. Tess of the D'Urbervilles -M-
47. Through a Glass Darkly
48. To Kill a Mockingbird -MB-
49. Trainspotting -M- [With deep regret. Almost a great movie, but dead baby jokes are kind of a deal-killer for me.]
50. The Vanishing -M-
51. Watership Down -M- [Couldn't finish this book either. I barely got through the cartoon.]

OK, I thought of one whilst writing comments above:
52. The World According to Garp. -MB- [An unfilmable book actually brought to life by the miraculous George Roy Hill. Besides Glenn Close and Robin Williams being perfect (and the beautifully sensitive handling of the death of a child), John Lithgow's transgendered football player is a snort. Hill also got close with "Slaughterhouse Five" but that IS an unfilmable book.]

On to bigger things: A "modern" list of movies that anyone who considers themselves an aficionado must see to claim the designation, according to Jim Emerson who has a blog on Roger Ebert's site. (How did he score THAT gig? As a fan of Ebert's, I'm envious.)

Bold means I've seen it. My gripes follow the list.

1. "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) Stanley Kubrick
2. "The 400 Blows" (1959) Francois Truffaut
3. "8 1/2" (1963) Federico Fellini
4. "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (1972) Werner Herzog
5. "Alien" (1979) Ridley Scott
6. "All About Eve" (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
7. "Annie Hall" (1977) Woody Allen
7a. "Apocalypse Now" (1979) Francis Ford Coppola [Added later by Emerson]
8. "Bambi" (1942) Disney
9. "Battleship Potemkin" (1925) Sergei Eisenstein
10. "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) William Wyler
11. "The Big Red One" (1980) Samuel Fuller
12. "The Bicycle Thief" (1949) Vittorio De Sica
13. "The Big Sleep" (1946) Howard Hawks
14. "Blade Runner" (1982) Ridley Scott
15. "Blowup" (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni
16. "Blue Velvet" (1986) David Lynch
17. "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) Arthur Penn
18. "Breathless" (1959 Jean-Luc Godard
19. "Bringing Up Baby" (1938) Howard Hawks
20. "Carrie" (1975) Brian DePalma
21. "Casablanca" (1942) Michael Curtiz
22. "Un Chien Andalou" (1928) Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali
23. "Children of Paradise" / "Les Enfants du Paradis" (1945) Marcel Carne
24. "Chinatown" (1974) Roman Polanski
25. "Citizen Kane" (1941) Orson Welles
26. "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) Stanley Kubrick
27. "The Crying Game" (1992) Neil Jordan
28. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) Robert Wise
29. "Days of Heaven" (1978) Terence Malick
30. "Dirty Harry" (1971) Don Siegel
31. "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972) Luis Bunuel
32. "Do the Right Thing" (1989 Spike Lee
33. "La Dolce Vita" (1960) Federico Fellini
34. "Double Indemnity" (1944) Billy Wilder
35. "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964) Stanley Kubrick
36. "Duck Soup" (1933) Leo McCarey
37. "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982) Steven Spielberg
38. "Easy Rider" (1969) Dennis Hopper
39. "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) Irvin Kershner
40. "The Exorcist" (1973) William Friedkin
41. "Fargo" (1995) Joel & Ethan Coen
42. "Fight Club" (1999) David Fincher
43. "Frankenstein" (1931) James Whale
44. "The General" (1927) Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
45. "The Godfather," "The Godfather, Part II" (1972, 1974) Francis Ford Coppola
46. "Gone With the Wind" (1939) Victor Fleming
47. "GoodFellas" (1990) Martin Scorsese
48. "The Graduate" (1967) Mike Nichols
49. "Halloween" (1978) John Carpenter
50. "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) Richard Lester
51. "Intolerance" (1916) D.W. Griffith
52. "It's A Gift" (1934) Norman Z. McLeod
53. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) Frank Capra
54. "Jaws" (1975) Steven Spielberg
55. "The Lady Eve" (1941) Preston Sturges
56. "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) David Lean
57. "M" (1931) Fritz Lang
58. "Mad Max 2" / "The Road Warrior" (1981) George Miller
59. "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) John Huston
60. "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) John Frankenheimer
61. "Metropolis" (1926) Fritz Lang
62. "Modern Times" (1936) Charles Chaplin
63. "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
64. "Nashville" (1975) Robert Altman
65. "The Night of the Hunter" (1955) Charles Laughton
66. "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) George Romero
67. "North by Northwest" (1959) Alfred Hitchcock
68. "Nosferatu" (1922) F.W. Murnau
69. "On the Waterfront" (1954) Elia Kazan
70. "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968) Sergio Leone
71. "Out of the Past" (1947) Jacques Tournier
72. "Persona" (1966) Ingmar Bergman
73. "Pink Flamingos" (1972) John Waters
74. "Psycho" (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
75. "Pulp Fiction" (1994) Quentin Tarantino
76. "Rashomon" (1950) Akira Kurosawa
77. "Rear Window" (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
78. "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) Nicholas Ray
79. "Red River" (1948) Howard Hawks
80. "Repulsion" (1965) Roman Polanski
81. "Rules of the Game" (1939) Jean Renoir
82. "Scarface" (1932) Howard Hawks
83. "The Scarlet Empress" (1934) Josef von Sternberg
84. "Schindler's List" (1993) Steven Spielberg
85. "The Searchers" (1956) John Ford
86. "The Seven Samurai" (1954) Akira Kurosawa
87. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
88. "Some Like It Hot" (1959) Billy Wilder
89. "A Star Is Born" (1954) George Cukor
90. "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) Elia Kazan
91. "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) Billy Wilder
92. "Taxi Driver" (1976) Martin Scorsese
93. "The Third Man" (1949) Carol Reed
94. "Tokyo Story" (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
95. "Touch of Evil" (1958) Orson Welles
96. "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948) John Huston
97. "Trouble in Paradise" (1932) Ernst Lubitsch
98. "Vertigo" (1958) Alfred Hitchcock
99. "West Side Story" (1961) Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise
100. "The Wild Bunch" (1969) Sam Peckinpah
101. "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) Victor Fleming

These do NOT belong on this list [and why]:
- "Carrie" (1975) Brian DePalma [C'mon, this was an OK horror flick. There was nothing innovative or groundbreaking about this movie, other than offing John Travolta (which was aped later by the master ape, Tarantino).]
- "The Crying Game" (1992) Neil Jordan [It's a one-joke movie: The chick has a dick! And hey if that's what does it for ya, that's fine, but it does not a must see movie make. Admittedly, the very surprised paramour puking in the sink after coming head to head with the monster is funny.]
"Do the Right Thing" (1989) Spike Lee [Meh. Preachy tripe; especially the ending. "She's Gotta Have It" was better and should be in this place on the list.]
"Pink Flamingos" (1972) John Waters [What? An ugly transvestite eating real dog shit counts as seminal? If we're gonna go for the wacky, messed-up transvestite thang, why not "Rocky Horror Picture Show"? It was a much better film, and that's saying a lot.]

These are MIA:

- Airplane!
- American Graffiti
- Big Chill, the
- Blair Witch Project, the [or alternatively "Primer" - either as a representation of what can be accomplished for an inexpensive indie film]
- Body Heat
- Brazil
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Christmas Vacation (National Lampoon's)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind
- Dog Day Afternoon
- Evil Dead II
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Fish Called Wanda, a
- Forbidden Planet
- French Connection, the
- Graduate, the
- Groundhog Day
- Harold and Maude
- High Noon
- LOTR (All 3)
- Matrix, the
- Memento
- Office Space
- On Golden Pond
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Ordinary People
- Philadelphia Story, the
- Planet of the Apes (Original version)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Raising Arizona
- Robocop
- Rocky Horror Picture Show [from above - took my own advice]
- Saturday Night Fever
- Silence of the Lambs
- Sixteen Candles
- Sixth Sense, the
- There's Something about Mary
- Sophie's Choice
- Sound of Music, the
- Star Wars [If this needs to be explained, then there is no hope.]
- Sting, the
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day
- They Call me Trinity / Trinity is Still My Name [Ok, maybe this one's a stretch. But every one of my generation who saw them remembers these comic spaghetti westerns.]
- Thin Blue Line, the
- This is Spinal Tap
- Toy Story
- When Harry Met Sally
- Young Frankenstein

And there you have it.

If you see the films here, you'll have seen about the best of what modern film has to offer. Enjoy.


Sleemoth said...

Bro, thou must proceed immediately to the nearest movie rental outlet and get Nosferatu. It's by far the creepiest. Werner Herzog's remake (Nosferatu the Vampyre) too. You get the benefit of sound, although it tends to drag on.

blech said...

The way I read the Guardian's list, it was the best fifty books of which movies have been made. They don't make it clear, but the fact they don't bother to state a particular adaptation in cases like Pride and Prejudice or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory implies to me it's focussed on the books.

However, could be wrong.

J. Goard said...

"Slaughterhouse-Five" could not have been faithfully adapted, but the radically different film was beautiful in its own right. Should have ended with the clock, though. The music was perfect.

"Catch-22" (book) has aged? I first read it in the mid-90s, and still find it hilarious, stylish, and absolutely brilliant. The film I've seen once, and it's quite forgettable.

Lynne's "Lolita" is better than some have made it out to be. It has a worse Humbert, but a better everybody else (from the perspective of adapting the novel). It's pretty embarrassing how easily Sellars made Kubrick's version into The Quilty Show. Now, try filming "Pale Fire", if you want unfilmable.