My response to Iain Scott's "Top 50 Greatest Films" post

Here is Scott’s original post. Here is Andrew O’Hehir’s post on Salon, where I originally learned about Scott’s post. Regarding Scott’s methodology, O’Hehir says,

Iain Stott of the One-Line Review just completed his 2009 poll of 187 critics, filmmakers, bloggers and other cinephiles, and the results make fascinating reading.

O’Hehir goes on to speculate that critical opinion has ossified: few new movies are getting added to best/top lists. I was just talking about this topic with my best friend recently. O’Hehir cites The Shawshank Redemption (which I despise) as a movie that’s quite beloved yet never makes critics’ lists, and my friend wondered whether The Princess Bride would ever get the cred it deserves.

My opinion as to what films are great doesn’t match up with these critics opinions very well at all. Here I have divided up the movies based on whether I’ve seen them and what I think of them, adding comments here and there as the spirit moves me.

Would make my own top 50

7. Taxi Driver (1976) Martin Scorsese
22. 8½ (1963) Federico Fellini
42. The Apartment (1960) Billy Wilder
44. Ikiru (1952) Akira Kurosawa
45. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) Frank Capra
47. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Victor Fleming

Like to some degree

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick
5. Casablanca (1942) Michael Curtiz
6. The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed
23. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) David Lean
25. Apocalypse Now (1979) Francis Ford Coppola
39. Raging Bull (1980) Martin Scorsese

Dislike to some degree

1. Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles

This is not a movie I find good in any dimension, and I’ve never understood its critical appeal.

2. Vertigo (1958) Alfred Hitchcock

The above-mentioned best friend and I have always held that Hitchcock is a horrible director. No, not just overrated–horrible. If film historians insist that he was an innovator, I see no reason to dispute that opinion, but as a viewer I feel that there is not a single movie of his that holds up today. The pacing is leaden, the scripts are boring, the performances he elicits from actors I usually enjoy are lifeless. In truth, what movies by Hitchcock do critics really find enjoyable, exciting, thrilling? If ossified critical opinion is anywhere to be found, it is in regard to Hitchcock’s oeuvre.

4. The Godfather (1972) Francis Ford Coppola
16. Chinatown (1974) Roman Polanski

8. Seven Samurai (1954) Akira Kurosawa

If you can understand Japanese, a lot of the mystique of Kurosawa’s movies disappears. A lot of the dialog is really exaggerated and hackneyed. Seven Samurai is extremely long and boring. Kurosawa did make some great movies, however: Yojimbo would be in my Top 10, and Ikiru is in my top 50, which would probably include about 6 or 7 Japanese movies in toto.

9. Psycho (1960) Alfred Hitchcock

10. Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Stanley Kubrick

Tried to watch this not recently. It has some good stuff in it, but the pacing is truly awful, and, overall, it just doesn’t work.

13. Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
14. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
17. Sunset Boulevard (1950) Billy Wilder

20. Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino

I think Tarantino is better than any director in history at creating a feeling of menace, of absolute terror, and he does so in this movie–several times. That said, his movies are ugly, violent, vulgar, and–what I can’t forgive–ignorant. He never seems to be presenting things he knows from experience but instead a bunch of junk he’s learned second-hand. I always feel that I am being lectured by a child.

26. City Lights (1931) Charles Chaplin
28. Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen
29. Touch of Evil (1958) Orson Welles
31. Blade Runner (1982) Ridley Scott
32. M (1931) Fritz Lang

33. The General (1927) Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton

One thing about these critics lists–they often include stuff by my favorite directors but just not their best work. I love Keaton, but this movie is boring beyond belief.

34. Some Like It Hot (1959) Billy Wilder
37. Duck Soup (1933) Leo McCarey
38. Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder
41. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Stanley Kubrick
46. Rashomon (1950) Akira Kurosawa
48. Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee

Have not seen

11. The Godfather: Part II (1974) Francis Ford Coppola
12. The Searchers (1956) John Ford
15. Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman
18. Sunrise (1927) F.W. Murnau
19. Tokyo Story (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
21. La Règle du Jeu (1939) Jean Renoir
24. The Night of the Hunter (1955) Charles Laughton
27. Bicycle Thieves (1948) Vittorio De Sica
30. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Carl Theodor Dreyer
35. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) Sergio Leone
36. The Four Hundred Blows (1959) François Truffaut
40. All About Eve (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
43. La Grande Illusion (1937) Jean Renoir
49. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) Sergio Leone
50. L’Avventura (1960) Michelangelo Antonioni

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