Saturday, July 25, 2015

The anti-BBC: My 100 favorite American movies

Perhaps you saw the BBC's poll that was made public earlier this week of the 100 Greatest American Films. First, there's the audacity of the British ranking American films and, second, to prove they had no idea what they were talking about, the poll had Marnie, arguably Alfred Hitchcock's worst film of the sound period, ranked No. 47 on the list and his Rear Window was nowhere to be found, Neither was such classic westerns as High Noon and Shane.

So, I went ahead and tried to correct the BBC's mistakes, but, try as I might I could not come up with a list of the "best" films because I could not help but put Citizen Kane at the top and, I going to come out of the closet on this one, I really don't like Kane as much today as I used to. Orson Welles's masterpiece was hailed for all its innovations, but all those breakthroughs now seem everyday, routine. Yes, the woman on the pier speech is still one of the greatest in film history, but does it really surpass the taxicab scene in On the Waterfront or the "Let's Go" moment in The Wild Bunch?

So I abandoned the idea of trying to do a best films list and settled instead of a list of my 100 favorite films. But even with this list, perhaps only the first dozen are set in stone and the others I could juggle a couple of spots either way depending on the day of the week or the mood I'm in at any given moment. As a matter of fact, after those first 12, I could just as easily list the movies in alphabetical order and say "Here are my all-time favorite American films." But, be that as it may, I will put this list up against the BBC's.

My top choice was easy, automatic. Obviously, the first 100 or so times I saw Casablanca was on the television screen, but the old Glen Lakes theater in Dallas brought it back to the big screen for one night in the mid-1990s and seeing the film as movie goers had the opportunity to do so in the early 1940s was an emotionally fulfulling experience for me.

I can still watch Casablanca today and get the same laughs, the same thrills, the same longings that I did the first time I saw it. In fact, as the late, great film critic Roger Ebert so correctly pointed out, Casablanca is a movie you'll get more out of the second, third and fourth times you see it than the first time, because that first time you have no idea what prompted Humphrey Bogart's outburst at Sam in this scene.

To quote Ebert directly: "This scene is not as strong on a first viewing as on subsequent viewings, because the first time you see the movie you don't yet know the story of Rick and Ilsa in Paris; indeed, the more you see it the more the whole film gains resonance." Amen.

But that may give you a hint why my No. 1 choice was so easy. Here's the complete list: My 100 favorite American movies

1. Casablanca
2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
3. The Wild Bunch
4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
5. Double Indemnity
6. The Godfather
7. The Graduate
8. Pulp Fiction
9. Some Like It Hot
10. The Big Sleep
11. Goodfellas
12. The Maltese Falcon
13. Out Of The Past
14. North By Northwest
15 Notorious
16. On The Waterfront,
17. Paths of Glory
18. Psycho
19. Fargo
20. The Last Picture Show
21. Raging Bull
22. 2001: A Space Odyssey
23 Annie Hall
24. Strangers on a Train
25. Rebel Without a Cause
26. Bringing Up Baby
27. The African Queen
28. All About Eve
29. The Wizard of Oz
30. Zero Dark Thirty
31. Only Angels Have Wings
32. Red River
33. Shane.
34. Rear Window
35. Bonnie And Clyde
36. The Bridge On The River Kwai
37. Chinatown
38. Citizen Kane
39. Duck Soup,
40. King Kong (1933)
41. 12 Angry Men
42. East of Eden
43. Gunga Din
44. The Social Network
45. Schindler’s List
46. Being John Malkovich
47. The Grapes of Wrath
48. The Public Enemy
49. The Train
50. High Noon
51. The Lady Eve
52. Silver Linings Playbook
53. United 93
54. A Letter to Three Wives
55. Lawrence of Arabia
56. Jaws
57. Traffic
58. The Empire Strikes Back
59. E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial
60. Easy Rider
61. Singin’ In The Rain
62. A Streetcar Named Desire
63. Sunset Boulevard
64. Taxi Driver
65. Touch Of Evil
66. Vertigo
67. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
68. Network
69. Rosemary’s Baby
70. The Apartment
71. White Heat
72. Days of Heaven
73. The Silence of the Lambs
74. Unforgiven
75. The Manchurian Candidate
76. Manhattan,
77. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
78. The Bad and the Beautiful
79. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
80. Mean Streets
81. The Ox-Bow Incident
82. A Place in the Sun
83. Hannah and Her Sisters
84. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
85. The Conversation
86. Five Easy Pieces
87. No Country For Old Men
88. The Hurt Locker
89. Frankenstein
90. The French Connection
91. From Here to Eternity
92. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
93. The Killers (1946 )
94. Brokeback Mountain
95. Shadow of a Doubt
96. Apocalypse Now
97. Ben-Hur
98. The Best Years of Our Lives
99. It’s A Wonderful Life
100.Sullivan’s Travels

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