Column - Movies get bumped from the 'faves' list
If, like me, you enjoy "Best" and "Worst" lists, you'll relish a book with the delightfully morbid title of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
I would bet that book contains every movie you've ever loved, every movie you've ever hated and every movie in between. 1001 Movies is a fun book to browse through in the shade of a summer day. Heavy as a doorstop, the 960-page tome, chock-full of photos, has one-page summaries, well written and insightful, of each of the films.
What I really like about this book is that it covers the gamut - every genre imaginable, including documentaries, short films, animation, science fiction, avant-garde and so forth. The movies are niftily indexed by title, by genre and by director.
While perusing that book for the umpteenth time the other day, a realization dawned on me. I realized, somewhat sadly, how many movies I used to love that I don't care for anymore. Thanks to Netflix, I often order many of my old-time favorites. Either they haven't stood the test of time, at least not for me, or they are way too long.
A recent disappointment is Persona, a moody 1967 black-and-white drama directed by the great Ingmar Bergman. When I saw that film in the early 1970s, it knocked me out. A few weeks ago, I ordered it from Netflix. Yes, it's brilliantly acted (Liv Ullman and Bibi Anderson) and wonderfully photographed (Sven Nykvist), but the trouble is it doesn't make much sense. It's an artsy-dartsy mood experiment, an unresolved effort. It's fine to look at, but did Bergman have any idea what he was trying to express? I don't think so.
Two other recent disappointments, two other movies I used to love: The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. Both directed by David Lean, some of their scenes remain breathtaking and still pack a dramatic punch. But both films go on and on and ... Like my friend Vivian Oothoudt said to me years ago, "Bridge on the River Kwai would have been a good movie if they would've cut out all that darned marching and whistling." Oh, how I laughed when she said that. I still do. I laugh at the truth of it. And then that whistle song, Colonel Bogie's March, becomes stuck in my head.
What stuns me about so many old favorites is I realize how "quicker" we have all become. In our instant, push-button world, dominated by the Internet, we simply do not have patience anymore to sit through long-winded movie scenes. Case in point: the dazzling director Stanley Kubrick. In my opinion, every one of his movies would be vastly better, truly masterful, if he had cut one-half hour of screen time. I've always thought that, even in the older, slower days.
While reading 1001 Movies, I realized how my "Top Movie List" has changed yet again, as it does at least once a year. My top choices have remained the same for years: 8-and-12 (directed by Federico Fellini), The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir), Citizen Kane (Orson Welles), Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock), Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn), The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming) and The Searchers (John Ford).
Many other movies have popped onto my "Faves" list, bumping off some of my previous picks like Persona, Jules and Jim (Francois Truffaut), Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard) and The Seventh Seal (Bergman). Most are old favorites I've always liked, but thanks to Netflix, I've rediscovered them and they not only hold up after so much time - they are better than ever.
Here they are: The Apartment and Sunset Boulevard (both by Billy Wilder), It's a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra), L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni), The Third Man (Carol Reed), Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg), Fanny and Alexander (Bergman), All About Eve (Joseph Mankiewicz), Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan), A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan), Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray), Hud (Martin Ritt), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Mike Nichols), The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont), The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme), and last but not least, five classics by the immortal Hitchcock: Shadow of a Doubt, The Trouble With Harry, Rear Window, Strangers on a Train and Psycho.
Dear readers, I wish you would share your favorite movies lists with me and with other readers. It's fun to compare such lists.
Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.