For a bit of a different post today, in the wake of all of the picks we saw this past Sunday of last year’s “best movies” (well, at least the ones that got their angles right with the Academy voters), I was prompted by students to share a piece that I wrote a little while back. Every now and then, folks will ask “well, what is your favorite movie?” and I can immediately answer “One? Oh, I could never pick just one… but let me think about it and I can give you a few…” So here is my answer.
Dozen Favorite Films (in baker’s alphabetical order)
The Apartment: Billy Wilder
A Canterbury Tale: Powell & Pressburger
Children of Men: Alfonso Cuarón
Dr. Strangelove: Stanley Kubrick
The Fiancés: Ermanno Olmi
The General: Buster Keaton
Gigi: Vincente Minnelli
The Great Race: Blake Edwards
Hearts & Minds: Peter Davis
The Mirror: Andrei Tarkovsky
Night of the Hunter: Charles Laughton
Princess Mononoke: Hayao Miyazaki
War Requiem: Derek Jarman
When I was asked for one favorite, it had to be five, then ten; in the end, it was a dozen. I decided that I wouldn’t choose more than one film from any director. Tomorrow, the list will be completely different. In fact, it will be five minutes from now. A memory will surface, seeing a seat in a theater, recalling an instant of passion or creative sparks. A righteous stirring, an inspiring leap, a deep wash of red or green or blue, a whispered line or angry burst – films by Jean Renoir or Frank Borzage, Preston Sturges or Wes Anderson, François Truffaut or Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang or Carl Dreyer, Max Ophuls or Kenji Mizoguchi, Akira Kurosawa or Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh or Bill Douglas, Michel Gondry or Alexander Payne, Jacques Tati or Roman Polanski, Larisa Shepitko or Tenguiz Abouladze, Ingmar Bergman or Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda or Bertrand Tavernier, Delmer Daves or Dimitri Kirsanoff, Yuri Norstein or Ladislas Starevich, Aki Kaurismaki or Federico Fellini, Louis Malle or Ken Loach, John Cassavetes or Ousmane Sembene, Stanley Donen or Alexander Mackendrick – through the swell of music married with dissolve to close-up, or the shades of black and white as they sear upon our cornea, or the flow of a camera moving across a magic hour landscape as we travel across our own fields and back yards; and smiles, chomping popcorn and sipping a soda in the dark, overturning a chair with laughs or gripping it with white knuckles; then, a face slides upon the screen, and we connect with it for that instant, more than we can comprehend, until we may turn to one that we truly know and suddenly be seized by a moment of understanding, sliding outside of our selves in suspension of awareness, of holding the angle of their gaze, of the contour of their soul, until it abruptly slips, and we are once again in the familiar perspective, but with this sacred memory.
Now that I’ve just posted this, it makes me want to produce some lists – yeah, I know they’re everywhere these days with the digital-crunching brave new netverse obsessed to convert everything to some hierarchy of numbers, but… they’re still pretty fun. So maybe there could be some for sound design, musical score, cinematography, acting… and so forth. And what is your favorite movie?