Thursday, August 3, 2017

All of the Best Movies, Part 5: O - Z


All right, well, look: I’m just going to put an end to this shit. I’ve been delaying for far too long, due partly to laziness, but due also to me being furious with myself for constantly forgetting titles I should have included, and should never have forgotten to include. How can somebody be so bad at making a list of their own favorite things? Whatever it is? Movies, in this case. I’ll tell you, I’ve tried to be philosophical about this, but I’ve failed spectacularly. I mean, what is even the point. What I think has been happening is that, as honest and lacking in neuroses as I’ve tried to make this process, I get so wound up thinking that I’d better let you guys know how much I love 10 Rillington Place (which I do) that I forget that I also like other movies such as for example  The Godfather.


Anyway, I fucked up really bad last time, which means it’s time for our final installment of…
Fuck-ups, Shits, and Fuck-ups
Lawrence of Arabia (d. David Lean) – Remember the bit with the sun? That was pretty good.

Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (d. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) – Late in this film, Anton Walbrook gives a speech that I think some viewers sort of forget about.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (d. Wes Anderson) – Still considered Anderson’s worst film, from what I can tell, because he was evidently repeating himself by this point. Which means that many people saw this incredible fusion of fantasy, comedy, tragedy, special effects, literary allusion, music, and action (of a sort) and thought “Ugh, not this again.” Okay, guys.

The Little Fugitive (d. Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin) – A beautiful, one-of-a-kind glimpse into a world long gone – 1950s Coney Island – and how a little boy with great seriousness reacts to it, and works his way through it.

A Mighty Wind (d. Christopher Guest) – “I can’t do my work!”
Mystery of Kasper Hauser (d. Werner Herzog) – A key film in helping me understand that some mysteries are more powerful when left unsolved.
The Night of the Hunter (d. Charles Laughton) – I think this one is chiefly known for being surprisingly influential on 1980s independent films.
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O Brother, Where Art Thou? (d. Joel and Ethan Coen) – How is it possible that on top of everything else, this film manages to also be moving? One of the Coens most surprising feats of alchemy.
Odd Man Out (d. Carol Reed) – Wrote about it here.
Of Mice and Men (d. Gary Sinise) – Not actually much different in its approach or particulars from Lewis Milestone’s 1939 adaptation, but there’s just something a bit more beautiful about what Sinise does here.
Of Time and the City (d. Terence Davies) – There’s a little boy being helped into the loop of a rope that’s been tied into a very wide noose. He sits in the loop, because it’s their swing. They don’t know that they live in a place that can’t afford a swing.
Oleanna (d. David Mamet) – Not a much beloved film these days, I wouldn’t imagine, but I think it still hits home in a number of different ways. Also I love Mamet’s language and rhythms so much that I watch this movie to relax.
On the Waterfront (d. Elia Kazan) – Wrote about it here.
Once Upon a Time in the West (d. Sergio Leone) – My favorite Leone, his richest and strangest epic.
One False Move (d. Carl Franklin) – If more 90s crime films had been this deceptively modest and powerful, the world would be a better place now.
One From the Heart (d. Francis Ford Coppola) – It may not be as good, but One From the Heart is a truer representation of the Coppola aesthetic than The Godfather ever was.
One-Eyed Jacks (d. Marlon Brando) – Wrote about it here.
Only Angels Have Wings (d. Howard Hawks) – Wrote about it here.
Out of the Past (d. Jacques Tourneur) – “I don’t want to die.” “Neither do I, baby, but if I have to, I’m gonna die last.” I mean, come on.
Panic in the Streets (d. Elia Kazan) – Wrote about it here.
Paterson (d. Jim Jarmusch) – Possibly Jarmusch’s masterpiece, a sincere celebration of the joys of “ordinary” life, and the satisfaction of quiet, private creativity. Inspiring in a way that “inspiring” films usually aren’t.

Personal Shopper (d. Olivier Assayas) - May be the best ghost story of the 21st century.


Phase IV (d. Saul Bass) – A marvel of a film. Mysterious, frightening, and makes the audience wonder how it was made.
Phenomena (d. Dario Argento) – Argento at his most gloriously unhinged, this fairy tale of murder and insects and girls’ schools and psychic powers could have gone on and on and on. Also satisfies the requirements of Chekov’s Chimpanzee.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (d. Peter Weir) – This is the kind of horror that I wish contemporary genre filmmakers felt nostalgic about, and wanted to bring back.
Planet of the Apes (d. Franklin J. Schaffner) – Wrote about it here.
Pleasure Party (d. Claude Chabrol) – One of the great films about murder, and about how real murderers look and act. Chilling.
Pollock (d. Ed Harris) – Another of the great traditional biopics, of which there are vanishingly few. Somewhat big when it was released, it’s now almost forgotten. It shouldn’t be.
Possession (d. Andrzej Zulawski) – One of the few movies that, when a certain thing occurs, managed to make me stop what I was doing, cold in my tracks (I was eating cereal at the time, if you must know).
A Prairie Home Companion (d. Robert Altman) – Beautiful, almost perfect. I could watch it every day.
The Prestige (d. Christopher Nolan) – Probably still Nolan’s best movie, and seemingly made specifically for me. Which is a nice thing to do, and I appreciate it.
Prince of Darkness (d. John Carpenter) – Wrote about it here.
Prometheus (d. Ridley Scott) – Wrote about it here.


The Prowler (d. Joseph Losey) – One of the great, truly existential noirs. A nasty film. Arguably a career best performance from Van Heflin, which is saying something.
Psycho (d. Alfred Hitchcock) – A not insignificant film in my development.

Pulse (d. Kiyoshi Kurosawa) - Wrote about it here.
Punch-Drunk Love (d. Paul Thomas Anderson) – The bridge between the great 90s Anderson films and the incredible timeless Anderson films we’re getting now. Adam Sandler’s performance could not be better.
The Purple Rose of Cairo (d. Woody Allen) – Possibly the first of Allen’s great mixes of comedy and melancholy. Pairs beautifully with Radio Days.
Q – The Winged Serpent (d. Larry Cohen) – For the scene where Michael Moriarty tries to get a job as the pianist in a run-down piano bar alone! For even putting a scene like that in a monster movie in the first place!
Quick Change (d. Bill Murray and Howard Franklin) – “Sometimes, their noses are horns.”

A Quiet Passion (d. Terence Davies) - Rarely has a film based on fact felt so personally and inextricably tied to the filmmaker.
Quiz Show (d. Robert Redford) – I can attest that this holds up beautifully. Everything fell together on this one, from the subject matter to the ridiculously stacked cast. One of the great studio films of the modern era.
Radio Days (d. Woody Allen). See The Purple Rose of Cairo. Like that film, but in a very different way, this represents Allen at his most inventive. Wonderful, one of his finest achievements.
Rambo (d. Sylvester Stallone) – Speaking of wonderful achievements…
The Rapture (d. Michael Tolkin) – A brilliant, tricky, complex, and unsettling take on cults, religion, and the afterlife. Unlike anything else I know.


Real Life (d. Albert Brooks) – “I’m an entertainer, but quite frankly if I’d studied harder, or been graded more fairly, I would have been a doctor or a scientist.”
Rear Window (d. Alfred Hitchcock) - A not insignificant film in my development.
Repulsion (d. Roman Polanski) – As elegantly frightening, and ultimately kind of repulsive actually, as it’s possible to be.
The Right Stuff (d. Philip Kaufman) – The Great American Epic of the 1980s. Nothing else comes close.
Rio Bravo (d. Howard Hawks) – It’s startling how casually brought off greatness can sometimes seem.
Rituals (d. Peter Carter) – Sort of like Deliverance, minus some things and plus some others, and starring Hal Holbrook as one of the desperate-to-survive heroes. A bunch of middle-aged doctors in the wilderness trying not to die. It works like gangbusters.
The Road Warrior (d. George Miller) – Probably actually the best one, if you think about it, guys.
Rob Roy (d. Michael Caton-Jones) – It out-Bravehearts Braveheart!
Role Models (d. David Wain) – Very quietly one of the funniest comedies of the past decade.
Rosemary’s Baby (d. Roman Polanski) – Wrote about it, briefly, here (scroll to the bottom).
The Royal Tenenbaums (d. Wes Anderson) – I don’t understand how anyone could fail to be swept up by this beautiful, colorful, hilarious, and deeply sad film.



La Rupture (d. Claude Chabrol) – The most bugshit Chabrol film I’ve seen.

Rushmore (d. Wes Anderson) - To be honest, this still might be his best.
Salesman (d. Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin) – Among many other things, this is the closest any of us will ever get to time travel.
Sansho the Bailiff (d. Kenji Mizoguchi) – If one wanted to make the argument that Mizoguchi was the best there has ever been, one could base that argument on this film alone.
Scrooged (d. Richard Donner) – It’s true that Murray was directed to shout his lines maybe a little too often. That aside, this should be an acknowledged and beloved Christmas classic.
Séance on a Wet Afternoon (d. Bryan Forbes) – Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough give two of the all-time greatest screen performances in this film, yet Forbes’s masterpiece is pretty much forgotten. That seems fair.
Seconds (d. John Frankenheimer) – Wrote about it, kind of, here.
The Second Skin (d. Francois Truffaut) – Wrote about it here.
A Serious Man (d. Joel and Ethan Coen) – Wrote about it here, but in that brief review I do not stress enough that this is one of the great American films, full stop.
The Serpent’s Egg (d. Ingmar Bergman) – Wrote about it here.
Seven Samurai (d. Akira Kurosawa) – I like it! Sue me!
The Seventh Continent (d. Michael Haneke) – Haneke’s debut film is, for me, still his most unsettling. A terrible, clear-eyed march towards doom.
Sexy Beast (d. Jonathan Glazer) – “I am going to have to turn this opportunity down.” “No, you are going to have to turn this opportunity yes!” I’d kill to have written that.
Shattered Glass (d. Billy Ray) – Pretty goddamned gripping, and satisfying. Peter Sarsgaard’s outrage by the end is cathartic.
Shaun of the Dead (d. Edgar Wright) – One Friday night, years ago, I rented this, not expecting much, bought some beer, and watched it by myself. I had the best time.


She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (d. John Ford) – Truly exquisite. John Wayne’s final scenes are what he, and Ford, were all about.

The Shining (d. Stanley Kubrick) - I'm pretty sure Stephen King thinks this isn't as good as The Dark Tower.
Shoah (d. Claude Lanzmann) – The greatest documentary ever made.
The Shooting (d. Monte Hellman) – Wrote about it here.
The Shop Around the Corner (d. Ernst Lubitsch) – Graceful, funny, sad, actually original. Not a single misstep.
Short Cuts (d. Robert Altman) – If this film truly is misanthropic, as its critics say, and I think that’s arguable, but if it’s true, my question is “So what?”
Shutter Island (d. Martin Scorsese) – Wrote about it here.
Sideways (d. Alexander Payne) – This didn’t strike a nerve with me at all.
Silence (d. Martin Scorsese) – Wrote about it here. But also, one day we’ll realize how extraordinary this film is.
Slither (d. James Gunn) – I often hear people – critics, filmmakers – insist that horror movies should be fun, or have lost their sense of fun. I obviously think horror should aspire to more than that. However, if more horror films were this fun, I would be less upset all the time.
The Sniper (d. Edward Dmytryk) – The violence in this film is shockingly blunt. One of the darkest noirs.


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (d. David Hand, William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Ben Sharpsteen) – The first movie I ever saw. It’s still good.
Snowpiercer (d. Bong Joon-ho) – The best remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory I’ve ever seen!
Some Came Running (d. Vincente Minelli) – Goddamn, what an ending.
Sorcerer (d. William Friedkin) – What they call these days “pure cinema.”
The Sorcerers (d. Michael Reeves) – Wrote about it here.
Spartan (d. David Mamet) – “You need to set your motherfucker to receive.” I keep telling you guys that!
Spider (d. David Cronenberg) – Wrote about it here.
The Squid and the Whale (d. Noah Baumbach) – “Street Hassle” was a good choice.
Stand By Me (d. Rob Reiner) – Maybe the most nostalgic pick on this list, but I watched it again not too long ago. It’s really good.
Star 80 (d. Bob Fosse) – What I said about Pleasure Party, but possibly doubled.
A Star is Born (d. William Wellman) – That one of the best and most incisive movies about movies was made in 1937 is probably indicative of something or other.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (d. Nicholas Meyer) – Okay, maybe this is the most nostalgic pick on the list, but come on…I’m not a monster. The only thing wrong with Star Trek II is that they made Star Trek III.
The Steel Helmet (d. Samuel Fuller) – A really powerful eye-opener when I first saw it. I didn’t know they made war movies like this.
Step Brothers (d. Adam McKay) – Since this film was released, Adam McKay has gone on to be one of the worst things in the world. Step Brothers, thankfully, remains unchanged.


The Story of Adele H. (d. Francois Truffaut) – Truffaut took a footnote in literary history and turned it into a story whose power is immediate and heartbreaking. Isabelle Adjani is stunning.
Straw Dogs (d. Sam Peckinpah) – Peckinpah’s best. Wrote about it here.
Super (d. James Gunn) – The best superhero movie ever.
Suspiria (d. Dario Argento) – Not quite as gleefully nonsensical as Phenomena, but close. Pure, glorious style.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (d. Tim Burton) – Arguably Tim Burton’s best. By which I mean, I’m arguing that.
The Sweet Hereafter (d. Atom Egoyan) – Ian Fucking Holm.
Sweet Smell of Success (d. AlexIander Mackendrick) – I like the way Tony Curtis lights a match for Burt Lancaster as Lancaster is insulting him.
Synecdoche, New York (d. Charlie Kaufman) – Wrote about it here, eventually.
Tabu: A Tale of the South Seas (d. F.W. Murnau) – Wrote about it here.
The Tall T (d. Budd Boetticher) – The kind of Western that people might refer to as “crackerjack.” Henry Silva and Richard Boone are top-shelf villains.
Targets (d. Peter Bogdanovich) – I consider myself a Bogdanovich fan, but I don’t think he’s ever topped this. If I narrowed this list way, way down, pared it to the bare essentials, Targets would still be on it.


Taxi Driver (d. Martin Scorsese) – I don’t like reading analyses of this movie. Taxi Driver is too good for that shit.
Team America: World Police (d. Trey Parker) – An American masterpiece.
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (d. Fritz Lang) – Such glorious suspense and dark entertainment.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (d. Tobe Hooper) – In the pantheon of Greatest Final Shots.
That Cold Day in the Park (d. Robert Altman) – Sandy Dennis was not fucking around here.
There Will Be Blood (d. Paul Thomas Anderson) – It still seems enormously unlikely to me that a film like this could ever be financed, and so I’m therefore not sure it exists.
They Came Together (d. David Wain) – “Wow, a cheeseburger, Mommy!”
They Live by Night (d. Nicholas Ray) – It must be nice for a director to begin his career with a masterpiece.
Thief (d. Michael Mann) – Wrote about it here.
The Thin Red Line (d. Terence Malick) – A film I was dubious about in 1999, which has grown in my mind with every passing year.


The Thing (d. John Carpenter) – I doubt there’s anything I can say about this film that hasn’t already been said, certainly not in the space I’ve allotted myself here. That every time I watch it, I’m grateful it exists, will have to suffice.
The Third Man (d. Carol Reed) – Again, what can I say? See The Thing, which is probably the only time these two films have been linked in any way. Has my favorite last shot of any film.
This is Spinal Tap (d. Rob Reiner) – The greatest comedy ever made.
Three Amigos (d. John Landis) – Would make the list just for the scene where Martin Shorts tells a group of Mexican children his self-aggrandizing Lillian Gish story.
Throne of Blood (d. Akira Kurosawa) – Macbeth, as thunderous as it should be.
Time Bandits (d. Terry Gilliam) – The weirdest kids’ film ever released in America by a major studio. For me was once, and still is, a Pretty Big Deal.
To Have and Have Not (d. Howard Hawks) – Ripped off Casablanca, did it better.
Topsy Turvy (d. Mike Leigh) – A really amazing thing. I don’t know how they did it. Jim Broadbent instantly became one of my favorite actors. “It doesn’t amuse me, Grossmith, nor does it scan.”
Touch of Evil (d. Orson Welles) – Pretty good effort.
The Tree of Life (d. Terence Malick) – I’ve still only seen this once, but I seem to think about it constantly.
Trees Lounge (d. Steve Buscemi) – A wonderful debut from Buscemi as writer/director. I hope we get more of this from his some day.


Trouble Every Day (d. Claire Denis) – Made me say, out loud, by myself, to a character on screen, “Stop doing that…”
True Grit (d. Joel and Ethan Coen) – Wrote about it here.
The Turin Horse (d. Bela Tarr) – Like Paterson, but for misery.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (d. David Lynch) – The saddest horror film ever made.
Two-Lane Blacktop (d. Monte Hellman) – Dreamlike and realistic, a film about cars and the night.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (d. Jacques Demy) – Wrote about it here.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (d. Philip Kaufman) - I can't seem to shut up about last shots today. Well here's another all-timer. It sort of washes back over the film that precedes it.

Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees (d. Masahiro Shinoda) – A classic of Japanese arthouse horror, that apparently nobody has seen.
Under the Skin (d. Jonathan Glazer) – What science fiction cinema should be. Also what horror cinema should be.
Under the Sun of Satan (d. Maurice Pialat) – The kind of grand religious, moral nightmare that could only come from a troubled, possibly quite unlikable, French genius.
Underworld USA (d. Samuel Fuller) – A brilliant Cliff Robertson performance, in possibly Fuller’s greatest crime film.
United 93 (d. Paul Greengrass) – I get the sense people are still sort of angry that this film was made. Well, I’ve never been as emotionally affected – it was almost physical – by any other film.
The Verdict (d. Sidney Lumet) – Paul Newman, at his smallest and most pathetic, towers over everyone else.
Vertigo (d. Alfred Hitchcock) – Sight & Sound might be on to something here.
Videodrome (d. David Cronenberg) – Wrote about it here.


Violent Saturday (d. Richard Fleischer) – Hollywood small town melodrama, capped off by some truly brutal violence. “Technicolor noir” is something I could’ve gotten behind.
War of the Worlds (d. Steven Spielberg) – Contains some of Spielberg’s most indelible, and frightening, images.
Watership Down (d. Martin Rosen) – Wrote about it here.
We Won’t Grow Old Together (d. Maurice Pialat) – Wrote about it here.
Went the Day Well? (d. Alberto Cavalcanti) – About English civilians fighting Nazi forces trying to take over their town. Extremely violent for its day. No quarter asked nor given. On my shortlist of favorite war movies.
Wet Hot American Summer (d. David Wain) – I literally did like this before it was cool, guys.
Where is My Friend’s House? (d. Abbas Kiorstami) – A beautiful, weirdly suspenseful story about a little boy trying to help his friend. Wonderful last shot.
Whirlpool (d. Otto Preminger) – Wrote about it here, almost certainly not well, though. Jose Ferrer’s best performance.


White Dog (d. Samuel Fuller) – Contains one of my favorite camera moves, when Paul Winfield is introduced.
White Heat (d. Raoul Walsh) – I still can’t believe Kubrick had to convince Spielberg, and Welles had to convince Bogdanovich, that Cagney was a great actor. Come on, you couple of idiots!
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (d. Robert Zemeckis) – Or maybe this is the most nostalgic pick on the list. But movies don’t get much more fun than this.
Why Did Herr R. Run Amok? (d. Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Michael Fengler) – See Pleasure Party and Star 80. Possibly triple that.
The Witch (d. Robert Eggers) – Wrote about it here.
Witchfinder General (d. Michael Reeves) – Vincent Price at his best, all camp removed, all that’s left is a great horror icon being terrifying. A brilliant movie.
The Wolf Man (d. George Waggner) – This movie is endlessly sad to me because Lawrence Talbot is just some guy who probably likes baseball and beer and dating girls, and then this happens to him, and he’s scared and confused, and he doesn’t know what to do, and then he dies.
The Wolf of Wall Street (d. Martin Scorsese) – Wrote about it here.
The Woman Next Door (d. Francois Truffaut) – My favorite Truffaut film. A real punch in the head, this one.
The World’s End (d. Edgar Wright) – The best thing Wright has done. I’ll not listen to opposing viewpoints.
X – The Man with X-Ray Eyes (d. Roger Corman) – Manages to make the trip from kind of goofy to apocalyptic pretty smoothly.

The Yakuza (d. Sydney Pollack) – Outside of Sydney Pollack the Actor, 70s Genre Director Sydney Pollack is my favorite Sydney Pollack.
Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (d. Xan Cassavetes) – A truly idiosyncratic documentary about movies and tragedy. I have seen this, er, many times…
Zodiac (d. David Fincher) – “He claims he killed thirteen people, but which ones can we actually confirm? There’s three in Vallejo, one in Berryessa, the cabbie. That’s it...Bobby, you almost look disappointed.”
Zulu (d. Cy Endfield) – A brilliant combat film. This is not the kind of film some ignorant folks believe it is. Zulu is all about taking roll call, and the pause when someone doesn’t answer. So Tom and Matt, now you know.
 

4 comments:

Patrick said...

Oops, I can see immediately that you forgot one, right between Repulsion and The Right Stuff - Ride the High Country. My idea of a nearly perfect movie with a perfect ending.

Andrew Leon Hudson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew said...

I love movies, and I respect your opinion on them (even when you mention things like Wright's "The World's End" (which I found I stopped loving halfway through) and Speilberg's "War of the Worlds" (which I found I stopped loving about ten minutes in)), and these posts make me realise there is still so much I've not seen waiting to be discovered, so I've enjoyed your lists and will return to them.

Tom Beshear said...

So many great movies here -- thanks for posting your thoughts on them.

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