Defend Your Darlings, You Sad Pandas! (The Lists Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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#226 Post by life_boy » Sat Oct 07, 2006 3:52 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:For those of you who, along with me, voted for Khalatozov's SALT FOR SVANETIA, what release do you have of this?
My only experience with the film is via the Kino release (with Turksib). I purchased the VHS over the summer when Kino had their VHS clearance sale.

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#227 Post by toiletduck! » Tue Dec 19, 2006 10:09 pm

I've owned both the Kino Avant-Garde and Unseen Cinema sets for a while now, but I just finally got around to Man Ray's Le Retour a la Raison. Sue me.

Is there really no love for this? I've gone back and forth on Ray's film work (although I'd kill for a replica of one of his chess sets), but this one -- jesus, what a fever dream (with the George Antheil score in the Unseen Cinema box, of course). I think the most telling moment was when the word "DANGER" was more or less alone on screen for ten seconds and it took me seven of those seconds before I realized it actually said "DANCER".

Gonna go catch my breath.

-Toilet Dcuk

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#228 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:43 am

My favorite Ray film between those two sets is the sublime ETOILE DE MER (THE STARFISH). Playfully self-conscious in Ray's usual sense, but so richly poetic and moody in a way that's actually quite close at many points to the French Impressionism of Kirsanoff Epstein LHerbier et al.

Despite the overlaps, and the bad scores, the two sets are sublime compliments to one another. I do still believe that the Shepard/Anthology set is probably the absolute finest use of the DVD medium, ever.

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#229 Post by pauling » Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:24 am

Have you seen Edwin S. Porter's "Dream of a Rarebit Fiend" from said set? If you haven't, check it out. It's a fever dream and one of the funniest shorts I've seen. I love that entire set but I always go back to Devil's Plaything surrealism disc.

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#230 Post by Scharphedin2 » Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:58 am

HerrSchreck wrote:I do still believe that the Shepard/Anthology set is probably the absolute finest use of the DVD medium, ever.
Schreck, I was not completely sure from your post -- this is the Unseen Cinema (7 disc set) from Image that you are referring to?

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#231 Post by tryavna » Wed Dec 20, 2006 11:24 am

Scharphedin2 wrote:
HerrSchreck wrote:I do still believe that the Shepard/Anthology set is probably the absolute finest use of the DVD medium, ever.
Schreck, I was not completely sure from your post -- this is the Unseen Cinema (7 disc set) from Image that you are referring to?
I'm sure that's the one he means, and it is a truly outstanding boxset.

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#232 Post by Scharphedin2 » Wed Dec 20, 2006 1:54 pm

Thanks tryavna. In that case I am doubly happy that I just received it last week amongst some other things I had ordered from DVDEmpire (excellent ordering experience btw).

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#233 Post by zedz » Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:05 pm

I always seem to get here ahead of the crowds.


Only two films from my top 20 didn't make the final list, but they were the top two:

1. Motion Painting No. 1 (Fischinger, 1947) – One of the greatest of all abstract films, and one of the greatest visual accompaniments to music. My favorite Fischinger and one of the most sublime films I know.
2. Ritual in Transfigured Time (Deren, 1946) – My favourite dance film, and - hell, why not – my favourite trance film. The way in which Deren transforms demotic gesture into gorgeous choreography is always surprising and enchanting. One of those films that allows you to see the world around you in new ways.

My remaining top 20 films were:

3. There Was a Father (Ozu, 1942) – The best argument for the genius of this film is how it transcends the appalling limitations of the surviving materials, the current ‘restoration' and the indifferent DVD transfer.
4. Force of Evil (Polonsky, 1948) – As far as I'm concerned, one of the greatest American dramas, fully living up to its Shakespearean ambitions. I was surprised this didn't fare better – for a long time it didn't look like it would even pick up a second vote.
5. Late Spring (Ozu, 1949) – I was pretty confident that this film would rate the highest of the 40s Ozus, simply because of availability, but I was unprepared for its powerhouse performance in the voting.
6. Pursued (Walsh, 1947) – I've raved on about this amazing film elsewhere. Had a solid top ten ranking at the start of the vote, then vanished completely.
7. A Canterbury Tale (Powell / Pressburger, 1944) – P/P votes were intriguingly split, with a hearty handful attracting strong support from different quarters. Everybody seems to have a different personal pantheon of their films.
8. My Darling Clementine (Ford, 1946) – I had expected radical vote-splitting with Ford, but this film was the clear favourite from the outset. What's not to love? It's a perfect piece of filmmaking.
9. Pattes Blanches (Gremillon, 1949) – Three early, strong votes had this at number two (!) on my earliest count. Unfortunately, only one other voter had seen this mysterious, moody fable.
10. T-Men (Mann, 1947) – This had slipped down to the thirties until I watched it again. What a film! The apotheosis of documentary noir, wrenchingly suspenseful, and one of the best-photographed movies ever made, a characteristic obvious even in a mediocre PD transfer.
11. La Silence de la Mer (Melville, 1949) – I'm delighted that this scraped in at number 100. Like Pattes, I'm sure this would have performed better if people had actually had a chance to see it.
12. La Terra Trema (Visconti, 1948) – By a very long distance my favourite of the canonical neorealist films. Bicycle Thieves seemed to soak up all the votes in this area, so the entire movement performed less well than I would have expected. Sea-change, or blip?
13. Curse of the Cat People (Wise, 1944) – One of the oddest and most magical films ever made in Hollywood.
14. I Know Where I'm Going (Powell / Pressburger, 1945)
15. Meet Me in St Louis (Minnelli, 1944) – Musicals got alarmingly short shrift this time around. This gem was the highest ranked, but it didn't even make the top 50.
16. Begone Dull Care (McLaren, 1949)
17. Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947)
18. His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940)
19. Kind Hearts and Coronets (Hamer, 1949) – Great performances and a great script, but this film is also a masterclass in dry, witty editing.
20. Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren / Hamid, 1943)

And here are my orphans:

21. The Fallen Idol (Reed, 1948) – By far my favourite Reed of the 1940s. Great plot and performances, but also a glorious study in the use of cinematic space. Reed works his sets for all they're worth. The Third Man was always going to be one to beat, but I was interested to see how little support there was for Odd Man Out, which only picked up its first vote on the last day.

24. Somewhere in the Night (Mankiewicz, 1946) – Noir as Lynchian nightmare. This is a simply bizarre film that I can't get out of my head. The plot is convoluted and, on any slight examination, ridiculous, Mankiewicz's dialogue is purple and awkward in the mouths of most of his actors, but occasionally he lets loose a zinger (Slutty girl: “I get itâ€

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#234 Post by Michael » Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:55 pm

[quote]37. Now, Voyager (Rapper, 1942) – A transcendent weepie, with Bette in characteristic “now make me REAL uglyâ€

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#235 Post by david hare » Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:16 pm

I was much more pleasantly surprised by the final list than I expected to be. While there was a lot of Academy favorites (some of them more deserving than others to my taste) I thought the list was extremely well balanced between the famous and the neglected, and between features and other forms of moviemaking. Two movies I simply didn't include were both Eisenstein's Que Viva and Ivan because I regard the former as a thirties picture (preferably seen in its complete rushes if this were ever possible) and Ivan Part 2 Only (I dont care for Ivan Part 1) because its imdb release date is 1950s.

These were some of mine which don't appear in either the 100 list or the "also rans":

Daisy Kenyon - one of Premingers greatest half dozen. Crawford given and rises to the role of a lifetime as a woman in transition faced with complex choices between two flawed but decent men. Preminger's wonderful ambiguity of character is on full display with the apparently decent Fonda and the apparently morally questionable Dana Andrews. A completely grown up movie about real, morally gray people.

Criss Cross - suprised by its omission. All Siodmak'e Noirs are at the peak of this genre but Criss Cross is the one that's the most confronting about raw sex and class. de Carlo adn Burt are fabulous. (Phantom Lady a close second in the Siodmak Noir canon.)

Shanghai Gesture - the only "weakness" in this masterpiece is Tierney's sullen demanor and limited performance but this simply doesn't seem to matter when people like Mature, Huston and Sondegard are so good. And Sternberg's mise en scene so completely carries the film's meaning. What other director in history can so consumately put the humiliation and degradation of a woman (and many men elsewhere in his work) on display as the centre of a movie and make it so profoundly moving a spectacle?

Desert Fury - this is a barely disguised Noir in Technicolor with Burt Lancaster as the good guy sherrif, Liz Scott as the rebellious daughter (!!) of hard headed tough talking Mary Astor who are playing each other off for love interest bad guy John Hodiak who is kept out of trouble by saint like buddy Wendell Corey who is in fact his real lover. "Let's just drive away somwehere together" says Wendell to John as the trouble heats up. Directed by Lewis Allen, screenplay by the late great AI Bezzerides and Robert Rossen!!!!!!! The invisibility of this movie is a national disgrace.

A Double Life - Cukor's first great dark movie about the theatre, life and reality. Shelley Winters' death scene prefigures A Place in the Sun. And thjis is a far greater movie.

l'Amore - I love it anyway, particulalrly the sceond half with Magnani doing the Cocteau monologue on the telephone, but the Fellini written ep is fine too. I ended up nominating this over Germania Anno Zero because I can no longer tolerate the intrinsic homophbia in this otherwise masterpiece. The first two post war pictures are increasingly leaving me colder as I get older.

Bluebeard - a real toughie picking a favorite 40s Ulmer, even this over Detour. I think I did because I adore Carradine and nobody ever seems to talk about this picture.

Colorado Territory - talked about this before but it's becoming a transformative favorite Walsh from the 40s. I love what he does with Mayo and McCrae, and the deepening darkness and bleakness of character in his landscape. This movie bites me even harder than High Sierra and White Heat. But I love them all.

The Woman on the Beach - another great film maudit, butchered by Renoir himself and the Hays code requirements, but in its butchery the irresistible embers of a fabulous erotic dream.

Good News - Chuck Walters first musical and movie. "Pass that Peace Pipe"! Do the Varsity Drag"! Joan mcCracken! Salinger orchestrations! lawford and June Allison - YES - Lawford and Allison!

I think that's enough from me for the moment.

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#236 Post by sevenarts » Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:02 pm

I didn't vote, but I noticed that Alexander Hammid's Private Life of a Cat not only didn't make the final list, but apparently didn't even make it onto two lists. What gives, people? I see you voting for the Deren films, I know you have the DVD this is on. :wink:

Seriously, I'd rank this up there with Deren's first two films for great avant-garde works. Maybe it could be easily dismissed as too cutesy, or too much like an "educational" film, but I find it so incredibly moving and engaging, and with a surprising amount of depth. It's almost like an animal version of Brakhage's Window Water Baby Moving, another film that might easily be placed in the "educational" category if not for the tremendous amount of emotion and nuance that went into its making. Anyway, I just thought that was a film worth bringing up.

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#237 Post by mikeohhh » Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:23 pm

davidhare wrote:I think that's enough from me for the moment.
No it's not, you need to defend Cobra Woman! You promised!

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#238 Post by david hare » Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:32 pm

Coming soon, although it needs no defence!

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#239 Post by jonp72 » Fri Feb 02, 2007 1:21 am

I'm surprised that Hail the Conquering Hero didn't rank higher among the Preston Sturges films. It's a great satire about how Americans link military service to our conceptions of masculinity and political virtue. In addition, it features a shell-shocked Marine with a mother fixation. In a throwaway line, Sturges refers to what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. The Marine says to Woodrow Truesmith (Eddie Bracken), "You had a nightmare? You're lucky you only have them part of the time." When Woodrow asks the Marine if he needs to sleep, the Marine says, "Nah. I don't like to sleep."

In an era of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the satire is fresh enough today that it could be updated for the era of the Iraq War and still keep much of its sting.

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#240 Post by Lemmy Caution » Fri Feb 02, 2007 8:21 am

I got caught a little bit between rounding out my 30's viewing and catching up on new releases. So 40's films got a little less attention than I intended. I did manage to watch a fair amount of 40's films. Some of my recent viewing scored well on my list: There Was a Father (at #7), Shoeshine (#11), Nightmare Alley (#18), Brute Force (#25), Kind Hearts and Coronets (#35).

I've just recently been getting turned on to Ozu, but I've been mostly watching his films from the 30's and working forward. For some reason, it didn't occur to me to focus on his 40's films. Big oversight on my part. So I was unable to vote upon A Hen in the Wind, The Toda Family and Late Spring – all of which I have on Dvd. Since Late Spring got the top slot anyway, I can't feel too bad about that omission.

Also, I didn't find time to squeeze in Now, Voyager or Children of Paradise. And I completely blanked on The Fallen Idol, even though I watched and enjoyed it a month or two back. Fallen Idol probably should have slotted in around the late 30's on my list.

I just recently picked up El Gran Calavera (aka The Great Madcap) (Bunuel, 1949), but didn't realize it was a 40's film. I just didn't associate Bunuel with the 40's. Unfortunate, as I've been on a mini-Bunuel binge, watching Mexican Bus Ride two weeks back, and Diary of a Chambermaid last night. Listwise, I'm assuming the Great Madcap was nowhere to be found, because it is almost nowhere to be found.

Mea culpa.

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#241 Post by Lemmy Caution » Fri Feb 02, 2007 8:30 am

Some darlings:
The Southerner (Renoir). Just a terrific film. Deals with the harsh realities of poor farmers. Really a must see film, and #9 on my list.

This Gun for Hire – my #18 --This too made the also-ran list. I re-watched it recently, and enjoyed it more on the second go-round. Lake and Ladd are a fine pairing. I like the sense of desperation that swirls thru some powerful scenes.

Why We Fight (Capra WWII docs) – my #36 -- Not only is this some powerful filmmaking, but also displays some surprisingly graphic footage of charred bodies and other forms of death. Nice use of footage captured from German and Japanese troops, animated maps, etc. As interesting as it all is, and very relevant to today's war too, there's also the issue of how it finesses some thorny problems:
1) Axis propaganda is roundly condemned throughout,so what exactly are these US Army films then? “Informational films,â€

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#242 Post by Lemmy Caution » Fri Feb 02, 2007 5:20 pm

I'm so used to functioning within the realm of DVDs that I completely forgot some of my favorite television movie-viewing when I was a kid. For many years, Abbott & Costello were 1940's movies for me. I haven't found any of their titles on Dvd, so their films slipped my mind.

But I'm sure I could have found a spot in my Top 50 for Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), or maybe The Time of Their Lives (1946) (set during The Revolutionary War and modern times, with a fully developed story and genuine acting to go with the humor a fine piece of drama and writing ), or even the early and hilarious Buck Privates (1941).

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#243 Post by david hare » Fri Feb 02, 2007 9:21 pm

Two more Panda Darlings:

The Thief of Bagdad (Powell 1940), Wonderful Technicolor, wonderful Connie Veidt and Sabu (and June and Jon). Greatest of all grown up children's films and the mechanical Goddess sequence prefigures Powell's mania in key scenes from Hoffmann, (Moira as the Firefly, and the Doll) Red Shoes (Moira's possession by the red shoes) and even Peeping Tom (Karl's posession by the camera.)

And a title I realize now I SHOULD have nominated but didn't (it would have just shuffled out Nightmare Alley on my list):

the Unsuspected (Curtiz, 1947) Brilliant Clouzeau-like unremitting nastiness in place of Curtiz' usual smooth, louchey tone. Fantastic cast - Rains, Audrey Totter, Joan Caulfield, Hurd Hatfield, DP Woody Bredell (from Phantom Lady) and Waxman score. This is maybe Curtiz' one really Great movie.

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#244 Post by Brian Oblivious » Fri Feb 02, 2007 10:48 pm

Some of these had other voters behind them, but none made it into the top 100:

3. The Mortal Storm (Borzage, 1940)

Leave it to Borzage to make the most heartbreaking drama I know about the Nazi Holocaust- all the more heartbreaking because of how it disproves the old saw, "oh, we didn't really know what was going on over there until after the war".

4. High Diving Hare (Freleng, 1949)

The very definition of the one-joke masterpiece. Bugs vs. Sam over a tub of water. Rinse and repeat.

6. Hail the Conquering Hero (Sturges, 1944)

I really thought R1 DVD availability might ensure that this apotheosis of the Sturges mise-en-scene make it into the collective 100. Maybe next time.

7. Film No. 2 – Message From the Sun (Smith, 1941)

I love Fischinger and McLaren, but am just amazed at what Smith was up to so early.

8. Travelling Actors (Naruse, 1940)

The most thoroughly pleasant surprise of the travelling retrospective I had a chance to catch a good chunk of last year. As you can see from the rest of this panda list, I love a good comedy. This is in my opinion a great one. I hope Naruse finally cracks these lists with his 1950s films.

11. the Great Piggy Bank Robbery (Clampett, 1946)

Sorry to see that Clampett failed to make it in this decade. This is probably the best Daffy Duck cartoon ever made, which when you consider all the great ones Chuck Jones put together, is saying something.

14. Hellzapoppin' (Potter, 1941)

So fast-paced that it's practically non-narrative. I first heard about this film when I learned that a Paris cafe/restaraunt/establishment of some sort plays it every single night. I don't know if it's still true but that sounds like my kind of joint!

15. Screwball Squirrel (Avery, 1944)

I'm thrilled Avery did so well in the voting, but was sorry to see this parody of the obnoxiously "funny animal" characters he'd already created drop off the list this time around.

20. Northwest Hounded Police (Avery, 1946)

Can't think of a 'toon that better showcases Avery's knack for animating the material aspects of his medium. Hilarious too of course.

25. Cluny Brown (Lubitsch, 1946)

Another one that made it to the list back in 2004 but failed this time around. This positively Lubitschin' take on Rosie the Riveter is probably the best thing he made after the Hays Code began being enforced.

28. the Shooting of Dan McGoo (Avery, 1945)

The funniest of Avery's pun-based cartoons.

30. Paisan (Rossellini, 1946)

Shocked to see this one drop out. Obviously in need of a decent English-subbed DVD treatment, but still an obvious masterpiece. Is the Rossellini retrospective making the rounds too slowly to impact this listmaking project?

33. Russian Rhapsody (Clampett, 1944)

My favorite of the explicitly war-time cartoons. Too bizarre not to love!

36. Slap Happy Lion (Avery, 1947)

Yep, another Avery. Pure insanity.

37. La Perla (Fernandez, 1947)

At some point the Mexican film industry of this period will start to get its due. Gabriel Figueroa was the man.

41. Motion Painting No. 1 (Fischinger, 1947)

I've never seen anything else remotely like it. I'd love to see it on the largest screen possible.

44. the Counterfeit Cat (Avery, 1949)

One last Avery vote, this time for the one that cracked me up the loudest when I was a kid. You have to admit, interspecies scalp-switching is pretty far out there even for Tex.

45. the Miracle of Morgan's Creek (Sturges, 1944)

Shocked this one dropped off the list. Just a coincidence that I ranked it the same place we collectively did in 2004, when it was tied at #45 with LE CORBEAU.

47. Listen to Britain (Jennings, 1942)

The only documentary I squeezed onto my list this time around. Jennings had real command of pure cinema.

48. María Candelaria (Fernandez, 1943)

Another beautifully shot, serene melodrama from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.

50. You Oughta Be in Pictures (Freleng, 1940)

This technically impressive, tons-of-fun mix of live action shooting and animation earns its slot primarily for resonating so strongly with Freleng's own travels away from the Warner Brothers lot in the late 1930s.

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#245 Post by souvenir » Sat Feb 03, 2007 12:05 am

Brian Oblivious wrote:33. Russian Rhapsody (Clampett, 1944)

My favorite of the explicitly war-time cartoons. Too bizarre not to love!
This was on Turner Classic Movies' Cartoon Alley show a week or so ago and I thought it was incredible. I'm not terribly familiar with all the WWII and Hitler inspired cartoons, but this was certainly my favorite of the ones I've seen.

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#246 Post by bufordsharkley » Sat Feb 03, 2007 12:09 am


5. Buckaroo Bugs (Clampett, 1944)

...100 percent stylization. This thing is packed to the gills with invention, and has everything one would want from a cartoon. Scribner's animation is at the top of his form, Stalling's musical cues are astounding, and the gags come fast and furious. A fantastic, operatic climax-- Red Hot Ryder and his horse jumping chasms-- my favorite bit of animation ever.

7. Book Revue (Clampett, 1946)

This isn't far behind. Beautifully drawn, impeccably animated, and a really breathtaking pace. (Perhaps the "fastest" piece of filmmaking this side of Vertov.) The musical syncopation is amazing, and every inch of the picture is memorable. Daffy's rendition of "Carolina in the Mornink" is beyond classic.

9. The Bank Dick (Cline, 1940)

Beefsteak mines and loopy tonal switches-- American surrealism at its finest.

16. Raw Deal (Mann, 1948)

Nice to see T-Men get a place on the list, but this one is the superior Mann noir-- one of the greatest ever made. Alton's photography is amazing, and it remains eerily affecting, due to the many odd choices Mann makes. Theremin music, cryptic voice-overs, and bizarre camera set-ups abound. (Not to mention the tight, compelling storytelling.)

17. Journey into Fear (Foster (& Welles...), 1943)

Similar to Kubrick's Killer's Kiss-- an action/suspense movie pared down its essentials, and exaggerated to a grotesque degree. In my mind, this is more Kafkaesque than The Trial managed to be, with authentically shocking scenarios, and the greatest cast in history: The Mercury Players, in full force. Jack Moss's villain is one of the most cinematic ever, a real highlight of this exercise in pure style.

19. Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarves (Clampett, 1943)

Even when compared to the other Clampetts, this stands out for its use of music-- the synchronization of the jazz to the music is astounding, and the animation, while not as rubbery and free-form as Clampett's later work fits perfectly.

21. Mrs. Miniver (Wyler, 1942)

More than anybody, (save Ozu) Wyler had the ability to make poetry out of the banalities and anxieties of the middle-class. His masterpiece is, of course, Best Years of Our Lives, but this isn't far behind. The compassion and truthfulness is unmatched-- the modest stories on screen become are more compelling than they have any right to be, and what would be treacly in less able hands is exquisite, here. (It's really unfortunate that this is often invoked as an example of what was wrong with 1940s Hollywood productions; it's a beautiful piece of filmmaking.)

23. Key Largo (Huston, 1948)

Infinitely solid on all fronts-- from the cast, to the writing, to the cinematograpy. Edward G. Robinson is an actor without parallel, and this may be his finest hour.

25. MacBeth (Welles, 1948)

...As moody as Welles's best pieces, and better storytelling than Welles other Shakespeare adaptations. The set-design really makes it all work.

26. Why We Fight (Capra, Veiller, & Litvak, 1943-1945)

If someone wants to see what made Capra a great filmmaker, this is the place-- found footage, captured footage, animated maps, and clips of preexisting films, are woven into a brilliant, seven-part series of superlative narrative, alternatively affecting and thrilling. It has the pop of a Flash Gordon serial, and has the power to move. Transcends its propagandistic roots, and its occasional clumsy moments.

32. Foreign Correspondent (Hitchcock, 1940)

A weird picture, and not much of a story, but what an unflinching series of set-pieces, made a filmmaker at the top of his form. Here, more than anywhere else, Hitchcock goes over-the-top, again and again, seeing what heights he can reach. It's ridiculous, but a true success.

33. House of Strangers (Mankiewicz, 1949)

A neglected late-era gangster picture. Edward G. Robinson and Richard Conte are first-rate in the family-themed gangster epic, full of Mankiewicz's usual neat narrative tricks, and bravura use of music. Extremely naturalistic in its own way, and ahead of its time-- its overall richness fortells The Godfather.

35. The Body Snatcher (Wise, 1945)

...Val Newton's best. Karloff's never been better, and Wise packs in some amazing shots.

39. Ball of Fire (Hawks, 1941)

Nearly the equal of Hawks's acknowledged screwball classics-- this is a tight, well-crafted movie, brought to new heights with Gregg Toland's cinematography, probably the best ever on a comedy. Importantly, the script is solid, and great turns from everybody, Richard Haydn especially.

40. Corny Concerto (Clampett, 1943)

It really looks like the support for Clampett was there-- we just couldn't agree on which pictures.

41. The Stranger (Welles, 1946)

Not as inventive and rebellious as Welles's best work, but never pedestrian. Slick camerawork, perfectly realized scenarios, and a really perversity define the production.

43. Hamlet (Olivier, 1948)

44. Drunken Angel (Kurosawa, 1948)

...Kurosawa's best early work, by a mile. Memorable images-- the guitar across the lake, the flower, Mifune drunken and dissheveled in the nightclub. May be more stylized than anything Kurosawa did afterward, taking noir conventions and running with them.

46. Oliver Twist (Lean, 1948)

47. Champion (Robson, 1948)

Upper-shelf boxing noir, with about the cleverest manipulation of narrative form in cinema history. (Seriously, upon finally seeing the framing device click into place, I was floored for hours.)

48. The Dover Boys (Jones, 1942)

...Notable not only for its innovative animation, but for its general absurdity. "I'll steal it! And no one will ever know!" Words to live by.

50. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (Potter, 1948)

It's easy to denigrate this as a middle-brow piece of claptrap. I'll swear by it, though-- it captures post-war anxieties and obsessions with remarkable clarity. It's a real masterpiece, claustrophobic and honest.

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#247 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Feb 03, 2007 7:27 am

I am not quite sure how to feel about the ‘40s list contra the list I personally submitted. 30 of my top 50 films made it into the forum's top 50, and another 9 made it into the top 100. I used the lists project as a motivation to expand on my viewing knowledge of ‘40s films, and so, in the past four months I viewed apx. 175 pictures from the decade – the great majority for the first time. It was a hugely enjoyable and rewarding exercise, and one that I will continue into the decade of the ‘50s. However, as I sat down to compile the list of the 50 best films, I hardly knew where to begin, and in the end the list I submitted actually contained very few of my new discoveries.

For what it is worth, the following were the films that did not make the top 100:

17. The Razor's Edge (Edmund Goulding, 1946)
Since viewing this film a few months ago, I read the novel, and am even more impressed with the film as a result. The work that Lamar Trotti and Zanuck did in adapting the book to the screen is exemplary – at first glance, it appears like a page for page representation of the book, but the editing and restructuring is actually vast. The story itself is a kind of “Bildungsroman,â€

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#248 Post by GringoTex » Sat Feb 03, 2007 9:20 am

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

This is the initial film in a brief two year period in which Ford appears to be exclusively concerned with form (see also Wagon Master and Rio Grande). I can recall every single image but would be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what's going on. The color is breathtaking, the long shots are perfectly designed, and the sound&image of the soldiers and their horses reaches a point of abstraction that predicts Bresson's Lancelot du Lac.

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#249 Post by scotty » Sat Feb 03, 2007 4:47 pm

My orphans:
5. Key Largo (Huston, 1948). There are flaws in the script--the patriotic bits don't play so well and the Indian thing is creaky--but this is a triumph of atmosphere and of Edward G. Robinson. The shaving scene is worth the investment alone. I remember the first time I saw this. I escaped work in the middle of the day and settled in at the local restored art house palace. The whole experience was magical, and the metaphor of the hurricane, with its buildup of tension, is just masterful. Bacall has had better roles, Bogart more famous ones, but the cast of gangsters is spot-on. After the deputy tells the story of his own "lights" going out at the hands of the baddies, one of them quips, "I'm the electrician." I irrationally love this movie.

6. The Long Voyage Home (Ford, 1940). John Ford's adaptation of four Eugene O'Neill plays is lyrical and beautifully shot by Gregg Toland. I'm a sucker for the sea, and this one is one of the best sea films ever. I can easily forgive John Wayne's Swedish accent, too. He still registers.

15. Jammin' the Blues (Mili, 1944). I thought that with the buzz this was getting on the board, it would make it. Stylish, abstract, elegant--photographer Gjon Mili's only film foray not only is a musical and visual delight but it worked hard to break down racial barriers, making WB nervous in the process and perhaps ensuring that he would never direct in Hollywood again.

22. Oliver Twist (Lean, 1948). David Lean channels Charles Dickens via film noir. The opening scene is masterful and macabre.

28. Twelve O'Clock High (King, 1949). Henry King's Gregory Peck vehicle actually features some excellent ensemble performances and it is one of the best war films ever made precisely because it is about the debilitating psychological affects of fighting and of leading under immense pressures. While the issue of bombing ethics is sidestepped, the film's refusal to portray American fighting men as simplistic patriots is refreshing. The use of real aerial combat footage is nicely done.

32. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Lewin, 1945). Here is another casualty, like King's picture above, of the relentless auteurist focus. A beautifully realized adaptation of Wilde. George Sanders has another pitch-perfect performance here as Wilde's cynical stand-in, and the striking and selective use of color is memorable.

33. The Grapes of Wrath (Ford, 1940). I can't believe this film was released the same year as The Long Voyage Home. A beautiful document of its times, even if the ending is far less despairing than Steinbeck's. And Fonda! Perhaps this was a casualty of vote-splitting among Ford's great 1940s run.

34. Utamaro and His Five Women (Mizoguchi, 1946). Japan just getting back on its feet and Mizoguchi mesmerizes with a blatantly erotic meditation on art and its inspiration. I saw it in a horrible old VHS transfer of a 1972 print; had I been able to fully experience its visual subtleties, it would probably have ranked higher.

42. The Great Dictator (Chaplin, 1940). No way I could leave this off the list. The Hungarian Rhapsody barber scene alone is insanely perfect, as is the dictator with his balloon of the world. The film's social critique was risky at that time. A brave film that led to the even braver Monseiur Verdoux.

43. How Green Was My Valley (Ford, 1941). And then he followed Stagecoach, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Long Voyage Home with this one, a film whose merits have already been described above. My list has its own relentless auteurist focus.

45. They Were Expendable (Ford, 1945). I'm really not a big Ford fan, but this just happens to be the other honest WWII movie on my list. The title alone is a critique; perhaps only Ford could have gotten away with this. By the way, I like She Wore A Yellow Ribbon too, but I had way too much Ford on the list already.

47. Dark Passage (Daves, 1947). The gimmick here is much more interesting than Hitchcock's technical gambit in Rope, made a year later. (Then again, I just don't like Rope.) Despite not being seen for half the film, Bogart carries it off, and it is one of Bacall's more intriguing performances. Love the San Francisco location stuff.

48. I Wake Up Screaming (Humberstone, 1941). Has anyone seen this? A taut, tough-talking early noir in which Betty Grable is actually half-believable. I was greatly entertained by this no-budget thriller. Victor Mature sparkles.

50. Stormy Weather (Stone, 1943). A very rare Hollywood film of the era that, for the most part, refrains from condescending stereotypes, though they are there if you look for them. The Nicholas Brothers' routine is basically unbelieveable, and Lena Horne's rendition of the title tune gives me shivers.

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#250 Post by Arcadean » Sat Feb 03, 2007 6:03 pm

9. Moonrise (1948, Frank Borzage)
Moonrise is perhaps the greatest and most realized of Borzage's main theme of transcendent love. It's not easy to find at the moment, but I bet there is a good bootleg somewhere out there. The atmosphere drips in every corner of this violent and tender picture, and the opening sequence of a hanging and murder played out in shadows and very physical violence is still jaw-dropping (and wonderfully sets up the rest of the picture). I heartily recommend anyone to check out this masterwork.

11. Screwball Squirrel (1944, Tex Avery)
One of the most insane cartoons Avery made, and introduces my favorite and neglected character, the Screwy/Screwball Squirrel. Avery was a surrealist who could create a world without rules and boundaries. Though King Size Canary is probably my favorite of his works, this is maybe my second favorite. Also worth seeing in this short is the Bambi spoof with a special visit from Thumper.

21. They Were Expendable (1945, John Ford)
Some of the ham-fisted patriotism is sometimes hard to take for today's cynical audience, but the men caught in the Fordian landscape, transported to the seemingly limitless high seas, is no less stunning than the people dwarfed by the giant backdrop of Monument Valley.

24. A Hen in the Wind (1948, Yasujiro Ozu)
The most violent picture Ozu ever made. The despondent tone of desperation is more urgent than any of his depression-era pictures. This film was almost a cathartic experience for Ozu, I think, because he would move on to his celebrated late period with Late Spring a year later. Kinuyo Tanaka is also stunning in the lead (one of Japan's greatest actresses). The film's dire urgency may remind one of Germany, Year Zero.

28. The Mortal Storm (1940, Frank Borzage)
Borzage, an extremely neglected filmmaker, turned in his brazen anti-Nazi film prior to the American involvement into WWII. The stranglehold of Nazi rule wipes out a homely (partly Jewish) family that is a microcosm of Germany. I was struck by the film's urgent tone and the toughing love story between Sullivan and Stewart. Frank Morgan's scene in the concentration camp is heartbreaking.

29. The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946, Robert Clampett)
My favorite Daffy Duck feature is a spoof of Dick Twacy. (already mentioned above)

31. The Woman in the Window (1944, Fritz Lang)
I slightly prefer this Lang masterpiece to Scarlet Street. I love how Lang turns his films on their head right before the end, revealing and altering the direction of the picture.

Here were my other Pandas that didn't make the list:

34. Long-Haired Hare (1949, Chuck Jones)
40. They Caught the Ferry (1948, Carl Dreyer)
41. I Shot Jessie James (1949, Samuel Fuller)
43. Fires Were Started (1943, Humphrey Jennings)
45. Paisan (1946, Roberto Rossellini)
46. Man Hunt (1941, Fritz Lang)
48. The Devil's Envoys (1942, Marcel Carne)
49. Hellzapoppin' (1941, H.C. Potter)