Quién es más cinemático?

When I was a kid, I was never able to sleep on Christmas Eve. What what would I get? Would Santa eat the milk and cookies I left him? I grew out of the myth, but the winter holidays are still a time of great anticipation. Why? All the critics publish their year-end lists! So discerning! So informative! So much at stake! I love poring over each one, comparing, condemning. The box office rarely shows more than the success of marketing campaigns while corroborating the dismal taste of the masses. The critical account is the real history of film.

That said, the American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list is the lamest lame-o in lame-town. The original list was issued in 1998. Below is the 2007 10th anniversary edition. There are some great films on the list, of course, but a look at the voting criteria will explain a few gaping oversights. The films must be feature-length, largely American productions that had a significant cultural or historical impact. These are acceptable criteria. That the film be, ‘a major award winner,’ and demonstrate ‘popularity over time,’ is unacceptable, and is the reason why this list is of little worth to the reader who wants more than just the Leonard Maltin account of the American cinema.

I wasn’t going to pick apart the list, but there are a few things that have to be said.

(1) Where the fuck is John Cassavetes? Where is he? Cassavetes virtually founded American independent cinema! I can understand no Stan Brakhage, no Jack Smith, no Kenneth Anger. But Cassavetes? His films might have been somewhat avant-garde and brutal at the time, but he and Gena Rowlands were still up for Oscars. There is no excuse.

(2) The Sixth Sense? Of all the American movies released in the last decade, it’s The Sixth Sense that soars past Do the Right Thing and The French Connection and Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction and Blade Runner? Did the Sixth Sense really have a significant cultural impact outside of people riffing on ‘I see dead people’ for the next five years? Rushmore. Election. Fight Club. The Matrix. The Insider. Three Kings. Being John Malkovich. Seven significantly better American movies matching all the AFI’s criteria and all released in the same year as The Sixth Sense! I had lunch with M. Night Shyamalan a few years ago (NYU connection). He was a real nice guy and I’m glad people like some of his films, but the whole time I wanted to ask: ‘Why would anybody want to see your movies more than once?’ (N.B., Unbreakable is one of my favorite films of the decade.)

I apologize. Such rants are tedious but inevitable.

The British Film Institute list is, well, very British. It dates from 1999, and outside of British production, the only requirement of the film was that it be ‘culturally British,’ which is how cult favorites like Withnail and I made the top 30. (I wonder if The Big Lebowski was even nominated for AFI list.) At first glance, it seems impoverished compared to the American list, but that’s likely because I’ve seen so few British films. In fact, I haven’t seen any David Lean films. If France had anything as reliable or wonderful as Netflix, my queue would likely resemble the BFI list.

Paul Schrader, Taxi Driver screenwriter and flawed but fascinating filmmaker, compiled the last list for Film Comment. Schrader initially planned to publish a cinematic equivalent to Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon. I can’t remember why he abandoned it, but he condensed what work he had done into a long article with this list as the appendix. You can read the introduction here, and if this interests you, I highly recommend tracking down the September/October 2006 issue of Film Comment. It has Borat on the cover. I refer often to this list, and would recommend it above any other I’ve encountered to someone looking to hone his or her film culture. The list is worthwhile because it’s provocative. Any moron can provoke, but because Schrader is not only one of the most erudite living film scholars, but also a prominent figure in modern film history, the ostensibly bizarre choices start seduce you. ‘Pickpocket?,’ you think. ‘I saw that. At number four? He’s… He’s right! That film is incredible!’ (The exclusion of Rossellini was an editorial mistake; he intended to replace Battle of Algiers with Voyage in Italy.)

Other lists can suffer from the inclusion of superannuated, important films that no one really loves anymore, but which rank because their supremacy is assumed. (For Kurosawa, Schrader chooses High and Low over Seven Samurai, which is a great film, but increasingly less vital viewing than the former.) Also, the more contributors to a list, the more likely its winners will be films that a lot of people kind of liked while the individual films that people loved fall through the cracks. Schrader’s list has none of these problems. It’s only one man’s opinion, albeit one man who has seen more films than many of us combined, thought deeply about those films, and discussed them for decades with some of the cinematic luminaries of our era. I’m sold.

I’m glad this post gave me the opportunity to discuss list-making, but the real reason I’m here is to find out: Quién es más cinemático? In an attempt to make Krapp’s Last Blog a more interactive experience, I invite my readers to take five minutes to count how many of the films they’ve seen on each of the three lists and post the results in the comments section. Don’t list which films you’ve seen, just how many. Additional thoughts on films and directors are encouraged (who’s overrated, unsung), but it would be fun to admit the one film you feel most guilty about not having seen (like William Grimes admitting in the Times that he’s never read Moby Dick).

One of the things I’ve written about in philosophy is at what point are we able to claim we’ve experienced (seen, heard) a work of art. I was two minutes late to Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid a few months ago (great film!), but I still consider having seen it. I’m familiar with Lindsay Anderson’s if…., but I’m not going to count it; I saw it late night on TNT when I was thirteen and only remember a few scenes. One of the first French films I saw without subtitles was Jean Cocteau’s Orphée. I missed a lot of the dialogue, but I saw it under ideal viewing conditions at the Cinémathèque, so I’m going to consider it seen. For the purposes of the list, let’s only count films we saw at a mature age whose stories, themes, characters, images and impressions we can readily recall.

So: Quién es más cinemático?

American Film Institute

1. Citizen Kane (1941)
2. The Godfather (1972)
3. Casablanca (1942)
4. Raging Bull (1980)
5. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
6. Gone with the Wind (1939)
7. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
8. Schindler’s List (1993)
9. Vertigo (1958)
10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
11. City Lights (1931)
12. The Searchers (1956)
13. Star Wars (1977)
14. Psycho (1960)
15. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
16. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
17. The Graduate (1967)
18. The General (1927)
19. On the Waterfront (1954)
20. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
21. Chinatown (1974)
22. Some Like It Hot (1959)
23. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
24. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
25. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
27. High Noon (1952)
28. All About Eve (1950)
29. Double Indemnity (1944)
30. Apocalypse Now (1979)
31. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
32. The Godfather Part II (1974)
33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
35. Annie Hall (1977)
36. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
37. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
39. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
40. The Sound of Music (1965)
41. King Kong (1933)
42. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
43. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
44. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
45. Shane (1953)
46. It Happened One Night (1934)
47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
48. Rear Window (1954)
49. Intolerance (1916)
50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
51. West Side Story (1961)
52. Taxi Driver (1976)
53. The Deer Hunter (1978)
54. MASH (1970)
55. North by Northwest (1959)
56. Jaws (1975)
57. Rocky (1976)
58. The Gold Rush (1925)
59. Nashville (1975)
60. Duck Soup (1933)
61. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
62. American Graffiti (1973)
63. Cabaret (1972)
64. Network (1976)
65. The African Queen (1951)
66. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
67. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
68. Unforgiven (1992)
69. Tootsie (1982)
70. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
71. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
73. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
74. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
75. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
76. Forrest Gump (1994)
77. All the President’s Men (1976)
78. Modern Times (1936)
79. The Wild Bunch (1969)
80. The Apartment (1960)
81. Spartacus (1960)
82. Sunrise (1927)
83. Titanic (1997)
84. Easy Rider (1969)
85. A Night at the Opera (1935)
86. Platoon (1986)
87. 12 Angry Men (1957)
88. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
89. The Sixth Sense (1999)
90. Swing Time (1936)
91. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
92. Goodfellas (1990)
93. The French Connection (1971)
94. Pulp Fiction (1994)
95. The Last Picture Show (1971)
96. Do the Right Thing (1989)
97. Blade Runner (1982)
98. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
99. Toy Story (1995)
100. Ben-Hur (1959)

British Film Institute

1. The Third Man (1949)
2. Brief Encounter (1945)
3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
4. The 39 Steps (1935)
5. Great Expectations (1946)
6. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
7. Kes (1969)
8. Don’t Look Now (1973)
9. The Red Shoes (1948)
10. Trainspotting (1996)
11. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
12. if…. (1968)
13. The Ladykillers (1955)
14. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
15. Brighton Rock (1947)
16. Get Carter (1971)
17. The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
18. Henry V (1944)
19. Chariots of Fire (1981)
20. A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
21. The Long Good Friday (1980)
22. The Servant (1963)
23. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
24. Whisky Galore! (1949)
25. The Full Monty (1997)
26. The Crying Game (1992)
27. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
28. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
29. Withnail and I (1987)
30. Gregory’s Girl (1980)
31. Zulu (1964)
32. Room at the Top (1958)
33. Alfie (1966)
34. Gandhi (1982)
35. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
36. The Italian Job (1969)
37. Local Hero (1983)
38. The Commitments (1991)
39. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
40. Secrets & Lies (1996)
41. Dr. No (1962)
42. The Madness of King George (1994)
43. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
44. Black Narcissus (1947)
45. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
46. Oliver Twist (1948)
47. I’m All Right Jack (1959)
48. Performance (1970)
49. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
50. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
51. Tom Jones (1963)
52. This Sporting Life (1963)
53. My Left Foot (1989)
54. Brazil (1985)
55. The English Patient (1996)
56. A Taste of Honey (1961)
57. The Go-Between (1971)
58. The Man in the White Suit (1951)
59. The IPCRESS File (1965)
60. Blowup (1966)
61. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
62. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
63. Passport to Pimlico (1949)
64. The Remains of the Day (1993)
65. Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)
66. The Railway Children (1970)
67. Mona Lisa (1986)
68. The Dam Busters (1955)
69. Hamlet (1948)
70. Goldfinger (1964)
71. Elizabeth (1998)
72. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
73. A Room with a View (1985)
74. The Day of the Jackal (1973)
75. The Cruel Sea (1952)
76. Billy Liar (1963)
77. Oliver! (1968)
78. Peeping Tom (1960)
79. Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)
80. The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
81. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
82. Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)
83. Darling (1965)
84. Educating Rita (1983)
85. Brassed Off (1996)
86. Genevieve (1953)
87. Women in Love (1969)
88. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
89. Fires Were Started (1943)
90. Hope and Glory (1987)
91. My Name Is Joe (1998)
92. In Which We Serve (1942)
93. Caravaggio (1986)
94. The Belles of St. Trinian’s (1954)
95. Life is Sweet (1990)
96. The Wicker Man (1973)
97. Nil by Mouth (1997)
98. Small Faces (1995)
99. Carry On up the Khyber (1968)
100. The Killing Fields (1984)

Paul Schrader in Film Comment:

Gold

1. The Rules of the Game (1939, Jean Renoir)
2. Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu)
3. City Lights (1931, Charles Chaplin)
4. Pickpocket (1959, Robert Bresson)
5. Metropolis (1927, Fritz Lang)
6. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
7. Orphée (1950, Jean Cocteau)
8. Masculin-Feminin (1966, Jean-Luc Godard)
9. Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman)
10. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
11. Sunrise (1927, F.W. Murnau)
12. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
13. The Lady Eve (1941, Preston Sturges)
14. The Conformist (1970, Bernardo Bertolucci)
15. 8 ½ (1963, Federico Fellini)
16. The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
17. In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai)
18. The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
19. Performance (1970, Donald Cammell/Nicholas Roeg)
20. La Notte (1961, Michelangelo Antonioni)

Silver

21. Mother and Son (1997, Alexander Sokurov)
22. The Leopard (1963, Luchino Visconti)
23. The Dead (1987, John Huston)
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
25. Last Year at Marienbad (1961, Alain Resnais)
26. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
27. Jules and Jim (1961, Francois Truffaut)
28. The Wild Bunch (1969, Sam Peckinpah)
29. All That Jazz (1979, Bob Fosse)
30. The Life of Oharu (1952, Kenji Mizoguchi)
31. High and Low (1963, Akira Kurosawa)
32. Sweet Smell of Success (1957, Alexander Mackendrick)
33. That Obscure Object of Desire (1977, Luis Bunuel)
34. An American in Paris (1951, Vincente Minnelli)
35. The Battle of Algiers (1966, Gillo Pontecorvo)
36. Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese)
37. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
38. Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch)
39. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989, Woody Allen)
40. The Big Lebowski (1998, Joel Coen)

Bronze

41. The Red Shoes (1948, Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger)
42. Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen)
43. Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski)
44. The Crowd (1928, King Vidor)
45. Sunset Boulevard (1950, Billy Wilder)
46. Talk to Her (2002, Pedro Almodovar)
47. Shanghai Express (1932, Josef von Sternberg)
48. Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948, Max Ophuls)
49. Once Upon a Time in the West (1969, Sergio Leone)
50. Salvatore Giuliano (1962, Francesco Rosi)
51. Nostalghia (1983, Andrei Tarkovsky)
52. Seven Men from Now (1956, Budd Boetticher)
53. Claire’s Knee (1970, Eric Rohmer)
54. Earth (1930, Alexander Dovzhenko)
55. Gun Crazy (1949, Joseph H. Lewis)
56. Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur)
57. Children of Paradise (1945, Marcel Carne)
58. The Naked Spur (1953, Anthony Mann)
59. A Place in the Sun (1951, George Stevens)
60. The General (1927, Buster Keaton)

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~ by ohkrapp on June 1, 2008.

13 Responses to “Quién es más cinemático?”

  1. AFI: 55
    BFI: 16!
    Schrader: 33

    Embarrassing oversight: Casablanca! (and Vertigo, Apocalypse Now)

    sean p has seen, like, 80-something from the AFI. probably an equally indecent number from the BFI; i didn’t go with him to the ken loach and lindsay anderson festivals :( sebastian might prevail in the schrader.

    i can’t believe that cassavetes didn’t even make schrader’s list. Woman Under the INfluence should be on the AFI, and Faces or Bookie or Opening Night would fit in on the schrader. . . Husbands would be in my top 10.

    Distant Voices, Still Lives is probably the one film i’ve i seen that i doubt others have. i’m not sure it’s available in the US.

    also, i don’t know why The Conversation never makes lists like these. that is really, like, the best movie ever. . . the Leopard is too long and too boring, alain delon’s part is too small, claudia cardinale’s part is too big, and that’s not even burt lancaster talking!

  2. I’m double counting some films obviously (and thank you, dad, for helping me out on the BFI list):

    AFI:
    60

    BFI:
    30

    Schrader (the list that matters):
    33

    Embarrassing oversights: primarily All About Eve, any Woody Allen film (as I’ve only really ever seen the two most recent, and I must say I thought Cassandra’s Dream was a near brilliant film), and why have I not seen Singin’ in the Rain or The Wizard of Oz? The most embarrassing thing is that I have not even heard of most of the films that I’ve not seen.

  3. ‘the list that matters,’ indeed.

    i looked for a european publication’s list, but all i could find was this obscurely compiled ‘the 100 most beautiful films’ list from the cahiers du cinema. i don’t really know what the hell is going on there. maybe european film scholars dont think about film so, um, neurotically.

    more thoughts: no JP melville? and i really think Manhattan should get more of the love that Annie Hall does.

  4. also, I’ve never seen an Ozu film, a Budd Boetticher film, I’ve only seen one Cassavetes film, one Rohmer (although those are my two favorite filmmakers at the moment – am I insane?). I would recommend Bertrand Blier and Maurice Pialat, but I’ve only seen two by the former and one by the latter . . .

    and The Red Shoes is a gigantic miss, though I’m proud to say that I have seen Black Narcissus (sensuous nuns!), The Servant, and the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

  5. Mizoguchi also is an almost unknown quantity for me

  6. God bless Eclipse though, I must start seeing the films released on that sub-label

  7. black narcissus RULES! also really into later Renoir films like The River. and speaking of india, why no S. Ray films? (he was actually renoir’s assistant for the River.) that guy is, like, the hidden master! is there any explanation for his films being impossible to find? you’d think Wes Anderson or Scorsese would do something about it…

    Mizoguchi is total class. very fond memories of Ugetsu… i’ve only seen Ozu’s The Flavor of Green Tea over rice. it looks like it was filmed by a lilliputian. the camera spends most of the movie slightly above the knee.

  8. afi – 23
    bfi – 5
    schrader – 5

    i think u guys need to get out more ;)

  9. i saw the vast majority of them at the drive-in

    sebastian you get extra points on the schrader list for having seen children of paradise 15 times or whatever.

  10. Hamburgers: 29
    RoseBeef: 15
    the geek: 11

    I suck!

    (oversight: jules et jim. quelle honte!)

  11. well i guess this seemed like much dick-measuring to most people

  12. I’m looking at a 51-32-19 (oof) split.

    Glaring omissions (me): Citizen Kane

    Glaring omissions (AFI): The Ice Storm, The Lady Eve, Alien

  13. Where the hell is Don Siegel? The Lineup, The Killers, Dirty Harry, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Beguiled. All tightly constructed narratives and explosive action. Siegel’s flicks are always gritty and wryly entertaining and the guy never gets his due.

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