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The Literate Cinéaste

Film critic Jim Emerson’s list of 101 102 essential films serves as a handy guide to the greats, or at least what the consensus has decided is great (via Kottke). Looking over the list, I find that I’ve seen 79 of the 102 films. Many I haven’t seen in decades, and many other I’ve just gotten to in the past year or two (mostly because I could never stand watching cropped and chopped widescreen movies on TV — thank you, DVDs). I still haven’t seen Dr. Strangelove, Persona, Red River and many other undisputed classics. The Road Warrior is another one which has eluded me, although I really don’t know how that ended up on Emerson’s list. How many have you seen?

What a list like this ultimately proves is that enjoying anything is very subjective. There are always examples where I prefer something else by the same filmmaker over that which everyone decided is the classic (like Manhattan over Annie Hall). And there are other, isolated examples where I completely can’t get a grip on why a filmmakers’ work is considered classic. Such as:

  • Charlie Chaplin. Too obvious and sentimental. Buster Keaton basically kicks his butt in the silent comedy dept.
  • The John Ford/John Wayne collaborations. Liked The Searchers and The Quiet Man, but Ford confirms my view that Westerns are only interesting when they have some subversive element to them (Johnny Guitar; Sergio Leoné).
  • Ernst Lubitch. Trouble In Paradise and The Shop Around the Corner are mildly amusing, but his other work seems insufferably cute.

6 Thoughts on “The Literate Cinéaste

  1. “Red River” is fabulous.

    Think of it as “The FBI Story” of westerns.

  2. Confession: I’ve watched JAWS 3-D a few times but never the original. Otherwise, I’ve only seen 57 of the movies on this list.

  3. Christopher on April 28, 2006 at 10:03 am said:

    I’m rather suprised to have seen at least 94 of the films. There are three that sound familiar, but I don’t actually recall having seen them, so that would make it 91.

    Glad to see so many early (“Battleship Potemkin”) and foreign (“The 400 Blows”) films on the list.

  4. I counted 78 that I’ve seen–I must shamefacedly admit that the majority of the ones I have not are the foreign films.

    I’ve also not seen The Best Years of Our Lives, Trouble in Paradise, Schindler’s List or Lawrence of Arabia. But how the hell Fight Club rates a mention on an otherwise exemplary list is a mystery to the ages.

  5. Mass Bradley on April 28, 2006 at 3:24 pm said:

    Thank You Matt for not propagating the Lubitch Effect.
    I even weary of “The Little Shop Around The Corner” AND all its remakes, musical and straight.
    Gooey, cutsey pap and piffle, fit for sorry old aunts who don’t know better.

  6. i think i’ve seen around 67 of those. though i don’t really agree with the premise to begin with. there’s a lot on here that you don’t neccesarily have to have seen to have an informed discussion on film, and a lot that seems missing. no brakhage, no maya deren, no kenneth anger, no wong kar-wai,… i think it really depends on what kind of film you want to have an informed discussion about as to what you need to have seen.

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