Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Simple Question About "Essential" Films

Doug: Back on February 20, we asked you to discuss comic books you might assume "everyone" has read. As our conversations often do, we meandered around some side topics. Movies came up briefly, but what really got me to thinking about today's topic was the revelation from my wife last week that she has never seen the Cecil B. DeMille-directed The Ten Commandments film starring Charlton Heston. I mean, who hasn't seen that? Her. OK, go...


24 comments:

Humanbelly said...

By "Essential" is the assumption that these would be films that were considered important and/or worthwhile as well as enjoying wide popularity? (I mean, okay, that's where I'd go with it, at least.)

I mean, there are films that are considered important "landmarks" (say, EASY RIDER, for instance) that I can't imagine ever putting on a must-see list. Ha! Actually, do I remember that 10 COMMANDMENTS tends to get the ol' critical hairy-eyeball? But it's certainly a huge "wow" of a film, no question.

Hmm-- it might almost be easier to stick to specific genres, in a way. Myself, I would LOVE to hear Karen's take on the Essential films of the Horror and/or SF genres--!

Ah, I had such a great film history class in college (Central Michigan University!), that all of the movies we watched there are still the first ones to jump into my head. Let's see-- for a broad scope--

THE GENERAL (Buster Keaton)
BRINGING UP BABY
THE THIN MAN
THE WIZARD OF OZ
GONE WITH THE WIND (OMG-- which I have NEVER watched in one sitting myself!)
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
PSYCHO
MARY POPPINS
JAWS
GODFATHER (Finally watched it for the first time a few months ago--)
E.T.
STAR WARS (duh)
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

Hmmm, but already my own personal tastes are interfering with objectivity. . .

HB (good mornin' everyone!)



Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Redartz said...

Didn't have a film class like HB did, but at art school we had a weekly film showing in the main gallery. I was one of those chosen to check out films from the local public library (and showed them on projector; vcr's were still a luxury). A few of those films come to mind for today's category:
"The Gold Rush" by Charles Chaplin
"Wizard of Oz"
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
We also did a 3 Stooges film festival, which I consider essential viewing; the public at large might not...

I would agree with HB's list; and here area couple other 'essentials':
"Casablanca"
"The Sound of Music"
Finally, a list of films I've never seen would include any of the "Rocky" films, any of the "Fast and Furious" films; and still haven't seen the new Star Wars picture...

Colin Jones said...

Some more essential films to add to the above - King Kong (first stop-motion classic), Forbidden Planet, Some Like It Hot (you've got to include something with Marilyn Monroe), Planet Of The Apes, Casablanca, Frankenstein, anything with Laurel & Hardy, The Haunting (1963 version not the appalling 1999 remake), Woody Allen's Sleeper, The Thing From Another World...oh, so many.

Humanbelly said...

Oo-- missed CITIZEN KANE. . . thanks Redartz. And wow, you & I may be the only two people in America who haven't seen ROCKY. I'm standin' there with ya--.

Heh-- "Jesus films", that's a good one-! Personally, I'd take BEN-HUR over 10 COMMANDMENTS pretty much every time. But it was always one or the other (usually over two nights) being shown around Easter when I was a kid. Then one of the local affiliates would show THE ROBE as an afternoon film (NOT an essential film, believe me--)

HB

Colin Jones said...

This Island Earth, Brief Encounter (1945 British film), Jailhouse Rock (must include an Elvis film), Whiskey Galore (another British film from 1949), Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Silent Running (timely ecological theme and those cute little robots), All The President's Men, MASH, Goldfinger....

Colin Jones said...

HB, it was me that mentioned Citizen Kane :) and I haven't seen Rocky either.

Colin Jones said...

Talking of "Jesus films" - another essential is Monty Python's 'Life Of Brian'. It came out in 1979 but I saw it for the first time about 10 years ago, how did this classic pass me by for 25 years.

Humanbelly said...

Whoops! Good catch-- sorry Colin!
(And welcome to the Missed-the-Rocky-Boat Club--)
I dunno, though-- while you've got some neat gems in your list, there, could they really be considered "Essential"? I love SILENT RUNNING (one of those films where I just wishwishWISH it was going to end differently), but man, no one saw it, so it would be a tough to make a case for its essentiality, as it were. Its impact on the broader public consciousness was, well, kinda weak.

Man-- don't know if I can include any Elvis film in good conscience! Yikes!

HB

Colin Jones said...

HB, doesn't that show there's no such thing as an "essential" film ? A film's worth is in the eye of the beholder. Apparently there are lots of younger people who prefer the Star Wars prequels to the original trilogy...

Edo Bosnar said...

Actually, count me among those who's never watched 10 Commandments, Ben Hur, Anthony and Cleopatra, Gone with the Wind, and any number of other big-budget "classic" biblical and/or historical films. The only one of those I recall watching, well into adulthood, on Croatian Television to boot, is Quo Vadis (in which I thought Ustinov stole the show). Also, as I've mentioned several times here before I'm sure, it's something of a point of pride with me now that I've never watched E.T.

Otherwise, after several of these types of discussions at this blog, I'm no longer all that surprised when people say they haven't watched a certain movie or TV show, or haven't read certain comics or books by certain authors. In that regard, I almost feel uncomfortable suggesting that some movie or other is essential. However, among the genres that tend to be close to our hearts here at BAB (e.g. SF, action, fantasy, horror) I agree with most of the above suggestions, and I'd probably add "The Warriors" and "Blade Runner," and a few classics like "Enter the Dragon" and "Shaft." I'm also with Colin about "Life of Brian" (although I don't think it's any more essential than the equally wonder "Holy Grail" and "The Meaning of Life").

William said...

You know what always cracks me up? People who are proud of the fact that they have never seen certain movies. Like it somehow makes them "cool" or something. For example there is a local radio talk show host in my area that has never seen any of the Star Wars movies -- and he mentions it all the time.

I knew a guy who worked at a comicbook store who was like that as well. He had not seen many of the "big" movies like Star Wars or Raiders, etc., and he acted like it made him somehow superior to the rest of us.

I'm of the mind of, "Hey, it's jus a movie! Go see it!" I mean what have you got to lose? You might actually like it. And if not, you wasted a couple of hours at most. No big deal.

Doug said...

Hi, gang, and happy weekend to all.

Colin, your comment about the "younger crowd" preferring the Star Wars prequels to the original trilogy segues right into tomorrow's conversation (yep, working 7 days this week). I think our middle-aged crowd may wince a bit at what I'll share Sunday. As you allude, maybe not surprising, but perhaps surprising to the BABsters.

Wizard of Oz is a great film, but I wonder how many people know all of the symbolism of the time in which L. Frank Baum's book was written that is included? I wonder how that would affect its enjoyment if it became a "thinking person's" picture?

I had never heard of Quo Vadis until today.

Since the discussion earlier centered on "Jesus films", I was somewhat surprised that no one mentioned "The Passion of the Christ". Certainly Mel Gibson's behavior has perhaps tainted its reputation, but for anyone who is a Christian (observant or secular), I'd say it is worth seeing. Yes, it is brutal. Yes, it is politicized -- but then, in my opinion so is the New Testament (and I am an observant Protestant). But given that Gibson stated he would basically use the Gospel accounts as his screenplay, and given that after screening it Pope John Paul II put his head in his hands and uttered, "It is, as it was.", it's worth a look. That being said, it is not an easy film to watch.

Which brings me to Schindler's List. As I use it in class, I cannot imagine how many times I have seen it, but I can say that each time it is affecting. Yes, it is historical fiction (with the emphasis of course on the "fiction" that Hollywood always feels it must inject into otherwise worthy stories), but it's sweeping scope and incredible acting make it a film to consider.

So, to my true confessions. I think after 6 1/2 years everyone around here should know that films are much more in Karen's wheelhouse than mine. I'm pretty simple -- the comics and music portions of this blog are generally where I "live". Maybe you'd call it a fear of commitment, but my wife and I have always said that the 2-2 1/2 hour commitment to a movie, while not a waste of time, does keep one from doing something else. At our house, we always have a ballgame on. Always. Football, baseball, basketball, and even hockey and volleyball, we always have some type of game on. Why? No commitment! You can putz around the kitchen, grade papers (she's a teacher as well), do the laundry -- and you don't have to pay attention. Sure, we see movies on occasion, but we rarely do On Demand or rentals. Never really have. So the list of important films I've never seen is huge! But I'm taken back to a comment made a week ago (maybe it was Colin?) that there are things that are so much a part of your consciousness that you feel like you've seen them.

Never seen all the way through (maybe bits and pieces of some) --

Lord of the Rings (any of it)
Indiana Jones (any of it)
An Elvis flick
A Bruce Lee flick
Casablanca
Citizen Kane
Gone With the Wind
Ben Hur
Most Best Picture winners of the past 25 years.

How's that? Somewhat embarrassing, I guess.

Doug

J.A. Morris said...

I like his music (up to the early 60s), but I don't think any of Elvis' movies are essential films. 'Jailhouse Rock' is okay, I've seen 'King Creole' once and didn't hate it. Otherwise, I've never made it all the way through any of them.

Steve Does Comics said...

This is way too big a subject to tackle without running the risk of sending oneself insane. Therefore, I'll just concentrate on three genres.

Not all these films are among my own personal favourites but I do feel they're films that every film buff should see.

SCI-FI:
Metropolis
Things To Come
War of the Worlds
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Forbidden Planet
The Thing From Another World
Invasion of the Bodysnatchers
Quatermass and the Pit
Planet of the Apes
Close Encounters
The First Star Wars Trilogy
Aliens
Predator
Total Recall
Terminator 2
The Matrix
Avatar

HORROR:
Nosferatu
Dracula (Universal)
Frankenstein (Universal)
Bride of Frankenstein
Cat People
Night of the Demon
The Innocents
The Birds
Psycho
Night of the Living Dead
Alien
Evil Dead
Hellraiser
Let the Right One In

SWORD AND SANDALS:
Ben Hur
Spartacus
Jason and the Argonauts
300
Troy

Redartz said...

Doug- "Passion of the Christ" is powerful, and difficult to watch. Also, I share your feelings about time commitment. In my case, it's television: there are so many shows worth following now, and only so many hours in a week to justify watching.

J.A.- "Jailhouse Rock" was a good mention. "Viva Las Vegas" is pretty fun. Essential? No, but fun...

Anonymous said...

I've seen most of the movies mentioned here (other than silents and horror stuff). As for other essentials...The Sting, Butch Cassidy, The Graduate, some John Wayne stuff, the Dollars trilogy...and if you want to expand your scope, lots of people consider Fellini, Truffaut, Visconti, Godard and so on to be essential viewing. I've seen almost nothing by them (not even Breathless, which sounds cool).

Doug, I've never seen Schindler's List...on the other hand, I've seen well over a dozen Elvis movies; take from that what you will.

Mike Wilson

Martinex1 said...

I watch a lot of movies with my family. I guess having majored in cinema studies drives that, but we enjoy gathering and discussing the stories and the feeling around the film. There are so many I still have not seen, and as I mentioned before my wife has never seen any of the Star Wars films. As far as more modern popular movies, I never saw "Top Gun" or "Dirty Dancing" so I guess we are even that way.

I like classic suspense movies and have a real appreciation for Hitchcock's films. I would recommend "Rope", "Shadow of a Doubt", "Strangers on a Train" and "Lifeboat". if you like that type of thing. As far as classic actors, I think William Holden was very good and I think "Stalag 17", "Network" and "The Wild Bunch" are worth seeing. If you can find it, De Sica's Italian film "The Bicycle Thief" is very moving. It is a simple story with non professional actors and it just hits a chord with me. As mentioned already, "Schindler's List" and "The Passion of the Christ" never fail to hit me in the gut.

There are some films that are considered classics but I never recommend them as entertainment. I can see their greatness but they don't affect me. "Apocalypse Now" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" fit into that category for me.

A guilty pleasure (i guess you would call it that ) is Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild". I recommend it all the time. It's an uneven film and some of the acting is stiff But the way it shifts from romantic farce to thriller fascinates me. And I think Ray Liotta in what I believe was his first role is crazy good. It would be on my essential list, but I recognize it may be on nobody else's.

My boys and I are enjoying Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, Invisible Man' the Mummy, etc. Not sure those make any lists, but for just sheer nostalgia from watching with my dad it is fun to pass onto a new generation. We have also watched the Harry Potter movies which took me a while to get into but toward the end I was invested.

I am enjoying seeing all your recommendations. 'Cheers all!

Anonymous said...

Hey Martinex, was that Abbott and Costello movie the one where they are unpacking a crate, thinking there's treasure or something in there, and it turns out to be the monster? And without a word they start repacking the crate...
That scene killed me.
M.P.

Martinex1 said...

Yes M.P. That was one of the scenes. I think you are thinking about when they uncrate Dracula and Frankenstein's monster at the wax museum. The final chase / confrontation in that one is good also, like something out of Scooby Doo.. My favorite is with the Invisible Man when Lou is boxing with a little invisible help. Really dumb but I still chuckle. I like that they got Lugosi, Chaney Jr., and Stange to act in the creature roles.

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Watching High Plains Drifter with my dad when I was a kid is a very nice memory for me.
Then again, he thought Popeye was hysterical and I thought it was painful!
M.P.

Humanbelly said...

Such a good discussion today!
Colin, I don't actually disagree with you (way back up there near the top) as I reflect on it a bit further-- one person's essential is gonna be another person's trivial. The field is just too broad and draws such a vast array of often-contradictory personal tastes. It would indeed have to almost turn into a dry academic exercise for our purposes. . . and that totally takes ALL the fun out of the discussion!

The personality that William mentioned? The person who proudly proclaims how they've made the Superior Choice to NOT watch a well-regarded, popular film-- as a statement, or something? Honestly, I think that person's been around ever since art has been divisible into high-brow and low-brow. I imagine Roman playwright Terence's adherents were all too happy to condemn the works of Plautus without ever actually seeing any of his plays. Too "wrong side of the coliseum", if y'know what I mean. . . It's a real pseudo-hipster type of attitude (reject and dismiss what's mainstream and popular simply on the basis that it's mainstream and popular), but what's funny is that "hipster" itself has been hangin' around as a pop-culture "type" since, like, the mid-50's! Definitely nothing new being mined in that motif. . . !

MX1-- don't know if your degree paid off (Cinema Studies?)-- but what a cool branch of academics to pursue! I am envious.

I was trying to recall the screening list from our class back in *gulp* '81-- many of what I listed are contained there, I realized:

A TRIP TO THE MOON
THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY
BATTLESHIP POTEMPKIN (and the Odessa Step Sequence!)
METROPOLIS
BIRTH OF A NATION (Geeze, what a hard thing to watch; most folks don't realize it's a valentine to the Klan. . . )
THE GOLD RUSH
THE BLUE ANGEL
BRINGING UP BABY
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
CITIZEN KANE
THE WILD ONE
PSYCHO
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
THE WILD BUNCH (Slow motion death sequence)

Hmmm-- and probably a couple that are escaping memory. Ah, what a great, great class. The prof was dead-handsome, and the girls all crowded into the front rows of seats just gaze upon him as he lectured. . . (brother). . .

HB

Rip Jagger said...

I may have missed, I likely did, but I didn't see any mention of a movie I regard as a perfect movie - The Maltese Falcon. This flick is perfectly written, perfectly edited, perfectly directed, and perfectly acted. It's a gem, ideal in all its facets. It's like listening to Mozart, ideal and as soon as it's over I want to experience it again. It's better than Casablanca.

And I've never been able to finish Gone With The Wind either.

Rip Off

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