Monday, September 9, 2013

Share Your Ten Essential Movies: Would You Like to Win a Copy of Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide?

I hope that all of you had a nice weekend. I should be mad at those folks who let me bemoan how Season 3 of Boardwalk Empire was not up to par as compared to the first two installments. I decided to sit down and watch a few selected episodes today before the premier of Season 4. Guess what? I ended up watching all of Season 3 in an On Demand marathon. I curse you all!

The show has only gotten more interesting--and entertaining--as an exploration of post World War One America. Boardwalk Empire depicts a rich social history, the politics of black respectability, and keen insights on racial formation, just as it did in earlier seasons, with some great character development added in for extra points.

The auto-erotic asphyxiating Gyp is a great swerve; my man Richard Harrow only becomes all the more compelling every time he appears in an episode.

Because I was distracted by Boardwalk Empire today, I neglected to post earlier. I have two contests to share on WARN this week: the prizes are some swag to share with the lucky winners.

We discuss movies quite often here on WARN (and by the way, do go see Riddick--it was great fun). Avid film-goers usually have a "must see" list that they enthusiastically share with friends, family, and any else who will listen. Professionals have their obligatory list of favorite movies too.

For example, see: Spike Lee's much discussed Essential Films List.

As a complement to our shared interest in film Turner Classic Movies is offering up a very special two month long special on the history of movies called The Story of Film. On TCM, each week for 4 months, viewers will have access to rare movies which have been selected and curated as a complement to the documentary The Story of Film. It will hopefully be a commercial and financial success for the network, and consequently, encourage similar projects there and elsewhere. Even if TCM's series loses money, the public benefits.

Penguin has been kind enough to provide me with two copies of the new book Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide to give away here on WARN.

Much like the great Roger Ebert, Maltin is a film expert who has a great editorial/critic's voice, one which enables him to concisely and compellingly share his insights and recommendations about movies with a general viewing audience in a respectful and not condescending manner.

If you would like to win a copy of Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide, answer the following question in the comments section below.

What are you ten "essential" movies and why did you choose them? These movies can be of any genre, from any time, linked together by a theme, or totally distinct from one another.

Please do chime in. What do you have to lose? Plus, the more folks who participate, the more goodies I will have to give away later.


bruto alto said...

Oldboy...old version
Etern Sunshine and the thoughtless mind
She's got to have it
Chasing Amy
Big Trouble in little china
Howls moving castle
Ghost World

Shady Grady said...

The Godfather
Taxi Driver
Do The Right Thing
Norma Rae
Gone With The Wind
The Big Sleep
Annie Hall
Pulp Fiction
500 Days of Summer

There aren't really linked by any theme but what first came to mind. I think 500 Days of Summer is one of the great romance films and one I could unfortunately identify with. Same thing with Annie Hall. Gone With the Wind laid down a myth that is still alive in too many people's mind. The Godfather and Chinatown were not only technical masterpieces but perfect films for the 70s. For me The Big Sleep was Bogart's greatest work and still defines cool.

kristen said...

Pulp Fiction
Boyz n the Hood
Babette's Feast
Gangs of New York
Spirited Away
Home Alone
City of God

Each satisfies a different mood. Each was seminal for me in one way or another.

You going to share your essential 10?

chauncey devega said...

Interesting list, tell us why?

chauncey devega said...

More details on the why behind those movies? What moods?

James Desborough said...

In no particular order.

Strange Days
Flash Gordon
Big Trouble in Little China
The Crow
Empire Strikes Back
The Thing (the remake, but not the prequel)
Leon (Called 'The Professional' in the US I think)

chauncey devega said...

Great list. Tell me/us a little bit of the why...

OldPolarBear said...

Only 10? Lolz. I'll give it a try, but for each one there are easily 10 others that could be in its place. In no particular order:

Wild River -- a powerful matriarch character and her attachment to and love for the land (admittedly of course, land probably taken from others) and her resolve in the face of "progress."

Babettes's Feast -- great example among many great cooking-related films but also one of the most beautiful allegories of the concept of divine grace. Unasked for, unearned, perhaps even resisted, yet bestowed anyway.

Wizard of Oz -- Because I grew up in Iowa and TORNADOES!!!! And I saw it once per year back when it was only an annual event and it's about everything.

The Fifth Element -- Why? Because I AM A MEAT POPSICLE. No, dunno for sure, really. If I'm channel surfing and this comes on, I have to watch it until it's over. High camp style, sly satirical humor. I think Bruce Willis is kind of a douchebag but I just can't resist Dallas Corbin. Oddly, I've never tried to buy a copy!

Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead -- I'm putting 'em together because I'd use four of my ten otherwise. Until about a year ago, I'd only seen the first all the way through, so I did kind of a marathon of the three sequels (NOLD is too scary for me to watch again). It was a kind of religious experience. Romero put everything in here, all kinds of stuff about race and class, and his female characters were strong, too. And he did it with humor, too. I really can't say I've ever seen these equaled in the zombie genre, despite later films having much bigger budgets and SFX at their disposal.

Get on the Bus -- I know Spike Lee isn't perfect, but who is? I feel like he really makes films about ideas, and at least tries to talk honestly about race, where hardly anyone else in the US does. Many of his could go on this list, and this one deserves mention as much as any of them.

Three Colors: Red, White, Blue -- another combo. I hadn't even touched "foreign" films yet. Krzysztof Kieslowski has made so many good ones. These just have all kinds of themes in them and rich visual detail. You can watch them 10 times and see new things every time.

Gone With the Wind -- Saw this when I was maybe 12 in one of the periodic theatrical re-releases, way before the era of home video. Love it of course and only over the years realized how racist it was and all the other stuff wrong about it. But it's kind of a must-see because of its influence on the culture and for understanding all that Confederate lost-cause romanticism crap.

Ran -- I suppose if I put in a Kurosawa film, it should be Rashomon, but Ran is just a beautiful spectacle and, whether it really is based on King Lear or not, captures all the violence and greed and venality of that classic.

2001: A Space Odyssey -- I saw this when it first came out, at the River Hills Cinerama on the 90-foot curved screen. It was the summer between 6th and 7th grade, and I had read about toward the end of the school year in one of those Weekly-Reader type handout papers they used to give us in school. Mentioned it at home and then that summer my dad one day says we're all going somewhere and we got in the car but he didn't tell us and that's where we went. And he took us to Wimpy's Steakhouse after. So it made a big impression because of the experience and also it's just a great movie.

I am thinking of SO MANY MORE! It would almost be easier to name 10 essentials for each genre. Anyway, these lists are fun.

Buddy H said...

• Monkey Business (1931- the Marx brothers first Hollywood film, saw it at a midnight show at an independent theater when I was a teen... I was blown away by the anarchy. They play stowaways on an ocean liner who confront the crew, gangsters, & high society snobs. The dialogue was co-written by the great S.J. Perelman, brilliant and absurdist wordplay.)
• The Romance Of Digestion (a short film from 1938 by the great humorist Robert Benchley. He delivers a lecture, with charts, on digestion. A glorious bit of nonsense, it is years ahead of its time.

• The Cameraman Buster Keaton's last great silent film, before the studios took creative control away from him and left him powerless. He plays an ambitious young man trying to make it as a newsreel photographer.
• Hard Days Night The Beatles could have taken the easy way out and appeared in a crappy rock n roll film, like Elvis, but they insisted on a real screenwriter and director, and the result is a masterpiece. Ebert called it the "citizen kane of jukebox musicals." Ebert actually taught a college class on the film.
• Blade Runner (director's cut) I was haunted by this film, we're almost living in the future this film portrays.
• The Iron Giant Not many animated films can choke me up, but that ending gets me every time. The anti-authoritarian theme impressed me as well.
• Videodrome The special effects in this pre-digital film shocked me. The weird, hidden, fascist views of some of the characters reminded me of pro-Reagan co-workers of mine who would suddenly spout neo-conservative, racist ideas in the office.
• City Lights Chaplin's silent film in the talkie era. He falls in love with a blind girl. Again, the ending always chokes me up, when she regains her sight but doesn't recognize him until she touches his hand.
• Modern Times Chaplin's masterpiece. I was working in a factory when I saw this film at a midnight showing. He captured the exact feeling I had being surrounded by machines and greedy bosses. There's also an amusing prison/cocaine scene. I can't recommend this film enough.
• Amarcord Fellini's great film of the 1970s. I saw it as a teenager, and it was the first time I saw people like my family members on the big screen. Before that, all the Italians I'd seen in movies were always one-dimensional mobsters. It amazed me to see all the subtlety and weirdness of the Italians I grew up with portrayed so accurately.

James Desborough said...

Strange Days mostly because of a personal empathy with Lenny. The heartbroken purveyor of dreams was 'me' for a while. Also Mace is a brilliant character and I could watch Angela Bassett forever.

Franklyn has a bit of a weak ending but the visualisation of a mad fantasy world on a budget is wonderful and the guy in the mask as the 'lone atheist in a mad world' while simultaneously being mad in the real world is great.

Flash & Big Trouble are just endlessly watchable and fun. If I could only ever watch two films ever again it would be them.

Dune is one of those instances where a film is good on its own merits despite not following the source material especially closely. Controversially I think that's also true of Tank Girl.

The Crow was the first film for 'my kind of people'.

Empire is the best Star Wars movie.

Goonies just has 'something' about it that makes it timeless. Some 'heart' to it that feels missing in current kids films. Explorers and Monster Squad also have it.

The Thing's special effects and body horror are pitch perfect. I met the FX guy at a convention once and he was just fascinating to talk to.

Leon is a subtle film, a mix of different genres that alchemically becomes something greater than the sum of its parts and skirts around very difficult topics.

chauncey devega said...

Sounds like you could be an expert guest on the TMC series! Are you planning on watching it?

Buddy H said...

I don't have cable. Not in the budget. At this point in my life, I borrow dvds from the local library. But I remember writing a letter to Leonard Maltin back in the early 1980s, bemoaning the unavailability of Robert Benchley short films. He wrote back to say he was a rabid Benchley fan (his words) and shared my frustration. Nowadays, they are available on dvd.
This is an interesting thread, I like hearing everyone's favorite picks.

kristen said...

Well, I first saw most of these movies as a child, and they represent my first exposure to a particular place, time, or culture. They're all movies that I can (and do) watch over and over again...whether I want to cry or laugh or get my breath taken away or escape. Plus, there's some great acting (Jack Nicholson before he became "Jack Nicholson" & DDL in particular).

By the way, no need to enter me in the giveaway. I'm trying to downsize my book collection at the moment. Just wanted to play ;)

Learning is Eternal... said...

Most (70's) blaxploitation films: Black Caesar/Hell up in Harlem, The Mack (Richard Pryor had acting talent not just comedy), Superfly, Putney Swope, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, etc.

Strong Black characters in the face of oppression. Something severely lacking nowadays in The New Jim/Jane Crow/Obama era, the new blaxploitation b/c they lynching us like it's going out of style.

Coming to America - Funniest movie ever also a great love story.

Love Jones - "Our Notebook," Boomerang - Are real decent images of upwardly mobile, educated sans ratchet black folk. Storylines were more than relatable.

Heist - Hackman & Del Roy Lindo. This that 3D chess CDV. Best laid plans critically thought out to the most minute detail.

The Thomas Crown Affair - Both old & remake. I'm a fan of the heist even more when they win/getaway.

Count of Monte Cristo - Remake w/Pierce & Caviezal. Triumph over the vicissitudes of life.

A Bronx Tale - Chazz/Dinero did a great job. Coming of age films resonate especially if your the one tryin to grow a mustache.

80's films because they were fun. John Hughes films & Bachelor Party, The original Hangover, w/Tom Hanks come to mind.

ALL SPIKE LEE JOINTS - What's understood don't need to be explained.

Hood genre films for D-Boys/Girls world wide: Scarface, Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, Belly, City of God/Men etc. I could go on but I've already violated the parameters set by the question but this a good post & I had to respond

sam enderby said...

Just 10? Ok, but in not any particular order:
-Five Easy Pieces : Nicholson's best and I have a special fondness for unfulfilled expectations.
- The Sorrow and The Pity and
- The Memory of Justice : just can't seem to get enough of how rotten we can be.
- The Grapes of Wrath : I think its Ford's best but I really would like to read your take on The Searchers (where do I find here?)
- The Great Dictator : I read that Chaplin -had he known then what would eventually be never would have made this, still what a try at a time when no one else was-
- City Lights : because
- The Bicycle Thief : The way the kid looks at his father and the way that city looks after such a war.
- Duck Soup : just can't seem to get enough of how funny we can be.
-City for Conquest : don't ask but I do like my schmaltz laid thick
-Body and Soul : "we all gotta die sometime"

bruto alto said...

Oldboy is the movie no one talks about but everyone has seen. It's cold, dark, and unforgiving. It's Korean drama at it's best
Drive could have been a western. It fits today action male.
Goodfellas was the mob movie of my gen.
Clerks was all writing and only second to Chasing Amy one of the funniest movies I've ever watched.
Big Trouble the 80's. If it was remade I would still pay to see it.
Howls moving castle anime that anyone could watch. My parents used these movies to replace disney and I thank them.
Ghost World was the movie that made comics closer to real life.

chauncey devega said...

I still need to see the 3 Colors Trilogy. Your mention will encourage me too.

chauncey devega said...

I need to see Five Easy Pieces and Body and Soul. Tell me more about The Memory of Justice.

sam enderby said...

Marcel Ophuls' sometimes long-winded and always demanding doc` relating the Nuremberg Trials to our crimes in Vietnam - I believe it was the first time I ever saw the Klarsfelds interviewed. I haven't seen it in over 30 yrs ! I don't think it was as critically appreciated(?) as The Sorrow and the Pity but for me it was just as powerful. As a country the germans have made generous strides in reflecting on and facing up to their collective past while we here in the good ol'US of A have done rather poorly in this regard. The guy who came home from Vietnam and asked Congress how do you tell someone he will be the last to die for a mistake is now getting ready to make one in Syria. Oh, well.

chauncey devega said...

Blaxsploitation as 'essential' viewing. Please explain. Beyond Sweetback, Shaft, one or two others, why are they required viewing?

Learning is Eternal... said...

How could I forget sweetback & shaft? Looking beyond the stereotypes (horrible indeed) portrayed in those films I found strong characters. As time went on black men in film have become femine, black women hyper sexualities creatures & subservient as a whole (in film: Butlers, maids, slaves). Also in those films I found strong characters who weren't in opposition w/the law, just natural badasses. (who didn't have to sell dope or peddle flesh w/false bravado). Goldie's brother in The Mack for example; total antithesis of the main character.

chauncey devega said...

Congrats. You are one of our two winners. Email me off board at

Also post something in this thread to confirm that it is in fact you who contacted me to redeem the prize.

chauncey devega said...

Congrats. You are one of our two winners. Email me off board at

Post something in this thread to confirm that it is in fact you who contacted me to redeem the prize.

Buddy H said...

Wow, I'm honored. I just sent you an email with my address. I enjoyed reading everyone's lists. My next visit to the library I will rent some of the titles people wrote about. Chauncey, I always enjoy your movie reviews, I look forward to reading more.

OldPolarBear said...

Hi Chauncey,
Yes it is me! I am so excited to have won! We will use the book on our many movie nights and also to pick out new-old ones to see. And I hope you enjoyed the video!

Buddy H said...

You're one of the best writers I've seen. Excellent blog.

chauncey devega said...

and you sir are too nice and kind. will forward that info asap.

chauncey devega said...

will forward the info asap.