Movies are one of my passions, although I don't watch nearly as many as I did when I was younger. After over fifty years of watching film there are a lot of movies that I have seen. I have decided to include on my list only movies that are over twenty years old. Tomorrow, Tuesday, I will give my dirty dozen for the past twenty years. Then on Wednesday I will be looking at show biz and musical movies. I will offer a debate question regarding movies on Thursday. And on Friday I will look at some of my favorite horror and other dark movies. But today I am listing twelve movies that have had a big impact on me and the way I view films.
Arlee Bird's Dirty Dozen Favorite Films:
The Wizard of Oz (1939)-- I had already seen many films by the time I saw this film for the first time when it came on television in 1959. The movie amazed me and it was all the talk of the kids at school the next day. I had watched it on a 21 inch black and white television and this is the way I viewed it for many years. It was an even greater revelation when I saw it in color. The film is a classic which most of us have seen many times. Oz never fails to entertain me or move me in the end. It is a magical road trip movie filled with wonderful music and memorable characters. I'm sure I'll be watching it again one day with my grandchildren.
Apocalypse Now (1979)--Like Oz this film is a magic road trip, but of a different sort. Based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now is a psychedelic surrealistic journey into madness. Though the setting is Viet Nam, this is not really a movie about the Viet Nam war, which is something that I think confuses people. The movie is more like a bad dream version of something that happened in Viet Nam, but we know it really didn't. The key to viewing this film is not to watch it as a traditional war movie, but a road movie that explores philosophies about war and the bad side of humanity. This is an unsettling movie that has a mystery and magic that will leave you pondering as long as you are not expecting heroic war action and patriotic flag waving--that is not the intent of this film.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)--One of the best film noirs ever, this film was the inspiration for Pulp Fiction, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lost Highway, and many other films.
A product of the age of atomic war paranoia, this film starts out like a typical mystery. The main character is hard-boiled, amoral detective Mike Hammer. On a deserted highway at night, he nearly runs down a hysterical woman who has just escaped from a mental hospital. Later, the woman is killed and Hammer left for dead by mysterious men. Hammer spends the rest of the film trying to figure out why the woman was killed and what it was the men were after. He imagines what the men are looking for is something very valuable, but doesn't begin to understand the horror of what it is. This is great 50s scare stuff.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)--The low budget filming is what really helps make this movie scary. Director George Romero showed his absolute genius of taking few resources to make one of the scariest movies ever. Sequels and remakes were made with more money and better technology, but none approaches the crude simplicity of what was achieved in this film. The story of an incongruous assortment of people held under siege in an old farmhouse by flesh-eating zombies is tense and horrific. Probably filmed in black and white for budgetary reasons, but this is part of what makes this film so scary.
On the Beach (1959)--During the 50s and 60s the atomic age and post-bomb era inspired many films. This was and still is a popular film genre for me. Directed by Stanley Kramer, On The Beach is a wonderful dramatic film starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins, and a fine cast of supporting actors. The story takes place after an atomic war which has killed everyone except those in Australia, which is soon to face the poison of the radioactive contamination. There is not much on special effects here, but the dramatic tension and ominous knowledge of what is coming is poignant and frightening. I first saw this film with my parents when I was about nine years old. I loved the film then, though I didn't totally understand everything, and I can appreciate it even more now.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)--I was ten years old when I saw this movie for the first time in 1961 and it scared the bejeebies out of me and I loved it. Filmed in a black and white film noire style, this movie is about a small town in California where people are being taken over by alien forms. The film has been remade three more times, with the 1993 version being probably the best and most unique of the remakes. But none of the remakes comes close to topping the original.
The Jolson Story (1946)--I first saw this on TV when I was about ten years old. From the first time I saw this movie I fell in love with it and like it even more now. This is purportedly the story of the life of Al Jolson, the famous singer of the first half of the twentieth century, and depicts his rise from vaudeville to Broadway to Hollywood. Larry Parks is the actor who does an extraordinary job of portraying an extremely optimistic and likeable Jolson. The actual vocals on the soundtrack were done by Jolson himself. A few years ago I began researching Jolson's life and found that the movie really changed a lot about the true story, but that's Hollywood I guess and The Jolson Story is still a fine film.
Roma (1972) -- I had often heard my parents talk about the film La Strada Directed by Federico Fellini. I even recall when the film 8 1/2 came out in the theaters when I was young. I was very curious about Fellini. Then when I was in college Roma was released. This was not a film I could get any of my friends to go to see so I went alone. I was more impressed than what I had expected. At the time I was involved with recording my dreams in a dream journal. I was fascinated by surrealism and dreams and wished I could film my dreams. Then I saw Roma and realized Fellini was doing just that with his dreams. This remains one of my big time favorite movies. My wife dislikes it intensely and few I know have shared my feelings for this film. It has little in the way of a story line. It is a sort of a documentary about Rome, but it is a surrealistic documentary. It is a wonderfully weird film. I will be watching it again soon along with many other Fellini films.
The Day of the Locust (1975)--It almost sounds like a science fiction film from the 50s, but actually it is a film about Hollywood in the 1930s. The film follows a group of characters in the 1930s trying to make it in the movie industry. It is a film about self degradation and humiliation and the ultimate futility of the lifestyle promised by Hollywood success. A friend and I took our wives to see this movie in 1977 and they got so pissed off at us because of the shocking scene of violence in the end of the film the culminates in utter surrealistic madness. I think they were overreacting a bit--I understand what it was that upset them and I won't reveal it here and give away the ending--but the film makes a pretty powerful statement in my opinion.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)--This may sound a bit outrageous, but the first time I saw this film was when it came on a premium movie channel on TV and my heart started beating so fast that my wife had to take me to the emergency room and I couldn't finish watching the movie at that time. I don't know if there was some other factor that caused my anxiety, but it makes for a good story. I have watched this film several times since and to me it's like a really good roller coaster. I really like the post-apocalyptic landscape and story idea. This is a world where petroleum is the most valuable commodity and gangs are terrorizing the roads to steal gasoline. Mel Gibson is great as "Mad Max, the Road Warrior". There is plenty of intense fast-paced action in this film.
Repulsion (1965)-- Directed by Roman Polanski, this is the story of a mentally disturbed young woman who begins to sink even deeper when she is left alone in the apartment she shares with her sister. In her delusional state she hallucinates, but also experiences actual traumatic events until we don't know what is real and what is not. This is another black and white film that would not be as good if it were in color. The ending would rank as one of my favorite film endings.
Carousel (1956)--A Rogers and Hammerstein musical with a theme about domestic violence that might be considered somewhat controversial these days is nonetheless a beautiful portrayal of love, understanding, and forgiveness. The dance numbers are wonderfully choreographed and the music is exquisite. Shirley Jones and Gordon McCrae are perfect in the lead roles. One of the best musicals ever.
My thanks to Alex J. Cavenaugh for hosting this event. This has been great fun and a source of inspiration for several extra blog articles for me. Make sure you check the other participants in the blogfest. They can be found in the Linky list below this post. And be sure you join us for the 10 Best Love Songs and 10 Best Break Up Songs Blogfest next Monday June 28. A Linky list will appear on this site tomorrow.